As far as electric guitars go I have always found semi-hollow body instruments pretty interesting and intriguing. To be honest these instruments are the fathers of modern solid-body electric guitars that are the standards of today. Most of the big-name manufacturers produce such instruments, and some reviewers have stated that Ibanez has hit a goldmine with one such model coming from the ArtStar series, that model is the AS153. While some might consider Ibanez to be a second-tier guitar maker behind Gibson and Fender, in my opinion, they are up there with the best, so this one should be a pretty solid instrument.
Semi-hollow body electric guitars are instruments that are dedicated for more experienced guitarists, as they lack some versatility and are more specialty tools. At least compared to solid-body electric guitars. The Ibanez AS153 is no different and it has a price point that would deter a beginner guitarist. However, based on the reviews and expert consultation this guitar can get a lot done and should deliver some exceptional warm and rich tones. I expect a great performance from this guitar, and based on Ibanez’s other instruments I think that this will deliver great value for the price. So without further ado, let’s get a closer look.
Specs and Features
As an instrument that costs just below $1000, you would expect high-end performance, tons of features, and a strong spec sheet from the Ibanez AS153. You are right to expect that and this ArtStar guitar doesn’t disappoint. Just based on its features and spec sheet you see that this guitar delivers a priceless performance. But we have seen time and time again that specs and features don’t always translate to practical performance.
While the Ibanez AS153 is part of the ArtStar series it is not quite in the super-high-end range of that series. I would have liked this instrument to be made in Japan like the ArtStar Prestige series, but it is a made in China model. Then again users have not spotted any defects or mistakes in the craftsmanship of this guitar and there is nothing but praise. Moving on, this semi-hollow body electric guitar is made out of maple tonewood on top, back, and sides. Besides its beautiful aesthetic qualities, maple is one of those tonewoods that is pretty dense and has a quick note decay overall. However, what it lacks in sustain it delivers in tonal clarity and less feedback which is essential. It is a tonewood that many pros enjoy playing on.
Moving on the neck of the Ibanez AS153 is made out of mahogany, which is one of the strongest tonewoods and will bring out a tonal balance when combined with the brightness of flamed maple. It has a slim neck shape which should be pretty playable and enjoyable. On top it has a bound ebony fretboard, which is as good of a choice as rosewood, but with a darker color that is aesthetically pleasing. On top of all that it has the ArtStar fret edge treatment and with its medium frets it presents itself as a pretty playable instrument.
In terms of hardware, it is pretty interesting. Let’s start by talking about the ART-1 bridge that is a pretty interesting addition, as this bridge has delivered plenty of sustain and great tuning stability, which should deliver a pretty balanced guitar. It is equipped with a bone nut which provides a richer tone overall. What impressed me the most was the Quik Change III tailpiece, which is a great feature for more advanced players for allowing you to swap strings faster and easier. In the end, I have to talk about the pair of impressive humbucking Super 58 passive Alnico pickups that are placed at the neck and bridge position.
The first thing I need to get out of the way is to mention that the Ibanez AS153 has a superb design and aesthetics. While I love solid-body guitars, I always think that semi-hollow body instruments have a desirable retro vibe that makes them more attractive. Then again it is not for everybody. It has a beautiful symmetric double-cutaway ArtStar body shape with an Antique Yellow Sunburst finish that is glossy and looks fantastic. It also has a beautiful pickguard that features the same finish and the f-soundholes look beautiful. The tailpiece is pretty interesting as well and it fits well with the overall vibe of the guitar. The bound ebony fretboard has acrylic and abalone block inlay. One of the most attractive guitars I have ever seen.
The Ibanez AS153 is a pretty lightweight instrument that feels beautiful in your lap and also hanging down from your neck. It does have some slight contouring that sits nicely against your rib cage and everything feels great right out of the box. The Ibanez AS153 has a great set of controls implemented to deliver great tonal shaping, It has four beautiful knobs, two tone knobs, and two-volume knobs for each pickup. On top of that, it has a 3-way pickup switch and an extra Tri-Sound Switch that lets you choose three different tonal options for the neck pickup, classic humbucker, single-coil, and out-of-phase sound. Everything feels solid from the first impression.
Sound and Playability
For exploring the tones of the Ibanez AS153, I plugged it up with the Peavey 6505 Plus 112 tube combo amp that delivers a beautiful performance. The overall tone without any altering and everything in the middle is a bit on the brighter side of things. It delivers some beautiful twangy tones that a jazzist will fall in love with. However, it delivers great tonal versatility, as you can achieve some excellent tones. The pickups delivered no hum and I was pleased with their performance overall. I combined it with the Boss MD-200 Modulation Pedal to test out some effects and despite most of the hollow-body guitars not working well with pedals, this one did perfectly.
To conclude this review I can comfortably say that the Ibanez AS153 is definitely one of the best semi-hollow-body electric guitars in the market. It delivers amazing value for the price and the sound is just delicious. What amazed me the most was that this guitar is very versatile in terms of genres, as it can play jazz, rockabilly, blues, and even hard rock which is pretty sweet. If you want a semi-hollow body guitar with some exceptional tones and great value for the price, the Ibanez AS153 is a superb model.