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Ibanez AX120 vs. GAX30

Ibanez AX120 and GAX30

These two guitars look very similar but have some major differences in the tone department.

I own both the GAX30 (the white one) and the AX120 (the blue one). As I've come to find out, these guitars actually do have literal model names. The GAX30 is known as the Ibanez AX Gio, and the AX120 the AX Standard.

The Standard is more expensive than the Gio, but not by too much.

Things that are the same

Things are are different

Electronic controls

Gio: One master volume controls, one master tone control.
Standard: Two volume controls, two tone controls.

Pickup selector switch location

The Standard has the switch placed slightly further forward than the Gio does.

Pick guard appearance

Gio has a flat color, Standard has tortoise shell appearance.

Headstock logo appearance

Gio has a "Gio" above the Ibanez logo. Standard has only Ibanez.

Overall weight

Gio is lighter in weight than the Standard is by a small amount. Probably about 0.5 pounds or maybe 0.75 pounds. I can feel this when I pick up the guitar.

Pickups

This is the biggest difference between the two guitars.

The Gio has Ibanez Infinity series humbuckers. They are open coil with flat, fixed-position pole pieces. The output would be said by most people to be "hot" with a pronounced midrange. These pickups are very good for rock and solo tones.

The Standard has Ibanez Classic Elite humbuckers. These are covered coils with one coil having fixed-position pole pieces and the other with adjustable pole pieces. You can see the screws on the outer coil of each pickup, and yes, they can in fact be adjusted manually with a flathead screwdriver, just like a Gibson Les Paul Standard. The output is not as "hot" as the Infinity pickups are, but have better treble response. This makes for better sounds for chording over soloing. This is not to say it's "better". Just different.

Each guitar has a distinct tonal character. Deciding which guitar to get depends on your priorities. If you want something "hotter" that rings out power chords better, you want the Gio. If you'd rather have something with a lower output and better treble response, you want the Standard.

What is jatoba?

Jatoba is mainly used for flooring. It's a hard and dense wood that actually works well as fretboard material. This is basically a rosewood alternative that Ibanez decided to go with. Its appearance is best described as a chocolate brown with some red in it, which works well on both the Gio and Standard. Jatoba does have texture you can feel on the fingers. This texture is not as pronounced as traditional rosewood is, but again, it works just fine for use as a fretboard.

Simply put, most players would see no difference between jatoba and rosewood. You have to really look hard at the board to know it's not rosewood.

I'm honestly surprised more guitar makers don't use jatoba fretboards, as it really works nicely.

What are you paying more for with a Standard?

  1. Pickups where the outer coils can be adjusted
  2. Additional electronics for more tone shaping options
  3. Metallic paint finish
  4. Tortoise shell pick guard appearance

Is it worth it?

Before answering this question, bear in mind that both these guitars are really affordable. So affordable that I just got both of them.

But let's say for the moment you're not interested in both and just want one. Is it worth the little extra to get the Standard?

For those Classic Elite humbuckers with the extra treble on top, yes it is. I find the Elites to be more suited to what I play.

If you examine other guitars priced similar to the AX Standard, you'll notice something immediately. The Standard is literally the only guitar with adjustable outer coil pole pieces. Nobody else has them at the Standard's price point. Everything else with humbuckers will be open coil with fixed-position pole pieces.

After the Ibanez AX Standard, the next guitar that has the chrome cover humbuckers with adjustable outer coils is the ESP LTD Eclipse EC-256FM, then the Epiphone G-400. The Squier Contemporary Telecaster HH may possibly have adjustable outer coil pole pieces, but Squier is sometimes known to use screws simply for appearance that aren't actually adjustable, so I can't confirm that. But even if the adjustability was there, the AX Standard is still the best deal.

Now to note, open coil pickups are not "bad". Not at all. You'll even see them on some ridiculously expensive Gibson and PRS guitars. There's nothing wrong with open coil humbuckers whatsoever.

And on that note, the AX Gio with its open coil pickups is also really good for what it is. It easily looks, sounds and feels like a guitar more than double for what it sells for.

For those that care about pickup magnets...

Both the Gio and Standard have ceramic magnet pickups. Some players scoff at that. I don't, because if I did I would have missed out on these two great guitars.

Ibanez did voice both guitars correctly. The pickups aren't noisy and deliver excellent sound for a small price.

And for all you ceramic magnet bashers out there, ever hear of the DiMarzio Super Distortion, as in the DP100 model? Yeah, the pickup that's been heard on some of the best rock guitar recordings of all time? Ceramic magnet. Deal with it.

I'm keeping both

While I prefer the sound of the AX Standard over the AX Gio, I'm keeping both guitars. I know if I parted with either, I would regret it immediately. These two axes get so many things right.

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