Ibanez GAX30 is the most ritzy cheap guitar you can buy
And I should know. I own one.
So I bought an Ibanez GAX30, which is not an easy guitar to come by. Availability for this particular model is little, and in all honesty I was not intending on buying this - until I saw it in person and played it.
The only GAX30 available at Guitar Center is in white. For any other color, you have to buy it online because at the time I write this there is no choice otherwise. This may change in the future, but as of December 2018, that's the way it is. Better availability will probably become normal in 2019 and beyond.
I have said that white is the worst guitar color of all time, so you can imagine how surprised I was when I saw a white GAX30 in person. It actually looked good. Before seeing it for myself I was absolutely and totally 100% convinced that yes, I will hate this guitar color and no matter what I will not buy it. My mind was changed...
...but not totally. Now it was time to play it.
Playing it in the store
I mentioned this briefly in the video above, but this is the entire story.
I go to Guitar Center in Farmers Branch, Texas. I went there because they had the special edition Squier Mustang HH in Surf Green and an Ibanez GAX30, which as I just said was white. Both guitars are the same price. $149.99 before tax.
I played the Mustang first. It felt like the typical Squier in Guitar Center. It wasn't set up and the action was high. However, it looked good and played nicely for what it was even with the high action. But I have to admit the guitar was a little on the boring side and doesn't have the same cool factor my Bullet Telecaster does.
The GAX30 was not on the showroom floor just yet, so an employee had to run back to go get it and unbox the thing so I could actually try it.
When I did play it, I knew within less than 10 seconds that the GAX30 was the superior guitar over the Mustang by leaps and bounds. This guitar, having never been touched since it left the factory, actually played nicely. The action was only a little high but not too bad.
As I sat there playing it and saw how the white worked with the neck with block inlays, it reminded me of a white Gibson SG, but couldn't remember which one. After getting home, I found out which. It's the Gibson SG offered in a color called Alpine White.
I knew right then and there that I would be getting way more guitar for the money with the Ibanez over the Squier, no doubt whatsoever. It was an easy decision to go with the Ibanez.
A need for a scale length not 25.5 inches
My entire reason for looking at the Mustang and the GAX30 in the first place was because I wanted a guitar shorter than the Fender standard length of 25.5".
I did make a mistake in the video and said there are 3 brands with cheap shorter scale models. There are actually 4.
When it comes to cheap guitars that are readily available in the shorter scales, the choices are Squier, Epiphone, Jackson and Ibanez.
- Squier - Mustang HH at 24.0".
- Epiphone - several models under $200 in SG and Les Paul flavors, all at 24.75".
- Jackson - Monarkh JS22.
- Ibanez - GAX30 and the AX120.
Ibanez, said very honestly, blows away everybody else when it comes to a good cheap shorter scale guitar. There is nothing else that can touch what Ibanez is offering at the price point the GAX30 or AX120 sell for. They offer the most for the least, period.
What makes a shorter scale worth owning?
In the end it all comes down to comfort.
A shorter scale means the frets are spaced closer together and the strings at standard pitch are more loose and bendable.
When frets are spaced closer together, it's easier to fret chords at the first 5 frets, which is where most guitarists play to begin with. When strings have less tension, it's easier to bend notes.
It is totally true your fret hand does not have to work as hard when playing a shorter scale guitar.
The only choice to make is whether to go 24.75" (or 24.7" in Ibanez's case) or 24.0". Your fret hand will let you know which feels for the best.
For me, it was the Ibanez GAX30 over the Squier Mustang HH. Same price, but the GAX30 is better. It might not have a cool Surf Green color option, but it looks quite ritzy in white and nothing can touch it for what it sells for.