An Honest Ibanez RG421 review
The Ibanez RG421 is fine, but reviewers are dropping lots of hyperbole.
Let's set aside the nonsense. The RG421 is fine. It's a good guitar for the price and certainly for beginners. BUT, the pickups are stock, along with the hardware, and it's not a good value beyond the beginner stage. Yet, there are reviewers blowing a lot of smoke. Let's clear the air.
The review portion of this article is basically the box above.
Like I said, the Ibanez RG421 is fine for beginners and low-budget targets. But the pickups and hardware are Ibanez stock, which we've never recommended. This is why most of the high-end Ibanez electrics include DiMarzio or Fishman Fluence humbuckers.
In the world of humbuckers, a third-party manufacturer is usually a good thing.
It's also important to note, there are multiple versions of this guitar ranging in price. We're focusing on the core RG421 model, pictured here:
Here are just a few of the others listed on Sweetwater. Note the difference in price.
When I set out to review this guitar, I did some research and stumbled on a lot of RG421 reviews that were complete and utter nonsense.
There was a ton of hyperbole, of course, but also flat out incorrect information.
So yes, this is a review, but I'm going to debunk some of the stuff I read to make sure people aren't mislead by some of these other reviews.
And for those who wrote this stuff, you should keep in mind: The internet never forgets.
The RG421 is fine. If you want it, just buy it. Don't even bother reading most of this if you haven't already.
The pickups are not awesome
First, we need to address the pickups.
They are labeled as "Quantum humbuckers" but are really just a common Ibanez stock pickup, none of which have ever been particularly good. This is expected at such a low price range.
Here are some honest opinions from Reddit:
You can read the full Reddit thread here.
Compare this with the hyperbolic take you get from an author who I guess goes by the name Rizan, on a site called Unbox Guitars:
My main issue is with this sentence:
Great-sounding pickups are also one of the reasons why players are fascinated with Ibanez guitars as affordable instruments. - Rizan
For starters, this sentence doesn't really make sense. Are people fascinated with them because of the pickups or because they are affordable? Are they fascinated because the guitars are affordable and have pickups?
Either way, throwing around the term "great-sounding pickups" isn't really true. Again, this pickups are fine for the price, and the author acknowledges that, but they are stock and do not sound great by median humbucker standards.
They're fairly weak, and kind of the opposite of hot.
I've also seen a lot of people who experience noise issues. This is common with stock pickups and lower priced guitars.
This isn't necessarily specific to the RG421, but still needs to be addressed.
All of this is incorrect.
- Fender and Gibson electrics are significantly more popular than Ibanez. In fact, in Reverb's 2022 best-selling guitar list, there is not a single Ibanez electric.
- Gibson's are not-overpriced, anymore than the RG421 is underpriced.
- If you're saying guitar players stick to Ibanez based on price, than it is not for quality.
Let's move on.
The best? Not at all.
We always base "best" choices on a balance of price and quality. The lowest possible price at the highest possible quality level is where we get the most value, and the best option for the largest number of people.
And it's clear that the author here is trying to make a similar argument. But again, we think it's important to tamper expectations.
This seems to suggest that the RG421 is your best bet if you simply like Ibanez guitars and want something that is generally nice. There are far better options.
Read more: Best Ibanez guitars
One of the best electric guitars for high gain?
Also, if it makes a great first guitar, how can it also be an upgrade? An upgrade would be something you buy after you graduate from a guitar like this one.
Stratocaster body design?
This is from an unnamed writer on a website that is aptly named Awkward Sound.
I guess you could say this is true, but the Stratocaster design has been around forever and there are tons of brands and electrics that have been based on that same shape. This is not unique to Ibanez, and definitely not to the RG421. It's sort of just the de facto guitar shape everywhere.
This clip is from a review under the name Tony Grenier on Instrument Global. Again, we see a similar sentiment about a Strat comparison and overexaggerated claim about Ibanez's popularity.
Body and tonewood
It's hard to even know where to start with this one. I'll do my best to unravel it.
First of all, the RG421 uses a tonewood called Meranti and not Mahogany.
Meranti is a fairly cheap wood sourced from Indonesia. It's typically used for furniture and plywood. So yeah, it's not great.
Read more: Meranti tonewood discussion on The Gear Page
But even if it had Mahogany, Mahogany is an extremely common type of electric guitar tonewood. It doesn't really make the guitar unique, and is subject to different grades, like any tonewood.
The RG421 uses a tonewood called Meranti and not Mahogany.
Moreover, it will not prevent dents or scratches, beyond reasonable expectations.
Electric guitars, in general, are not designed to "withstand abuse."
That's why we have guitar cases.
From the article I mentioned earlier on Instrument Global, a similar claim is made about Mahogany and dents/scratches.
I'll give these fellas the benefit of the doubt. It's possible that Ibanez switched to Meranti after previously using Mahogany. I don't know if this happened, but I'm trying to be reasonable here.
That, The Gear Page thread was from 2020, and the articles/reviews I've referenced are from 2022.
More on pickups and exaggerated quality
This is a lot, I know.
I'll go through it in bullet points below - there's basically one issue per paragraph.
- Expensive guitars do produce a better sound. The RG421 is not somehow an exception to that rule.
- The 421 does not have the same humbuckers as the 450.
- The RG series does not make the best guitars for rock and heavy metal. They have some decent ones that are nicer than the RG421, but not the best.
- Comparisons to more expensive guitars means the cheaper guitar will almost always lose. Again, the RG421 is not the exception to a reliable rule.
- Points for mentioning of the "G-string saddle." Just hilarious.
Our Simple Review and Conclusion
Here's our Ibanez RG421 review - an honest one that doesn't exaggerate or use hyperbole.
As mentioned in the opening summary box, the RG421 is fine. If you want it, just buy it. Don't even bother reading most of this if you haven't already.
It's a good fit for beginners and a decent value at the price. However, the pickups are not awesome, you'll likely have some trouble keeping it in tune, and it's absolutely not a good intermediate guitar, never mind a pro-level solution.
Hopefully I've been able to give you some better information and keep expectations at a reasonable level.
If this is helpful, let me know in the comments and we'll do more "negative" reviews like this one.
Drop questions there as well. Thanks all.