OK, listen, yes, this is the most definitive and unbiased Ibanez AX120 electric guitar review you will find online. I bought the guitar with my own money and all that jazz. But I had such a miserable experience with Musician’s Friend / Guitar Center and then the guitar had issues (which I fixed of course) that I want you to know all of that up front. I’m not holding back here.
This guitar is actually out of production now but some retailers still have their remaining new stock.
I bought the AX120 for $199. But that’s not really the complete story. I bought it on sale from Musician’s Friend, a few days later they cancelled my order, I called them back and they gave me the guitar for the $199 price, but charged me from Guitar Center instead. Which means I didn’t get the 8% ($16) in Musician’s Friend rewards. But wait! There was a deal at the time for 2x rewards, so they actually screwed me out of $32. They assured me I’d get those rewards after I called them back, but I never did and they stopped responding to my emails. Oh well, what can you do?
From here on out, no more retailer talk. We’re sticking to the Ibanez AX120 as a guitar. Is it good for beginners? Good for metal? Good for rock? Good for you?
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Why You Should Trust Us
Hey, I’m Karol (like Karl not Carol). I’ve been playing guitar for 20+ years, but I’m still an amateur and learning every day. In my younger years I played in a band, but nowadays it’s for fun. I’m not a guitar snob, and I think everybody should just have fun with it.
Why should you listen to this Ibanez AX120 guitar review? Because I don’t care about selling you anything and I want to help you make an informed choice about this and every other guitar I review. I started Art Of Shred because I was unimpressed with the obviously biased paid for guitar and musical equipment reviews online. I only get paid if you use one of my referral links to buy a guitar. Everything I write here is unbiased. Keep in mind, of course, that these are just my views. I don’t know everything and my opinions are my opinions.
Ibanez AX120 in candy apple red
Weight: 7.4 lbs
Made in: China
Unique in the price range
Comfortable to play
Poor quality control (lots of sharp frets on this one)
Pickups lack clarity
Ibanez AX120 Video Review
This 13 minute video review of the Ibanez AX120 on ArtOfShred’s YouTube channel covers most of what you need to know, including an extensive sound demo. The sound demo includes a semi-produced track with drums as well as guitar-only segments with clean and dirty sounds using the various pickup options.
The Basics of the Affordable Ibanez AX120
A double cutaway budget guitar from Ibanez. What’s not to like?! Well turns out, a few things. But I really don’t want to rag on the guitar too much. After a setup I really liked playing it, but it was one of the worst fret jobs I’ve received on a budget guitar. Honestly, I feel like sharp frets are worse than a little fret buzz from high frets because sharp frets make a guitar quite literally impossible to play without injuring yourself. Anyway …
The Ibanez AX120 spec breakdown:
- 24.7″ scale length
- Maple bolt on neck
- Jatoba fretboard with block inlays
- 22 medium frets
- Plastic nut
- Cheap tuners
- 2 “Classic Elite” humbucker pickups
- Full Tune III bridge (like a tune-o-matic, but Ibanez’ version)
- 2 volume and 2 tone controls
- 3 way pickup switch
- Basswood body
- Made in China
Well, I kinda already spoiled the first impressions, didn’t I? Immediate first impressions of the Ibanez AX120 was, “oh nice this is a beautiful guitar!” but it took only seconds of holding it to feel pain and disappointment. I actually tried playing it like a beginner might and it quite literally shredded my hands. A full setup would be in order before making any real determination on this guitar and that about does it for the first impressions.
The sparkly Candy Apple Red finish that I got was beautiful and there were no noticeable finish flaws.
Sharp frets! And lots of them!
And the AX120 also has noisy pickups that sound good, but I don’t like them as much as other guitars in the price range. For example, the Squier Sonic Mustang, the Epiphone Les Paul Special P-90, and the Epiphone SG Special all sound better to me than the Ibanez AX120. That’s not to say it sounds bad, of course.
There is a lot to like about the budget Ibanez AX120 even if I can’t recommend it for beginners unless you’re interested in learning to setup guitars or if you buy it used already set up.
- Looks great!
- Good for metal and rock
- Sounds good even if the pickups aren’t great
- Cheap tuners that do hold tune
- Comfortable bolt on neck heel, which allows you to comfortably reach the high frets
- After a full setup, it plays well
What Kind of Setup Did I Do?
The AX120 needed a major setup because it had so many sharp frets.
Guitar Setup Products I Use
🪛 FretGuru Ultimate Fret End File (I also own the FretGuru sanding beam, fret crowning file, and string gauge)
🏖️ Micromesh fret sanding pads – For polishing the frets to a mirror shine
💂 Fret guards – Lots of different options here, any will be suitable; I personally use blue painter’s tape to tape off the fretboard
I used the Ibanez AX120 to film this “How To Fix Sharp Frets” video:
And of course I polished the frets, oiled the fretboard, and I needed to set the intonation. If you need a refresher on how to set intonation, it’s essentially the same with any guitar.
How Does An Ibanez AX120 Sound?
If you want more sound demos then watch the full Ibanez AX120 review video on YouTube. I think I got some good sounds out of it and it was a fun guitar to play.
What Would I Upgrade?
If you’re happy with the guitar as-is then far be it for me to say you need to upgrade anything.
But in an ideal world, if I were to keep this guitar long term or for live or recording use I would upgrade a few things.
The most important being at least the bridge pickup. Pop something like a JB or a Super Distortion into it and call it a day. (Or get fancy and try any of the other myriad pickups availabe!)
I’d likely upgrade the tuners to locking tuners. Some people say they don’t help with tuning stability, but when you’re upgrading from cheap tuners they do. More importantly, they make string changes a breeze. If you’re anything like me you hate changing guitar strings, but it must be done. (Sometimes!)
I’d probably swap out the plastic nut for a GraphTech TUSQ XL nut if I was swapping out the tuners. They’re only $15 and they’re great.
Ibanez AX120 Photo Gallery
Final Thoughts on the Ibanez AX120 beginners electric guitar
This isn’t a bad guitar. It’s not a great guitar. It’s an okay beginners guitar that I can’t recommend to beginners due to its flaws. Maybe that’s why it’s now discontinued? Could be!
Overall: 6.6 / 10. Not great for beginners unless you want to learn to fix and mod guitars.
Do you own an Ibanez AX120? Please let me know below what you like and dislike about it.