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Advice on upgrading an Ibanez GAX30


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Hi all,

 

OK, when I got RS, I had a Squier entry level Strat but seemed to struggle and sold it, buying a bass instead which I have loved and progressed with. Still, it has always niggled me so recently I have been feeling I should retry a 6 string electric but dont wanna spend too much money on one in case I find myself going back to bass for good.

 

Anyway, today in a second-hand store I picked up an Ibanez GAX30. Entry level I know but considering it has a 3mth warranty (so I can get it checked out) and only cost me $45 I am pretty stoked.

 

It seems to sound and play ok in RS but I will get it checked out and new strings etc.

 

However, am curious whether anyone has any experience of this guitar (your thoughts) and any suggestions on what/if I should upgrade on parts, and any suggestions of what to buy. Online, some seem to say the tuners aint that great but pickups are fine....

 

Any advice greatly appreciated.

 

David

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Hmm...weird....every posting has a reply except mine, and the one after which asks a similar question gets 3 replies when I still have none.

 

Am I doing something wrong? Can people see this post at all? (not sarcasm, just curious if I am not doing this right...)

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I own Ibanez guitars but don't have experience with that model. It's from their GIO budget line, but I've heard good things about it. Supposed to be one of the better made entry-level guitars. Better made than the entry-level stuff from other companies. It got good reviews on Musician's Friend.

 

That's a killer deal you got. And I love the look of the guitar.  Kind of a Gibson SG/Les Paul hybrid. (you got me thinking of getting one!)

 

If it plays fine to you, then you should keep it.  My first guitar was around that price, and I still love it. I bought it over 25 years ago as kid and even though I own more expensive guitars, something about your first guitar is special. (And for whatever reason, my $40 guitar now sells for $400 to $700 if in mint condition because it's considered vintage and a rare made-in-Japan model, but mine is no longer in mint condition. LOL.)

 

As far as upgrading, only do it if you feel the need. The first upgrade would be pickups if you don't like the sound. If it doesn't stay in tune well, you can look at replacing the tuners. Some people also swap the electronics in budget guitars (ie. replace the pots and switches, getting a new jack, etc).

 

But honestly, since you got it so cheap, and if it sounds and plays decently (and stays in tune), just save your money and enjoy playing it. Use your money on another guitar, whenever you feel like upgrading. Just buying a set of new pickups will cost way more than your old guitar.

 

I've thought about upgrading my $40 guitar many times -- I've toyed with the idea of getting a new set of humbuckers, putting in new tuners, a new nut and bridge, but then I think, I could just buy a new guitar, and I do.

 

Just use your Ibanez as a backup guitar whenever you decide to get a new guitar.

 

For me, I used to think my humucker pickups in my guitar sounded "weak" and wanted a more metal high gain sound. I'm glad that I never made that change. I've got several high gain guitars now, and I now love the under-wound vintage sound of my $40 guitar. It's so different, great for different types of music. I've come to appreciate the sound of those humbucker pickups -- found out they are actually two Fender Mustang single coils put together, and give a good rock tone.

 

Do you like the sound of the guitar? According to the reviews, it says it has a nice tone, decent output and can get a good chunky sound.  You can go in many directions with new pickups (from more vintage rock, to really high gain metal). But remember it'll cost about $70 per pickup new, or maybe $40 to $50 used, and plus you'll need someone to install them, unless you're good with the soldering iron (it's not that hard).

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Hey FT,

 

Thanks for the advice (and good to know I was posting correctly!! hehe)

 

I get what you mean about the sound as it is. TBH, I brought it home, plugged it in and was quite taken aback by how good it sounded even with what were clearly old and worn strings (the thing was covered in dust). Anyhow, am getting a music shop to check out intonation and what not, adjusting fret heights etc so will be interested to see how it plays when I get it back all serviced.

 

I really like the look of it, and think I may have the experience you have, falling in love with it, and keeping it around even when I get better at playing and buy newer and better quality guitars. I spent 4 solid hours on RS when I got it home and couldnt stop smiling all night! My wife kept rolling her eyes every time she has caught me in the back room strumming it.

 

I think, depending on what it is like with new strings, I may possibly replace the neck pickup with a Dimarzio one that I saw which supposedly replicates that Les Paul sound, but that would probably be the limit of change. Like you say I think I will just enjoy it for what it is.

 

In any event, I really appreciate your wisdom and time to reply....some good logic there. I'll post my thoughts on the guitar when I get it back - might encourage you to get one just to add to your collection hehe :D

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Haha, nice. Glad to hear the guitar is encouraging to play more (and smile, too!).

 

Yep, getting a professional setup is a good idea. I'm sure it'll play a lot better afterward.

 

DiMarzio makes great pickups. I buy them or Seymour Duncans when I want to make a pickup change; in fact got a pair of DiMarzio humbuckers in my new guitar and I'm loving them right now.

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The guitar sound in RS is so processed it's maybe a waste of time/money upgrading pickups on a cheap guitar if it's only for RS.

 

Setup is much more important, as it has to be "fun" to play.

 

Someone also posted a while back (maybe on smithys I can't remember) that they thought putting heavier gauge strings on their Gio helped no end with intonation (note recognition).

 

So splash out on some new 10s or 11s first :)

 

And when you put new strings on you need to keep re-tuning the guitar for a few hours (maybe even a few days) until the strings settle down.

 

 

And no, you are doing nothing wrong - it's just the time lag from down under :D

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  • 2 weeks later...

The pickups are actually pretty sweet on those guitars. The last time I worked on one they were set up for coil tapping and had a nice crunchy sound. But.... the body is crap. The trems are crap. GIOs are shit IMO. The wood is little better than Styrofoam. And the necks are a nightmare to actually work on. Just play your guitar. Get a new one when you can afford it. If you want to trade if for something get an Epi Special. The electronics on those are shit but the plywood bodies really have nice sustain once the posts for the tail piece are recemented and the necks are reset a bit tighter. And I love the neck feel. 

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But.... the body is crap. The trems are crap. GIOs are shit IMO. The wood is little better than Styrofoam. And the necks are a nightmare to actually work on.

 

So you don't like them then? :D

 

Well, I don't mind admitting I am a noob so all guitars seem wonderful to me, and my cheapie suits me just fine right now. I agree with PC Plum (awesome DLC BTW) that it probably doesn't matter really as I currently mostly use it on RS2014 (and am some time away from gigging) so it is pretty much nothing more than a device to send a signal anyway.

 

Despite this, I always seem to have itchy wallet fever and am looking at what to buy next. Only trouble is, my wallet is never that full once I pay the bills, so probably will have a maximum of $400 on my next purchase next year (still a step up from the 2nd hand $50 Ibanez! lol). Probably will go for an Epi LP100 ... or was looking at the Swing C-1, which looks almost identical and seems to be quite good from the few reviews I could find....anyone have any experience of them?

 

Anyway, again thanks for the advice (and constructive criticism! hehe).

 

Cheers

D

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You miss understand me. Well sort of. I think you should not worry about upgrading this particular cheap guitar. I really don't think it's worth it. But if you like playing it, play it. Put money aside for a different guitar sure. I think I've mentioned that I got a DC400 from Carvin used on ebay for about 400. I had to put some time and tlc into it but it works great now. 

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You miss understand me. Well sort of. I think you should not worry about upgrading this particular cheap guitar. I really don't think it's worth it. But if you like playing it, play it. Put money aside for a different guitar sure. I think I've mentioned that I got a DC400 from Carvin used on ebay for about 400. I had to put some time and tlc into it but it works great now. 

How do you like your DC400? I've always been impressed with Carvin gear. I came across a used Carvin CS6 that felt spectacular, with similar craftsmanship to PRS. I always regret not getting that guitar. It felt so great with stainless steel frets and ebony fretboard. Wasn't cheap - around $1000 used, but still heavily discounted comparing to getting one new, customizing it direct from from Carvin.

 

Too bad all the L.A. Carvin stores closed up, can't walk into their stores and check out their stuff anymore. 

 

Anyway, just been wondering about the DC line (and I've eyeballing their Carvin Bolt kit line, too).

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You miss understand me. Well sort of. I think you should not worry about upgrading this particular cheap guitar. I really don't think it's worth it. But if you like playing it, play it. Put money aside for a different guitar sure. I think I've mentioned that I got a DC400 from Carvin used on ebay for about 400. I had to put some time and tlc into it but it works great now. 

LOL...I take no offence, and you are likely right. I am no expert and I take note of all advice I get here, and you sound like you have plenty of experience for what makes a good and a poor guitar.

 

And I am following your sage advice. I plan to just use my Ibanez for now, and save for an Epi LP100 for early next year. At my current skill level, I cannot justify spending more than that, and it should do me for a few years, and have some resellability for the next upgrade.

 

Thanks, mate

 

D

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The advantage of the DC series is in it's electronics. With switches for in phase out of phase, and coil splitting as well as an on board active pre amp that gives you trem and bass boost, you can get almost any sound out of it. Additionally carvin pickups use 11 individually height adjustable poles instead of 6 for improved sustain and a more even tonal response. I like the fret board and the neck shape is great. I'm eventually going to get around to stripping the paint off the guitar and going with a more natural look and feel. I prefer unlacquered necks myself. Some of the DC series also had Kahler trems in them which I think I've waxed poetic about on here before. I love that they're self contained in a way that no other trem is and that their height adjustment doesn't rely on my turning screws in wood. So overall I'm a fan. Although I will say get a nice padded and WIDE strap if you're going to get a DC. They are heavy. Unbelievably heavy. I think I've carried lighter bowling balls (a bit of hyperbole but really they are freaking heavy). And  it actually doesn't get much use these days. I'm playing an Indonesian made Blackburn MkII by Volcan that I picked up in Korea as my main guitar and have serious plans for if I can find the parts. I keep the Carvin tuned to E flat and pick it up when I want to play in E flat pretty much only. 

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Thanks for info. That DC sounds like a pretty versatile guitar. Funny you mentioned the weight and pre-amp boost, which reminded me of my '84 Gibson Victory bass. I love that thing, and the active boost is nice, but while it's my favorite bass, I hardly play anymore because it so heavy (and this thing is huge, too), and got a budget Ibanez bass for when I need to lay down a bass line quickly.

 

I've got Kahler Spyder on my '88 American Fender Stratocraster (serial number is from the US series, not MIJ). Interestingly, it's stock, the Strat was built that way. Unfortunately I lost the tremelo bar. Gotta find a replacement somehow. No idea how the Kahler Spyder compares to the Kahler on the DC, but I wonder if they are similar.

 

Haven't heard of Blackburn (gonna look it up), but Indonesian made guitars can indeed be nice. Not surprised it's your main axe now. I have a G&L Tribute Legacy made from Indonesia, and the craftsmanship surprised me for a budget guitar. Resonates extremely well, nice swamp ash body and has really nice fitting of the neck to the body. I placed a custom-made early Van Halen-era replica humbucker (from HighOrderPickups.com) in it and it's one of my favorite guitars.

 

 

 

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Gax 30 seems very good in (very) low tunings (considering the 10-46).

I've got no problems with the neck & as it's an ibanez it's quite thin (I like that).

 

Cheap guitars are great for trying & do it yourself settings etc..

I don't like the pickups (seems splitable though & their high output seems to help note detection).

 

Pickup investments are never lost as it can always be mounted in another guitar.

She is "recommended" for beginners guitarist (just google it) for it's quality/cost ratio.

 

I don' like the body shape, too fat bottom & too flat body (but i've save it from destruction so it cost me 0$).

I've just buy 12-54 strings for (very) low tunings, not installed yet.

 

 

 

---------------------------------------------------------------

 

 

The pickups are splitable, there's 4 cables on each Hambuckers.

I've equiped it with 12-54 strings for low tunings usage only.

 

The rise of the hambuckers highly influence the tone, closer to the strings = more distorsion.

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  • 6 months later...

- I've finaly changed the pickup for this one, (because i have buy

a set of ceramic ones for another project) and it's now far better.

Instead of just doing fat noise, now it's ok (even with low tunings).

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