indonesia made

The $599 RG1230FE straddles the line between the most affordable and higher-end guitars with the feel of a professional grade instrument.

With an artist roster stacked to the gills with the shred world’s elite—Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Meshuggah, and Paul Gilbert, among many, many others—Ibanez has established itself as perennial contender for the crown of the de facto metal and hard-rock axe. The company’s long-running and ultra-popular RG series is among its most recognizable and iconic offerings. It debuted in the late ’80s at the height of the shred craze, and it now comprises a broad range of instruments from entry-level models to the flagship J Custom line. The new Iron Label RGIR20FE, which is built in Indonesia and goes for $599 street, straddles the line between the most affordable and higher-end guitars—but it has the feel of a professional grade instrument that you won’t have to break the bank to buy, nor treat with kid gloves when you’re moshing onstage.

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A triple-P-90 steal with some minor work needed

With its unique wiring scheme, this Epiphone Riviera Custom P93 offers seven different pickup settings. Photo by Will Ray
I have to admit I’m a big fan of P-90 pickups, which I consider to be some of the best-sounding single-coils on the planet. They’re warm and fat, but also have a nice bite in the high end. So when I saw Musician’s Friend advertising a new Epiphone Limited Edition Riviera Custom P93 model in their catalog, I did a double take. It had not one, not two, but three P-90s, along with a Bigsby and all-gold hardware ornamenting a 335-like body. She sure was smart looking!

I did my homework first. With a list price of $832 and a street price of $499, that gave me an idea of a P93’s new value. But we don’t play that game. So the next step was to find a used one within my bottom-feeder range of $300–$400. Since P93s were only introduced in 2008, there were very few around. I was diligent, though, and after a few weeks started seeing more and more of them for sale on eBay. However, I noticed there was a bunch of these for sale with shipping damage, as if a speeding train hit a shipping container full of P93s. There were all kinds of Riviera Custom P93s on eBay with neck, headstock, and body damage. That meant I had to be careful, because there might be some recently repaired ones being resold that could have potential problems down the road.

I found this one offered as a seven-day auction with an opening bid of $299. I bookmarked it, and on the seventh day sent in my elite Navy Seal team to go into bidding battle for me. In other words, I “sniped” in the last five seconds, winning the guitar for $306—a very good deal with added shipping of only $17.50. I was really excited when it arrived about 10 days later. There was no case included, and it was rather poorly boxed, which could have led to shipping damage. But I examined it thoroughly and found nothing wrong.

However, when I went to plug the guitar in, I found that the output jack was loose. While trying to tighten it, I discovered the threads on the jack’s nut were stripped badly. After plugging in a few times, the jack dropped inside the body. I had remembered seeing a few of these guitars on eBay with loose jacks that had also fallen inside the body. Those guitars were sold at a discount for the buyer to fix. It made me suspicious that the seller might have bought one of these and jerry-rigged the jack as best he could before reselling it. Hmmm.

Because hollowbody Gibsons and Epiphones do not have access covers on the back, replacing a jack means taking all the electronics out first—a formidable task. I contacted the seller, explained the situation, and asked for a $35 partial refund to get it repaired. He counter-offered with a $25 refund. After thinking about it, I took the offer, figuring that the guitar was still a great deal. I received his PayPal partial refund, and after I was satisfied with everything else, I left him positive feedback.

Bottom Feeder Tip #2877: Never leave positive feedback until you have taken enough time to really be happy with a transaction. Once feedback is left, it cannot be undone—game over. It’s a fact: eBay is a buyer’s market, meaning that buyers have most of the power, and positive feedback is how we buyers level the playing field. Since sellers cannot leave negative feedback, they have little power.

The way the P93 is wired is quite different from other triple-pickup guitars. Instead of a 5-way switch, it has a 3-way toggle for selecting the neck pickup, the bridge pickup, or both those units together. Because each pickup has its own Volume control, you bring the middle pickup in and out with its Volume—it doesn’t have a switch. This scheme yields a total of six combinations. In fact, you can get a seventh combination by turning down the bridge and neck pickups while leaving the middle one turned up. This setup offers very interesting combinations for a P-90 equipped guitar, and provides lots of tonal options when you start blending the levels.

Sadly, the guitar sat in the corner of my studio for about six months before I finally decided to get the jack fixed. I found a repair guy in Asheville named Jack Dillon, who came highly recommended. He also noticed reduced output from the bridge pickup, which was due to the previous owner reversing the bottom alnico magnet for unknown reasons. Jack was able to replace the output jack, reverse the bridge magnet, and lower the string slots at the nut for a total of $40—a very reasonable sum, even for a bottom feeder. I had him replace the gold-plated jack with a standard chrome one we both thought would be more stable. In a classic bottom-feeder move, I took a red Sharpie to it and smeared the ink a little. Now the jack blends in more and looks, well, gold-ish. Good enough for me.

In the end, the guitar cost me a total of $338.50, but now it’s easier to play, it’s much more stable, and it sounds better, to boot. You can’t beat that! It’s especially hip for blues and rockabilly— almost like a Strat trapped inside a 335 body. So is it a keeper? Yep. She’s now part of my arsenal.

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The background of the Festival series from Washburn

A 1992 Washburn EA36 Marquee in vintage sunburst. Inset: The EA36 is equipped with an Equis II preamp and pickup system.
Hey Zach,
It’s hard to believe this instrument is nearly 20 years old now, but time flies when you’re playing guitar. I have a Washburn acoustic-electric, serial number S9201XXX, that I absolutely love to play. I’m wondering if you could tell me a little about it and what it’s worth. Also, the Equis electronics no longer work, and I’m hoping you have some advice on how to get it fixed. Thanks so much!

Bloomington, Illinois

Hey David,
Cool guitar—I actually have one just like it! This was my first acoustic, and it was a great guitar to learn on. It’s easy to play, sounds good, and the design is always a conversation starter.

Washburn History
The Washburn brand was introduced in the late 1880s by Lyon & Healy to produce quality stringed instruments for the ever-expanding distributor. Demand grew rapidly, and during the 1900s the company was producing up to 100 Washburn instruments per day. Lyon & Healy—along with Washburn— was eventually overtaken by the Tonk Bros. Company in the 1920s, and by the late 1940s the Washburn name was discontinued.

In 1974, the Washburn name was revived on a line of acoustic guitars, mandolins, and banjos imported from Japan. In the late 1970s, Washburn introduced new electrics and acoustic-electrics, including the revolutionary Festival Series, which is what your model is from. Washburn is actually something of a pioneer in electrified acoustics, and their Festival Series became popular stage instruments. They featured thin bodies, sharp Florentine cutaways, a transducer built into the bridge, and onboard electronics. Interest was high in these unusual guitars, and after a few years of tweaking, several models were listed in Washburn’s catalog. In the mid 1980s, Washburn moved production from Japan to Korea.

The Festival Series’ Background

Festival Series models all start with an “EA” prefix, usually followed by a two-digit number. Generally speaking, the higher the number, the fancier the guitar’s features. The popularity of the Festival Series is evidenced by how many artists had signature “EA” guitars, including Craig Chaquico, Nuno Bettencourt, and Gregg Allman, who had a black EA20 that he called Melissa. Several other artists played EA models as well, including John Jorgenson, Robert Plant, and even David Brooks (of the band Slammin’ Gladys) is pictured playing one in an early-1990s Washburn catalog.

Festival Series guitars were designed to sound good when amplified at high volumes. In this context, their laminated tops were preferable to the solid-wood tops found in more traditional flattops. Guitarists who performed with Festival Series Washburns did so because of the electric tones they produced.

Your Guitar

Based on the serial number, your guitar is a 1992 EA36 Marquee in vintage sunburst finish. It features bookmatched bird’s-eye maple top, back, and sides, a shallow body, rosewood fretboard and bridge, and Equis II electronics. What really sets the EA36 apart from other Festival Series guitars is that, instead of an oval soundhole, it has nine “computer designed” sound channels (early models only had six) that run diagonally under the fretboard. Today, very few guitars or even components are not designed using computers, but in the early 1990s this was certainly cutting-edge technology. The EA36 came in natural, tobacco sunburst, and vintage sunburst, as well as a rare blue finish available as a special order.

While the Festival Series has been successful (these guitars are still produced today, and several models are in Washburn’s current catalog), the model name and numbers were changed, switched, and reused several times on many different instruments. Before 1992, your guitar was actually called the EA46, and, after 1996, Marquee was dropped from the name. The EA36 was discontinued in 1997, and the last retail price was $1000. Looking at pictures of your guitar, it appears to be in Low Excellent condition, with a few dings. Based on that, today it is worth between $450 and $550.

Weighing Your Equis Options

To my knowledge, Equis is no longer making electronics or pickups, and Washburn stopped using them in the early 2000s. A quick internet search provided very little information as far as replacement parts or schematics. From what I’ve seen, these systems are not terribly complicated, and if you bring it to your local guitar tech or repair shop, they should be able to diagnose the problem and hopefully fix it. If not, you can explore replacing the electronics with a newer preamp and pickup system, but keep in mind that altering the original configuration will ultimately change the value. Once you get the electronics working, this guitar will be a treasure for years to come!

Source: Washburn—Over One Hundred Years of Fine Stringed Instruments by John Teagle.

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