Ibanez RG550 [1987-1994]
Ibanez RG550 [1987-1994]

RG550 [1987-1994], Chitarra Corpo tipo Stratocaster from Ibanez in the RG Standard series.

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King Loudness 24/03/2011

Ibanez RG550 [1987-1994] : Recensione di King Loudness (content in English)

"Like a samurai sword... light, stealthy and deadly!"

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The Ibanez RG550 was pretty much the archetypal shredder's guitar of the late eighties, so when I had a chance to rescue an abandoned one to add to my stable... I couldn't say no! This one was a 1991 with the pre AANJ 4 bolt neck heel. It was made in Ibanez's Fujigen plant in Japan. The features are as follows:

*Basswood body
*Maple neck and fretboard
*Ibanez Edge double locking tremolo
*H-S-H pickup configuration
*Volume/tone controls and a 5 way selector switch
*The famed uber-thin Ibanez "Wizard" neck profile

The pickups were made by DiMarzio for this particular guitar (as has been common for a long time with Ibanez) and they were definitely eighties in their tonal nature. The bridge was a double locking Ibanez tremolo, so you could very easily go nuts with the vibrato unit and it would still hold perfect tune. It's definitely a guitar that was designed to push the limits... especially for those seeking a killer shred guitar!


The guitar was designed to be like a Japanese weapon... light, stealthy, and deadly. It's an extremely light guitar (due to the sculpted basswood body) and fitted my (smaller) body frame like a glove. It was very easy to hold and play (even for extended periods of time) because of its light weight and the ergonomics of it were obviously a key point to the designers. The Wizard neck profile is definitely something that is meant for fast, fast playing. It took me a little while to get used to because it was MUCH thinner than any Ibanez or other guitar that I'd owned previously. The biggest issue I found with the neck was that it would occasionally start to give me hand cramps (after long periods of time) simply because I wasn't used to a neck that was that thin in diameter. Reaching the top frets was a non-issue because, again, the design was made so that you could get to that top 24th fret without a problem. In addition to the cutaways being very deep, the neck plate was angled slightly forwards so that the guitar had an easier grip when you were up higher on the neck... definitely great for shredding on.

I found it very easy to get decent tones with the guitar. When I was given it, the guitar was in rough shape and had been left outdoors and in wet conditions... so I was shocked that the pickups/electronics even worked! However, I didn't even need to touch up any solder joints... everything worked great! The tones were very fitting of a guitar like this. It didn't excel at anything but the high gain thing, but that high gain thing why it was marketed in the first place!


When I got the guitar, I was using a rig centered around a Mesa Studio Preamp (Mesa Mark IIC+ head in preamp form.) into a 4x12 cabinet. For comparison, I also had a 1987 Ibanez 540R, a 2010 Charvel San Dimas USA HSS, and a 1997 Yamaha Pacifica 604W that I was using as superstrats around that time. I found the 550 to be the most modern sounding of any of them...

The clean tones were not bad. Certainly not as good as a Strat or Tele, but considering that it was a basswood guitar with high output pickups and a locking tremolo, I thought they were decent! There was a nice chime to the clean tones when you split the coils using the 5 way selector switch, which sounded very good for that processed, wet eighties clean sound. It's not the type of clean tones I'd recommend for jazz or country type sounds though...

There was really no middle ground as far as low/mid gain tones went. The pickups were quite high output and really just sounded weak to me at lower gain levels. That might have had to do with the woods or bridge as well.

The high gain tones of this guitar were definitely its strong point. The neck pickup was great for solo tones ala Jason Becker or Yngwie, and the bridge humbucker went from that more processed sounding L.A rock tone to the more modern chunk tones of more recent times. It cut through very well in a band mix and I thought that it was a very nice complimentary tone to my Gibson LP or other superstrat guitars. It was more modern sounding than my Ibanez 540R and had a much tighter sound than my Charvel San Dimas. Staccato shred runs ala Paul Gilbert could be pulled off with ease as the tones stayed tight even at higher volumes.


Overall I thought the Ibanez RG550 was a great sounding guitar for that eighties shred/guitar hero vibe. The Ibanez guitars of old are killer players that really push the limits of us as guitarists. My biggest caveat was the Wizard neck... as my hands just cannot get along with one after playing a Gibson Les Paul with a baseball bat '50s neck for some time before getting this guitar.

The tones are very eighties in nature like I said. The guitar might have benefited from a pickup change at some point... but I'm not usually one to modify my guitars so really I base my opinions for these reviews on what the guitar WAS, not what it COULD have been. If you want an eighties sounding guitar that can get into some modern chunk tones and allows you to fly over the fretboard, I'd give the 550 serious consideration. Many players have used them over the years and Ibanez certainly built a serious reputation on these guitars. They're very well crafted instruments... and you can usually pick them up fairly cheaply used as well, so it's definitely a cool guitar to look into if you want a shred 'samurai sword,' so to speak.