Guitar Reviews: Ibanez GRX70QA Review
The Ibanez GRX70QA is part of their affordable GIO line of solid-body electric guitars. Introduced in 2011, it’s manufactured in China. But even at such a modest price, this is a very playable instrument that’s suitable for beginners and pros alike.
It features a lightweight poplar body with an art grain maple veneer in a variety of colors and a 22-fret bolt-on neck. It’s powered by three Ibanez Infinity ceramic pickups: two humbuckers in the bridge and neck positions, plus a single-coil in the middle.
Ibanez also makes the GRX70QAL left-handed model.
So, let’s take a closer look and find out if this could be your next guitar…
The GRX70QA body is solid poplar, with the Ibanez’ iconic double-cutaway design. It’s as light as basswood, yet it’s stronger and can hold screws better. The entire guitar weighs only about 7.5 pounds.
The top is covered with a beautiful quilted maple veneer. The entire body is given a transparent burst finish in a choice of blue, emerald, black, or red. A beveled arm contour makes playing for long periods easier.
No case or gig bag is included. However, a padded gig bag, which is widely available from several manufacturers, is a good investment.
Let’s now move on to examine the neck, where most of the action is…
The GRX70QA has a “bolt-on” maple neck, attached to the body with four large wood screws (not bolts). It’s known as an “All Access Neck Joint (AANJ),” with a neck heel that’s slimmed down and rounded off. This gives you easier access to the highest frets, without the heel getting in the way. It has a satin finish, so it won’t feel sticky from perspiration.
An adjustable internal truss rod guarantees the neck stays straight. Instructions for adjusting the neck are in the GRX70QA User Manual, should it ever be necessary.
Thin & Playable
The neck is relatively slender and thin compared to a classic Fender or Gibson. It has a width of 1.65 inches (42mm) at the nut and 2.44 inches (57mm) at the 22nd fret. The neck’s thickness is tapered from 0.788 inches (20mm) at the first fret to 0.886 inches (22.5mm) at the 12th fret.
The nut is made of plastic, which is what you would expect in a guitar at this price. To make sure it stays in tune after using the tremolo bar, it’s a good idea to lightly lubricate the nut slots with the tip of a sharp pencil.
Built For Speed
String spacing at the bridge saddles is described as 10.5mm between adjacent strings. This is virtually identical to the standard measurement of 2 1/16 inches from the 1st to 6th strings. It comes strung with extra light gauge strings (.009 – .042). If you prefer a heavier gauge, you might need to adjust the neck and bridge slightly.
The GRX70QA neck has 22 medium-sized frets, which helps with speed playing. The frets are generally well-dressed, with no sharp edges protruding along the side of the neck. The scale length – the length of the string from nut to bridge – is 25.5 inches.
A Touch Of Purple
The fretboard is bound with purpleheart. Also known as peltogyne or amaranth, this very hard wood comes from the tropical rainforests of Central and South America. After being cut and exposed to ultraviolet light, it turns dark brown with a slight hue of its original purple. It’s extremely durable and water-resistant.
The fretboard radius is 12 inches. This is a nice compromise size that makes playing chords easy, as well as buzz-free string bending.
The GRX70QA has a chrome-plated T106 tremolo bridge and arm. This is a new design that replaces their earlier FAT-6 design, and it offers improved tuning stability. Like other Ibanez tremolo systems, you can bend notes up or down.
The bridge itself has individual string saddles. You can adjust these forward or back for perfect intonation, or raise and lower them as needed for maximum playability.
On the headstock are six in-line tuning machines. These are unbranded Chinese-made tuners, but they work well to keep the guitar in tune. Two string trees, the high E and B string, and G and D string, help keep sufficient downward force on the nut.
Pickups & Electronics
The GRX70QA has three “Infinity” model pickups. These are produced by Ibanez in China and used in several Ibanez budget guitar models, including the GIO product line. The current second-generation pickups were introduced in 2005.
Infinity pickups feature ceramic magnets, lending a brighter tone than traditional Alnico magnets. The neck and bridge pickups are Infinity R humbuckers (H), while the middle pickup is an Infinity RS single-coil (S) model. This is commonly known as an “HSH configuration.” In some combinations, the humbuckers are split, making them essentially single-coil pickups.
Pickup combinations are selected by a 5-position blade switch mounted near the bridge pickup. The available combinations are bridge humbucker only; bridge (split) + middle; middle only; middle + neck (split) and neck humbucker.
In addition, the GRX70QA has master volume, and tone control potentiometers (pots) mounted near the pickup selector switch. These generic Chinese pots can sometimes feel a bit stiff until they’re broken in. The 1/4-inch output jack is mounted on the side of the body near the tone control.
The GRX70QA doesn’t have a pickguard, so the pickups, controls, and selector switch are all mounted directly into the guitar body. A routed cavity contains all the wiring, which is accessed by a screw-on plastic cover on the back.
Also see: Schecter C1 Platinum Review
Your GRX70QA arrives in a double box. The large, outer container doesn’t seem very strong and indeed might even have some small punctures or crushed corners. It’s also unmarked, with no indication which end is up. Generally, this isn’t a problem, but a stronger box would be safer. Inside, generous amounts of bubble plastic protect the inner box that contains the guitar
Inside the inner box, the GRX70QA is wrapped in thick foamy plastic. The box contains no foam blocks to protect against shocks. So be sure to perform a careful physical inspection after you unwrap it, making note of any scratches, chips or other physical damage. It’s unlikely, but the time to file a damage claim is when it’s fresh out of the box.
The pickup tops are protected with pieces of thin adhesive plastic. Don’t forget to remove these before you use the guitar.
Included in the box is the tremolo arm (“whammy bar”). It plugs into the hole on the bridge near the high E string.
Also included are a guitar cable, Allen wrenches for adjusting the truss rod and bridge saddles if necessary, your warranty card, and a user manual. In the manual are instructions for making any adjustments that might be required.
If you’re a beginning guitarist, you’ll probably need a few other things to complete your setup. They’re all easily available online or at your neighborhood music store. At a minimum, you’ll need a selection of guitar picks, a good guitar strap, and maybe a set of Best Guitar Strap Locks. Also, you should have a spray bottle of guitar cleaner/polish and a soft microfiber cloth.
And you’ll eventually need an extra set of strings, for advice check out our article on the Best Electric Guitar Strings. Better to buy them now, before you break one in the middle of that big solo.
Of course, an electric guitar also needs an amplifier! How about one of the Best Guitar Amplifiers under 200 Dollars, the Best Mini Amp, the Best Modeling Amps, or the Best Portable Guitar Amplifiers currently available.
How Does It Sound?
For a guitar in this price range, the GRX70QA sounds remarkably good. The ceramic pickups have a crisp high end that might make you want to dial the tone back a little. They have a little less midrange than typical pickups with Alnico magnets.
When the selector switch is in position 2, 3 or 4, it sounds not unlike a Stratocaster-style guitar with single-coil pickups. In positions 1 and 5, the humbuckers give a fuller, rounder more Les Paul’ y tone.[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o4NtSHSCT_o[/embed]
These pickups really scream with good overdrive, either from the amp or an external pedal. You get plenty of crunch for the very heaviest of metal sounds. On the other hand, they might sound a little too bright and brittle and require some careful adjustment of guitar and amp tone controls.
Intonation and sustain are excellent, assuming the guitar has properly set up at the factory. If you’re not comfortable doing it yourself, a professional setup by a guitar technician is a worthwhile investment.
Tuning stability is also quite good, even after using the tremolo bar. However, if you use it to “dive bomb” a lot, you may want to consider one or more of the upgrades suggested in the next section.
The GRX70QA is an excellent journeyman guitar right out of the box. However, there are some hardware upgrade possibilities that will turn it into a high-quality, professional instrument.
The stock tuning machines are acceptable, but a set of name-brand locking tuners, such as Grovers or Schallers, will help keep your guitar in tune longer. This is especially true if you’re a heavy tremolo bar user.
The nut can also affect tuning because the strings can stick slightly when moving back and forth through the slots as you move the tremolo bar. You can upgrade this to a bone nut, or get one made from a special hard plastic impregnated with graphite. This is usually a job best left for a professional guitar tech but is still a very reasonably priced upgrade.
Another prime candidate for upgrading is the electronic assembly, comprising the tone and volume pots, blade switch and output jack. Name-brand components will feel smoother and last longer. Pre-wired assemblies are widely available.
A major upgrade is to swap the pickups for a name-brand design. This is a very personal choice, so unless you already know the sound of a particular pickup set, you might be thrilled or disappointed.
None of these upgrades are necessary when you buy the guitar, of course, but over time as you fall in love with it, you may decide on a few simple upgrades as opposed to selling it and getting a more expensive instrument.
Ibanez GRX70QA Pros & Cons
- Sleek double-cutaway body, beautifully finished.
- Lightweight, comfortable feel.
- All Access Neck Joint makes playing high notes easier.
- Smooth, fast neck.
- Decent pickups, especially for the price.
- Tuners could be better.
- Outer shipping carton not very strong.
- No gig bag included.
The GRX70QA from Ibanez offers something for everyone. It’s an excellent first guitar for the beginning student. At the same time, a seasoned musician who doesn’t want to risk taking their more valuable axes onstage will find the GRX70QA fills the bill nicely.