Ibanez AW54OPN Review – Best Acoustic Guitar Under 500?

Ibanez’s history goes back to 1908. They were a manufacturer in Japan named Hoshino Gakki and are one of the first few manufacturers who decided to step into the guitar making business. Hoshino Gakki made their first classic guitar in 1935. Because the ideation of the instrument got popular with its classic design, they also decided to jump onto the bandwagon. Classic guitars were particularly popular in Spanish music and therefore, Hoshino Gakki ended up naming their first ever guitar Ibanez Salvador, which was after a Spanish legendary musician, Luthier Salvador Ibanez. That is where the legacy began. Ibanez eventually came out as a brand and started high volume manufacturing facilities and distribution channels. What we know of them today started back in 1957, and they call it their modern era. 

There are two things that Ibanez is renowned for. The first is their will to manufacture just about everything related to guitars and experiment with it. There is almost nothing that is related to guitars which Ibanez does not make. They make everything, and then they also experiment with conventional designs. For instance, they were the ones who introduced the first 7-string and 8-string guitars. Secondly, they have always, always been known for their nominal prices. They make instruments that can compete with market leaders and do not even cost half of them. It could be the fact that they manufacture in Asia, or it could be anything else too. But their edge is brilliant. The quality does not fall behind expectations, and the prices do not go off the charts either. That is their entire game in AW54OPN too. The Ibanez AW54OPN is an acoustic guitar that is unbelievable, to say the least. Like every other product they make, Ibanez experimented with this guitar too and made it something that nobody else can compete with. Why, you ask? We explain in detail in this review.

Features Of Ibanez AW54OPN:

Construction and Sound

Ibanez AW54OPN build

AW54OPN by Ibanez is a gorgeously constructed guitar. It belongs to their Artwood series (which might explain the initials in the name) and it also lives up to the name; it is an art of wood. To begin with, everything in this guitar is Mahogany! Yup, this is an all Mahogany guitar. The back, the sides, the neck, the headstock, and the top, everything is made out of Mahogany. All Mahogany is primarily constructed for one sole reason: the warmth. A Spruce top or a Sapele body can’t produce a sound like Mahogany. For people who love mellow genres (and who does not?), Mahogany body is the choice. They love the sound of open chords resonating over each other as they shift, and the sharpness or brightness of highs does not impress them. Hence, the sound quality AW54OPN promises to provide is top of the line.

The fingerboard of this guitar is made from Rosewood, which is responsible for the amazing responsiveness this guitar has, and so is the bridge. Although a lot of other guitars in this price range have Rosewood fretboards, this one is just surprisingly sensitive. It will not miss any hit, be it strumming or finger styling. The action is also pretty low, which adds up to the smoothness in playing. The shape is a basic dreadnought with no cutaways, the fingerboard has Pearloid inlays, and the keys are chrome plated for longer life.

However, the feature that deserves the most attention is the Open Pore Natural finish. Usually, guitars have a gloss finish. Even Mahogany tops. But, gloss finish does exactly opposite to what Mahogany does to the sound. Ibanez was smart enough to release this model with what they call an Open Pore Natural finish. There is no coating over the original Mahogany body. So, whatever you are seeing and touching, is the beauty and finish of pure Mahogany wood. This is what makes the sound of this guitar a little warmer than other Mahogany tops. The back and sides, however, are laminated, of course. 

Price

Ibanez AW54OPN top

What do you think when you hear “all Mahogany”? You think “all the money!”. All Mahogany guitars, or even Mahogany top guitars, are never expected to be priced cheaply. The sound Mahogany creates is a premium sound that demands loads of money. But that was exactly the gap right there and this is what Ibanez identified and filled. There was no guitar in a nominal price range that was all Mahogany, so Ibanez made one. AW54OPN from Ibanez is priced under $200! There is no zero missing. AW54OPN is actually priced under $200 and that is what makes all its features thrice as attractive! So, Ibanez is basically offering something that has the highest prices in the market (all Mahogany body) in a price range of beginners. Compare it to any other guitar in that price range (under 500), AW54OPN will win by clear margins. It is included, and usually at the top, in every list of top ten guitars under $200 on the internet. Try searching and you will realize. If your budgets are tight but you really don’t want to go with bright sounds, AW54OPN is your choice. In fact, even otherwise. Just leave everything behind and get this. You would not regret your decision even 5 or 10 years down the lane.

Pros & Cons Of Ibanez AW54OPN:

Pros

  • Beautiful aesthetics. Raw and original look.
  • Warm but loud tone.
  • Extremely affordable price.
  • Only all Mahogany guitar in its price range.
  • Great quality and very durable.

Cons

  • None at this price range, to be honest.

Final Words

Ibanez’s AW54OPN obviously does not give the sound quality that a Mahogany Martin or Taylor, for that matter, would give. But you need to realize that this guitar does not even cost half as much as a Martin or Taylor. However, in a budgeted amount, this is the only all Mahogany guitar that provides a sound quality like no other competitor. For beginners and for people looking for a guitar at an affordable price, anything other than AW54OPN would be a sheer compromise. 

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