RECENTLY ADDED TO IBANEZ’ LONG LIST OF artists who have signature model guitars is Andy Timmons, whose joins a group of players that includes Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, George Benson, and Paul Gilbert. Timmons’ achievements include world tours opening for Kiss (with his band Danger Danger), appearances on albums by Paul Stanley, Simon Phillips, Kip Winger, and Paula Abdul, as well as tons of radio and TV jingles. So what would such an accomplished guitarist come up with if given the chance to design his own Ibanez model? It’s the AT100CLSB on review here, a Japanese- made instrument with a stripped down vibe and a performance oriented feature set.
Specifically, the AT100’s neck is unfinished (or at least very minimally finished), and according to Ibanez, is a digitally replicated version of a worn vintage neck on one of Timmons’ favorite guitars. The 22 jumbo frets have rounded tips and a gleaming polish, and the only adornments on the slab maple fretboard are black position dots. A four-bolt joint attaches the neck to the gloss-finished alder body, and this area is rounded for an easy reach to the top frets. Moving further aft we find a single-layer pickguard that holds a set of DiMarzio pickups in the classic sing/sing/hum configuration. The bridge unit is a custom Andy Timmons AT1 with alnico 5 magnets—a design he has been using since 2001. The neck and middle pickups are hum-cancelling Cruiser models that feature side-by-side coils and ceramic magnets. They have more output than stock Strat pickups, and are voiced for greater low-end emphasis. They feed a master Volume control, a pair of Tone pots, and a 5-way selector. Removing a cover plate from the small cavity on the back of the body provides access to the output jack connections. If the jack ever fails, it can be easily fixed or replaced.
Anchoring the strings at the body end is a Wilkinson bridge, which is adjusted to set flat on the body. With five springs tensioning the system it takes a little effort to drop the pitch, but the strings do come back in tune pretty reliably when you release the bar.
The AT100 arrived with a fairly low action, but no so low as to explain some of the fret buzzing we encountered. Also, the high E string is a little too close to the edge of the fretboard, which makes it easy to slip the string right off the fretboard. Other than that, the intonation sounds tuneful, the neck’s rounded shape feels great, and the big polished frets are delightful for bending.
The AT1000 is a meaty sounding guitar with clean tones that are clear, warm, and balanced. The neck and middle positions offer a good selection of sounds for rhythm work and bluesy lead playing, and the neck-plus-middle and middle-plus-bridge tones (positions 2 and 4) have a cool, clucky ring. The sounds stay bright when you turn down, and the Tone controls (one for the bridge pickup and the second for the neck and middle pickups) are voiced well for eliciting browner textures in clean or highly overdriven configurations.
It’s pretty obvious that Timmons wanted a guitar that could handle the studio work he does and still be a rock-and-roll animal onstage. The marriage of the alder and maple woods with the excellent-sounding DiMarzio pickups yields a guitar that has lots of jangle and chime, yet is tough and ballsy sounding when you let it rip. We had fun playing it through the new Mesa/Boogie Electra Dyne and Matchless Avalon 30 combos. The Cruiser pickups yielded big bell-like tones from these amps, and switching to the bridge pickup was all it took to summon the massive grind for heavy rhythm playing and sustaining solos.
The AT100 is a no-nonsense, workingman’s guitar for players who like the formula of a S-style axe with a humbucker in the bridge position. Its high price will probably keep many working stiffs from ever owning one, but given the time and effort that Ibanez puts into designing its signature models there’s an esoteric value here that comes with the territory. The Andy Timmons AT100CLSB is a welcome addition to the Prestige line, and should be on your list of things to play if you’re shopping for a pro-level solidbody guitar.
SPECS | Ibanez, (800) 669-4226; ibanez.com
MODEL Andy Timmons Signature AT100CLSB
PRICE $2,249 street
FRETBOARD Maple, 251/2" scale
FRETS 22 jumbo
TUNERS Sperzel locking
BRIDGE Wilkinson trem
PICKUPS DiMarzio Cruiser (neck and middle), DiMarzio AT1 Custom (bridge)
CONTROLS Volume, Tone, Tone, 5-way selector
WEIGHT 7.4 lbs
KUDOS Excellent build quality. Great sounding pickups. Wide tonal range. CONCERNS Expensive.