Ibanez RG550 Genesis Review: A Blast From the Past

Ibanez RG550 Genesis Review

Ibanez Guitars have made a name for themselves over the years for being the choice of top-notch, awe-inspiring shredders of the likes of Joe Satriani, Paul Gilbert, and Steve Vai. 

Most aspiring shredders and metal players have picked up an Ibanez at some point in their quest to shred like the aforementioned great players, due to their thin, lightning-fast necks, brilliant pickups, and excellent trem-systems. 

Ibanez first released the RG550 in 1987, shortly after the release of Ste Vai’s signature JEM777 model. At the time the RG550 was meant to be a more affordable alternative to the JEM777, taking a lot of the design and style features while leaving out some of the cosmetic features and higher-end electronics/tremolo system that made the JEM more expensive. 

With this RG550 Genesis series, Ibanez has gone back to 1987 and taken inspiration from the original to bring back many of the great features that the 1987 version had, while adding a few modern touches that bring this guitar up to par with other modern high-end Japanese made lines from Ibanez. 

In this Ibanez RG Genesis review, we’ll take a look at some of the features, specs, and overall playability and value of the guitar to answer any questions you may have and help you decide if it’s meant to be your next ax of choice. 

Ibanez RG550 Genesis Review Highlights: 

Introduced in 1987 and discontinued in 1994, the Ibanez RG550 was epic when it was first released. Originally designed as a mass-appeal, more budget-friendly version of Steve Vai’s famous JEM777 model, it had characteristics that hadn’t been seen before at the time – the pointy horns and headstock, an ultra-thin Wizard neck built for speed, and an exhaustive list of eccentric color options that characterized the 80’s.  

This Japanese-made modern era RG550 Genesis series is a tribute back to the original, and it’s essentially everything that is good about shred and metal guitars. 

The overall craftsmanship is simply exemplary. The Wizard neck is absolutely perfect – your hand glides effortlessly along it – while the vibrato performs marvelously through every divebomb you put it through. 

Tonally, this Ibanez RG550 Genesis can cover a lot of ground. Despite its pointy, shred-inspiring appearance, the HSH configuration allows you to dip in and out of different genres comfortably. 

The V7 bridge humbucker delivers the screaming, in-your-face tones you want in an Ibanez, while the V8 neck humbucker offers slight compression at higher gain settings that are perfect for lead lines. This RG550 Genesis is everything the world loved about the original with a few modern touches.  

What We Liked

  • Razor thin Super Wizard neck – for ultimate speed and playability
  • Contoured neck – for easy access to the upper register 
  • Locking, floating tremolo system – allows you to be really aggressive with your dive bombs without worrying about tuning. 
  • Versatility – while this looks like a metal guitar, these pickups have serious tonal range to them.

What We Didn’t Like

  • Neck can be almost TOO thin – it will take some getting used to if you’re coming from a more typical, thicker neck found on the likes of major brands like Gibson and Fender.
  • No case or gig bag – A bit disappointing at this price range, but that is how Ibanez manages to keep the price down for such a high-quality instrument.  Plan to tack on an additional cost for a good case. 

Ibanez RG550 Review: Features & Specifications

  • Solid basswood body 
  • Super Wizard 5-piece Maple/Walnut neck
  • Maple fretboard w/Black dot inlay
  • Jumbo frets
  • Ibanez V7 and V8 humbuckers in the bridge and neck
  • S1 single coil in the middle
  • 5-way selector switch 
  • Edge tremolo bridge, Gotoh tuners, Black Hardware 

Ibanez RG550 Genesis Review: Our Insights

The Ibanez RG550 Genesis is clearly a beast of a guitar that’ll truly shine for high-gain music and also handle any other genres you care to throw at it. 

Let’s take a closer look at some of the specifics of the guitar, from the build quality and tonewoods to what kind of electronics are under the hood. 

Build Quality

This instrument SCREAMS quality as soon as you pick it up, it is everything that you would expect from a Japanese-built Ibanez. The attention to detail can be felt in every part of this guitar, from the base of the body to the top of the neck. 

The 5-piece neck is seamlessly put together, allowing for a maximum speed up and down the fretboard. The carved-out neck joint is also of excellent quality and you can see the attention to detail. 

You can feel the precision in the Ibanez-designed floating locking tremolo system when you first press down on it, and the quality of the build gives you pinpoint accuracy on all of your harmonics and divebombs. 

Tone Woods

Like most Ibanez guitars in this price range, the body of the RG550 Genesis is made of basswood, a high-quality wood that gives you rich, harmonic tones. 

The neck is a combination of maple and walnut, while the fretboard is made of maple. The brightness of the maple fretboard balances well with the low richness that a basswood body provides. 

Hardware and Electronics

While the RG550 Genesis is on the low end of the price range for a premium Japanese made guitar, Ibanez didn’t skimp on the hardware and electronics, and utilized many of the same features they use on their higher-end guitars. 

Sound

With the HSH pickup combination you can achieve a rich array of tones and sound combinations with this RG550 Genesis. All the way from rich and smooth, jazz-like tones on the neck pickup, to some great strat-like single coil sounds in the middle position. 

In the bridge position is Ibanez’s V8 pickup, a passive pickup with an alnico magnet. This pickup will get you all of the balls-to-the-wall metal tones you expect from an Ibanez. While it is great with high-gain, I did find it to be a bit unusable with clean tones due to it being a bit too bright for my tastes. 

Moving on to the middle position we’ve got an S1 single coil alnico pickup. If you’re wanting to get a more strat-inspired sound for some clean tones, you can’t go wrong throwing it in this position.  

And finally in the neck is the Ibanez V7 pickup, the only one on this guitar that has a ceramic magnet. This pickup really sounds great on high-gain settings, perfect for thick rhythm chording as well as lead lines. I also found that you can get some really nice, creamy thick jazz tones on a clean tone with this neck pickup. 

I found this guitar also really impressed in the 2nd and 4th positions, splitting the single coil and humbucker. I found the 4th position especially nice for funk tones, while the 2nd position ended up being my go-to for clean chording. 

Playability

While I already mentioned how fast the 5-piece Super Wizard neck is, an additional part of what makes this neck stand out is the satin finish that feels amazing and improves playability. 

It ships with 0.09 gauge strings, although you can change those as you see fit. I personally have found .10 gauge strings to offer a fuller, more well-rounded sound, although they can be a bit more difficult for bends. 

One feature that makes the RG550 Genesis so magnificent to play is that it features a classic-style tilt neck joint with a stamped metal plate rather than the sculpted All Access neck joint found on most modern RG models. This gives you easy access to the upper frets. 

Value

Coming in right at the $1,000 mark, this guitar offers serious playability and tonal variance, all in a price tag that comes in well below the price point of many higher-end Japanese made guitars.

The great thing is that you still get a lot of the hardware and electronics that they put in their higher-end guitars. 

For the money, the RG550 Genesis is a real bang-for-your-buck kind of guitar that won’t completely break the bank like the Prestige Series. 

Ibanez RG550 Review: Buying Experience

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The Ibanez RG550 Genesis can be purchased in a variety of in-person shops and online stores, and of course your personal buying experience will be dependent upon which store you end up buying your guitar from. 

For maximum convenience with no hassle buying, we at Guitar Advise recommend buying your guitar directly through Sweetwater. 

The details below on shipping and return policy are all the case when buying through Sweetwater directly. 

Shipping

All guitars from Sweetwater ship for free following a thorough 55-point inspection.

Sweetwater is not only known for its great customer service but also their attention to detail when it comes to shipping products like guitars and other gear you may need. 

One important thing to note is that this guitar does not come with any sort of case – it will be shipped in the Ibanez box, so if you’re worried about protecting the guitar on its way to your door you can opt to buy a case through Sweetwater, and they will place the guitar in the case for you before it ships. 

A hardshell case is HIGHLY recommended – I can’t even count how many times my guitar could’ve been broken into two pieces if it weren’t for it being placed in a hard case. 

Return Policy

What happens if it turns out that the Ibanez Genesis RG550 isn’t for you? We don’t think that’ll be the case, but in case it’s not the one for you, Sweetwater offers a great, “no-hassle” return policy.

When buying online from Sweetwater you have 30 days to test out your new guitar and send it back with no questions asked, as long as it’s still in the same condition as it was when you received it.

If you want a refund, Sweetwater will deduct the actual amount to ship it back to them from that refund.

Warranty

As long as you fill out the Ibanez warranty card within 10 days of purchasing it, you’ll be covered under Ibanez’s warranty for a period of one year. 

This warranty will cover any parts that prove to be defective, as well as any other damage that arises due to defective parts. 

For up-to-date information and details on the warranty, check Ibanez’s website. 

About Ibanez Guitars 

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Ibanez started out in 1908 as a guitar importer to Japan, mainly importing guitars from Spain. Later on in 1935 the parent company Hoshino Gakki began production of their own Spanish style guitars. 

In 1957 the modern era of Ibanez began. At the time most Japanese guitar makers were following in the footsteps of European guitar makers, primarily manufacturing hollowbody and semi-hollowbody style guitars. It was at this point that Ibanez took a different route and decided to make guitars based on the Swedish style of the time – solid body styles. 

During the 1960s, brands like Fender and Gibson were exploding with popularity and had most of the market share. Wanting to capitalize on the trend, Ibanzez began designing guitars similar to the American brands in hopes of drawing more attention to their brand and competing in the global market.

This actually led to some legal trouble for Ibanez — a lawsuit which resulted in trademarks for the shape of guitar headstock designs after they copied the Fender headstock a bit too closely. 

After copying the American style, Ibanez decided to reexamine their strategy and instead began to create their very own style of guitars. The 1980s–1990s saw the release of many iconic Ibanez guitars like the JEM and Universe models, which popularized the classic Ibanez design. 

They also made signature models for guitarists like Paul Stanley, Bob Weir, and George Benson, which allowed the Ibanez brand to finally get a substantial piece of the world guitar market. 

It was also during this time that Ibanez launched the S and RG series guitars that featured high-output pickups, thin necks, deep cutaways, and floating double-locking tremolo systems — all the features that shredding guitarists wanted on their axes. 

Continuing on into the 2000s, Ibanez has been one of the main players in the Nu-Metal era with their production of several 7, 8, and 9 string models. Ibanez is truly a company that continues to innovate and create new designs to keep evolving, while always keeping in mind what it is the players of their guitars want. 

Let’s dive right into what makes this Ibanez RG550 Genesis series so special. 

Check out our roundup review of the Best Ibanez Guitars

Ibanez RG550 Genesis vs Original 1987 Ibanez RG550

While the RG550 Genesis is based on the original 1987 model, the Genesis comes with a few modern tweaks. The main differences between the two are highlighted below: 

Neck

The original 1987 RG550 featured a 1-piece maple Wizard neck. The Genesis improves upon that original design with a 5-piece maple/walnut Super Wizard neck. 

However, just as in 1987, the Genesis has the same contoured neck joint that you won’t find on other RG series for great access to the upper frets. 

Fretboard 

The 1987 Ibanez RG550 was also available with a rosewood fretboard, while the RG550 Genesis only comes with a maple fretboard. 

Finish Colors 

In 1987 you had many more choices in color. In fact, there were SEVENTEEN different color options at the time. For the Genesis models, Ibanez has whittled that list down to just three – Road Flare Red, Desert Sun Yellow, and Purple Neon. 

Should You Buy the Ibanez RG550 Genesis?

If you’re looking for a guitar to shred on, that delivers excellent high-gain sounds with a tremolo system that will handle any abuse you can throw at it, then the answer is a resounding YES, you should buy this guitar. 

Keep in mind that even though it is a versatile guitar, if you primarily play jazz, blues, softer rock, etc. you may be disappointed with this guitar, as it is primarily made for higher-gain tones. 

Ibanez RG550 Alternatives

So, maybe you’re thinking to yourself that the RG550 Genesis isn’t quite what you’re looking for. Let’s take a look at some other offerings from Ibanez to see how they stack up. 

Ibanez RG550 Vs Ibanez RG565

Ibanez RG565 Genesis Collection
$999.99
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Coming in at the same price point is the RG565. This guitar is a beast of its own, and is different from the 550 in a few ways:

Tonal Options

The RG565 is an HH configuration that comes with a 5-selector switch that has a HUGE range of sounds. Here’s how the 5-way switch works: 

1- bridge humbucker 

2- neck and bridge combination with split coils 

3- neck and bridge combination as humbuckers 

4- neck position in parallel wiring

5- neck humbucker 

As you can see, there’s a range of tonality here that the RG550 doesn’t have even with its HSH configuration. 

Color Choices

The 565 also comes in 2 astonishingly striking colors that the 550 doesn’t have – Emerald Green and Fluorescent Orange. The fret inlays also match the body color for a brilliant finishing look. 

Ibanez RG550 Vs Ibanez RG450DX

Ibanez RG450DX
$399.99

The Ibanez RG450DX is a shredder's dream featuring the classic RG shape, thin Wizard III neck, and DL Tremolo bridge.

Read our full Ibanez RG450DX Review

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The next one on our list comes in at less than half the price of the RG550 Genesis, so if you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, the Ibanez RG450DXB might be exactly what you’re looking for. 

The RG450DXB is just as tonally diverse as the 550 Genesis as it has the same HSH pickup configuration. However, the RG450DXB uses Quantum humbuckers and single coils, which is a lower-end offering compared to the 550. 

There are some differences in the neck and choice of woods as well. The RG450DXB uses a 3 piece Wizard III neck made entirely of maple. The body is made of Mahogany, and the fingerboard is Jatoba wood. 

These different choices of tonewoods and neck design allow Ibanez to produce a solid RG guitar that will fit into the budget for a wider array of people. 

While the RG450DXB doesn’t have the excellent craftsmanship and quite the level of playability that the RG550 Genesis has, it is a great-playing RG for a low cost that you can’t go wrong with. 

Ibanez RG550 Vs Ibanez Prestige RG652AHM

If your budget is on the higher end and you want to go for something that will really just blow everyone away, then this Prestige RG52AHM is probably more in line with what you’re looking for. 

The RG prestige series is a whole other level, and you can see it and feel it in every aspect of this guitar. While the RG550 Genesis is a remarkable guitar in its own right, it simply cannot keep up with the Prestige series guitars. 

Some features that you get when you step up to the Prestige RG652AHM series include: 

Super Wizard HP Neck

Even faster than the Super Wizard on the RG550 Genesis is the blazing-fast Super Wizard HP neck on the prestige series guitars. 

Ibanez Edge Locking Tremolo

Based on the original 1986 edge tremolo design, this system is similar to the ones used by the likes of Joe Satriani and Steve Vai on their custom guitars. It offers precision and control that is unmatched in the standard tremolo on the RG550 Genesis. 

Ash Body

As opposed to the basswood found on the RG550, ash is a tough hardwood that’s sonic characteristics produce more treble and sustain, giving you a brighter, more resonant sound. 

DiMarzio Pickups 

As compared to the Ibanez-designed pickups that come standard on the RG550 Genesis models, the Prestige RG652AHM comes with impeccable sounding DiMarzio pickups – Air Norton and Tone Zone pickups to be precise. 

Hard Case Included

And for the price, it better be! While with the RG550 Genesis you’ll be shopping for your own case, the folks at Ibanez are kind enough to throw in a hard case when you step up to the Prestige line. 

The Bottom Line

The Ibanez RG550 Genesis is a fantastic guitar with excellent Japanese craftsmanship and playability for right at the $1,000 mark. It offers every tone in the book with its HSH pickup configuration and especially shines on high-gain, shred style playing. 

A few of the things that make the RG550 Genesis so great are: 

  • Carved out neck joint not found on other RG models for ultra playability and access to the upper register. 
  • Ibanez-designed tremolo system that will stand up to any abuse you can give it. 
  • 5-Piece Super Wizard neck for lightning fast playing. 

The RG550 Genesis delivers a high-performing RG style guitar with all of the things you expect from an RG, while keeping the price at a point that won’t prohibit an average player from picking one up. 

If you’re in the market for a shred guitar that will also allow you to branch out into other genres, the Ibanez RG550 Genesis could just be the right choice for you. 

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