Ibanez VS Jackson: Comparing The Legendary #1 Brands For Shred!

By Christoper Horton •  Updated: 09/14/22 •  14 min read

When it comes to Ibanez VS Jackson guitars, both are shred guitar legends. But which one suits you? Today we take a look at what both brands have to offer, an what the differences are.


Ibanez VS Jackson: Two Metal Giants…

If you play metal as a guitarist, chances are you have run into both of these companies at some point. Maybe you were considering one or the other, since both companies are known for being “shred” or “Metal” guitar brands.

The “Ibanez VS Jackson” debate started because both companies make popular “Super Strat” guitars. Ibanez had a hit in the late 80’s with the JEM and RG Series, while Jackson had a head start on Ibanez by being popular long before then.

The 80’s were all about the new idea of user-modified guitars. Eddie Van Halen had almost single-handedly started the new “Super-Strat” fad. Suddenly everyone was playing modified electric guitars like Eddie. The companies like Charvel, Jackson, Kramer, and Fernandes were thriving from custom orders for these new Super-Strats.

Then other brands like Dean and BC Rich kicked it up a notch, and came up with some outlandish designs at the beginning of the 80’s. These might have railed against the basic Super-Strat style, but the features that mattered remained the same. Skinny necks, big frets, and Floyd Rose bridges had taken over the market. Jackson was at the center though, and out-sold most of the other brands.

But not every company survived the past the 80’s since Grunge took over the music scene. These new guitarists of the 90’s were using older Fenders, as well as many other forgotten brands. The “Decade Of Excess” was over the moment Nirvana and Pearl Jam became the new style. Vintage 70’s Gear became a hot trend that still exists today.

What you may not know is where each brand started. Ibanez in particular has a pretty wild story, but Jackson Guitars also has quite an interesting history. Both companies became extremely popular in the 80’s for completely different reasons. These days, the Ibanez VS Jackson debate has even more factors to consider since the companies are so similar on the surface.

But we aren’t just going to check out the history of these two companies, we are going to look at the design and features that each brand still offers today. This way, you can find out which company would be the best fit for you, as a player. Super-Strats look very much alike at first glance, but the devil is in the details.

There is a lot to consider when it comes to Ibanez VS Jackson, both brands technically serve the same purpose. Both are known to be “metal” guitar brands, and both have a large roster of musicians that endorse these brands. So what do these guitars have in common?

I think it’s safe to say that they have more in common, than they are different. But every brand has its own quirks and idiosyncrasies that make the brand different and unique. Just because all of the “shred” brands have similar features doesn’t mean that they are the same at all.

Today we are going to dig into the differences when it comes to Ibanez VS Jackson, and why one may be better than the other for some guitarists. There really isn’t a right or wrong answer here, and this applies to most guitar gear. What works for for you, may be a nightmare rig for someone else!

Let’s dive into the history of each brand, where the ideas came from, and where the designs sit today.


Ibanez VS Jackson: History

Ibanez VS Jackson
Original Concept For The Jackson Rhoads

When it comes to the beginnings of Ibanez VS Jackson, the two companies had very different origins. Jackson was an American “Hot Rod” shop, while Ibanez was a Japanese company making copies of American instruments. Ibanez would go on to find its own voice, but Jackson had been around for a while.

When it comes to original designs, Jackson Guitars technically came first. Jackson Guitars was founded by Grover Jackson in California in the early 70’s. Around that time he was working closely with Wayne Charvel, who also had some great guitar designs. Like most famous brands that started as a repair shop, they ended up with some famous customers.

They were both approached by Eddie Van Halen in the 70’s, Grover and Wayne gave Eddie some of the parts for the first builds of the “FrankenStrat”. In fact, that famous guitar was in a bucket that Wayne Charvel had discarded, because the wood had a flaw. Eddie took it, and the rest is history!

Wayne Charvel ended up selling his company to Grover Jackson when Charvel Guitars was practically bankrupt. Jackson took advantage of the rise of Heavy Metal in the 80’s and started making guitars for all kinds of artists, but most notably Randy Rhoads (Model pictured above). Not to mention the Charvel models that Eddie Van Halen played for a while in the 80’s.

Grover Jackson had his “new” artist with Randy Rhoads, who was playing with Ozzy Osbourne at the time and at the top of his game. Originally called The Concorde, this was going to be the first time Grover Jackson put his name on the headstock. Unfortunately, Randy was killed in a plane crash the same year that he teamed up with Jackson.

Jackson continued on with the model, naming it the Rhoades Model, which has gone down in history as being an iconic design that Jackson still sells today. Jackson Guitars became a main player in the industry. The more extreme and original designs were sold under the Jackson brand, while the Strat shaped guitars were still sold under the Charvel brand name.

Grover Jackson ended making guitars for tons of artists, like Phil Collen from Def Leppard, Dave Mustaine from Megadeth, and lots of other Metal artists in the 80’s. Jackson and Charvel thrived for quite a while, but ended up being sold off by Grover to IMC in Texas, at the height of the company’s popularity.

Grover Jackson only worked with IMC in Texas for a short time. He then went on to work for Washburn guitars, and even helped to create the Dimebag Darrell signature models. Through the 90’s he worked for just about every guitar company, making designs for Rickenbacker, Washburn, Dean, and even G&L Guitars.

At this point, there was no Ibanez VS Jackson debates, because Ibanez was on a much different path. In fact, Ibanez VS Jackson wouldn’t even be a comparison until the 2000’s rolled around. The two companies were definitely very different in the beginning, which is something we don’t think about as much today. Both have a rich heritage in “shred” right?

Ibanez is a funny name for a Japanese company, since Ibanez is a Spanish word/name. The history of Ibanez is a little convoluted, but it has always been a Japanese brand. Hoshino Gakki started by making Spanish-style acoustic guitars under the “Ibanez” moniker.

Hoshino also had a hand in making some of the Teisco guitars as well, from the Tama factory. These models were exported to the US and they are still collectible by many guitarists today. Eventually, Ibanez also joined in the electric guitar game, and Teisco was shut down to focus on Ibanez exclusively.

By the end of the 60’s, Ibanez had started making all kinds of wild electric guitar designs at the FujiGen factory. These original Ibanez models sold well, but never became a major player in the American market. Ibanez needed to do something different to be a viable export brand.

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At the end of the 70’s Ibanez had also started making copies of famous American guitar brands, namely Gibson. This resulted in the “Lawsuit Era” of Ibanez, since the company received letters to stop production of the copies immediately. This left Ibanez with a few original models that had lukewarm sales, at best.

When it comes to Ibanez VS Jackson, it would seem like Ibanez started on the wrong foot. copying other brands rarely puts you on the map. Ibanez knew that it needed a change, as the newer original designs were not selling very well. The company was on the brink of falling apart when Steve Vai stepped in. This lead to the birth of the JEM and the budget model RG Series.

Ibanez had a hit with both the JEM and the RG Series throughout the 90’s. Ibanez then started experimenting, leading to the creation of the 7 String Guitar, and even the 8 string. Ibanez is famously known for these designs, and Ibanez is now the third most popular brand behind Fender and Gibson guitars.

Ibanez has quite the “comeback” story when you think about it. The high end Ibanez guitars are still made in Japan, where the more affordable instruments are made in Indonesia and China. Ibanez is the chosen brand for a lot of Virtuoso guitar players, as well as experimental players.

Jackson/Charvel on the other hand was sold to Fender in 2002, and this made a a huge impact on the way Jackson did business. There are still USA models made, but lots of Jackson guitars are made in the more affordable Fender factories (Mexico, China). If you want a breakdown of where ALL brands come from, click here.


Ibanez VS Jackson: Standout Differences, Features, And Specs

Ibanez VS Jackson

Ibanez VS Jackson, which one is right for you? The best way to tell would be to try both companies, but they do have some standout differences that might matter to you as a guitarist. We can go over a few of those today, and hopefully point you in the right direction. We can start with Ibanez first.

Ibanez is a company that prides itself on Japanese craftmanship, and the “Prestige” guitar series shows off just how precise and serious the luthiers are. Ibanez also likes to take risks with design, like the Edge Tremolo Bridge. On the outside, it looks a lot like a Floyd Rose, but the design is more low profile. Being able to pull upwards on the whammy bar was also an Ibanez idea, via Steve Vai.

Ibanez also likes to use Dimarzio pickups in the high end models, although lately Fishman has also been an option. Ibanez has had relations with Dimarzio since 1987, and the two companies have worked together for quite some time. Most other Ibanez hardware is either proprietary or Gotoh.

The RG Series started out as a cheaper version of the JEM, but has since become the most familiar and popular shape that the brand makes. The RG is iconic at this point, making Ibanez one of the kings of the “Super Strat” market. The 5 way switch with parallel/single coil options is also a trademark of Ibanez.

It took a while for 7 string guitars to really take off, but when they did it was because of Ibanez (And Korn, for reviving them!). Now almost every “metal” guitar brand has a 7 string option. Ibanez took innovation even further working with Meshuggah to create the 8 string guitar.

Jackson on the other hand is still very much an “American Hot Rod” shop, even though it is owned by Fender now. Jackson uses Floyd Rose bridges on many models, and Seymour Duncan pickups. In fact, Jackson has been “back to its roots” lately, releasing the classic models that made the brand famous.

Jackson makes the Kelly Model, The Rhoads, and several other “extreme” shapes. This is where Jackson guitars really shine, and the “hot rod” mentality is still prevalent. Jackson also does some crazy finishes like the 80’s Crackle, and Eerie Dess Swirl finish. Production Jackson guitars have a “Custom Shop” feel and vibe.

Much like Ibanez, Jackson guitars also has a roster of famous guitarists. People like Jeff Loomis and Misha from Periphery have propelled the brand into a brand new age of modern shred and progressive rock. Jackson also makes legacy models with the Iron Maiden signature guitars, and Mick Thompson from Slipknot.

Jackson’s new focus on modern progressive rock has the brand focused on 7 string guitars for artists like Northlane. But Jackson is also still focused on 80’s shred guitars that many artists prefer. In fact, there has been a huge revival of 80’s shred guitar styles lately with Jackson at the forefront since the company has never really changed its aesthetic!


Ibanez VS Jackson: Which Is Right For You?

Ibanez VS Jackson

Both brands focus mainly on your typical shredder-style guitars, but the approach is different when it comes to Ibanez VS Jackson. Ibanez has some classic models, but Ibanez seems to always be looking forward towards future innovation. Ibanez is all about trying out new ideas.

I think this is why Ibanez attracts so many virtuoso players. If you look at the artist roster for Ibanez, the main players are mostly virtuosic, innovative, and trailblazing guitarists. People like Polyphia, Nita Strauss, Tosin Abasi (formerly), and Steve Vai are the poster children for Ibanez. Clearly, the company attracts some of the top players.

Jackson on the other hand, sticks mostly with tradition, in my opinion. Just like its parent company Fender, Jackson embraces the past to create new models. The “USA hot rod” mentality that put Jackson on the map, is still the company’s bread and butter. I see this as a good thing, since I can go buy an authentic felling 80’s shred machine from Jackson today.

This doesn’t mean that Jackson is completely stuck in the past though, since we see plenty of newer designs. But being an umbrella company under Fender, tradition takes precedence. There’s nothing wrong with that mentality, since most guitarists still buy Fender and Gibson every day!

So Which One Is Right For You?

When it comes to Ibanez VS Jackson, it will depend greatly on the player. Ibanez is famous for the “Wizard” neck, which pushes the boundaries for being thin and flat. Jackson also makes some thin necks, but with more of a “C shape”. The neck is probably the most important part of a guitar, so which one you prefer is a personal journey.

Ibanez also uses more proprietary hardware, like the Edge and Gibraltar bridges. While Jackson uses more mainstream materials like Floyd Rose and Duncan pickups. This actually puts Ibanez at a disadvantage in my mind, since you need to be familiar with the proprietary hardware, or become familiar with it over time.

So when it comes down to Ibanez VS Jackson, its all about the player. Both brands offer affordable versions of the more expensive models. Both brands are “shred” focused. The features and smaller details are what really sets them apart. I think it is safe to say that neither company offers “tame” guitars.

I played Ibanez for several years, and I enjoyed playing them. On the other hand, I never much got along with Jackson guitars. But that’s all about personal preference, and at the time Ibanez was pretty much the only option for 7 string guitars.

Which brand do you prefer when it comes to Ibanez VS Jackson? Why do you like one brand over the other? Leave us a comment and tell us why you think one is better than the other!

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Christoper Horton

Christopher has been playing guitar and piano for 27 years. He has been active in the professional music industry for over two decades. He has toured for years with several bands and music projects. He worked in LA as a studio musician and engineer working with bands like IAMSOUND, Baroness, Kylesa, Black Tusk, Reflux, and Tripping Daisy. In between giving private lessons, he is recording a solo album for 2022-2023. Christopher plays Schecter guitars, BOSS amplifiers, and uses STL Tones in the studio.

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