The Ibanez brand can not only look back on a long exciting history, have an extreme variety of models, advertise with great endorsers like Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Paul Gilbert, George Benson, Pat Metheny or Andy Timmons – Ibanez has managed without question to become both a cult brand and a world player of the music business in the past 50 years. Guitar& Bass has followed this development very closely over the past decades. By the way, you can learn more about Ibanez in the Ibanez issue.
- When was Ibanez established?
- Ibanez in the sixties
- Ibanez Pre Lawsuit
- Ibanez Lawsuit Phase
- The golden years of Ibanez
- Ibanez goes weired
- Ibanez in the eighties
- Ibanez in the nineties
- Ibanez today
- Ibanez electric guitars
- Ibanez effect units
- Ibanez acoustic guitars
- Ibanez basses
- Made in USA
- The End
- Big in Japan
- Table: Ibanez standard models
Guitar Guru: Harmony H74 Meteor& Ibanez CN 200
Japan Vintage: Ibanez Artist 2630 Rotary Model
Vintage Guitar Stories: 1978 Ibanez George Benson GB10
Guitar Guru: Sigma M& Ibanez
Ibanez takes off: New AZ and RGT models from the premium series
Classifieds Heroes: Ibanez MSL Metal Screamer
Peter Fischer Guitar Workshop! Chord accompaniments
Peter Fischer Guitar Workshop! Jazz Sololines
Japan Vintage: Archtop classics – ES-175 copies
Second signature guitar for Yvette Young: Ibanez YY20-OCS
The company history of Ibanez
In the course of its 100-year history, the Japanese manufacturer Hoshino Gakki has actually made the quintessential American dishwasher myth a reality. Because from a small bookstore developed one of the largest and most effective manufacturers in the history of musical instruments.
The history of this company is an eventful and interesting one, marked not only by successes but also by setbacks, but above all by an unbroken confidence in the future. The term "manufacturer" is actually misleading, because apart from the acoustic guitar factory Tama and a temporarily operated small factory in the USA, Hoshino never had its own production facilities, except for the first beginnings of guitar production in the 1930s.
Various companies such as Fujigen Gakki, Terada and Maxon, later also Cort or Samick in Korea and many others in the Asian region, have always manufactured instruments and electronic devices on behalf of the Hoshino company, which sees itself rather as an innovative trading company. A concept with historical roots, because it all started in a port city about 300 km southwest of Tokyo, which was already known as a trading center in the Middle Ages.
When Ibanez was founded?
In 1908, Matsujiro Hoshino first established a bookstore in Nagoya, which later became Hoshino Gakki Co., LTD, was to make guitar history. Just one year later, the product line was expanded to include musical instruments, especially harmoniums and organs for the Ministry of Education, which had already been a customer of the Hoshino bookstore. An early sensation was the opening of an organ showroom, unique at that time.
In order to satisfy the demand for concert guitars, Hoshino Gakki began importing instruments from Europe and the USA in 1921, including classical guitars from the Spanish manufacturer Salvador Ibanez in Valencia from 1929 onwards, because after an Andres Segovia tour of Japan, the Spanish concert guitar was booming in the Land of the Rising Sun. The program of the still young wholesale company was constantly expanded and already in the 1930s mandolins and drums from Italy and Germany as well as Ludwig drums from the USA enriched the Japanese market.
Yoshihiro, Jumpei and Masso Hoshino 1962
Since Salvador Ibanez was no longer able to meet the enormous increase in demand for his guitars from around 1935, Yoshitaro Hoshino, who in the meantime managed the fortunes of Hoshino Gakki Ten together with his four sons, decided to build guitars himself and set up his own factory near the company’s headquarters with approx. 30 employees.
Because Hoshino did not only concentrate on imports, but also on exports, especially to other Asian countries, the demand for the new Ibanez guitars was great. That’s right, even their own guitars were called Ibanez – Hoshino wanted to maintain brand continuity and simply dropped the Salvador from the already familiar brand name. As early as 1937, Hoshino was producing more than 1000 guitars per month – a gigantic number for the time. Then it came hard for the successful young company.
In 1939, a fire destroyed the entire guitar factory, and just as the company was recovering from the fire and starting a new production on a much lower level, the Second World War began, as a result of which not only all four sons of the entrepreneur were ordered to the front, but also the entire Hoshino property was completely destroyed in the hail of bombs. This happened on 19. March 1944. It was not until about 1950 that Hoshino Gakki slowly resumed wholesale operations – together with his sons, who had all returned from the war in good health.
Ibanez in the sixties
In 1962 Jumpei Hoshino, who was now running the company, decided that they should start making guitars themselves again. A new ca. 6000 square meter building where electric guitars and amplifiers were manufactured, and named the new company Tama Saisakusho, after the wife of Yoshitaro Hoshino. Ibanez had become the main brand of Hoshino, which also built many other brands for Asian and Western companies. From 1966, however, it was decided to produce only the Tama drums in this factory and to have the guitars built by other factories such as Fujigen Gakki or Teisco.
From the beginning of the 1960s, cooperation began with the American Elger Company – one of the first companies to import Asian musical instruments into the USA. Interestingly enough, the first successful products on the American market were not guitars, but picks in Tortoise Shell look. Almost at the same time the cooperation with the German distributor Roland Meinl Musikinstrumente GmbH& started Co.. But it took a while until the instruments were available in the USA and Europe.
The first Ibanez guitars entered the American market in 1967. Initially, the instruments were quite futuristic-looking creations of their own, most of which bore distant resemblance to Fender guitars, were equipped with an inflationary number of knobs and switches, and did not yet bear a logo.
It was not until the end of the 1960s that the Ibanez brand name was reintroduced – usually with a spaghetti-style metal logo nailed to the headstock. Shortly thereafter, however, Ibanez concentrated on producing "cheap alternatives": inexpensive and similar copies of the big US models from Gibson, Fender or Rickenbacker. The so-called Pre-Lawsuit-era dawned.
Ibanez Pre Lawsuit
In 1970 the first copies were sold in the USA. These were the model 2020 (a guitar based on the Fender Stratocaster, but with two single-coil pickups in P-90 form) and the bass model 2030 – inspired by the great Californian model Fender Jazz Bass. A little later the first Les Paul copies with screw neck came on the market. The Ibanez version of the black Les Paul Custom later became a bestseller and is still the world’s best-selling Gibson copy. Also new in the program were copies of Ampeg Dan Armstrong acrylic guitars and basses. The replicas of Ibanez and other Japanese manufacturers flooded the western market from now on and made life difficult for the manufacturers in the USA and Europe.
Also the big brands felt the hot, yellow breath in the neck, because qualitatively the guitars of Fender and Gibson weakened in the middle of the 70’s anyway, while the Ibanez copies offered substantially more favorably not only looked nearly like the US originals, but could be seen and heard qualitatively meanwhile likewise. In 1972, Hoshino and Elger and its boss Harry Rosenbloom sealed a partnership agreement.
A decision that was of immense importance for the immense success and rise of the Ibanez brand. Thanks to the partner company in the USA, which was later even renamed Hoshino USA, the company was always on the pulse of time – which meant that Hoshino was directly on the spot when new music trends and new musicians became known. Without the very direct connection to these marketing opportunities and new product ideas, which came about solely through the intensive cooperation with well-known American musicians, Ibanez would certainly be in a very different position today. Just imagine an Ibanez program without George Benson, Steve Vai and Joe Satriani – just to name a few ..
Ibanez Lawsuit Phase
The great success of the copies of American guitars finally led to the much quoted Lawsuit. In the mid-1970s, the Gibson parent company at the time, Norlin, threatened Harry Rosenbloom and Elger with a lawsuit. 1977 the process was opened. Norlin wanted to prevent Ibanez guitars with the Gibson typical "open book headstock" from being presented at the NAMM music fair in Atlanta; the headstock shape was considered to be the trademark with the highest recognition value for Gibson guitars. However, Elger had already realized that the American manufacturers would not put up with the cheeky copies from the Far East forever.
Jeff Hasselberger, since 1973 mainly responsible for the product policy at Elger, had therefore started early with work on Ibanez own designs. The first guitars in the completely own outfit came on the market as representatives of the Artist and Professional series and are today highly desired among collectors. Among them, by the way, also an Iceman, which was initially offered under the name Artist.
In view of the threatening lawsuit for the Atlanta show, further models got a new headstock shape in a hurry, so that a stand closure at the NAMM show, the intended goal of the Gibson group, could not be enforced – because there were no more 1:1 Gibson copies to be seen. In early 1978, the two parties finally settled out of court and Ibanez undertook not to produce any more Gibson copies.
For the Japanese and their American partner company as well as other worldwide partners like z. B. For Meinl in Germany, this was only a formal legal matter at this point, because the path to its own identity had already been taken, which would later prove to be the only correct and successful decision. Consequently, from now on, copying the models of other manufacturers besides Gibson was also a thing of the past.
It is also interesting that in this decade, exactly in 1972, the first modern German trade magazine for musicians was launched by the former roadie Hans Riebesehl: Riebes Fachblatt, first free of charge with piggy bank on the counter at music stores, later a bit more professional with a retail price of 1 DM, was a magazine for musicians, handmade, but very informative and forward-looking.
The first ads for Ibanez guitars in Germany appeared in this magazine, placed by the sales company Roland Meinl from Neustadt/Aisch, which still looks after the manufacturer today. The whole of Germany was astonished by this new brand – especially by the prices and the quality offered for it. Nevertheless, it took quite some time until guitarists in our country took these instruments seriously.
They were "only" Japanese instruments and not comparable with Gibson or Fender. One thought. Fortunately for Ibanez, however, Fender and Gibson were owned by large corporations at the time, and for them quality was not as important as turnover. So the time was ripe for good alternatives and within a very short time Ibanez and in their wake some other Japanese companies like Aria, Morris, Tokai, Fernandes u. a. the market with their inexpensive but high quality handcrafted guitars.
The golden years of Ibanez
The following decade of the 80s is known to every fan as the "Golden Years of Ibanez". Freed from the pressure to copy, the Ibanez designers – above all the Japanese Fumio "Fritz" Katoh – were literally bubbling over with creativity. Already in 1977 the first complete catalog of the new Artist series was published, in which not a single copy was included; in the same year the own Performer, Musician and Iceman models followed, also with their own brochure. Many of the guitars shown there are today at the top of the "Most Wanted" lists of collectors. Wisely, Ibanez had not completely abandoned the classic designs – guitarists tend to be conservative. With few exceptions, creations that completely deviated from the old familiar shapes like Stratocaster, Telecaster, Les Paul, SG or ES have always been a commercial flop.
Many of the new Ibanez models like Roadster, Artist or Performer were more or less based on the originals from Gibson or Fender. And also the freshly introduced Musician series with guitars made of different precious woods with continuous neck, brass hardware and active tone control was obviously influenced by the then successful instruments from Alembic and other manufacturers, who had created a new trend towards technically sophisticated noble instruments in the eighties.
In addition to the guitar designs, the Ibanez developers also came up with many innovations in detail, such as. B. the slotted Gibraltar tailpiece for easy string changes, the sustain block recessed in the body under the bridge, or the now highly traded Sure-Grip pot knobs, whose grippy rubber rings, according to legend, were supplied by a manufacturer of condoms.
Ibanez goes weired
Another recipe for success, almost overused nowadays, was also first applied to Ibanez in the mid-70s by the Japanese and especially by Hoshino USA: the endorsement deal. Inspired by Elger employee Jim Fisher, a big Grateful Dead fan, Jeff Hasselberger and Roy Miyahara of Elger contacted Bob Weir as early as 1974. The result was the Professional 2681 Bob Weir, the first ever Ibanez signature model.
banez PS40 and PS120 Paul Stanley Signature (picture: Dieter Stork)
Country guitarist Randy Scruggs also got his Professional Signature model (2671). Based on the Iceman, Kiss guitarist Paul Stanley had his extravagant PS 10 tailor-made by Fritz Katoh. And a little later the longest-lived Ibanez signature model was created in cooperation with the jazz guitarist George Benson. From October 1977 the GB10 went into production – and is represented since then uninterruptedly in the Ibanez program.
The since the "Golden Years" constantly bubbling creativity push in the Ibanez developer team had however a until today almost proverbial unclear model policy as a result (for which naturally also market-political reasons were responsible). Of the models of the 78 catalog, only the Artist and the Iceman are represented in the Ibanez program today, and even these are either thoroughly revised variations or reissues of the classics, which were taken back into the product range after a more or less long absence.
Whole model series like the Roadster, Concert, Blazer or later the Pro Line hardly lasted longer than three years. And also more stable series like the Roadstar II got a complete facelift every year with constantly new model variations. It was hard to keep track of all these models.
Ibanez in the eighties
The popularity of Ibanez guitars was still unbroken during the early 80s. The endorsers of the first hour were joined by many well-known and different Ibanez users like the Iron Maiden guitarists Dave Murray and Adrian Smith, Allan Holdsworth, Snowy White, John Scofield, Steve Lukather, Gary Moore, Joe Pass, Mike Rutherford, Pat Metheny, Sting, Mickey Moody, Lee Ritenour – some of them also with their own signature model.
Many of them certainly played Ibanez out of conviction, but some of them changed the brand quite quickly, as the botched endorsement deal with Steve Lukather showed. Its Roadstar II RS1010SL was basically a slightly modified version of the standard RS1000 series model.
The master, however, was not amused and later expressed himself disparagingly in interviews about his signature model, which, according to him, had very little in common with his original specifications. However, this did not harm the popularity of this guitar in the long run and today the RS1010SL is one of the most sought-after models from the Roadstar II series.
Now also the hour of the Destroyer series struck! Quite in the style of the Gibson Explorer, eye-catching "groupers" were constructed, which could enrich many a hard-‘n’-heavy stage.
Eddie van Halen recorded his first album with such an Ibanez Explorer copy, the 2459 Destroyer. However, he had repainted his guitar white. (Image: Box of Trix, Wikimedia Commons, Guitar Point, Ostrow Wielopolski, Heinz Rebellius)
In the middle of the eighties the signs were pointing to change – for Ibanez as well as for all other guitar manufacturers. The AX series was dedicated to the topic of headless, which indeed came along a bit headless and could not cause a big sensation. Interestingly, Hoshino reintroduced this series in 1999, after it had lasted only two years in the 80s.
In the meantime MIDI had been declared the magic word and Ibanez jumped on this bandwagon with the development of the X-ING MIDI Guitar, but could not reach the acceptance of the Japanese competitor Roland, who probably implemented the Guitarto-MIDI concept most musically and successfully. But in the midst of this rather dark period for the guitar guild, a silver lining slowly began to appear on the horizon in the mid-80s ..
Just when sterile synth-pop had pushed the guitar out of the top ranks of the hit parade, the hour of hairdryer hairstyles and spandex panties arrived, which fortunately could give the guitar a higher profile again. The "hair metal" era was born and metal and hard rock bands like Winger, Poison, Motley Crue u. v. a. were at the zenith of their success.
However, classic guitar designs were completely out, all the world was screaming for streamlined superstrats with Floyd Rose vibrato and HSS pickup configuration – preferably in brightly colored effect finishes.
The dominant manufacturer at that time was Kramer, which had the "Godfather of Shred", Eddie van Halen, under contract, but also companies like Charvel and Jackson rose like a phoenix from the ashes. Whoever wanted to survive in this shark tank, inevitably had to come up with a heavy strat(r) as well, which sometimes caused quite strange blossoms with the traditional suppliers like Gibson or Fender.
Ibanez reacted first with slimmed down versions of the Roadstar II and the Pro-Line series introduced in 1985. But the coup par excellence landed the Japanese a short time later, when they managed to sign Steve Vai, who was hotly courted by all manufacturers. In 1986, singer David Lee Roth, who had been kicked out of Van Halen, released his first solo album ‘Eat ‘Em and Smile’ with the former Frank Zappa guitarist at his side – and catapulted Steve Vai to the shredding Olympus with his breathtaking skills.
At the NAMM show in Chicago in the summer of 1987, Vai himself presented the result of the collaboration with Ibanez to a speechless audience: the JEM electric guitar. The concept of the JEM was not completely new, but it took the superstrat principle to the extreme with its wide cutaways, extremely slim neck, an undercut Floyd Rose-licensed vibrato system and HSH pickups. Other visual gimmicks like "Monkey Grip" and "Lions Claw" turned the JEM into an almost bizarre-looking work of art – actually much too extravagant to survive the ever-changing fashions on the guitar market.
But the courage that Vai and Hoshino USA showed with this product philosophy paid off, because the JEM has since been represented in the Ibanez program with constant success – as well as the RGSeries based on the JEM. These guitars ensured Ibanez’s dominance of the superstrat market in the late 1980s, a pole position the company still holds today. These guitars also heralded the second major break after the Lawsuit in the long Ibanez history, because since then the manufacturer has been catering mainly to musicians from the "hard and heavy" faction with fast shred tools.
The manufacturer’s continued success to this day is largely based on the design of the JEM, which can be found in numerous variations: Signature series such as those for Paul Gilbert (PGM) or John Petrucci (JPM), the noble guitars from the USA Custom Shop and the J.Custom series as well as the later for the NuMetal style-defining seven-stringers like the UV777 or the K-7 Korn-Signature- models. But it is not only the many further developments of the bandwagoners JEM and RG that show that the Japanese have by no means rested on their laurels.
In 1988 Ibanez could catch with Joe Satriani another big fish from the pool of the super guitarists. On the basis of the Radius model, after two years of development work, the JS was created, which since then is also constantly represented in the catalogs in different variants and – also thanks to its always creative and diligent endorser – is one of the best sellers.
Ibanez in the nineties
At the beginning of the 90s, less expensive production sites were contracted in Korea. In 1991 appeared the EX series produced there, which was also based on the RG design. The naming (EX stood for "Experimental") was initially a precautionary measure, so as not to damage the excellent reputation of the RG series. After the quality of the Korean guitars had reached a convincing level a little later, RG and further series were also produced there since 1994.
With Reb Beach and especially Paul Gilbert, whose PGM300 was released in 1992, two more important guitarists became avowed Ibanez players. The connection with Paul Gilbert proved to be particularly fruitful, as they have brought out a whole series of interesting signature models to this day. Gilbert, as a true Ibanez fan, has also repeatedly drawn attention to older models of the manufacturer, also from the copying phase, and thus contributed to the fact that this brand became a collector’s topic.
And also Steve Vai had followed suit. After no less than seven different JEM models had been created from 1987 to 1990, there was now to be one string more – ready was the Universe series with so far a total of five different seven-string models on JEM and JEM- respectively. RG Base. Due to the great success of the Ibanez Superstrats in the heavy rock genre, Hoshino executives, as always close to the pulse of the action, worried about the brand’s image among the more traditionally minded country, rock and blues guitarists who continued to favor the big American brands.
The result of the discussions was the Starfield series, which was launched under its own name in 1991. These guitars were clearly oriented towards Fender, were largely built in the USA, and were equipped with high-quality components such as Seymour Duncan pickups and Wilkinson hardware.
But the market unfortunately did not accept this interesting direction Hoshino ventured into very well. In 1992 the first and only Starfield catalog was published and already in 1994 Hoshino announced the end of this young brand and concentrated now completely and without detours on the name Ibanez.
In 1996 they wanted to boost the Talman sales with a colorful variety of models. (source: vintaxe.com)
The Talman series, which was introduced following the Starfield period, can be considered a legitimate successor to Starfield, even if it was not as multifaceted. It was less popular with the traditionalists, but because of its "weird" appearance it was even more popular with the new wilds of rock and pop music – up to the signature model for Noodles, the Offspring guitarist (2003). Interestingly, however, there was little opposition to Ibanez in the camp of traditionalists who preferred Gibson-style guitars.
Here Hoshino had in addition to the perennial favorites of the Artist and AS series in the nineties also other beating instruments thrown into the ring as z. B. the AF Jazz guitars.
In 1997 appeared with the J.Custom series a limited number of expensive, Japanese-made guitars that had been individually designed by various artists. Analogous to this, from the American Ibanez production there was the USA-Custom-Graphics series – exclusive, painted unique pieces on RG basis.
Production facilities in China made new series possible, which offered excellent price/performance ratios. In particular, the Artcore instruments introduced in 2002 brought a breath of fresh air to the dusty semi-acoustic and full-resonance scene. One year later, the retro-oriented Jet King series took off, which is still part of today’s Ibanez catalog. Many new and further developments were also characteristic for the constantly changing Ibanez product range in the following years.
Complete series like the Talman or also various reissues of classics like the Blazer came and went. Innovations like the Zero-Point-Trem or the recently introduced Montage-Hybrid-Guitar still testify to the inventiveness of the Hoshino developers. Today, as 100 years ago, Hoshino Gakki is still headquartered in Nagoya, where all the threads come together at the headquarters, Research& Development, distribution, export and import are coordinated from there.
Nagoya is also home to Tama’s own drum factory, Hoshino Gakki Manufacturing. Since 50 years the guitar company Fujigen is partner of Hoshino and in the factories of this manufacturer the Japanese Ibanez electric guitars are still manufactured today.
Hoshino Gakki focuses on continuity and reliability on all levels, which certainly has something to do with the fact that they are still a family business. President of the company is the now 75-year-old Yoshihiro Hoshino, a grandson of the company founder. Somehow Ibanez – or let’s say Hoshino – throughout its own long history has always taken the pulse of the times, followed and shaped the tastes of musicians.
From the first successful copies over the own models of the 70s and 80s until today, where Ibanez is far ahead in new music styles like NuRock, over the countless endorser models and the many developments that have been made, it has to be said that Ibanez has become today a firm, indispensable factor of the international music scene.
From the beginner to the professional musician with the very highest demands, from the death metaller to the jazz musician, high-tech disciple or vintage lover – Ibanez offers the right instrument for every collar size at a high quality level. And you will be able to rely on this in the future as well.
Author: Oliver Berhorst
Which instruments are available from Ibanez?
Ibanez electric guitars
- from 1957 – 1968
own designs like Rhythm-, Bizarre- and other series.
- from ca. 1968
copies of Mosrite, Burns, Ampeg/Dan Armstrong, Fender, Gibson and Rickenbacker models.
With the guitar model 2405 Custom Agent Ibanez began again to introduce own designs.
Artist series, with its own headstock design
Bob Weir Professional model
2670 Artist Doubleneck Rex-Bouge-Style
George Benson GB10
Challenger and Silver Series
Paul Stanley PS models
Artist Autograph series (Bob Weir model, George Benson model, Paul Stanley model)