Ibanez Quantum (headless guitar)

I had headless guitars in the past, both of which were double the price as the Ibanez Quantum (QX54QM model). I found one brand stiff playing, whereas the other two had wiring or sound issues (that could have been rectified at a cost). With tastes being different, I would place the Ibanez Quantum in the same class as the more expensive headless guitars I have had. I will go over some of the figures, and for $1000 USD, this is a very good price on a headless and for what you get.

The non-chambered body is made of Nyatoh (for a rich mid-low end), together with a quilted maple top (I suspect a thin veneer). As with any good guitar, the Quantum does have several carves and curves for both comfort and easier access. It is thin and light (it must be around 5-6 pounds), yet still maintains rather rich tones. The model I purchased is has the quilted maple top in blue, whereas the back and some visible areas on the front (bridge and lower horn) are a dark, rusty red. There something about that color combination that is a bit unpleasant, and yet I like it and it works. The body’s finish looks fine to my eyes; other reviewers noticed small paint or finish defects, but my Quantum appears fine.

The neck is a Parallel (19mm throughout) Wizard 3-piece roasted Birdseye Maple with a Bubinga middle strip, designed for rich sustain and a balanced attack. It has mother-of-pearl off-set dots, together with luminescent side dots. The 24 frets are jumbo Jescar EVOgold, which are attractive, but also are known for their durability, bright tone and smooth note bending. They appear and feel well-dressed. The frets are slanted at an 8-degree angle, which accommodate more complex techniques and/or a higher playing style, or if fancy playing in a classical seated position (unnecessary, but you get the point). String spacing is 10.8mm. Other neck specifics include: Scale 25.5-inches (648mm); Width 42mm at the nut and 57mm at the 24th fret; and the Radius is 20-inches (508mm).

The custom string lock was made to keep the system simple. You string through the bridge and then through the string lock… tighten down and snip any excess string at the top of the string lock. This is fine by me, whereas some may find it looks a tad sloppy to be seeing the tips of cut-off strings. However, regular strings can be used (and slightly heavier gauges for those into drop-tuning), which is a plus.

Hardware includes a Mono-Tune bridge, which makes it easy for intonation/setup for down-tuning a whole step or more. This style of bridge takes a few practice sessions of getting used to, in regard to palm muting and placing the hand just right. String height is adjustable, but when I got the Quantum, the action already was very low. On that note, playability on the Quantum is excellent. Low, buttery action, easy string bending and less hand fatigue than what I have experienced with many of my guitars.

Then we get into sound. The Quantum has a R1/Q58 S-S-H (passive ceramic) pickup configuration, and they are very clearly defined, and even in single-coil or split mode, are rather quiet. I do not think of them as brittle or shrill (or even bright), but with an accent on the high-mids, and while slipping into lower treble territory. At first, they were off-putting, and I had to do some amp/pedal EQ’ing. Once I dialed in, I really liked their sound and the ability to cut through the mix. What lacks, depending on your gear, is a big bottom end. Chugging still is possible (again, depending on your gear and EQ), but you do not have as much of a punch as you would with other pickup choices. Considering I do have other guitars that chug just fine, I have no plans on swapping them out. Yes, they do just fine with Metal or other forms of heavy music, but the cleans are inspiring. If you are into ambient music, the Quantum would be very hard to beat (ask Chords of Orion), but it also sounds exceptional for other clean to dirty playing, including jazz, blues, country, and light to moderate rock. The clarity and articulation from the Quantum make each note ring clearly, but the other major plus is the Dyna-MIX9 switching system with the Alter Switch – a switch apart from a typical 5-position pickup selector. With the flip of a switch, you gain access to four more sound variations between humbucker and single-coil modes.

With the typical 5-position switch (starting in the down position), you have 1) bridge humbucker, followed by 2) bridge split + middle single-coil, 3) middle single-coil, 4) middle + neck single-coils, and 5) neck single-coil. When you flip the Alter Switch, you get the following combinations (starting with pickup selector down): 1) bridge humbucker – no change, 2) bridge single-coil, 3) all pickups, with the middle & neck running in serial, 4) single-coil neck + single-coil bridge, and 5) neck & middle pickups running in serial. Those are a lot of combinations, and each one sounds unique for a very wide palette of tones.

Next, I will address the Tone and Volume knobs. The pickups are clear and ‘bright’ enough that I often turned down the Tone control half-way or more, particularly if I wanted a darker sound. Often, with other guitars, I may back off on the Tone slightly and leave it there (for high-gain stuff, I turn it down 75%). With all the pickup choices, and the clarity of this guitar, I do spend more time adjusting, to dial in appropriately, but not excessively. The Volume control is interesting, and it may not have ‘Treble Bleed’ electronics, but it sounds like it. With other guitars in my studio, if you turn down the guitar’s volume, you lose a bit of top end. This is not the case with the Quantum, I can cut the volume by 75% and it still sounds as clear (not as aggressive, obviously). I really like that feature.

It comes with D’Addario EXL110 strings and a gig-bag, but not a well-padded one… good enough for quick transfer, but regular gigging or traveling will necessitate something more protective. The hardware is a combination of Cosmo Black and chrome (brushed chrome on the pickup covers). There are two strap pins by the bridge, which is typical with headless guitars (to protect the finish and provide a proper balance when sitting on the floor and leaned up against an amp, desk, etc.).

Overall, I think the price is very reasonable for what you get and comparable to other guitars (headless or not) I have played in the price-range. The gig-bag leaves a bit to be desired, but I have guitars that cost as much that came with nothing. The pickups are super clear and may not be meaty enough for some, but this reminds me of the Strandberg/Per Nilsson model (Messuggha) – it cuts through like crazy and can be a benefit for darker and heavier music with a lot of bass or low mids. If you are more of a rock or metal player, keep this in mind, as it may not be a fit or be perfectly suitable. If you are into clean or slightly dirty music, and particularly ambient, the Quantum could open an entirely new playing and listening experience.
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