Ibanez Universe 7 BK
7 string guitar
American basswood body
DiMarzio Blaze II pickups
Floyd Rose Lo Pro Edge-7 tremolo
Maple neck with rosewood fingerboard
Rewired to my specs
page updated: January 21 2002
When I was young, I was a fan of Steve Vai: he incorporated technique, skills, talent, effects, control and madness to create any sound possible, no matter how absurd. In 1992 I was looking for a new guitar, which was different from the Les Paul I had. After trying many guitars and almost settling for a stock Ibanez RG, I was able to buy a new Universe guitar for an amazing price (aprox $600).
At that time the guitar was not very popular and in 1994 it was even discontinued for a couple of years. But I loved the challenge of the 7 strings. In fact I was the 8th person in the Netherlands to own one, many years later it became a popular guitar due to Fear Factory, Korn, etc. And now many people are jumping on the band wagon... For many years I used the extra low B string a lot, but because I tune the guitar down a whole step these days, I've tuned the former low B to a low C, so that when I play with a dropped C I have two dropped C's which sounds extra fat. A low A is too low for me, it's not really functional.
The guitar plays smooth and has a good neck, which is quite wide due to 7th sting. But I love that! I got quit big hands (if I place my index finger on the 5th fret I can play/touch the 13th fret with my little finger). The action was a bit high when I bought it. Had it changed several times, but until I played an Ibanez PS10 (Iceman type) and a JMP100 (John Petrucci sign.) I realised it could be a lot better. So I did a readjustment job myself: lowered the nut and tremolo and gave the trussrod a couple of swings. The action is now more then perfect.
The fretwire is a Dunlop Jumbo 6140. Although jumbo fretwire is known for it's high action, luckily this is the semi lowest one they have, 0.99mm. I'm glad, because most "metal" guitars (incl practically every Ibanez and Jackson) use jumbo fretwire of 1.4 mm height, which is much too high for me. the guitar has a perfect balance and doesn't tilled in any direction (like SG's do). The weight of the guitar is very comfortable: not too heavy, certainly not to light.
Over the years I changed a couple of things and I'm glad I did it (check the photo on the right how it looked before). The tremolo is now fixed 'cause I never used it anymore and I now enjoy all the benefits of a fixed Floyd Rose bridge/tremolo (fine tuning, locking nut). To keep the guitar dead quiet without a noise gate I've taped the springs of the tremolo (on the back of the guitar) and put a piece of tape over the strings between the nut and the tuners. This results in a dead quiet guitar, that's silent when it's supposed to be.
I've taped the body and the pickups with blackGaffa tape which gives it a very nice look (somewhat like the Gibson Gothic series) and changed the knobs (volume, tone & pickupswitch) to black rubber ones (Ibanez Frank Gambale type) to fit the look. It has improved the look and feel of the guitar a great deal, I couldn't bare to see it back in it's original state, like on the right picture. The combination of the Gaffa taped body + pickups + rubber knobs works good together, it sure as hell looks better then the original green ones. BTW I've lately taken the Gaffa from the pickups and painted them black with a marker pen, without the Gaffa they give me slightly more harmonics.
The pickups (DiMarzio Blaze II) have their up and down side. They are extremely quiet and never give unwanted noise or feedback and the sound possibilities are very wide. The volume and tone controls are fantastic. But the pickups sound also somewhat flat and sterile, they lack some body and tone character (this is partly due to the basswood body). If you would just play metal, then it would sound good/great, but I want to have a nice warm clean sound with a lot of depth (like my Bird Les Paul).
I'm thinking of changing the pickups. At this moment I'm thinking of placing a Seymour Duncan JB in the bridge for really deadly tight rhythm work and a Seymour Duncan '59 in the neck, for it's beautiful rich and warm tone. I've thought a long time about using EMG's for this guitar, but I know that Mesa/Boogie's aren't really found of active pickups and, well.... EMG's sound a little different than what I'm looking for. But I'm still not sure about the pickup replacement 'cause bridge pickup does sounds nice 'cause I've set my rig to respond to it's sound, but the neck pickup could be warmer. So in the future I think I'm gonna place some nice Seymour Duncan pickups in it.
I've lately changed the way the pickupselector works. I hardly ever
used the single coil or out of phase sounds and really wanted the sound of
both neck and bridge together. With a bit of rewiring my selector has the
On the guitar I only use Dean Markley Blue Steels LTHB (.010 - .052) strings with a .054 or .056 for the 7th string. They absolutely sound the best and heavier strings (0.10) produce a lot more power and body then lighter (0.09) strings. As you can see in first the picture, I've taped the strings behind the locking nut. If you play strings between the nut and the tuner will always start to ring very gently, thus creating sound. Since I've taped it, and also the springs of the tremolo, the guitar is dead quiet.
I really like the feel of the 7 string neck and if I
would have the money I would certainly order a customshop Ibanez or ESP with a
mahogany body and a AAA figured maple top, neck-through-body, etc.
© 2002, MvH