Old Guitar Day & Review: 1987 Ibanez RG550 RF

Pics from previous owner:

Ibanez RG550 RFR rg550rfr

Pics after restoration & setup:

Ibanez RG550RF Ibanez RG550RF Ibanez RG550RF

1-piece original Wizard neck (quartersawn maple), square heel joint
17mm 1st fret – 19mm 12th fret
430mm radius rosewood fretboard
43mm nut width
Jumbo frets
Light-weight basswood body
Edge tremolo with die-cast saddles

It’s unbelievable how well this 22+ year old guitar was maintained before I bought it off a Jemsite member in September 2008.  The price wasn’t wallet-friendly but when you come across an original RG550 in good condition, you don’t negotiate! :)  No cracks in the neck pocket or behind the nut which is pretty common with old RG’s.  The only signs of age are a few paint cracks.

I’ve owned several Ibanez Prestige guitars before this ’87 RG550, and have since bought a J Custom, but the RG550 remains my main 6-string.  It’s unbelievable how the original wizard neck makes the Ibanez Prestige and Jackson Pro necks seem beefier than they really are.  And while you may think the slim neck is prone to damage/warping over 22 years, it is as straight as an arrow, and with care it could stay that way for years to come.

One thing I wasn’t sure about before trying this RG550 was the square heel neck joint as I’ve grown to love the AANJ on newer RG’s, but both are comfortable and winners in my book.

The Edge bridge:  Hmm… I probably spoiled myself with low-profile bridges over the years as it could take time getting used to the original Edge, but overall it feels ‘solid’ and there’s no doubt why it’s still a favorite among Ibanez artists.

Pickups: It came fitted with a set of DiMarzio Evolutions but I swapped them out for Tone Zone + Air Norton, and upgrading to the OTAX VLX91 switch so I could coil-tap the humbuckers.  I’m in love with the parallel neck position for it’s transparency, especially for cleans and mildly overdriven tones.  While the Tone Zone is usually my safe pickup choice I did experiment with a D-Sonic since then and it definitely sounds good in this RG550 for the tones I’m after.

Finally, the question you may have if you’re reading this: are the old RG’s better than anything Ibanez makes today?  To me, it’s an emphatic YES!!  The long answer is it really depends on your taste.  The RG2550E I heavily customized, played like a dream and sounded great, but I sold it shortly after getting this ’87 RG550.  There’s something magical about the guitar, where it sounds and feels superior and I’m inspired to play better. That could just be me though, but don’t stop looking and trying new guitars until you’ve found ‘the one’.

If you see an 87/88 RG550 on Craigslist, eBay, Gumtree or a gear forum, don’t hesitate to buy one if you love Ibanez guitars and want an absolute shredder. I think they’re some of the best guitars Ibanez built!  This is coming from a J Custom and Musicman JP6 owner.

5 comments on “Old Guitar Day & Review: 1987 Ibanez RG550 RF

  1. Hi
    This was my old guitar I sold on ebay, its mad I was just browsing for pictures of old Rg’s and came across this. I knew by the pickups and the purple tone knob and the RG anniversary case. just read your description Im glad you like it, it was one of my greatest guitars Ive ever owned.


  2. I love these brands, there the best!!! I have two, and they have been my best friends for years!!!!

  3. Hi, can i ask how much did you pay?
    I have a new, never played one that i would like to sell but have no idea of the value. Is it a rare “vintage” model? or there are many on the market?Mine is compleatly original.

  4. I traded a 2001 Gibson Les Paul Studio for a mint black ’87 RG550 and a slightly worn neon purple ’91 RG570. Best deal I ever made. The wizard necks inspire me to keep playing and playing. The Edge bridges still have no wear on the knife edges after 25/21 years. I’m going to replace the stock pickups in the 550 this week with Dimarzio crunch lab/ liquifire pickups. Can’t wait!

Leave a Comment