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Ibanez IMG2010

Ibanez IMG2010 Guitar Synthesizer Controller

Features and Specifications:

Body: Maple
Finish: Black or Silver
Neck: Maple, 1 piece with GFRP bar with truss rod
Fingerboard: Ebony
Frets: 22
Bridge: Custom Ibanez with integrated hex pickup
Nut: N/A
Tuning machines: Ibanez Microtuners
Pickups: Two Ibanez Humbuckers
Scale: 25 1/2"
Truss Rod: Single, adjustable
Neck Width: 1 5/8"
Body Width: 12"
Body Depth: 1 1/2"
Overall Length: 37"
Weight: 8 lbs.

Introduction to the Ibanez IMG2010:

The Ibanez IMG2010, like all the Roland guitar synthesizers from the 1980s, was actually built at the same Fujigen factory that made many of the best Japanese guitars of that era. The designers of the IMG2010, the last of the mass-produced Roland compatible controllers, benefitted from studying the weaknesses and strengths of the Roland models.

The IMG2010 a incorporates graphite reinforced neck for stability, playability, and pitch accuracy. The fretboard is ebony, the fretboard of choice in all of the top-of-the-line synthesizer controllers, such as the Roland G-808 or the Godin guitars. The fragile Roland ribbon connector was replaced by a wired harness. The tricky vibrato touch pads were replaced by a knob. The IMG2010 adds a virtual whammy bar mentioned in the Roland service manuals but never implemented by Roland, and Ibanez engineers redesigned the gain structure of the internal trim pots. Proper setup of the trim pots is required for accurate velocity tracking.

Simply put, the revolutionary X-ING IMG2010 is absolutely one of the finest guitar synthesizer controllers ever built. The X-ING IMG2010 has more performance features, dead-on pitch stability, quality, sound, and playability that has made Ibanez one of the top guitar manufacturers in the world. If you use this guitar with a vintage guitar synth, or with a modern guitar synth (by using a BC-13, BX-13 or similar device) nothing seems to plays as easily or as accurately as the Ibanez IMG2010.

How rare is the IMG2010?

I have often repeated the web-based claim that only 500 IMG2010s were produced. That appears to be in question, and currently the number seems to be closer to 2,000. IMG2010 user Jonathan Evans pointed out that as of April 4, 2012, there are serial numbers at Mike Matters's excellent website ranging from 3148 to 5219. Given the design costs of the IMG2010 I would not be surprised if the production run was larger than 2,000.

A note on using the IMG2010 with the GR-300:

Occassionally an IMG2010 can act a little strangely when used with a GR-300. This seems to be confined to the low "E" exclusively. My impression is that due to the design of the IMG2010, the low "E" is a little brighter, and this brighter sound may be causing the adaptive filter to shift octaves. This is actually a similar experience I had with the low "E" on the GR-33B bass synth when I used a G-88 controller. However, if you check out the video demo above with the GR-300, it worked just fine when played evenly.

The Unique Design Advantages of the Ibanez IMG2010:

Built-In Graphite Stabilizer Bar

Converting pitch-to-MIDI is a tricky business that requires a guitar with a uniform sound, and no "dead spots" on the neck. Roland’s answer with the G-707 was to add a stabilizer bar to the guitar to eliminate dead spots. Ibanez came up with a much better solution: use graphite to reinforce the neck itself. Thus the X-ING IMG2010 offers the same playing quality as the G-707, without the awkward stabilizer bar. Pat Metheny fans will note that Pat has also replaced one of the necks on his signature G-303 with a graphite neck. The neck of the X-ING IMG2010 is as fast and as playable as one would expect from a top-of-the-line Ibanez guitar. These guitars are still cutting edge instruments for innovative players ready to use technology as a part of their sound.

Virtual Whammy Bar

Again, Pitch-to-MIDI conversion requires accurate pitch. The better a guitar can hold its pitch, the better a pitch-to-MIDI converter can works its magic. While the G-505 and G-707 have reasonable tremolos, they fall far short of the standard required for computer pitch tracking. After the whammy bar returns to its home position, the slightest deviation in pitch means more computations and subsequent MIDI pitch messages, and thus more MIDI delay. Ibanez solved this problem by creating a super-stable guitar with a virtual whammy bar. Used with an Ibanez MC1 or Roland GM-70, you can bend MIDI notes as far as you want, and the guitar never goes out of tune, and chords maintain their sound.

Continuous Control of all 4 Controllers

The Ibanez IMG2010 is the only guitar synth controller that uses all 4 controllers. The Roland guitars only offer controllers 1,2 and 4. Furthermore, the IMG2010 does away with the tricky Roland touch pads required to activate the LFO (or Modulation). Simply turn the modulation knob on the IMG2010, and you have modulation. The Roland touch pads actually require the guitarist to complete an electrical circuit with his hands in order to work. Forget about taking your hands off the neck after playing harmonics. And since the Roland touch pads are constantly exposed to oils and moisture from contact with the fingers, they are very prone to corrosion and wear. It is no wonder that one of the original "Craig Anderton" modifications was to eliminate use of the Roland touch pads!

Guitar Synth Pickup Integrated into the Bridge

The Roland guitar synth pickup is a separate pickup that sits just in front of the bridge of the guitar. This means the pickup is more sensitive to the mechanical operations of the guitar, bending the whammy bar, etc. Also, the fragile multi-connector is also exposed, and more likely to be damaged. Again, Ibanez set a new standard in design my incorporating the pickup inside the bridge of the guitar! As a result, the Ibanez IMG2010 pickup is closer to the strings, and receives more of the fundamental string tone. The unique Ibanez pickup is less sensitive to unwanted body mechanics, while more sensitive to the string vibrations. Comparing the Ibanez IMG2010 side-by-side with the Roland guitars, it is unmistakable that the Ibanez simply has more output.

Custom Precision Tuning Mechanism

In addition to many other innovations in the design of the Ibanez IMG2010, there are precision microtuners in the bridge of the IMG2010. These tuners, combined with the unique headstock of the IMG2010, put this guitar firmly in the territory of classic, vintage Steinberger guitars. In addition to being an excellent system for pitch stability, bridge tuners offer simple conveniences: combined with the locking headstock, you do not need multiple windings to achieve pitch, and when you do need to adjust the pitch of the guitar, the tuning pegs are within easy reach at all times. The entire bridge design makes a clear statement as to how far Ibanez was willing to go to create the ultimate guitar synth controller. In fact, if you look closely, you will find the words "Technology for the Future of Music" on the bridge!

Improved Electronics Design and Construction

The IMG-2010 improves on the standard Roland package in three ways: first, only the IMG-2010 has control voltage buffering circuits for control voltage stability. Secondly, the trimmers in the IMG-2010 adjust the output string level from 60% to 100%, rather than the 0% to 100% on the Roland guitars. By limiting the control range, there is more precise control over the string output level. And finally, the IMG-2010 does not use the fragile ribbon connector found in every Roland guitar. Instead, individually insulated solid core wires connect the electronics board with the 24-pin connector. The Roland ribbon connectors become brittle and easily crack with age. The IMG-2010 does use a ribbon connector to connect the hex pickup, but only the IMG-2010 cable has reinforcing backing.


Links to more information:

Ibanez IMG2010 Registry of Owners, Maintained by Michael Mattera.

Ibanez IMG2010 and MC1 review, by Don Morris, as told to Tom Mulhem.

Download the Ibanez MC1 Owner's Manual (pdf).

Download the IMG2010 Schematic.

Version History - Prototype, Large Ibanez Logo, X-ING Logo:

The differences in the Ibanez IMG2010 guitars appear to be purely cosmetic. I have not found any variations in the guitar electronics.




Rare prototype/endorsee IMG2010 with silver/chrome hardware - Click on any image for larger view.

Prototype: It appears that a few Black IMG2010s with silver/chrome hardware were shipped to select endorsees and to regional Ibanez reps. I received an email from Laurence Juber, former guitarist for Wings, who confirmed that he has received one of these prototype IMG2010s from Ibanez with the unusual hardware. These guitars can also be see in some of the print advertisements for the IMG2010.




Logo variations on the IMG2010 - Click on any image for larger view.

Ibanez/X-ING Logo (Guitar): I have also seen a few IMG2010s, both in black and silver, that have the Ibanez logo featured prominently, and do not include the "X-ING" name on the guitar. I have not kept track of these serial numbers, so I'm not sure if this variation occured early or later in the production run, but the prototypes do include the "X-ING" name on the guitar.





Logo variations on the IMG2010 - Click on any image for larger view.

Ibanez/X-ING Logo (Case): There are some similar variations in the guitar cases as well! There are two types of IMG2010 cases: the 3 latch version with the "Ibanez" logo in the lower left hand corner, and the 4 latch version, which features the "X-ING" logo in the upper right hand corner.

Photos - Silver Finish:













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Photos - Black Finish:













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Videos:


Modifications:

Replacing the Original Locking Nut:

Having heaped so much praise on the IMG2010, I do find a flaw in the design of the locking nut. The original mechanism depended on the use of six, very small posts tightened by a 2 mm hex wrench to hold the strings in place at the nut. I have had 2 or 3 guitars where I could no longer sufficiently tighten the posts to hold the strings in place. I had a similar problem with a Schecter Strat I bought in 1985, so I fixed the problem the same way my luthier did in 1985: I replaced the original nut with a much robust Floyd Rose nut. The part used for this repair:

Floyd Rose Locking Nut, 42 mm, 1 5/8th, top mount.

As you can see in the photos below, I filled in the original holes, sanded and painted black the headstock, then installed the Floyd Rose nut. This worked really well for me, and I kept a Trem Tool attached to the headstock to make changing strings quick and easy.





Replacing the original locking string mechanism - Click on any image for larger view.

Schematics - Repairs - Service Bulletins:

There are no known service bulletins from Ibanez addressing any IMG2010 problems.

Download the IMG2010 MC1 Service Manual Schematics.

Download the IMG2010 Schematic.

Repairs - IMG2010/G-707/G-77/Steinberger M5218 Opamp Failure

You suddenly notice that one string on your guitar synth system stops working. The first thing you want to do is try another cable! Cable failures are the most frequent GR-system problem. If you do not have a spare cable, try jiggling either end of the connector, though the problem is most likely to be the end that plugs into your guitar. If the sound comes and goes, then you need to fix your cable. If not, then you most likely have a problem with an opamp inside the guitar electronics. A more remote possibility is that you have a damaged pickup.

If you have a GR-700, an easy way to determine if you cable is working correctly is to press the EDIT foot pedal, followed by 4 and 8. This puts the GR-700 in tuning mode. Play each string on the GR-700, and you should see the display change for each string. The displays shows "1" for the high E string, "2" for the B string, down to "6" for the low E string. If the GR-700 responds to all six strings, then your cable is good, and most likely you have a failed 80017a chip.

Unless you have been moving the synth pickup around a lot, they usually do not fail on their own. Instead of a synth pickup failure, you possibly could have a problem with the electronics. Inside every GR guitar are a lot of small, integrated amplifiers called "opamps." These due tend to fail over time.

M5218 chips in Ibanez IMG2010
M5218 chips in Roland G-707
M5218 chips in Roland G-77
Click on image to enlarge

The Roland G-707, G-77, STK-1, Ibanez IMG2010, and the Steinberger 24-pin Roland guitars use M5218 opamps. Unlike the much more popular 4558 chips, the M5218 is difficult to find. I have been using a replacement chip, the NTE778S chip. As of Tuesday, April 24, Mouser Electronics has 27 of these chips in stock, selling for $4.08 each.

Typical replacement part: NTE778S chip (substitute for M5218) operational amplifier at Mouser.com.

More detailed information on opamp replacements in the Roland G-202/303/505/808 guitars available here.

Controls on the IMG2010 and the Roland G-Series Guitars:

This diagram shows the controls on the Ibanez IMG2010 and various Roland guitars. Notice the layout is basically the same. Also, note the IMG2010 does not have touch plates to activate modulation. The vibrato (or modulation) knob, CV#4, is always active on the IMG2010.

Magazine Advertising:

John Ambercrombie IMG2010
Creative IMG2010
Eddie Martinex IMG2010
IMG2010 Imagination
IMG2010 Possibilities
Randy Herbert IMG2010

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IMG2010 Brochure:







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The IMG-2010 and the Axstar Guitars and Basses by Ibanez:




Ibanez AX70 Guitar

Ibanez IMG-2010

Ibanez AX60 Bass Guitar

The IMG-2010 seems to be a variation of the headless Axstar guitars produced by Ibanez in the mid-eighties. These guitars were designed to be affordable, cutting edge guitars that appealed to the "modern" musician. The headless design appears to have been inspired by the popular Steinberger guitars.

The Virtual Whammy Bar:



The unique IMG2010 whammy bar is very hard to find or replace. As you can see, there are no threads in the whammy bar. I measured the diameter of the whammy bar as being around 5 mm. The original part number for the whammy bar is YM-05. The original part number for the nylon washer on the whammy bar is YM-06.

This link will take you to a high resolution scan of the whammy bar along with a ruler to help IMG2010 users who would like to fabricate their own whammy bar.

Replacement Whammy Bar: Ibanez 2ED2C1B

I picked up an IMG2010 without the original virtual whammy bar. I first tried the Ibanez 2LE21B, which looks quite a bit like the original whammy bar, but with a 6 mm diameter, it was clearly much too large. The solution was the Ibamez 2ED2C1B, which is much closer to the original, with a diameter around 5 mm. The 2ED2C1B still was just a bit too large. After some very cautious tests, I ended up using a 5.5 mm bit to ever-so-slightly enlarge the original whammy bar shaft on the guitar, and the new whammy bar works great!

Ibanez 2ED2C1B (Sam Ash Music)