Review Test Drive: Ibanez PM-35 vs. Ibanez AF105 NT

This past weekend I went to a local music shop and compared an Ibanez
AF105 Custom to a PM-35 (Pat Metheny) model. I hadn't seen the PM-35
anywhere yet, so I was pleased to have the chance to give it a try.
The store was asking the exact same price for the two guitars, and the
guitars are very similar in many ways (BUT NOT ALL), so it made for a
nice comparison.

I plugged both into various amps, settling on a Fender Deluxe Reverb
and one of the new Princeton Reverb reissues. First, let me say they
were both excellent playing, feeling and sounding guitars. Also --
very well made, and well set up. Both had very clean fret work.
There was no "winner" between them, but I definitely liked one more
than the other. Read on.

Despite their cosmetic similarities, the guitars had some unique
characteristics. Obviously, the PM-35 has only one pickup and a wire-
style tailpiece, while the AF105 has two pickups and a "wooden"
tailpiece. So the AF105 had a few more sounds available (and nice
ones I might add. The bridge and middle pickup positions both yielded
very usable, satisfying sounds for rock funk, even chicken picking.)
Both guitars had Super 58 pickups, which could do bright or dark
sounds really well.

OK... now for the differences. The PM-35 was noticeably lighter
weight, likely due to the lack of a bridge pickup. It also had a
slightly slimmer, flatter neck profile compared to the medium round
profile on the AF105. (BTW: I used to own an Ibanez PM-20, which was
a great guitar, and if memory serves, the PM-35 has a very *slightly*
beefier neck profile.)

Comparing the neck pickup sounds only, The PM-35 had a "woodier",
airier tone than the AF105. The AF105 was a bit more meaty
(pleasingly so), but not as chirpy and light sounding. Through the
Fender amps, both guitars needed the tone knobs rolled back quite a
bit to get that dark-but-clear sound we all love. Again, compared to
my old PM-20, I thought the PM-35's Super 58 sounded better. I always
struggled to get a decent, non-muddy sound from the PM-20 -- no such
problem with the PM-35.

Cosmetically, I liked the simplicity of the PM-35. Somehow it was
more esthetically pleasing than the AF105 -- I don't really love the
wooden pick guard or the big blocky tailpiece on the AF105 (a personal
preference of course.) I also must say I'm not crazy about the white
blonde look of either guitar, preferring a more aged-honey look on a
blonde guitar. But the PM-35, even though it was a bit lighter in
shade, still looked better to me.

Both were excellent guitars, but (for jazz) I liked the PM-35 a little
better, owing to the lighter weight and more airy sound. The 105 is
probably more versatile, at the cost of extra weight and a (IMHO) less
balanced look. I’d be happy with either.