An Epic Voyage(r)

The Ibanez Voytager goes back 30 years. It is one of the more visually recognizable signature guitars of that time. Maybe it’s all that gold! HaHa!

Winger guitarist Reb Beach is fairly synonymous with Suhr guitars, even prior to his signature Ibanez. Having a brief fling with Kramer, Reb was with Ibanez through the mid 1990s before going back to Suhr. A few staples transcend Reb’s guitars: EMG active pickups and Floyd Rose tremolo systems being the primary accouterments of preference.

The trademark of the Voyager series is the big cutaway behind the bridge. It’s a little reminiscent of the old Steinberger M series guitar. In the case of the Voyager, it serves no real purpose aside from looking cool. LOL! The upper and lower horns are both slightly extended. The theory is that it’s replacing some of the wood that’s gone from that big cutaway.

Voyager 1995 Ibanez Catalog
Voyager 1995 Ibanez Catalog

The one I’m dealing with here is a later model RBM10, out of the Korean factory. The most significant change to these last two years of products are the tremolo system. The previous RBM1 has the Edge tremolo. The RBM10 has the Lo TRS. Reb’s own personal RBM2 models have the Floyd Rose, as do his Suhr guitars. Interesting side note, Reb is one of the few (if not only) that got both of those companies to put a genuine Floyd on his guitars.

Back to our story… I came across this Voyager sometime around 2000. It is player’s grade and the deal is so low that it’s stupid to pass it up. It’s missing the funky gold pickguard, but one is available direct from Ibanez at the time. Considering it’s only about 5-6 years old when I get it, there’s quite a bit of fret wear. And the placement of the strap pin behind the upper horn contributes to some neck dive. Oddly enough, taking a look at Reverb last month and there is a RBM10 going for over $2k. Whoa! This one gets minimal play. For the most part of the past 20 years, it’s not doing too awful much. HaHa!

Suddenly, I get a wild hair to do something with this Voyager. Uh-oh! That means trouble! LOL!

At first, I’m thinking that it will do it good to get a real Floyd Rose on there. Turns out that the neck has all these funky specs. At 42mm wide, the nut is between the R2 and the R3 nut sizes. But the R2 matches the width of the stock nut. Wouldn’t ya know it, there is also a trippy metric neck radius. It is closest to a 15° radius, making it a bit of an oddball for the 10° radius on Floyd Rose locking nuts. So the neck goes out to get a re-radius to 12° and a re-fret.

How about some photos of the re-radius process?

Wanna see some video of the result?

Voyager Re-radius from headstock
Voyager Re-radius from heel

And the result:

One of the holes for the tremolo posts has a little “ovaling” going on. But side to side, rather than the typical back and forth. Weird. Either way, both post holes get a hardwood plug and it’s time for a re-drill with the trusty drill press.

What to do with the finish? Black is a little unforgiving, making it my least favorite color. HaHa! But black is also a good platform for holoflash. I know one of the guys from Kramer that is behind that finish. Turns out that the process is so simple that even I can do it! LOL! In fact, what you see on this Voyager is my first attempt.

Holoflash is something that I’d been thinking about for a while. A has-been guitar assembler stuck their head up about a year ago, trying to resuscitate some old-school holoflash nostalgia with some stolen valor. Best to steer clear of that. HaHa! The stink having lifted and the air once again clear (LOL!), the Voyager is a a great candidate for it. And wouldn’t you know, it’s available in gold!

Gold Holoflash Voyager
Gold Holoflash Voyager

Here’s a quick clip of the gold holoflash in action (might take a moment to load):

Now there is SO MUCH gold that it’s best to break it up a little. Most obvious choice is with the Floyd Rose hardware. And in that respect, the tremolo also gets a big brass block and a brass spring claw.

But here are a few mock-ups of an all-black or an all-gold tremolo to help me decide which direction to pursue:

The electronics get a major overhaul. A fresh wiring harness is a given, including a new 5-way switch. It has passive pickups for now. For a little fun, I am installing threaded inserts directly in to the wood for the neck and middle pickups. This is handy if you are a chronic pickup swapper such as myself. HaHa! A fun idea is to put the same EMG pickups that Reb would have in his Voyager back in the day. The 89/SA/SA set. The whole “battery” thing puts me off. LOL! It could be an opportunity to try the Fishman “Rechargeable Battery Pack”. Maybe at some point.

While waiting on the neck to return, there is an area of opportunity. The neck pocket is a little bit rough. Maybe just a little slop from the original finishing process. A few grades of sanding blocks and it’s a nice totally smooth surface, ready for better mechanical transference of energy.

Once back together and set up, the Voyager is a totally new beast. Higher quality parts and some attention to detail are going a long way with this bad boy. The more-familiar 12° radius transforms the neck in to a real keeper, matching with the 12° radius of the Floyd Rose saddles. This Voyager sounds and feels better than it has a right to. HaHa!

And the end result:

Gold Holo Voyager
Gold Holo Voyager

To be clear, this is not an attempt to take an entry-level guitar up a few notches. You are not going to have a reliable road-dog by swapping out some parts on the Memorial Day $99 sale down at Gestapo Center. LOL! The Voyager RBM10 is a mid-level guitar to begin with. Even today’s mid-level instruments can often use a fret-leveling right out of the box. LOL!

So then, what are we talking about this week? Throwing some effort at a guitar can convert a dud in to a stud. Are you on top of any ideas that you are thinking about applying to one of your guitars? You might be one step away from your dream shred-stick!

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