Was in the market for a new baritone acoustic electric as I had owned an Alvarez Yairi YB70 a couple of years ago, but sold a couple of weeks after purchase, as it was too difficult to play, (jumbo body, and carpal tunnel syndrome started in my fingers). I was sad to sell it, but still had hoped to eventually find a replacement.
I was happy to see that Taylor came out with a 6 and 8 stringed edition, and although I loved how they sounded and felt, they were way out of my price range now. Typically, my rule of thumb had always been, try a really top of the line instrument and then try the less expensive models to see how they feel in your hands and to your ears.
To my amazement, I saw a variety of reviews of the Ibanez AE255BT, with favorable results. I had only wished I could have tried it myself. Then, last Saturday, I went to my local Sam Ash store in Charlotte, NC, and there it was, in the acoustic room, at the very end cap. And the price tag said “close out price” of $499. I tried it for about an hour and purchased it accordingly.
Acoustically, even toned, and comfortable against the body. Plugged in, through a Fender Acoustic 100 amp, it has great lows and mids and chiming highs. Everything worked well for me. Given that I learned later on that Ibanez decided to change the designs of this baritone and use Okoume back & Okoume sides, compared to their original Ovangkol back & Ovangkol sides, as well as a Katalox fretboard over their previous Cultured Maple variety.
If you have the chance to find this guitar, try it and buy it.
I was after a baritone acoustic guitar that I could strum and play like a standard acoustic, and allow me to sing in lower keys while playing songs with my normal chord patterns/progressions.
I demo'd this Ibanez AE255BT against the better-known and highly-regarded Alvarez ABT60, which is the only other baritone I could find with a similar list-price and spec.
I spent an hour A/B'ing the two guitars, and they were surprisingly very different beasts. The Alvarez is much louder (presumably due to its jumbo body) compared to the Ibanez, which has a grand auditorium style body. The Alvarez also had more sustain, a scooped frequency range (pronounced bass and treble) and powerful (almost unwieldy) overtones. The Ibanez had a far more controlled tone, with strong fundamentals and a pronounced mid-range. For a normally-pitched acoustic, I'd usually prefer the tonal qualities of the Alvarez, but - for a baritone - I felt it sounded a mess when strumming open chords. The Ibanez, however, retains clarity in the lower registers and can be played open, just like a standard acoustic. The fundamental tone is more suitable for this type of guitar.
I found the intonation of the Ibanez to be better than that of the Alvarez. The Ibanez stays perfectly in-tune up and down the whole fretboard, whereas the Alvarez struggles to keep intonation up the frets. This is a real testament to the build quality of the Ibanez. The Ibanez is also more comfortable to hold and play, with its slimmer body shape and slimmer neck
For fingerstyle, both guitars sounded great. The Alvarez has a zingy tone, and you can really hear the metallic sound of the strings. The Ibanez, although quieter, has a beautiful deep tone; the low B-string sounds similar to a bass guitar, and the overall tone is very piano-like.
Overall, I felt the Ibanez was the superior baritone acoustic guitar - and I chose this over the Alvarez.
The Ibanez AE255BT is a very attractive instrument. The quality of the woods is great (solid Sitka spruce top and beautiful layered ovangkol back/sides - which looks very similar to Indian Rosewood). Appointments, such as the wood binding and vine fretboard inlay, surpass the expectations implied by the list price. Overall the fit and finish is impeccable; easily on par with acoustics far above its price-point.
If you're looking for a baritone that plays and feels just like a standard acoustic guitar, I highly recommend the Ibanez AE255BT. It has a low, controlled and rich tone, great playability and offers exceptional value.