The S series is a line of solid body electric guitars produced by Ibanez. The series was introduced in 1987 as the Saber series, but the name was shortened to S in deference to prior use of a similar name by another manufacturer.
The key feature of the S series is the sleek offset double cutaway body shape with a contoured top and back meeting at a thin, sharp edge; the Saber name was a reference to the guitar's blade-like shape.
The 540S was the first Saber model, introduced in 1987. The 540S was offered as part of the Roadstar Pro series which supplanted the Pro Line series. The initial Roadstar Pro lineup consisted of five new original body shapes: the S, the Radius, the Power, the Turbot and the Ballback. The Roadstar Pro designation was phased out between 1990 and 1992 in favor of separate designations for the S, Power series and Radius series; the Turbot and Ballback were abandoned after just one year.
The Saber shape was the brainchild of a design team at Hoshino USA led by Rich Lasner, which included art director Bill Reim, fabricator Mace Bailey and painter Leon Reddell. Lasner's assistant, Bill Cummiskey and Hoshino (Japan) designer Fritz Katoh also provided key input. Lasner's design goal was to create a guitar which had the same basic dimensions of a Fender Stratocaster but was much thinner and sleeker. He wanted the guitar to have the tone of a Stratocaster crossed with a Gibson SG. The idea of a knife-edge design came from Reim.
The design was sculpted from clay, a process which Reim had brought to the company and which had been employed previously in designing the Maxxas series. The body of the initial Saber prototype went to a very sharp knife edge, but it was determined that design would have durability issues. The second prototype had a thin squared off edge that was very similar to the eventual production model. The Saber's angled output jack tunnel was created and refined by Katoh.
For 1987 the Saber, Radius and Power models had several commonalities including DiMarzio IBZ/USA pickups in an HSS configuration, Edge double locking tremolo bridges, and an unusual control layout which eschewed a pickup selector in favor of individual mini-toggle switches to control each pickup and a push/pull switch on the tone pot to coil split the humbucker. When Ibanez later fitted the S with a lever-style pickup selector starting in 1988, the extremely thin profile of the guitar mandated the use of a plastic bezel to accommodate the depth of the switch.
When Ernie Ball brought their Sabre bass line back to the market shortly after Ibanez introduced the Saber guitar, they asked Ibanez to discontinue use of the similar name (which Ernie Ball had used previously) in order to eliminate confusion between the products. Ibanez complied by shortening the name of their guitar series to simply "S".
The S series adopted the common "series code + model number" (e.g. "S540") naming convention in 1992, replacing the previous "model number + series code (+ variant)" (e.g. 540SLTD) naming scheme.
Over 200 distinct S series models have been produced. Signature models for Frank Gambale, Herman Li, Kiko Loureiro and Nita Strauss based on the S series have been offered. In addition, a wide range of S series models has been offered from the entry-level GIO line to the affordable standard line to the metal-focused Iron Label and Axion Label lines to the mid-level Premium line to the high end Prestige line all the way up to the handcrafted J Custom line.
S series variations
The S series has inspired several related guitar lines over the years. This began in 1992 with the fixed-bridge SF470 and the synchronized tremolo-equipped SV series. The S Classic series which are distinguished by a 3+3 headstock, shorter 25.1" scale, fixed bridge and top-mounted controls which eliminated the need for a rear control cavity followed in 1997. The more budget-friendly SA series was introduced for 2000 with a thicker body with a flat back and a synchronized tremolo. The SZ and SZR series came out in 2003 with a thicker body similar to that of the SA series with the output jack repositioned on the edge and a fixed bridge. As of 2020, only the SA series continues to be produced.