Agile Interceptor 830 / RG2228 Comparison & Mods (38 pics)

Here’s a repro of a repair pic story that was originally posted at Sevenstring.org a couple of years ago….

Being an 8 string enthusiast, I’ve owned, and worked on many Ibanez RG2228’s, so when I received a new 30″ scale Agile Interceptor 830, I wanted to demonstrate a comparison between these two very popular models as many have asked about. At the same time I also wanted to install the iconic 8 string pickup Lundgren M8 in the bridge position, and perform some basic mods and adjustments that I deemed necessary to make the guitar play well and sound great.

 I was very surprised with the Interceptor headstock design. Very cool.

 The pseudo RG-shape is very pleasing, and in fact as you’ll see shortly, the exact same outside dimensions as an RG – just a bit thinner and with an arched top like an RGA with slight cutaway bevels. Sharp looking. Nice to have something other than black (Ibanez / LTD) or red (like Schecter) for a change too.

 Back view, showing the similar AANJ-type neck join, finished in natural satin poly with only a couple of dust ‘pimples’, made from what Rondo is calling “Light Mahogany”.  In fact, this body wood is Japanese Ash, the Asian variant of American Ash. Ash is a very good choice for bass and baritone (like this) guitars, as it features a strong but tight bottom-end fundamental.

Headstock rear pic showing the Grover mini’s, which are good, reliable machines. I can see why they chose them, they’re light, and a guitar with a long scale like this, you want to keep the headstock weight down to avoid the inevitable neck-dive. My only issue with these is the very small size of the stubby buttons – they’re hard to grasp easily. Personally, I’ll be installing some Hipshot open-gear tuners that I have on order soon.

Neck is fashioned from 3pc maple, and in the example I received, the upper piece (towards the player) is nicely flamed. Bonus. The fingerboard appears to be a nice cut of Indian rosewood with no inlays, save for side dots. Radius is 16″ on the 2228, and 15″ on the 830. I was very impressed with the fretwork, which were all well seated, crowned nicely, and polished. I saw no dips or humps while sighting the neck, and for this I was grateful. At my old shop I worked on approx. 30+ guitars per week, most of them cheaper Asian-made, and I unfortunately have to deal with a LOT of bad fret work from many Chinese/Korean instruments, so it was nice to see some attention to the actual playability take precedence over a slick paint job and gaudy inlays. Extra bonus points for putting two, dual-action truss rods in there! Good job Rondo 

[Enter RG2228] Ok, Here we see the Interceptor 830 beside the Ibanez RG 2228…and the size difference in the scale is immediately apparent. Oddly, the 830 was actually a bit lighter in weight than the 2228.

The backsides of our two competitors….

Now in case (no pun intended) you were wondering if the 830 would fit into the 2228’s very posh case : it does and it doesn’t. And this is where we see that the Interceptor’s body shape is the exact same outer dimensions as the RG – it fits like a glove into the molded pocket.

Now, here’s where it doesn’t fit:

<sad trombone: “wha-whahhh”> Because of the 30″ scale, I wasn’t surprised at this, but thought it would be interesting just to see. 

Here we see the two beasties literally go head-to-head, as it were…

Nut width in the 830 is 2 1/4″

Nut width on the RG2228 is 1/16th narrower at 2 3/16″

Here is where I will get into angles, and how angles affect tone…the 2228 (left) is a few degrees sharper in break-angle at the nut, which helps increase the downward tension on the nut – creating a stronger, better note and tone. This is especially apparent if you remove the nut lock blocks, and just rely on the strings’ own tension (which of course is dependent on gauge, which in this case I’m setting up for 9-70, which I’ve felt before on 30″ scale and have a good idea of what it should feel and sound like).

Another shot showing the thickness between the two, with the 2228 on top. The actual neck thickness between the two is pretty well matched, although the actual carve differed slightly, and the 2228 was just a bit easier on the hands. This was due to only part of the neck that I felt should have been shaved a bit thinner, and is on what i call the ‘shoulders’ of the neck (see below), which feel very similar to the neck differences between, say, an Ibanez RG1527 or old Universe and a newer RG7321, I think some of you know what I mean. It makes for just a bit more comfortable and fast feel over extended playing times…

Shaving the ‘shoulders’ here would greatly increase the comfort level for most players, as 8 string guitar necks are already large enough as it is.

Here’s what I thought would be an interesting perspective: differences in the cutaway view. For what it’s worth, I had no difficulty in reaching the highest frets on the 830, it plays very well.

The Ibanez Edge III-FX8 bridge. Lots has been written about this…it’s pretty good as long as you don’t overtighten the lock screws (which can strip easily), or are not careful with the large center hex bolt which is the bridge counter-balance and have it’s anchor ripped out of the body by overzealous tightening.

And the Kahler 7228 bridge…admittedly in the past I’ve never been terribly impressed with Kahler’s in general, but I have to admit that after I made the neck angle adjustments (more later) to increase the saddle break angle for a more strident low F string tone, I really appreciate the multitude of adjustability that Kahlers have – much more adjustable that any Floyd type trem…and speaking of trem, yes it works very smoothly, but I’ve seen enough issues over the years with trying to a keep multi-wound bass string (for the low F) in tune. Count how many bassists (besides Sheehan) are actively using trems…very few, and that’s for a reason. I’ll keep it locked as a hardtail, thanks.

Now, enough comparing..let’s do a bit of modding to my tastes:

First, here’s the excellent Lundgren M8 going into the bridge position

The M8 next to the very good Cepheus 8 pickups, which were a nice surprise, they’re actually really tight and crunchy. Notice the almost identical appearance to the Lundgren…same fiberboard bobbins, flat non-adjustable poles, just the bobbin holes are different: three on the M8 and two for the Cepheus. Whether this is by accident or design, (I could be wrong) it looks like a clever (and flattering) marketing move for Rondo to directly copy the hugely popular Lundgren M series pickups for use in their 7 & 8 string passive instruments.

Bottom view, you have to admit, the similarity is uncanny. Let me just say flat out that, although I’m a dedicated Lundgren user for about five years now, these Agile pickups are a close copy to the Lundgren’s, both visually and sonically too – both are very focused and tight sounding for high gain riffage, but the Lundgren still has an edge in transparency, low-end grunt and clarity. But for approx. 1/3 the price, the Cepheus 8 is terrific value in a passive 8 string pickup, and can be ordered directly from Rondo.

Put the pickups on the VOM, and the Cepheus’ DC resistance reads 12.03k (kilohms). Clarification right now: DC Resistance is NOT necessarily a measure of overall output volume, which is measured in mV. It’s actually a measurement of it’s overall resistance and more an indicator of tonal response….Google it, I’m too lazy to explain it now! But most folks, like myself, like to know these things.

And the crunchmonster M8 clocking in at 13.5k…

The 830’s control cavity is very spacious with a thick layer of shield paint. The two Asian-made Alpha 500k pots are typical, with a linear taper volume, and a audio taper tone and capacitor. The box style 3-way toggle is just adequate, although not as well built as Switchcraft, feels firm enough. A black barrel jack (which will be replaced eventually with a Neutrik Locking jack) completes the layout.

After ripping out the existing pots, the holes for the new CTS pots have to be enlarged with the taper reamer – one of the best and most useful bits in my shop.

The new 1 Meg CTS audio taper volume pot with a .02uf cap for a high-pass filter to retain highs when the volume is rolled off…I’ve found a 1 meg pot with Lundgren’s gives a touch more headroom and just a tad more ‘bite’ to the initial pick attack.

A CTS 500k audio taper push-pull pot with a .022 Sprague Orange Drop cap which will also act as a single-coil tap for both pickups. I will also wire them up as to have the pickups out of phase in the middle position, which sounds nice and funky. 

As the pickups are direct body mount and I don’t wish to mod the expensive M8’s tab threads, I’ve modified the mounting screws to spin at the head and accommodate the pickup instead.

I like to have my pickups feel firm and not wobble at all, so I always cut and insert some fairly dense foam in the cavity before mounting the pickup..although unproven, I also believe wobbly pickups possibly contribute slightly to potential feedback problems at high volumes.

Everything rewired back into place 

The M8 in it’s new home…

And here’s where I was having a small issue with tone on the low F string – by lack of much saddle break angle. The tension was little enough that I could lift the string out of the saddle using only my two fingernails lightly…not enough tension, and it suffered for it tonally. I know how a .70 gauge string @ 30″ should sound like : “THONNNK”  – not: “THUUuuud”  So to achieve this, we need to increase the break angle at the saddle by changing the neck pitch with a shim in the pocket, and then raise the saddle height correspondingly.

The routing on the 830’s neck pocket is clean and without any issues, save for the base pitch. I would change that dimension on the company’s CNC routers doing this job to correct this for better pitch angle when using a Kahler bridge. I chose to insert a 1mm thick maple shim at the back of the pocket to remedy this…

Here you can see the change in neck angle, as it was originally near parallel with the body face.

And now you can see the change in the saddle break angle (compare to the earlier pic), and the change in the tone was much, much better, with a strident, piano-like ring all the way across all the strings – as it tonally should be with a longer-scale baritone guitar!

20 mins later after an intonation workout with the Peterson strobe tuner, and this baby was ready to do some serious chug damage.