Detail and craftsmanship at an affordable price
By Tom Foster
Contributing Editor, Harmony Central
The working bass players I know seem to put basses into two categories: 1) the massively expensive custom basses we lust after and 2) the solid, less expensive ones we use for every-day gigs. Recently I had a chance to try out a line of Ibanez basses that might bridge that gap—the new four-string SR1200E and five-string SR1405E Premium basses from Ibanez. After spending time playing these beauties, it is clear that Ibanez has created a line of bass guitars that finally blends all the trappings of a high-end bass at an affordable price point.
That lovely body
Nothing says custom guitars like beautiful body and neck wood, and both the SR1200E and the SR1405E feature stunning wood and incredible finishing details. On the lower-cost SR1200E, you’ll find an ovangkol top over a mahogany body with a five-piece wenge/bubinga neck. The more expensive SR1405E also is striking, using a figured maple top with a mahogany body and the same five-piece wenge/bubinga neck.
The body on both has a silky-smooth vintage natural flat finish that brings out the quality of the wood, as well as making for a fast neck. Surprisingly, this wood combination not only produces great sustain, but is also very lightweight—which is welcome for shoulder and back relief on those long gigs.
Très chic pickups
Another nice touch on both the SR1200E and the SR1405E is the use of Nordstrand “Big Single” pickups. These use a special design that creates a fat sound that you can mold to your needs. Check out any boutique guitar maker and, chances are, you’ll find many of their basses outfitted with Nordstrand pickups.
According to Nordstrand, the pickups used on the SR1200E and SR1405E have a tone that sounds a lot like a J-style single-coil, yet with more harmonic content from the string. The end result is impressive—crisp tones that can cut through the mix, yet exhibit a full-range sound that contains great clarity in the midrange.
Lots o’ control
The Ibanez SR1200E and SR1405E don’t stop with just great pickups; they also offer a solid array of tone controls. In addition to the standard volume and switch controls for each pickup, each guitar also features a three-band EQ, a mid-frequency switch that goes between 250Hz and 600Hz, and a kill switch to instantly get you back to a flat sound. With this much control, it was easy to sculpt my favorite bass tones on both guitars.
Both guitars feature individual Mono-Rail bridges for each string. This approach reduces sympathetic vibrations; and once locked down, the saddles won’t dissipate any vibration, which dramatically increases sustain.
To give the Ibanez Premium bass guitars a real-world test, I brought the SR1405E five-string bass along for a jazz fusion session. The tonal range of the music required a precise, crisp sound that I was able to dial in thanks to the three-band EQ. Another nice plus was the ability to shift pickups and to invoke the midrange switch on the SR1405E to better accent solo lines.
During the session I had another friend try out the SR1405E bass to gauge his reaction. He was particularly taken with the smoothness of the SR1405E neck, the fast action, and how crisp the tone was from the low B string. Five-string guitars are sometimes cursed with muddy low B strings, but the SR1405E punched right through the mix, especially when slapping and popping.
Later, I brought the four-string SR1200E over to a friend’s for a good old-fashioned rock-and-roll jam. Once again I was able to get a crisp bass sound, whether using my fingers or a pick. I also did not feel weighed down, thanks to the SR1200E’s lightweight body. After several hours I had no trace of that painful feeling you get with heavier basses when your spine and neck feel like they’ve been slightly crushed.
The boutique alternative
If you have been saving up for an expensive custom bass, I’ve got good news: you don’t have to wait anymore. The SR1200E and SR1405E Premium basses have clearly brought together some high-end features into a line of affordable basses. If you are wanting a solid, punchy sound; beautiful woods; and amazing attention to detail and craftsmanship, you definitely have to check out the Ibanez SR1200E and SR1405E Premium basses. They will turn heads with their beauty as well as their sound.
Features & Specs
- Nordstrand® “Big Single” pickups
- Exotic Ovangkol or figured maple top
- Mahogany body
- Gotoh precision machine heads
- 5-piece wenge/bubinga neck
- 3-band EQ
- EQ bypass switch
- Mid-frequency switch
For a bass featuring gorgeous aesthetics and great sound, but at a price that will accommodate all working musicians, check out the Ibanez SR1200E and SR1405E Premium basses.