Ibanez continues to make the unthinkable a possibility - and this six-string bass from the Gio Soundgear range pretty much blows what is possible on a budget out of the window.
Understandably, some of the gloss and extra features of pricier models have had to make way, but glancing at the spec sheet, Ibanez has brought the fundamental features together to produce an enticing package that certainly won’t break the bank. Let’s give it a whirl!
This bass draws on familiar Ibanez design features - so we’re presented with a comfortably contoured mahogany body, with the dark-coloured pitted timber clearly visible underneath the smooth satin finish, and the same satin finish applied to the maple neck. The lower cutaway offers unhindered access to the upper frets of the 22-fret rosewood fingerboard. Although this is a six-string instrument, the extra timber hasn’t adversely affected the weight and balance: there’s some neck dive, which is easily remedied once placed on a strap.
With a spacing of 16.5mm, the strings are tightly grouped together. This will work for some players but not for others: on a four- or five-string, it’s not such a problem but on a six-string, it makes a big difference to your fretting hand. Check if this is comfortable for you before purchase. The upside is that you have a lot of notes at your disposal in any one fretting position, of course.
The shallow D neck profile improves the playability of the fingerboard, while the low action, excellent set-up and quality of finish are to be commended, despite one or two sharp fret ends on the lower side of the neck.
White dot position markers have been used on the front and side of the neck, while black Ibanez hardware has been used throughout. The control layout is relatively simple, with two volume pots and bass and treble EQ, referred to in the spec as the Phat II EQ: neither control is centre-detented. A screwed cover has been used for the battery compartment while a quick peek inside the control cavity reveals all the cabling tidily laid out and well shielded.
Before being plugged in, this bass growls away acoustically. The sustain and resonance are impressive, with a good string-to-string volume across the neck. Plugged in, a piano-like quality becomes apparent very quickly, and after you’ve familiarised yourself with the increased string range and tight string spacing, there’s much to like about this bass.
With a flat EQ, there is a decent variety of sounds on offer, with the bridge pickup offering a very useable honk in the lower register, especially with the low B string, while the neck pickup gives the C and G strings some body and strength of tone.
Bringing the EQ into play broadens the tonal palette. We’re pleased to report that although the results are never extreme, the signature Ibanez clarity is still prevalent. The low B string is quite lively, with a smooth, growly character. The mids across the whole instrument really stand out, even without any mid EQ boost: this is due to the mahogany body bringing out the natural resonance and throaty quality of the instrument. Don’t think that the bass lacks bottom end, as it certainly doesn’t - the bass EQ simply reinforces the natural tone without becoming excessively boomy.
Players wary of dipping a toe in the six-string water should definitely check this bass out: it’s one of the most comfortable and playable six-strings we’ve had the pleasure of reviewing. The fingerstyle tones are tight and punchy with plenty of definition, while pick-playing benefits from the solid, singing midrange. Slappers and tappers will enjoy the clear defined top end, which will cut through a band mix.
You may have gathered that we like this bass: it ticks all the boxes you’d consider when looking at a bass of this type, and does everything very well with minimal fuss. You then see the price and wonder how Ibanez can make something of this quality for less than £300, especially when the Brexit effect is pushing prices through the roof.
Anyone looking at an extended range instrument should seriously consider this bass. You’d be hard pressed to find such a good all-rounder in this price bracket. Highly recommended.