Sunday, November 17, 2013

Ibanez Soundgear GSR200 Electric Bass Guitar Review


The entry-level bass market is the best it has ever been, and it is possible to get surprisingly good instruments for not a lot of dough. A good example of this is the Ibanez GSR200 electric bass that I am reviewing today.

Ibanez is a Japanese company that has been building guitars since 1957, and over the years I have played quite a few of them, such as their Les Paul copies and their Roadstar and Soundgear basses, and have not really found anything bad to say about any of them. The GSR200 is part of the Soundgear series, and can be offered at a lower price dues to use of cheaper materials and lower-priced Indonesian labor.

I have always thought that the Soundgear instruments are rather handsome and the GSR200 maintains these good looks, but if you look closely, you will see that it has a smaller body and a thinner neck. This bass is specifically marketed to smaller people, and to those that need something lighter because of back or neck problems. However, it is not marked to southpaws and you will not find a left-handed version.

The body is smaller, but it still maintains the pleasant shape of the original, with slightly pointier horns than its Fender counterparts, and rounder edges too. The aggressive heel cutout for access to the higher frets carries over, which will make the shredders happy. The body is made of agathis, and this one was shot with a thick coat of black polyurethane finish.

Though this GSR200 bass is a bit smaller, it still maintains a 34-inch scale length. The neck is maple with a rosewood fretboard, and there are 22 frets hammered into its 12-inch radius. The nut is a bee’s dick wider than a Jazz nut (1.614”), but it has a smaller profile that would be nice for those with smaller hands. The headstock maintains the traditional Soundgear asymmetrical taper and it is finished to match the body.

Stuck all cockywobble on the headstock are the sealed-back tuners (I know they are supposed to be crooked, but it bothers me anyway), and they are of acceptable quality. They hold well, but do not turn smoothly, and the chrome is not good quality. The same can be said for the chrome on the bridge, which is otherwise a serviceable piece of equipment with a thick base plate and beefy saddles. This is a budget instrument, so you are not going to Schallers or Hipshots.

The electronics package is predictable, with a humbucking P pickup in the sweet spot and a single coil jazz pickup at the bridge. Ibanez calls them POWERSOUND pickups, and I am not sure what this means, but having the name in all caps certainly makes them seem more impressive. The controls are fairly simple with a volume knob for each pickup, one tone knob and a PHAT-II bass boost EQ knob (see my previous comment about POWERSOUND). This bass has 9-volt active electronics, which always makes it sound like you are getting something awesome, but on cheaper instruments this usually means that they are making the bass louder to make up for cheaper pickups and woods.

Craftsmanship of this Ibanez bass is good for the money, and the black finish is amazingly nice and blemish-free. The fretwork is ok. They are mostly level, and though the edges are not pretty, they are smooth, and the E and G strings do not try to fall off the edge of the board when fretted. The nut has well-cut string slots, but is actually quite sharp around the edges, and if I was going to buy one of these I would have to smooth it out a bit. But none of these things are deal breakers, especially when I consider that this bass plays well and sounds good.

Right out of the box, the bass was playable, and after a quick truss rod tweak it fell right into line with a medium-height action. The neck is a tad thin for me (I am mostly a P-bass guy now) but it would certainly be great for someone with small hand and stubby little fingers. Even with the smaller body it balances well on the strap, and it is pretty light, coming in at a bit under 8.5 pounds.

The GSR200 is capable of getting quite a few usable tones, from a P Bass thump to an edgier Jazz Bass sound. I have always been a fan of P-J basses, so I was able to get into this one right away. I felt that the PHAT-II bass boost was overkill in an exaggerated boomy way (almost like a cheap bass effects pedal), and I could not think of any styles of music where I would feel comfortable turning it all the way up. But that is just my opinion, and it could be your cup of tea. It is not the end of the world; I just backed it off and played the bass like god intended. I see this as a good funk, rock, or metal bass. Stick with your P Bass for the blues…

All-in-all, this is a solid instrument, and since the Ibanez GSR200 is an entry-level bass it is priced accordingly. The solid-color models have a list price of $285.70 and a street price of $199.99, which is pretty darned cheap even when you consider that no case is included. And, if you are willing to forgo buying new (and not getting the one-year warranty), these basses can be had for under a hundred bucks on eBay and Craigslist.


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