Sunday, June 19, 2016

Ibanez SR500 SR500BM Soundgear Bass Guitar Review


Soundgear basses have been a part of the Ibanez line-up for a long time, and I have always been taken by their appearance, which includes features like the asymmetrical headstock, oval fretboard inlays, and the carved body which its phallic upper horn. But, until now I have never had the chance to spend much time with one. So, here are my thoughts on the SR500 Soundgear bass (model SR500BM), now that I have had the opportunity to take one for an extended test drive.

This Soundgear bass is not an entry level bass, and falls in with the crowd of lower priced basses that have a lot of features for not much dough. The body is made of mahogany, and it is sprayed with clear urethane finish. The five-piece jatoba (huh?) and bubinga neck has a really cool joint at the body that helps it bolt on solidly and still provide good access to the upper frets. Like anybody really plays up there. There are 24 medium frets set into the rosewood fretboard on this 34-inch scale neck, and there is a 12-inch radius and a narrow nut that is a touch under 1.5 inches.

The electronics package is very good for a bass in this price range, featuring a pair of Bartolini MK1 humbuckers and a EQB-IIIS pre-amp. They are wired up through a 3-band EQ with volume and balance knobs, as well as a mid shift switch. Rounding out the specs, the hardware includes a beefy bridge and sealed tuners.

Ibanez had this SR500 built in Indonesia, and the folks there did a great job of putting it together. The neck joint could not be tighter, the finish is even, and the fret work is good with no sharp edges or uneven fret heights. The one I tests was new and straight out of the box, and it only took a ¼ turn of the trussrod to get the string height where I liked it, and intonation was ok, so this was one of the shortest set-ups on record. It came set up with some sort of 0.045 to 0.105 roundwound strings, which are a good match for the tone and touch of this instrument.

This craftsmanship combines with the materials to make for a really good instrument. This one plays very smoothly with a comfortable (and fast) neck and good ergonomics. The electronics package is versatile, and there are a lot of very usable rock, jazz, and metal tones that can be coaxed from it. It can be smooth or growly, and everywhere in between.

Oh, and I left one of the best parts for last – the SR500 will not break your back by any stretch of the imagination. The bass we are looking at here weighs in at 6 pounds, 13 ounces, which is about 4 pounds less than my Les Paul. Not bad!

The Ibanez SR500 Soundgear Bass is a versatile instrument that plays well and sounds good, and it is not super-expensive, either. These basses have a street price of $599.99 with no case (list $799.99), but I see them on closeout fairly often, and used ones do not seem to hold their value terribly well, so you might be better off watching Craigslist and eBay for a deal, as they come up pretty often. Check one out for yourself and see it is your cup of tea – you might be surprised.


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