Review: Ibanez BTB 1826 Premium

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I was a teenager when I bought my first Ibanez bass, and although I soon switched to a Fender Jazz, I’ve been an admirer of Ibanez instruments ever since. Over the past decade, I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing two innovative Ibanez basses for Bass Player: the Azula (Ashula) Hybrid Bass (July ’10) and the Grooveline series (May ’11). In each case, I was impressed with how they pushed the envelope of what constitutes “normality” in the bass world, while staying true to particular core values. So, I was delighted to check out Ibanez’ newest six-string bass, the BTB 1826 Premium.

A lot of players don’t spend much (or any) time playing a six-string bass, but several years back, I added one to my ever-growing arsenal—mostly because my wife insisted I purchase another bass. Okay, that last part’s not true. Regardless, adding a six-string resulted in much musical growth and afforded me a surprising number of opportunities to play it live. I’ve since grown in my appreciation for what extended-range instruments offer us in terms of musical development, and in what they offer us on the bandstand, as well.

With the BTB 1826 Premium, Ibanez has once again successfully created an instrument that meets all our basic needs, while encouraging us to continue pushing the boundaries of our instrument. Since it’d be impossible to go over every detail of this feature-packed instrument, I’ll highlight my experience with it via four essential aspects.

LOOK

The BTB 1826 is visually striking, largely due to its nine-piece panga panga/purpleheart/maple neck-through construction separating the beautifully sculpted walnut-and-ash body wings. The low-gloss finish perfectly accentuates the natural wood grains. If you haven’t heard of panga panga, you aren’t alone. I had to look it up myself. It’s an East African hardwood similar in appearance and function to wenge, which is from central Africa. Ibanez asserts that the panga panga fingerboard helps produce tight lows and mids with a pronounced sharp attack on the high end, and I found that to be true. Outside of practical matters, the wood choices here work well aesthetically, and the purpleheart adds a nice contrast to the dark and light tones provided by the other woods.

FEEL

Despite the longer scale (35") and the reduced string spacing (17mm vs. the more typical 19mm), I found it easy enough to switch from a traditional bass to the BTB during a gig. The biggest difference resulted from the nearly flat fingerboard. It’s perhaps the flattest fingerboard I’ve ever experienced, and—combined with Ibanez’s thin neck profile—results in serious ease of playing. The deep cutaway on the lower side gives absolute access to the upper register; I could comp chords all the way up the neck with no trouble.

SOUND

The wood choice, electronics, and Aguilar DCB pickups combine to produce smooth, punchy lows and crystal-clear highs. There’s wonderfully nothing too complicated with the electronics. Outside of the EQ, you can engage the active preamp with the flip of a switch and also choose among three mid frequencies (250Hz, 450Hz, 700Hz), something I always appreciate. I rolled through a host of playing styles when testing the bass and was happy with how it performed in each. I also put it through the paces with my Boss Loop Station, layering on sounds while I tweaked the electronics (I find this method allows me to compare tones more objectively).

GEAR

When you put “premium” in an instrument’s name, you’d better be able to back it up. Neck-through construction, exotic wood choices, and high-end pickups are a good start, but Ibanez also include a few other upgrades: edge-treated stainless-steel frets, Gotoh tuners, a zero-fret, the sleek Ibanez Monorail bridge system, and Neutrik locking output jack. Another sweetener is a custom multi-tool with everything you need to adjust on the fly. While it might seem minor, it was quite nice to not have to hunt down special tools when I got ready to put the bass through my adjustment tests.

The 6-string market is smaller than that of the 4- and 5-string world, but with players out there like Anthony Jackson, John Patitucci, Gerald Veasley, Alain Caron, Adam Nitti, and Oteil Bur-bridge showing us what this instrument can do, I expect the number to increase. And, the Ibanez 1826 Premium is a great instrument with which to begin a walk down that road. Even if you ultimately decide that “Leo got it right” with 4-strings, you might discover, like me, that adding 6-string skills will expand your musicality on all levels. It’s not the most inexpensive on-ramp for exploring extended-range basses, but for the money, you get a host of premium features that will serve you well for the life of that journey.

SPECIFICATIONS

IBANEZ
BTB 1826 Premium

Street $1,700
Pros Gorgeous aesthetics, premium features, classy tones
Cons None
Bottom Line For players new to the 6-string market or looking to upgrade, this bass offers a high-end look, feel, and sound at a midpoint price.

SPECS

Body Walnut & ash
Neck Panga panga/purpleheart/maple w/graphite reinforcement rods
Scale 35"
Frets 24 medium stainless steel with premium fret-edge treatment
Fingerboard Bound panga panga with abalone offset dot inlay
Nut width 54mm (2.125")
Fingerboard radius 37.4"
Weight 10 lbs, 3 oz
Pickups Aguilar DCB
Controls Volume, blend, 3-band active EQ, EQ bypass switch, 3-way mid-frequency switch
Controls Volume, blend, 3-band active EQ, EQ bypass switch, 3-way mid-frequency switch
Bridge MR5 bridge
Tuners Gotoh

Made in Indonesia
Contact ibanez.com

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