WITH AN ARTIST ROSTER THAT RANGES FROM THRASH/ELECTRONICA iconoclast Thundercat and metalcore monster Mike D’Antonio to fretless phenom Gary Willis and R&B jazzer Gerald Veasley, it can be tough to pinpoint the Ibanez aesthetic. A look at the company’s bass products—which span from the ergo-approved Grooveline to the fabulously flexible Soundgear and the sexy semi-hollow Artcore basses—makes it even harder to get hip to the trip. Simply put, it would seem there’s a little something for everyone, from the headbanger-in-training to artist-in-residence. Cool.
Back in the January issue, we were charmed by Ibanez’ new ATK805E Premium, which elegantly blends old- and new-school vibes. This month we turn to the BTB1405E Premium, a 35"-scale neckthrough 5-string that seeks to capture the look, feel, and sound of boutique basses with much bigger price tags.
With its “hippie sandwich” layers of tone woods (mahogany, maple, bubinga, and walnut … tasty!), versatile onboard preamp controls, and buzz-worthy Nordstrand Big Singles pickups, the BTB certainly looks boutique-chic. Along with the seven layers of wood comprising the neck, a figured maple top and light satin finish give the bass a woody, organic feel. I personally found the BTB’s chiseled contours and somewhat severe edges a little less than inviting at first, but I soon warmed to the instrument’s kinder, gentler features. Construction, fit, and finish were all topnotch, with nary a loose screw or sharp fret edge. With its heavy-duty locking Neutrik output jack, unplugging turns into a two-handed affair (you depress the red tab to unlock the tip). Not an upgrade I would necessarily request, but no biggie.
The combination of the 35" scale length and neckthrough construction works to give notes a remarkably clear, articulate voice; the BTB is about as resonant a solidbody bass as you’re likely to encounter. Though the longer scale length does require some minor technique modifications—especially when playing close to the nut—the adjustment is totally worthwhile. The B string felt taut and focused, and notes across the entire instrument had a bright, pianistic character. The BTB’s body balances rather well, and the 5-string’s wide, fl at neck is easy to navigate.
For their part, the Nordstrand pickups play to the BTB’s strengths, giving the bass a crisp, welldefi ned voice. In passive mode, notes on the BTB have an airy, open character without the need for much EQ. Though I’d likely spend most of my time in passive mode, engaging the preamp opened up a lot of sonic space. The midrange frequency selector switch, which toggles between 250Hz and 600Hz as the midrange center point, is particularly effective, whether you’re seeking a midrange bump for added punch, or looking to scoop for a more rounded sound.
To be fair, there’s nothing quite like a true boutique bass—one that’s been touched by the hands of a master artist. It’s often said that the heart and soul of a builder goes into each instrument he or she makes. Though we may never know the names of those who build production-line basses like the BTB Premium, evidence of their mastery is clear to see. Kudos for hitting so many benchmarks of boutique basses for a fraction of the price.
Pros The resonant BTB has a quick, articulate response across its entire range, and the Nordstrand Big Singles pickups impart pianistic clarity with a touch of single-coil bite.
Cons The added security of the locking output jack is nice, but it essentially makes unplugging a task for two hands.
Body Mahogany wings
Top Figured maple
Neck 7-piece maple/bubinga/walnut
Scale length 35"
Pickups Nordstrand Big Singles
Preamp 3-band EQB-IIISC
Controls Volume, blend, bass, midrange, treble, active/passive switch, midrange frequency switch (250Hz/600Hz)
String spacing 19mm
Other Neutrik locking output jack
Weight 8.8 lbs
Made in Indonesia