Thursday, October 10, 2013

Ibanez SRI200E Premier

Constructed in Indonesia, Ibanez’s SR1200E Premium takes the brand’s ever-popular Soundgear recipe (hence the SR) and gives it a thorough spruce-up. Naturally, its price reflects this, but from the visual side of things, it is fairly clear where the additional dollars are being spent. Although the SR1200E is not the top of the range, a zone reserved for Ibanez’s Prestige models, it is apparent that this bass is a definite step up. With fancy timbers, an extensive electronics package and the winning SR bass formula, how can this instrument possibly go wrong?

Build Quality
The sleek Ibanez Soundgear body now feels even more slimline and organic than before, and the bass looks well constructed, with some very classy visuals. Its warm, natural look works very well with the gold and black hardware combination and the curved body feels well finished and rounded across the whole shape. The natural grain is extremely smooth and the figuring on the ovangkol top is quite something.
The slim body horns add to the comfort of the bass, offering ideal access to the upper frets, and although the SR range is known for lightweight bodyshapes, the positive point is that this bass is an ideal weight and balances very well on and off a strap. The slim, reduced neck profile is a real bonus and the 37mm nut width draws comparisons with a Jazz bass in terms of profile, accessibility and playability. Some players may find the string spacing a little tight around the nut, but it does add to the comfort and playability of the overall package and the neck widens slightly as it reaches the body. The neck is reinforced with tone-resonant titanium to add stiffness and stability and in terms of resonance, despite being a bolt-on design compared to a through-neck, the neck matches the body in its organically rich tone.

The neck joint is tight with no discernible gaps, and the set-up is seriously top-notch with no sharp frets in evidence, a really comfortable string action courtesy of fresh Elixir strings and a high degree of overall finishing throughout. The headstock is the customary SR range shape, slimline but effective, and is fitted with gold Gotoh tuners which operate very smoothly. The rosewood fingerboard has been fitted with oval abalone position markers and white side dot markers, while the gold Mono-Rail IV bridge allows action and intonation adjustments to be made. Each saddle can be locked in position for maximum harmonic performance and tone transference. The black plastic controls consist of volume, pickup pan, a three-band EQ, an EQ bypass switch and a mid-toggle switch to select mid frequencies at 250 or 600Hz.
Nordstrand ‘Big Single’ pickups have been used in a soapbar format, but with the tonal delivery of a powerful single-coil pickup in each position. The control cavity is impressively neat and tidy, being well shielded with all the cables tied back. A nice touch is the very handy penknife-like tool that houses all of the allen keys, screwdrivers and gauges needed to set up the bass. Well done Ibanez: a simple idea well executed.
Playability And Sounds
With a strong emphasis on natural woody visuals, it comes as no surprise that the SR1200E has a very strong bright tone, coupled with a throaty mid delivery and it resonates very clearly. No doubt the timbers contribute a great deal to this: you can hear the ‘woodiness’ of the bass itself. Plugging in and bringing the EQ into play, it is apparent from the start that the electronics package has considerable power at its disposal, and after some use, it is fair to say that the extremes of the EQ are overpowering. The treble control definitely needs to be used with some caution, and even with the power available it is quite tricky to get a smooth tone from this bass without natural throatiness and ‘bark’. Having said that, the EQ offers a good selection of tonal light and shade with a variety of different tonal colours.
Sounds aside, the bass is incredibly easy to adapt to, offering playability and comfort in equal measure. Although the bright tonal edge remains consistent, using the EQ bypass softens the tone and allows the player to pan across the pickups. Both units are top notch with the neck pickup being a good deal warmer than its bridge counterpart, but both convey equal volume across all strings: the D and G strings are by no means shrinking violets in the overall signal. The mid-toggle switch is a useful control to have, especially when dealing with a problematic stage or room in a live context where the mid-frequencies can make such a large difference to your sound, although a mid-sweep might be a still better option.
One point worth raising is that although the bridge is certainly up to the task, when it comes to restringing, the units themselves look a little complicated: string changing might not be as quick and easy as you would like, mainly down to the fitting of the string ball.
Ibanez has definitely gone to town with this bass: the resulting instrument is a real joy to play. Everything about it feels and looks as though time and care have been taken to produce an instrument that will please the buyer from the day of purchase. The design, execution and resulting bass are a winning formula and at this price, it could definitely give some higher-priced basses a serious run for their money. Players who like a bulkier instrument may comment that this bass doesn’t feel substantial enough in their hands, but with playability like this, why complain?
Obviously, the tonal performance is a matter of taste, so we recommend you try this bass before handing over your cash, as the tonal make-up of the SR1200E may not be everyone’s cup of tea. If you are after a warm, vintage tone you won’t get it with this bass. However, Ibanez have produced a very impressive bass that balances very well, plays remarkably easily and has more than enough tonal options. With the included toolkit and gigbag/gigcase, many a player may be enticed to give this bass a test-drive of their own.
Technical Specification
PRICE | £955
COLOUR | Natural
BODY | Mahogany with ovangkol top
NECK | Five-piece wenge/bubinga laminate
PiCKUPS | Nordstrand Big Single soapbar pickups x 2
ELECTRONICS | EQB-IIISC three-band active EQ
CONTROLS | Volume, pickup pan, three-band EQ (bass, middle, treble), EQ bypass switch, mid-boost switch (250Hz or 600 Hz)
TUNERS | Gotoh
BRIDGE | Mono-Rail IV
MADE IN | Indonesia
NUT WIDTH | 37mm
NECK JOIN | Bolt on, four screw attachment
SCALE LENGTH | 34” (864mm) FreTs|24
CASE/GIG BAG INLUDED | Gigbag case, rectangular
What we think
PLUS | At under £1000, this bass has a lot to offer for the asking price. Well designed and put together with great playability and a lot of tonal options to experiment with
MINUS | The EQ extremes are just that, extreme. Some players might prefer a bass with larger dimensions and greater weight
OVERALL | A very impressive bass in every respect that will catch the eye of many players