Ibanez Premium 1205E 5-string bass

Download Example 1
SR1205 - Pickup balance even, Tone controls set at detents.
Download Example 2
SR1400 - Pickup balance even, Tone controls set at detents.
Clips recorded direct into GarageBand through an Axeport Pro interface.
I’ve long known Ibanez basses as sleek and sturdy, entry-level instruments. All their instruments I’ve encountered had narrow necks and downsized bodies. The two SR Premium basses I review here—the 1400E and 1205E—may have slim necks and petite bodies, but that’s where the comparison ends. Unlike the painted body models, these Ibanez basses are fully decked out in fancy woods, boutique pickups, an upscale bridge design, and versatile electronics.

Even with these appointments, these two basses will not break the bank. Each comes in at just a little over a grand, which is a lot of instrument per dollar.

Ibanez 1400E 4-string bass

What’s in Common?
Along with the slim necks and sleek bodies, both basses share several hardware components. Both have easy-turning Gotoh tuners and Ibanez’s Mono-Rail bridge that utilizes separate units for each string. This design really does a great job of transferring string vibrations and takes just one screw to adjust each unit’s string height—so no worrying about having less-than-even saddle to plate contact. The pickups on both basses are Nordstrand Big Singles, which Nordstrand describes as providing “huge, full, loud, aggressive single-coil tone.” Or, to use a well-worn comparison, a “Jazz bass on steroids.” The key to this pickup design is turning traditional Jazz bass pole pieces at a 45-degree angle, allowing a wider pickup with more wire.

To check out the difference, I pulled out a Jazz bass without steroids—my stock 1974 model—and played all three basses with a flat EQ and both pickups set to the same volume level. Certainly, both Ibanez basses were alittlelouder than my passive Jazz, but not radically so. Likewise, both Ibanez basses did have somewhat more punch and clarity than the Jazz. Despite having the same pickup design, I was surprised to find that the 5-string 1205E had a noticeably deeper, fatter tone than the 4-string, probably from differences between the body woods (more on that soon).

The polepieces of basses' Nordstrand Big Singles are turned at a 45-degree angle. The pickups were slightly louder, with more punch and clarity, than a vintage J-bass pickup.

Another common trait with these two basses is their electronics design, which includes three bands of EQ, a switchable midrange center frequency, and an EQ defeat switch. All three bands of EQ are cut/boost, so both basses are able to cover a wide range of sound. Also onboard are controls for pickup blend and master volume. The jack on both basses is set into a neat scoop on the front of the body to avoid the usual 90-degree angle between body and plug—an extra bit of security when you accidentally step on the cord and yank the plug.

One thing I noticed on both basses was that the control cavity was attached with screws into threaded inserts. This is an important touch to avoid stripping the body wood after a bunch of battery changes, but that problem could also be avoided by going with a separate battery box. I always worry that a wired battery clip will eventually need replacing or repairing. Inside the control cavity, I found more wire than I’d normally like to see and a preamp floating under a piece of foam. I always thought leaving extra wire beyond what’s needed for hooking up the pickups acts like a noise antenna. Combining that extra wire with conductive paint shielding (I prefer copper foil) and single coil pickups usually equals a recipe for some extra noise. With the pickups set at even levels, both basses were relatively quiet. But I usually like to favor one of the two pickups in a single-coil bass setup since it produces a touch more punch and clarity. Unless I held these basses at the correct angle to my amp, the noise was noticeable, although not much more so than my Jazz bass.