A short-scale, 5-string semi-hollowbody bass that delivers deliciously deep lows without breaking the bank.
For years, Ibanez’s Artcore series has been a popular line for budget-conscious players looking to satisfy their cravings for a hollowbody instrument. The company’s intent with the series has been to deliver the uniquely resonant and acoustic-like tones of a hollowbody, but with the feel and playability of a solidbody instrument. Here, we take a look at the 30.3"-scale AGB205 bass, a 5-string semi-hollowbody with attractive looks and a price point to match.
A Suit and Tie Affair
The short-scale AGB205 is a classy-looking instrument with an understated and unpretentious dark-violin sunburst finish. The single-cutaway body’s top, back, and sides are all cut from laminate maple, and the bass is adorned with 3-ply binding throughout. The 3-piece, maple-and-mahogany neck is set into the body and capped with a 22-fret rosewood board.
Given that the top strap button is screwed into the neck heel, I assumed I’d have to deal with neck diving when playing standing up, but for the most part this wasn’t the case. I only had to put a touch of effort into supporting the neck when I fretted in the lower register.
For extra tuning stability and resonance, the AGB205’s stopbar tailpiece and tuning machines hold the strings over an adjustable brass bridge with 15 mm spacing. Its passive ACHB humbuckers are controlled by two knobs—a volume and tone—as well as a 3-way selector.
Unplugged, the AGB205 delivers impressive resonance and volume—I could clearly feel vibrations through the body as I played a quick blues vamp, and the brass bridge really seemed to help the notes ring out.
Next, I plugged the AGB205 into a Verellen Meatsmoke head driving a late-’70s Sunn 2x15. I set the amp’s EQ flat, selected the neck pickup, and played a slow groove on the 4th and 5th strings. The cab’s dual 15s were a perfect match for the pickup’s juicy, canyon-deep lows, which resonated throughout the room and enveloped me like a warm blanket. The neck-pickup’s thump packed quite a wallop as I played around the first few frets, and as I did so I noticed that the neck’s comfortable taper and thin profile felt much more generous than I was expecting it to. I didn’t feel like I was fighting against the increasing width of the neck when I gradually worked my way up to higher notes. Its shape fit my fretting hand like a glove.
This instant rush of fretting freedom was tempered a bit when I encountered some 5th-string buzzing between the 1st and 5th frets when I used moderate to heavy attack. But it’s possible that traveling through multiple climates on its way to me affected the AGB205’s fretwork and complicated the already difficult task of achieving proper tension and intonation with a low B on a short-scale bass.
But while every short-scale instrument, bass or guitar, faces similar issues, the approach obviously has its benefits—otherwise there wouldn’t be tons of die-hard short-scale players. Besides the easy playability of lower string tension, short-scale basses like the AGB205 imbue both flatpicked and fingerpicked bridge-pickup tones with strong low mids and less pop and snap in the highs. In other words, they churn out powerful, warm low end that appeals to players who can’t seem to get enough depth from the bridge pickups on long-scale basses. That’s what makes short-scale semi-hollows great for soul and R&B—and the Artcore is no exception.
When I increased the Verellen’s midrange, the soloed bridge pickup sounded clearer, yielding a wooly thump with a rough-around-the-edges vintage flavor. The added midrange aggression and bark was great for Americana-style tones, too. And when I backed off the amp’s lows and threw on a little reverb it worked perfectly for galloping, spaghetti-western-esque lines.
Using both pickups at the same time yielded some of the AGB205’s tightest-sounding tones: I was impressed by the night-and-day difference in the midrange presence and bark. Low-end response seemed quickened as well, which worked nicely for thumping country bass tones with light fingerpicking.
The Ibanez Artcore AGB205 is a nice option for players looking to broaden their palette of tones beyond the typical. Fit and finish are comfortable and elegant, and its neck is much easier to navigate than many 5-strings on the market. And the decreased string tension gives the bass a deeper, more elastic-feeling low end than most full-scale semi-hollow basses (a point that made me wonder how the AGB205 would sound with flatwound strings rather than the stock roundwounds).
Watch the Review Demo: