Sound — 10
I run my bass through a Peavey Nitrobass head and a 4x10 cab. The punchy sound from the active electronics and the Bartolini pickups sounds heavenly when combined with the 4x10"s, and everyone Who has heard this bass Live, has commented on it after the set. Often basses have one really nice sound, but other than that are very limited in terms of tonal variation. This bass is not one of those. The on board 5 band Eq means that you can dial in any tone you need, from warm and bassy, to punchy and cutting. Ibanez claim that the finish of the body, and the sandwich construction are what makes this bass sound so good, and I have to agree with them. The thin finish allows the wood to resonate and vibrate without feeling suffocated from a thick gloss finish, and this creates unbelievable sustain. The maple/mahogany sandwich provides warm and punchy tones at the same time, and the tonal variations are unlimited. I'm going to give a 10 here, because this bass sounds incredible. As soon as I plugged it in at the shop, I knew I had to have it. It growls like a wild animal, or purrs like a pussycat.
Overall Impression — 10
I have played guitar for 10 years now, and I switched over to bass about 2 years ago (possibly the best thing I have ever done). I play in three bands, two average rock and one folk rock band. I can say, without a doubt, that this bass will exceed in any musical genre you can throw at it. If this bass got stolen, I would spiral into an emotional breakdown, and would be in therapy for many years to come. An awesome bass all round, and if you're looking for a midrange bass, you can't go wrong.
Reliability & Durability — 10
I have absolutely no doubts that this bass will survive the gigging world, and I feel safe gigging without a back up. The tuning pegs, knobs and bridge feel very solid and substantial, and should last forever, with the correct maintenance. The strap buttons are well designed, and can be used without strap locks quite safely. As I already mentioned, the finish could cause some superficial damage if this bass is gigged regularly, though hopefully you'll treat this bass like a baby. I'm going to go for a 10 here. Despite looking fragile, this bass feels substantial and solid from the moment you pick it up.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
As I've already mentioned, the finish of this bass is superb. The guys at Ibanez have clearly put a lot of time in designing this bass, and it shows. The bass I bought had the feel of one which had been set up by an expert. The strings were low to the fretboard, but there was no fret buzz at all. The neck is as straight as an arrow, and it really is a joy to play. There has only been one flaw that I have found; the join between the maple and mahogany is slightly rough, and the maple overhangs slightly. This is a real shame, as the rest of the bass is flawless, despite being made in Korea. The knobs are all well set, and have a substantial and firm feel to them. I'm going for an 8 here. It would be a 10 if it wasn't for the one small finishing flaw, but that's probably unique to this bass anyway.
Features — 9
Ibanez are a Japanese country, long renowned for their excellent electric guitars. If you haven't heard of them already, you must have been living in a hole for the past 20 years. The BTB550mp bass guitar has one of the nicest finishes I have ever seen. The one I own is in 'Natural Flat', which contrasts beautifully with the mahogany layer in the middle of the body. The body itself is made from maple and mahogany, sandwiched with the maple on the front and the back, and the mahogany in the middle. The mahogany wood makes this bass unbelievably heavy, and whilst this helps the sustain, your back wont thank you. The finish of the wood is stunning, feeling completely natural and open to breathe. I was told in the shop that an alcohol based lacquer, or something, was used to finish the wood and the result is incredible. Unfortunately, the thin finish makes the bass very easy to mark and scratch, so you'll have to be very, very careful with it. The fretboard is very dark (possibly ebony though I'm no expert) which looks awesome with the light colored body. The finish of the fretboard is smooth and shiny, with beautiful Pearl Dot inlays. There are 24 frets on the top two strings, with the fretboard curving to only 23 frets on the bottom two strings. Whilst this is slightly annoying, it looks fantastic, and I personally rarely use the top two frets on those strings anyway. The pickups are soap-bar style, Batolini Mk1s. They are brilliant, though I'll put that in the next section. The 5 band Eq knobs are a Matt chrome finish, matching the tunning pegs and the bridge. The strings fitted on the bass are Elixir roundwounds, and they should comfortably out Live me, with their high tech coating. The bridge is one of my favorite parts of the bass, as each string is isolated from the others, on their own independent saddles. As well as looking fab, these have the added benefit of improving the resonation and preventing the vibration of one string interfering with another. The jack socket has a Neutrik jack lock, a very useful addition as this prevents those embarrassing moments when you step on your cable and have to fumble found on the floor, trying to plug yourself back in. The tuning pegs feel substantial, have a nice smooth turning action, and rarely go out of tune. I'm going to give it a 9 here. It would be 10, but the weight of the bass is what lets it down. I recommend a good strap, to lessen this, but even then, you really feel it when you've been playing for a while.