Sound — 8
For a beginning bass, it sounds really good. For the most part I play metal (mostly Iron Maiden) but lately I've been getting into blues and The Beatles, Yes, etc., and I bought this bass specifically for this. I put Rotosound TruBass strings on it and even with the lower output pickups it has a really sweet acoustic-type standup sound. Using the Elixir strings it came with, it had quite a bit of brightness and good sustain. I don't like roundwound strings on any bass, so they were coming off regardless. I play through a Peavey MAX 115; I have a Behringer Bass V Amp that I use just for a little chorus and compression. The bass really does sound good. The strings make a huge difference, and I plan to change out the pickups (eventually when I get to it) but really, if I don't change them, it would be all right too.
Overall Impression — 9
Overall, I have to look at this in the context of it being a starter instrument. At that, it does fantastic: it's solid, feels good, has one of the best necks available for any price, and looks great. For the money, as part of the pack, I don't think you could do any better. I've been playing a year and a half. My main bass is an Ibanez EDB700. I wanted a second bass but wanted to be very cheap about it, and it had to be an Ibanez. This bass is worth more than the $95 I paid for it. I've got this bass set up with a very specific sound that wouldn't work with all kinds of music, but it seems to be versatile enough that with some tweaking you could pretty much do whatever you want with it. With the stock strings it's great for metal or rock. The pickup configuration is good, although again, they aren't the highest output pickups in the world. If it were stolen or lost, I don't know if I would buy this exact bass again; I would definitely buy another Ibanez Soundgear. The very best feature of this bass, and this really goes for every Ibanez I've ever picked up, is the neck. It's so comfortable and so friendly that you can just play forever. If there's anything I hate, it'd have to be speed knobs; but that's not specific to this instrument, more of just a general dislike. What I was looking for was a good, solid, extremely cheap Ibanez. This bass is worth twice what I paid for it, and I think that it's a smart choice for anyone Who is either just learning or would like a second instrument, and for a lot of people I think it could become a main instrument even past the 'I'm just learning' stage; you could always upgrade the electronics and so on. The bass itself, body, neck, finish, is so good that you might find yourself happier doing the upgrades rather than moving to a more expensive instrument.
Reliability & Durability — 9
Even though Ibanez markets this as a beginner's bass and even though it's made with more low-end materials, it's still built like a rock. I don't think the actual quality of construction is any less than any more expensive Ibanez on the market. I think it could take a real beating and sail through. The tuners do seem like they might not last forever, and I am not a fan in general of Ibanez strap buttons, so I would definitely put on strap locks and watch the tuners to see if they get excessively loose or if the bass is falling out of tune a lot. Apart from that, I think this bass could last a very long time, and still look good; the finish really does seem to be exceptional.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
This bass came to me used and pretty beat up. That being said, the neck is straight as an arrow and even the action was great. The pickups and all were adjusted just fine and the hardware, although it isn't high-end, is generally adequate. I do think the tuners are a little on the flimsy side and feel a bit loose to me, but I haven't had any trouble keeping it in tune. The control knobs feel a little floppy and not as defined as I would like them to be, but they're not in danger of falling off or anything like that. The finish on this bass, like I said, does look like it will be extremely durable. The clearcoat is deep; I don't think it will suffer with normal usage and the occasional clumsiness.
Features — 8
This bass comes as part of the Ibanez Jumpstart pack that retails for something over $200 and comes with a small amp and all sorts of assorted toys. Mine just came by itself, used hard. It says it was made in Indonesia, but it looks good for the beating it's taken so far. This one has a very pretty transparent red finish. The clearcoat looks to be about a foot thick and very tough; mine has a dent and a crack, but I think it must have taken quite a hit for that to happen. I don't think normal usage would do damage to this finish, it looks to be made to take a lickin. The body and neck are maple with a rosewood fingerboard and medium frets, nicely finished. This is a bottom-buck bass designed for beginners, and although it hasn't got anything fancy in terms of hardware or electronics it's still well put together and nicely made for the money. The absolute best feature of this bass is the neck. The Ibanez Soundgear neck is narrow (41mm at the nut), comfortable, and fast. This is definitely a huge plus for someone Who's learning or for someone with smaller hands. For me, finding a bass that I could get my hand around was half the issue with me even learning to play. It's probably the most critical issue when I'm deciding whether or not to buy a particular instrument. It doesn't matter how good it is or how unbelievable the electronics are if I can't get my hands across the fretboard. It's got an Ibanez P/J setup with two volumes and one tone control. These are not the hottest pickups on the market, but they don't sound bad, and for someone starting out or needing a spare instrument, or for someone willing to work with it a little, it's great.