Sound — 8
I bought this for my bass player as she's quite petite and has always struggled with full size basses. Normally she plays 30" short scale basses from Fender or Epiphone but I saw this and thought it might be a good thing to upgrade and modify to get a faster more "riff" bass with faster runs given her smaller frame and fingers. Although I'm a guitarist I had a play with this bass and it was incredibly good fun. You could leap around and manage hammer-ons and pull offs and lots of high fret work with ease and the overall size made it more like playing a small guitar, so no stretching or trouble with extended reaches. Our bass player loved it too. It's not intended to be the be-all and end-all for every song, but for songs where more intricate bass playing might be needed, it has a great feel. This is going into a Laney NEXUS FET head and fed into 1 or 2 cabs (4x10s) depending on the gig size. It is going through a range of pedals and rackmounts for noise control, compression and eq. The P pickups are quite punchy and dark as you'd expect. But they handle some growl without farting out like some budget basses. The J pickup is pretty lame and is crying out for an upgrade. Overall the guitar is quite noisy, I'm guessing from poor shielding and cheaper electronics/wiring. Still it offers a range of sound options and the overall output is surprisingly musical and easily equal to anything in it's price range or just above. With a few mods it will be a major improvement on the score below.
Overall Impression — 8
As the other reviewer pointed out - this is a toy-sized bass that is definitely NOT a toy. It's a serious instrument that stands well above it's price-tag and most competitors in that budget range. It's very light but solid, the neck is gorgeous to play, even for a guitarist who lacks bass skills. It handles even some down-tuning well which is usually next to impossible on short-scale basses - and given this is about as short as they come, it manages a solid low-end thump - but it's real area is faster, more intricate playing as opposed to thundering low-end. It suits some of the more electronic/synth style songs we play and drives the synth pedals very well. I'd recommend this for anyone with smaller hands or more petite players as a definite buy. The other category who'll love it is guitarists who need to play bass occasionally or anyone who wants to record bass riffs with ease. Obviously kids and beginners would get on well with this too - but I wouldn't want anyone to think this is just a child-aimed bass. It's very similar to the low-to-mid range Ibanez ranges just a bit more compact and easy to fret and reach on. I was surprised it came with leads, tools and a gig bag. Most budget guitars don't these days. If you want to use this as a regular bass guitar I'd say the weaker pickups and wiring should probably go pretty fast. The bridge would be next to something a bit sturdier and possibly the tuners if you want to really spec it up. But at that point you'd have a beautiful instrument that could take on any short-scale bass. As the P/J pickups are standard as is the bridge, it's easy to just buy upgrades and slot them in which makes this an ideal upgrade project. It'd probably be nice to have more 28/6" scale basses but with a higher spec. I'm sure there are lots of players who struggle with big basses and never reach their playing potential simply because a 34" scale instrument is too much to get around. So a deluxe Ibanez GSRM would be welcome - but sadly the market doesn't seem to veer that way. Obviously this is never going to be a thundering low-end monster but with Bass eq, pedals and upgraded pickups, the actual scale isn't going to be make or break unless you play downtuned a whole step or more.
Reliability & Durability — 8
So far the bass has been very reliable and solid. Given it's so small it's easy to carry around and our bass-player loves it as it hardly weighs anything either, so on-stage it's easy for her to play longer shows using this for about half the songs now. In terms of the fit and finish, it's a very nice looking guitar and should last long term. Internally I expect the wiring would flake out long before anything in the hardware goes. We're about to rip this out and route in active pickups so that will mean changing the jack etc too so none of the original wiring will be staying.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
This was a B-Stock from Thomann in Germany. They tend to reset all their b-stock so I'm not sure how close to factory this is as it had a tech sheet from Thomann's showing what had been checked and done. That said - the action is gorgeous - for a guitar player coming to a bass it was low enough to play fast but high enough to avoid any buzz or dead spots. The pickups are not seriously adjustable, so you get what you get. The neck is lovely. A beautiful piece of wood with no flaws and the fret work was immaculate. As good as the US Fenders my bassist plays which I was really surprised by. Internally I only peeked briefly and will inspect further when we swap the pickups out for EMGs but it's about as good as you'd expect from a cheap far-east made budget guitar. Not rotten, but not stunning. The bridge was pretty hard to set intonation right, but again it's about what you'd expect from this cheaper end. If you are really wanting to get it perfect I'd probably swap the bridge as well. Externally though, the overall finish is very good. Ibanez seemed to have come on a lot in the past few years.
Features — 8
This is a very short scale Ibanez bass at 28.6" scale, so it's closer to a Baritone guitar than a typical bass, even a 30" short scale bass. This is a relatively cheap, lower-end model but it is a serious instrument. There is some confusion as Ibanez used to do a beginners bass pack with something called a GSR Mikro bass but that is a different instrument. This is a polar body, with a very clean and comfortable maple neck and rosewood 22 fretboard. It comes in black or cherry red at the moment. I've seen older models in other colours but I guess these aren't made any more. The pickup is a pretty standard P-style neck and J-style bridge with a master tone control and individual volumes. This came with a padded gigbag which looks hilariously tiny, more like a ukelele or something at first glance but fits the bass well and isn't bad for a lower-end purchase. The tuners are fairly solid, there is obviously far better out there, but they are not like some budget models that feel plastic-like and ready to break. The control knobs are a bit of a let-down, as they are very cheap plastic made to look like chrome. I changed these pretty much straight away as they did feel ready to break. All the other hardware is surprisingly decent though.