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Ibanez BTB7 and AFB200, Review by Jake Wolf

Ibanez BTB7

Ibanez BTB7

Ibanez has just added a couple of great new axes to their stable, and was kind enough to send them to us for review.  Behold: the new BTB7, and AFB200, which I am affectionately calling ‘the odd couple’.  A short scale hollow body and a neck-through 7 string are indeed a strange pairing, but I found them both to be excellent basses, in their own unique ways.

As primarily a 6 string player these days, I was pretty excited to get to check out Ibanez’ new limited edition 7 string BTB.  I’ve played a handful of 7 string basses in my life, always a boutique custom of some sort, with a price tag to match. The new Indonesian-made BTB7 lands at a very impressive price point ($1299), which will be sure to entice those considering a dip into 7 string territory.  The bass feels very solidly made, with beautiful woods and quality components, and a lovely gloss finish.   The walnut top, maple body and maple/bubinga/walnut neck look gorgeous, and this particular model sports a thick and nicely figured rosewood fingerboard.  Ibanez massive ‘monorail’ bridge saddles solidly anchor the strings and seem to help balance the weight of the 35” neck.  Ibanez’ own “Sonic Arch” CAP radiused pickups and an Ibanez 3 band preamp with EQ bypass switch bring out the best in the BTB7. A Neutrik locking input jack is a tasty feature.

Ibanez BTB7

Ibanez BTB7

So… the big question:  Is it playable?  Well, if you’re a 4 string stalwart, you might (obviously) find the BTB7 a little unwieldy at first.  But luckily, in typical Ibanez fashion, the bass feels very comfy and fast under the fingers. The slim neck profile, narrow 15.5 mm string spacing, and low action make the BTB7 as playable (if not more so) than a handful of 6’s I’ve played in the past. It took me a bit to get used to the high F string (as the high C is my typical reference point), but as soon as I adjusted, I was delighted with the high F‘s ability to lend guitar-like range to chords and soloing.    The BTB 7 offers total access to the highest frets via a deep cutaway, and its long upper horn puts the bass in a very comfortable position while played on a strap.

The other inevitably big question:  Does it sound good?  A lot of folks feel (and often rightly so) that extended range basses, with their wide and massive necks, tend not to respond to string resonance properly and can sound dry or lifeless.  I am happy to say that the BTB7 sounds awesome.  Dynamic, full and punchy, the BTB7 offers a variety of great tones via the versatile 3-band preamp, and clear, warm sounding humbucking pickups.  I played the BTB on a couple gigs, and band mates were impressed not only by its formidable appearance, but by the BTB’s warm but authoritative voice, and wide ranging tonal versatility.

I’m not sure if a 7 string is in my personal future, but this bass brings that possibility a lot closer.  Kudos to Ibanez for offering a great playing, well built niche instrument at a very reasonable price.  String count aside, this bass is a great value at $1299 with HSC.  Inevitably, this bass will open doors for players looking to get into extended range bass without busting the bank on a custom job

Ibanez AFB200

Ibanez AFB200

Ibanez AFB200SRD short scale hollow body

And now to journey over to what must be the farthest branch on the family tree from the BTB7.  Ibanez has just released an extremely cool short scale hollow body 4 string, which I am quickly becoming addicted to.  The AFB200 is simple and effective: a short scale vibe monster that offers great playability, cool features, awesome looks, and again, a very sweet price point.  With its maple body, maple/mahogany set neck, and 30.3” scale length; the AFB is all about thick retro tone.  I loved the wooden bridge, simple passive electronics, and slick adornments that give the AFB the look and feel of a vintage thump machine, one that (in my opinion) is just screaming for flatwounds.  The volume/volume setup with a 3 way pickup switch is simple and easy, and offers a surprising handful of usable tones from the humbucking pickups.   The fit and finish of this bass is lovely, I was impressed with the build quality and nice touches like a wooden 2 pc bridge, bound fingerboard, and some tasty inlay on the headstock.

Tonally, I was surprised to find out that the AFB200 is no one trick pony: the requisite  “plunky” Hollow body tone was there in spades, as was a thick, full and booming low end, and plenty of bark.  The bass reacts well to subtle changes in technique and playing style, and for a short scale, had a thick low end that was remarkably focused.

Ibanez has managed to once again cram a whole lot tone, playability, and build quality into an affordable and inviting instrument.  Lovers of the quirky hollow body spirit need to check this bad boy out; it feels and looks great, and is a whole lot of fun to tool around on.  At $599, it feels like a steal.  Hipsters and jazzers alike will find a lot to love about the AFB200.  It’s cool looking, easy on the hands, and offers some hip tonal alternatives to what most of us have in our quiver of bass tone.

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