Not the bass, perhaps, for a 60s covers band but if you fancy a speedy, modern player with a through-neck and actives, the BTB is well-priced. Review by Gareth Morgan
The Ibanez brand dates back to 1929 and the name itself is actually Spanish in origin, although rights to the name were bought by Japanese manufacturers Hoshino Gakki in 1935.
The company graduated from copying popular American brands to making original designs in the late ’70s, often bearing the names of highly influential players from across a wide range of styles and genres.
It’s just over two years since we last inspected their basses in the form of the splendid SR700, so we’re delighted to get our hands on the rather chic looking BTB470.
Where the Ibanez SR range is fairly compact in appearance, the Indonesian-made BTB470 immediately gives the impression of greater mass, even though in reality there’s less wood in the body than in, say, a Fender P-bass.
Ibanez eschews the standard forearm chamfer, choosing to bevel both top and bottom edges to create a sculpted line that culminates at the tip of the horns.
A ribcage indent is in its accepted place, and the thin, over-extended upper horn looks a bit like a refugee from a Burns Bison. The lower horn is more of an elongated shark’s fin, and both are deeply cut away for excellent access to the highest frets. The BTB is really stable in a seated position – perhaps one benefit of the exaggerated horns and setting the neck close to the front edge of the body.
The bulk of the body is constructed from mahogany and clothed in a dense coat of pearl white. These thick, ‘flat’ finishes always make us worried as to the quality of the wood beneath, but Ibanez tells us that they use a five-piece maple/bubinga sandwich for the through-neck part. We can tell you about the neck’s fast, shallow, super-slim ‘C’ profile – it’s really comfortable under the hand and makes this bass a joy to play.
There’s a strengthening bulge below the black composite nut, while the down-sized hourglass headstock has a slight bulge at its top corner and is recessed to provide a break-angle for the strings over the nut.
The Ibanez-branded tuners are finished in dark chrome, or cosmo black as the catalogue says, and these send the strings onto a rosewood fingerboard bearing abalone dots and 23.5 medium nickel frets. Yes, check out the top end of the neck: there’s only half a fret. It’s a detail which won’t affect your playing… when was the last time you used the highest fret on E or A strings?
More crucially, the BTB470 has a 35" scale. This will give greater tension for any given gauge of strings in standard tuning, and should help retain articulation should you choose to tune down. At the other end Ibanez has fitted a four-piece MR-2 bridge, designed so that the strings are actually anchored a few millimetres into the body of the bass, another element that should help to foster focused notes with better sustain.
Finally, the BTB470 is active-powered. It carries two black Bartolini MK2 soapbar humbuckers linked to volume and balance controls and a Bartolini MK2 three-band EQ offering control over Bass, Middle and Treble.
Both Bartolinis on together gives a clean, clear sound with a fine bottom-end growl and a well-defined, reasonably even midrange, although there’s just a hint of high-mid bias on the higher strings, which suggests a possible slight bridge pickup dominance.
Isolating the neck pickup supports the theory: in this setting the BTB‘s mids and highs are more natural. The bridge pickup alone isn’t too blocked-nose in character, though of course it’s thinner on the higher strings and errs overall on the brittle side. The top-end isn’t totally overpowering, though, and the tone is tighter at the bottom end.
In truth, the BTB‘s natural pure bass content isn’t overpowering, and enlisting the EQ is the best way forward. Blend in some added low-end and the BTB is quite convincing in twin pickup mode, with an edgy bottom, a dark midrange with lots of presence and D and G strings that are full and satisfying enough, even though the zingy response remains. The EQ’s extra warmth makes for a usable fingerstyle sound on the bridge pickup and donates a welcome thud to the soloed neck pickup, nudging the BTB towards wide-open rock’n’roll territory.
With any pickup configuration, cutting Middle isn’t a positive move, due both to the loss of level that goes with it and to the tonal unpleasantness of the results. Boosting Middle, generally in conjunction with Bass, induces more punch and presence from the neck pickup, tightening it without accentuating the negative elements in bridge mode and elsewhere adding stature and a feeling of power.
Half-boost on the Treble knob polishes the sound, inducing a nice, clean cutting edge in neck and twin mode and a snappier but thinner result from the bridge pickup. Full boost gets you nasty, aggressive highs that are fun to slap with, but a bit too noisy for most occasions.
On the face of it, the BTB470 has plenty to offer: bold, confident styling, a high level of playing comfort, through-neck construction and big-name pickups and electronics. Those active electronics are the saving grace, transforming the Ibanez from a rather upper-mid biased instrument into something reasonably adaptable. But while the sound isn't bad, maybe it isn't exceptional enough for the BTB to stand out in this highly congested section of the market. However, the price is well-pitched - and that means the BTB is likely to be a decent seller.