|Body And Neck:|
Looking for a great bass guitar under $1,000 can be a nightmare – but not because it's impossible. It’s because there are so many options! We are looking at one of those options in our review today – the Ibanez SRH500F fretless bass. This is a fretless, semi-hollow body bass, so it immediately stands out from the crowd. However, we want to find out if it has more than just nostalgically good looks…
The design of the SRH500F is reminiscent of the gypsy jazz era, with a modern twist. Let’s face it – there weren't many badly styled instruments back then! However, after the cool vintage look, one of the biggest talking points when it comes to design is the semi-hollow body.
What does this mean, other than it's lighter than a solid body bass? Well, there is definitely a different tone on offer, but ask five different players what it is and you'll get five different answers. Generally speaking, a hollow body has a much smoother mid-range and very crisp, precise high end. The one thing it potentially lacks compared to a solid body is the fatness at the lower end.
The body itself has a mahogany back and a spruce top – a combination that gets the best out of the hollow space. It shares the same SR shape as some other bass guitars in that range, but this one has a special elbow cutout for added playing comfort. It's added in a way that doesn't detract from the stylish appearance of the bass.
The bolt-on neck joint is a little deeper than usual to allow for easy access to the highest frets. Touches like this are a good indication that the bass is built for the players and not just to look pretty. It's a 5-piece jatoba/bubinga neck with a 34″ scale length, and a panga panga fingerboard, which has offset dot inlays.
Like the body, the hardware on this bass is very stripped back, but that doesn't mean limited. It's designed to include anything that is essential to the desired tone and nothing else.
There is one piezo bridge pickup and, if you are a tone geek like us, you will know a few things about it. Piezos differ from common pickups in that they don't use any magnetic elements. Common pickups generate a signal by disturbing the magnetic field, whereas piezos pick up the physical vibration of the instrument and converts it to voltage. You might be wondering where this pickup is? As is common with piezos, it is actually hidden inside the bridge.
Controls on this bass are simple – one volume and one tone. It doesn't need anything else. The bridge is a custom AeroSilk Piezo system which, of course, houses the pickup and seems to be very stable too. It also has individual gain pots for each saddle, so you can adjust each string to a custom setting. This lets you get really precise with your sound.
Finally, the tuners are Ibanez machine heads, which are also very stable, but that's to be expected with Ibanez-made hardware.
At the start of this review, we mentioned that this bass is reminiscent of the gypsy jazz era. This is relevant to its sound too.
The mahogany bottom and the hollow space together create an extremely resonant sound with a beautiful natural sustain. Bass guitars like this are often referred to as sounding more like an acoustic/stand-up bass. There is some merit in that comparison, in that they share a very rich and full tone. However, this bass still has the punch to get that Jaco Pastorius style 16th note playing.
It does have a lovely percussive and distinctive low end, even if it's not as fat as some solid body bass guitars. Even slap sounds fantastic on this bass, so it's not solely limited to jazz music. It has a very lush, vibrant tone that just feels like it's coming from the whole body and not just the pickup. Everything feels more organic.
The tone cuts through very well and, if you play in any setting where you want the bass to stand out prominently, this will suit you.
We can't think of any real reason to tell you not to buy this bass – it looks great and it sounds great. It's true that this bass fits particularly well with jazz/fusion music, but it's still a versatile instrument. The fretless fingerboard is really responsive to touch and helps you express your full creativity.
Meanwhile, the visuals are spot on, it’s comfortable to play, and the finish is immaculate. If you are considering a hollow-body or fretless bass, you can't go wrong with this one.