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View Full Version : My first hour with the Ibanez GSRM20 Mikro short-scale bass



OldePhart
11-17-2011, 11:29 AM
(NOTE: This is NOT the same bass that is bundled in the Ibanez Mikro jumpstart bass kit. The scale is the same but that bass has only a single pickup and there may be other differences.)

Two part review as I know there is a limit on the post length - I've hit it before. I guess I'm too wordy. :)

Overall I am pleased with this purchase. The bass is obviously not a high-end instrument but I was rather pleasantly surpised by some aspects of it. You might wonder why I would order a little bass like this when I have a Groove Tools GT-5 five-string that I absolutely love. I've been having problems with my left hand; for a while I was experiencing pain and burning that almost had to be the onset of carpal tunnel. I bought a UBASS and was able to continue playing while my wrist recovered, but I was never happy with the UBASS because I couldn't get any sustain or snap from it. When my wrist recovered I happily went back to the GT-5 but very cautiously, not holding any stretchy chords, for example. I'm hoping with the Mikro I'll be able to get back to holding those chords and get my playing back up where it should be.

Overall – 4 (scale of 1 to 5): With a bit of setup the bass is certainly suitable for a beginner and is also giggable. In fact, out of the box it is good enough that it at least would not discourage a beginner, the same can't be said for many axes in this price range ($180). There are definitely some cheezy aspects (plastic knobs designed to look like chrome domes – FAIL) but overall it's a pretty good package considering the price. It's also less toylike than some other short-scale basses.

Fit and Finish – 4: I couldn't find anything I would call a “flaw” in the finish, but neither did the body have the “polished” feel of a really nice finish. It's not rough, just not “slick.” The neck was very smooth and rather nice. Note that I intentionally chose “Pearl White” because I'm just not a glamour guy and white doesn't show every fingerprint. That, and nicks, when they happen as they inevitably will, don't show up so clearly on a plain white guitar. I wouldn't, however, call this a “pearl” white – it's just an ordinary white paint. “Refrigerator white” might be a more accurate description. The fretboard is some variety of rosewood with fairly close, straight grain and even coloring. It doesn't appear to have been dyed, but it's hard to say for sure. Fret markers are plastic, large, and easily seen. There are also side markers, not something I expected on such an inexpensive bass

Setup – 3: I really would like to be able to give it a better score than this because one of the more difficult and often overlooked aspects of a setup was very good; the nut slots were cut perfectly. Checking intonation with a Stroboclip shows no tendency to pull sharp at the first fret on any of the strings. However, the intonation at the 12th fret ranged from good on the E string to far enough out on the D string that there was not enough travel in the bridge to completely correct it (it's pretty close now, but not perfect – most non-strobe tuners probably would show “in tune”). A string change might fix this problem, of course; I'm sure it was shipped with the cheapest available strings.

The action was also pretty high and I was unable to bring it down as far as I would like for two reasons. First, the screws are “captured” in the bridge saddles in such a way that they can only be backed out so far – leaving about 3/16” of screw showing under the saddle. That was kind of a moot point though because the fretwork is imperfect enough that I couldn't lower the A and D strings even to the full extent allowed by the travel of the saddle height screws without buzzing. The resulting action is not terrible, but neither is it “sweet.” It's certainly giggable, and not high enough to discourage beginners, but I wouldn't consider it “good.” It appears that they skipped the final step of a fret leveling job – that of progressively lowering the highest 6 or 8 frets leading to the bridge. On the first string change I will probably level the frets and grind the bottom of the saddle adjusting screws off so I can lower the action another mm or so.

(continued in next post)

OldePhart
11-17-2011, 11:30 AM
(continued)

Hardware and Electronics – 3: The cheezy faux chrome plastic knobs have already been noted. Fortunately, the pots turn smoothly and are quiet, though I'm sure they're probably cheap chinese mini pots and will eventually fail. The jack is fully recessed and appears to also be of fairly low quality – but maybe I'm just spoiled by the locking jack on my GT-5. The tuners are not massive but they do operate smoothly and they do not feel as if they are about to snap off in your hand (I had to change the tuners on my Epiphone Casino not because they didn't work or had broken but because it annoyed me every time I used them because it felt like I was grabbing a noodle). The pickups appear to be full size bass pickups – which is nice if I decide to switch pickups later. However, because this bass has narrower than normal string spacing the E and G string are not lined up perfectly between the poles. String balance doesn't seem to suffer, though.

Controls, Playability, and Sound – 4 (maybe a 4.5 considering the low price): The pickups are passive and the controls are pretty simple and limited – a volume for each pickup and a single master tone control. Definitely a step down from the active pickups, blender, and tone controls I'm used to on my GT-5. Still, for all that it really is a pretty good sounding little bass. The tone control is effective, and while I prefer a master volume and pickup blender these controls do get the job done. I've noticed very little noise (the acid test will be when I gig with it through my big rig at church, though). The strings are not “floppy” as I thought they might be, though they are definitely a little softer than on a full scale bass as I am able to bend them pretty easily – that's a good thing for my style of play. The sound is pretty good – I haven't played it through the big rig yet, and it obviously doesn't have the rumble of my 5-string. Still, the tone and sustain actually compare reasonably favorabily with my Godin Freeway 4, for example (as you may have guessed by now I suffer from GAS, UAS, BAS, NAFAS and a few other maladies).

The Bottom Line (pun intended): The Mikro is good enough that it is probably going to become my main axe but only because my decaying, decrepit old body won't let me play full-out on a full-scale bass. I will probably keep the GT-5 and use it for those songs that just have to rumble up from the depths. Or, maybe I'll get a short-scale five string set and restring the Mikro for tuning down to B. Time will tell.

Ibanez Gig Bag: The bass does not come with a gig bag and this is the only gig bag / case I saw for a short scale bass so I ordered it. It's a little strange, but I suppose for twenty bucks and limited availability of bags in this size you take what you can get – or such was my thinking until I later realized that the overall length of the Mikro is almost exactly the same as an electric guitar. Anyway, the Ibanez bag I can't recommend. The padding is a bit thin, especially around the edges. It doesn't have “sidewalls” like the better gig bags, but it will provide some protection. It has a single front pocket and here's where the weirdness starts – it looks like a mesh pocket but it's not, it's mesh over the pocket, purely cosmetic. You would think maybe it would be a mesh pocket over the other pocket but it's not – it's just a single canvas pocket with mesh fabric sewn to the outside. The pocket is also cut at an angle so you can scrap any plans to store anything useful like a notebook of lead sheets or set lists.

Then, there is the kind of weird looped strap that runs vertically down the pocket. It is a strap of webbing about 1” wide with loops about the right size for shotgun shells – but not elastic so anything you put in the loops would just fall out. I can't think of anything bass related that these loops would be the least bit useful for and I'm reasonably sure that if I show up at my church gig with shotgun shells in the loops it will probably raise a few eyebrows.

All in all I'd say it's pretty obvious the gig bag was designed by a visual arts weenie with absolutely no input of any kind from a gigging musician. I guess in that case we should call it a non-gig bag. LOL I definitely do NOT recommend this gig bag. I should have realized earlier that the overall length of this Mikro bass is almost exactly the same as that of an electric guitar – just get a good guitar gig bag. That's what I plan to do. Actually, come to think of it I think I have one in the closet.

John

ichadwick
11-22-2011, 11:27 AM
Thanks for the review. Haven't seen any in my neck of the woods, but I've been looking for one to test.

Shakespeare
12-05-2011, 06:22 AM
Excellent review. Been thinking of buying one of these for a while now. Thanks.

marymac
12-05-2011, 08:03 PM
I have one of these too John and it's so fun. I'm a beginner on bass and it's a great size to play. I replaced the strings with La Bella short scale flat wound mediums and the sound is so smooth! I have to admit I thought it was a little crazy to put $45 strings on a $179 bass but the difference in the sound is significant.

On another note, I recently bought a set of the new Aquila U-Bass strings. I haven't had a chance to put them on yet but I'm hoping it improves the acoustic performance of the U-bass. I'll let you know how it goes.

Glad you're enjoying your new bass!

OldePhart
12-06-2011, 01:28 PM
Thanks all. Just did some work on it and thought I'd drop back here and update the review.

Nothing substantive to add except that the pots and jack are really cheap and the body wood appears not to be as advertised. It only took a couple of times of stepping on the cord to leave the jack intermittently cutting out. Not a big deal, I prefer a locking jack anyway so I ordered some neutrik locking jacks a day or two after getting the bass.

I put the jack in this week, and let me say that I've been working on electric guitars and basses for many years and this is the first time I've pulled the shafts out of the pots just trying to remove the pressed-on knobs ( I wanted to remove and bag the pots so they wouldn't get full of sawdust while I was hogging out the hole for the jack). On two of the three pots the shafts came out instead of the knobs coming off the shaft - and the knobs weren't tight on the shafts because after winding up with a knob and shaft in my hand the shaft was easily extracted from the knob with a pair of pliers. Apparently, the ends of the shafts were peened just enough to prevent the shaft from being pushed back into the pot, not enough to prevent it from being removed... :(

While I was hogging out the hole for the jack I discovered that the wood is no variety of mahogany I've ever seen. It's way to light colored and has far too large a grain. It may be poplar or something similar, though honestly it's soft enough and displays a large enough end grain that I wouldn't be surprise if it's just white pine. When I enlarged the pot holes for full-sized pots, the wood there is darker. So, I suspect that this is a mahogany cap over poplar or pine. In fairness to Ibanez, it's quite possible that they spec'd mahogany. If you don't stay on top of overseas vendors and keep them honest with destructive testing (i.e. saw a few random samples of every batch open to see what's inside) they will substitute materials on you.

Anyway, I elongated the holes to fit full-sized high-quality pots (the holes were too close to the side of the cavity to fit full size pots) and then discovered I didn't have a single long-shaft pot in all of my parts boxes. So, this afternoon I slapped it back together with no controls - just the two pickups wired in series [instead of parallel - old trick for higher output and nicer (to my ears) tone that I learned on electric guitars] and straight to the jack. Was planning this as a stopgap until I could get some long-shaft pots but, after trying it out, I think I'm just going to leave it this way. I use a digitech multi-effects pedal for changing up my tones anyway and the two pickups in series give a nice growly grunt. I'll steal some stickers from my grandkids to cover the holes. :)

It's still a decent deal at the price and I'd consider getting one again even knowing what I know after having been "in the guts." Still, it's going to be a while until I get around to leveling the frets so I'm thinking about getting a little better short-scale for my main axe and keeping this one as my emergency backup. I just found out that I'm getting a little performance bonus at work for a project I completed recently - it's not a life-changing amount but it's enough that I should be able to be Santa to myself this year even after spoiling the grandkids and sponsoring a family's Christmas through my church.

So, does anybody have a Gibson SG short scale reissue and, if so, what do you think of it? :)

John

OldePhart
12-09-2011, 11:55 AM
I have to say I'm really enjoying this thing. Even with the action a bit higher than I like it's really fast to play compared to a full scale bass. I've been running drills faster than I've ever been able to run them on my full scale basses and - no hand pain even after a couple of hours of doing so!

As for the high action, still going to do a good fret-leveling and recrowning on this baby, and file the bottom off the bridge height adjusting screws, when I get the time. But, until then I guess I won't complain too loudly - not after my excursion to Guitar Center yesterday where I didn't see a single bass under $1800 with an action any better. Kind of sad, but that's how it is.

Since I'm not willing to drop big bucks for a Landing or Birdsong I guess I'll just tweak this one a bit and be happy. :)

John

Ukuleleblues
04-06-2012, 02:47 PM
I just ran across this post, my tiny wife wants to play the bass. How much does the Mikro weigh? She tried playing my Peavy T-40 and almost died....but she liked playing it.

UkeNukem
06-20-2012, 01:39 PM
I got one a few months ago and it is very light weight. Ibanez website doesn't say the weight but I would say 7lbs or so. I got the orange one from Musician's Friend. MF has special colors other dealers do not. In the standard colors I'd pick the white.

Since I've played guitar for decades it was easy to cross over with the 28.5" scale. Also I play it with a pick ala Phil Lesh. Really nice for an inexpensive axe, I'm very happy with it. Try to find a local dealer where you can play it. I tried mine first but they did not carry them so I took a chance.

You may find this thread helpful (warning very long!)

http://www.talkbass.com/forum/f8/official-mikro-bass-club-513723/

MarkN
05-27-2015, 04:10 PM
At the time this thread was started, the Ibanez Mikro bass was actually made from agathis which is evidently a wood common to areas manufacturing inexpensive basses these days. The only bass made from mahogany at that time was the brown sunburst. In 2015 they began using mahogany for all of the Mikro basses, regardless of color. It's easy to tell - the agathis models are at least a pound heavier than the mahogany. Unfortunately they still have the cheap plastic knobs, but you can get chrome domes for not too much $ (personally, I like strat-style knobs so I have a visual guide of my settings).

I never had problems tuning the a or g strings as mentioned by the original post, but have had to experiment around with shorter screws (M3 screws at Lowe's) and shortening the spring to get the low E saddle back enough to get this in tune at the 12th fret. Neither have I had problems with the pots pulling apart when changing knobs, but have had that happen with other cheap pots and am sure it is possible with these as well. One thing I do like on these, the J-pickup is farther away from the bridge than on my Squier Jaguar short-scale and, to me, produces a better tone a little closer to the middle.

I did have the Gibson 2014 SG short-scale, but never really liked the tone. Beautiful bass, just not the sound I am looking for.

The comments about the Mikro-specific gig bags are right on - get a decent guitar gig bag, instead. A little too wide, but the padding is much better.

I still like the sound of a regular short-scale better, but then I live in an apartment and most of my practice time is through headphones so this might be decent if I had more time I could run it through without blasting the neighbors out.

kohanmike
05-27-2015, 08:03 PM
(personally, I like strat-style knobs so I have a visual guide of my settings).

Me too. I've changed to Strat knobs for the same reason on three of my basses (see my signature); black ones on the Epiphone Les Paul Express guitar that I converted to a bass, white ones on a custom BGH Telecaster bass, sliver ones on a Rondo Hadean blue solid body u-bass that is being modded, and black ones laying in wait for when I have a violin body made for another Rondo Hadean u-bass (sunburst solid body). Oh, and I also put black ones on my Fender Telecaster electric guitar.