Ibanez GSR200 electric bass guitar review

The GSR200 bass by Ibanez we’re reviewing now must be a rather popular instrument. Check out Tinderwet on YouTube to see and hear me play this bass guitar. It’s still being produced, and they started making them in 2001. It’s a versatile, “no shit” bass guitar, at least in the right hands. Think about it – a good amount of session pros use PJ’s to this day. This bass is really a well thought out, inexpensive PJ. And even though Ibanez advertises it as an entry level model, the base quality is top notch. You just don’t get all the bells and whistles that the higher end of the SR line does. Of course you have to learn doing your own setup. Whining about sharp fret ends, high nut slots or saddle height is kind of pointless in the $200 (new price) category. If you understand mass production, you’ll know that there are things you’ll need to do yourself to get your bass as playable as a custom instrument. Because it’s not impossible at all.

Ibanez SR – an 80s design

ibanez gsr200 review - a cool bassSpeaking of the SR line itself; it was introduced in 1987. Yep. It’s not exactly young, and in a way, it’s Ibanez’s (umpteenth) answer to Fender‘s Jazz and Precision basses. But let’s go back to the GSR200. The bass I have is a 2003 model. It’s passive, so no Phat II EQ (that came in 2004), and the pickups are probably different from what they use in the recent ones. The headstock is always black, no matter what color the body of the bass is. It sports the modern Ibanez logo, along with “GIO” and “soundgear”. On the back there’s the serial number and the country of origin: Indonesia. The tuners are the regular small, sealed chrome plated bass machine heads. They are not the absolute smoothest, but I’ve seen worse. They do their job. The good thing about the GSR headstock is that there’s no string tree. The end part of the neck is scarf jointed to the rest of it, so the headstock is angled downwards. It means the strings also go through the nut at a good angle, creating just the right amount of downward pressure on it. The nut width is 41mm, which is somewhere between a standard Jazz bass and a Precision (a tad closer to the P though). Interestingly, the more expensive SR models have a much narrower nut (and a skinnier neck as well). The neck itself is a single piece maple, with rosewood fretboard at a 305mm radius. The back of the neck’s got a satin poly finish. The fret markers are medium size pearloid dots.

Sturdy 1 piece neck

The fact that it’s a single piece neck is probably the reason why it has to be somewhat beefier, compared to the 3 or 5 piece SR necks. Not only that, but at the same 34” scale length, the GSR’s neck is a little bit shorter than the SR ones. It’s got 22 frets vs. the 24 of an SR. (Still two more than your usual Fender, hey?) It’s because a shorter single piece neck is about as stable as a thinner, narrower and longer multi-piece one. It’s also the reason why the upper horn is somewhat shorter than that of the higher end SR basses. It makes the GSRs proportions look a little bit more balanced. The neck is bolted to the body with 4 bolts, through 4 individual ferrules, to spread the load of the bolts. The neck joint is rounded off for easier access to the higher frets.

Comfortable curves

Ibanez GSR200 - full body view
click to enlarge

The body of the GSR200 is a flat top one, not fully arched like the more recent SR’s, but the edges are radiused. And quite heavily so, not unlike a Spector. It makes the bass all that much lighter, and it sits comfortably against the player’s body, especially with the belly cut. There’s an arm contour as well, for the lower arm to rest comfortably in playing position. The body is made of agathis, and is fairly light. Don’t buy into the body wood myth. As long as it holds the whole thing together firmly, there’s no hocus pocus to worry about. The wood of my bass is pretty dense and stable, the screws couldn’t strip or weaken the holes from the frequent control cavity removal or fiddling with pickup height. The color of my bass is black, it’s a rather thick and sturdy poly finish; still shiny after 12 years. You can tell I’m still crazy after all these years. Thank you Paul Simon. (How did that get here?!)

Simple electronics

The pickups are the usual P and J style ones, but these have steel pole pieces with ceramic magnets under them. The magnets are fairly strong, so there are plenty of highs (really high mids), even though it’s a passive bass guitar. And of course the expected, beautiful passive midrange is there as well. The P is obviously the usual, two humbucking halves. The J single coil hums a bit, but not too bad, because it’s a narrow coil. The steel shielding plate on the back of it also helps a little. The P one could use some better shielding, because there’s a low but audible hiss without touching any of the grounded parts (strings, etc.). Again, I’ve seen/heard worse, even in the way more expensive price ranges. It’s worth mentioning that the P pickup is reversed. The idea behind it is to tap into just a little bit more of the high end harmonics on the lower two strings. The reverse P is also supposed to beef up the higher two strings. Of course we are talking nuances here. Practically you’re not going to notice the difference. There are two volume potentiometers for each pickups, and a single tone control. I’m not a fan of this setup (nor a balance knob), so I modified mine to a single volume + single tone + mini pickup selector toggle switch configuration. Going this way also takes some of the load off the pickups, resulting in a more open sound and slightly higher output. The output jack is the infamously horrible, pricey barrel kind. I hate this thing like the black plague because it has weak contacts inside, made out of thin pieces of metal that stretch or even break with time, as you plug/unplug the jack of your cable. No, you can’t even repair them. It’s easier and cheaper to mass produce a bass/guitar with these though. If you are in the mood, I suggest you to replace it with a regular jack + elliptical jack plate; I already did this. I actually went overboard and got a stereo jack of the regular kind, cause it holds the jack plug even more firmly (1 more contact inside). The hole in the wood needed to be opened a little bit; nothing you couldn’t do in a couple minutes. The control cavity is conductive graphite paint covered; the plastic cavity cover has aluminum foil, both for shielding purposes.

Thick stock bridge

The factory B10 is a simple chromed steel, bent L-shaped sheet metal bridge. But it’s surprisingly sturdy. It’s actually about a millimeter thicker than what comes on the standard Fenders or similar basses. The Ibanez B10 also has little shallow slots to hold the saddle height screws in place. These prevent the saddles from lateral movement, even if you pick very light gauge strings very hard. That being said, I’ve replaced the bridge on mine with the Ibanez B100. It’s a bit higher mass die cast model, with quick release string slots for easier string change (and to protect the body from ball end scars near the bridge). It has the saddle screw slots as well, but much deeper than on the stamped B10. The screw holes of the B100 align up perfectly with the original ones (it uses 1 less screw).

If you want a cheap bass that’s as good as it gets even without modding, get a used GSR200. It’s lighter, less expensive and more comfortable than your usual, average classic bass guitar.

Comments (2)

  • Felix Hackenberg

    I am bass newbee and I have the same bass without the Phatt. It has three control knobs. My question is what do the three knobs control/do?

    • Roland Czili

      The one closer to the neck of the bass is the volume knob for the neck pickup (the larger, double pickup), the knob in the center is the volume knob for the bridge pickup (the narrow one), and the last knob towards the rear of the bass is the tone knob, you can cut the treble with it if you turn it counter clockwise.

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