Ibanez BL500, BL700
This would be ideal for heavy metal, but finger bustin' hard work for funk. It's deep and boomy, though that's all you'll get.
The single coil, split pickup offers scant versatility (from blunt to blunter courtesy of the single tone control) and there's precious little treble in reserve to cut through. You'd have to tug the strings mighty hard to be rewarded by that funky "pank".
But that's not to say it's a bad bass... just specific. It feels fine, tapering to a thin and nifty inch and a half of wood near the plastic nut and out to a broader two and a quarter around the 16th fret where the bolt-on maple neck joins the body. So, it's at its most graceful along the first four or five frets, the favourite hidey hole of many players.
The carpenters who completed this review model must have done so after a boozy lunch hour. The third slab of its three-piece body is a dreadfully matched chunk of wood with a totally different grain. The black scratchplate and controls almost cover the join, but not quite.
That flaw aside, the Ibanez has an uncluttered and captivating simplicity to its styling that includes the no-nonsense bridge and large, smoothly turning open-backed machines.
The final four frets were lifting from the fingerboard and the neck/body joint showed unpleasant gaps, both of these being unusual faults for Ibanez.
The top and back are flat without any sign of scarfing, and it's heavy. The neck prefers to hang straight out in a horizontal line rather than at an upperward tilt.
Plug it in, let it go and it'll thunder quite happily, followed by rain, brief outbreaks of sun and snow on higher ground. £317
A definite eye dazzler; on this occasion a pupil-roasting metallic red for both the heavily scarfed body and the headstock. Elsewhere the Blazer exhibits a black scratchplate lined in white, brass machine heads, knobs, bridge and nuts and bolls and a maple neck. It looks very smart and the black, single coil pickups add a final machismo touch.
Ibanez have stuck to the Strat style five-way position switch for the pickups, including the out of phase combinations of neck/middle and middle/tail, accentuated by another toggle switch down by the jack socket. What they have dropped is the tremolo arm (though there are Blazers offering it) and the unique Strat angled jack plug that plunges like a mole into the body of the guitar.
Both the sound and the feel have elusive characters that are difficult to describe. The neck surface is satin back and front; an advisable feature considering the ultra low action and over-light strings. It's already frighteningly fast to play and a glossy neck would runaway with you.
Yet the neck itself seems on the thick side and the combination of a handfull of wood, and a fingerload of effortless, unresisting strings is at first unsettling, but eventually quite satisfying.
The sound is polite; clean and bright without being vicious or typically rock 'n' rollish. Amps would add their own distortion to the Blazer's precise tones and might also help the sustain which was weak on the top three strings.
The Blazer's compact shape and its form-hugging profile belie the 25½in scale length; it looks and psychologically feels much shorter, but the tape measures cannot lie.
And neither can the price tag which puts the Blazer at a very reasonable m£180-odd. £242
Review by Paul Colbert
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