Ibanez Roadster RS924

Ibanez Roadster RS924

Year: 1980

Made In: Japan

Specs: Ash body, three-piece maple neck & fretboard

Electronics: Ibanez Super P4, Super J4

Controls: Volume, passive tone, active bass & treble cut & boost, two way switch for active/passive circuit, three way pickup selection switch

It’s hard to believe this bass is already over 35 years old, dating to January 1980. The singer in my band practically insisted I give this one a home. I could hardly say no. This was among the first original designs offered by Ibanez and has many high end features arguably long ahead of their time, such as separate active and passive circuits, high mass bridge, machine bolts in the neck and more.

Somewhat typical of the era, though, the body is a hefty slab of heavy ash. This might add to the feeling of solidity, as this bass has an air of indestructibility. The neck is nicely rounded and substantial. A forearm contour would have been nice, but it’s a familiar and comfortable design in hand.

The pickups are clearly modelled on DiMarzios and both are humbucking. This one came with a superflouous mini-switch which wasn’t wired up, so I wired  a serial/parallel option for bridge pickup. Some modifications had been poorly made to the wiring over the years so I brought it all back to the original configuration, aside from the bridge mini-switch. The Ibanez clones do sound quite like the pickups they were designed after and the bass has a smooth meatiness. The separate passive and active circuits are both very usable and it’s a very versatile machine.

This is a high end instrument, make no mistake. It’s easy to understand why Japanese instruments really made such an impression in the 80’s. There really is no comparison, in terms of quality, between the likes of these and the stuff Fender was putting out at the same time, but current prices don’t reflect this at all, with an example like this often costing less than a quarter of a US made peer of the same year. It beggars belief.

G&L L1000

G&L L1000

Year: 1980

Made In: USA

Specs: Mahogany body, maple neck & fretboard

Electronics: G&L MFD humbucking pickup, passive electronics

Controls: Volume, bass cut, treble cut, three way coil selection switch

G&L seem to be a brand which have largely gone under the radar until recently. The Tribute series is finally making people aware of the great instruments this company makes. It’s interesting to compare their earliest offerings with what Fender were putting out at the same time. In my mind, at least, what G&L were doing puts the big F to shame and, given the ongoing popularity of instruments made in their weakest era, makes you wonder what’s in the mind of those who pick a CBS era mongrel over something like this thoroughbred. It’s from about mid-way through the first year of production but G&L hallmarks like the heavy saddle-lock bridge and MFD were in place from the start.

Clearly an evolution of the Precision, the L1000 is the passive single pickup brother of the mighty L2000. It’s a very different beast with an identity of its own. Powered by a fire-breathing MFD humbucker, the controls are cut only, such is the output. It’s a clever design, featuring volume, bass and treble controls in an entirely passive circuit.

The three way switch offers an impressive variety of tonal options, going from humbucker to single (bridge coil) to what’s known as OMG mode, which runs both coils but with the high-end removed from the neck coil, resulting in a huge low-end sound suitable for generating earthquakes. It’s really a clever bit of engineering. The humbucker sounds like a cross between a Stingray and a Rickenbacker neck pickup.

The neck is surprisingly thin, I haven’t played anything like it from that era. It’s not quite Ibanez SR thin, but it’s a long way from the chunk you expect in a Precision influenced design. It’s really comfortable though. The whole thing feels familiar while, at the same time, offering a huge amount more than you really think it could. It’s a Precision but just a great deal smarter.

These are criminally underrated basses. Given the choice between one of these and a Precision I would pick the L1000 every time. Really, this is probably the greatest passive bass I’ve ever played.