Ibanez SR800LE

Ibanez SR800LE

Year: 1989

Made In: Japan

Specs: Basswood body, three-piece maple neck, rosewood fretboard

Electronics: Ibanez Lo-Z P+J pickups, YE262 EQBII preamp

Controls: Volume, blend, bass cut & boost, treble cut & boost,

The SR1300 didn’t really work out for me. I’ve long been a fan of the SR series but the one I always wanted was the SR800LE. This probably goes back to the late 80’s when they were wielded by the likes of Roger Patterson and Tony Choy on some of my all-time favourite albums. I do like the basic 2-band EQ too, though, and there’s just a purity to the design of the SR800 which appeals to me.

Having lusted after one for years, I finally encountered one in good enough condition and made the deal, this one coming from the Fujigen plant in 1989, the year I started playing bass. It’s a different beast to later SRs but, for me at least, it’s closer to what I want than what the SR range has developed into. I do like the new ones but this is the one I was always after.

The biggest difference is the neck. It’s a meatier neck than the too-skinny wenge neck on the mid-90’s SR1300 I had. It’s thin, for sure, but it’s much more rounded. There’s more wood under hand which works for me. I couldn’t really get on with the 1300 neck, proving just too thin for my hands. It’s the kind of neck which doesn’t cause fatigue in your hands. It’s quick and balances well.

I much prefer the red logo’d Lo-Z pickups to the AFRs which came afterwards. Again, it might be because of the sound of the Lo-Z pickups on some of my favourite albums, but this is the sound I like. In fact, it’s not too far away from a Warwick, tonally. There’s a lot of modern growl in there but it’s easily tamed by the simple onboard EQ.

While the outline of the body shape is the same, the contouring is vastly different to latter day models. There’s a pronounced forearm contour and the body is more of a slab than the refined and continually rounded bodies Ibanez make now. It’s very lightweight though, combined with Gotoh tuners and the robust Omni-Adjust bridge, is sturdy enough for any occasion.

It’s hard to believe this is a 26 year old bass. In some ways, the ideas employed on this bass are still far ahead of what other manufacturers are doing in 2015. Then again, this 26 year old design is the one which speaks to me moreso than their contemporary offerings. This is the SR I’ve been after all that time.

Peavey Rudy Sarzo Bass

Peavey Rudy Sarzo Bass

Year: 1989

Made In: USA

Specs: Ash body, maple & purpleheart neck-through, ebony fretboard

Electronics: Peavey Wide-Aperture humbucking pickup, passive electronics

Controls: Volume, blend, bass, mid & treble cut & boost, active/passive selection switch

As someone who started on an Aria Pro II and forged an eternal affinity with the brand as a result, I remember having a sense of outrage when the Peavey Sarzo first showed up in ads in guitar magazines at the tale end of the 80’s. Sarzo had been a long time SB player and it’s quite obvious where a lot of the inspiration for this model came from. Indeed, the neck-through design, ash body wings and cat’s eye inlays are drawn straight from the SB template. Thankfully, Peavey did a good job with the electronics too and this is a high quality bass with an identity of its own, albeit slightly hidden underneath the Aria skin.

These have to be filed under “Criminally Underrated“, based on the current market price for what is now an over 25 year old model. Top of the Peavey line at the time, the Sarzo is a very well built instrument with no shortcuts taken. The hardware is made by Schaller, the tuners, in particular, are superb. Upper fret access is as good as I’ve ever played on any bass and the neck has a very comfortable D shape which is somewhat flatter at the back than usual. The sculpted headstock is a nice touch and an indication of the level of attention which went into this bass. It’s not light, but it’s not the heaviest out there either. In terms of playability, the only gripe I’d have is the lack of a forearm contour, but that’s just me.

Plugged in, the tone is meaty with a real “active” sound to it. I’ve read the ceramic wide-aperture pickups were modelled on Alembic but, to my ears, there’s a real taste of MM in there and it’s worth remembering Sarzo played a Sabre for a long time. The three-band EQ isn’t the most powerful I’ve encountered, but the fundamental sound of the bass is good enough to not warrant any drastic changes. It doesn’t want for low end, that’s for sure. When switched to the passive circuit, the active treble control becomes a passive tone, which is a nice touch. Personally, I would favour the active circuit but it’s nice to know passive is there if required.

In the grand scheme of things, the Sarzo is a well made and very usable bass which looks grand and graceful but can do work in the trenches. For the money, these are hard to beat.

ESP 400 Series Jazz

TECHNIKA SH-A366

ESP 400 Series Jazz

Year: 1987-1989

Made In: Japan

Specs: Alder body, one-piece maple neck, rosewood fretboard

Electronics: 2 x JS-130 pickups, passive circuit

Controls: Volume x 2, Tone

TECHNIKA SH-A366

In early 1993 this bass was offered to me for IR£300. I had been looking for a new bass and, at a time when late 70’s Fender Precisions could be bought for IR£250, it wasn’t cheap, even though it was used. I paid the sum, got the bass and, to this day, this is the bass by which all others are judged. Sometimes reproductions can surpass the originals and I’d definitely say this is one. Like the Bacchus P, it does everything you could want from this kind of bass, but it has something extra which makes it exceptional.

The guy I bought it off had painted Tank Girl – yes I know – on it which had left some dark shadows in the gloss coat so I sanded most of that off shortly after buying it. It left me with a slightly battered looking bass, but it played and sounded amazingly well. Some instruments are just better than others for reasons you can never quite pinpoint and this is one. Despite being someone who habitually likes to prick around with guitars, modify them and replace bits, this one is still all stock. This is the bass which steered me towards bypassing amp EQ sections. Plug in and go, it has always been the way with this one. I asked ESP to date it but seemingly they lost a lot of documents in a fire a few years back, the closest date they could give me was between 1987 and 1989.

I gigged it all through the 90’s and 00’s and it has taken a fair amount of abuse, it has seen better days but I have yet to play another J bass which even comes close. Many have taken a shot at the title but the ESP remains the champ.

TECHNIKA SH-A366

TECHNIKA SH-A366

TECHNIKA SH-A366

TECHNIKA SH-A366

TECHNIKA SH-A366