Out with the Old
I occasionally play bass in a local Big Band - it’s great fun, and an ideal way to Get Out Of The House. One thing I’ve been struggling with recently is having enough flexibility to find the right sort of “tone”. We play a mix of stuff, ranging from more classic Basie / Gershwin, to more funky stuff (Pee Wee Ellis etc.).
There’s a surprising amount of variation needed in what the “bass” noise should sound like. For classic stuff, it should really be on an upright bass, which I don’t own (yet!). More modern jazz standards sometimes need a brighter-yet-also-bit-more-growly tone. I was getting the feeling that I might be reaching the limit of what my current bass (a Washburn Force 5 ABT).
Whilst being somewhat mindful of “new thing will fix everything” syndrome, I started thinking about what a replacement might look like. At some point I saw a picture of me playing the Washburn at University, meaning that I’d had it for basically about 20 years.
As someone who thinks that part of the magic of existence is being able to experience the almost-infinite variety of things available in the universe, that was all the excuse I needed to start shopping. I didn’t need a new bass because I wanted something better, I wanted something different!
I’ve already got an Ibanez SR500 4-string ( which I’ve also had for nearly as long), so was pretty sure that this was a good place to start. From the SR 5-strings, I tried Ibanez BTBs, Fender Js (the P is too chonky for me), Stingrays, Warwicks - a bunch of things. But I kept coming back to the Sr - it’s got a particular shape / size that just “fits”.
I ended up deciding to get an Ibanez SR2605.
Knob in the ointment
I’m still getting used to it, but one thing I picked up on really quickly when trying it out was the ergonomics of the volume / balance / EQ control knobs. They’re not very nice. They’re cheap-feeling, harsh, black plastic, and look entirely out of place on what is not a cheap instrument.
Confusingly, they use the same parts on their very top-of-the-line stuff. This is the SR5000, which costs about £2000:
And yet, a much cheaper instrument (like the SR500 I’ve already got) has lovely, tasteful, metal knurled things.
The obvious solution to this problem is to change them. They’re easy to add/remove: a simple screw and they slide off. There’s also a very healthy guitar parts market, so it was just a case of finding something that would (a) match, and (b) fit.
For both of these, I thought a good place to start would be the Ibanez Parts catalog, which sells replacement everythings for everything they’ve sold. Hunting through there, I found a couple of items that might work. Specificaly:
4KB1C4G: Guitar Parts Control Knob, Metal stack, screw lock, gold (I also found this as
4KB1MC0002: Guitar Parts Control Knob, Metal Dome, small, screw lock, gold
The metal hardware (pegs, bridge) on the SR2605 is all gold, it felt somewhat reasonable that Ibanez might only have one colour for “gold”, which should match. Also, the EQ pots are smaller than the volume / balance, hence the need for 2x larger and 3x smaller.
Sourcing these became a problem. It turns out that Ibanez only historically sold gold knobs for basses on a couple of instruments made in 2008 (The SRX08 LTD and the BTB 780CM). However, I did manage find a supplier in Germany, and after a few weeks waiting, took delivery: