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NBD - Ibanez Talman TMB105 - £200 5er!

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Posted (edited)

Hey all 

Haven’t seen many people post about this bass. I did a quick review that I posted over on Talkbass, and thought it might be helpful if I posted it here too, for info. 

Here's a quick review of a very cheap bass - the Ibanez Talman TMB105. I went looking for a cheap or mid range 5er to be able to noodle on a bit, but not make my main. I would say the Talman is fairly representative of the saying 'You get what you pay for'. I'm even handed about it - I think it's important to be careful when reviewing any bass, especially cheaper ones.

Pros:

  • The stock strings are fab (D'addarios). I love D'addarios, and these are fresh and sparkly sounding.
  • Acoustically, the bass sounds great, and the B string makes the whole body resonate. Jatoba and poplar may be cheap, but they sound great to me. I can't tell you how great it is to pick up a cheap bass with a good B string.
  • The PJ pickups and preamp sound great. Although the pre is HOT. I am really pleased with how the bass sounds - the P soloed is great, the J soloed is great, and the blend is great. I have no issues at all with how this bass sounds - not even 'for the money' - it just sounds good. The pre adds lovely low end used judiciously, and can tame what can be a very glassy high end.
  • It weighs 9lb 8oz. Not bad for a 5er at all.
  • The frets are levelled well and it permits a setup (measured at the 12th fret) of 5/64ths on the B and E strings going over to 4/64ths on the G without buzz. That's pretty low.
  • Truss rod works well - used it to get the relief sorted out.
  • The bridge is nice. It just works - not much to say about it.
  • The neck is fab. Feels great, and it's neither too wide nor too thick. I really really like this neck.
  • The finish is well done (black, lol), and the join between neck and body is tight, with no gap.

Cons:

  • It only comes in black. A little boring. But hey, that's what we get at this price level.
  • The frets could use a polish - not surprising, I doubt it got a lot of attention when it left the factory. I can do this. (No fret sprout though). A time cost though.
  • It neck dives when seated like a beast. I knew it would have some dive - the upper horn does not reach the 12th fret, and the headstock is large with cheap clover tuners. But it really dives. On a wide strap, manageable, but keeping this bass would mean replacing the tuners with ultralites for most folks, including me. So I have to add another £100 to the cost of the instrument, if I decide to keep it. Just something to consider when comparing the bass to others.
  • The nut needs filed down correctly - it's pretty high. Not unusual for a cheap instrument - they have to skimp somewhere. I see this often on midrange instruments as well. Another time cost for me.
  • The cavities are unshielded. This is not unusual either on a cheap instrument, and I expect to shield cavities up into mid range instruments as well. I can do this myself, but it does take time.  (EDIT: This turned out to be incorrect. See later posts)
  • There's some hum from the J pickup. Not bad unless I put it close to a computer screen, but typical of the PJ pickups in many basses. I rarely see PJ setups ship with a J humbucker, though in my opinion most of them should. If I keep it, I'm not going to replace it; the cost of the bass doesn't merit it and the stock J pickup sounds absolutely great.
  • The pre is super hot. Just turn it down though, works fine.
  • The pickguard (tort) is pretty cheap looking. About what I expected, but for me, I would want to replace it. If I keep it. Another investment....
  • So, the cheap bass sounds great, but will need some time and money to get it right. At least £100 plus some tech work/time. Though I could gig it now - with some difficulty from neck dive - it does need fettling with to get it right.

However, it may still be worth it....Some brief thoughts when I compare to other basses.

  • It looks to me like the next step up - the Talman TMB505 (£500) - will suffer the same issues with neck dive, as the tuners no different on it. Bridge is same, preamp is the same as well. It also will suffer the J hum, as although the pickups are nicer (Nordstrand design), it's still a single coil at the bridge. So jumping up a price bracket will get me a nicer finish and I bet a bit more work on the frets and nut, but probably will still need another £100 into it for lighter tuners, much as with the lower end model.
  • The Sire P7 I tried out (£600) had a much nicer finish/blocks/binding, nicer pre, great neck, but still had some neck dive, and would also have needed the tuners replaced (same £100 investment). It also weighed a ton - 10lb 9 oz. That's why it got sent back. Fab neck and sound/pickups though.

If the Sire V7 coming to me next week doesn't represent enough value to take it over the Talman, then I'll keep the Talman and do the needed work to make it solid.

I am impressed at what you get for £200. The sounds out of this thing are great. But it clearly isn't quite the fully finished article either.

I’ll post a couple of pics in a minute. 

Edited by funkle
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Posted (edited)

 

 

Meant to say. Here's a few videos that helped sway me to the possibilites of the inexpensive instrument. 

 

Edited by funkle

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If you put the strap button on one of the neck screws (probably the top, front one) would that sort the neck dive? Seems to be the fix for Thunderbird style basses so should work on this one too.

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Posted (edited)

Not sure - I haven't heard of that fix! But I think the upper horn strap button is further forward than the neck screws, so I think it might make it worse rather than better...

I did do some serious messing around with it last night, which I also posted about on Talkbass - might as well post it here for info. (The discussion is at https://www.talkbass.com/threads/the-official-ibanez-tmb-talman-bass-club.1155153/page-79 - I put the copied text in quotes below)

'I did some experimenting.

My Ibanez Talman tuners weigh 84g each without bushings (I removed 3 in the end to check). I'm guessing there will be some variability in weight due to their cheapness/manufacture. I didn't knock out the bushings to check their weight, but I'm conservatively guessing each would be 5-6g or so. So roughly speaking, there's about 450g (just under 1lb) of tuners + bushings at the headstock end.

In testing, if I removed 3 tuners (252g), the bass would balance when seated. With 2 removed (168g), it doesn't. So worst case scenario, my particular bass needs to shed 252g of weight from the headstock. It might be perhaps be a little less, but that's the worst case.

If I replace the stock tuners and bushings with the lightest tuners I can find (40g each), I can reduce headstock tuner weight down to 200g total, shedding about 250g of weight. So it looks like tuner replacement should work. It will cost a bit more than half the value of the instrument for Gotoh GB350s or Ultralites.

To be fair, for comparison, the Sire P7 5er I tried out had a bit of neck dive when seated, and would have needed the same tuner replacement to balance properly. I'm about to find out if a Sire V7 is similar. Those cost more in the £500-£600 range depending on finish.

Decisions, decisions.'

 

Edited by funkle
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I have the 4 string version. There is a tiny bit of neck dive but a suede strap deals with it very well.

I agree on everything else too.  Decent fret work, nice neck, great pickups, okay bridge, the nut was fine on mine, and yes, a very hot pre amp.

I actually really rate these Talman basses very highly.  They're fantastic value for money and I love how they look.

You did a really excellent review.

Frank.

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12 hours ago, funkle said:

Not sure - I haven't heard of that fix! But I think the upper horn strap button is further forward than the neck screws, so I think it might make it worse rather than better...

 

 

It's not where it is in relation to the frets, it's because it's holding the body lower down. Works on pretty much all thunderbird styles, SG's and hollow bodies

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Ok, well, for me, the TMB105 I like better than either the Sire V7 or the P7. 

The Sires are way better out of the box - nut slots cut well, the fantastic necks, good fretwork, rolled edges, the finishes, slightly better tuners - and much less neck dive tendency - but I like the sound and punch of the TMB105 more. 

To be fair. The P7 sounds great, and has similar tones out of it. But it weighed nearly 11 lbs...and I think I like the 2 band preamp better than a 3 band. Less for me to mess up. So the P7 went back. 

I’m going to try and get my hands on a TMB505 to compare to the 105. But right now, the 105 is the bass to beat. Even though it needs work, as I described before.

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Posted (edited)

Ok, so I filed down the nut slots, polished the frets, and oiled the fretboard. Didn't take too long.

Then I cracked open the bass to have a look at the electronics, and had some pleasant surprises. 

First of all, the bass is shielded - in parts. The back of the pickguard has conductive foil tape. The main cavity for the pre, output jack plate, and P pickup are all painted with conductive paint. My handy multimeter tells me this paint actually works as well. This was a pleasant surprise on a £200 instrument. 

 IMG_1475.thumb.JPG.6f537f2e305eddfb6e48a3e1f3fdab93.JPG

IMG_1477.thumb.JPG.e8ff52fda780ad089d50b4d91d11a70a.JPG

 

The battery compartment isn't shielded, but had conductive tape on the cover. Pleasantly, there are ferrules for the screws for the battery cover to screw into, which means the cover shouldn't fall off with the wear from repeated access. 

 

IMG_1478.thumb.JPG.ab67229c850ff88cfa77f7edae7e8c35.JPG

 

However, perhaps not surprisingly, the Jazz bass pickup cavity wasn't shielded at all, and pretty messy. The pickup springs are embedded in the foam (looks like Stew Mac pickup mounting foam with springs in it - very nice), and the bottom of the pickup is potted in wax (I think - a clear thick stuff anyway), which means the pickup pole bottoms are isolated and won't conduct through contact with the metal springs in the foam. That means it is easy to shield the cavity without worrying about accidentally grounding out the pickup. 

IMG_1479.thumb.JPG.d59e6ddd2976ea8b5d9bcac1ec4877bc.JPG

 

So... I cleaned it up and painted it with conductive paint....however it was old and didn't work. Boo

IMG_1480.thumb.JPG.3981a4814ef2f92338562b572adad5d1.JPG

 

Then...used copper foil tape with conductive adhesive backing...screwed in a cable into the foil and then screwed the other end into a common ground in the main cavity. Since that had a screw fixing in it as well, it meant it was a solderless job; just loosened the screw there and screwed it in. 

IMG_1481.thumb.JPG.cd61c65029d547dce763789cac14f86f.JPG

 

Honestly, I'm not sure shielding the Jazz bass pickup cavity made much odds. I probably wouldn't bother with it again. It probably just needs a humbucking pickup at the bridge to become hum free. A single coil will always hum to some degree, I guess.

So there you go. Some surprisingly quality finds on such a cheap instrument. Shielding and a really nice pickup mounting system. Ibanez are doing things very well for not much money. I'm super impressed.

Edited by funkle
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I have a Talman 4 string and I love it. 

None of the cons you've listed worry me - and to be fair you don't see them as huge cons yourself, just minor improvements you're content to do yourself. 

However neck dive is an automatic no for me on any bass. I hate it. 

I added a strap button at the neck plate on a T Bird years ago, and have to say it worked just fine. 

Congrats on your new bass. More evidence that no one needs to spend silly money on an instrument these days. 

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Ok, so I’ve ordered Gotoh Res-O-Lite GB350s and a DiMarzio Ultra Jazz 5er bridge pickup. So I’m in another £160 on a £200 bass (though easily reversible mods if I choose to sell).

I’m aware of what I’m doing...but I’m perfectly happy. It’s still overall cheaper than a Sire P7 (which would need new tuners and bridge humbucker to sort hum out IMO) or a Talman TMB505 (same issues). And I’d like to sort the neck dive and the bridge pickup hum. So I’ll report back once I’ve made the mods. 

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Decent pickup alignment!  The Acidbass hallmark of a well made bass :)

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OK, the deeds are done. 

I replaced the tuners with Gotoh Res-o-Lites - GB350s. There is no lighter tuner that I am aware of. 40g per tuner. I have to say, they feel absolutely lush. And they should, for £90 (from eBay). 

The ferrules and posts are much smaller than the stock holes, so I had to shim them. I have heard of aluminium tape being used, but I had electrical tape, so I just used that. It worked great, though from the back you can see the slight gap between the tuner and the stock hole. It's perfectly steady, though. And from the front you would have no idea.  

I don't have wood filler handy, so I just stuck the tuner screws from the original tuners back in the holes. Gives it an industrial look which I enjoy. 

IMG_2188.thumb.JPG.967c06194345d9f53a0ae21dbb68dd75.JPG IMG_2189.thumb.JPG.a83a38fbec8b360b8f5af2de0ac6fb53.JPG

So. The headstock dive is much better. Not quite perfect - but it no longer needs fighting on the lap, and on the strap, no issues. Just the lightest touch of the forearm on the forearm contour and it sits well. It's still an expensive fix, though, in my view. I may tinker with adding a heavier bridge to the bass to make it perfect - if I can find a suitable one secondhand. 

As I promised, I also installed the Dimarzio Ultra Jazz 5 Bridge pickup to deal with the single coil hum. It fits the existing pickup rout perfectly with no gaps, has good alignment with the strings, and sounds great. The screw holes line up as well; didn't need to re-do those. It has a big output which keeps up with the stock P pickup, and allows an even blend after I adjusted pickup heights. It matches the look of the existing pickup as well. It's a good choice for this job. £67.

 

IMG_2187.thumb.JPG.8622f484c5547cb8f1cc51658041df26.JPG

 

So, after another bit of time and money (another £156 in on a £200 bass), I am satisfied that it will suit any situation I wish, and it sounds great. Not bad for £356.

I would have paid a bit more for a stock instrument that didn't have any of these issues, but I couldn't find one that ticks all the boxes, so here I am. 

I may get a new pickguard for it at some point. Probably white. We'll see. 

 

Edited by funkle
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Nice job!  Wouldn’t removing the now-redundant original machine head screws reduce the headstock weight though?  By a tiny amount, but surely worth it after spending good money on the lightest tuners?

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25 minutes ago, Pea Turgh said:

Nice job!  Wouldn’t removing the now-redundant original machine head screws reduce the headstock weight though?  By a tiny amount, but surely worth it after spending good money on the lightest tuners?

Yes, I had the same thought. I just need wood filler first, lol. They are very light though - all of them combined might maybe be around 5 grammes - about the same as a single tuner ferrule. 

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Could be the 5 grams you need!  I like the look of Talmans.  The closest I’ve got is just a blank body for one of my bitsas!

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Fair comment! I'll get some wood filler.

All I can say is the Talmans are cheap and cheerful. There's a lot of value there. 

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Ok, so I lucked out and got a Hipshot brass A style bridge secondhand for £22.

It weighs 300g; turns out the existing bridge weighed 148g. So much of the weight I have taken off the headstock I am adding to the other end of the bass.

It’s a nice bridge; I like it mechanically a lot. It was a bit of a pain to get on as I had to measure it out and drill new holes. This photo actually shows it 1-2mm off where it should be although the adjustable string spacing saved me; I re-centred it and also moved it another 6mm back after this. It was not as far back as I wanted it to go, but to cover the old screw holes, it had to sit slightly further forward than I wanted.

I don’t think doing this changed the balance much at all. The tuners were a more obvious improvement. Equally, I’m not convinced it did anything for tonal changes or sustain. However, I need to be clear; I didn’t install the bridge to make changes to tone etc, I only did it to improve balance. And in this respect, it clearly didn’t work. 

My advice to others is to not bother with a bridge change for balance purposes. Tuner change was much more obviously helpful. And equally, it backs up my current thinking that bridge changes may change things, at best, marginally, in terms of tone - only change a bridge for aesthetics or for better functionality, IMO.


7C0BAE32-A9D6-43D5-9488-9988518388F5.thumb.jpeg.7062d706b437311b41422e462336b00f.jpeg

 

Edited by funkle
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