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NBD - Ibanez EHB Short Multi Scale Headless


Marvin_

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Just throught I'd share some first impressions now I've had a few days to play around.

This is one of the second series of Ibanez headless EHB basses, released in 2021 (the first series came out in 2020). I've been playing short scale basses, but since my experience with multi-scale guitars was positive I thought that multi-scale would suit a short scale bass quite well as the main 'problem' with shorter scale lengths can be the lack of tautness in the E-string.

My main concerns when ordering were that there were some issues with the first series of EHB (reasonable number of reports of neck cracks, misaligned bridges, poor jack socket), but no-one short of custom ordering did an instrument like this, and nothing like this kind of price. Stuck my pre-order in at Andertons in January with delivery expected in early-mid March.

Well, it turned up on the 2nd of March, so top marks there. Slightly disappointed to find that someone (presumably at Andertons) had rifled through the gigbag and opened the accessory bag, presumably to get to the 9V battery, which I found with the wrapper semi-removed plugged into the back of the bass. Guess it was the first one in and someone wanted a play. Doesn't bother me too much as long as they were careful, and as there wasn't a mark on it I guess they were...

First, some pictures:

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Metallic green/blue paint, burl maple fretboard. A nice combo in my eyes

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Bolt on neck, but upper fret access is very good. The back of the body is bevelled, so the upper half is thinner than the lower

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The neck profile is incredibly flat and wide in true Ibanez fashion. It's comfortable to play, although the width was a bit of a shock at first


Playing Feel

The first thing that hits you is that adding a string makes for a very wide looking/feeling neck at the treble end of the fretboard (the nut's only 45mm). It also knocks your calibration out of whack, and I found that I'd be playing the wrong string from time to time. I've played a 7 string guitar so was expecting both of these and it'll come with time.

The action is low, aiding playability, and is not buzzy. I'd say the setup is pretty well judged out of the box, but the intonation will need some adjustment. The string tension is lower on the B-string than I'd expected, but not excessively so. The multi-scale will take a little getting used to, but with a neutral (that's basically the 'normal' fret, perpendicular to the string) 7th fret, the pattern makes a lot of ergonomic sense on a bass-length scale. As I move my fretting hand up the neck, my fingers follow the arc/fan of the frets very well. Just need to get the muscle memory re-learnt so that I'm placing my fingers in the optimum place - I was getting a few 'just-past' the target fret moments at first.

My main concern was about successfully muting the newly acquired 5th string. I usually right-hand mute strings by hooking my ring and little fingers through/around the strings, whilst anchoring with my thumb. This works nicely on a four string bass as even when playing the G-string, the second playing finger will mute the D-string. What I've found to work really well on this bass is anchoring my thumb on the edge of the neck:

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When playing the 3rd to 5th strings it's business as usual, but when playing the 1st or 2nd strings, the thumb starts to naturally rotate into position and touch the B string. It's pretty natural and works well.

When using a strap, you'll find the rear strap button is rather higher than a 'normal' bass (much like a Strandberg), so you'll find that you'll want to shorten the strap by a good 10cm or so (I couldn't figure why it felt weird at first). Balance is excellent as you'd expect with no head - it just sits where you want it with no pull one way or another. It's also very light (just 3.3kg), not just for a 5 string, or a bass, but it's light even for a guitar. That lack of weight is much appreciated during longer playing sessions.


Build Quality

The build is generally very nice, the neck in particular being a high point. Fret ends are nicely finished and smooth, the edge of the fretboard is well rounded, making it very comfortable. As is often the case, it's just the upper corners of the nut that could use a bit more time with the sander as the corners are sharp, and without a headstock it's easy to run a little too far and catch on the nut.

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The hardware feels excellent quality and is easy to adjust (and there are a lot of adjustments available too). The individual bridges are good and straight as you'd expect. Before buying headless I'd heard many complain that the tuners are difficult to adjust with fingers. Not so here - the knobs are a decent size and are very smooth and easy to adjust. A minus point has to be that the manual is a generic Ibanez document that is almost entirely irrelevant in every respect to the EHB. They'd have been better off providing nothing as the only 'normal' thing shared is the truss rod. It's particularly weird that they've not included any specific manuals as they've produced some which are on their website, both for the hardware and the EQ/electronics.

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As mentioned before the paintwork is generally very good, but the area around the bridge/tuners is not up to a great standard. Only really visible if you're looking for it though


Electronics

The pickups are a pair of passive Bartolini BH2s, through an Ibanez 9V powered EQ. Again, some documentation in the box would have been nice, but a quick download later and all was revealed.

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  1. Volume
  2. Pickup balance (clockwise for neck, anti-clockwise for bridge. This has a central detent for both pickups on equally)
    3 - 7 control the EQ
  3. Lower knob is bass EQ, cutting or boosting the bass (this has a central detent for a flat EQ)
  4. Upper knob is treble EQ, cutting or boosting the treble (this has a central detent for a flat EQ). It also becomes the passive tone control if the active EQ is switched off
  5. Lower knob controls the mid frequency that control 6 affects
  6. Upper knob is the mid EQ, cutting or boosting around the frequency selected by control 5 (this has a central detent for a flat EQ)
  7. EQ switch. Switched forward this disables the active EQ and control 4 becomes a passive tone knob

The controls are nicely weighted and are smooth, although the plastic knobs do feel a touch cheap. Being a beginner to 3-way EQ actually on the bass itself I've not played around too much yet, sticking to passive control. The pickup blend is a nice feature, although I'd have preferred two volume knobs and a switch as it allows for mid-song changes more easily.

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The jack socket is a captive type preventing accidental disconnects. It's fairly stiff to release, but easy enough to do with one hand

I don't feel qualified to comment on the sound, but through my Ashdown ABM III it sounds bloody good, punchy and clear, even driven by my fingers. Output volume is not boosted like an active pickup which means less equipment adjustment if switching basses (it's very similar in output to my Hagstrom Swede).

Overall

As the owner of a Strandberg Boden (guitar) I do find there's a lot of similarity (even superficially), it really feels that Ibanez are trying to create an instrument that is very reminiscent of the Strandberg, but substantially less expensive. It's a well made, ergonomic instrument that undoubtably has a few niggles/areas for improvement, but the overall impression is of a well designed bass with a good variety of tones for playing most genres of music.

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Fantastic review; love the angles your pics have shown, especially the bevelled rear. Nice neck too.

How much is this model btw, and is it 32” scale? (I missed it if it’s mentioned)

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Great review, but you should comment on the sound too, don’t do yourself down. These have certainly caught my eye and I nearly went for a 4 string, non-Novax one. The clarity of the B string is of special interest as, if it’s reproduces well, flies in the face of the 35” scale preference of some manufacturers for 5 stringers. Enjoy.

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31 minutes ago, ezbass said:

Great review, but you should comment on the sound too, don’t do yourself down. These have certainly caught my eye and I nearly went for a 4 string, non-Novax one. The clarity of the B string is of special interest as, if it’s reproduces well, flies in the face of the 35” scale preference of some manufacturers for 5 stringers. Enjoy.

Totally agree... The one hesitance I had ordering was the scale of the low B and there's nothing bar a few very ropey demoes on youtube.

 

Who knows, yours might appear on the next episode of all about the bass 🙊

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4 hours ago, Daz39 said:

Fantastic review; love the angles your pics have shown, especially the bevelled rear. Nice neck too.

How much is this model btw, and is it 32” scale? (I missed it if it’s mentioned)

Thanks Daz. I should have mentioned, it was £949 from Andertons (everywhere else was at least £80 more expensive when I pre-ordered), and the scale is indeed 32" exactly (just measured, although as said, the intonation needs some adjustment) on the B string and 29.75" on the G string.

 

4 hours ago, ezbass said:

Great review, but you should comment on the sound too, don’t do yourself down. These have certainly caught my eye and I nearly went for a 4 string, non-Novax one. The clarity of the B string is of special interest as, if it’s reproduces well, flies in the face of the 35” scale preference of some manufacturers for 5 stringers. Enjoy.

My main issue commenting on sound is my references are odd in bass terms. I've got (well, just sold the Epiphone) two other basses, an Epiphone Allen Woody with flats and a Hagstrom Swede. Both are dual humbuckers (the Hagstrom's are splittable though), and I've never owned a J or P bass...

It's a bit late for the full bass rig, so I just fired up Rocksmith for some back-to-back with the Hagstrom. I used my Whammy DT to use the B as an E string (screwing up the muscle memory I was relearning...) to maximise its use.

I'd say the Ibanez's B string feels a lot like the E string of the Hagstrom (perhaps slightly less taut). If you really dig in, it's pretty easy to knock the string into the top of the frets/pickup (depending on position) for that percussive thump/string sound that I remember so well from listening to Korn all those years ago. Played in a more relaxed/normal style and you'll very rarely do that, particularly if primarily on the bridge pickup (the neck pickup really amplified that sound as you'd expect, but it was never harsh). I did note that the B string is actually set quite low in terms of action, it felt lower than the E, but checking now they're the same at 2.25mm/0.070" (which is low, the Hagstrom's E is set to 2.50mm/0.080"). Raising the action slightly would likely give the clearance needed for more heavy handed play. FWIW I thought the string noise sounded cool when overdriven, and when clean I managed to avoid it so I guess it's a preference/attack/feel thing...

I'm probably less convinced that it'll respond well to lower tuning (experimentation needed) but at B it's good, especially if you're already used to shorter scales anyway. The E string is definitely tauter than the Hagstrom's and I've played a fair bit of drop D stuff already (then promptly forgetting that the difference between the D and B is three frets, not five and thinking it sounds weird when I transition to the B) which it handles better than the Hagstrom (which was playable in my view anyway, but the extra tension certainly doesn't hurt).

As for the pickups, only got some brief notes, but the Ibanez is definitely clearer and less muddy than the Hagstrom when playing with an overdriven sound, and it's either pickup is more than usable when doing so, the neck just adding a touch more low end and a slightly darker sound, plus a boost in the aforementioned string noise, should you want it. When clean I could tell little difference between the two, but the caveat is that it's late and I was using Rocksmith, so with an actual amp the results may be more obvious.

3 hours ago, thisisswanbon said:

Totally agree... The one hesitance I had ordering was the scale of the low B and there's nothing bar a few very ropey demoes on youtube.

 

Who knows, yours might appear on the next episode of all about the bass 🙊

I did wonder whether this one may feature in a certain video series - I've been checking...

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It could be the photo playing tricks with my eyes, but in the pic down the back of the neck it looks like the neck isn’t fully screwed into the body - looks like a small gap between back of neck and neck pocket? I’d guess not as you probably would have noticed with the bass in your hands, but watching a Roger Sadowsky YT interview a while ago, he mentioned one thing he often forgets to do before checking over or setting up a bass is to check the neck screws are fully tight.

They do look like nice basses, and chapeau to Ibanez for producing so many new and interesting designs in a sea of Fender clones (disclaimer: saying that having just bought a jazz bass clone ;)). The strings mounting system looks practical and means you don’t have to stick with double ball end strings like many “headless” basses. My only reservation would be that at this price point I’d expect a flawless finish.

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Great review, very in depth. Really would like one of these, I do have the 1505ms and it is one of the best basses I have - although I complained about the documentation in another thread! The idea of shorter would also be good. Not blown away by the colour but everything else seems good.

Would be interested in your thoughts on the sound, I am not a fan of those pickups so interested how you find them.

My socket you couldn't do with one hand, you had to turn the bass over and do it with 2. But it no longer has a spring so it no longer needs any effort!

Edited by Woodinblack
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9 hours ago, Woodinblack said:

Great review, very in depth. Really would like one of these, I do have the 1505ms and it is one of the best basses I have - although I complained about the documentation in another thread! The idea of shorter would also be good. Not blown away by the colour but everything else seems good.

Would be interested in your thoughts on the sound, I am not a fan of those pickups so interested how you find them.

My socket you couldn't do with one hand, you had to turn the bass over and do it with 2. But it no longer has a spring so it no longer needs any effort!

Seconded on the BH2 pups, how do they sound?

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I've wanted one of these since they were announced (I have a 1506MS I was reluctantly willing to let go as a one in me out to get one of these) but haven't put an order in as every time.i looked the supposed date of availability seems to be perpetually put back...but here it is so likely going to start being widely available now. I'm jealous and I feel I just need to get the order in!

Thanks for the review. 

Edited by Mikey D
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14 hours ago, FDC484950 said:

It could be the photo playing tricks with my eyes, but in the pic down the back of the neck it looks like the neck isn’t fully screwed into the body - looks like a small gap between back of neck and neck pocket? I’d guess not as you probably would have noticed with the bass in your hands, but watching a Roger Sadowsky YT interview a while ago, he mentioned one thing he often forgets to do before checking over or setting up a bass is to check the neck screws are fully tight.

They do look like nice basses, and chapeau to Ibanez for producing so many new and interesting designs in a sea of Fender clones (disclaimer: saying that having just bought a jazz bass clone ;)). The strings mounting system looks practical and means you don’t have to stick with double ball end strings like many “headless” basses. My only reservation would be that at this price point I’d expect a flawless finish.

Checked today before I adjusted the intonation (all the strings were sharp when fretted compared to the harmonic, more so on the bass strings than the treble), all were tight. I think the gap's a trick of the light as the body is rounded/bevelled at the joint so it looks like a little valley around the neck. It's probably not the absolute tightest neck socket, but with five screws it's not going anywhere! Intonation adjustment was a doddle, done exactly the same way as any individual saddle adjustment, with a sprung screw.

I agree that Ibanez deserve kudos for doing something normally the preserve of the boutique, at, if not exactly cheap, then reasonably accessible pricing. The spec's great for the cash too, I didn't even mention the stainless frets...

14 hours ago, Woodinblack said:

Great review, very in depth. Really would like one of these, I do have the 1505ms and it is one of the best basses I have - although I complained about the documentation in another thread! The idea of shorter would also be good. Not blown away by the colour but everything else seems good.

Would be interested in your thoughts on the sound, I am not a fan of those pickups so interested how you find them.

My socket you couldn't do with one hand, you had to turn the bass over and do it with 2. But it no longer has a spring so it no longer needs any effort!

I think I read your thoughts on the 1505 before buying, seems a pity they've not fixed something as simple as a couple of pieces of paper in the box for the second gen. At least the socket is better! It's definitely not a light spring, but it's easy enough with one hand now, so that's a nice improvement.

4 hours ago, horrorshowbass said:

Seconded on the BH2 pups, how do they sound?

The family and neighbours were in so I couldn't go too wild. I did intend to record the DI output of the Ashdown, but the additional pressure made me forget how to play bass in any way competently, so I've got a fairly crap rendition of Fleetwood Mac's Man of the World and that's about it. It then occurred to me that it's a pretty bad demo choice as it's played almost entirely on the A-string, so doesn't really give any wide impression of the sound. Must do better. I'll have another go tomorrow during the day when people are out. For what it's worth I've attached the MotW recording (well a bit of it). The only effect was an MXR bass compressor, going into the Ashdown with 9 o'clock tube drive and a flat EQ besides the bass brought down to 10-11 o'clock (wooden floors...). Output was DI straight into a Focusrite solo and Reaper, with no post processing or clean up. Listening back, I'm not sure it does the original justice...

Outside of attempting recording, I struggled to get a good driven tone that wasn't flatulant sounding on the D and G strings using the Ashdown's drive turned up past about 9-10 o'clock. The fuzz tone from my Russian Big Muff Pi was much better (particularly on the bridge pickup) but I couldn't think of any songs I knew where it would have been suitable. Cleaner tones still sound good to me from these pickups. I've been avoiding the bass's EQ settings to not overcomplicate things, and it sounds best to me with the passive tone at about 80% up, and not going completely to one pickup or the other, blending the two together gives a much nicer sound to me.

I have no qualms about the B string tension though. With a bit more play time (with the help of the Digitech DT for maximum use) it really feels similar to the Hagstrom's E string (which is a 0.100" string), which bodes well for a drop to A (yet to do that though).

3 hours ago, Mikey D said:

I've wanted one of these since they were announced (I have a 1506MS I was reluctantly willing to let go as a one in me out to get one of these) but haven't put an order in as every time.i looked the supposed date of availability seems to be perpetually put back...but here it is so likely going to start being widely available now. I'm jealous and I feel I just need to get the order in!

Thanks for the review. 

When I ordered it was mid February, then fairly quickly that got put back to early March (one of the Andertons guys emailed me to let me know), then the website put it back a couple of weeks further. Mine did turn up in early March though so I suspect the current estimates are fairly accurate, it's probably just coming through in dribs and drabs for the first few.

Man_of_the_World_Demo.wav

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Thanks for that - you have an odd ~340Hz tone on your recording.

You can certainly hear the difference between the BH2s and the Nords, although obviously your settings can affect what you can hear.

Would certainly like to try one. Going to be a long time before I find one in a shop - or for that matter, can go into a shop to find one!

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Posted (edited)

That'll be why it sounded a bit strange on the recording - it sounded fine when played (well, either that or I just didn't notice anything when playing). That's too high a frequency to be a muting issue so I'm guessing it's EMI from something, possibly the Ashdown itself (no idea how well thought of their DI out is, I know on many guitar amps it's not great).

Edited by Marvin_
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31 minutes ago, Marvin_ said:

That'll be why it sounded a bit strange on the recording - it sounded fine when played (well, either that or I just didn't notice anything when playing). That's too high a frequency to be a muting issue so I'm guessing it's EMI from something, possibly the Ashdown itself (no idea how well thought of their DI out is, I know on many guitar amps it's not great).

I would expect the ashdowns DI to be good, it is the sort of thing they do properly, compared to others. Sounds like the sound I get if I record something on my macbook if it is plugged in connected to an amp that is also plugged in, some kind of ground loop but something to do with the power supply in the macbook.

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It's by no means an ideal setup - the room is chock full of sources of EMI as well (2x PCs, networking gear, lights, speakers, speaker/headphone amp, all of which were on...). It's just as well I don't intend to make a career of this! I do have a decent microphone so could always try recording with that at some point.

I'll try to get some more varied stuff recorded today (with bonus hum). Any requests, including things like pickup, EQ etc?

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1 hour ago, Woodinblack said:

Always flat eq I would say. but both pickups and a balance of the two!

This ^^^

Also, keep an eye on the tube drive levels or do clean and driven examples.

Edited by ezbass
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Excellent review, do you mind me asking for the string spacing at the bridge and also the width of the neck at the twelfth fret. I do some times miss my old SEI headless 5, but as my hand deteriorated I struggled with the width of the bound neck.

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3 hours ago, wrinkleygit said:

Excellent review, do you mind me asking for the string spacing at the bridge and also the width of the neck at the twelfth fret. I do some times miss my old SEI headless 5, but as my hand deteriorated I struggled with the width of the bound neck.

At the 12th fret the neck is 64mm so it is pretty wide. Thickness is only 22mm though at the 12th fret (from the back of the neck to the surface of the fretboard).

Default string spacing is 17mm centre to centre, and there's about 2mm each way I'd suggest (although as that's per saddle I guess the actual end spacing won't be as much as +2mm). I'll probably adjust mine out a touch wider.

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Thanks for the info, 64mm might not be too bad, would love to get my hands on one of these at some point, I used to own a fanfret guitar, so I’m well aware of the advantage, in fact a friend of mine borrowed it to do some acoustic solo gigs, while I was in hospital, and begged me to sell it to him. Also, working with a Sax player we do a lot of stuff in F and Bflat, so it’s nice to play all around the 6th fret to save a bit of a stretch.

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Just read a review on talkbass (pinch of salt I know) on the EHB1000.

Lad said if you play any music post 1950/1960s, then BH2 pickups aren't for you.

Dissapointing as you'd want ultra modern pickups in a headless multiscale surely? maybe I'll go for SR2400 :)

 

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2 hours ago, wrinkleygit said:

Thanks for the info, 64mm might not be too bad, would love to get my hands on one of these at some point, I used to own a fanfret guitar, so I’m well aware of the advantage, in fact a friend of mine borrowed it to do some acoustic solo gigs, while I was in hospital, and begged me to sell it to him. Also, working with a Sax player we do a lot of stuff in F and Bflat, so it’s nice to play all around the 6th fret to save a bit of a stretch.

I think the width is mitigated to some extent by the shorter than typical scale, at 32" the stretch required is less than the same neck width at 34 or 35".

 

29 minutes ago, horrorshowbass said:

Just read a review on talkbass (pinch of salt I know) on the EHB1000.

Lad said if you play any music post 1950/1960s, then BH2 pickups aren't for you.

Dissapointing as you'd want ultra modern pickups in a headless multiscale surely? maybe I'll go for SR2400 :)

 

That probably explains why I find them perfectly acceptable, I don't really play anything much more modern than about 1980...

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On 09/03/2021 at 16:58, Marvin_ said:

At the 12th fret the neck is 64mm so it is pretty wide. Thickness is only 22mm though at the 12th fret (from the back of the neck to the surface of the fretboard).

Default string spacing is 17mm centre to centre, and there's about 2mm each way I'd suggest (although as that's per saddle I guess the actual end spacing won't be as much as +2mm). I'll probably adjust mine out a touch wider.

Ibby website says 18mm string spacing at the bridge.

 

How much does it weigh please?

I really want one but with my issues I don't buy anything over 7.5lb anymore.

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