Ibanez BTB 905 and 1005FL Reviews 5

Daddy's Junky Music. 905 was $1000 new and 1005FL was $850 extremely clean used. I was seeking a 5 string with very wide string spacing [I'm a klutz] and a warm mellow sound when I bought the 905. A year later I found the 1005 fretless when seeking a fretless 5 string.

The tonal range of BTB 5-strings is just amazing. Much of it is the 18v active EQ [with midrange sweep] but I know it's also the wood in these versions because I had previously tried and rejected the Korean BTBs. These are the Japanese limited run models with mahogany cores and fancy tops. I never thought tops made a big difference until I tried these basses. The 905 is our Diva's favorite sound out of my too large tribe of basses. Also, most settings produce little or no noise. The 1005 has a brighter top [maple rather than the ovangkal of the 905] that I like for its emphasis of fretless whine, but I find it too bright for fretted playing. I did try a fretted 1005 before buying the 905 last year. The 1005 is newer to me. I use Rotosound black flatwounds on both, so you know I don't like extra brite tone. Other major positive [for me] is the very wide string spacing, and I also like the balance provided by the long top horn. A 35" scale is important to me as well, most especially for a B-string. The neck joint isn't the sort of ergonomic nightmare of some other well respected basses [and I believe that the newest BTBs are now thru-neck, in case this is a big issue for you]. You can access the whole 24 frets [or nonfrets] rather well, at least on the ADG strings. These necks are *very* wide up there, as wide as some of the "normal gauge" 6-string basses.

While the tonal range is extreme, the further you vary away from center [or close-to-flat] the more artificial the tone sounds. At mildly boosted range it sounds pretty reasonable but nearer the extremes it sounds very processed or "engineered". It has plenty of variety in the "natural" range but on a 4-knob EQ it's not always easy to make a safe adjustment while playing.

Bolt-on necks, 5 pice laminate with dark stringer between hard maple and rosewood fingerboards. Bodies have mahogany cores with ovangkol top on the 905 and maple both top and bottom on the 1005FL. Bridges are monorail. Pickups are large but not of any std size and shape [changing them would not be a casual project]. The top horn extends over the octave so balance is excellent and the tip points slightly down so the strap is more secure on the button. Bodies are on the large side but not excessively thick, so weight is reasonable for a "full size" 5 string, especially with the extra wide 35" neck. There is no passive mode at all. If the 18 volts dies, you can't play at all.

If you prefer the sharper, more "contemporary" sound of the Korean BTBs, you can save big bucks since they have the same necks, bridges, and electronics. Obviously I really like the limited run models since I have both fretted and fretless. I'd recommend any BTB-5 that plays "your" tone as a vesatile and well made bass for any use. The single detail that bugs me is the stacked midrange level and mid-sweep knobs. They do look somewhat vulnerable as they rise above the other knobs, but a number of good basses also have the same arrangement so maybe it's just a personal thing, but I thought it to be worth mention. If you want a bass with which to hit the road, I'd add a second jack that bypasses the whole 18 volt pre-amp and EQ system [full out, no controls] just to know you have a failsafe backup. Overall it's a well made do-anything bass that seems able to deliver the goods for any playing style.

Golem rated this unit 5 on 2003-01-22.

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