Soundroom: Ibanez ATK805E Premium

January 30, 2013
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“EVERY STYLE. EVERY SONG. EVERY NIGHT.”

Quite a ballsy claim, isn’t it? In a world run by overzealous marketing directors and over-the-top hype, a manufacturer could be forgiven for promising an instrument that could cover all the bases. Besides, who wants to be a plain ol’ workhorse when you could be a dazzling unicorn? But I’ll be darned if Ibanez’s ATK805E isn’t the sexiest “jack of all trades” I’ve ever played. This lightweight, active 5-string doesn’t just present itself as an everyday workhorse—it excels in that role.

When Ibanez first introduced the ATK (“attack”) series with the 4-string ATK300 and 5-string ATK305 in 1995, the large body, big triple-coil pickup, and massive bridge helped give it a cult following. The company retired the 300-series ATK basses in 1999, following it up in 2003 with the Japan-only ATK1300-OK, the first ATK-series instrument to feature a single-coil pickup in neck position. It wasn’t until 2007 that the ATK750 brought a single-coil pickup in neck position to an ATK sold in the U.S. The current ATK catalog includes the ATK1200 Prestige 4-string, which is the top of the line, as well as the new ATK800E 4-string and ATK805E 5-string.

The ATK805E is less than half the price of the 1200, but it shares the same specs, the same ATK N3 preamp, and the same CAP Double Humbucker 5 in bridge position and CAP Sonic Arch near the neck; the main difference is that the 805E is only available with a dark ash body and maple neck, while the 1200 comes with a natural finish. (The “E” on the model number denotes that this bass comes with a deluxe gigbag.) The “Premium” in this model’s name connotes closer attention to detail, and indeed, the fretwork was excellent, the 5-bolt neck pocket was tight, and the electronics cavity was clean and wellorganized. The battery is in its own pocket, accessible by a hinged door.

The ATK805E preserves many of the highlights of its predecessors: The tuners, 34" scale, 3-piece maple neck, truss-rod adjustment wheel at the base of the neck, black dot inlays, 3-band tone controls, and 22 jumbo frets will all be familiar to ATK fans. Because the 800-series basses have new pickups and a new preamp, Ibanez tested various positions for the pickup placement and decided to move the front pickup—then a single-coil, now a humbucker in a single-coil-size casing—a little farther from the fingerboard than it was in the ATK750. It’s obvious that the folks at Ibanez have put lots of thought into each incarnation of the ATK, and the 800-series instruments benefit from everything they’ve learned so far.

ATTACK IT!

In action, the ATK805E was a joy to play and hear. Our review bass, just over nine pounds, arrived set up well with .045-.130 D’Addarios; the ATK 5 bridge is string-through-body only. The B was defined but a bit loose for my taste, and I couldn’t help wondering whether a .135 B might be tighter and clearer. The rosewood pickguard, a high-end touch, seemed to blend in from a distance, but upon closer inspection, I noticed that it was a slightly lighter shade than the body’s walnut finish; eventually, the pickguard bore the scuffs of my playing, and I can only imagine how pick players might scar it.

Thanks to its light ash body, the body was resonant even before I’d plugged it in, and once I heard it through a powered Bergantino IP112 1x12 cab with an Alembic preamp, I appreciated how the ATK N3 preamp, flexible but not overpowering, amplified the bass’s natural tone. I also noticed some serious sustain, which I attribute to the ash body, big bridge, and strings through the body. The bass was well balanced, with no neck dive. The neck felt chunky, and the string spacing—widened from 16.5mm on older ATK 5-strings to 18mm on the ATK805E— helped make it a pleasure to slap when I joined an impromptu rock jam while plugged into a Yamaha PB-1 preamp, QSC RMX 2450 power amp, and two Acme Low-B2 2x10 cabinets.

The ATK805E arrived just in time for a rehearsal and gig with a five-piece that required me to be able to quickly access punk and ska flavors, deep dub, and strong slap tone. Using the big humbucker’s coil selector in tandem with the pickup blend knob allows for the widest variety of tones, and the ATK805E easily fulfilled my every need. The three-position selector switch chooses between the rear coil, both coils, and front coil of the big humbucker. Pointing it toward the bridge and dialing in the back pickup with the blend knob, for example, got me pretty close to a well-defined back-pickup Jazz Bass sound, which worked well when I needed to cut through the guitar line and percussion. With the switch in the middle, the pickup selector aimed toward the neck, and some careful tone sculpting, I could recall a tone close to a Music Man, but the ATK805E seems to forego the classic StingRay grunt and sizzly top end for something stronger in the low mids. Setting the blend knob in the middle and pushing the switch forward, which highlighted the little humbucker and the big humbucker nearest the neck, gave me lots of warmth; with a few tweaks of the tone knobs, I could go from vaguely P-Bass murk to sine-wave, dub-ready territory.

Plugged into an Acoustic B600 head and 8x10 cabinet during rehearsal, the ATK805E was huge and warm; despite my doubts, DI through the monitors and the backline at that night’s gig—a Markbass 102P 2x10 combo, all tone controls set flat—was plenty loud, well defined, and warm enough to fill the room with dub when necessary. In the moment, the big neck, the spacing, the sustain, and the strong tone seemed to encourage whole notes: Although slap lines, picked parts, and fast fingerstyle all sounded good on the ATK805E, something about this bass made me want to play big notes.

It’s perhaps inevitable that some players will be tempted to compare the ATK805E to other classic, modern humbucker-and-single-coil combinations. The comparison makes sense visually and may be a good place to start, but the more I played, the more I understood that this bass’s mix of elements—its bridge, maple neck, ash body, and distinctive pickups— combine to give it a character all its own. Like the greatest and most verstile sidemen, the ATK805E excels at being whatever you want it be.

SPECIFICATIONS

IBANEZ ATK805E PREMIUM

Street $800

Bottom line Lightweight, distinctive looking, affordable, and ridiculously versatile, the ATK805E is a genre-hopping bass player’s best friend, earning it a coveted BASS PLAYER Editor Award.

Contact ibanez.com

TECH SPECS

Body Ash

Neck Maple

Fingerboard Maple

Bridge ATK 5

Bridge pickup CAP Double Humbucker 5

Neck pickup CAP Sonic Arch 5

Tuning keys Hipshot Ultralites

Scale length 34"

Width at nut 1.77"

Weight 9 lbs

String spacing 18mm

Finish Walnut flat

Made in Indonesia

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