I’ve been on-and-off playing my Ibanez GSR-180 bass guitar for nearly 10 years now (I bought it in 2009 or 2010. It was manufactured in July 2009 in Indonesia, according to its serial number I-090710879), so it’s certainly old enough, even if I can’t recall when exactly I got it. I recently saw a 2020 model for sale online while window shopping and thought I might give the ultimate long-term review of it.
Assuming, of course, that no hardware has changed in the last decade.
How much is the Ibanez GSR 180?
At time of writing, this model of bass is available for £150 from MusicSquare and at that price it’ll be the cheapest bass available from Ibanez.
At other retailers that have it in stock, Thomann offer it from £170, Gear4Music have it for £177.
Some retailers inform it’ll be in stock soon and price it at £159 (Anderton’s), £179 (guitarguitar), £169 (PMT Online) and £148 (GAK). I suspect such a low price is for the old stock they wanted to clear, so when it comes back in stock, the pric will likely rise in line with everyone else, I.e. £170.
Is the Ibanez GSR 180 worth the money?
I’ve never regretted buying this bass guitar in the 10 years I’ve owned it and have taken it to jam sessions with friends and small gigs and never had a problem. For a few years it was in my brother’s custody – he had joined a band with friends from work and used it for practice sessions and the odd gig. From there in a more demanding environment, it became more of a practice tool as the band needed instruments that performed better.
At that point I asked for it back not because I gig, but because I’ve always been a bedroom player, and the Ibanez performs well in a home environment.
Pros of the Ibanez GSR 180
So long as you’re playing music or recording as a hobby, the GSR 180 will do you well. If you’re just starting out, you’ll be able to learn various techniques and songs fine with this instrument. If you play with friends, it’ll sound just fine. If you have access to a good amp, you’ll get the most out of the instrument.
I’ve played entry level guitars that have had lots of static every time I turned the knobs, but with this Ibanez, that’s never been an issue, which for me is a real positive.
The guitar uses high-output pickups and the result is an amazing tone that doesn’t need to be worked on too much and, in my opinion, takes really well to pedals.
Another positive it there’s a decent range of tones on the bass, with two pickups that have their own volume knob and a master tone for both pickups. The tone control isn’t just for show it allows from very bright tones with lots of treble, to a very dark, muddy tone with no treble, and there’s plenty of use for all the tones it can create.
One thing that makes me super happy about the GSR 180 is it stays in tune. I hardly ever tune the bass, only if I decide to play in drop D. Beyond that, the tuning machines stay as you leave them. Granted I don’t bend (very tough to do on this!) but that’s not something I take for granted.
Cons of the Ibanez GSR 180
As with all entry level instruments, once you cease being a beginner and want to play more advanced music, you’ll find yourself frustrated. That’s where the cost-cutting measures of any instrument start to work against you, and with the GSR 180, it’s no different.
For me the action is a little too high making slapping and playing lower down the neck a chore, and fret buzz is something I’ve learnt to live with. The bridge doesn’t allow enough movement to cater to this, and to alleviate the issue, I’d probably need to spend the guitar’s value on having a luthier re-jigging the neck, which is not something I’d look at.
I also find myself putting in loads of effort to pluck my strings, but I get around that by adding some compression and gain to my amp and making the set up more sensitive to lighter touches.
For entry-level home playing, it’s a strong instrument, and well worth the money to be the instrument you learn bass on. But after certain playing level, you realise you’re fighting against the guitar and an upgrade becomes essential to your development. I’m probably in need of an upgrade, but since I only play in the comfort of home now, it’s not something I’m interested in since I spend 90% of my music time on guitar.
Watch it in action
I’ll upload my own video review in time, but for now, here’s the GSR 180 bass guitar in action…