The trials and tribulations of a novice upgrading his Ibanez Mikro bass.

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Stuey3D, Nov 23, 2021.

  1. Stuey3D

    Stuey3D

    Nov 23, 2021
    Hi all.

    Long time lurker first time poster, I know this forum has a very active community of Ibanez Mikro players so I figured I’d share my upgrade story with you guys.

    So I have been trying to learn bass over the last couple of years using Rocksmith, and at one point pre pandemic I was doing face to face lessons too. I have multiple basses of various shapes and sizes and scale length but my most recent and favourite bass is my little Ibanez Mikro.

    During the lockdowns I suffered from depression and pretty much gave up doing anything, recently I’ve had my childhood ADHD diagnosis confirmed as an adult and I have been starting medication for it which has kick started my bass playing again.

    I instinctively picked up my Mikro and started playing that, however due to the medication I was on at the time being too strong I became obsessed with making her perfect so began the upgrade journey.

    So at first I wanted a higher tension string so was recommended D’addario Chromes from the local music store as thats what they had in stock, stuck those on and I was in love the best strings I’d ever played on, they felt tight but the smooth finish made them so nice to play. It was like going from an itchy woolly jumper to a silk shirt.

    Then I noticed intonation was a bit of a challenge especially on the A string, so I modded the stock B10 bridge with shorter screws which worked well, however as I would later discover the B10 has a habit of lowering itself which annoyed the hell out of me as I would have the action perfect but then it would lower itself.

    I also noticed that because as a noob I play hard the tuning would often slip slightly flat so I wanted to get better tuners to fix that.

    I also noticed when plugged into my laptop for Rocksmith I would get awful electrical buzzing, so I wanted to fix that too.

    So for the upgrades, I ordered a Gotoh 203-b4 bridge as it had the screw through barrel saddles like my child’s Jackson Minion, I ordered Gotoh GB707 tuners as they were a direct drop in for the standard Ibanez tuners, and I got some copper tape for the shielding.

    The tuners and bridge were coming from Germany so took a little while but the tape was from Amazon so I got to work shielding the cavities which is where the first of a few noob screwups happened. Lined the cavities but bass was still buzzing then realised the cavities needed to be grounded together, so I used some spare pick guard screws which are tiny and screwed in a ground wire into each cavity but when I did the control cavity I thought I was screwing into a thick piece of wood but the tiny screw poked through the front of the bass. I was gutted I put a hole in my baby but I coloured a tooth pick with sharpie and blended it in with the natural wood finish of the bass so it just looked like a natural wood imperfection. That being said after all this the electrical buzzing had all but gone so first upgrade worked well.

    The bridge and tuners then arrived from Germany and I promptly got to installing those, the Gotoh 203b4 is pretty much a drop in for the B10 the top 2 screws line up perfectly the bottom 5 a couple of the original holes sort of line up the screws go in crooked then straighten up as they get tighter, and a couple had to be made so I just used the self tapping screws that came with the bridge rather than drilling.

    The GB707 Tuners were again a drop in with some caveats, the bolt that holds them in could fit into the holes from behind but from the front the black paint of the headstock fouled the holes slightly, however some gentle persuasion from a mallet sorted this out. This is where my next mistake occurred, I accidentally overtightened one of the tuners when installing it and snapped the thread, thankfully Thomann customer services are amazing and shipped me out a full replacement set for free. So for a little while I had 3 Gotoh’s and one Ibanez tuner installed.

    Now I wasn’t planning on replacing the pickups so early but Amazon had the EMG GZR PJ last one in stock so I just bit the bullet and got them now, those were a straight drop in too no modding of the stock pickup holes that other members talked about. These sound incredible.

    So whilst waiting for the replacement tuners to arrive I noticed the Chromes I had installed were looking worse for wear for being installed and removed so many times, all the blue silk was fraying and looking fuzzy. I had luckily managed to get a short scale set of the Labella Jamersons, which I assumed would be even better than the already decent Chromes for drop tuning for some of the songs on Rocksmith that needed it, well this was a mistake!

    The replacement tuners arrived so I installed them, and then it was time to put the finishing touches on my baby. I strung the Jamersons which because of the bridge string holes being lower than the B10 and the thickness of the .110 E string ended up making a little mark on the bass, I got the action nice and low and she was playing and sounding well, however I was getting some issues with fretting from 7th upwards as Rocksmith sometimes wouldn’t recognise the notes.
    Well here is where my biggest mistake happened, I checked the neck relief and noticed it was bowing slightly more than I wanted and I thought I could get it perfect with a little truss rod tighten, so I slack the strings tighten the rod a 1/4 turn then tune to pitch but nothing had changed, so I repeated this, again nothing had changed, I try again CRACK! Truss rod snaps my baby was a complete write off, devastated!

    Now luckily I always get some Xmas money off my mother in law and with some convincing of the wife I had another brand new Ibanez Mikro in my hands within a day, I moved all the upgrades over and this time stuck with the tried and tested Chromes and my god she looks sounds and plays amazingly well. Final upgrade was some Jim Dunlop strap locks as the bottom strap button on the new Mikro was looser than I’d like and I couldn’t tighten it up more.

    So my old Mikro is sitting in the loft and I may have found a replacement neck for her, but just waiting for the wife to calm down before I spunk more money at her.

    People may question my sanity spending so much money on such a cheap bass, why didn’t I just buy an expensive one to begin with. Well for me there are 3 reasons.

    1: I love the feel of the Mikro the 28.6” scale is amazing, and I cant stretch my fingers very well for some reason, my 11 year old can do the frets 1-4 stretch easier than I can. My Rocksmith scores are better when I play the Mikro and I am developing a muscle memory quicker with the Mikro than I did with any other bass. The Mikro is also one of the only ones with this extra short scale length.

    2: I don’t ever intend on selling this bass, she is mine and there wont be another one exactly the same. I enjoyed the hours of research I put into the upgrades and I enjoyed the installation and learning experience, and for me I love a good tinker with something to make it better and the satisfaction when I improve something. It’s kinda like when someone buys a cheap car then does it up, yeah they could’ve just purchased a more expensive and maybe better car but it would just be another car and not their own custom car.

    3: It’s kinda like buying something on instalments, I now have an amazing playing and sounding bass but was able to spread the cost by changing parts at different times, rather than just dropping £500 or more on a bass in one go.

    Sorry for the long thread, its been a long ole ride getting my baby where she is now. Any questions on the upgrades feel free to ask, just don’t expect me to record any samples because I am not good enough at playing to do her any justice yet.

    AC2725B2-FF36-4487-AC1A-752BA2BAE410.jpeg
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2021
  2. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Let this be a learning experience for others. If unsure, ask...we're here to help. I'm this close to performing a post mortem on the project but will refrain.

    Riis
     
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  3. Stuey3D

    Stuey3D

    Nov 23, 2021
    T’was a learning experience, needless to say when Mk2 arrived I was able to carry out the upgrades within a couple of hours with no issues at all. Although that being said I didn’t use the Jamersons on Mk2 they really do live up to their reputation of being suspension bridge cables.
     
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  4. Arie X

    Arie X

    Oct 19, 2015
    very nice! glad you built the bass to your spec.

    i do a fair amount of Mikro mods as well:

    mkjb.jpg

    if you ever want a j-bass sound out of a Mikro it can be done:

    -Fender Pure Vintage 74's.
    -2 vol's 1 tone.
    -full copper shielding.
    -top mount open jack.
    -new pickguard.
    -stock everything else.


    Mikros do have their quirks: useless shielding, tuning instability, and often the truss rods bottom out leaving not enough adjustability.
     
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  5. Stuey3D

    Stuey3D

    Nov 23, 2021
    Nice, luckily all my mods were done without woodworking because if I’d have needed to cut/file/route something that would be the limit for me.

    It is cool to see what can be done with these little beasts. I also realise how spoilt I am by the Mikro as last night I rebuilt Black Betty my Satin Black full size P bass clone and when I tried to play her my god it was painful. The Mikro being so much more comfortable and so much more compact begs me to play her and I think thats part of the reason why I started playing bass again after getting my ADHD sorted.
     
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  6. Stuey3D

    Stuey3D

    Nov 23, 2021
    Last mod I am waiting to do to her right now is to change the knobs. Those black knobs are a bit wobbly and I have to have them raised a tiny bit to get them to spin nicely without getting stuck, however you can see a tiny bit of the silver pot/washer underneath which is a little annoying.

    Plus those EMG’s have a huge variety of tones available to them depending on combination of volumes and tone controls so I’ve ordered some Gibson style numbered knobs which are black with white numbers and some nickel pointer washers that way when I do start to experiment with tones more rather than just playing Rocksmith I can refer back to my settings using the numbered knobs.

    So far from just playing around the EMG’s have the following tonal characteristics:

    P full J off = Lots of low end and mid range and the P bass growl, but not a huge amount of treble.

    J Full P off = Lots of mids and highs but not much bass

    Both Full = a mid scooped sound, lots of bass and treble but mid range sounds scooped.

    Not really played with the tone pot much or any of the in between settings as Rocksmith just prefers all knobs at full, but just messing about with my headphone amps I can get some cool tones.
     
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  7. Stuey3D

    Stuey3D

    Nov 23, 2021
    Oh for any other Mikro owner looking to change the pickups I have noticed something. A few members on this forum have stated that the Jazz pickup is smaller than a regular Jazz pickup replacement, one member stated he had to seek the Short Jazz version of the EMG GZR PJ’s and still had to mod his J pickup cavity to get it to fit, which is why I was going to hold off upgrading the pickups.

    However when I measured the cavity on mine it was plenty big enough and I proceeded to order the EMG’s and not only did they drop in they actually have a tiny bit of room as well so they aren’t just wedged in.

    From doing research prior to purchasing the Mikro in the first place it appears the standard GSRM20 which is the variant with the silver hardware is the prominent version in the USA and the one available in lots of colours. Us over in Europe are stuck with only the GSRM20B which is the variant with black hardware and only available in Walnut Flat and Weathered black, Thomann does have a couple of the standard GSRM20’s in other colours but they are the exception.

    Doing some digging the GSRM20 models appear to be made in Indonesia from slightly different materials, and the GSRM20B is made in China. Now both of the GSRM20B’s that I have didn’t need the cavities altered to fit the EMG’s they just dropped straight in.

    I am wondering if this could be why some members can do what I’ve done and drop new pickups straight in and other members have to mod the cavities or order smaller Jazz pickups to get them to fit.

    its only a guess but it seems the most logical reason.
     
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  8. deepender

    deepender

    Jan 7, 2014
    Maryland
    Nice.
    Good to have you on board.
     
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  9. Stuey3D

    Stuey3D

    Nov 23, 2021
    As you can see from the screenshots the GSRM20B is made from Okoume and has a Purpleheart fretboard & the standard GSRM20 is made from Poplar with a Jatoba fretboard, now if the wood is different and they are made in different factories its probably quite likely the pickups may be different which results in different cavity sizes. 5C271CD4-A5D8-4F1E-85FE-2E69AE0A5DEF.png 0B96F435-1A7B-490B-9294-4051CDE39DAF.png
     
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  10. Greenstreet

    Greenstreet

    Aug 31, 2017

    Hmm- looks like they've made some changes exclusive to the "B" models- back to Okoume body, Purple Heart fingerboard instead of Jatoba, and a bound fretboard.

    From the pictures, it looks like they switched the Walnut stain to a warmer color and went with a higher gloss on the poly. The fingerboard also looks dyed.

    I'm surprised 'Carrots didn't sound the alarm on that one...

    .

    .
     
  11. Stuey3D

    Stuey3D

    Nov 23, 2021
    To be honest I never noticed it was a bound fretboard as a noob when I picture binding I imagine that white plastic rim around the Les Paul’s.

    However upon further inspection it is indeed a bound fretboard, on my other basses you can see the lines where the frets enter the fretboard but on the Mikro you cant. 3B93DBFA-1D5C-4855-987B-822334904716.jpeg
     
  12. Arie X

    Arie X

    Oct 19, 2015
    would be cool to have bound fb's in the states although that seems to be the darkest purpleheart i've seen -if it is actually ph at the Mikro's pricepoint.
     
  13. Stuey3D

    Stuey3D

    Nov 23, 2021
    Well I’m not sure about the States but over here in the UK we have a Trading Standards department and the Trades Description Act 1968 which states that manufacturers are not allowed to mislead consumers, so if Ibanez list it as a PurpleHeart Bound Fretboard on their site it has to be exactly as advertised or they can be taken to court for false advertising.

    Now as for the quality of the PurpleHeart I dunno, to be honest I have no clue about tone woods and the various tonal characteristics of various materials, all I know is that I love the way the Mikro feels, plays, and sounds so I am happy with it. Now a professional musician might take one look and laugh at it I dunno, but for a beginner like me its perfect especially with my upgrades.
     
  14. Stuey3D

    Stuey3D

    Nov 23, 2021
    Purpleheart | The Wood Database - Lumber Identification (Hardwood)
    Looking at this website I would say it is PurpleHeart as to my eye it looks very similar in colour to the samples in the boxes. Also in my photo it might appear darker as I’d just gone over it with an Ernie Ball Fret Wipe, which I think is just a citrus oil wipe as it smells proper nice when you use it.
     
  15. Stuey3D

    Stuey3D

    Nov 23, 2021
    Although that being said I’ve just checked it mine still looks quite dark in comparison to that website, but when I got it before I oiled it it was a lot lighter and more a reddish brown colour.
     
  16. Stuey3D

    Stuey3D

    Nov 23, 2021
    DAMN! Why are EMG solid shaft pots so difficult to buy decent knobs for, really wanted some black numbered speed knobs for them, got the USA spec ones so they would be bigger but still didn’t fit. Tried modding them with a drill and then managed to get one stuck which then broke the EMG pot.

    So now got another EMG pot on order and will try some Witch Hats with a set screw instead.

    The most annoying thing is those knobs I had in the picture felt like quality knobs nice and heavy but I couldn’t get them to spin smooth and I had to raise them a tiny bit which then exposed the silver of the pot and washer underneath and it did my head in which has prompted my search for replacements.
     
  17. Stuey3D

    Stuey3D

    Nov 23, 2021
    BC6C1733-056A-4059-9B5D-645A41195A80.jpeg
    And she is complete! Finally!

    The witch hat knobs were not my first choice but I really wanted numbered knobs and actually these look much better than I expected so well happy with them.

    Not happy with the slight dents around the P volume knob as that was where I got a knob stuck and it needed pulling off with some force which destroyed the pot underneath, but they are only slight marks so in the end not the end of the world.
     
  18. Brett Giesey

    Brett Giesey

    Apr 15, 2020
    Any interest in selling the body?
     
  19. Stuey3D

    Stuey3D

    Nov 23, 2021
    I have managed to source a replacement neck for her now, found an old forum classified on another forum and dude still had the neck. Just waiting to send him the cash for it. I already have a spare Geezer Butler P pickup ready to install so my plan is to repair her up to a P bass and just stick a Jazz pickup in for show as I don’t wanna spend more money grabbing another EMG Jazz pickup and then I’m gonna find some 5 string flats and have her as a BEAD bass.
     
  20. Greenstreet

    Greenstreet

    Aug 31, 2017

    There are a few good ways to remove knobs without damaging the wood.

    Some use a piece of string (or dental floss) wrapped around the post under the knob skirt to pull the knob off.

    I usually just use a spoon.

    Place something like a plastic "store rewards" card, expired credit card, library card, whatever, on the instrument's surface, then use a spoon as a lever to pry the knob off.

    I've also used a table knife in the same way, just put the tip of the blade on the card, then slide the heel of the blade under the knob skirt and lift the knife handle.

    In cases where the friction fit is not overly tight, you can usually just slide the card under the knob and give it a little twist. The knob should come right off.

    Go ahead and take the knob back off, place a damp cloth over the dents, and go over it with a hot clothing iron. Repeat if needed.
    The steam will expand the compressed wood fibers, it will lift the dents, and it'll look as good as new.

    Pop goes the weasel.

    .
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2021
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