There are a lot of bass guitars out in the market today which all have an impressive range of features, selection of woods and electronics.
But, what really appeals to one person might not be as appealing to another, you could go for 4, 5 or 6 strings, active EQ or passive, fretless and acoustic. The options are unlimited, it simply boils down to personal choice and the music you love to play.
Who makes the best bass guitar?
Quality Of The Neck
The neck is probably the most important piece when it comes to comfort and playability. It needs to be tough enough to handle high string tension and thin enough to navigate quickly.
Along with the standard Maple and Rosewood options, there are a lot more fretboard materials to choose from which are more sustainably resourced and sound equally as good.2 of 6
The types of wood play a role in warmth and brightness, most electric bass guitars are solid but you also get hollow body options too. The shape and design also affects comfort, and of course some body woods can be very heavy or very light in weight.
The higher end the bass guitar, the more advanced the pickups will be. Some will be passive for a more vintage tone, others will be active which produces a lot of clarity and punch. The choice is a personal one depending on your taste in music.
Control Knobs and Active EQ
There are a lot of configuration options in all budget ranges, from simple control knobs to multi way EQ. Vintage style bass guitars tend to keep things simple whereas high end active EQ’s might have a lot going on.
All the attached parts which support the strings like tuner pegs and bridge. The higher end models will be a lot stronger and add to the overall quality of sound each instrument is capable of producing.
Arguably, one of the best bass guitars of all time is the Fender Precision (P Bass) with decades worth of development and used by many famous artists.
Leo Fender was the first person to popularize the electric bass in the 1950’s, and it hasn’t changed much since then.
Other legendary brands include Rickenbacker, Musicman, Gibson and Fodera. A lot of these flagship models sell for $10k upwards, which is just insane!
I could sell my car 4 times and still not afford one of these bass guitars. (Don’t judge me, my cheap car is awesome)
This roundup is focused on the most accessible models that most of us can afford (or save for).
Of course, if you win the lottery or have deep pockets, there are plenty of gold-plated models to choose from!
To get started, here is a quick list of some of my favorites which all have great feedback from bass players across forums and the internet.
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The top 10 Best Bass Guitars Reviewed
Thank the gods of mass production and advanced manufacturing, a lot of entry level bass guitars are very well made despite having cheaper hardware and electronics.
The main feature of any beginner bass guitar is how it feels to play, and thankfully you don’t have to spend much to get something feels good under the fingers, and doesn’t sound bad either.
Yamaha TRBX304 4 String Bass Guitar
Yamaha are on point at the moment in terms of creating high quality, affordable instruments.
The TRBX304 is not the cheapest beginner model but for the price, has a lot of higher end features you’d only expect to see on more expensive bass guitars.
The most impressive components include the 5 piece laminate neck, soap bar humbucker pickups and a 2 way active EQ with presets for different techniques ready to go at the flick of a switch.
Overall, the TRBX304 one of the best bass guitars for beginners who are looking for a long term investment which is packed with features.
Ibanez GSR200SM 4 String Bass Guitar
The GSR200 series is one of the best selling beginner bass guitars, the SM variety adds in a stunning high gloss wood grain finish.
Taking into account the large number of positive reviews from beginners everywhere and the affordable price tag, this bass guitar certainly deserves recognition.
The neck is a full scale length of 34” and is slightly thicker than what you may find on other models, but nothing to crazy or difficult to get used to.
The build quality is decent, the PJ pickups do a pretty good job and the Phat II bass boost EQ is a nice touch too.
Squier Affinity PJ Bass Pack with Amp
Fender are industry giants with a bass for every occasion. If you’re just getting started, a bass guitar starter kit which also includes a practice amp is a great way to maximize your budget.
The bass guitar included is their precision jazz model, nice and simple in design and solid build quality.
The Rumble amp is perfect for solo practice, and you also get the cables and bags needed to get going.
The whole kit will last a long time if well maintained and even if you upgrade some parts later, having a small practice amp around the house is certainly handy.
The High End Range
When it comes to the high end, the best bass guitars in this range have more exotic tone wood combinations, laminated/innovative necks, advanced pickups and electronics, and more of a hands-on production team (rather than relying on machinery).
Aside from refined construction, the electronics and overall components all ooze quality.
Below are a few examples of a few bass guitars which come in at the higher end of the price spectrum.
Yamaha BBP34 4 String Bass Guitar
The BB is an iconic masterpiece having found its way into the hands of some of the top bass players like Nathan East from Fourplay.
The Yamaha BBP34 is the more affordable version of the high end flagship models, but performs exceptionally well on all fronts.
The body and neck are laminated woods and the pickups are top end passive precision jazz models.
It takes years for an instrument to settle into its final tones, however, the Yamaha’s I.R.A. (Initial Response Acceleration) process finishes off the construction for a completed finish.
Fender American Professional Jazz Bass
One of Fender’s flagship models at a premium price. The original Jazz bass goes back several decades as one of the oldest designs in Fender’s lineup.
As you’d expect, Fender does a superb job of crafting all their models but their professional series is on another level all together in terms of finishing touches.
As with all their Jazz bass variations, it’s modeled on the original vintage Jazz Bass, but modernized with all the latest technology including all new hardware and pickups.
The neck is skinny, fast and silky smooth, including a few interesting innovations like the Posiflex graphite support rods for extra strength and tuning stability.
The Mid to High End Range
Even though these models are aimed to be more affordable, a lot of innovation goes into the manufacturing process to include better hardware, electronics, pickups and construction.
There is no shortage of quality in both playability with comfortable body and neck shaping, and the overall tone with some models having elaborate active EQs.
Here are few examples of bass guitars which come in at the mid to higher budget range, and include some impressive features.
Fender 50's Precision Bass
Where does one begin when it comes to describing the all time heavyweight champion?
The precision bass gets in name from the metal frets installed along the neck. Before Fender, bass players only had one option and that was to carry around a massive double bass.
This may not be the original American made vintage bass from the actual 1950’s but it’s the modern Mexican equivalent which follows the same design including vintage styled tuners, truss rod and pickups.
Every year, the prices keep going up so it’s never been a better time to nab one of these.
G&L Tribute L2000 Electric Bass Guitar
A bit of a hidden gem which isn’t as popular as a lot of other main brand manufacturers.
The original vintage G&L L2000 is another one of Leo Fender’s ingenious creations which he developed several decades ago.
The G&L Tribute L2000 is the more affordable copy of that original vintage classic but equally as awesome which uses the same American made humbucker pickups.
In terms of sound, this bass has just about all the combinations you could ever need via 3 control knobs and 3 switches.
Active to passive switch, parallel to series switch, the list goes on!
Ibanez SR500 Soundgear
The SR500 is absolutely packed to the brim with features, it’s one impressive beast of a bass guitar and not for a crazy amount of money either.
The mahogany body is sculpted like a piece of artwork, the 5-piece composite neck is skinny, fast and super strong.
The Bartonlini pickups and 3-band EQ do a great job of transforming your EQ with a full range of frequency controls to dial in different sound flavors to compliment different techniques.
Overall, there are a ton of positive reviews from bass players worldwide, definitely one for the list.
The Middle End Range
There are a lot of hidden gems in this range which deliver a fantastic sound and feel just as polished to play.
Manufacturers have found newer and cheaper ways to produce instruments of high quality at a larger scale, while also adding in a load of innovation too.
Here are a few examples of bass guitars which come in at a mid range budget.
ESP LTD B-204SM 4 String Bass Guitar
Aside from being one of the most eye catching models out there, the ESP LTD B-200 series is another great example of an affordable, high spec feature-filled bass guitar.
ESP’s pickups and 3 band active EQ are an impressive punch generating combination, the fast and thin neck with contoured slim profile body makes for easy playability too.
The sound profile is designed for the hard hitting music fans looking for high driving active tones, and it comes in a variety of styles including fretless and 5/6 string variants.
It’s definitely a bass guitar worth checking out further.
Schecter Guitar Research Stiletto Extreme-4 Bass
What could be better than a jaw dropping gorgeous wood grain finish, great built quality overlapping with high end electronics?
Schecter seems to be doing something right in all departments.
The hardware and wood components are great quality and make for easy playability.
The humbucking pickups and 2-band EQ are equally as impressive especially for dialing in heavier and punchier tones.
Considering the budget range, this is a lot of bass guitar for the money.
Hofner Ignition Series Vintage Violin Bass
Dubbed the Beatles bass after Paul McCartney brought Hofner into the spotlight, the Ignition series is the much more affordable version.
This is one of the only models in this review roundup to feature a hollow body jazz violin shape, which by design gives off that iconic vintage tone.
The downside to hollow bodies is a much shorter string resonance, which means you won’t get a super long sustain from every note played.
The whole pickup and EQ configuration is unlike any other model, but you have to give credit where it’s due and this is somewhat of a masterpiece.
The Highly Affordable Range
Some of the best bass guitar manufacturers out there also include more budget friendly versions which actually do so well in both sound and playability, it’s becoming harder to tell them apart.
Where a lot of the budget is saved is in the cheaper electronics, pickups and hardware but as far as the woods and construction goes, these cheaper bass guitars are amazingly put together.
This is especially useful for beginners looking to get their first bass guitar on a budget, while also potentially having options to upgrade a few parts later down the line.
Here are a few examples of bass guitars which come in at the affordable budget range, and which deliver incredible value for money.
Sterling by Music Man S.U.B. StingRay Bass
The original Ernie Ball Stingray is a classic 70’s icon in it’s own right and has been adopted by loads of bass playing legends over several decades.
The Sterling version not massively far off in terms of build and sound quality and is super affordable too.
As per the original design, this model includes a single large 8 pole humbucking pickup and active preamp which do an awesome job of reproducing that classic StingRay tone.
The basswood body, maple neck and hardware punch above their weight in quality, you’d be hard pressed to find something wrong with this bass.
Squier Affinity Jazz Bass
Fender has a knack for affordable bass guitars which sound good and feel great to play.
Why pay a premium for a J Bass when you can get a Squier for peanuts?
The overall body, neck and hardware are all decent quality, the neck is easy to get along with in shape and feel, and the sound quality is not bad either.
Aside from a lot of positive feedback from players everywhere, these bass guitars also make for easy upgrade projects on pickups and hardware. The options are endless.
Gretsch Guitars G2220 Electromatic Junior Jet Bass
Another interesting bass guitar which doesn’t cost the earth, the G2220 shortscale junior jet is somewhat unique in design compared to other models.
The two passive mini humbuckers deliver bags of growl and a warm low end punch, the neck is comfortable to glide around with easy access to frets in all directions.
Even if you’re already accustomed to longer neck lengths, the shortscale size almost feels like you’re cheating.
If you have shorter arms or smaller hands, you’ll find the G2220 really easy to get along with.
The Cheap Bass Guitar Range
You may think that any bass guitar which falls under the ‘super affordable’ end of the scale wouldn’t have much to offer. But, in reality the woods are all straight, the necks are easy to handle and they sound like bass guitars.
While there may have a few rough edges, cheaper hardware and pickups, these are all easy parts to upgrade. The Fender Bronco, for example, has become somewhat of a cult classic with bass players who have modded them.
Here are a few examples of some ultra ‘value for money’ bass guitars .
Ibanez GSRM20 Mikro Shortscale Bass Guitar
If you’re after a compact and easy to play bass guitar on a super affordable budget, the Ibanez GSRM20 is a great option.
The shortscale neck comes in at 28.60″ which is a lot of fun to play and is especially easy for younger bassists to start with.
There’s nothing fancy about the components, the body woods are on the softer side and will require a bit of care and attention to avoid any damage.
But, considering how affordable it is and the feedback from bass players who own one, it’s certainly worth checking out further.
Yamaha TRBX174 Electric Bass Guitar
Part of the TRBX series, the 174 is an affordable alternative to the Yamaha TRBX304 which has a lot of additional electronics and features.
The alder body is a lot stronger than some of the Agathis tonewood models you find in this price range, making for a good foundation to add some upgraded electronics later.
The overall combination with the 34″ fullscale maple neck makes for a decent platform which will last a long time.
All in all, really quite an awesome bass considering the budget range.
Squier Affinity Series Bronco Bass Guitar
Aimed at beginners but guitarists love the 30″ shortscale length too, it’s a Fender at the low budget range which plays nicely under the fingers and doesn’t sound bad either.
The Bronco has formed a bit of a cult following with bass players who have modified different components to make it really stand out in both looks and sound.
There is nothing magical about the factory installed electronics or woods, but it’s rock solid and keeps it’s tuning remarkably well.
Overall, it’s a comfortable and capable little bass guitar which is a lot of fun to play.
If more strings are what you’re after, there are manufacturers who produce variants of their normal 4 string models with 5 string alternatives.
Adding in the additional string adds a lot more tension to the neck and body, which is why some bass guitars will feature a 6 bolt construction, rather than the standard 4 bolt, or they will design the neck to go through the body as a single one-piece construction.
Here are a few examples of some interesting 5 string bass guitars which are highly revered by bass players across the web.
ESP LTD F-415FM 5-String Electric Bass Guitar
If Batman owns a bass guitar, I’m pretty sure it’s the ESP LTD F-415FM.
The design is unlike anything else out there with sharp contoured body topped off with a see-through black coating.
The rest of the features don’t disappoint either, including a 5-piece composite neck through body design which eliminates any possible movement, EMG pickups and 3 band active EQ.
You’ll need to buy the protective hard case separately if you plan on transporting this to gigs (and back to the bat cave).
Schecter Guitar Research Stiletto Custom-5 Bass
Another work of art from the Schecter team with a ton of quality ingrained throughout.
It’s beautiful to look at with a mahogany body and figured maple top (available in both satin natural and vampire red color schemes)
The longer 35″ neck is easy to play on and well designed to be as strong as possible through laminate construction, securely joined to the body with 6 bolts.
All the hardware is solid too, including a S-TEK bridge, higher end tuners and knobs.
The EMG pickups and 12db active EQ deliver a modern, high driving sound profile, especially useful for heavier music styles.
Most 6 string bass guitars come with a premium price tag as there is quite a lot involved in constructing a strong neck and body, while also adding in high end hardware to ensure the needed strength is there to handle the extra tension.
Especially suited to bass players who are looking to master chords and solos, adding a 6 string to your collection is both an epic challenge and equally, something that really stands out when on stage.
Here is one example which gets amazing feedback from bass players.
ESP LTD B-206SM 6-String Bass Guitar
The B-206SM is not only impressive in features and design, but is also highly affordable.
Similar to the 4 string model of the same range, you get a lot of decent components including ESP pickups and 3 way active EQ which deliver a modern, punchy sound.
The ash body with spalted maple top really stands out in both looks and tonality, and there is enough cutaway access to reach the higher frets for epic 6 string solos.
The neck is on the longer 35″ scale and much wider than your average 4 and 5 string models to fit the extra strings, but experienced bass players would find it easy enough to adapt.
Best Fretless Bass Guitar
Another challenging instrument which bass players aspire to master are Fretless bass guitars. The concept is simple, manufacturers remove the metal strips found on the fretboard, which in turn requires a lot more precision from the player to hit notes and slide into position.
Here are just a handful of options in both the higher and lower budget ranges which garner positive feedback from bass players.
Fender Tony Franklin Fretless Precision Bass Guitar
One of Fender’s signature models which does come with a larger price tag, but delivers ultra punchy fretless tones.
The ebony fingerboard really stands out with a raw, one-piece construction but you do have side markers along the neck to navigate from.
The PJ style pickups are do an amazing job of replicating Tony’s classic punchy growl sound. Instead of pickup control knobs, you have a classic selector switch which matches the original Tony Franklin design.
Overall, every aspect to this bass guitar is completed to Fender’s top tier standards which is probably why it comes at a much higher price point.
Ibanez SRH500F Fretless Bass Guitar
The SRF500F is a unique fretless bass guitar in looks and body design.
The 55mm thick semi-hollow body provides a mix of double bass acoustic sound profiles which works in tandem with the passive piezo pickup and active EQ for a contemporary, rich tone combination.
The pickup can be fine tuned to each string with individual gain pots to adjust the volume and balance of each string.
The overall body shape is contoured in all the right places with a rounded top to fit your plucking arm. The neck is easy to move around on with a Panga Panga fretboard which also includes fret markings for easy navigation.
Acoustic bass guitars are not nearly as popular as their electric bass counterparts but they do add another unique sound perspective for the performing bass player to experiment with.
Even if your intention is to never use one live, having an acoustic knocking about the house for unplugged practice or to record with can be a lot of fun.
In this category, you’re able to find models both in both the ‘ultra affordable’ range to the higher spec models with better components, depending on what you have planned.
Here are a few examples of acoustic bass guitars which bass players have recommended.
Ibanez PCBE12 Acoustic-Electric Bass Guitar
At the most affordable budget range, the Ibanez PCBE12 is a pretty solid entry level acoustic bass guitar for the occasional practice or unplugged jam session.
At this price range, you’d expect the electronics to be sub par, and a cheaper overall choice in hardware and components.
But, the body and neck are solid enough with room to upgrade components later if you fancy a project. The factory pickup and EQ sound pretty good when combined with a decent microphone.
It plays well enough under the fingers, but is quite large in shape.
Ovation Elite TX Acoustic-Electric Bass Guitar
Ovation are a premium acoustic guitar manufacturer with a completely different approach to design.
For example, a unique multi-sound hole configuration and contoured rounded-back body shape built for comfort.
The maple neck is also fast and easy to play with cutaway access on the body to reach higher frets.
The pickup is a higher spec OCP-1K model which combines with their OP-PRO preamp with loads of features to adjust gain, built-in tuner and 3-band EQ.
Overall, it’s a high caliber acoustic bass guitar which comes in at an affordable mid level budget.
When my brother started out playing electric guitar, he didn’t realize at the time that he could get one to fit his left handed orientation.
Like a lot of other bass players out there, he ended up learning to play a right hand model and has stuck with it ever since.
But, you don’t have to learn the hard way especially as almost all the popular right hand models also come in a left handed orientation.
Here are a few to look at which resonate highly among bass players.
Schecter Stiletto Studio-5 Left-Handed Bass Guitar
At the premium end of the budget range, Schecter’s 5 string bass guitars have accrued a ton of positive feedback across the bass community and forums.
Aside from the ridiculously beautiful wood grain finish, these tone monsters are packed with high quality electronics and hardware components including EMG pickups and a 3 way active EQ.
The body includes a neck through construction which eliminates any movement and a 35″ scale length to develop as much sustain and strength as possible.
More exotic wood choices do unfortunately pack on quite a bit of weight. It’s not a deal breaker, but worth bearing in mind.
Ibanez GSR200BL Left-Handed Electric Bass Guitar
One of the most popular and budget friendly left handed bass guitars is the Ibanez GSR200.
Available in both right and left handed orientations, the overall quality is decent, the neck is comfortable and easy to get along with and it doesn’t sound too bad either.
As with similar Ibanez GSR200 series bass guitars, this model includes passive PJ pickups and ‘bass boost’ EQ which do a great job, but are definitely not the most impressive quality.
The good news is that standard dimension PJ pickups are easy to swap out, you could turn this cheap bass guitar into something quite special if you’d fancied a project further down the line.
Fender Player Precision Bass Guitar
The absolute classic Fender Precision which needs little introduction.
The player series is their more affordable adaption of the professional series which features high end hardware and electronics in both right and left hand orientations.
The ‘one player’ split coil pickup delivers that iconic, vintage growl with only two tone controllers to worry about (master tone and volume).
Even though the American made model gets a lot of attention, the feedback from bass players all over the world for this Mexican masterpiece speaks for itself.
What makes a good bass guitar?
Irrespective of budget, if you have a well built body, easy to navigate neck and half decent hardware, you’re already off to a good start. Pickups and electronics are easy enough to swap out, but having a bass guitar that plays well under your fingers is a good first step.
More expensive models not only include better quality raw materials but the overall hands-on finishing touches, upgraded electronics and hardware go a long way to getting a tone which stands out.
The standards are so high today that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get something good. Beginner bass guitars have come a long way over the years in terms of solid build quality and comfort, the step up to a mid range or professional bass guitar just takes those qualities to the next level.
Bass Guitar Woods
The various types of woods play a role in determining warmth and brightness. For example, mahogany resonates differently to alder, you get a warmer sound from one and a brighter sound from the other.
There are also a wide range of woods used for creating necks and fretboards. For example, maple is bright and punchy where rosewood is warmer. Necks made from multiple layers of wood (composite or laminated) adds strength, which is especially useful if you want a microscopically thin and fast neck to shred on.
You also have weight to consider. Some of the exotic hardwoods are super heavy which sucks when you have to play long gigs. Personally, I prefer to have a lightweight bass guitar over heavier models.
Ultimately, there are no right or wrong answers, it’s all personal preference. Something light and strong? More bright than warm? The choice is yours.
Which Bass guitar to buy?
The most popular beginner bass guitars are usually a 4 string but there is an advantage to having a 5 string bass for more low end which suits certain music genres. 6 string bass guitars are also a great challenge for solo ninjas.
The string spacing on different models can also affect certain techniques. Thinner necks are easier to fret but are harder to slap if the bridge spacing is too narrow. It’s worth bearing in mind, depending on the style of playing you want to focus on.
Again, there are no right or wrong answers. If you have a style of playing which lends better to having more strings, go for it.
What Pickups should I choose?
The most classic sounding bass guitars often have simpler passive electronics. For example, single coil pickups like the ones found on a lot of Fender bass guitars give a vintage tone with a punchy low end.
Active pickups focus the tone sent from your strings which adds clarity, punch and brightness. If you play a lot of slap bass, metal or funk, you may prefer the crispness of an active EQ.
Single coils tend to produce more hum and noise at high gain volumes, and some bass players love that. Humbuckers cancel out the noise and produce a more rounded and clean tone.
On the budget range, there are more passive single coil options to choose from than humbuckers, but you still find single coils on the higher end expensive models too.
Overall, there are no good or bad choices.
My focus as always been playability over fancy electronics, and as a lot of bass players know, most of the tone you get has a lot to do with your fingers too!
Even if you’re starting out on a smaller budget, I’ve seen cheap bass guitars modded through the roof with upgraded pickups and hardware which sound incredible. The possibilities are endless as long as you enjoy how your bass guitar feels in your hands.
With an endless array of options to choose from, it’s hard not to be impressed by all the innovative manufacturers out there.
My choice for the best bass guitar is the Fender’s ’50s precision which not only includes all the original vintage features but comes in at a really affordable price too.
There is just something magical about that classic Precision sound which draws me in.
The overwhelming positive feedback from bass players online speaks volumes, but trying to sum up a huge list into a single choice is not that easy.
All the bass guitars I’ve reviewed are the best in their own right, I’m sure you’ve already picked out your personal favorites too!
I’d love to know your thoughts. What bass guitar do you think deserves a place on this list? Which bass guitar are you most impressed by?
Let me know in the comments below!