When buying a bass guitar, there are so many questions to be asked and answered. Basses are very intricate instruments with a variety of options, tonal approaches, styles and nuances.
If you are wondering about how to get the best guitar money can buy, the answer would be to first and foremost know what you’re after. You need to jot down your exact taste, preferences, needs, and budget first. Only then will you be able to find the one that suits you the most.
We took the liberty of sifting through today’s market and inspecting it very, very thoroughly, to bring you the best bass guitars across just about any category you can imagine. We have summed up our thoughts, displayed the results, and hopefully piqued your attention with a string of low-end bad boys!
What Does “Best Bass Guitar” Mean?
A valid question! Even in the category of the most expensive, high-quality, exclusive instruments, there is no such thing as an objectively best product. Music is a subjective matter, and while a string of objective criteria can be drawn to separate the acceptable from plain bad, a large grey zone remains in the center, packed with instruments that work for some folks, but don’t work for others.
And then there’s another thing to add – “best” doesn’t necessarily mean “best of all basses ever made,” at least not in our book. We always prefer focusing on certain playing level such as beginner, intermediate, and pro, or on certain price ranges like under $300, under $1000, and so on. When all of this is added to the mix, the answer simply has to be divided into multiple categories.
How Are We Going To Do This Then?
It’s pretty simple, really. First and foremost, we set up that objective set of criteria we mentioned – we take out the basses that have poor quality, major flaws, too many user complaints, low value for money, bad craftsmanship, flawed electronics, and so on.
Then, we place the boundaries. We have boundaries for different skill levels, primarily beginner basses, and we have a variety of price categories going from cheap to high-end. Once the boundaries and categories are in place, we conduct separate searches and pack each of the segments with as much worthy instruments we find.
We did our best to present all the info we have in a concise manner without wasting your time. We drew tables and all the other super fun things, but we also got up close and personal with each of our favorites in separate reviews. Standard stuff, you could say.
Which Exact Criteria We Use
We didn’t want to over-expand the factors we take into consideration, and simply used the ones we – and we believe you folks as well – see as the most important. Those would be first and foremost sound quality and value for money, as well as design, build quality and features. Let’s dissect those now!
Value For Money
One of the most important criteria for us. It reflects how good is the instrument overall when compared to similarly priced items. This criteria sums up all of the factors listed below and runs them against the other fellas. As noted, we see this point as one of the crucial parts of the equation.
Sound Quality and Performance
Another one of the big factors. This point reflects how well the components of the instrument fit together and what type of sound they give when plugged in, how well it operates, how versatile it is and how players of different genres might take it in. Additionally, the performance section deals with playability and how easy the instrument is to adapt to.
Design and Build Quality
This is the part where we talk about the aesthetic side on one hand and craftsmanship on the other. We put quality build as the greater priority of the two, and like to thoroughly inspect such crucial intricacies as how well the neck was crafted, the quality of the fret job the manufacturer did, and just general crafting technique. As for the looks, we like guitars that are pretty, and we talk about how pretty the given guitar is; nothing wrong with that.
In this section, we basically list the instrument’s features such as the tonewood, electronics, the bridge, the tuners and any other notable component of the instrument. Then, we discuss what you can expect from them and how frequent similar features are in the given price range. This section is more reserved for objective remarks, while the subjective opinions and descriptions of the instrument’s exact sound are reserved for the Performance section further on up the road.
Time To Break It Down
Alright, we’ve done the basic explanation, now we figured is the right time to bring you some bass guitars! The categories we decided to present to you are Best Basses for Beginners to cover the newbies, Best Cheap Basses or Best Basses Under $300 to cover the budget-conscious folks, Best Basses Under $500 for the intermediate realm and Best Basses Under $1000 for the high-end domain. You can check out the basic rundowns and explanations below, don’t hesitate to click on individual instruments for in-depth reviews.
Basses for Beginners – A Newbie’s Dream
In this section, we dissect the basses we see as perfect fits for newbie players. This means that while we are always targeting a low price, we also take into consideration that the instrument has to be user-friendly.
When it comes to a specific price, these fellas usually line in between $150 and $300, but what makes them different from say, Best Basses Under $300 is that we took extra attention of getting instruments that are easy to play. This means that we were after slim necks, instruments that are easy to adjust, basses that give a realistic image of the potential of bass guitars in general, instruments with easy to grasp electronics and sound controls, low fret noise, and similar requirements.
Sound quality was of course a priority, but while we would for example gladly put a bass with top-notch sound yet lower playability into the Under $300 category, we would not include that puppy in the beginner club.
The main mission of the instruments located in this section is to offer the player a strong musical foundation for further development. We also see this as the most exciting category of any instrument. That feeling of buying your first instrument is one of the most special things in any musician’s life, and we try to cater to that energetic newbie spirit the best we can. The quick Top 3:
For the listed price, this Ibanez offers great sound, amazing looks, and great playability. Starting off with a 5-string bass gives you a stronger grasp of the instrument, and with the way music had become so much more bass-driven over the past years, we even thoroughly recommend it.
Being distinctive is something many people and instruments these days lack, and that is exactly the thing Jaguar brings, and we love it. The sound of this puppy is pretty darn strong and punchy. There's quite a solid chance that we would single out this fella as the best option in its price bracket.
Overall, we are looking at a solid bass with a few top-notch sides and very few actual flaws. For the listed price, we have to say that the sound is surprisingly solid and quite versatile, leaving us with no choice but to give kudos to Yamaha boys and wholeheartedly recommend that you buy this bass.
The Under $300 Price Bracket – A.K.A. The Budget Deals
This category is reserved for cheap bass guitars that give top value for money and an outstanding performance for their league. Note that these instruments are not first and foremost beginner friendly, but rather first and foremost quality-sounding. Our main goal here was to find a cheap bass that can serve you well not just in the beginner stage, but well through the intermediate period as well.
Most commonly, these are the instruments that feature budget cuts made at all the right places. They sometimes utilize a killer combo of cheap wood and quality electronic department that makes that wood really sing, or surprisingly good tonewood that still works with lower-quality pickups.
The first step of our quest here was to filter out the unacceptable models. In this budget range, it is quite easy to stumble upon poor-sounding instruments or basses with low build quality, and we made sure to detect those boys and remove them from any consideration whatsoever.
Further on up the road, we pinpointed instruments we find universally solid, along with a few basses that are a great fit only for certain genres. There are some bonafide hidden gems in this range, make sure to check all the goods out in great detail. The quick Top 3:
Organic and smooth would be the key words here. The bass we have here is very much fueled by an old-school type of natural approach to the instrument, yet backed by strong modern electronics and high-quality craftsmanship. If you enjoy a smooth bass sound and want a strong instrument, the Edge boy here will do the trick.
This is a great pick for a beginner 5-string bass. And to address that question from the beginning – should you start playing bass on a 5-string – you absolutely should. It might be a tad trickier in the beginning, but the investment is more than worth it. The LX205B will help you a lot!
A bass that can serve you well throughout intermediate stage as well, a bass you can use for live shows and in studio environment. For the listed price, we got more than we asked for and any additional complaints would be disregarding the fact that this is one cheap instrument. Good job, Ibanez people!
The Under $500 Price Bracket – Pro Instruments, Intermediate Price
Picking things up a notch, up next are products below the $500 price mark. As expected, the sonic quality has increased here, leaving us with far less basses that can be instantly discarded. This way, we are left with much more room to navigate through the sonic realm and find products that can suit a variety of personal preferences to a tee.
The main goal of this section is to find bass guitars that belong in the intermediate domain in terms of price, yet deliver a sound quality worthy of the pro league. We looked both for multi-genre versatile items, as well as basses targeted towards certain styles only such as jazz basses or metal basses.
Although a solid portion of players required more in time, there’s a decent chunk of quality and active musicians that stuck to their instruments from this period. This proves that a killer under $500 bass is sometimes all you need as a professional bassist.
What characterizes these instruments is a significant jump in terms of tonewood quality, as well as a decent boost in the quality of pickups and electronics. Even if you think that a $1000 bass is what you need, take a look around here, you never know if the perfect fella will jump up to surprise you. The quick Top 3:
You can't roar and rawk with this bass, and you probably haven't expected that perk either. But overall, that main goal – achieving the sonic quality of a $2,000 instrument in a $500 package – has been reached as close as it was physically possible. This is a beautiful and distinctive instrument with loads of unique charm.
From high quality tonewood, to powerful electronics, to cool looks, to amazing versatility – everything is really good here. We don't call many instruments exceptional, and if there was ever one to reach such status in our book – for the listed price, of course – it would be the Schecter boy here.
The beauty of an electric guitar is there are so many manufacturers, models, shapes and styles. Why? Because everyone has different tastes. So the word ‘best’ is relative to the player. For example, hand me a $350 Ibanez Roadstar and I will happily play it for hours. Give me a $2,000 Telecaster and I will probably shrug.
The Under $1000 Price Bracket– Rigs for Professionals
In this area, there’s no limits, no budget cuts, and no poor quality in any department. However, it’s still not a safe zone where every instrument is killer; not by a long shot. If you want to dive into the price range where almost every single instrument kills it, that would have to be at least $2,000+ if not $3,000+. Here, you can’t really get a low-quality bass, but you can get an instrument that realistically belongs in the under $500 in terms of overall sound quality.
Therefore, sifting and filtering was still required to make sure that we bring you genuinely professional products for less than $1,000. It wasn’t about finding a mixture of low-quality tonewood and electronics that somehow pack a decent punch, but about finding a combo of good wood, good pickups, and good electronics that deliver a GREAT performance.
What we found here is nothing short of quality stuff and basses we would personally love to play on long-term basis. These are the instruments that can serve you for the rest of your life, so although they are all top-notch, make sure to consider all the options and find the one that truly suits your needs to a tee. You can browse the goods here, feel free to visit individual reviews for more details. The quick Top 3:
For the listed price, which is typically around $800, this is one of the best deals you can find. As long as you are in need of a high quality low-end tone that is driven by strong basses, this is one of the picks you cannot go wrong with. This is pro stuff, better step your game up!
This is a pro tool and something you can consider your top-level purchase. The sound, the looks and the vibe are all there. If you are in need of a bass that's well above the level of beginner, featuring a strong sound that can cut through any mix with a distinctive low-end. Good stuff!
It has all the features any rock bassist would want, and it's capable of delivering both the old-school vibe and the more modern, crunch- and bass-driven type of groove. Note that this is pretty much a rock-only type of instrument; so if you're not a rock player, there's plenty of fish left in the sea, feel free to browse around.
Now we’d like to run through the brands and manufacturers we covered on the site. This way, you can get the basic picture of what to expect from each of the manufacturers, regardless of the price range. In total, we’re looking at around a dozen companies, some of which are definite household names. We also feature manufacturers that are well-known, but only among musicians, as well as some less-known hidden gems. Nothing is out of boundaries for us as long as the sound quality is present. Let’s dig in now!
The company that started it all! Crafted way back in the ’50s, Fender Precision Bass became the first massively-manufactured bass guitar in history. Apart from Precision models, which are still present on the market today, the company is known for their Jazz Basses. In general, Fender models are high-end stuff, they have a distinctive and versatile sound, and are able to cover a variety of genres. They also feature the most iconic design we can think of.
Squier is a subsidiary of Fender and essentially a synonym for budget-friendly version of the company’s classic instruments. Many players start off with these basses, and what we see as a great feature of every Squier is that they all offer a very solid replica of the original at a significantly lower price. Additionally, they are very reliable as they pass all the quality controls that any other high-end Fender goes through, reducing customer complaints to a minimum.
Coming from Japan, Ibanez made a name for themselves through a string of middle-priced instruments that pack a pro punch. These days, Ibanez have an array of stellar basses wielded by some of the world’s finest virtuosos, along with top-quality intermediate and beginner instruments. Versatility is often the word of the day with Ibanez folks, as a significant portion of the company’s products can tackle anything from light pop to death metal if properly adjusted. They are a solid choice and rarely a mistake to purchase.
Jackson have made a name for themselves in the world of heavy metal. Therefore, it should be no surprise whatsoever that the company’s basses are oriented towards the heavy style, although not as much as people like to make it. These instruments have a strong punch and roar to tackle the heavy rock, but they can easily be mellowed down for a journey to the world of softer genres such as blues and country. If you like a distinctive sonic punch to cut through the mix, do consider Jackson basses.
Schecter is a company we are great fans of, but also a company that often gets mislabeled as predominantly metal. From our experience, these instruments can really tackle any style you can imagine. The fact that some of the prominent metal players are wielding them doesn’t mean that the entire company is metal-oriented, but that they know how to cater to any crowd. These instruments typically have a good value for money, a prominent low end, and high durability.
These days, you can see Yamaha in every single product domain you can think of. However, disregard your thoughts of other Yamaha products and take a listen to what we have to say about the company’s basses: they’re great! Yamaha’s instrumental department is really doing a great job in making strong basses that can roll with the best of ’em. We particularly recommend checking out their products in the Under $500 domain, you can get some really killer deals there.
ESP and their metal-driven subsidiary LTD are top choices for anyone into active electronics and strong sonic punch. Often associated with rock and metal, these instruments always deliver a massive, yet quite versatile sound, something that often makes them perfect for the genres of prog metal and rock. Typically, they belong in the high-end category.
Associated with a mellow, yet strong tone, Music Man are essentially a professional’s instrument. They can tackle a variety of styles, and cover anything from vintage to modern. If you’re a fan of Fender Jazz Bass, you’ll probably love what the Music Man brings to the table.
Epiphone is to Gibson what Squier is to Fender – a subsidiary that produces budget-friendly editions of the iconic sound. Often packing an SG or Thunderbird body, these basses are more rock-driven and pack a fuzz-fueled sound with strong middles.
One of the most underrated budget-friendly companies in our opinion. If you want solid instruments at a very low price, which easily goes to $150, check the Rogue models we recommend. For a starter bass, Rogue is often a good choice. Solid wood, solid components, solid choice!
Peavey is a company known for making top-quality bass amps with plenty of power and punch. Well, their basses are a perfect supplement to those amplifiers. They frequently utilize passive electronics that makes the basses very expressive, albeit slightly less stronger. When hooked up to a strong amp, there’s nothing to stop these bad boys from bringing the house down.
What Is The Best Place To Buy a New Bass Guitar?
This is an interesting question, and there are basically two rough answers – guitar stores and the internet.
The guitar store option can be anything from massive chains like Guitar Center to your local instrument store. Internet on the other hand, means purchasing the goods through sites such as Amazon, eBay, Ali Express or any other.
While many folks tend to stress that buying instruments is something that you should exclusively do at a local store, we have to disagree a bit. We think that in order to get the best deal, you need to check both option. Yes, it is best to test the instrument out first, and you can only do that in a store. But there’s more to the whole concept than meets the eye.
So first of all, do your research online. There are so many reviews, lists, video demonstrations and other useful goods out there, and you should check those out first. Then, you can consult your local store and see which options it offers. But then, the important part – see which price is the best. The reason why we said that we disagree up there is because Amazon often tends to offer some amazing discounts your local store can’t match. If a deal is better at the store, go to the store, of course, but don’t discard the web just because of the shipping.
The shipping came a long way, and they really know how to pack and ship guitars these days, so don’t worry about it too much.
And we have steadily reached the end of our lovely journey here. What we can say at the end is to take it easy, but be thorough and active. First of all, jot down your needs, preferences, expectations and available budget. Then, check all the options out there and make sure to inspect all the options before making the big purchase.
In our humble opinion, all of these instruments are worthy of the title of the best bass guitar in the world within their niche. Thank you for sticking around, feel free to subscribe to The Guitar Files Newsletter to stay in touch and keep track of all the killer deals popping up on the market. Rock steady, roll easy!