10 Best Bass Guitars: Brands, Reviews, Recommendations

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!

Top 10 Best Bass Guitars

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FEATURES

  • One of the most classic basses ever made.
  • Great craftsmanship all around, including the worn out finish.

AR RATING 95/100

  • One of the more attractive modern designs you will find.
  • A scaling design which really adds to the comfort.
  • A different style which is somewhat unique these days.
  • Great build quality all around.
  • A truly modern classic which is still somewhat unique.
  • Great craftsmanship, fit and finish give it an edge.

AR RATING 93/100

  • One of the most straightforward basses out there.
  • Great build quality as well as choice of materials.
  • That classic Music Man design which just stays cool.
  • Build quality that punches way above its price range.
  • One of the best looking basses in this category.
  • Great tonewood and build quality for the price.

AR RATING 85/100

  • A great looking and comfortable design.
  • Build quality and craftsmanship that inspire confidence.
  • An icon that comes at a reasonable price.
  • Great build quality and overall craftsmanship.
  • Classic Fender Jazz body shape that is always in style.
  • Good tonewood for such an entry level model.

AR RATING 98/100

Fender's Precision series are without a doubt some of the most popular basses on the market. The reason for this is the fact that these guitars are just so easy to work with. Fender Road Worn '50s Precision bass allows you to experience what this legend is about, without paying a hefty premium which is mostly related to that idea.

That isn't to say that this bass isn't a force to be reckoned with. The tonewood and hardware is high quality just like you'd expect to see on a proper Fender bass. The electronics come in form of vintage Precision pickups and they do a great job at delivering a classic tone many of us have fallen in love with.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    One of the most classic basses ever made.
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    Great craftsmanship all around, including the worn out finish.
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    Great set of electronics that delivers a classic tone.
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    Overall sound which is about as authentic as they get.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    The colors could have been better.

AR RATING 95/100

Higher end Ibanez bass guitars are every bit as awesome as you would expect them to be. Sure, Ibanez is best known for their fast metal axes. However, when they apply their expertise to bass guitars, Ibanez reaches a whole new level of excellence. Ibanez SRFF805 is all the proof you could ever need to back that claim up.

This is an all ash body bass that features one of the nicest gray natural finishes on the market. The shape of the body is pretty standard for Ibanez and features great comfort and overall ergonomics. Since it is a multi scaling bass, it takes some getting used to. The electronics are Bartolini BH1s paired with a really great preamp.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    One of the more attractive modern designs you will find.
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    A scaling design which really adds to the comfort.
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    Great sound coming out of pretty awesome electronics.
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    Comfortable neck which is a blast to play.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    It takes some getting used to due to its design.

AR RATING 95/100

Even though many still see Epiphone as a brand that does budget Gibsons, they have definitely reached whole new levels of quality. So much so that their instruments are no longer sitting idly in the shadow of the Gibson. Epiphone Goth Thunderbird-IV is a good example of what we mean. It is an awesome bass inspired by their Thunderbird bodies.

What really ties this thing together is the tonewood and electronics used. Epiphone went with a mahogany body and a nice gray finish. In terms of looks, this thing is a beast. On the side of electronics we see a set of awesome Alnico Classic Plus humbuckers which pack so much heat as well as range. Sound is pretty great.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    A different style which is somewhat unique these days.
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    Great build quality all around.
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    Awesome selection of tonewood and hardware.
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    Sound that is full of power but also pretty agile.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    The body shape might need some getting used to.

AR RATING 94/100

Sterling is to Music Man what Epiphone is to Gibson and Squier to Fender. However, where as those last two brands took some time to establish themselves as brands of their own, Sterling pretty much had a head start. Sterling by Music Man RAY35-NT may be a replica of a famous Music Man model, but it is also a classic.

One main difference between this Ray and the classic Ray is the fact that this one comes with 5 strings. Tonewood and hardware are top notch, featuring great quality no matter where you look. Last but not least we have to mention the single humbucker which puts out plenty of heat all things considered. Overall, it is an awesome model.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    A truly modern classic which is still somewhat unique.
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    Great craftsmanship, fit and finish give it an edge.
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    Simple but powerful set of electronics which deliver.
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    Sound you can work with no matter what.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    Although agile, one humbucker isn't always sufficient.

AR RATING 93/100

Outside the world of acoustic guitars, Yamaha is often times considered to be an underdog. To be more specific, this applies mostly to their other stringed instruments and especially bass guitars. However, Yamaha's quality prevails once again. Yamaha BB734A may not be as popular as some other models on this list, but it delivers a lot of performance for sure

Yamaha used alder and maple combo for the body while the neck is a five piece design. That alone should let you know just how interesting this bass is. Then we have a set of active pickups which really pack a punch. Overall, this bass is getting you a lot of potential at a very reasonable price. It's pretty awesome.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    One of the most straightforward basses out there.
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    Great build quality as well as choice of materials.
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    Great hardware which ensures key retention.
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    Sound that is full of range and finesse.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    Its appearance may take some getting used to.

AR RATING 87/100

We have already mentioned Sterling on our list but we have to check them out again. This time around the model in question is a Sterling by Music Man StingRay Classic Ray 24 CA. Compared to most of its direct competition, this bass is really taking things to another level. Again, Sterling gets that from Music Man and it's great.

One of the things that sets it apart is the solid slab mahogany body. You are looking at a quality piece of tonewood which actually shows when you start playing it. The humbucker, one and only available, is a quality Alnico unit that is connected to a 2 band active preamp. The sound this package offers is quite impressive overall.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    That classic Music Man design which just stays cool.
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    Build quality that punches way above its price range.
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    Tonewood which adds lots of value to the sound.
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    A wide sonic profile with plenty of range.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    Could benefit from a proper setup.

AR RATING 87/100

Schecter and awesome looking guitars have almost become synonymous by now. This brand has built its reputation on designs which are fast and smooth both in terms of looks and performance. Schecter Stiletto Extreme-4 is one such design and it deserves all the praise it gets. As a bass guitar, it's one of the more playable models in this range.

The body features a very slim shape which makes it quite comfortable. Tonewood of choice is mahogany although Schecter went with a quilted maple top. It's easy on the eyes to say the least. Then we have Diamond Active pickups which pack a punch and have that edge many metal bass players are looking for. Overall, the whole package rocks.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    One of the best looking basses in this category.
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    Great tonewood and build quality for the price.
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    Active set of pickups which can hold their own.
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    Sound you can actually work with.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    Not exactly conservative in any way.

AR RATING 85/100

Much like Schecter, ESP is a brand that started out by delivering components rather than complete instruments. Today, ESP is one of the most respectable manufactures on the market. ESP LTD is a division tasked with producing affordable instruments just like Epiphone or Squier. ESP LTD B-204SM NS is one model made by this brand and it offers a lot.

ESP knows that looks, although not as important as performance, do matter. This bass comes with an ash body but also a spalted maple top. It's pure eye candy to say the least. Then again, the body shape is pretty comfortable and fairly light. On top of that, you got a great set of active pickups which pack a punch.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    A great looking and comfortable design.
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    Build quality and craftsmanship that inspire confidence.
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    Comes with a great set of active pickups.
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    Offers performance you can easily work with.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    Stock strings are decent but definitely not great.

AR RATING 75/100

As you can probably tell, Sterling is very well represented on this list. Believe it or not, it's purely due to how good these guitars are and not due to our bias. Sterling by Music Man StingRay Ray4 is one of the cheaper models out there but one that really shows just how good affordable basses have become these days

You are getting that Sting Ray body which we have grown to like over the years. Then there are all the other cool features usually found on these basses. This also includes the single humbucker. One of the best things about it is the fact that it's an active unit. As such, it's packing some serious heat for the money.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    An icon that comes at a reasonable price.
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    Great build quality and overall craftsmanship.
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    Good hardware including the single humbucker.
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    Great sound that is easy to work with and form.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    Not all that versatile all things considered.

AR RATING 65/100

Squier is one of those brands that started out in the shadow of a giant, only to reach their own heights. Their current lineup of guitars tends to be up there in terms of quality. Squier by Fender Affinity Jazz bass is a great take on what is essentially one of the best bass guitars ever made. It's that good.

One cool thing about these guitars is the fact that their build, craftsmanship and overall fit and finish is very close to the original model. The only aspect that is obviously lacking compared to the actual Jazz bass is the electronics. With that said, the stuff that comes on this bass is more than sufficient considering how much it costs.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    Classic Fender Jazz body shape that is always in style.
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    Good tonewood for such an entry level model.
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    Overall solid build quality, fit and finish.
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    Good sound with plenty of range to it.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    It doesn't always come set up from the factory.

Category Breakdown!

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.

Basses for Beginners

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:

Under $300

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.

Under $500

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.

Under $1000

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:

How Are We Doing 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. If you are not familiar with our site, this is in fact the same approach we used for acoustic guitars, electric guitars and ukuleles.

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.

Features
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.

The Brands

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!

Fender
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
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.

Ibanez
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
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
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.

Yamaha
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
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.

Music Man
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
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.

Rogue
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
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.

Conclusion

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!

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The appropriate research can do wonders if done properly. We are here to help you and save your time and money at the same time. In our website you will see our personal recommendations based on our knowledge and extensive research. What we base our rating using the product details and customer feedback.