If you play bass, you probably don’t get enough recognition.
It takes a lot of skill and out-of-the-box thinking to be a good bass player, but it also takes a quality instrument to play well.
On that note, I wanted to create a buying guide that will tell you all you need to know in order to find the best bass guitar for yourself.
Here’s the bottom line:
I want to arm you with the best information out there which you can use to make the right decision when the time comes to make a purchase.
So, let’s start things off by figuring out what makes a good bass guitar.
Buying Guide Table of Contents
When you decide it is time to get a new bass or your first bass for that matter, there are some things you need to determine beforehand.
The way a certain bass is going to fit you will largely depend on your specific needs, what you find important, and what style of playing you prefer.
Generally, there are three things you want to pay attention to:
- The number of strings
- Type of electronics
All of these are important for a number of reasons...
However, before we even get into any of that, we need to talk about your budget.
Setting a budget is a crucial step when purchasing a bass guitar, or any other instrument for that matter.
The best advice I or anyone else can give you is to buy the best model you can afford.
Reasons for this are many:
More expensive bass guitars usually hold their value for much longer, so your investment is somewhat secure.
A lot of newcomers are on the fence about putting their entire budget towards a guitar. That is completely reasonable, but here's why you should.
Even as a beginner, investing into a more expensive bass guitar will benefit you in the long run.
A good bass will be a great learning tool, but will also serve you well as you grow your skill and evolve as a bassist.
Work within the limits of your budget, but always go for the upper limit.
Much like with every other instrument, comfort is a box you need to check if you even want to think about being good on a specific bass guitar.
A bass that is comfortable will feel like an extension of your body, but one that is uncomfortable will quickly turn into a torture device.
What dictates comfort?
Body style and neck profile.
Some basses have larger bodies, which is fine for the majority of people. However, some bass players find those larger bodies too cumbersome.
The neck profile is another major factor. Depending on the size of your hands, you might want a wider or narrower neck. Thicker or thinner.
There are all kinds of profiles available, and you definitely need to find the one you are most comfortable playing.
Bass guitars are traditionally a four string instrument.
With that said, there are five string basses, six string bass, and even 12-string bass guitars.
If you are just starting out, it's best to stick with the four string models. Those extra strings are extending the capabilities of your instrument, but they also require a bit more effort to get used to.
On the other hand, this choice also depends on the type of music you are playing. Some heavier stuff like deathcore and similar genres will benefit from that extra string or two.
The choice is completely up to you, but just remember that you can play everything on a four string bass.
Electronics on bass guitars can be divided into two major categories.
You have your passive systems and active ones.
Passive basses are standard. They require no additional power source to work and are more expressive than their active counterparts.
On the other hand, active systems have a much stronger output and come with circuits which include proper EQs. Neither of these is better than the other. Rather, they both have their place and purpose.
The general rule of thumb is to go with active basses if you're into more aggressive genres of music and stick with passive when subtle details count.
This is just a crude guideline as you will find numerous famous bass players using both of these for all kinds of genres.
The 5 Best Bass Guitars
Here is my list of the 5 best bass guitars available in 2017.
I have ranked them from 1 to 5 in the chart below.
As with all instruments, the better models are more expensive. If you're a complete beginner, please see the beginner section below.
I have included links where these instruments are currently on sale. I will keep this list updated.
|2.||Fender '70s Jazz Bass|
|3.||G&L Tribute L-2000|
|4.||Sterling by Music Man S.U.B. Series Ray5|
|5.||Schecter Stiletto Extreme-4|
Let's kick things off with a beautiful Ibanez bass guitar.
Ibanez has been a brand that is still considered to be the patron saint of bass guitars.
From cheap models to expensive ones, Ibanez has been there delivering great quality.
The Ibanez SRF705 is one of their more refined models, and it's definitely one of the best bass guitars on the market at the moment.
The SRF705 features a similar body shape to the rest of their mid and high-end models.
The tonewood of choice for this bass is mahogany which comes in a Brown Burst Flat finish. Needless to say, it's a beautiful instrument.
The neck is a five-piece maple and Bubinga neck-through design, which not only helps the sustain and intonation but adds a special kind of flavor to the way this thing looks.
This is an active bass, relying on a set of Bartolini MK1 pickups to feed the tone through a two band EQ.
The sound you get from this bass is perfect for a variety of genres.
It probably fits best in rock, pop, and funk, but it's a jack of all trades. You get a very refined tone with a balanced response across the frequency range.
Overall, the definition is there and isn't hindered by a more aggressive output which Ibanez SRF705 is capable of. Great value for the money, even in this price range.
Fender '70s Jazz Bass
Fender's Jazz Bass has been one of the most influential bass guitars to ever hit the market.
It has reached that legendary status a long time ago and has since set some standards in the industry.
However, this bass is not just something people play out of nostalgia. No, it's a true performer that is still at the very edge of performance and excellence.
The body shape of the Fender '70s Jazz Bass is probably the most recognizable one out there.
For this edition, Fender decided to go with a nice Urethane sunburst finish that keeps up with the vintage nature of this bass. The neck is a standard maple C shape with a rosewood fretboard and a 1.5" nut width.
Electronics come in form of the already legendary Jazz configuration, which includes two Alnico vintage single coils wired to two volume and one tone knob.
Much like its name says, this bass feels at home when you start playing some jazz or blues.
With that said, it can find its place in other genres of music with ease. It all depends on how you use it and what type of equipment you have available.
Overall the tone is very punchy, defined and crisp across the range. Once it's time to muddy things up, Fender '70s Jazz Bass handles it rather well.
This bass brings that iconic Fender style and quality for a reasonable price.
G&L Tribute L-2000 Bass
Not a lot of people are aware of this but G&L is actually where Leo Fender did some of his best work.
The L-2000 was always considered to be the final form of Precision/Jazz series of Fender bass guitars, which has earned it a lot of popularity.
This tribute version brings all of those qualities in a pretty much the same package as the one G&L released some time ago.
The shape you are looking at here might seem familiar.
That's because it's pretty much the same deal as your standard Fender bass guitar. Finish options are limited, but this Blueburst or Natural seem to be the best choices out of all.
The body is made of ash while the neck is a standard maple design. In a lot of ways, G&L Tribute L-2000 Bass is nearly identical to Fender Jazz or Precision bass guitars, except for electronics.
This L-2000 tribute comes packing a set of powerful humbuckers which really bring the thunder when you go all out.
The sound you can get from G&L Tribute L-2000 Bass is impressive, to say the least. There's enough power behind those humbuckers to drive any type of genre you can think of.
With that said, this G&L can be pretty accurate when you need it to. If I had to be specific, I'd say that hard rock would be the best genre for this bad boy.
But on the other hand, those two humbuckers are exactly the type of firepower you need for more aggressive stuff like metal.
Sterling by Music Man S.U.B. Series Ray5
Music Man is one of those brands that have managed to reach the top purely based on the performance of their instruments.
That says a lot considering they've entered the game somewhat late.
Sterling is to Music Man what Squier is to Fender. The only difference is that Sterling doesn't really go too far down when it comes to entry level market.
This Ray5 Sting Ray from the S.U.B. Series is one of their best models, and it deserves some recognition.
The body is of this axe is made of basswood.
No matter what you hear about this tonewood, it's a good choice for a variety of applications. Let's just say that Sterling got it on point with this bass guitar.
The design is the same one you can see on a Music Man, with the exception of Sterling by Music Man S.U.B. Series Ray5 having only one humbucker at the bridge position.
Overall, the guitar looks good, feels good and just screams quality.
Having only one humbucker might be a turnoff for some people, but considering how Sterling packaged this model, it's a beast.
There's enough driving force in that one pickup to accommodate most music genres and playing styles.
This bass guitar is truly a jack of all trades. You can play metal easily, but you can also dwell into the realm of jazz or blues. It does it all.
On top of that, it's comfortable to play and allows you to reach those higher notes with little to no effort.
Schecter Stiletto Extreme-4
Last but not least, we have a bass that was built for speed and laying down hard driving rhythms.
Schecter Stiletto Extreme-4 is a pure metal machine coming straight from one of the best companies that build instruments for this genre specifically.
It's still a pretty multi-functional setup, but its heart is beating in 16th notes and it's just hungry for those drop tunings.
With a body shape that is a bit unusual but comfortable, the Schecter Stiletto Extreme-4 brings the type of aesthetic that everyone can enjoy.
The neck is a pretty sleek maple design with a rosewood fretboard and great looking inlays. In terms of electronics, you are looking at a two Diamond bass active pickups wired to a capable EQ.
Even though it falls within the more affordable category of bass guitars, Schecter Stiletto Extreme-4 simply kills it once you plug it in.
Lots of hard-hitting tones delivered by a pair of very articulate humbuckers.
That is one way to describe what happens when you plug this puppy into an amp.
If metal is your game, Schecter Stiletto Extreme-4 is the bass guitar to go for. This is especially true if you're looking for the best bang for the buck deal.
With that said, you can dial things down a bit and play rock or blues with no limitations. It's truly an awesome bass guitar.
Some Final Thoughts
At the end of the day, figuring out which bass guitar is right for you is a decision you have to make on your own.
We are all different, and we all have different tastes. Hopefully, this short guide has given you enough information to help you figure out what you're looking for.
These guitars I've shown you are just some of the best models currently available.
I tried to alter the price range a bit, in order to make the list friendly to a larger group of readers.
With that in mind, all of these will serve you more than well no matter what type of tone gets you excited.
Cheap Bass Guitars and Starter Packs for Beginners
Beginner bass guitars are probably one of the most misunderstood categories on the market.
Beginners themselves are always trying to bypass this whole segment, while more experienced players don't even consider these basses as an option in most cases.
The truth is that a beginner bass guitar can be an amazing instrument, given a proper setup and maintenance.
If you are someone who is interested in learning how to play bass, and you have a limited budget, you should definitely consider beginner models for your first guitar.
Below I have outlined what I think are the 4 best options for beginners, all of which are more than capable of keeping up with you as you progress and improve your skills.
They are also very affordable.
4 Best Bass Guitars For Beginners
Here is my list of the 4 best bass guitars for beginners in 2017.
I have ranked them from 1 to 4 in the chart below.
There's no doubt that everyone will play better on a more expensive instrument, however these are great options for those who are just starting out and perhaps don't want to spend a lot of money.
Some of the starter packs here are great value for money.
|1.||Squier by Fender|
|3.||Crescent Bass Guitar Starter Kit|
|4.||Davison Guitars Starter Pack|
Squier by Fender Vintage SS Modified Special Jaguar Bass
Squier is a name that has always been associated with entry level instruments.
That image is slowly changing, but this brand still delivers some of the best beginner guitars you can find.
The Squier by Fender Vintage SS Modified Special Jaguar Bass we are looking at here is truly a capable guitar that has the looks and performance you need.
This Squier bass features that standard Jaguar body in Candy Red, and several other finishes.
The SS designation means that it's a short scale bass, which is actually a benefit as it's easier to get used to and there are no significant tradeoffs in terms of performance. The neck is a maple C shape design with medium jumbo frets on a rosewood fretboard.
This model comes packing a P/J pickup configuration, thus merging the best of two worlds.
The tone you get from this instrument is balanced and powerful across the range.
There is enough versatility in the electronics to shape a variety of tones, including the sharp punchy ones as well as deep muddy sounds. The short scale neck makes it comfortable to play even for beginners, which is a huge plus in our scenario.
This Squier is definitely the top choice at the moment.
The next model comes from Ibanez and is among their cheapest bass guitars with an onboard EQ.
Ibanez has always been the go-to brand for capable entry as well as mid level bass guitars, and the Ibanez GSR200BWNF continues that tradition.
This is a model which caters to those who like a low profile neutral bass, both in terms of aesthetics and sound.
The body style you see here is a more or less standard Ibanez design which they use for a lot of their bass guitars.
The tonewood of choice here is mahogany with a spalted maple top.
The neck is regular maple piece with a rosewood fretboard. In terms of electronics, you get a set of Dynamix P and Dynamix J pickups which are connected to a Phat II Eel EQ unit.
Together, these components form one capable circuit that delivers thunder on demand.
One of the things Ibanez has been known for is their neutrality in their lower to mid range bass guitars. It's not different here.
The tone is very nicely balanced, giving you enough maneuvering space to go either way, while still retaining a good amount of clarity and definition. You can play metal or blues on this thing and it will keep up with you without a problem.
Needless to say, the output is there as well, even though these are still passive pickups.
Crescent Electric Bass Guitar Starter Kit
Not everyone is in a position where they can dish out a couple hundred bucks for a bass guitar, so I looked into some interesting starter packs which look promising.
The Crescent Electric Bass Guitar Starter Kit is one that caught my eye.
The bass itself is a copy of the Fender Precision Bass, and it as such looks pretty decent. Let's take a closer look.
Within the starter kit, you get the bass guitar, a gig bag, a strap and a guitar cable.
The bass features a body made of paulownia, which is a super light tonewood that actually isn't all that bad. For a full-sized bass guitar, this price is a steal.
Build quality is decent all things considered, but be ready to take it down for a proper setup as it will need it badly. Pickups come in the form of a single split coil precision pup with its accompanying controls.
Overall, this bass is actually pretty good.
Being this cheap you can expect tradeoffs, however when you draw the line the benefits outweigh the flaws by far.
The tone is decent, somewhat focused but still flexible. This bass might have some fret buzz, which is partially why you should take it to a shop for a proper setup.
You would be amazed what some professional attention can do for any bass guitar. If you are just starting out and you don't want to over-commit, this is the setup to go for.
Davison Guitars Full Size Electric Bass Guitar Starter Beginner Pack
Another interesting starter pack I feel comfortable recommending is this one from Davison Guitars.
Again we are looking at a Fender P-Bass copy that comes with a gig bag, a strap, some cables and an amp.
It is a bit more expensive than the previous starter pack we reviewed, but this one has it all.
The guitar itself is a full sized replica of the iconic Fender design.
It looks and feels decent, but some setup issues are almost guaranteed. Again, a professional setup job will do wonders here.
The amp is a very basic model that is limited in many ways, but more than adequate for home use and practice.
Whether you are just starting out or you are looking for a secondary bass, this starter kit is worth considering.
Performance is exactly what you would expect it to be.
Tradeoffs are obvious from the start, but the whole setup works. The bass guitar is playable, comfortable and relatively smooth.
The amp is underpowered, however you don't need 100 Watts of sound in your bedroom, right?
Is this something you would want to take to a gig?
Probably not, but it's a perfect and affordable learning tool.
Final Thoughts for Beginners
At the end of the day, there are numerous options out there that can get you set up with a great starting rig.
I've listed four options which I think are the best in terms of price to performance ratio.
Whichever one you choose, you won't make a mistake as long as you understand what these instruments are designed to do, that is for sure.