The best bass is going to feel right in your hands, give you the sound and feel you can visualize before you even play, and look as aesthetic as you can possibly imagine. Due to these factors being quite subjective, we wanted to find the top 10 best bass guitars out there to give you a few options, since everybody will be different. As far as we can remember into childhood, we still get images flashing of our dad holding his Fender bass on stage at the small venues he and his brother would play at. As a bass player for 50 years, he actually recommends many beginning guitarists to start playing bass before you start the other. Whether you’re here for your first bass or merely ready to upgrade your existing setup, let’s get into the details!
Picking the best bass guitar
Below are some checkpoints before we give you our bass picks. If you want a more in-depth guide in how to actually choose a bass, read our bass guitar buying guide.
- Budget Range – Money is of course a factor to first keep in mind, especially when it comes to bass guitars because the range is actually quite large in our opinion. For beginners, you’re not going to need to spend more than a thousand bucks, perhaps even $500 on your starting bass — we even know pros who don’t spend that much and prefer a much cheaper bass due to their preferences in feel and sound (like the Fender Mustang, listed later, the Rolling Stones use). Others however, if you’re upgrading (or even beginners, don’t let us cramp your style) and want a supreme bass that stems above all, grabbing a bass guitar that goes up to the few thousands will have you set for life (like a Stratocaster) — it’s all in how much money you have at the moment, or at the end of reading our guide, how much you’d like to start saving up for.
- Bass Guitar Type – Before you choose the actual “bass type”, we most importantly recommend you be sure to see if you like the sound!
- Electric: As the most common type of bass guitar out there, these are what many of us associate with the image “bass”, having a solid, slim body. These need a bass amplifier to get going since they’re powered via electricity, but doing so will give you tons of versatility and power. We have quite a few listed in here because most prefer this bass guitar type.
- Acoustic: These are super smooth and sound amazing for those who want that low strumming, more natural feel of a bass guitar. They have a large hollow body with a sound hole (also known as f-holes) for air and sound to escape the bass guitar itself. We have a few in here.
- Acoustic-Electric: The name will imply what it actually is — a mixture of the two previously listed bass guitar types. Albeit definitely less common than a strictly electric or acoustic bass, these give us a special type of sound some may be looking for. They’re partially hollow (typically violin-shaped).
- String Count – The most common string count for bass guitars is four. For beginners, stick with a four string count is highly recommended. Not only does the count cover most music styles but the necks are a size that are easier to play as compared to five and six-string models. If you do want some more range and advanced playing in your bass repertoire however, be our guest. Five-string basses give you another lower B option for a deeper tonal range and the necks are wider (preferred by a lot of jazz, metal, and hard rock bassists). Six-string basses finally add not only the extra lower B but also high C string with an even wider neck. Soloist bass players prefer this due to the larger room for more versatility as well as overall creativity.
- Bass Scale – Coming in as a bit more advanced in terms of bass specifics, the “Bass Scale” entails the length between the nut between the fretboard and headstock and the bridge and strings at the end of the bass body. To put it simply, for younger or those with smaller hands playing a standard-sized bass, grab a short-scale bass that are near the 30″ mark. A long-scale neck however goes up to 35″ and are recommended for those with “normal” hands and arm spans (dislike that word, but for the lack of a better explanation) or those who want to play with some more frets.
The best bass guitars
Below includes our list of the 10 best bass models on the planet we feel are worth looking at. If you’re just starting out, our beginners bass guitar article may helpful. Lastly, let us know in the comments any questions or critiques you have of our picks. We hope you’re able to find the best bass for you, and of course, enjoy!
Fender Standard Fretless
First and foremost with Fender, you know you are getting proven quality and reliability. The Fender Standard is a 4-string fretless (what is a fretless bass?) electric bass with an alder body and a good-looking maple neck. The offset-waist body shape gives this model a light and comfortable feel while you are jammin’ and it also has a playable narrow, fast-action neck with a fretless rosewood fingerboard that makes it pretty easy to learn on. The Standard Fretless supplies a wide range of beautiful bass sounds from two standard jazz bass single-coil pickups that add some tonal versatility. This model also comes with vintage-style jazz bass control knobs which give it a crispy, clean look while you’re slappin’ some bass on stage.
The Standard Fretless sits on the higher price point in this guide, but it should not be hard to justify spending the money knowing it is a Fender, as Fender’s are considered one of the top-dogs in the guitar world. If you wanted an immediate answer for which bass to buy and not look back, this is our pick. To top off our list and give you one of the best bass ever created, we have the legendary Fender Standard Fretless. However, we just hope your budget allows. Otherwise, continue reading and we’ll give you some alternatives. If you want some sample sounds, check out this Standard Fretless demo.
ESP LTD F-104
This one has an almost devilish look to it, with the black body and pointy edges that give it a true rockstar feel, making it one of the best bass guitars if you’re more a traditional rock feel and look type of person. The F-104 is an electric bass that has a basswood body with a maple neck and a rosewood fingerboard. This model comes equipped with a LTD DB-4 Bridge and LTD tuners so that it’s able to hit all different types of bass sounds. It also comes with bolt-on neck construction and a 35” scale with 24 extra jumbo frets in case you’re looking to ever change out the neck or replace the frets. The pickups are passive ESP designed SB-4B & SB-4N with active EQ, both of which are fairly easy to get used to.
The ESP is moderately priced, and if you are into the black, rocker-finish of this bass, then the F-104 is yours for the taking. It’s known for its super smooth and dreamy metal sound; however, we’ve heard of many other bassists playing this, such as jazz, pop, and even country — it knows no bounds, although preferred by metalists everywhere. Up next as the best bass guitar we have the dark ESP LTD F-104, and I’m not just saying that because of its black finish.
This Ibanez bass features a 32” scale AEL body, spruce top, mahogany-colored body, and albalone rosette chrome die-cast tuners which give it a clean look and overall feel. The AEB5E supplies a punchy low-end sound, whether amplified or not, and with the acoustic touch, it’s agathis body and sides give the bass a warm tone in any setting. This model also comes packed with an Ibanez piezo pickup and Ibanez AEQ-202T preamp with 2-band EQ and on-board tuners which allows for quick-n-easy tuning, and simple amplification with a natural acoustic coffee-shop sound. The AEB5E gives your music a warm, natural resonance that make songs come alive and lighten up the setting that you’re playing in.
This model provides very good sound for the price you are paying, and should be considered a steal at such a friendly price. We know who grab this alongside their traditional solid-body electric bass to keep their tool belt prepared. The Ibanez AEB5E is an acoustic-electric bass that delivers good playability, has an attractive design, and is very affordable, which makes it one of the best bass for starters.
The Rogue bass guitar features a bolt-on maple neck, a quick and user-friendly fretboard, and a covered traditional-style split; the latter two features are designed to make learning on the bass easier. It has a black basswood dual cutaway body which gives it a traditional bass guitar look. The LX200B also comes with 2 single-coil pickups, 2 volume and 2 tone controls. Out of the 2 pickups, one is a J-style hambucker bridge pickup, and the other is a P-style split coil neck pickup; having two allows you to capture a wider range of vibrations from your bass. Albeit it does have a traditional look, the dual die-cast machine tuners and black hardware do give it a trendier design and finish.
If you’re looking to become a bass-slappin’ machine, then you should look into buying the Rogue LX200B, which serves as a good stepping stool in your advancement as a bassist. Not to mention you’ll be saving some damage to your wallet at the same time. Here we feel another model that is one of the best bass guitars out there right now, the Rogue LX200B.
Fender Mustang PJ
As stated previously, The Rolling Stones as well as My Chemical Romance have been known to love this one. This model is a 4-string electric bass with an alder body, maple neck, rosewood fretboard, and 2 single-coil pickups. The Mustang PJ is one of the best bass guitars that combines the hard-hitting tone of a precision bass with the soft touch of a jazz bass. It is smaller than the standard Fender Mustang-style body, and also has a short scale which makes this bass comfortable for people with smaller hands and even youngsters.
It has a “C”-shaped maple neck and a small 30” scale that makes sure every note you play with a strong harmonic richness is not ignored. Out of the two pickups, one is a P-bass split single-coil middle pickup, and the other is a J-Bass single-coil bridge pickup. This is definitely one of the more high-end bass on the market, however, it is also reasonable for a beginner to learn on as well. You’ll be getting a great learning curve with this as well. You can’t go wrong with the Fender Mustang PJ.
Fender American Elite
We now look at one of the most sophisticated bass on the market, the Fender American Elite. We call this sophisticated because it sits on the higher price point in our guide – but with price comes quality! Not to mention when I texted my dad during the research for this article, this was his first and only answer for “the best bass hands down”. In terms of build and specifics, it is a double cutaway 4-string electric jazz bass with all-new fourth generation dual noiseless single-coil pickups. It has an on-board 18-volt preamp so it allows for more headroom along with less noise. This model also has a compound profile neck, and a newly redesigned Fender contoured neck heel – comfort is key.
The “HiMass” vintage bridge and new bone nut give the bass a natural, good-looking, arguably classic design. It also includes a redesigned “ABS” elite molded case with TSA locks – most, if not all models in this guide do not come with a case. As I said above, this is probably the best bass for someone who is experienced and has a little more of a budget. This thing is serious.
Sterling by Music Man S.U.B. SB4
When I look at bass, I think two of the most important factors in deciding which to buy is the size of the bass and if it’s going to be comfortable to play with. The SB4 fits both of these needs. If you’re looking for something with a slimmer body, then the S.U.B SB4 is definitely one of the best bass guitars for you. It has a narrow 37mm nut width that makes it a fairly easy-to-play bass. The hardwood body is smaller than most bass in this guide and it offers a 2-band active preamp and high-output humbucking bass pickup.
It also has a standard 34” scale that makes for easy learning and playability. The Sterling is moderately priced and supplies all tools necessary to learn and become a successful bassist, and like I said earlier, if you’re looking for something a little more compact, then this is your guy. Moving further in our guide, we have the creation of Sterling by Music Man, the S.U.B. SB4.
It has a contoured solid alder body, which is the same style of choice from the great Jimi Hendrix. The pure vintage tone comes out of 3 single-coil pickups, taking on flavor of classic rock tremolo with 5-way switching. It also features die-cast tuners which provide easy tuning and stability for the pay you are paying. The headstock has a classic ‘70s “big” feel, and a vintage 6-screw rocking trem. The maple neck on this model plays pretty fast, but also feels good enough to where it’s not too fast.
The Squier Affinity is definitely the most economical and practical bass in our buying guide. This model may be best for someone who is trying to learn how to play, but doesn’t have the largest of budgets. If you’re looking for something simple and some bang for your buck, then look no further than the Squier Affinity.
The EAB is a full-sized bass guitar that has a good-looking spruce top and mahogany body, which I am a big fan of. It produces a deeper, fuller tone that other bass in this guide cannot match. It has a 34” scale and 1-⅝” nut – both pretty standard for an acoustic bass. The Dean is a good starter bass, as it can be played with or without an amp. It is also loud enough for jamming with acoustic guitar players, and has the necessary on-board electronics to let you take it on stage if you’re performing, giving us great versatility to stem across multiple bass applications. This is one of the best bass for home recording because an acoustic bass spits out solid sound without having to worry about wasting time rigging up speakers in your home.
However, it does come with a passive piezo pickup system if you like to plug-n-slap some bass. Here we have another acoustic-electric bass, the Dean EAB — it is very affordable, and if an acoustic bass interests you, this may be the perfect fit.
Schecter Guitar Research Riot-5 Session 5
The aged natural look really shows off the swamp ash body and the maple neck. It is also definitely one of the more complex bass on the market, as it has 5 strings and a 3-band EQ which lets you dial in to any tone. The Riot-5 comes with a pair of “EMG” pickups that give it a little more flexibility in handling anything that is thrown at it. The “EMG” 35DC dual coil combined with the low-noise preamp give you a very stout performance with minimal noise. If you’re into more of a mid-range sound, the Schecter also features a “EMG” 35J split in the bridge position to fit your taste.
The Schecter Riot-5 is a little pricier, but if you’re into creating some big bass tones, then don’t miss out on this bad boy, sitting last but certainly not least. Finally to our last model, the Schecter Riot-5 Session 5, which is one of the best bass guitar if you’re into something flashy.