What Are The Top 10 Bass Guitars And Recommended Brands Today?

Last Updated Nov-10-2016. Whether you’ve got a grand in your pocket and are looking to upgrade to something more premium, or are trying to find a cost effective first bass guitar on which to practice your slapping, we’ve got you covered!

Choosing a bass isn’t easy, especially as manufacturers get better at producing great instruments at lower prices – the choice out there is astounding.

However, at GuitarFella we’ve tried and tested some of the best basses on the market today and sorted them into convenient categories, so you can quickly find the best bass for you, depending on your budget, skills, and tastes.

Top 10 Best Bass Guitars

Image
Electric Guitar
Summary
Rating
Fender Deluxe P Bass Special
Fender Deluxe Active P Bass® Special
Versatile and toneful – a modern classic from Fender.
4.8 Stars
Total of 4.8/5
Sterling by Music Man RAY34 300
Sterling by Music Man RAY34-HB
Affordable version of the iconic bass, that looks and sounds awesome.
4.7 Stars
Total of 4.7/5
Yamaha BB Series BB42X VW 300
Yamaha BB Series BB424
Great sound and a price to match from Yamaha.
4.6 Stars
Total of 4.6/5
ESP LTD F-104 300
ESP LTD F-104
The first choice bass for any beginner metalhead!
4.6 Stars
Total of 4.6/5
Epiphone Goth Thunderbird VI 300
Epiphone Goth Thunderbird VI
The iconic bass shape gets an awesome Goth makeover!
4.5 Stars
Total of 4.5/5
Schecter Stiletto Custom-4 300
Schecter Stiletto Custom-4
Stunning metal bass with excellent pickups.
4.6 Stars
Total of 4.6/5
Ibanez GSR 200
Ibanez GSR200
Great looks and sound from а budget Ibanez.
4.5 Stars
Total of 4.5/5
Dean Z Metalman Bass 300
Dean Z Metalman Bass
Awesome affordable metal bass – perfect for beginners.
4.4 Stars
Total of 4.4/5
Squier-Fender-Stop-Dreaming-Start-Playing-Bass
Squier Stop Dreaming-Start Playing Set: Affinity J Bass
An excellent beginner combo from Fender Squier.
4.4 Stars
Total of 4.4/5
Silvertone LB11 Bass Package 300
Silvertone LB11 Guitar and Amp Package
An affordable bass set with everything you need to get started.
4.4 Stars
Total of 4.4/5

Whatever you budget, good electric bass guitars are available in every price bracket – you just have to know what to look for and which will best suit your style of playing.

There’s plenty more to talk about, including what makes a good bass and where to find it, but we’ll discuss this in more depth soon. First, we have prepared some brief reviews of the best basses in their individual classes on the market today.

Bass Under $1000:

Fender Deluxe Active P Bass® Special

Fender Deluxe P Bass Special

Body&Neck:4.6 Stars
Hardware:4.8 Stars
Electronics:4.8 Stars
Sound:4.85 Stars
Value:4.9 Stars
Average:4.8 Stars

If you’re going premium, and the price tag is not important, you can’t go wrong with this wonderful Deluxe Active P Bass Special from Fender. Retailing at under $1000, this bass is one of the best on the market. With classic Fender styling, there’s a solid alder P Bass body with an easy to play satin-finished modern C-shaped maple Jazz neck – making one hell of a hybrid. As for sound and control, this is as versatile as its build, with two toneful vintage noiseless pickups – a Jazz Bass pickup at the bridge, with a Precision Bass pickup in the middle. With advanced controls, this bass is perfect for quickly changing between styles on stage or in the studio. Check out the full review of this excellent bass.


Sterling by Music Man RAY34-HB

Sterling by Music Man RAY34 300

Body&Neck:4.7 Stars
Hardware:4.8 Stars
Electronics:4.7 Stars
Sound:4.8 Stars
Value:4.7 Stars
Average:4.7 Stars

If you’re searching for an iconic bass, look no further than the StingRay. And if you’re searching for a version of that bass that won’t break the bank, look no further than the Ray 34, by Music Man. The solid swamp ash body, coupled with distinctive oval pickguard, both looks superb and allows for a wide tonal range, while the maple C-shaped neck is very playable. The Ray 34 – which we’ve reviewed in full – is voiced by a single passive bridge humbucker, with 3-band preamp, which combine to produce awesome punchy tones. The hardware, from the bridge to tone controls, is robust and responsive. In all, a surprisingly affordable price for a bass that looks great, sounds great and plays great. A real work of art.


Bass Under $500:

Yamaha BB Series BB424

Yamaha BB Series BB42X VW 300

Body&Neck:4.6 Stars
Hardware:4.5 Stars
Electronics:4.4 Stars
Sound:4.7 Stars
Value:4.7 Stars
Average:4.6 Stars

When it comes to affordable quality, Yamaha really shine. And their BB424X, at under $500, is a fantastic instrument that upholds the standards of the iconic BB series – launched more than 30 years ago – in both quality and elegance. Along with a chunky, but well-contoured double-cutaway alder body, the BB424X boasts a 5-piece mahogany and maple neck, which is light and toneful, for excellent playing comfort, durability and sustain. Bottom line – it looks and plays great! But it also sounds very good too, with a split single-coil bass pickup in the middle position and a single-coil bar pickup at the bridge, offering a full bodied and punchy sound that you can control. Read our full review of the super BB424X.


Bass For Beginners:

ESP LTD F-104

ESP LTD F-104 300

Body&Neck:4.4 Stars
Hardware:4.6 Stars
Electronics:4.5 Stars
Sound:4.6 Stars
Value:4.7 Stars
Average:4.6 Stars

If you’re a beginner with a bit of flair – and a penchant for metal – you’ll want to play your bass on something with a little attitude. Enter, the F-104 (reviewed in full here) from ESP’s subsidiary LTD, which offers hardcore style at a very wallet-friendly price. This bass is edgy but elegant, with a glossy black double-cutaway agathis body and a sturdy bolt-on maple neck, with rosewood fretboard and the F-104 name on display at the 12th fret. The bass is packed with quality hardware, including two ESP-designed passive SB-4 pickups with active EQ, covering a big range of sounds and performing very well when de-tuned for the heaviest of metal. Awesome!


Epiphone Goth Thunderbird VI

Epiphone Goth Thunderbird VI 300

Body&Neck:4.4 Stars
Hardware:4.4 Stars
Electronics:4.6 Stars
Sound:4.7 Stars
Value:4.6 Stars
Average:4.5 Stars

Based on the first bass guitar sold by Gibson in 1963, the Thunderbird VI has had a Goth makeover and this affordable beauty is a solid pick for beginner and experienced bassists alike. Its reversed zig-zag mahogany body is coated in menacing Pitch Black paintwork with an equally dark pickguard that bears the Goth cross. From the body comes a sturdy bolt-on hard maple SlimTaper neck that’s both comfortable and durable. There are two Epiphone-designed Thunderbird Plus bass humbuckers, which offer enough power and versatility for everything from practice sessions to both stage and studio playing. Premium die-cast 17:1 machine heads and a fully adjustable bridge finish this rocking bass off nicely. A superb package for the price. Make sure to check out our full review of the Thunderbird VI.


Bass Guitar For Metal:

Schecter Stiletto Custom-4

Schecter Stiletto Custom-4 300

Body&Neck:4.5 Stars
Hardware:4.6 Stars
Electronics:4.7 Stars
Sound:4.8 Stars
Value:4.6 Stars
Average:4.6 Stars

Have you ever seen a more elegant bass? It’s unmistakablely a Schecter; a brand that know how to put together a good-looking but affordable guitar. The body work and craftsmanship is fantastic, especially in the natural satin finish (it’s also available in Vampire Red). As outlined in our review of the Stiletto Custom-4, this bass is constructed from several different woods, with a double-cutaway mahogany body with a figured maple top, and a maple and walnut multi-ply neck. It’s loaded with two EMG 35HZ pickups at the neck and bridge, with 2-Band EMG Active EQ. This provides a smooth high end and a punchy low end, and is perfect for metal. As for hardware, it’s finished with stylish matte gold control knobs and tuners, along with a robust S-TEK bridge.


Budget Bass Under $200:

Ibanez GSR200

Ibanez GSR 200

Body&Neck:4.2 Stars
Hardware:4.2 Stars
Electronics:4.4 Stars
Sound:4.6 Stars
Value:5 Stars
Average:4.5 Stars

For many people, spending a huge amount of money on a bass guitar just doesn’t make sense, especially if you are a casual player or beginner. Which is why budget basses exist – and the Ibanez GSR200 is setting the bar high in this category. With a lightweight agathis body and a choice of funky finishes, as well as a one-piece maple neck, this bass both looks and feels great to play. There’s plenty of versatility in the sound, with a Dynamix P split-coil neck pickup and a Dynamix single-coil J pickup at the bridge, along with active EQ with PHAT-II Bass Boost. So while it’s the cheapest option on this list, it would be hard to tell based on looks or performance! Check out our full review of the GSR200.


Dean Z Metalman Bass

Dean Z Metalman Bass 300

Body&Neck:4.4 Stars
Hardware:4.1 Stars
Electronics:4.2 Stars
Sound:4.7 Stars
Value:4.8 Stars
Average:4.4 Stars

Here we have another superb budget bass, this time from Dean, catering for true metalheads – as the name suggests! Based on the distinctive radical Dean Z design – a shape used by top bassists such as Dusty Hill from ZZ Top – the guitar uses a lightweight basswood body, which is comfortable for long playing sessions, with a sturdy low-profile maple neck and rosewood fretboard. For such an affordable price, this Metalman packs a good sound, with a single humbucking soap-bar pickup, which delivers high output, while the controls are nice and simple – just volume and tone. No frills, no fuss, just de-tune and you’re ready for some fast-paced metal playing. You can take a look at our Metalman Z full review for everything you need to know.


Beginner Bass Guitar Packs:

Squier by Fender Stop Dreaming-Start Playing Set: Affinity J Bass

Squier-Fender-Stop-Dreaming-Start-Playing-Bass

Body&Neck:4.2 Stars
Hardware:4.2 Stars
Electronics:4.4 Stars
Sound:4.5 Stars
Value:5 Stars
Average:4.5 Stars

Buying your first bass on a budget? Forget the fuss that goes with purchasing everything individually and pick up a convenient and affordable combo package. Fender’s Squier subsidiary leads the way when it comes to affordable beginner combos, and this Squier Affinity J Bass “Stop Dreaming Start Playing” pack is a great one to start with. Included is the awesome Affinity Jazz Bass – a solid entry-level instrument that offers both classic Fender style and enough tone for your first tunes. There’s also a Rumble 15 amplifier, offering more than enough in terms of output for the casual player, as well as a gig bag, tuner, strap, cable, and instructional DVD. What more could you ask for? Check out our full review of this convenient kit. Most bass guitar packages compete at the same price level with the best bass guitars under $300, except you get everything for a single price without having to worry for cable and an amp.


Silvertone LB11 Guitar and Amp Package

Silvertone LB11 Bass Package 300

Body&Neck:4.2 Stars
Hardware:4.2 Stars
Electronics:4.4 Stars
Sound:4.5 Stars
Value:4.7 Stars
Average:4.4 Stars

Like the Squier combo, this bass starter kit from Silvertone give you everything you need to get up and running at a superb price. The bass in this pack is the Revolver LB11 – while basic, it features a double-cutaway solid body, bolt-on maple neck, and rosewood fretboard with 20 frets, and is a great platform on which to learn your first tunes. Combined with the Silvertone BAXs 10-watt bass amp, you can find some deep, authentic bass sounds, as well as enough tone controls and variables to experiment with. The package comes with a bunch of useful extras, including an electronic tuner, a gig bag, plectrums, a cable, and a handy instructional DVD. Check out the full review of this combo to see everything it has to offer.


Are There Other Good Bass Guitar Brands?

Of course there are! To compile a top 10 list is not an easy job, and we naturally have to exclude many fantastic guitars. Be sure to check out offerings from manufacturers such as Washburn, Rickenbacker, Warwick, Spector or Lakland, who have been building basses for a long time and all have some great models to consider. Not to mention that there are some great brands that you can find on our article about the best 5 string basses.

Some manufacturers are bigger than others, and some don’t enjoy the prestige that the likes of Fender do, but they can all offer a lot of quality in a variety of different price ranges and genres, from jazz to metal.

What Makes a Good Bass?

We could write a whole book on what makes a good bass! And as everything on this list, the word ‘good’ to you may mean something completely different to the next bassist.

But it’s always worth considering the woods used to make the body and neck. With cheaper basses, you’ll find basswood or alder bodies, and then woods such as maple, swamp ash, and mahogany as you move up the price ranges.

These shouldn’t be a defining factor, but it’s worth researching the kind of tones each wood can offer, should you be presented with the choice. For example, mahogany may help produce warmer and punchier tones, while swamp ash will give you a brighter sound. It’s also worth considering your plans for the bass. If you plan to gig or record for lengthy sessions, you’ll want a lighter wood (such as basswood) instead of something heavy like maple.

Looking at pickups and you’ll find an array of single-coils and humbuckers, as well as active and passive designs (more on these later). Single-coils are the classic bass pickup and are nice and simple, with one coil and one magnet, producing a bright sound. Humbuckers, on the other hand, have a fatter sound – sometimes a little muddy at high volumes – and help cancel background noise and interference. Choose what sounds good to you and you won’t go far wrong.

How Many Strings is Enough?

Good question – but there’s no definitive answer! You can choose between a four, five or six-stringed bass, and your decision will ultimately depend on your style, level and budget.

If you are just starting out, four strings is traditionally the way to go. Keep it simple. Four strings gives you more than enough notes, especially when you consider how much music is played on a four-string bass. There’s generally less to keep track of when playing, and it’s easier to learn and develop on.

If you are more advanced, you may consider adding a fifth or sixth string bass to your collection, which will allow you to increase the range of notes you can play. There will be a lot more stretching around the neck, but it can be worth the practice. However it may be worth thinking about this as a second or third bass, instead of something to learn on.

The exception is if you are into heavier music, such metal and rock, because a five-string bass would make life a lot easier, with the extra low string allowing you to reach those lower notes without having to de-tune your strings.
What is The Difference Between Passive and Active Pickups?

Players looking for a classic warm, punchy bass tone, and a dynamic range of sounds will prefer passive pickups, which have been a traditional fixture since the birth of the electric bass.

However the relatively newer active pickups, which come with built-in preamps powered by separate batteries, are worth considering for bigger, brighter and clearer tones. With active pickups, thanks to the preamp, the output volume is significantly higher when compared to that of a passive pickup, while the background noise and interference is kept to a minimum.

Again, passive or active will be a choice for you to make based on your individual tastes. Make sure to try out a few different basses with different pickups to find a sound that appeals to you.

Some Final Considerations Before Buying a Bass

As you’ve seen, there are many things to consider before buying a new bass, whether it’s your first or your tenth!

The choice of buying new or used is another dilemma. With a new bass you have the security of a warranty, as well as a likely cooling off period if you change your mind. Plus you’ll probably be able to have a full set-up, so you’re ready to go.

Buying a used bass, in whatever price range, is always a little more risky, but this risk can pay off when it comes to value for money. If you are buying used, ensure you choose a reputable physical or online guitar store, instead of a flea market or thrift stores – these offer so much more risk, especially when you aren’t able to test the bass out through an amp, or make easy returns.

In general, the best advice we can give is to spend some time trying out different guitars to really find something you love. At the end of the day, you’ll be parting with anything from a couple of hundred bucks right up to over a grand, so you want to ensure the bass you end up with is the perfect one for you. Good luck!

Comments

  1. I’d love a review like this for people who play Bass Left Handed.
    Thanks in advance
    Kai

  2. Chuck Nelson says:

    Are any of these units made in the U.S.?

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