The Top 10 Bass Guitars In Today’s Market! What Makes A Good Bass?

Last Updated: July-04-2017
This article is usually the first stop for most readers looking for a good bass guitar, so we’ve refreshed our chart to include some of the more recent models we’ve reviewed. A couple of basses were removed, including the Yamaha BB Series BB424 and the ESP LTD F-104, and replaced by a variety of models. These include the awesome Cort Jeff Berlin Series Rithimic Bass, a real treat in the Epiphone Thunderbird Pro-IV Bass, a very beginner-friendly Yamaha TRBX174EW, and the Dean Custom Zone Bass – the most eye-catching model on our list!

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

ImageBass Guitar / RatingSummaryCheck Price
+ - Fender Deluxe P-Bass Special Fender Deluxe P-Bass Special

Total of 4.78/5   4.78 Stars

Versatile and toneful – a modern classic from Fender.

+ - Cort Jeff Berlin Series Rithimic Bass Cort Jeff Berlin Series Rithimic Bass

Total of 4.84/5   4.84 Stars

A unique and surprisingly great bass made by Cort for Jeff Berlin.

+ - Sterling by Music Man RAY34-HB Sterling by Music Man RAY34-HB

Total of 4.82/5   4.82 Stars

Affordable version of the iconic bass, that looks and sounds awesome.

+ - Epiphone Thunderbird Pro-IV Bass Epiphone Thunderbird Pro-IV Bass

Total of 4.82/5   4.82 Stars

Hard to fault this reissued Thunderbird – good-looking, powerful and affordable.

+ - Yamaha TRBX174EW Yamaha TRBX174EW

Total of 4.66/5   4.66 Stars

Great style and playability from this affordable exotic wood bass.

+ - Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar Bass Special SS Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar Bass Special SS

Total of 4.62/5   4.62 Stars

Affordable classic Jaguar bass with a beginner-friendly short scale.

+ - Schecter Stiletto Custom-4 Schecter Stiletto Custom-4

Total of 4.72/5   4.72 Stars

Stunning metal bass with excellent pickups.

+ - Dean Custom Zone Bass Dean Custom Zone Bass

Total of 4.76/5   4.76 Stars

A real eye-catcher, this vibrant Dean bass offers superb value.

+ - Ibanez GSR200 Ibanez GSR200

Total of 4.38/5   4.38 Stars

Great looks and sound from а budget Ibanez.

+ - Squier Stop Dreaming Start Playing Bass Squier Stop Dreaming Start Playing Bass

Total of 4.46/5   4.46 Stars

An excellent beginner combo from Fender Squier.

Whatever your 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 P-Bass Special

Fender Deluxe P-Bass Special

Body And Neck:4.5 Stars
Hardware:4.8 Stars
Electronics:4.8 Stars
Sound:4.9 Stars
Value:4.9 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.

Cort Jeff Berlin Series Rithimic Bass

Cort Jeff Berlin Series Rithimic Bass

Body And Neck:4.9 Stars
Hardware:4.9 Stars
Electronics:4.9 Stars
Sound:4.7 Stars
Value:4.8 Stars

You probably didn’t expect to see a Cort – better known for their budget instruments – in this premium category, but this Rithimic Bass from their Jeff Berlin Series is a serious bass guitar. It features a striking double-cutaway alder body with a unique Spalted Maple and Padouk veneer top, along with a super comfortable and fast-playing Canadian hard maple neck, with a rosewood fretboard and 21 frets. The hardware is excellent, with two Bartolini Jeff Berlin Custom Soapbar pickups at the neck and bridge, a set of simple gold-plated controls, a Babicz Full Contact FCH4 bridge, and a set of Hipshot Ultralight tuners – all great quality. We recommend you check out our full review of Cort’s Jeff Berlin Series Rithimic Bass for all the details.

Sterling by Music Man RAY34-HB

Sterling by Music Man RAY34-HB

Body And Neck:4.8 Stars
Hardware:4.9 Stars
Electronics:4.8 Stars
Sound:4.9 Stars
Value: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:

Epiphone Thunderbird Pro-IV Bass

Epiphone Thunderbird Pro-IV Bass

Body And Neck:4.9 Stars
Hardware:4.8 Stars
Electronics:4.8 Stars
Sound:4.8 Stars
Value:4.8 Stars

A faithful reissue of Gibson’s classic Thunderbird, the Pro-IV from Epiphone is one of our favorite basses in this category. With a solid feel and iconic body shape, this Thunderbird’s wings are made of solid mahogany and features a seven-piece through-body neck, made from alternating walnut and maple. This neck is a joy to play, with a SlimTaper profile, rosewood fretboard, and 20 medium jumbo frets. The Pro-IV earns its name due to the two battery-powered Epiphone T-Pro active bass humbuckers at the middle and bridge positions, offering great power. There are ample controls to allow you to shape your sound as you like. Be sure to check out our full review of the Epiphone Thunderbird Pro-IV for all the details.

Yamaha TRBX174EW

Yamaha TRBX174EW

Body And Neck:4.8 Stars
Hardware:4.5 Stars
Electronics:4.5 Stars
Sound:4.7 Stars
Value:4.8 Stars

The TRBX174EW sits at the lower end of Yamaha’s popular TRBX bass series, but this makes it the perfect prospect for beginners. The bass has a unique look, thanks to an attractive layer of exotic mango wood on the top. The bulk of the body is made from mahogany, which is quite light and well-contoured for a comfortable feel whether standing or sitting. There’s an easy-playing bolt-on maple neck with a rosewood fretboard and a full 24 frets. As we mention in our full review of the TRBX174EW it features both a split Precision-style single-coil and a Jazz-style single-coil, with tone and volume controls, for good versatility. For a mass-produced bass it is certainly punching above its weight when it comes to craftsmanship.

Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar Bass Special SS

Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar Bass Special SS

Body And Neck:4.8 Stars
Hardware:4.5 Stars
Electronics:4.5 Stars
Sound:4.5 Stars
Value:4.8 Stars

Beginners with small hands will feel at home with this Vintage Modified Jaguar Bass from Squier, which has an easier-to-play 30” scale length. With three colors to choose from this bass sports the classic Jaguar body, made from agathis, with a bolt-on maple neck, 20 frets and a rosewood fretboard. The pickups are nothing special and aren’t as powerful as you may expect, but certainly do the job – especially at this affordable price range. There’s a split single-coil Precision Bass pickup at the middle position, with a single-coil Jazz Bass pickup at the bridge, controlled by two volume knobs, and a master tone control. Make sure to check out our full review of this cool Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar Bass Special SS.

Bass Guitar For Metal:

Schecter Stiletto Custom-4

Schecter Stiletto Custom-4

Body And Neck:4.6 Stars
Hardware:4.7 Stars
Electronics:4.8 Stars
Sound:4.9 Stars
Value: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:

Dean Custom Zone Bass

Dean Custom Zone Bass

Body And Neck:4.8 Stars
Hardware:4.7 Stars
Electronics:4.7 Stars
Sound:4.7 Stars
Value:4.9 Stars

Time to get the sunglasses out! Dean’s Custom Zone Bass is out to make a statement, with three eye-popping color choices – Nuclear Green, Fluorescent Pink, and Fluorescent Yellow. Vibrant colors aside it’s an excellent bass that punches well above its weight in the budget market. It features a double-cutaway basswood body, with a bolt-on C-shaped maple neck, a painted maple fretboard and 20 easily-accessible frets. There’s just one pickup – a stock Precision-style bass pickup in the middle position, with an individual volume and tone control. As we mention in our complete review of the Dean Custom Zone Bass it sounds pretty good considering the price, and feels comfortable, fast and fun to play, whatever your style.

Ibanez GSR200

Ibanez GSR200

Body And Neck:4.1 Stars
Hardware:4.1 Stars
Electronics:4.2 Stars
Sound:4.5 Stars
Value: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.

Beginner Bass Guitar Packs:

Squier Stop Dreaming Start Playing Bass

Squier Stop Dreaming Start Playing Bass

Body And Neck:4.2 Stars
Hardware:4.2 Stars
Electronics:4.4 Stars
Sound:4.5 Stars
Value: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.

Squier Affinity Series 5-String Jazz Bass V

Squier Affinity Series 5-String Jazz Bass V

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

Can’t afford the Fender Deluxe Dimension Bass on this list? You may be keen to check out this Affinity Series 5-String Jazz Bass, which offers true Fender style at a price only Squier can pull off. The double-cutaway Jazz Bass body is made from solid alder, with a bolt-on C-shaped neck, made of maple with a rosewood fretboard and 20 frets. It comes loaded with two pretty decent Jazz Bass V single-coil pickups at the bridge and middle, with two volume controls and a master tone control. As we mention in our full review of this Affinity Series 5-String Jazz Bass, the hardware isn’t jaw-dropping, but does the job – chrome bridge and tuners. Hard to complain about such an affordable 5-string bass!

Are There Other Good Bass Guitar Brands?

Of course there are! But we wanted to compile a brief top 10 chart focusing on the best of the best, so we naturally had to exclude some other fantastic basses. Be sure to check out some of the other brands that specialise in bass guitars, including G&L, Ernie Ball, Rickenbacker, Washburn, ESP, Warwick, Spector, and Lakland – the majority of these have been building basses for a long time and have some great models that are worth your time. And, if four strings are not enough, donȍt forget to check out our article on 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!


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