- Best All Around Bass Guitar
- Best High End Bass Guitar
- Best Budget Bass Guitar
- Best Hollow-Body Bass
- Best 5 String Bass Guitar
- Best Budget 5 String Bass Guitar
- Best High End 5 String Bass Guitar
- Best All Around 6 String Bass Guitar
- Best High End 6 String Bass Guitar
- Best Budget 6 String Bass Guitar
- Best Acoustic Bass Guitar Overall
- Best Fretless Acoustic Bass Guitar
- Best Acoustic Travel Bass Guitar
Best Bass Guitar
Incessant pop singles may have reaffirmed it in recent years, but musicians throughout history can confirm that it has, in fact, always been all about that bass. The bass guitar is a staple of popular music, playing a significant role in genres such as rock, jazz, soul, funk, R&B, hip hop, and more. And while its cousin the electric guitar may have a slight advantage in the popularity category, the bass guitar plays an integral role in both holding down the bottom end of the mix as well as enhancing the groove and rhythm of a song. If you’re looking to buy a bass guitar, you’ve got plenty of options to choose from. We’ve highlighted some important things to keep in mind in our bass guitar buyer’s guide below.
Best All Around Bass Guitar:
If you’re shopping for a bass guitar, you have every right to be meticulous about your purchase as this instrument plays an integral part in the sound and mix of music. Having a properly calibrated instrument produces a quality range and depth of tones while it should also be comfortable to play for extended periods of time. These are the best all-around bass guitars with each instrument here manufactured with a rosewood fingerboard for a smooth neck experience, tone knobs that allow you to actively adjust the balance of bass and treble within your axe’s signal, and features clear inlay patterns throughout the neck to help guide players in their fretboard journeys, from the most novice beginners to well-traveled experts.
Music Man takes the traditional qualities which make great bass guitars and fuses them with some innovative tone technology to present a killer package in their Reflex: The Game Changer axe. Its electronic system allows you to instantaneously switch sounds with a flick of a knob, while an onboard MIDI connection gives you access to sounds outside of the limits of the actual physical instrument. Read Full Review
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Since 1995, Lakland has made a name for itself by producing bass guitars that sound great and sport an intuitive design that makes their products a pleasure to play. Their Skyland Decade features a dark and deep-sounding mahogany body, coupled with Chi-Sonic pickups for an amazing low-end tone. Read Full Review
For many, the Fender Jazz Bass is synonymous with the standard image and sound quality of an electric bass guitar. Its sleek physical features and dynamic tone range definitely support its grand status amongst other instruments. With their American Deluxe Jazz Bass, Fender has provided players with something that instantly invokes the greatness of the past and builds towards the future with a tried and true sound. Read Full Review
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Music Man’s Classic StingRay revisits the roots of the original StingRay from 1976. This is a bass guitar that offers a classic, old school vibe both in sound and build. Rolling out powerful tone and smooth feel, this guitar will have you saying they sure don’t make em like they used to, until you realize Music Man still does! Read Full Review
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Gibson’s Thunderbird IV bass guitar is all about the rock. If its too-cool moniker didn’t give that away, the distinct body shape definitely will. A closer look reveals humbucker pickups that can truly shake the room, durable hardware to withstand the most rocking of environments, and a comfortable neck because hey, just because you’re rocking out with pure fury doesn’t mean you have to be in pain while doing so right? Read Full Review
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Best High End Bass Guitar:
When it comes to going high-end with your bass guitar, it’s really all about going big or going home. There are many fine bass guitars that exist in the market, but the decision to take things to the next level usually results in a sound and feel that expands far beyond what is considered “the norm”. You’re getting carefully handcrafted material often built by skilled luthiers and not necessarily put together in a factory setting. Here are the best high end bass guitars, each instrument we’ve selected is built with hum-canceling pickups designed to keep out the unwanted noise that can come from complex bass electronic systems, has maple in the neck to coax a bright and warm sound out of these typically bass-heavy guitars, and offers various tone and volume controls onboard to help you sculpt the specific sound and tone that you’re looking for.
Lakland’s Skyline Decade bass guitar takes one look at the notion that you can’t have it all, and drowns out such a silly notion with its amazing sounding Chi-Sonic pickups and low end tone emanating from its mahogany body. This high-end instrument also has a distinctively cool look which is an understated plus for players selecting a premium option such as this. Read Full Review
Imagine being able to use one bass guitar to pull up sounds for hundreds of instruments. That’s exactly what Music Man’s Reflex Game Changer bass guitar aims to do, with its innovative pickup system that allows players to customize their sound using an assortment of pickup configurations, as well as an archived online library of presets and sounds. With an onboard MIDI connection option, the possibilities can expand exponentially. Read Full Review
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Aria’s SB1000RIB is something of an anomaly in the industry, a reissue of a classic instrument that still maintains its high-end identity and amenity-like features. With a sculpted neck-through-body design for added sustain and one double-coil pickup driving the strength of this axe’s tone, this is a high end guitar appealing to fans of the original as well as newcomers. Read Full Review
Stanley Clarke is a legend in jazz, having pioneered his own unique playing style and approach to the bass guitar. It only makes sense that he would team up with a company like Alembic to produce a signature model meant for players who are serious about their playing and want an a non-compromised feel, style, and sound out of their instrument. Read Full Review
It’s a bit surprising more bass guitars don’t have names referencing ferocious felines like a tiger, as they often aim to come across as sleek, majestic, and capable of straddling the line between being smooth and aggressive. But at least one company has got that concept on lock as Ken Smith’s Black Tiger model bass guitar is rarer than any animal you might find on a safari, being made from black walnut tree wood and powered by customized Smith B.M.T. electronics. Read Full Review
Best Budget Bass Guitar:
Bassists around the world know down the line when they’ve hit it big and can afford to spend ridiculously large amounts of cash on keeping their rig current, they’ll purchase bass guitars surpassing their wildest dreams. But when you’re first starting out, you don’t always have the luxury of being able to get the most high-end equipment. Luckily, there are many great budget bass guitars available for players who are starting out or musicians who just don’t want to break the bank in order to get a new axe. Here are the best budget bass guitars available, each selection manufactured with multiple pickups that allow players to choose between a variety of tone settings or a mix of the different options, frets that are at least medium jumbo sized to allow players to maneuver around in their playing without feeling any limitations, and a maple build in the neck to offer more sustain and resonance in the guitar’s sounds.
Oozing with attitude, Epiphone’s Thunderbird PRO IV is the budget bass guitar with a rock and roll aesthetic that sets it apart from the rest of the pack. T-PRO bass humbuckers give this axe its nasty snarling tone, while its mahogany build and cool cutaway shape provides the proper mix of style and sound to make this instrument an ideal choice for those looking to affordably rock. Read Full Review
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Fender is one of the gold standards for bass guitarists throughout the industry, but those who are trying to keep things under a tight budget may not always be able to afford getting a Fender bass guitar. Luckily, Squier is there to fill the void and provide the Fender quality sound and craftsmanship at a fraction of the cost. Their Affinity Series Precisions Bass PJ offers the best of what a Fender bass has to offer, with a Precision and Jazz Bass pickup combination that can adapt to a variety of styles, along with 20 jumbo frets that will have you playing with comfort and ease. Read Full Review
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Yamaha’s RBX170 is a definitive starter bass guitar. With a price tag that makes it accessible to players under extremely tight budgets, this axe is one of the company’s best-selling instruments, and it’s not hard to tell why. With a comfortable body shape, excellent electronics, and quality build, this is a great way to dive into the world of bass guitars. Read Full Review
Squier has made it their mission to offer all of the benefits of Fender instruments in an affordable and accessible package with their axes, but with their Classic Vibe Jazz Bass 60s, they’ve hopped in a time machine to a golden era of music. Modeled after the fat and round sounding Fender Jazz Bass of the 1960’s, this instrument offers a classic single coil sound and is designed specifically with comfort and playability in mind. Read Full Review
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Are you ready to lay your hands on a budget bass guitar that can only be properly described as a warrior? From the aggressive-sounding pickup configuration to the durability of its maple/mahogany neck and through-body construction, the ESP LTD B-4E NS is the instrument equivalent of a growling, invincible tank. It sounds huge and even as it pushes the limit for guitars in its price range, it still remains affordable for those working within a fixed budget. Read Full Review
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Best Hollow-Body Bass:
Just as hollow-body guitars offer a resonant, distinct tone separating them from their solid-body brethren, bass guitars also follow the same pattern. Although hollowbody bass guitars are perhaps a bit more of a rarity, they do offer a sound that bridges the gap between an acoustic and electric instrument, resulting in a warm and full sound that can be perfect for a variety of playing styles and genres. These are the best hollow-body basses with each instrument featuring a rosewood fretboard that encourages players to glide around their axe with smooth ease as well as multiple volume and tone controls to allow for a more precise crafting of sound. These selections also each have an adjustable bridge so these instruments can be finely tuned for intonation and/or routine maintenance to ensure optimum performance.
Lakland’s take on the hollowbody bass guitar offers all of the warmth and resonance one can expect from this style of instrument, adorned with the stylistic enhancements that have earned the company a reputation as a leading brand. An archtop style meets an all-mahogany body for a beefy tone powered by Chi-Sonic humbucker pickups. Read Full Review
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Warwick offers players a more affordable alternative to their hollowbody bass guitar via their RockBass Star. With a classic look that invokes some of the beloved axes of the past coupled with modern flourishes in its electronics, this instrument has a vintage sounding vibe ideal for bassists who are ready to rock. Read Full Review
The hollow-body bass guitar is already a unique enough concept on its own, but Epiphone’s pairing with rock bassist Jack Casady to create his signature model takes things to a whole new level. With a hollow-body/semi-hollow hybrid design, nuanced tone controls, and comfortable feel make this an instrument you’ll have a hard time putting down. Read Full Review
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Gretsch’s G5440LS is a relatively new addition to this manufacturer’s stable, having just debuted in 2012. This hollow-body bass guitar has a vintage feel and look but has been enhanced with more modern electronics to bridge the gap between the past and the future. Whether you’re looking for a hollow-body bass to play unplugged or want to get electric with it for more colored sounds, this axe does the trick. Read Full Review
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Hofner’s H500/1 Vintage 1964 Violin Electric Bass Guitar is a total blast from the past, faithfully replicating their original model from over 50 years ago. From its stunning appearance to the classic Hofner Staple humbucker bass tone, you’ll be channeling the sounds of yesteryear in no time with this hollowbody bass guitar. Read Full Review
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Best 5 String Bass Guitar:
The fifth string on a bass guitar (the low B) can give players new directions and sounds to access when compared to the relatively limited structure of a standard 4-string bass. If you’ve ever felt like you wanted to go lower than you could on a regular bass guitar, a 5-string is an instrument you should definitely check out, particularly for styles such as jazz, rock, R&B, and more. Here are the best 5-string bass guitars, with each selection having no less than 21 frets to give players a wide playing field to play their instrument as well as clear and stylish fretboard inlays that will give you quick and easy references to use as anchor points as you maneuver up and down the neck. Best of all, each pick is available in at least three different body colors, allowing players the option to have a bass guitar that fits their visuals taste.
The Jazz bass was the second bass guitar that Fender ever manufactured, and although many years have passed since then, it still remains a pillar of bass playing today. The American Deluxe Jazz Bass V carries the torch for the legacy brand it represents but adds some marked improvements in new electronics, refined design, and a fifth lower B string to dive deeper into the low end of the frequency range. Read Full Review
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With a distinctively thick tone, comfortable feel and intuitive design, Music Man’s Classic Stingray 5-string bass definitely makes a strong argument for the classic part of its name. This axe features a jaw-dropping low-end sustain and a punchy tone, courtesy of a soap-bar-style humbucker pickup and active 2-band EQ. Read Full Review
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Adding a fifth string to a standard bass guitar gives players the option to play more notes than what was originally allocated for them, but what good is it if all of those frets aren’t comfortable to play? The Ibanez SR505 5-string bass was designed to feel good in your hands, and sound good to your ears; the latter concern is definitely addressed with its deep, rich tone and intuitive electronics. Read Full Review
As a bass guitar manufacturer, Lakland is a special brand. Their quality control and attention to detail has made their instruments a go-to option for bassists who want axes that maintain a distinct character and feel solid and reliable onstage and in the recording studio. The 55-14 model upholds all of those pillars of the brand, with outstanding in-house electronics and a tonewood body offering an out-of-this-world sound. Read Full Review
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It might seem odd to include an instrument with such a low price tag like the Yamaha TRBX305 amongst the best 5-string bass guitars, but the features of this instrument have earned it a spot amongst the pack. While the solid hardware and smart build of the body makes it a winner already, it’s the performance EQ switch that makes this a noteworthy axe to check out. Read Full Review
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Best Budget 5 String Bass Guitar:
Whether you’re a bass player who is just starting out or you have been playing for a bit but are just now making the transition into the 5-string life, getting a good 5-string bass guitar can be something of a daunting task. You want an instrument well-equipped not only to handle the additional range of sound you’re getting with the fifth extra string, but also give you an optimal playing experience so the added bass doesn’t become a physical discomfort. Here are the best budget 5-string bass guitars, with each instrument built with a maple neck for seamless playing comfort and bright resonance, a rosewood fretboard to enable you to quickly and accurately maneuver around the neck, and tone controls that enable you to adjust the signal and mix of the pickup settings contained within the electronics of the instrument.
Ibanez is no stranger to the realm of 5-string bass guitars, having provided bassists with their instruments throughout the years in a variety of scenes and musical movements, in fact, I’m pretty sure that in the early 2000’s if you played bass in a nu-metal band you actually were legally obligated to be playing a 5-string Ibanez bass. That era may have passed but the need for 5-strings continues on, and with the GSR105EX you have a thick-sounding, durable instrument available at an extremely low price. Read Full Review
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Squier is the path to pursue if you want to get some great sounding Fender action at a fraction of the price. True to form, the Vintage Modified Jaguar Bass Special SS offers a dual pickup configuration that growl or shine as you see fit, and a short scale design that makes this instrument truly easy to pick up and play. Read Full Review
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Although ESP’s LTD B-205SM is a 5-string bass guitar with budget on its mind, it hardly carries itself with the appearance (or sound) of a cheap instrument. Its exotic spalted maple top and ash body give this axe a high-end look, while its dual ESP SB-5 pickups in the bridge and neck positions offer a rich and nuanced tone. Read Full Review
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Peavey’s Millennium BXP is a 5-string bass guitar that defies expectations across the board. An affordable price, surprisingly light instrument weight, and a balanced sound that comes from such an unassuming axe, all make for a great budget axe for those harnessing the versatile power Peavey has built its reputation on. Read Full Review
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Yamaha has packed so many great features into their TRBX305 5-string bass guitar, it’s almost unfair to classify this instrument as a budget guitar. A Performance EQ switch allows instant access to intuitive and great-sounding pickup presets, while it’s comfortable body shape and solid hardware make rocking out with this axe a truly enjoyable experience. Read Full Review
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Best High End 5 String Bass Guitar:
Bass players already tread into the lower frequency range, all things considered; but sometimes, you’ve just got to go a little bit lower. Enter the 5-string guitar, which adds a lower B string to the instrument. When venturing into this area of the musical scale, it’s important to have a high-end instrument built to support this deeper and lower string with accuracy and stability. To that end, each instrument listed here is equipped with multiple tone controls that allow you to customize your low-end tone, offers its own unique cutaway design to maximize comfort and fret access, and finally these picks are each available in multiple stunning body colors because why get a high-end instrument if it doesn’t provide a visual “wow” factor?
In the 1970’s, jazz bassist Stanley Clarke single-handedly started the bass revolution through his innovative playing style and willingness to take the lead in a position that often was relegated to the sidelines. And he did it all with an Alembic bass guitar in his hands. So it’s only fitting that the company created their Stanley Clarke Signature Standard, offering the supreme playability necessary to attempt to follow in the footsteps of this veritable icon, as well as the amazing tonal qualities of his original instrument. Read Full Review
Warwick has long been a supplier of ridiculously thick and versatile sounding bass guitars, and the quality that they apply to all their products definitely puts them in an overall high-end category. But when you name your axe the Corvette $$, well, you can guess that this thing is pretty money. A unique double humbucker electronic configuration and Chinese ash body give this thing an absolute booming sound. Read Full Review
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The Music Man Classic Stingray 5 instantly calls back to an era when bass sounds were really reaching a new high in tone and playability thanks to the diligent work of Leo Fender and his team of engineers. This axe offers an incredible sustain and a punchy tone thanks to its soap-bar-style humbucker pickup. Read Full Review
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Lakland’s 55-14 bass guitar is a high-end, limited edition version of the company’s popular 55-94 featuring an all in-house selection of electronics and exquisite care taken in the build and construction of the beautiful alder body. This is an impressive sounding instrument that offers versatility in tone control and also intuitively feels great in the hands of any bassist. Read Full Review
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The sound of a Fender American Jazz bass has been and will continue to be a standard for bassists everywhere, and with their American Jazz Standard V, the company has given the world yet another reason to recognize why they will always be on top. With a fast, smooth neck and punchy, single-coil tone, this is a dynamic axe that can sing and growl however you see fit. Read Full Review
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Best All Around 6 String Bass Guitar:
For bassists looking to expand their sound and overall playing capability, the 6-string bass guitar is as good as it gets. Adding a low B string and a high C string to the standard 4-string bass guitar setup, these axes provide players with the ability to tackle chord shapes and melodic range that would be impossible on any other type of bass guitar. While they are not as common as their lesser-stringed counterparts, there are a variety of companies that exist to fill this niche lane. Here are the best all around 6-string bass guitars, with each instrument here featuring a unique cutaway body design to give players easy access to all of the frets, multiple pickups installed in the electronics to provide a deep variety of tones within the same instrument, and in-depth tone/volume controls to allow you the ability to precisely sculpt the low and high end range of the instrument.
The Music Man Bongo 6 provides a truly deep selection of tone and sound possibilities in a 6-string bass guitar not only built to sound good but look awesome at the same time. The 4-band EQ opens up the door to endless tonal configurations while the schematics on its bridge and basswood body ensure your source material is always on-point. Read Full Review
Spector’s Legend Classic 6 is a 6-string bass guitar closely resembles the build and tonal qualities that players have come to expect from brands like Warwick, but without the sometimes-intimidating price tag. Its comfortable design and no-frills electronic set-up give this instrument a no-nonsense attitude that is ideal for players looking for a traditional tone combined with all that the added range of two additional strings have to offer. Read Full Review
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The Ibanez BTB676 is definitely a high-end 6-string bass guitar, but it thankfully won’t cost you an arm and a leg. This instrument is easy to handle thanks in part to its five piece maple/bubinga neck, and sounds impeccable courtesy of a dual Bartolini pickup configuration. Read Full Review
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The Warwick brand is beloved in the world of bassists, particularly by those who look to expand their musicality beyond the standard and explore new sounds and playing techniques. So it only makes sense that the company’s Thumb NT-6 offers a doorway to some truly exploratory 6-string playing, with features and amenities that will make your axe sound good and feel easy to play. Read Full Review
Okay, purists, calm down; while the Squier Vintage Modified VI could technically fall under the category of a baritone guitar when compared to more typical 6-string bass guitars, the fact of the matter is that this is an instrument that produces amazing, bass-like tone. Better yet, it’s got the playability of an electric guitar, which means that you can pull off techniques and styles that would normally only be capable on a bass guitar by the most seasoned virtuoso musicians. Read Full Review
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Best High End 6 String Bass Guitar:
The 6-string bass guitar is the unicorn of stringed instruments as it’s something not frequently seen yet inspires marvel and wonder when it does poke its head out. Adding a low B string and a high C string to the standard 4-string bass guitar configuration, this instrument opens up the doors to a wider range of notes, potential for chords, harmonies, and more. Because of the relatively rare nature of this axe, many bassists who do want to go this route opt for high-end models to really get the perfect sound and feel in a bass guitar. These are the best high end 6-string bass guitars, with each axe here configured with dual pickup electronics to capture a wider range of tonal options for players while offering multiple tone and volume knobs to help dial in the perfect tone configurations on the fly. Additionally, each selection is built with a unique cutaway body shape to allow easy access to all frets.
Warwick’s Thumb NT-6 6-string bass guitar is instantly striking at first glance, from the rich reddish hue of its gorgeous wood grain to its dark ebony fingerboards. And there’s more than just what’s present on the surface. The design of this instrument which includes an adjustable nut system, easy-to-access electronics cover, and invisible fret installation technology, makes this axe a true pleasure to play with. Read Full Review
Ken Smith’s BSR6MS 6-string bass guitar offers the type of features and careful design considerations that can only happen when you’re dealing with high-end, customized instruments. Every component has been built by hand and conceptualized for great-sounding results and comfortable playability. Read Full Review
With their BTB676 6-string electric bass, Ibanez has created an axe with an assortment of features and traits that would qualify it as a boutique instrument, minus the exorbitant price tag. Featuring two Bartolini pickups, walnut/ash body, and five-piece maple/bubinga neck, this bass guitar gives players the ability to truly take advantage of the wide and expansive musical playground only available with six strings. Read Full Review
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ESP teamed with Tower of Power bassist Rocco Prestia to create their RB-1006SM Natural, a 6-string bass guitar that’s a sonic playground for bassists who want no limit to what they can play with their instrument. With a great-looking natural finish on its swamp ash body and sharp sounding P and J pickups built into its electronics, this is a bass that looks and sounds majestic. Read Full Review
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Bass guitar builder Michael Tobais has wowed bassists worldwide with his handcrafted approach he takes with these customized instruments. The MTD 635-24 high-end qualities drive a price tag that makes it far from a casual purchase, but this is the type of axe not intended for a casual player. Read Full Review
Best Budget 6 String Bass Guitar:
If 6-string bass guitars are something of a rarity in the world of musical instruments, finding one that’s affordable truly enters into “needle in a haystack” territory. Although the entries in this category are limited, there are some bass guitars that are able to provide the wide range of playability that can only be found in a 6-string, but without the sometimes prohibitive price tag. These are the best budget 6-string bass guitars, with each instruments featuring rosewood fingerboards to give players a smooth playing experience while they all weigh remarkably less than most 6-string bass guitars. They also offer on-board tonal controls which allow players to precisely tweak their tone coming from each instrument’s multiple pickup electronic configurations.
Ibanez gives both bass players and guitarists trying to cross over into the world of bass an affordable and quality 6-string option with their Gio GSR206 bass guitar. With a relatively simple set of electronics and physical features, this axe provides a surprising amount of tonal options and build amenities at an extremely consumer-friendly price point. Read Full Review
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The Dean Edge 6 is geared towards players who place more stock in performance than looks. Everything about this 6-string bass favors strength and power over everything, from its solid body to hard-hitting humbucker pickups to its hard tail bridge. Read Full Review
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The Brice V2 is a 6-string bass guitar that offers a solid tone and great playability at a real steal of a price. With its maple build and light weight, this is a great instrument for players looking to transition into the vast world of 6-stringed instruments without having to break the bank to do so. Read Full Review
Is Squier’s Vintage Modified Bass VI a true bass guitar? A baritone guitar? These are often questions that can spark debate, but everyone can agree this axe sports a vintage look and a distinct sound catering to the playing style and capabilities of an electric guitar, only dropped an octave below. Read Full Review
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ESP’s B-206SM builds upon the quality sound and build of their other bass guitars and provides that recipe for an affordable 6-string bass guitar that gives players a tone and playability far exceeding its price bracket. With its spalted maple top, ash body, and 5-piece maple and rosewood neck, this is a natural beauty that resonates wonderfully and offers distinct stability for all playing styles. Read Full Review
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Best Acoustic Bass Guitar Overall:
Acoustic bass guitars may be something of a rare instrument in the world of bassists, but they play an absolutely essential role in delivering a specific kind of sound. The name itself may be a bit deceiving, as in most cases the instruments are equipped with electronics to help project the sound and be heard in any kind of setting. However, the resonance and feel these guitars deliver can be useful in a variety of musical styles and genres. These are the best acoustic bass guitars, each instrument featuring a rosewood fingerboard ideal for quickly and comfortably maneuvering around the frets, an electronic system to help project and improve the natural acoustic bass tone, and durable chrome tuners to keep the instrument in tune (while looking impressive at the same time).
Bass players aren’t asking for much when it comes to finding a proper acoustic bass; it needs to be easy to play, sound balanced whether plugged in or unplugged, and it needs to be versatile enough to cover any style of playing required. Takamine’s GB30CE hits all the marks, with a jumbo instrument ready for the stage, the studio, and any venue in between. Read Full Review
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Ibanez has long been a quality manufacturer in the worlds of electric guitars, acoustic guitars, and electric basses, so it only makes sense they bring that same quality care and sound to their acoustic basses, too. The AEB10E gives you all you’ll need to play this thing instantaneously and sound great without having to do much tweaking or EQing, all at a price that is startlingly affordable. Read Full Review
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Godin’s A5 Ultra Natural SA acoustic bass guitar is the axe was made with a truly outside-the-box mentality driving its creation. Players with that same mind state are going to instantly be magnetized by what this instrument has to offer. From beautiful sounding tonewoods to MIDI-capable electronic possibilities, this is an axe that can really do it all. Read Full Review
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Breedlove will certainly have no problem receiving love from bass players, as their Solo acoustic bass guitar addresses all of the needs and concerns bassists have when considering how to fit their instrument into the mix, whether at a gig or in the studio. The body and construction of this instrument is beautifully crafted, and the electronics contained within take that already-impeccably crafted tone and bring it to a bigger stage instantly. Read Full Review
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They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but that doesn’t necessarily apply to acoustic bass guitars. True to form, the Michael Kelly Dragonfly 4 has a distinct look with its dragonfly and vine custom inlays, which might make you think that this instrument is a bit different than the others (perhaps beyond just its outward appearance). And upon further inspection of the build and electronics in this guitar, you’ll be happy to discover you’re right! Read Full Review
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Best Fretless Acoustic Bass Guitar:
Fretless bass guitars are certainly not a new concept, but they’ve typically been relegated to upright basses and instruments typically played with a bow, as opposed to the traditional bass guitar method of playing. Although they can be a bit more of a challenge to master, fretless acoustic bass guitars provide a sound that is distinctly fluid and often more jazzy and organic than anything else. Each of these fretless acoustic bass guitars have been built with onboard electronics to help better craft and tweak your sound for when you want to plug your axe in, are manufactured with darker tonewoods which help to accentuate a low-end tone, and of course adorned with customized inlays that give these instruments a unique and classic look to compliment the sounds they’re producing.
Some instruments play by the rules and other occupy space in between worlds, refusing to fall under an easy classification. Takamine’s TB10 definitely falls into the latter category. This acoustic-electric upright fretless bass has the radius of an upright but can be played as either, and also packs some electronics that translate its sound perfectly, regardless of how it’s being used. Read Full Review
It’s only fitting that Warwick has a line of acoustic bass guitars they refer to as their Alien series, as just a quick glance at some of the most prominent bassists who play Warwicks such as Bootsy Collins, P-Nut (311), Adam Clayton (U2), Stuart Zender (Jamiroquai). The Warwick Rockbass Alien 6 runs with this aesthetic, producing a fretless acoustic bass guitar that feels fresh and sounds like it is from another galaxy. Read Full Review
Are you ready to get imaginative with your playing? If so, the Godin A4 Ultra Natural Fretless bass guitar is calling you, and you’d do well to respond if you’re looking for an amazing sounding acoustic bass that plays and feels super comfortable. However, it offers an amplified sound and MIDI configurations that can expand and transform your tone. Read Full Review
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Get yourself a Kala U-Bass All Solid Mahogany fretless acoustic bass, and you’ll laugh the next time you see some poor sap lugging around his huge upright bass. That’s because Kala, typically renowned for its ukuleles, has created an acoustic fretless bass built for easy travel, sounds expressive, authentic in tone, and is equipped with electronics that ensure you can take it onstage with no problems at all. Read Full Review
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If you’re going to sound incredible, it’s only fitting that you have an instrument that looks the part. Enter the Michael Kelly Dragonfly 5, a five-string acoustic fretless bass guitar that has implemented some unique features into its construction and design to give players an eyeful (and earful) of personality to make it stand out in a crowd. Read Full Review
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Best Acoustic Travel Bass Guitar:
Being a bass player no longer has to be synonymous with having severe back problems. With the introduction of several acoustic travel bass guitars to the market, bassists can now take their axe with them wherever they go, without having to deal with the strain of carrying what is typically a large instrument, not to mention allocating a sufficient amount of space in vehicles when doing so. These are the best acoustic travel bass guitars with each instrument featured here weighing less than eight pounds for easy transportation, equipped with an onboard set of electronics to help boost and modify the acoustic tones these selections produce on their own, and each also comes with a padded travel case to protect your new instrument.
The Michael Kelly Sojourn 4 Travel acoustic bass has a bark that’s worse than its bite, that is if we’re calling its incredibly responsive and low-end tone its bark and its physical footprint its bite! With an included gig bag and an impressive set of onboard electronics, this is a go-to instrument of the caliber that you’d expect from a fine manufacturer like Michael Kelly. Read Full Review
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It may look like a ukulele, and its manufacturer Kala may be best known for producing ukuleles, but believe us when we tell you that the U-Bass All Solid Mahogany Fretless acoustic bass guitar is not, in fact, a ukulele. No, it’s actually a travel-friendly instrument that makes sounds like no ukulele ever could, and it’s certainly worth checking out for the bassist on the move. Read Full Review
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Traveler’s Escape MK-II acoustic bass is aptly titled, as its compact design makes it easy to transport and perfect for the musician on the move. It’s not a particularly attractive-looking instrument, but clearly the intention behind this acoustic guitar is to give bassists a great-sounding instrument weighing less than a average shopping bag after a visit to the grocery store. Read Full Review
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Traveler’s Ultra-Light 5-string acoustic bass definitely embraces a less is more mentality, because this instrument is certainly one of the more compact you’ll ever see. As the lightest guitar made by a company that already specializes in travel instruments, it’s truly an axe you can take with you anywhere; The instruments pickups and smart build give you a sound you’ll actually WANT to take with you everywhere you go. Read Full Review
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The sound of the dreadnought body is synonymous with the resonant, projected tone of some of our favorite acoustic instruments, but what would happen if someone replicated that design in a much smaller package? With Gold Tone’s Microbass 23 acoustic travel bass, the results are clearly evident. You get a ukelele-sized instrument that can get as loud as it needs to be, in a package that’s convenient for travel. Read Full Review
Bass Guitar Buyers Guide
When purchasing a bass guitar, there are many things to consider before even starting the selection process. Assessing what style of music you are going to play (along with what sort of approach or technique you want to utilize) will help steer you in the right direction. It’s also important to consider whether or not you think you will be using the instrument primarily in the recording studio or in a live environment. And acknowledging what skill level you currently play it can also make things clearer for the purchaser. Above all, remember that this is an instrument that you are going to be using for quite some time, so be sure to give yourself an opportunity to test out different models hands-on before making your purchase. In the meantime, we’ve outlined some key concepts to keep in mind before shopping for a bass guitar.
Large, bold sections require a general overview of a particular feature and how it fits into the instruments overall functionality. Subsections have been included for additional information where applicable.
While the body style of bass guitars doesn’t tend to vary as much as that of the electric guitar, there are still some variations available on the market. The body of the instrument has an effect not just on the sound that is produced, but the way in which the bass guitar can be played and comfortably held.
As the name might imply, a solid body bass guitar is comprised of one solid piece of wood. It is the most common bass guitar body type, and is exemplified by some of the most popular models used today. Depending on the type of wood and electronic pick-up configuration, solid body bass guitars can pretty much be used for any genre or style of music. When not plugged in, these bass guitars barely make any sound at all.
Hollow body bass guitars are more typically used for styles like jazz and folk. In contrast to solid body instruments, they are hollowed out by design and produce a warmer tone and deeper low-end range. They are lighter, but also don’t produce as strong an output signal as solid body bass guitars.
The construction of a bass guitar’s neck is an important factor to consider when choosing a bass. There are two main ways in which the bass neck can join the rest of the instrument.
The neck is attached to the body of the bass guitar with four screws. This setup makes the bass guitar’s neck extremely accessible for repair. The configuration of a bolt-on neck doesn’t have much of an effect on the sound produced by the instrument, as long as the connection between the neck and body is tight enough to ensure enhanced sustain and vibration.
The neck extends throughout the length of the entire bass guitar. This configuration generally results in a greater amount of sustain and typically signifies that the bass guitar’s wood is of extremely high quality. This in turn increases the value of the instrument.
While electric guitars are most commonly equipped with six strings, there are a few options that are frequently seen for bass guitars when it comes to strings.
The more traditional configuration is the 4-string bass (E-A-D-G). Because this option offers the fewest amount of strings, 4-string basses tend to have smaller necks and are easier to handle, making them an ideal bass guitar for those who are just learning how to play.
The 5-string bass adds a low B string to the mix (B-E-A-D-G); this type of bass guitar provides more low-end, and is often preferred by bassists playing in genres such as jazz, hard rock, and metal. They also tend to be a little more difficult to play.
6-string basses add an additional higher string (B-E-A-D-G-C), resulting in the widest neck of all bass guitars. Though these are understandably even more difficult to handle, they provide great space for bassists who often solo and are seeking a wide range of notes to be able to play in their performances.
Fret and Fretless Bass
Bassists can choose whether they want their bass guitar to have frets or to be fretless. The standard configuration for most bass guitars is usually 21, 22, or 24 frets. While the number of frets clearly doesn’t effect the sound produced by the instrument, it does impact the size of the bass guitar (specifically the length of the neck) and typically just comes down to personal preference.
Standard instruments have metal frets that partition the neck into half-step increments, much like any other type of guitar. This makes it easier to find the notes and positioning on the neck, making it an ideal bass guitar for beginners.
These guitars offer a neck without any of the fret markings, similar to how an upright bass or violin is designed.
Many bassists prefer the sound that a fretless bass provides, citing added warmth and a smoother sound that has a unique character that cannot be achieved by standard bass guitars. However, this design also makes it more challenging to find the frets on the neck, making it a poor choice for beginning bassists.
Once bass players have built their skills on standard instruments and have excellent ears as well as muscle memory, they may find that they have an easier time handling a fretless bass.
Passive vs. Active Pickups
Shifting over from the actual physical build of the instrument itself, bass guitars also generally offer players two different options when it comes to considering the electronic component of the pre-amp circuitry. The pre-amp of a bass guitar boosts the signal received from the pick-ups, and also provides players the ability to shape and adjust the signal’s tone via the knobs on the instrument.
Passive bass guitars are generally easy to spot – they usually only offer a few knobs for volume, tone, and a blend knob that mixes the signal if the instrument has two pick-ups. The sound that a passive system bass guitar offers is relatively straightforward and simple to adjust.
Although it can be looked at as considerably lo-fi when compared to an active system, its biggest benefit is that it is not battery-powered; worrying about power supply is one extra thing to have to think about when onstage or in the studio.
Active bass guitars, on the other hand, provide far greater control for players to shape their tone. Extensive EQ manipulation is available, and players can often rely on contour switches that instantly reset the EQ settings, meaning that you can spend as little (or as much) time as you’d like tweaking the perfect tone. These bass guitars depend on an on-board battery in order to stay powered.
Bass scale length refers to the distance between the bridge and the nut on a bass guitar. This distance can determine both the tone and pitch of an instrument. Bass guitars with longer necks (35-inch scale) offer more clarity for lower notes; these are typically found in 5 or 6-string bass guitars. The standard length for most bass guitars is 34 inches.
Smaller scale length options also exist; these options usually measure up to be around 30 inches, and are more ideal for beginners or players with smaller hands. This configuration is ideal for children, but not exclusive to younger players – during his time in the Beatles, Paul McCartney played a short scale bass.
Outside of changing the appearance that a bass guitar guitar may have, the type of wood that is used to make the instrument can also alter the way that the instrument sounds. When the sound of the bass guitar vibrates from the strings and reflects off of the wood, the type of wood that is part of this process can have an effect on the end product.
Both ash and alder are quite similar as they both provide a balanced and even tone to the bass guitar’s output. Many manufacturers also tend to favor ash because of its smooth-looking grain finish.
Agathis is the go-to choice for beginner/low-budget bass guitars, as the material is generally less expensive. The sound that agathis bass guitars produce generally tends to lean more towards low-end frequencies, providing what is considered to be a very rich tone.
Mahogany bass guitars have a rich and fuller sound than the aforementioned tonewood types. Because of the dense nature of the material, these guitars are generally heavier – something to keep in mind if you’re going to be holding the instrument around your neck for long periods of time.
Basswood is a preferable type of tonewood for styles of playing that rely on more complex and limber playing techniques, due mainly to the fact that the material tends to have a shorter sustain. It is a softer wood that also does not resonate as much as some of its other counterparts.
Maple wood bass guitars are similar to mahogany wood bass guitars, except for the fact that they tend to yield a brighter, more high-end tone. This gives it a significant advantage for studio recording.
Fender Precision vs. Jazz Basses
Although there are many brands and models of bass guitars that are available for today’s modern bassist, two of the more popular and commonly found instruments both fall under the Fender umbrella. The Fender Precision and Fender Jazz basses both offer slight advantages that may sway a musician, depending on a variety of factors, including playing style and genre of music. It’s easier to tell which one is right for you just by testing them out yourself, but here are some of the basic differences.
The Precision bass guitar debuted in 1951 and models its body shape after the classic Fender Stratocaster electric guitar, with sculpted grooves in the top and bottom of the instrument, which make it easier to hold.
The Precision’s neck maintains a consistent thickness, tapering off only slightly when approaching the nut of the instrument. As far as pick-ups are concerned, the Precision offers a classic split-coil configuration that has been praised for its solid and bass-driven tone.
The Jazz bass guitar premiered nearly a decade after the Precision first hit stores, and there are some marked differences in all of the aforementioned instrument attributes between the two. Basing its body shape more along the lines of the Fender Jazzmaster electric guitar, the Jazz bass offers a body shape that is pushed more forward, freeing up space around the player’s right arm.
The Jazz neck is distinctly different from the Precision, in that there is a much more narrower spacing around the nut; many bass guitarists feel that this provides for easier fingering on the fretboard. And finally, the pick-ups that are typically featured in Jazz basses are dual 8-pole humbuckers – these allow for far greater tone control and manipulation, as well as a sound that many players believe to be clearer.