From beginners to experts, having the best electric bass guitar does wonders for your playing style and technique. We're here to help you find that perfect instrument with our thorough buying guide and reviews of seven top-rated bass guitars. They range from affordable to higher-end so that, budget aside, everyone can find something worthwhile.
Electric Bass Guitars – What You Should Know
The bass guitar has a long history that spans across numerous of music genres. Since the 1950s, it has undergone quite a few changes, so choosing what's the best now starts with understanding more about the instrument and what qualities you should look out for.
Music Style and Purpose
As previously stated, multiple genres utilize this type of instrument. However, there are some bass guitars that are genre-specific and may perform better under one style than another
For instance, you may notice one bass mixes flawlessly in a jazz group, but it may sound out of place in a rock or heavy metal band.
Others are simply versatile and can blend well under any genre. Knowing what genre you're playing might help you narrow down your options.
Also, understanding the purpose of the bass is another helpful deciding factor. Do you need it for recording purposes? Or do you need something high-quality for live performances? Perhaps you or a younger musician is just starting out and need something user-friendly for learning purposes?
The answers to those questions will be useful in deciding if you need a high-end bass, a kit of sorts, or just something you can practice on.
Bass guitars come in a number of different designs, and each has their own advantages.
The neck style of your bass guitar factors in how the instrument plays in addition to its resonance. Generally, you'll only find electric bass guitars with three types of necks: bolt-on neck, set neck, and thru-body neck.
Bolt-on necks are the most common type used. As the name implies, with this style, the neck is bolted directly into the body. This gives it more stability, but it's also easy to replace if your bass is ever damaged.
With the set neck style, it's similar to bolt-on necks, but a dovetail or mortise joint is used instead of bolts. This offers greater resonance, and the sustain rating is usually rated between bolt-on styles and thru-body styles.
Speaking of the thru-body neck, this is one continuous piece that goes through the whole body of the bass. With nothing to cut the vibration, the sustain rating is highest in this style, but these are also more expensive than the other two types.
More than likely, you'll come across a bass guitar with a solid body construction. Meaning, it's only made of one solid piece of wood.
There are also hollow bodied bass guitars, also referred to as semi-acoustic electric basses. They're less prone to feedback, but you can achieve higher feedback levels when plugged in.
As for the type of wood, it plays a role in the playability of the bass as well as its warmth, sustainability, and its overall appearance.
You'll typically notice bass guitars made with basswood since it's the most inexpensive option. Other types of woods used are maple, mahogany, and ash.
The kind of electronics found in your electric bass guitar of choice determines how the sound is captured and shapes the overall voice of the instrument.
Usually, basses feature a single-coil or humbucker. There are those that use split-coil as well though.
Single-coils are popular as they're found in both basses and guitars. Some basses have two single-coils installed, but they're separated as one is by the neck with the other by the body. They're simple, yet noisy.
Humbucker pickups seem to be an improvement on single-coils as they're essentially the same, but the two single-coils are next to each other instead. This design cuts down on the noise while improving things like the gain.
With the split-coil pickups, they utilize a single-coil to behave like a humbucker. It gives you the best of both worlds; the sound of a single-coil, but without the excessive noise.
Bass guitars typically have four, five, or six strings.
Four is the most common, and it's also the most ideal one for beginners to use due to their simplicity and suitability for multiple musical styles. Also, the neck is generally smaller and handles better.
Five-string basses have a deeper range and a wider neck style. With the six-string basses, they're more challenging as the neck is even wider. They have an extended range as well compared to the others.
Best Electric Bass Guitars – Top 7 Reviewed
The Ibanez Bass Guitar is a simple, compact instrument that is made in nine different color styles. It features a short 28.6in. scale. Coupled with its lightweight build, and the Ibanez is a highly travel-friendly bass.
The small scale size also makes it easier when played in cramped studios or played by those of you with smaller hands such as kids.
All the electronics work well enough, and with the four-string design, the bass is generally easy and straightforward to play.
When you first receive the Ibanez, there may be some noticeable fret buzz. So, it does require a proper setup right off the bat if you want to fully enjoy the bass.
This Squier Affinity Series from Fender offers plenty of value for those of you seeking affordability and playability. It sends out a classic rock tone alongside a punch-packed Jazz Bass Bridge Pickup and a split single-coil Precision bass Pickup for more sound versatility.
With just a single volume knob for each pickup and one tone knob, the bass guitar is straightforward in design to make for easy accessibility for novice musicians. The bass is also lightweight and simple to hold for an extended time, while the C-shaped neck adds comfort.
There are only four strings to fiddle around with, but you may want to get them replaced beforehand as they can sit almost completely flat against the neck.
With that said, the entire build of the Squier Affinity Series Bass is well made. You have the chance to choose from three beautiful finishes: Olympic white, black, or race red. The maple neck and rosewood fingerboard seem smooth even if the frets themselves come across as a touch sharp.
The Sterling StingRay takes an iconic design and puts it out in a more affordable build without removing the overall quality of it. Its signature teardrop shape and the layout of the controls helps it standout whether you're playing in a band or solo. You can also select from eight different smooth finish colors.
There's a single humbucker pickup that pushes your sound well. The overall action is low even with active electronics.
This electric bass is relatively easy to play. It features a thin neck and four strings, allowing for ease of use for players with smaller hands. Do note that the weight distribution may not be that well, which can make it feel heavier if you're standing for a long time or carrying it around.
For setup purposes, the bass may arrive ready to play with minimum setup needed. However, it does not appear to hold a tune well, so frequent adjustments may be required. Even so, the "3+1" tuning key arrangement makes the process simpler.
The Safeplus Electric Bass Starter Guitar is a top choice for beginners as the kit features all you need to get started. Along with the bass, you'll get a storage bag, shoulder strap, amp cord, picks, and a tuner.
Available in blue or black, the bass is designed full-sized with a 48in. cutaway dreadnought body. It features four strings against a rose fingerboard and bridge that's smooth and feels well against your fingers.
You can create quality sounds with this across multiple genres such as blues and rock. The tuning process is quick and simple to complete, creating a well-rounded, easy-to-use instrument. As the bass may arrive with loud string buzzing, you might need to replace the strings or adjust right away.
There is minimal weight felt carrying this bass guitar, yet it has enough stability to not feel flimsy. The wood doesn't feel that high in quality though as it may dent easily. So, some care may be needed in order to help this last, but it is touted as a budget-friendly option for students or anyone else just starting out.
Available in numerous of color styles, the Yamaha Bass Guitar is a time-honored instrument thanks largely to its unique design and quality playability. It's a four-string style, and it's right-handed only.
The TRBX174 in particular features a single-coil pickup configuration. It may seem to lack a bit of focus at first, but through practice and tuning, you may get it sounding the way you want it to. Afterwards, this bass guitar has good control and balance with the pickup.
When you're tuning, it's a good idea to focus on the action as it may also be high in the beginning. There is some good range available from the master control volume though once the bass is completely setup.
This bass features some solid construction throughout. The mahogany body feels well in your hands, and although it's not the lightest bass, the weight feels balanced so that you may not feel fatigued playing it for hours.
The Ibanez GSR is an affordable bass guitar intended for beginners and intermediate musicians. It features a one-piece maple neck construction that feels smooth and is easy to handle. Along with the rosewood fretboard, the guitar seems put together well, and it comes in five different finish colors.
If there are any lower quality components, it would be some of the hardware like the knobs. They may need some replacing to stand up to the rest of the bass.
Nevertheless, the sounds the bass guitar produces are a high point. The combination pickups of a split-coil and a single-coil are active if not a bit noisy for some musicians. This bass pushes out incredible warmth while remaining in tune well so you don't have to adjust that often.
It doesn't weigh too much, and there are just four strings to play for quick learning. The smoothness of the fingerboard allows your hand to glide without worry as well.
If you can acquire an expensive bass, consider the Fender Deluxe Active Jazz Bass. This four-string bass is well-balanced between active and passive, offering great sound versatility. The configurations open up multiple tonal varieties that tackle different genres such as folk, Motown, and jazz.
Vibrations pass through well from the strings to the body thanks to the 4-saddle Hi Mass Bridge. This helps increase sustain and attack. The rest of the construction is unique as well, especially the two vintage jazz pickups in the middle and the bridge that are noiseless.
On the notion of its build, it features the iconic Fender jazz bass body, and it's made from high-quality materials such as alder with two different finish colors to choose from. Its one-piece neck offers good stability.
It may require some setup work in spite of how well made it is. In particular, you might want to focus on improving the intonation in order to truly hear how powerful the bass guitar could be.
An electric bass guitar is an exciting to play no matter what your choice of music genre is. Beginners and experts alike require high-quality instruments if you want to play to the best of your abilities. Each bass in our list may help your skills, but the Fender Deluxe Active Jazz Bass is the clear winner.
It features solid, long-lasting construction that's easy to adjust thanks to its responsive knobs. The neck isn't too wide so it's easy to hold, and the weight is evenly distributed so you may not feel fatigued carrying it around.
There's great versatility with this bass guitar too. The active and passive qualities are balanced, and along with the configurations, this allows for multiple play styles across numerous musical genres so anyone can take a stab at this bass to express themselves.
The bass may be expensive, but its quality, smooth playability and appearance, makes it all worthwhile.