If you love bass guitars and are in the market for an instrument of your own, you're probably eager to discover which models are ranked as the best. Outstanding basses share several factors in common, such as high-quality construction, superior playability, and a pleasing low-end tone. Top bass guitars have found their way onto lists compiled by Guitars Report, Guitar Fella, Guitar Mesh, and Guitar Files.
Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar Special Short Scale Bass
The Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar Special Short Scale Bass is ranked number three on Guitars Report's list of the ten best bass guitars, and it also won a spot on Guitar Mesh's list of favorites. If you love Fender guitars, you'll love this bass, since a Squier instrument can be thought of as a more affordable Fender. The Vintage Modified Jaguar is a special treat, with a lighter body and more slender neck than most other basses. It features one precision pickup and one jazz pickup. Its unique proportions and combination of pickups give it great flexibility with regard to its tone, from heavy lows to soaring highs, making it an unbeatable bass for its price range.
Schecter Stiletto Custom-4
Guitar lovers agree that the Schecter Stiletto Custom-4 is an outstanding bass. Guitars Report ranks it number two on their list, and Guitar Mesh considers it one of the top six bass guitars out there. According to Guitar Fella, the Schecter Stiletto Custom-4 is the best bass guitar for playing heavy metal since it has a powerful, thumping sound, but it works great in any genre that needs an extra-heavy low end. Two humbucking pickups lend warmth to the guitar's tone, giving it a silky high end that complements the lower punch. The guitar features a mahogany body, and its fast neck, made of maple, makes it easy to pull off some major shredding, especially if you play in a heavy metal band.
Fender Precision Bass
Guitars Report and Guitar Fella both rank the Fender Precision Bass number one on their lists of the ten best bass guitars. In the 1950s, the P Bass was the only bass made by Fender, and it set high standards, both in appearance and sumptuous low-end sound, for other bass guitars to follow. Today, the 1950s legend remains an iconic guitar, with its classic appearance and powerful tone. It features reverse-action tuners, a vintage split-coil pickup, and a maple neck that's comfortable to play. Well-known bass guitar players have had signature models of the Fender Precision Bass named after them, including Steve Harris of Iron Maiden and Roger Waters of Pink Floyd.
Epiphone Goth Thunderbird-IV
The Epiphone Goth Thunderbird-IV earns kudos from both Guitar Fella and Guitars Report, not only as a top bass guitar but also as one of the best models for beginners. As a subsidiary of Gibson, Epiphone makes affordable, high-quality guitars. The Goth Thunderbird-IV has a retro feel and hearkens back to the first bass guitars Gibson made. The guitar features a rosewood fretboard with twenty silver frets. Its large, zig-zag mahogany body and two humbucking pickups give it a great deal of low-end punch. The bass garners numerous positive customer reviews from Guitar Center and Amazon, with people praising its smooth bass tones and pickups that "scream."
Fender Active Jazz Bass
Guitar Files ranks the Fender Active Jazz Bass as the best bass available for under one thousand dollars, and on specifics such as performance, features, value, and design, it's rated a ten, the highest possible score. The J Bass has five strings instead of the standard four, so its neck is wider, but it still has a great feel and excellent playability. It features two single-coil pickups and a three-band EQ, all of which add a great deal of power as well as flexibility to its sound, making it suitable for a wide range of genres. The J Bass has been loved and preferred by renowned bass guitarists like Darryl Jones of the Rolling Stones, Geddy Lee of Rush, and jazz legend Jaco Pastorius.
ESP LTD B-206SM
Ranked number two on Guitar Files' list of the best basses available for under one thousand dollars, the ESP LTD B-206SM is a great choice, especially if you're into progressive rock and heavy metal. Wired Guitarist states the LTD B-206SM blows its competitors "out of the water" with its outstanding tone and superb quality construction. It's a particularly beautiful instrument, with a natural, aged wood finish, and its body is constructed of ash, a wood that provides depth of tone and plenty of sustain. The LTD B-206SM has two passive pickups and active electronics located on the neck and the bridge. Each one of its six strings delivers serious punch and high performance.
Sterling by Music Man RAY34-HB
Guitar Fella lists the Sterling by Music Man RAY34-HB number two on its list of the top ten bass guitars. The Ray34 is a more affordable version of the Music Man Sting Ray Bass, a legendary bass that came out in 1976 and is listed on My Rare Guitars' list of the ten most important basses in rock history. The Ray34 features a distinctive look with an ash body, an oval pick guard on a honey-colored wood finish, and chrome-plated hardware. Two humbucker pickups lend this bass an excellent tone with an impressive range, no matter what kind of music you want to play. It sounds great right out of the box.
If you're a beginner in search of an affordable bass guitar that gets top ratings all around, you'll want to check out the Ibanez GSR200. This instrument gets kudos from Guitar Mesh, Guitar Fella, and Guitars Report. Guitar Files ranks the GSR200 number three on its list of the best bass guitars you can buy for under three hundred dollars. The GSR200 boasts a fabulous tone that brings to mind that of vintage bass guitars, and it's packed with modern features like a jazz pickup, a precision pickup, and a three-band active EQ to tweak the sound in whatever way you please. The solid body is another great feature since it enhances the resonance and depth of the tone. The neck is slender and comfortable to play, making the guitar easy to learn on and a great bass to play on gigs.
Yamaha BB Series BB424
The Yamaha BB Series BB424 is ranked number three on Guitar Fella's list of the top ten bass guitars. Famous bass guitar players like Michael Anthony from Van Halen and Nathan East of Fourplay would certainly agree, since they chose Yamaha BB basses, and the BB424 is a truly worthy addition to the legendary BB series. It has a solid alder body, a maple neck, and a rounded neck joint that gives players full access to the highest frets. The BB424 has two single-coil pickups with one split and the other single-blade, a combination that lends great versatility in tone and style with plenty of power and panache.
Epiphone Viola Bass
Guitar Files ranks the Epiphone Viola Bass as the best bass you can buy for under $500. It's a violin bass, a semi-hollow instrument of a type made popular by Paul McCartney, who played a Hofner 500/1, designed in 1955. The Epiphone Viola, which can be thought of as an affordable descendant of the Hofner 500/1, is one of the most elegant-looking basses out there with its vintage styling, unique shape, and sunburst coloring. It's a dream to handle and play, too, at only seven pounds. The Epiphone Viola features two humbucker pickups which, combined with its semi-hollow body, gives a uniquely resonant tone with good punch on the low end and a brighter high end than most other basses.
Essentials of a Great Bass Guitar
The definition of a great bass guitar is ultimately determined by you, its player. Your dream bass might be a high-end, elegant model, a solid, affordable workhorse, or something in between. The most important quality of an outstanding bass guitar is the musicianship you bring to it. The bottom line is this: if a particular bass guitar inspires you to play with passion and makes your low end sing, then it's the best instrument for you.