Best bass guitars 2022: four-string and five-string bass guitars for every budget

Close up of Fender P-bass on its side
(Image credit: Future)

Whilst it’s sometimes overlooked, the bass guitar is an incredibly important part of any band’s sound. It’s the glue that joins the rhythm of the drums to the melody of the other instruments and the vocals. You might not necessarily hear the bass super loud in a mix, but you’d certainly notice if it wasn’t there. To tackle this all-important role, you’ll need an instrument that will do the job well, which is why we’ve put together a guide to the best bass guitars currently on the market.

Regardless of genre; whether that be indie, pop, metal, country, rock etc - you’ll want a bass guitar that sounds good, is reliable, comfortable to play, plus you might want to think about how it looks too. The best bass guitars are made by a variety of well-known companies, including Fender, Music Man, G&L, Ibanez, Rickenbacker and more, and are suited to a range of budgets. 

With so many different options available to players now, it can be daunting to choose one, but, with our selection of the best bass guitars, there’s a range of instruments here that all provide something a little different, and that cater to specific needs.

Best bass guitars: Our top picks

Every bass on this list is on there for a reason - they’re all great choices, however, it’s hard to deny the prestige and heritage held by the Fender Precision bass. As the first solid body bass, introduced over 70 years ago, it’s been played all over the world for every kind of music imaginable. 

The American Performer P-Bass (opens in new tab) provides you with that legendary sound, along with the versatility of an added Jazz pickup, plus it’s the most affordable US-made P that Fender makes.

Best bass guitars: Product guide

Best bass guitars: Fender American Performer Precision Bass

(Image credit: Fender)
The bass you’ll aspire to play

Specifications

Launch price: $1,299/£1,022/€1,238
Made In: USA
Colour: Satin Lake Placid Blue, Arctic White, 3-tone Sunburst
Body: Alder
Neck: Maple
Scale: 34”
Neck Joint: Bolt on
Nut Width: 1.625”
Fingerboard: Maple
Frets: 20
Pickups: Yosemite Jazz
Electronics: Greasebucket tone circuit
Controls: 2 x volume, 1 x tone
Hardware: Vintage-style steel saddles, Vintage paddle keys
Weight: 3.7kg
Case/gig bag included: Deluxe gigbag
Left-hand option: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Pro-level tones
+
Satin finish is nice
+
Lighter than it looks

Reasons to avoid

-
A few more colour options would be welcome

Look in any guitar store and you’ll find the bass section stacked full of Fenders. You see, while it’s primarily known for its more famous Strats and Teles, Fender has actually had a near-monopoly on the bass scene for decades thanks largely to its Jazz and Precision models. 

The Fender American Performer Precision Bass was launched in 2018 and brings together the exceptional American-built quality you've come to expect from Fender with the tone you’ve been dreaming about. The Greasebucket tone circuit is a nice touch, adding in a bit of extra tonal variety, while the satin finish makes it a dream to play.

Read the full Fender American Performer Precision Bass review

Best bass guitars: Sterling Music Man SUB RAY5

(Image credit: Sterling by Music Man)
A pocket-friendly StingRay with impressive tones

Specifications

Launch price: $349/£389/€419
Made In: China
Colour: Black Gloss
Body: Basswood
Neck: Maple
Scale: 34-inch
Neck Joint: Bolt-on, six-bolt attachment
Nut Width: 45mm
Fingerboard: Maple
Frets: 22
Pickups: Passive humbucker
Electronics: Active two-band EQ
Controls: Volume, bass, treble
Hardware: Chrome hardware, open elephant-ear machine heads, fixed chrome bridge
Weight: 4.2kg
Case/gig bag included: No
Left-hand option: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Familiar StingRay tones
+
Impressive build quality
+
Highly playable

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacks the finesse of the top range models

The SUB RAY5 is an impressive instrument from top to bottom, with the build quality you associate with Music Man instruments and a booty-rattling tonal performance that belies its equally impressive price-tag. 

The level of finishing is very good and, although it lacks a little of the presentation sparkle of its big brothers at the top of the range, the player gets a whole heap of bass for their buck. 

Playability is top notch and for those venturing into the world of five-string basses for the first time, this is the perfect introduction. Available in various colours, buy with confidence and be amazed!

Read the full Sterling by Music Man Sub Ray5 review

Best bass guitar: Fender Mustang bass

(Image credit: Fender)
Short-scale basses have never been more enticing

Specifications

Launch price: $699/£555/€538
Made In: Mexico
Colour: Sonic Blue Gloss
Body: Alder
Neck: Maple
Scale: 30-inch
Neck Joint: Bolt-on, four-bolt attachment
Nut Width: 38mm
Fingerboard: Pau ferro
Frets: 19
Pickups: Passive split and single-coil
Electronics: Passive
Controls: Volume, tone, pickup selector switch
Hardware: Chrome hardware, open elephant-ear machine heads, standard bridge
Weight: 3.4kg
Case/gig bag included: No
Left-hand option: No

Reasons to buy

+
Shorter scale offers great playability
+
Competitively priced
+
Solid construction

Reasons to avoid

-
Short scale not for everyone

Short-scale basses have gone through something of a renaissance recently, bringing more female players into the world of bass, as well as offering plummy old-school tones that are very much in fashion right now. 

With both split and single-coil pickups on offer, a selection of tones are available, but be aware that the shorter scale length reduces the speaking length of each string so the tone is markedly softer than you may be accustomed to with a long-scale bass. 

Playability is impressive while the choice of pau ferro as a fingerboard timber gives the bass more bounce and a harder attack. Effective for all playing styles, pick and fingerstyle players will especially love it.

Read our full Fender Mustang Bass review 

Best bass guitars: Yamaha TRBX305

(Image credit: Yamaha)
One of the best bass guitars for those on a budget

Specifications

Launch price: $419/£325/€355
Made In: Indonesia
Colour: Mist Green Gloss
Body: Mahogany
Neck: Maple and mahogany
Scale: 34-inch
Neck Joint: Bolt-on, four-bolt attachment
Nut Width: 43mm
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Frets: 24
Pickups: M3 humbuckers
Electronics: Active two-band EQ
Controls: Volume, pickup pan, bass, treble, five-position performance EQ switch
Hardware: Black nickel hardware, Yamaha die-cast machine heads, top-loading bridge
Weight: 4.1kg
Case/gig bag included: No
Left-hand option: No

Reasons to buy

+
Highly playable, great setup
+
Fine array of tonal options
+
Body and pickup sculpting to improve player comfort

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacks mid EQ
-
Slightly weighty

Yamaha consistently produce high-quality basses at every price point and even at the cheap bass guitar end of the scale, their instruments are some of the best bass guitars around. 

This budget five-string bass guitar competes well with basses costing twice the price, incorporating an impressive pickup and circuit combination, solidly effective hardware and an overall setup that makes you want to play it. 

If this guitar incorporated a mid-EQ control as well, it would likely trounce many instruments priced well above it; but even so, the bass projects very well with authority and clarity. Available in assorted colours, touches like the sculpted pickup casings and the comfortable neck profile make this bass a real winner.

Read the full Yamaha TRBX305 review 

Best bass guitars: Fender Geddy Lee Signature Jazz bass

(Image credit: Fender)
A pocket-friendly version of the Rush front-man's classic axe

Specifications

Launch price: $1,199/£888/€992
Made In: Indonesia
Colour: Black Gloss
Body: Alder
Neck: Maple
Scale: 34-inch
Neck Joint: Bolt-on, four-bolt attachment
Nut Width: 38mm
Fingerboard: Maple
Frets: 20
Pickups: Passive vintage single-coil pickups
Electronics: Passive
Controls: Volume, volume, tone
Hardware: Chrome hardware, Fender open elephant-ear machine heads, Fender High-Mass bridge
Case/gig bag included: Deluxe gigbag
Left-hand option: No

Reasons to buy

+
Outstanding tonal performance, lively and bubbly
+
Balances well with great playability
+
Classic tones and a neck to die for

Reasons to avoid

-
Might be too bright and twangy for some

This bass is a very lively performer all round with a grind and twang rarely heard in a bass of this calibre. Straight out of the supplied Deluxe gigbag, this bass bowls you over with its playability, fine setup and sturdy construction. 

Black block position markers retain a vintage vibe along with the black gloss and white scratchplate aesthetic. Players of all styles can make use of the features and tones on offer, but at this price, few Jazz basses play as well as this model. Prepare to be as blown away as we were.

Read the full Fender Geddy Lee Signature Jazz bass review

Bets bass guitars: Epiphone Viola Bass

(Image credit: Epiphone)

6. Epiphone Viola Bass

You might have seen these before…

Specifications

Launch price: $449/£297/€349
Made In: China
Colour: Vintage Sunburst
Body: Maple
Neck: Maple
Scale: 30.5”
Neck Joint: Set
Nut Width: 1.65”
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Frets: 22
Pickups: NYR Mini Humbucker
Electronics: N/A
Controls: 2 x volume, 1 x tone
Hardware: Chrome die-cast
Weight: 5.4kg
Case/gig bag included: No
Left-hand option: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Unique sound
+
Great for beginners
+
Iconic styling

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the most versatile, tonally

Short scale bass guitars aren’t for every taste, that’s for sure, but they did happen to be big enough for perhaps the best-known band in history. Paul McCartney himself is synonymous with the Viola bass shape, although his was a German-made Hofner, but these iconic little instruments are still going strong today thanks to the Epiphone Viola. 

For under $/£/€400 you get a sweet-sounding, well made bass with plenty of charm. Thanks to its shorter scale length, it’s easier for younger learners to use and the maple body and neck deliver a nice, snappy twang which compliments clean guitars well.

Best bass guitars: Ibanez SRH500-DEF Bass Workshop

(Image credit: Ibanez)

7. Ibanez SRH500-DEF Bass Workshop

An electro-acoustic from the dragon's private collection

Specifications

Launch price: $699/£619/€668
Made In: Indonesia
Colour: Dragon Eye Burst Flat
Body: Mahogany with spruce top
Neck: Jatoba and bubinga (five-piece laminate)
Scale: 34-inch
Neck Joint: Bolt-on, four-bolt attachment
Nut Width: 38mm
Fingerboard: Panga panga
Frets: 24
Pickups: AeroSilk piezo system
Electronics: Active
Controls: Volume, tone, individual piezo gain adjustment
Hardware: Black matte hardware, Ibanez machine heads, custom bridge
Weight: 2.8kg
Case/gig bag included: No
Left-hand option: No

Reasons to buy

+
Great acoustic tones on offer
+
Superbly balanced, ergonomically designed
+
Warm but bouncy tone

Reasons to avoid

-
Might feel too lightweight to some

Electro-acoustic basses can be something of a mixed bag, but with the SRH500 Ibanez have come up with a fresh take, utilising the standard Soundgear instrument design and producing a very useful instrument. If carrying around a large bodied electro-acoustic has put you off taking the plunge, then this bass could well be for you. 

With only volume and tone controls to contend with, the bass is very intuitive and responsive. Individual piezo gain trim pots for each string are easily adjusted should you need to boost or cut the output level of each string. Fitted with flatwounds as standard, and a glorious matte finish, this Ibanez sits comfortably amongst the best bass guitars out there.

Best bass guitars: G&L Tribute L2000

(Image credit: G&L)

8. G&L Tribute L2000

A trimmed-down workhorse with exceptional tones on offer

Specifications

Launch price: $799/£619/€858
Made In: Indonesia
Colour: Natural Gloss
Body: Swamp ash
Neck: Maple
Scale: 34-inch
Neck Joint: Bolt-on, six-bolt attachment
Nut Width: 44.5mm
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Frets: 21
Pickups: G&L MFD humbuckers
Electronics: Active two-band EQ
Controls: Volume, bass, treble, pickup selector, series/parallel selector, preamp control selector
Hardware: Chrome hardware, open elephant-ear machine heads, G&L Saddle Lock bridge
Case/gig bag included: yes
Left-hand option: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Vast array of tonal options onboard
+
Highly playable

Reasons to avoid

-
On the heavy side
-
Chunky neck profile

Leo Fender's third instrument company, G&L, was where he claimed he built the finest instruments of his life. Despite this being a cheaper version of the American-made L2000, there is no doubting the quality on offer or the tones on display. 

With an active two-band EQ, series/parallel pickup switching and selective preamp operation, the player has plenty of options at their disposal with which to sculpt their tone.

Substantially built and solidly constructed, this bass can address any musical style and perform admirably, while slap and pop players will enjoy the glassy high-end available. The L2000 Tribute is a joy to play and well worth investigating.

Best bass guitars: Music Man StingRay Special

(Image credit: Music Man)

9. Music Man StingRay Special

The perennial favourite goes from strength to strength

Specifications

Launch price: $2,199/£2,099/€2,265
Made In: USA
Colour: Burnt Apple Gloss
Body: Alder
Neck: Roasted maple
Scale: 34-inch
Neck Joint: Bolt-on, five-bolt attachment
Nut Width: 42mm
Fingerboard: Roasted maple
Frets: 22
Pickups: Music Man Neodymium humbuckers
Electronics: Active three-band EQ
Controls: Volume, treble, middle, bass, five-way pickup selector
Hardware: Chrome hardware, Music Man ultralite open elephant-ear machine heads, Music Man bridge
Weight: 4.1kg
Case/gig bag included: Hard case
Left-hand option: No

Reasons to buy

+
Recognisable tones
+
Multi-coil switching
+
Supreme build quality, built to last

Reasons to avoid

-
The Music Man tone isn't for everybody

The StingRay has gone through many changes over the years, but the launch of the Special was perhaps the most radical overhaul of the old favourite. Making use of new technology and addressing certain areas of modification, the bass has been brought bang up to date and now features lightweight machine heads, a redesigned bridge and Neodymium pickups, all of which have reduced the overall weight. 

The active circuit has been modified while the necks are now of a roasted maple construction which has contributed to the new tone. But don't panic, the famed StingRay tone is still there, it's just been brought into the here and now.

Best bass guitars: Ibanez Premium SR1340B

(Image credit: Ibanez)

10. Ibanez Premium SR1340B

Premium by name, premium by nature

Specifications

Launch price: $1,299/£1,111/€1,299
Made In: Indonesia
Colour: Dark Shadow Burst Flat
Body: Mahogany body with Ash/Panga Panga top
Neck: 5-piece Panga Panga/Purpleheart
Scale: 34”
Neck Joint: Bolt on
Nut Width: 1.5”
Fingerboard: Bound Panga Panga
Frets: 24
Pickups: 2 x Nordstrand Big Single Coils
Electronics: 3-band active EQ, 3-way mid-frequency switch
Controls: Master volume, Balancer
Hardware: MR5S bridge, Gotoh machine heads
Weight: 3.9kg
Case/gig bag included: Gig-bag
Left-hand option: No

Reasons to buy

+
Stunning wood grain
+
Thin neck
+
Pickups sound great

Reasons to avoid

-
Looks may prove divisive…

Some bass guitars look like pieces of elite precision engineering – or art – even to people who have no interest in bass guitars. Or precision engineering. Or art. The Ibanez Premium SR1304B is one such example, although it backs it up with some of the finest build quality, design, and choice of tonewoods you’ll find at this particular junction of the market. 

The use of Panga Panga, which Ibanez claims improves the clarity and attack of your playing, is an interesting one and certainly adds a dash of visual flair. But it’s the beefy Nordstrand single coil pickups which left the biggest impression, giving a breadth of tone and texture that would suit many different styles of music. 

Best bass guitars: Rickenbacker 4003

(Image credit: Rickenbacker)
The best bass guitar for that legendary rumble, if you can get hold of one!

Specifications

Launch price: $2,199/£2,499/€2,298
Made In: USA
Colour: Fireglo, Mapleglo, Jetglo
Body: Maple
Neck: Maple
Scale: 33.25”
Neck Joint: Through body
Nut Width: 1 11/16”
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Frets: 20
Pickups: 2 x Single Coil
Electronics: Mono and stereo outputs
Controls: 2 x tone knobs, 2 x volume knobs, 3-way pickup selector
Hardware: Chrome
Weight: 4.1kg
Case/gig bag included: Hard case
Left-hand option: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Legendary sound
+
Visually striking
+
Superb quality

Reasons to avoid

-
Hard to get hold of one quickly

It’s hard to not include one of the most recognisable instruments of all time on our list of the best bass guitars. The Rickenbacker 4003 covers a lot of ground - you’ll see metal bassists use them alongside indie and rock players. Both Lemmy and Paul McCartney were avid Ricky players. 

The two pickups combined with a comprehensive control panel allow you to dial in some amazing low end rumble and growl, as well as warm and mellow bass tones, depending on what you need. The horseshoe hand rest can make for some really comfortable playing positions, though you can take it off if it’s not for you. 

These basses sound incredible, and they’re made to a really high standard. However, they’re not cheap, plus due to the way in which they’re manufactured and distributed, there can be some really long waiting lists for them.  

Read the full Rickenbacker 4003 review

Best bass guitars: Buying advice

Close up of bass guitar strings and pickup

(Image credit: Future)

Choosing the best bass guitar for you

Why you can trust MusicRadar Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

Normally, a bass has two fewer strings than a guitar - does that mean it’s easier to learn? Not necessarily! There are all sorts of different techniques that you’ll need to learn when playing the bass that you wouldn’t look at with the guitar. You might be able to pick up the fundamentals of bass a little quicker, but to be honest, it’s all down to the individual – some people take to different instruments better than others.

How many strings do I need?

There are a few key considerations to make when looking for the best bass guitar for you. A good place to start is to think about how many bass strings you’ll need - a few basses are available in a 4, 5 or even 6 string configuration. Whilst 4 string basses are the most popular, many metal players find that an extra string or two allows them to get lower notes for a heavier sound. You can achieve this by tuning down, but a 5-string bass does have a slightly different feel to it. Some jazz, funk and pop players also like having a low-B string to extend their range.

What bass sound are you looking for?

The sound of the instrument is also really important. Basses with single coil pickups will usually have a lower output than those with humbuckers - whilst there’s no real rule for what pickups should be used for certain types of music, it’s something to think about. If you’re after a traditional or classic sound, then look at a bass that hasn’t changed too much over the years – like the Fender Precision or Jazz bass. 

Players covering lots of musical ground might want to think about versatility too. Some of the best basses out there allow for a different combination of pickup configurations meaning you can get all sorts of different tones out of the same instrument. Others who just want the bread and butter of bass tones to hold down the low end will do just fine with a single pickup and simple control layout. 

Weight and comfort

The best bass for you should also be comfortable. If you’ve got a smaller handspan, then a short-scale bass might be better. Guitarists who are making their way over to the lower-end of things might also find a short-scale bass more familiar. How the body of the bass sits on you is also worth a thought; or will you be standing up with it for long periods? If so, then a lightweight bass might make things easier on your back and shoulders. The neck profile will also affect how the bass feels in your hands - again, those that are concerned about big stretches might want to look for a slimmer neck.

Can I use a normal amp with my bass?

So, you’ve got one of the best bass guitars - now you’re ready to plug it in and turn it up, in which case you’ll need a bass amp. Technically, you can use a regular guitar amp, though they’re not designed to handle the frequencies produced by the lower strings – you could even end up damaging a guitar amp by pushing it too much with a bass. That’s why we’d recommend getting an amp designed specially for the bass. 

Find out more about how we test music gear and services at MusicRadar. 

Chris Corfield is a journalist with over 12 years of experience writing for some of the music world's biggest brands including Orange Amplification, MusicRadar, Guitar World Total Guitar and Dawsons Music. Chris loves getting nerdy about everything from guitar and bass gear, to synths, microphones and music production hardware.