Skip to main content

Best cheap bass guitars 2022: top budget basses for every style of player

Close-up of a bass guitar's body against a reddish brown background
(Image credit: Press material)

Can a cheap bass be good? Yes! So much so, we’ve compiled a bunch of the best cheap bass guitars currently on offer to help you choose the right one for you.

In times gone by, when looking at musical instruments, you usually had to make a choice between something good, or something cheap. Those days are over, with many fantastic budget options out there. Bass players can take advantage of this with the best cheap bass guitars covering all angles in terms of sound, aesthetic and playability. 

Of course, there are still some questionable cheap instruments out there, but there’s also a wide range of good, cheap basses. This can make navigating your way through them all quite difficult, which is why we’ve scoured the internet and put together our list of the best available right now. 

It doesn’t matter what sort of music you play, or whether you’re a beginner or a more experienced player, you’ll want to get the best budget bass that your wallet will allow. Our list covers both old-school, traditional style basses as well as more modern designs, as well as both 4 and 5 string options - we’ve got you covered!

Best cheap bass guitars: Our top picks

If we had to narrow it down and pick the best cheap bass guitar currently on offer, then a strong contender would be the Sterling By Music Man SUB Ray5. This style of bass has been the go-to instrument for legends including Flea, Cliff Williams, Joe Dart and loads more. 

Whilst it’s only got the one pickup, it’s versatile enough to cover modern and classic tones, so it’s well suited to a wide variety of applications. Also worth mentioning here is the Yamaha TRBX305 - it does a similar job, but without as much heritage or, in our opinion, aesthetic appeal. 

What’s great about these basses is that they’re both available in a 4 and 5 string format, so you can pick whichever will work best for you!

Best cheap bass guitars: Product guide

Best cheap bass guitars: Sterling By Music Man SUB Ray5

(Image credit: Press material)
Could this be the best cheap bass guitar on the market?

Specifications

Launch price: $485/£399/€441
Pickups: H-1 ceramic humbucker
Controls: Two-band active EQ/volume
Bridge: Five-saddle fixed bridge
Body: Basswood
Neck: Six-bolt hard maple/Maple or jatoba fretboard
Radius: 305mm
Scale length: 864mm
Frets: 22 medium

Reasons to buy

+
Cheaper four-string version also available
+
Simple tone controls
+
Tonally versatile

Reasons to avoid

-
Midrange EQ control would be nice

Sterling By Music Man cannily offer both four- and five-string variants of this classic bass at wallet-friendly prices. We reviewed the five in 2017, discovering that the thunderous bottom end of the Music Man remains. And, though some may bemoan the lack of a midrange EQ, the SUB Ray5 remains as versatile as its more expensive siblings.

The robust build quality impresses and it’s a highly playable bass too: string spacing is narrow enough that diehard four-stringers should be happy with the inevitable wider fretboard; and that comfy satin finish neck makes for easy position shifting too.

Versatility, build quality and really very few compromises. This is a great bass that you can buy with confidence.

Read the full Sterling by Music Man SUB Ray5 review

Best cheap bass guitars: Yamaha TRBX 305

(Image credit: Press material)
A five-string for bassists demanding performance on a budget

Specifications

Launch price: $413/£340/€375
Pickups: YGD designed M3 ceramic humbuckers
Controls: Two-band active EQ/volume/balance/five-way preset EQ switch
Bridge: High-mass die-cast nickel
Body: Solid mahogany
Neck: Five-piece bolt-on maple/mahogany laminate
Radius: 600mm
Scale length: 864mm
Frets: 24 medium

Reasons to buy

+
Highly playable
+
Versatile modern tones
+
Cheaper four-string version available

Reasons to avoid

-
Sounds a little clinical

We’ve come to rely on Yamaha’s sturdy build quality and the TRBX 305 is no exception, featuring die-cast nickel hardware, a laminate neck and a general reassuring air of roadworthiness.

A typically modern bass, there’s a characteristically powerful tone that projects well, helped in no small part by the active EQ. You’ll find bass and treble to explore the frequency extremes, but, like the Sterling, no midrange control. Yamaha’s EQ preset switch is a nice touch. Instant slap tone? Yes, thank you very much! Top end roll off for a fingerstyle solo? Just flip the switch.

Some may write off the Yamaha for being too clinical. We’d say it’s a great workhorse, especially if you’re looking for modern tones.

Read the full Yamaha TRBX 305 review

Best cheap bass guitars: Squier Classic Vibe ’60s Precision Bass

(Image credit: Press material)

3. Squier Classic Vibe ’60s Precision Bass

The best cheap P Bass for those looking for a vintage vibe

Specifications

Launch price: $349/£287/€317
Pickups: Fender-designed alnico split-coil
Controls: Volume/tone
Bridge: Four-saddle vintage style
Body: Poplar
Neck: Maple/Indian laurel fretboard
Radius: 241mm
Scale length: 864mm
Frets: 20

Reasons to buy

+
Recently refreshed product line
+
Classic P Bass looks and sound
+
Great price

Reasons to avoid

-
Only two finishes available

It was perhaps inevitable that Squier would appear on our list eventually, so extensive is the company’s range of affordable basses. Squier refreshed the entire Classic Vibe series earlier in 2019 and these models actually represent their midrange prices.

Channeling the look of the early P basses and featuring an alnico split-coil pickup, Indian laurel fretboard and vintage style bridge, there’s a lot to love here. And, like it says on the box, there’s certainly a classic vibe, albeit limited to two finishes – either Olympic White or Three-Colour Sunburst. We’d recommend checking out Squier’s ’60s and ’70s CV variants of both the Precision and Jazz bass. There’s sure to be something to suit you.

Best cheap bass guitars: Epiphone EB-3

(Image credit: Press material)
A steal for hard rocking bassists

Specifications

Launch price: $399/£329/€362
Pickups: Sidewinder humbucker (neck)/NYT mini humbucker (bridge)
Controls: two volume/two tone/three-way rotary selector
Bridge: Nickel stoptail
Body: Mahogany
Neck: Mahogany SlimTaper ‘D’ set neck/Rosewood fretboard
Scale length: 864mm
Frets: 22

Reasons to buy

+
A true classic at a budget price
+
Robust build quality
+
Cool retro vibe

Reasons to avoid

-
Separate volume knobs render the selector redundant

A sub-£350 price makes Epiphone’s recreation of this classic one of the best cheap bass guitars around. And, despite the bargain price, we found the EB-3 to be a high-calibre and proficient bass when we reviewed it back in 2017, with a fairly lightweight (3.9 kg) robust feel, plus decent quality tuners and stoptail bridge. And, though access to top frets is slightly restricted, the friendly low action more than makes up for it.

Max out the volume and tone controls, select both pickups, and thundering classic rock tones of greats like Jack Bruce and John Entwistle are easily dialed in. The full-length 864mm scale compared to the shorter scale original give this bass a clear defined voice and playability to suit modern players.

Read the full Epiphone EB-3 review

Best cheap bass guitars: Gretsch G2220 Junior Jet Bass II

(Image credit: Press material)
What’s not to like with Gretsch’s great value short scale bass?

Specifications

Launch price: $299/£312/€329
Pickups: Gretsch Mini Humbuckers
Controls: Volume/tone/three-way toggle
Bridge: Gretsch standard four-saddle die-cast chrome
Body: Basswood
Neck: Bolt-on maple/Black walnut fretboard
Radius: 305mm
Scale length: 770mm (short scale)
Frets: 20 medium jumbo

Reasons to buy

+
Great value for money
+
An alternative to the usual Fender clones

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited tonal palette
-
A set neck would be more ‘Gretsch’

Facing stiff competition in the marketplace, the Gretsch Junior Jet II manages to stand out with cool vintage styling and great playability.

Tonally, there’s a smooth, rounded punch without too much bite or tonal harshness, best suited towards classic rock, ‘70s punk or, if you opt for the neck pickup, a warmer Beatles-y vibe. If you prefer a beefier, more contemporary sound, however, you may prefer to look elsewhere.

With its short scale neck, Gretsch’s diminutive Les Paul-esque singlecut is highly playable, with a familiar charm that should see you racing around the fretboard in no time. If you have small hands or if you’re after the punchy midrange only a short-scale bass can really deliver, the JJII might well be for you.

Read the full Gretsch G2220 Junior Jet Bass II review

Best cheap bass guitars: Epiphone Thunderbird Vintage Pro

(Image credit: Epiphone)

6. Epiphone Thunderbird Vintage Pro

Another Gibson-designed classic rock bass gets the Epiphone budget treatment

Specifications

Launch price: $749/£549/€645
Pickups: 2 x ProBucker humbuckers
Controls: 2 x volume, 1 x tone
Bridge: 1960's TB-Bass Tune-o-matic
Body: Mahogany
Neck: 7-ply mahogany/walnut laminate/pau ferro fretboard
Radius: 12”
Scale length: 34”
Frets: 20 medium jumbo

Reasons to buy

+
Iconic bass 
+
Vintage-inspired 
+
Quality pickups
+
Through neck  

Reasons to avoid

-
 On the pricier side

Like the company’s EB-3, Gibson’s Thunderbird is very much imbued with ‘classic’ status. John Entwhistle, Gene Simmons and Nikki Sixx would regularly be seen sporting the distinctive offset singlecut. And, though Gibsons require deep pockets, Epiphone has long been providing budget offerings.

There are two models to consider. The Thunderbird IV (which sits around the $450/£350 mark) or, for a bit more cash, the Vintage Pro. Both bring a lot to the table but cost cutting measures are more evident on the IV, including a bolt-on neck. Several of the best cheap bass guitars in this list feature bolt-ons, but the through-neck design so defines the Thunderbird, we’d keep saving our pennies and hold out for the Pro Vintage - it does creep over the $/£500 mark, but it’s worth the extra cash. 

The bass comes fitted with a pair of ProBucker humbucking pickups that are capable of dishing out both vintage and modern tones. Coupled with Epiphone’s great build quality the Thunderbird Vintage Pro is a stylish and reliable bass.

Best cheap bass guitars: Ibanez Talman TMB100

(Image credit: Press material)
Retro looks, a decent spec and a seriously low price

Specifications

Launch price: $218/£179/€198
Pickups: DXJ Bridge/DXP Neck
Controls: Ibanez Custom Electronics two-band active EQ/Balance/Volume
Bridge: Ibanez B10
Body: Poplar
Neck: Maple/Jatoba fretboard
Radius: 240mm
Scale length: 864mm
Frets: 20 medium

Reasons to buy

+
Amazing pricetag
+
Active EQ adds tonal versatility

Reasons to avoid

-
Feels a little plain
-
Not much else at this price

Featuring the classic PJ pickup configuration (a split-coil neck position humbucker and a single-coil at the bridge) and two-band active EQ, the retro-styled budget Ibanez appears ready to punch above its tonal weight.

Expect warm, not too lively traditional sounds; though it’s great to see active EQ on this budget model – the ability to add bass or treble helps bring a more modern touch to the TMB100’s sound.

In terms of playability, there’s a vintage feel from the 20-fret neck. The rounded body and rear contour aid comfort, though the top horn impedes a little top-fret access. Still, it’s part and parcel of this design and hardly a deal breaker, so if the looks appeal, this minor gripe shouldn’t deter you from parting with your cash.

Read the full Ibanez Talman TMB100 review

Best cheap bass guitars: Squier Affinity Series Precision Bass PJ

(Image credit: Press material)

8. Squier Affinity Series Precision Bass PJ

One of the best cheap bass guitars on the market, the PJ is ideal for beginners

Specifications

Launch price: $199/£164/€181
Pickups: Standard Jazz Bass single coil/Standard Precision Bass split-coil
Controls: Volume/volume/tone
Bridge: Four-saddle standard style
Body: Alder
Neck: Maple/Indian laurel fretboard
Radius: 241mm
Scale length: 864mm
Frets: 20

Reasons to buy

+
Precision and Jazz Bass pickups
+
Also available with bundled extras
+
Amazing price tag

Reasons to avoid

-
Aimed at beginners

Squier’s bass offering includes Jazzes, Precisions, plus Jaguars and Mustangs too. So why, you may wonder, have we recommended a second Precision in this list? Well, here in Squier’s perennial entry-level Affinity series, the Precision model gives you the best of several worlds.

First, the PJ pickup configuration gives you an extra bridge pickup from a Jazz bass. It’s essentially two basses for the price of one in terms of your tonal options.

Second, the Affinity PJ is also available bundled with a 15-watt Rumble amp, a padded gigbag, strap, cable and subscription to Fender Play. You’ll need to loosen the purse strings a little, but it’s a great deal.

The Affinity series is aimed at beginners, of course, so expect it to be less posh than other Squiers, but it’s all you need to get started.

Best cheap bass guitars: Danelectro Longhorn Bass

(Image credit: Press material)
Danelectro’s classic styled, versatile and affordable bass guitar

Specifications

Launch price: $607/£499/€551
Pickups: Souped Up Lipstick single coils
Controls: Stacked volume/stacked tone
Bridge: Traditional bridge with rosewood saddle
Body: Plywood frame and centre block with masonite top and back
Neck: Bolt-on maple/Pau Ferro fretboard
Radius: 355mm
Scale length: 755mm (short scale)
Frets: 24 medium jumbo

Reasons to buy

+
Tonal versatility
+
Easy top fret access

Reasons to avoid

-
Stacked knobs can stick together
-
Traditional bridge is tricky to intonate

Deep body cutaways, ‘Coke bottle’ headstock and ‘lipstick’ single coils are part and parcel of the Longhorn’s cool retro styling, but its shape isn’t all show. Those extended horns allow unrivalled access to the 24th fret and provide balance when playing standing up.

One might think the plywood and masonite (hardwood) construction would make tonehounds sniff, but the Danelectro’s lofi build is a big part of its tone. Erring on the bright side, those lipstick pickups would be well tamed by a set of flatwound strings – certainly if you’re seeking warmer vintage tones. 

Like most of the classic styled basses in this list, the Dano isn’t really about modern sounding extreme lows and highs, but it’s still a capable and fairly versatile workhorse.

Read the full Danelectro Longhorn Bass review

Best cheap bass guitars: Höfner Ignition Violin Bass

(Image credit: Press material)

10. Höfner Ignition Violin Bass

Surely the best cheap bass guitar for Beatles fans?

Specifications

Launch price: $349/£289/€317
Pickups: Höfner Ignition Staple Nickel
Controls: Höfner control panel with switchable pickups and solo/rhythm switch
Bridge: Höfner tailpiece with fretted rosewood bridge
Body: Spruce top/Flamed maple back and sides
Neck: Maple/Rosewood fretboard
Scale length: 762mm (short scale)
Frets: 22

Reasons to buy

+
Good warm vintage tones
+
It has a sound all of its own

Reasons to avoid

-
Quirky styling may not suit some
-
Not especially versatile

Probably Höfner’s best known model of all is the 500/1 Violin Bass as played by perhaps the most famous bassist of all time, Paul McCartney. The Ignition series is the company’s affordable line of instruments – and the one we’d recommend here.

Wisely, Höfner have kept close to the original template of the basses Macca would play, with a semi-hollow design, short scale length, Ignition Staple pickups and the renowned Höfner Control Panel. This gives each pickup its own volume control, on/off switch and a third knob to swap between ‘rhythm’ or ‘solo’ modes. 

Tonally it tends to the warm side, but with that typical short-scale midrange thump – making this quirky and historic instrument best suited to blues or vintage-style rock.

Best cheap bass guitars: Ibanez SR300E

(Image credit: Ibanez )

11. Ibanez SR300E

The best cheap bass guitar to cover a variety of styles and sounds

Specifications

Launch price: $349/£279/€319
Pickups: 2 x PowerSpan Dual Coil
Controls: Ibanez Custom Electronics 3-band EQ w/3-way Power Tap switch, 1 x volume, 1 x balancer
Bridge: Accu-cast B120
Body: Nyatoh
Neck: 5pc Maple/Walnut/jatoba fretboard
Radius: 12”
Scale length: 34”
Frets: 24 medium

Reasons to buy

+
Punchy pickups
+
Versatile controls 
+
Some great finishes 
+
Thin neck 

Reasons to avoid

-
Body shape not to everyone’s taste 

Whilst it’s certainly a budget bass, the Ibanez SR300E hits way above its price tag. It delivers a clear, punchy tone, though the control panel allows you to dial in whatever sort of sound you need. 

It can be a great rock bass, or a great country bass - metal, worship, blues - it can do it all. It probably leans more into a modern sound than it does traditional, though the ‘power switch’ allows you to switch from humbuckers to more of a single coil sound. You’ve also got an active 3-band EQ on there for those that really want to refine their tone. 

For the price, these basses are well built, and offer really good playability. The neck profile is thin, which again is more in line with its modern day inspiration, plus the double cutaway allows for easy access to the highest frets. The look might not suit more old-school players, but if that doesn’t bother you, then in terms of sound, playability and reliability, the Ibanez SR300E is absolutely one of the best cheap bass guitars out there.

Best cheap bass guitars: Buying advice

Best cheap bass guitars: Close up of the Danelectro Longhorn bass fretboard and neck pickup

(Image credit: Future)

Choosing the best cheap bass guitar for you 

If you’re just starting out playing the bass, then you might not want to spend too much money. Or, you might be a more experienced or pro player that wants another bass in their arsenal, without breaking the bank. Regardless of why you’re shopping for a new bass, there are always some key considerations to make before parting with your cash. 

Firstly, the best cheap bass guitars will sound good. Whether you want an aggressive low end rumble, or a tight, mellow tone, the pickups in your bass will have a huge impact on the sound you get. Whilst you won’t get as much definition or clarity as you might on more expensive basses, a decent budget bass will have good quality pickups, without costing the earth. Some will have a single pickup, giving you a more limited range of sounds and others might have two pickups which is great for those wanting a little more versatility. 

There are also single coil and humbucking options; both wielding different tones that suit different playing styles and types of music, though honestly, there are no hard and fast rules. Some of the best cheap bass guitars might even have an active EQ - this allows you to dial your frequencies in a little more accurately, as well as giving your signal a bit of a boost. Older, more traditional bass designs don’t tend to have this and some purists stand by this, but it’s all subjective!

Build quality 

A good quality budget bass will also be built to a good standard; it wants to be sturdy enough to last you for years to come and be able to withstand being taken out to gigs on a regular basis. All the choices on our list are made by well-respected, reliable brands such as Sterling (sister company to Music Man), Squier (Fender), Epiphone (Gibson), Ibanez and more. 

Scale length 

Short scale basses can be a great option for players with a smaller handspan, and there are certainly some great cheap options here too. The scale is the total length of the string - from the nut at the top, to the bridge at the bottom. Short scale basses are usually a few inches shorter than full scale basses. The tuning is still the same, but there’s a slightly different feel and sound. Guitarists who are moving over to bass sometimes find short scale basses a little more comfortable.

How much should I spend on a cheap bass guitar? 

Budget bass guitars have certainly improved over time, especially when you compare them to cheaper instruments from a few decades ago. Now, you can get a good quality bass that will be up to the job of touring, practicing and recording for under $650/£500. You can spend less too, if you’d rather, with some incredible options sitting pretty around the $370/£300 mark.  

Buying online 

It’s also easier than ever to buy a good, cheap bass without leaving the comfort of your own home. There are many great online retailers that offer a wide selection of the best cheap bass guitars. Sometimes your instrument might require a bit of a tweak once you’ve received it, to get it playing exactly how you want it, but that’s completely normal and any good retailer will offer advice on exactly what to do if you’re not sure. It’s also worth remembering that you’re always covered by a minimum of a 14 day returns policy (check with your chosen retailer for the exact policy), should you not completely love what’s been delivered. 

Chris has been the Editor of Total Guitar magazine since 2020. Prior to that, he was at the helm of Total Guitar's world-class tab and tuition section for 12 years. He's a former guitar teacher with 35 years playing experience and he holds a degree in Philosophy & Popular Music. Chris has interviewed Brian May three times, Jimmy Page once, and Mark Knopfler zero times – something he desperately hopes to rectify as soon as possible.