2021’s new lines from all of the usual suspects put affordable firepower into the hands of pros and new players alike and we’ve pulled together our favourite new thumpers below.
Sandberg Martín Méndez signature bass
Martín Méndez has pledged his low-end future to Sandberg with the German company unveiling a new signature bass guitar for the Opeth bassist.
Taking the California TT Passive as a template and running with it, the Sandberg Martín Méndez is available with four or five strings and features a number of classy features.
There is a choice between a 22-fret ebony fingerboard on the Virgin White model, or a maple fingerboard with black block inlays on the Black Matt model. The four-string versions have a regular long scale of 34" while the five-string models have a 35" scale.
For pickups, Méndez has plumped for a pair of Delano JMVC pickups and positioned them a little closer to the bridge than what you might find on a Standard TT.
The secret ingredient is the Sandberg "Vibration Treatment" which makes for "an improved resonance," and helps give the instrument a played-in tone straight from the shop.
See Sandberg for more details.
Fender 75th Anniversary Precision and Jazz Basses
Fender's 75th Anniversary Series features two new lines of basses; the limited-edition Mexican-made Diamond and US Platinum models.
The Diamond models are alder-bodied, with a bolt-on maple neck and are finished in a metallic Diamond Anniversary colour, while the Platinum models are ash-bodied, with a rosewood 'board on the Jazz and maple on the P-Bass, and a quite glorious 2-2-colour Bourbon Burst to show off the grain in the ash.
The Platinum models come with gold hardware and commemorative neckplate and an Inca Silver moulded hardshell case with plush Lake Placid Blue interior and certificate of authenticity.
The US Platinum Anniversary Precision and Jazz Basses are priced £1,979 / $1,999 / €2,199 and £1,979 / $2,049 / €2,199 respectively.
The Diamond models, meanwhile, have chrome hardware, and are spec'd not unlike Fender's Vintera series. Again, you have a commemorative neck plate and the matching painted headstock is always a treat.
The Jazz features Vintera '60s Jazz Bass pickups and 4-saddle bridge, while the Precision Bass features Vintera '60s Precision Bass pickups.
Both are priced £1,069 / $849 / €999.
The 75th Anniversary series will be available in February. See Fender (opens in new tab) for more details.
Gibson Gene Simmons G² basses
Gibson and Gene Simmons are keen to stress that this is not a traditional signature model arrangement. The two Gs have teamed to launch G² – a whole range of electric guitar and bass collections spanning Gibson, Epiphone and even Kramer.
The first offering is the G² Thunderbird Bass guitar in Ebony with a choice of Silver or Blood Red appointments. More models will follow soon – including a Flying V guitar and bass – but the partnership won't stop at instruments with plans for entertainment content.
“I have been designing and trademarking bass guitars for decades, and when I heard Gibson’s vision and learned about their creative process, it just made sense for us to join forces to take things to the next level,” said Simmons.
Ernie Ball Music Man Stingray Special and Stingray5 Special
There is some bad news regarding your favourite high-end bass series – there are some colours dropping out of the Stingray Special and Stingray5 Special lineup.
That's right, boo, hiss, time to pelt the screen with rotten veg, because Tectonic Blue Sparkle is off the menu, Firemist Silver has gone the way of the dodo, and Ghostwood? Well that has proved as ill-fated as Twin Peaks' very own Ben Horne's eponymous development project...
Here is the good news: besides retaining the top build, the options of single- or dual-humbucker versions of both the four and five-string Stingray, there are eight delectable finishes added to the collection.
They are pictured above and comprise: Amethyst Sparkle, Black, Snowy Night, Raspberry Burst, Smoked Chrome, Speed Blue, Burnt Ends and Frost Green Pearl. The only difficulty is picking one – right now we'd be tied between Snowy Night and Burnt Ends.
These refreshed colours all be available from April price TBC but presumably in line with 2020's Stingray Special models. See Ernie Ball Music Man for more details.
Guild Starfire I
With Guild's Starfire series such a big hit at the moment for guitar players, it was only logical that the heritage brand should strike while the iron is hot and update its Starfire bass lineup with the Starfire I.
It arrives with a choice of Cherry Red or Vintage Walnut finishes, and the promise that is modernising the the format for 2021. As with the Starfire guitar series, you'll get an instrument with a degree of breeding, a classy retro-inspired thumper, and it'll look the part.
The Starfire I has quite manageable dimensions, too, with a short 30.75" scale length and a 2.4" deep body. The finish options see the Starfire I arrive in slightly different builds, with mahogany on the top back and sides of the Cherry Red bass, while the Vintage Walnut has a maple build.
Both, however, come with BC-1 BiCoil pickups in the middle position, which have nickel covers and Alnico 5 magnets. Interestingly, there is a Vintage switch on-tap for giving your tone a little bit more of that early 60s honk. We can imagine stringing up with a set of roundwounds and trying to evoke Motown on this.
The Starfire I will hit stores in April, priced $599.