When you put a musical group together, be it anything from a gentle jazz quartet to a screaming metal band there is something you cannot do without — the Bass guitar.
Along with the drummer they are the engine room for the band and the louder it gets, the more vital they are. Bass guitarists, don’t let anyone tell you any different. Without you, there is not very much at all. What do you have without a bass guitar? A train wreck.
It is therefore quite important that the sound of the bass is good. That means having someone who can play, who has a decent amplifier, but most importantly has the bass guitar that will do the job.
So, let’s have a look at what’s out there at the moment and those the best bass guitar for you…
Top 10 Best Bass Guitars To Buy of 2023
1 Fender Deluxe Active Precision Bass Special, Maple Fingerboard
Well if we are going to talk bass guitars, I suppose for many there is only one place to start. The Fender Precision. Since its introduction in the 1950s, it has become recognized by many as the greatest bass guitar ever produced.
It has though, been through some bad days…
From starting it all, to buy-outs of Fender, policy changes, cheap materials and back to making good guitars again, it has often been a rough ride for the company. Pre-CBS, the early 60s, had them at their best. A few years later, they had become a shadow of how Leo created them.
Since then there have been ups and downs, but it’s fair to say they never ever did recreate that thundering bass sound of the early days.
Today’s offerings are not bad at all though in many respects, and we will look at this model.
Active split coil pickups…
If you are expecting a pure thoroughbred Precision, then look away now. The very inclusion of the word ‘active’ is a clue. In the traditional version, the Precision is known for its passive single coil pickups at both bridge and neck. This version has active split coil pickups at both neck and bridge.
The idea is to create a new sound. The bridge pickup though is more of a Jazz bass than a Precision.
It has a 3 band active EQ with treble, mid and bass boost and cuts and an active/passive toggle switch.
Always very attractive…
The body is made from Alder wood, and it has a maple neck. The neck plays well and is comfortable in its design. It is well constructed and made in Mexico, and the sunburst finish is as always very attractive.
I suppose the question is with this guitar is if you want to buy a Precision this probably isn’t it. It’s more of a hybrid with a Jazz bass. That is fine if you are looking for something different and I am sure some will appreciate the tone options available.
Very realistically priced
2 Yamaha Bb734a Bb-Series
This Yamaha offering is the latest variant on the classic BB line of basses.
The body is constructed of Maple and Alder woods and retains its popular basic design shape including the body contour for the right arm resting on the instrument which makes it so comfortable to hold.
How about the build…
There is a new neck design. It is five-piece mahogany and maple wood affair but now with six securing bolts that add extra strength. The fingerboard is rosewood with 21 frets and some nice inlays.
Body-wise it is slightly smaller than the usual, but in our view, that enhances its playability. It is well constructed as Yamaha guitars always are.
Hardware is competent without being extravagant. Open gear lightweight tuners at the headstock. It is strung through the body via a Vintage Plus bridge. All very basic stuff but also very efficient and reliable.
So, what about the sounds…
This guitar follows the idea that you can have both active and passive pickups on the same guitar to give you tonal variations. It is fitted with two V7 pickups with a single coil at the bridge and a split coil at the neck position.
The controls are simple and effective. There is a master volume and a 3 band eq control supported by a pickup blend control which operates to mix the two sounds together. It also has a switch to allow you to go between active and passive circuits quickly.
A variety of sounds to play with…
It has a lot of features and comes from a thoroughbred design that has been around for a long time. It’s well built and has a variety of sounds to play with, so it has a lot going for it.
Certainly, it does produce a great depth and as a bass guitar is extremely versatile. For the price, it is surely a great option.
Comes with a gig bag.
3 Yamaha 4-String Bass Guitar Trbx304 Mgr
This Yamaha is an effort by the manufacturer to produce a good bass guitar at a very reasonable cost. And, in many ways, they have succeeded.
It has a solid mahogany body that is sculptured to fit the player. Shapes and contours in relevant areas of the body make it easy and comfortable to hold and to play, and Yamaha has clearly given some thought to this.
It is surprisingly well-balanced for a budget guitar and sits comfortably with you either standing or sitting. It weighs just thirteen pounds and so is easy to handle.
The neck is the familiar five-piece maple and mahogany design with a rosewood fingerboard and a bolt-on neck that is very stable.
When you stand back and consider this guitar, it just looks right. When you pick it up, it feels right as well.
Looking good is one thing, but how does it sound?
Two M3 humbuckers drive the sound and create powerful tones, It can be played in either passive or active mode, but it must be said the passive option is a little dull and very quiet. It, therefore, excels in an active mode where the humbuckers can present the tones for which we think the guitar was built.
One interesting design with this bass is the contour on the top of the pickups allowing a thumb to rest there to allow a comfortable playing position.
Mellow and warm and a nice alternative…
It is not all humbucking volume though and has a softer side using the neck pickup that is mellow and warm and a nice alternative.
Onboard controls are interesting. It has its usual volume and tone controls but includes an active EQ with five different style options. These will apply basic tonal variations to what you are playing but still allow room for a bit of tweaking of the sound.
The strings are well spaced to allow for slap or fingerstyle techniques to be made easier.
The hardware is basic but efficient and fits the basic idea of this bass guitar.
It is well made, offers sound options and is easy to play and at the price is a great option.
4 G&L Tribute Jb2
Someone said to us, that Leo Fender had a hand in designing this G & L bass guitar.
Take a look. That much is quite clear…
When you first see this bass guitar, it really doesn’t leap out and bite you. It is plain, simple, and uncompromising. But, the closer you look, the more you see the influence of the great man.
We could simply make a list of all the similarities that exist between this guitar and the early Fender’s, but we’ll let you pick up on them instead.
The body is made from Swamp Ashwood and is contoured just where the elbow rests on the top corner, for comfort. We have a maple neck with a choice of either maple or rosewood fingerboard. The neck has 22 frets in the medium jumbo styling.
The neck design has a medium ‘c’ profile and is a 34-inch model.
What about the hardware?
Very traditionally, open-backed tuning keys and a saddle-lock bridge. Can’t quite place where we’ve seen those before?
But now down to the crux of the fittings, the pickups.
Did they go for the new ideas of a split coil, single coil or a mixture of both? Active or Passive?
Won’t take a lot of working out they went for an original Leo design with a couple of refinements and put in two single coil pickups, one at the middle/neck and one at the bridge.
And how does it sound?
Staggering. In fact, if you are familiar with the sounds of those early 60s masterpieces from Fender close your eyes and it won’t quite take you back there, but it’s awful close.
G & L fired up the DeLorean for this one.
The controls are simple — volume to the neck, volume to the bridge, and a master tone.
It is rare you come across a bass guitar as good as this one for this price.
We recommend you have a closer look.
5 Yamaha BB234 BB
The Yamaha BB bass has been around now for quite a few years, since the 70s. They have had some cosmetic changes and some variants produced over the years, but essentially the sound and style of the guitar remain unchanged.
This model has its body constructed from Alder. The familiar contours and shapes on the edging are still prominent, ensuring it loses none of its comfort or ease of handling. It is through a little thinner than it used to be.
An ideal bass guitar for a newcomer…
The neck is maple and bolt-on and 34-inch scale. The design of the neck is also slightly slimmer than earlier BB models. This makes it easier to play for some and therefore an ideal bass guitar for a newcomer or an improver.
They call the pickup configuration a P/J set up, which presumably means Precision and Jazz. Not exactly sure how that works out as Fender do not use Yamaha V3 pickups. We presume they are referring to the pickups being a single coil and placed in similar positions.
A single coil, of course, means they are passive, so no messing around with 9v batteries. Three simple controls for volume and tone give you the range of sounds available.
In some ways, they shouldn’t try and make comparisons…
This bass guitar has a life and a sound of its own and whether you want a rich, warm neck pickup sound or a growling, angry bridge pickup screaming at you, they are both available.
The Yamaha BB range are popular bass guitars at all levels, and this will continue that legacy. It plays well and sounds nice with lots of tonal varieties.
The only question that escapes us is how Yamaha can produce a guitar of this quality for such a low price.
6 Ibanez Talman Tmb100 Mgr
The Ibanez Talman is a bass guitar that has been designed to return to basics. They haven’t tried to be particularly clever or creative in its creation, recognizing that sometimes the best things are the simpler things.
It has a mahogany body that naturally gives off a warm sound with its cutaway allowing full access to the neck.
The neck itself is maple with a rosewood fingerboard. The 34-inch neck houses a standard truss rod. The bolt-on neck is quite wide, and players with smaller hands may struggle a little bit. It has white dot inlays and twenty medium frets.
They just do their job…
The tuners and bridge are of standard design. Nothing fancy, just do their job and are chrome plated.
It is all very common materials, and the design of the guitar says nothing new, which in many ways is a good thing for those seeking a simple bass guitar.
But, what about the sound…
The sounds are generated by two Dynamix pickups in neck and bridge position. Both pickups are passive and are set up to simulate the ‘P’ and ‘J’ configuration style. There is though an active preamp with a two-band EQ. that gives extra tone shaping options.
In many respects, this is very much a retro design bass guitar. The only aspect that brings it into what some might term the modern day is the active EQ.
It is a bass guitar for a player that is just starting out or a player that wants to upgrade their first bass. It’s neat and tidy and delivers a punchy tone, and it comes with an Ibanez reputation for quality workmanship.
A great price makes it worth considering if this is what you’re looking for.
7 Stingray Ray4 Bass Guitar Sterling By Music Man
The Stingray is an iconic bass and one that has impressed over the years. It was the first bass guitar to feature EQ as a standard fitting. It is amazing this guitar has been around now for over forty years.
Music Man made the original Stingray and Sterling take on the role of providing affordable versions of this great guitar.
This is a version of that, which is worth having a close look at…
It is visually familiar, and this model has a body that is almost identical to the originals. It is manufactured from Basswood and has two cutaways that give access to the whole fingerboard. The neck is maple as is the fretboard giving it a very distinctive look. It’s connected through a six bolt neck joint.
The hardware without being extravagant is well defined. There is a Music Man style bridge with adjustable saddles for each string that works well and die-cast tuners that are sturdy and well built.
It looks good, but what about the sounds?
A ceramic single active humbucker drives the sound along and is assisted by a two-band EQ. The humbucker is powerful, and the EQ adds a lot in terms of sound creation. Volume, treble, and bass featuring high and low cut boost controls complete the configuration.
When considering this bass guitar, one thing that comes to mind is that with just one humbucker and a two-band EQ, the sounds might be somewhat limited.
Not a bit of it…
The sound is powerful and with plenty of tonal options and fairly drives along.
It is made by Music Man’s budget manufacturer, but it is a quality instrument that retains the emphasis that the original Stingray’s enjoyed and which made them so popular.
This is a great sounding bass and at a very competitive price.
8 Ibanez 4 String Bass Guitar
Ibanez has come up with an interesting bass guitar with this product.
One question that is often asked of us is ‘how old were you when you started playing the bass?’. We ask why and the answer usually revolves around either the size or the weight of the guitar and whether we could hold it.
Some basses are very heavy and much larger than a standard six-string. But, enter this Ibanez, designed we assume, especially for the beginner.
When you look at it next to a full-size bass, your first reaction is what’s missing. It seems tiny in comparison. It isn’t really; it’s about the same length as a Strat and with slightly smaller body size.
Be assured though; this is no toy…
Some guitars of this size are. This is most definitely not.
The body is constructed from Agathis wood. It is nicely shaped with deep cutaways, and it has a maple neck with rosewood fingerboard. Inlay pearl dots complete the styling of the neck with its medium frets.
It is a short scale bass which means that necessarily the frets are closer together, but you don’t really notice until you get up past the 12th or so fret.
A great bottom end with a punchy sound…
Dynamix pickups generate the sound, and despite its size, it produces a great bottom end with power and a punchy sound.
Needless to say, a bass guitar this size is well balanced and is so easy to play, especially for those aspiring young bass guitarists or those with very small hands that find the larger options difficult.
The hardware is not extravagant but more than adequate, and it really is a super bass guitar.
We are tempted to say ‘little’ bass guitar, but we want to avoid emphasizing it. This bass stands on its own as being a great instrument.
It is well made and at the price fantastic value.
9 Epiphone “Toby” Standard-Iv 4 String Electric Bass
We have written many reviews about Epiphone guitars, and we are usually impressed with them. They are no longer thought of as being a ‘cheap’ Gibson; they are a major producer in their own right.
Epiphone might not be going after the high-end market, but they certainly have a major say in the mid-range and beginner areas.
Whilst Epiphone and of course Gibson, make great guitars there efforts in the world of the bass guitar have usually been not so well received. It’s not that they are bad bass guitars, but the competition is either too established or too innovative.
Will raise some eyebrows…
This bass guitar, though, whilst not aimed at the top end is going to raise some eyebrows in appreciation. The design and performance are deserving of attention.
The first thing to note is the stunning design worthy of a guitar costing far more. They chose Tonewood for its manufacture, and while it is a great looking guitar, it is also nicely balanced and easy to hold.
But, what about the build…
A maple neck is added with rosewood fingerboard. The neck is very slimline, making it easy to move around and play. The hardware is nicely finished in black, giving the guitar a real style about it. The bridge has four saddles that are adjustable.
Likewise, the tuners on the headstock are finished in black. They are not the most expensive addition possible, but they hold the tuning very well. Two single coil pickups provide the noise, one at the bridge and one at the neck which is not only powerful but has great tonal options.
Very clear and defined…
Four controls give you the sound options including volume, a sound mix and treble, and bass cut. The sounds are punchy and strong but also very clear and defined. The single coil’s giving you that crispness.
We could go on about this bass guitar, but we will just say this is a quality instrument and for the cost an amazing value bass guitar.
10 Squier By Fender Affinity Jazz
Squier has given us their latest take on the classic Jazz bass.
Made of course under the Fender umbrella, they are recognized as being a scaled-down version of the Fender Jazz made especially for those who are just starting out and want something close to the real thing.
Squier provides that bass guitar option with this instrument…
The traditional look, of course, is maintained, a design recognizable anywhere in musical circles. The body is made from Alder and finished in a lush sunburst. A maple neck is added with rosewood fingerboard in its traditional shape with pearl dot inlays.
Hardware is adequate without being excessive with a fixed bridge system and at the headstock Jazz-style tuners — all very traditional and what we might expect.
The familiarity continues with two single coil pickups which offer a typical Jazz sound with some hints of the past, especially at the top end where it can growl at you a bit. Controls are simple and effective with neck and bridge pickup volume controls and a master tome. Enough to be able to shape your sound.
So many tonal options…
It has to be said first and foremost that this is not a Fender, but one thing we will say is it’s close. The Affinity Jazz really does have a great sound with so many tonal options. It can be warm and soft, or it can turn round and bite you.
So no, it’s not a Fender but it’s not a Fender price either but if we have noticed one thing over the years, these ‘cheaper’ variations of what is considered to be the ‘real’ thing, are getting better and better and now the difference is far less than what it once was
This is a quality guitar, well made and well packaged and at the price, it represents tremendous value.
Best Bass Guitar Buying Guide
For the money obviously. Very few of us get to buy the very best, but we all want to get the best bass guitar we can for the money.
More than ever, today there is such a wide choice of instruments and with such qualities. The process of quality manufacturing has risen to unrecognizable levels in recent years.
As an example, Squier and Epiphone were both considered cheap versions of the original Fenders and Gibson. Not so much anymore. They have both something to offer as individual manufacturers.
What Do You Want The Best Bass Guitar For?
Is it for yourself or someone else to learn this great instrument? If so, there are a lot of options on the list we have looked at, all of them with various plus points and all of them great value for money.
There is even a bass guitar the size of a Strat that pumps out great tones and would be a great first bass for a younger player.
Maybe you want a second bass guitar that gives you something totally different sound wise than what you have. If you have a passive bass at the moment, there are plenty of choices for bass guitars with passive/active or just active electronics.
Whatever your requirement, there will be an option on that list that will give you the best bass guitar at a competitive price.