In the market for a bass guitar? Here, Orange, CA teacher Miller W. explores the best bass guitar brands to consider if you’re on a budget…
This list of the best bass guitar brands will give you a good frame of reference for finding a quality instrument while on a budget. While not always the cheapest options available, these basses are built to a reliably high standard for the price and can always be found for at least under $1000, if not much less.
1) Squier by Fender (Range: $279.99-$379.99)
Squier has really upped the ante on their bass offerings in the last five years or so. The Vintage Modified (VM) and Classic Vibe (CV) series are very well-built instruments and sound great for the price. Most models come equipped with Duncan Designed Pickups. The Affinity series is cheaper but of noticeably lower quality. The VM and CV Series offer all the classic tones in the Jazz and Precisions basses (in four- and five-string models), as well as less common sounds from the Fretless Jazz bass, the Telecaster bass, and the newly revived Bass VI.
Recommendation: Vintage Modified Jazz Bass
2) MTD Kingston (Range: $499-$819)
The Kingston Brand is the mass-produced branch of MTD USA, a high-end bass custom shop run by Michael Tobias. Kingston basses are designed to be as close to the handmade standard at the best price point. The three models that make up the Kingston line are the CRB (with one P-type pickup, starts at $499), the Saratoga (with two J-type pickups, starts at $529), and the Artist (with one MM-type pickup, $689). The pickups and build quality are astonishingly high quality for the price, and the asymmetrical neck construction allows for incredibly fast shifting up and down the neck. The Artist is the only active model, and it includes a very versatile three-band EQ.
Recommendation: MTD Kingston Saratoga
3) G&L Tribute (Range: $449-$749)
G&L was the last company Leo Fender started before his death, consequently the models offered by G&L and their more budget-friendly brand Tribute are the natural evolution of the Fender Models. The Tribute Line has more individual models, all of which are very well built and contain almost any combination of J pickups, P pickups, and Humbuckers. The L2000 ($699), arguably their flagship model, is one of the most versatile instruments available, as its two Humbucker pickups are augmented by a three-way pickup selector, a series/parallel switch, and a switchable three-mode preamp which controls volume, bass, and treble.
Recommendation: G&L Tribute L2000 or L2500
4) Spector Legend (Range: $499-$849)
The Spector Legend Series offers slightly less in the way of variety, but that is made up for in the quality of construction. The Legend Series contains the Standard line, which comes in four- and five-string versions, as well as the Classic Line, which is available with four, five, or six strings. All of these basses are equipped with two SSD Humbuckers, with the exception of the Standard Four String model, which has an EMG P/J pickup set. Spector is also known for its beautiful paintjobs and exotic wood tops, both of which are options when purchasing a Legend. These basses are incredibly durable. Dan Briggs, of Between the Buried and Me fame, played the same Spector Legend Five String he bought when he was 16 until just a few years ago, which is a true testament to the longevity of these basses.
Recommendation: Spector Legend Classic 5.
5) Ibanez (Range: aprox. $300-$900)
This is where things get a little tricky. Ibanez makes a huge range of basses, from the lowest of the low to highest of the high, more or less. The trick is finding that range in the middle that is high quality but doesn’t break the bank. I’ve found the best bang for your buck range is minimum $300 — anything below that is pretty shoddy workmanship — and somewhere around $900 at the top. The Soundgear series is always a safe bet; they are pretty much all equipped with two Humbuckers and a 3-Band onboard EQ, which gives them a serious leg up in versatility, although not to the same extent as the G&L Tribute L2000. Ibanez also offers the Artcore series, which consists of shortscale hollowbody basses with a very classic vibe. Artcore basses are some of the only Passive Ibanez basses and generally come with two more subtly voiced pickups, while their Active counterparts generally lend themselves to a more Hi-Fi tone that cuts through the mix.
Recommendation: Ibanez AGB200 (Artcore) or SR505 (Soundgear)
These are some of the best bass guitar brands out there, all with prices that won’t completely break the bank. Good luck finding the bass for you!
Miller W. teaches acoustic guitar, bass guitar, music theory and upright bass in Orange, CA. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Music at Santa Barbara and has been teaching students since 2008. Learn more about Miller W. here!