The 24 Best Bass Guitars In Today’s Market – What Makes a Good Sounding Instrument?
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Last Updated: November 19, 2019
After loads of changes in the world of bass guitar, we decided to revise our main bass article to reflect these changes. While we removed a few models, we saw plenty of new additions.
These included the arrival of two higher-end models in the Ibanez SRH500F Fretless and the Hagstrom H8II-TSB Retroscape, and the gorgeous midrange ESP LTD B-204SM. We also added a new acoustic bass – the Fender Kingman V2 – as well as the beginner-friendly Schecter Omen 4, and the budget Squier Bronco Bass in our top ten chart.
Table Of Contents
- Top 10 Best Bass Guitars:
- For Beginners:
- Under $1000:
- Under $500:
- Under $300:
- Under $200:
- Acoustic Basses:
- The Bass Guitar Buyer’s Guide
- How Much Does a Good Bass Cost?
- Should You Buy Used or New?
- The Final Word
Choosing a bass guitar isn’t easy, especially as manufacturers get better at producing great instruments at lower prices – the choice out there is astounding.
However, at Guitar Fella, we have our team searching high and low for some of the best basses on the market today. We have sorted them into convenient categories, so you can quickly find the right one you, depending on your budget, skills, and tastes.
Stick around after the chart for some useful buying tips. Let’s get started!
Top 10 Best Bass Guitars:
|Image||Bass Guitar / Rating||Summary||Check Price|
Schecter Hellraiser Extreme-4
Total of 4.92/5 [usr 4.92 max='5' ]
Stunning bass with powerful active tone.
Total of 4.90/5 [usr 4.90 max='5' ]
Classic style, power and playability from this gorgeous Ibanez.
Fender Deluxe P-Bass Special
Total of 4.78/5 [usr 4.78 max='5' ]
Versatile and toneful – a modern classic from Fender.
Total of 4.85/5 [usr 4.85 max='5' ]
Pro-levels of versatility with this delightful high-end bass.
G&L Tribute JB2
Total of 4.92/5 [usr 4.92 max='5' ]
An innovative bass inspired by none other than Leo Fender.
Yamaha TRBX 304
Total of 4.92/5 [usr 4.92 max='5' ]
A solid 4-string active bass from Yamaha’s respected TRBX collection.
Sterling by Music Man S.U.B. Series Ray4
Total of 4.88/5 [usr 4.88 max='5' ]
An affordable bass with real StingRay style!
Total of 4.78/5 [usr 4.78 max='5' ]
A modern upgraded BB model that will suit most budgets.
Ibanez Talman TMB100
Total of 4.80/5 [usr 4.80 max='5' ]
A vintage-inspired Ibanez model with huge tone.
Total of 4.05/5 [usr 4.05 max='5' ]
A budget bronco worth taming!
[usrlist "Body And Neck:4.9" "Electronics:4.9" "Hardware:4.9" "Sound:4.9" "Value:5" avg='false' max='5' ]
Anyone who’s familiar with Schecter will know this brand always releases a good-looking instrument – and the Hellraiser Extreme-4 is no different, oozing a classy premium metal style.
It features a mahogany body with a striking quilted maple top finished in a distinctive Crimson Red Burst. It feels worth the cash for looks alone, but its aesthetics are matched by performance. There’s a very fast multi-ply maple/walnut neck with a solid ebony fretboard featuring an easy-to-play thin C shape.
As for electronics, it comes with two excellent EMG 35TW pickups as standard, which can be used as single-coils or humbuckers. Throw in active 3-band EQ and you have yourself a very versatile high-end bass – we go into more detail in the full review.
[usrlist "Body And Neck:4.8" "Electronics:4.9" "Hardware:4.8" "Sound:5" "Value:5" avg='false' max='5' ]
Another real treat for those who love something different is the SR800 from Ibanez. Taking center stage is undoubtedly the striking body design – a lightweight and curvaceous double cutaway made from solid mahogany with an outstanding top of exotic poplar burl finished in either Black Ice or Aged Whisky Burst.
As we mention in the full review of the SR800, it’s a such a nice bass to hold and play, with a great feel along the smooth and sturdy five-piece jatoba/bubinga neck.
Don’t forget the electronics, which are just as high-end – the SR800 is loaded with two Bartolini MK1 passive pickups, with custom 3-band EQ. Great for heavy metal and rock, but just as solid for softer style.
[usrlist "Body And Neck:4.5" "Electronics:4.8" "Hardware:4.8" "Sound:4.9" "Value:4.9" avg='false' max='5' ]
If you’re going premium, and the price tag is not important, you can’t go wrong with this wonderful Deluxe Active from Fender. Retailing at under $1000, this instrument is one of the best on the market.
With classic Fender styling, there’s a solid alder P Bass body with an easy to play satin-finished modern C-shaped maple Jazz neck – making one hell of a hybrid. As for sound and control, this is as versatile as its build, with two toneful vintage noiseless pickups – a Jazz Bass pickup at the bridge, with a Precision Bass pickup in the middle.
With advanced controls, this axe is perfect for quickly changing between styles on stage or in the studio. Check out the full review for more information.
[usrlist "Body And Neck:4.9" "Hardware:4.8" "Sound:4.9" "Value:4.8" avg='false' max='5' ]
Yamaha’s BB Series is one of the most famous bass collections around and the higher-end BB734A is well-worthy of its time in the spotlight. One of the biggest draws to this bass, and why it places so highly in this top ten chart, is its versatility – it’s huge!
This tonal flexibility is largely down to the two YGD Custom V7 pickups, which come with a variety of tone controls including 3-band EQ and the choice to switch between active and passive circuits for all kinds of sound.
The build, fit and finish is equally impressive, with a very comfortable and stylish alder/maple body and a smooth five-piece maple/mahogany neck. You can read more about this awesome bass in our full Yamaha BB734A review.
[usrlist "Body And Neck:4.9" "Electronics:5" "Hardware:4.9" "Sound:4.9" "Value:4.9" avg='false' max='5' ]
One of the lesser seen brands on our pages is G&L, but their Tribute JB2 was just too good to miss. This model is inspired by the innovation of Leo Fender, who was a co-founder of the company.
The highlight of this simple sub-$500 bass is undoubtedly the electronics, which deliver a sound that’s very similar to some of Fender’s early 60s tones. However, there’s more to this bass – as we highlight in the full review.
It features a very clean design with a solid swamp ash body and sleek hard-rock maple neck, with great components that make it extremely reliable. With all this design, playability and tone, you’ll agree the G&L Tribute JB2 is a real steal!
[usrlist "Body And Neck:4.9" "Electronics:4.9" "Hardware:4.9" "Sound:4.9" "Value:5" avg='false' max='5' ]
Another beautiful Yamaha 4-string bass to make this list is the TRBX304, which is a considerable step down in price compared to the basses above, but one that still impresses for beginners and performers on more of a budget.
The TRBX304 shows off the familiar design that stretches across the entire TRBX range, with a well-contoured double cutaway body made of solid mahogany and finished in a range of vibrant colors.
As we highlight in the full review of the TRBX304, this model comes with two M3 ceramic humbuckers with an active circuit for bold, punchy modern tones, although it’s very flexible in terms of sound shaping thanks to the myriad of controls.
[usrlist "Body And Neck:4.8" "Electronics:4.9" "Hardware:4.9" "Sound:4.9" "Value:4.9" avg='false' max='5' ]
Music Man’s StingRay is a true bass icon, but not all of us can afford a genuine one – which is why we love the affordable Ray4 from Sterling. This licensed model takes huge inspiration from the original, with a comfortable double-cutaway basswood body finished in a variety of color choices and sporting the distinctive oval pickguard.
It makes a great bass for beginners due to the simplicity of the single humbucker in the bridge position, although it certainly doesn’t skimp on tone or versatility, with 2-band active EQ.
The price, at under three hundred bucks, will also appeal to anyone looking for a solid 4-string performer. The full review of the Ray4 has more on this cool model.
[usrlist "Body And Neck:4.7" "Hardware:4.8" "Sound:4.8" "Value:4.8" avg='false' max='5' ]
What’s that? Another BB Series bass in this top ten chart? That’s right, although at under $300, the Yamaha BB234 is significantly cheaper than the BB734A above.
However, it still proves an excellent bass in style, playability and sound, making it perfect for beginners or experienced bassists looking to add a new tone to their collection. This model, like much of the series, sees several improvements including a new smaller body size for a more comfortable playing experience.
The body still features the celebrated and relaxed BB body shape made from solid alder, with a bolt-on maple neck featuring a new thinner profile. Want more on the versatile Yamaha BB234? Be sure to read the full review.
[usrlist "Body And Neck:4.7" "Hardware:4.7" "Sound:4.8" "Value:5.0" avg='false' max='5' ]
Sometimes a cheap guitar arrives and blows us away – and the Talman TMB100 from Ibanez is certainly one of those. Even though it’s under $200, it sports a style, performance and tone that suggests it won’t be at this price for long.
It exhibits the classic relaxed Talman curves, with a body made from mahogany and several cool retro finishes to choose from. The neck is typical Ibanez, made from maple with a chunky comfortable profile and 22 medium frets.
We go into more detail of the tone in the full Talman TMB100 review, but it’s equipped with a two Dynamix pickups in a P/J configuration, with simple controls and reliable hardware. Not bad for under two hundred bucks!
[usrlist "Body And Neck:4.0" "Hardware:3.5" "Sound:4.2" "Value:4.5" avg='false' max='5' ]
A new addition to this list is this cool little budget bass from Fender subsidiary Squier. Coming in with a sweet sub-$200 price tag, the Bronco delivers great playability, decent tone and true Fender style at a price anyone can afford.
As we mention in the full Bronco review, it’s a comfortable and fun ride thanks to the combination of being a short-scale bass and having a classic C-shaped maple neck.
Along with the inclusion of just one single-coil pickup, this bass is a great choice for beginners. For newbies, we always recommend keeping things simple, and the Bronco does just that! For such simplicity, the tone is very commendable, meaning experienced bassists would enjoy this just as much.
Whatever your budget, good electric bass guitars are available in every price bracket – you just have to know what to look for and which will best suit your style of playing.
There’s plenty more to talk about, including what makes a good bass and where to find it, but we’ll discuss this in more depth soon. First, we have prepared some brief reviews of the best basses in their individual classes on the market today.
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As we highlight in our full review of the Ibanez Mikro GSRM20 this is one of the best beginner bass guitars around.
As well as coming in at a very wallet-friendly price, the Mikro is built with a short scale length – just 28.5” – making it perfect for those with smaller hands as well as beginners in general. It also looks pretty cool with the classic Ibanez SR body shape, made of solid agathis offered in a wide range of color options (everything from Pearl White to Starlight Blue).
The popular little Mikro comes complete with two stock Ibanez pickups in the tried-and-tested P/J pickup configuration and simple controls. Small size, small price, big success from Ibanez!
[usrlist "Body And Neck:4.9" "Electronics:4.9" "Hardware:4.8" "Sound:4.9" "Value:4.9" avg='false' max='5' ]
Schecter is a big name in the world of bass guitars, and models like the affordable Omen 4 just cement their positive reputation. For beginners, it’s a real pleasure to practice on something like this!
This stylish full-size bass features the distinctive Schecter double-cutaway shape, with a body made from a lightweight basswood with an arched top. This elegant body is complemented by a smooth maple neck, pearloid semi-goth inlays, and reliable hardware.
As for electronics, things are just as impressive for the price, with a pair of Schecter Diamond Bass pickups. These have overwound coils and a ceramic magnet for an aggressive but clear sound that’s perfect for modern metal. There’s more on the Omen 4 in the complete review.
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While it’s perhaps a little niche in its appeal, the SRH500F fretless bass from Ibanez is a popular entry in our chart on the best basses under $1,000.
This midrange model offers a nice mix of classic design – echoing the gypsy jazz era – but with plenty of modern twists. With a semi-hollow body and a single f-hole, it’s a lightweight bass with great playability thanks to the sleek 5-piece neck.
As for the hardware, this bass is voiced by a custom AeroSilk piezo pickup, with just two simple controls. The result – as we highlight in the complete SRH500F breakdown – is a bass with a balanced organic tone. It’s full of vintage charm and well worth checking out.
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Another cool vintage-themed bass on our list is the H8II-TSB 8-string bass from Hagstrom. The design of this one is firmly rooted in the late sixties, as the double-cutaway mahogany body bears great resemblance to the original 1967 H8 – the first mass-produced 8-string bass.
But it’s more than just a talking point. The build and hardware combine to deliver a serious bass for experienced players. Components include two Hagstrom DynaRail humbuckers with loads of slider switches to deliver a versatile performance.
For those with no experience of the original, the extra four strings are actually octave strings, which delivers unique harmonic overtones and a real feast for the ears. Want more? The full H8II review has all the details!
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If you are looking for something a little more contemporary in sound but with a timeless vintage style, Squier’s Deluxe Active Jazz Bass IV is a smart choice. This model promises a ‘modern tone with unbeatable value’, which comes from the pair of Single-Coil Jazz Bass pickups with versatile controls including a Slap Switch.
The body is simple in design and takes inspiration from years of Fender Jazz Basses, with a smooth double-cutaway body made from basswood and a 20-fret C-shaped maple neck.
A great bass for both beginners through to experienced bassists, and it’s a very popular for good reason – it delivers on its promises. Check out the full review for all the details.
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The B-204SM fretless bass from ESP LTD is a thing of real beauty. As we talk about in the main B-204SM review, this is undoubtedly one of the most eye-catching basses in the midrange market!
This is all thanks to the beautiful spalted maple top, with its rustic grain and natural finish. But it’s more than just a pretty face. This bass features two decent SB-4 pickups and active 3-band EQ for a bright and punchy tone, with great versatility.
Playability and comfort are equally impressive for the price, with a very thin U-shaped maple neck and 24 fret markers (so it's not too intimidating playing without frets for the first time). An excellent choice for under $500.
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Here we have a sub-$300 option that doesn’t look like a sub-$300 bass! The G2220 Junior Jet II – from vintage masters Gretsch – displays a unique but elegant retro style, with the well-known Jet body shape made from basswood and finished in a classy black gloss.
Interestingly, this instrument has a short-scale maple neck (30.3” scale length) which makes it a smart choice for smaller-handed players as well as beginners, although experienced performers would happily have some fun on this lightweight beauty.
As for sound, it’s voiced by two decent mini humbuckers that provide a natural tone with good warmth and clarity. There’s more on the G2220 Junior Jet II in the full review.
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Whereas brands like Gretsch and Orange have provided this list with some retro charm, it’s Jackson that dials up the gain and delivers an affordable bass with hard-hitting metal style.
Coming in either black or white finishes, the JS2 is a 4-string bass with attitude, showing off a comfortable double-cutaway poplar body which is typical of Jackson. The neck is a highlight, again showing off why Jackson is so popular in the fast-rock market – made of maple it features a slim profile with a rosewood fretboard, featuring a compound radius, 24 jumbo frets and distinctive sharkfin inlays.
As we mention in the complete JS2 review, the dual Jackson-designed high-output humbuckers deliver a powerful tone with plenty of aggression.
[usrlist "Body And Neck:4.1" "Electronics:4.2" "Hardware:4.1" "Sound:4.5" "Value:5" avg='false' max='5' ]
For many people, spending a huge amount of money on a bass guitar just doesn’t make sense, especially if you are a casual player or beginner. Which is why budget basses exist – and the Ibanez GSR200 is setting the bar high in this category.
With a lightweight agathis body and a choice of funky finishes, as well as a one-piece maple neck, this bass both looks and feels great to play. There’s plenty of versatility in the sound, with a Dynamix P split-coil neck pickup and a Dynamix single-coil J pickup at the bridge, along with active EQ with PHAT-II Bass Boost.
So while it’s the cheapest option on this list, it would be hard to tell based on looks or performance! Check out our full review of the GSR200.
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Dean is a big name across the entire bass market, from elite models to cheap and cheerful like the Dean E09M Edge. This model takes a step back from the more in-your-face style the brand is known for, instead offering a clean natural satin-finished basswood body with a lovely double-cutaway shape.
Bolted onto this is a nice maple neck that allows you pretty much unhindered access to all 22 frets. Dean keeps things simple in the electronics department too, with just a single soapbar pickup in the middle position, which actually does a good job of coving a range of tones.
For more on this cool stripped-down budget bass, check out the full E09M review.
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As we move into the 5-string market, there should be no surprise to see a model from Yamaha’s TRBX Series! The higher-end TRBX605 displays the same uniquely sculpted double-cutaway body that makes the rest of the series so popular, made from alder and maple with a range of finish options – although the natural is a real beauty.
The five-piece maple/mahogany neck has a satin finish and fast-playing profile making it a great instrument for the gigging professional – especially when you consider the versatile electronics on offer.
It’s loaded with two powerful YGD H5 pickups that are part of an active circuit, although can be changed to passive at the flick of a switch for great tonal flexibility. Make sure to take a look at the full review!
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If you’re looking for a 5-string bass with a design that’ll stop people in their tracks, the Stiletto Studio-5 from Schecter is worth checking out. This beautiful mid-range bass sports a sexy double-cutaway body with curves in all the right places.
It’s made from mahogany with an eye-catching bubinga top, finished in two delicious color choices. Design is exquisite – what about the rest of this bass?
As we highlight in the full Stiletto Studio-5 review, the playability offered by the maple/walnut neck is top-notch, while it’s voiced by two passive EMG HZ pickups which deliver a clear, powerful sound with good versatility – helped by the range of controls including 3-band active EQ. A great choice!
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One of our favorite acoustic basses is the Taylor GS Mini-e. This petite mid-range bass offers the high-quality sound, style and feel that Taylor is known for, at a price that doesn’t break the bank.
In terms of design, it’s instantly recognizable as a Taylor – the quality wood pairings, the shape and the pickguard in particular. However, it’s quite unique in its build, featuring a very short scale length – just 23.5” – which makes it great for small handed players and travel.
With a solid Sitka spruce top and laminated sapele back and sides, it also comes with ES-B electronics complete with an onboard preamp with simple volume and tone controls, and a built-in digital tuner. There’s more on this awesome little acoustic bass in the full review.
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Replacing the original Kingman on our list is this updated Kingman V2 from Fender. This attractive acoustic bass features an auditorium-style shape, with an all-black body and a big dose of relaxed Californian attitude.
The materials and craftsmanship are very good for the midrange price tag, with a solid spruce top and cream body binding for a cool vintage vibe. The playability stands up to scrutiny too, with Fender’s familiar Jazz Bass neck used to great effect.
Although it projects its warm, woody tone nicely when unplugged, the amplified tone is equally as pleasing – which we discuss in more depth in the complete Kingman V2 review. This is largely thanks to the quality Fishman pickup and versatile preamp controls.
The Bass Guitar Buyer’s Guide
Are There Other Good Bass Guitar Brands?
Of course there are! We wanted to compile a brief chart focusing on the best of the best, so we naturally had to exclude some other fantastic basses.
When browsing, be sure to check out some of the other brands that specialise in bass guitars, including G&L, Ernie Ball, Rickenbacker, Washburn, ESP, Warwick, Spector, and Lakland – the majority of these have been building instruments for decades and have some great models that are well worth your time.
Some manufacturers are bigger than others, and some don’t enjoy the prestige that the likes of Fender and Ibanez do, but they can all offer a lot of quality in a variety of different price ranges and genres, from jazz to metal.
What Makes a Good Bass?
Just like a ‘good guitar’, we could write a whole book on what makes a good bass! However, as everything on this list, the word ‘good’ to you may mean something completely different to the next bassist.
Firstly, it’s always worth considering the woods used to make the body and neck. With cheaper models, you may find basswood or alder bodies, and then woods such as maple, swamp ash, and mahogany as you move up the price ranges.
These materials shouldn’t be a defining factor, but it’s worth researching the kind of tones each wood can offer, should you be presented with the choice. For example, mahogany may help produce warmer and punchier tones, while swamp ash is said to give you a brighter sound.
It’s also worth considering your plans for the bass. If you plan to practice, gig or record for lengthy sessions, you may want a lighter wood (such as basswood) instead of something heavy like maple.
Looking at pickups and you’ll find an array of single-coils and humbuckers, as well as active and passive designs (more on these later). Single-coils are seen as ‘the classic pickups’ and are nice and simple, with one coil and one magnet, producing a bright sound.
Humbuckers, on the other hand, have a fatter sound – sometimes a little muddy at higher volumes. Their main benefit is that they help cancel background noise and interference.
There’s no right answer here – choose what sounds the best to you and you won’t go far wrong.
Which Brand of Bass is The Best?
First things first – our ‘best’ may not necessarily be your ‘best’ when it comes to describing a bass guitar. Still, most bassists can agree that some brands deserve to sit at the top of the table of all-time best bass brands.
Fender is one of these. The iconic American guitar manufacturer, established in 1946, created the important Jazz Bass (J Bass) and Precision Bass (P Bass), which changed the face of bass guitars forever.
Ibanez is another brand that can arguably claim the title of ‘the best’. The Japanese company produces some bass guitars that look like works of art, and a premium Ibanez bass can feel like a true masterpiece.
Other brands that are excellent for rock and metal basses include Rickenbacker, ESP and Schecter, while the American brand Musicman produces the legendary Stingray bass.
Finally, the German company Warwick are very popular in all genres of music and have created signature basses for everyone from Robert Trujillo (Metallica) to John Entwistle (The Who).
However, there are many others that would argue that they are, in fact, ‘the best’ – Yamaha, Gibson, Washburn… it’s not an easy argument to settle!
How Many Strings is Enough?
Good question – but, again, there’s no definitive answer! You can choose between a four, five or six-stringed instrument, and your decision will ultimately depend on your style, level and budget.
If you are just starting out, a bass with four strings is traditionally the way to go. Keep it simple. Four strings will give you more than enough notes, especially when you consider how much popular music is played on a four-string bass. There’s generally less to keep track of when playing, and it’s easier to learn and develop on.
If you are more advanced, you may consider adding a 5-string bass or 6-string bass to your collection, which will allow you to increase the range of notes you can play.
There will be a lot more stretching around the neck, but it can be worth the practice. However, as a beginner, it may be worth thinking about this as a second or third acquisition, instead of your first instrument.
What is The Difference Between Passive and Active Pickups?
Players looking for a classic warm, punchy bass tone, and a dynamic range of sounds will prefer passive pickups, which have been a traditional fixture since the birth of the electric bass.
However, the relatively newer active pickups, which come with built-in preamps powered by separate batteries, are worth considering for bigger, brighter and clearer tones.
Thanks to the preamp, active pickups have significantly higher output when compared to that of a passive pickup, while the background noise and interference is kept to a minimum.
Again, passive or active will be a choice for you to make based on your individual tastes. Make sure to try out a few different basses with different pickups to find a sound that appeals to you.
How Much Does a Good Bass Cost?
Beginners and those on a budget will be relieved to discover that you can find good bass guitars in the affordable price ranges. Aim for something from a trusted budget-friendly brand (like Squier, Ibanez or Yamaha) and something with good marketplace reviews, and you can’t really go wrong.
As long as you don’t just go for the cheapest one you see, you can end up with a very good bass for under $200.
Of course, you may want to spend more than two hundred bucks – and if so, good for you! You instantly widen your choices and can end up with something very good indeed. We’re not talking a premium model here, but a quality bass with an upgraded build and components that would survive practice, jamming and small gigs comfortably.
This kind of bass may feature a unique design, a fast neck, improved tuners, and upgraded pickups and controls to deliver a powerful thump. For this kind of bass, expect to pay between $300 and $500.
Should You Buy Used or New?
The choice of buying new or used is another dilemma. With a new bass from a reputable online marketplace or guitar store you have the security of a warranty and returns policy, as well as a likely cooling off period if you change your mind.
Buying a used bass, in whatever price range, is always a little riskier – but this risk can pay off when it comes to value for money.
If you are buying used, ensure you choose a reputable physical or online guitar store, instead of a flea market or thrift store – these offer so much more risk, especially when you aren’t able to test the bass out through an amp, or make easy returns.
The Final Word
As you’ve seen, there are many things to consider before buying a new bass, whether it’s your first or tenth!
In general, the best advice we can give is to spend some time reading about, watching videos on, and trying out different basses to really find something you love.
At the end of the day, you’ll be parting with anything from a couple of hundred bucks right up to over a grand, so you want to ensure the bass you end up with is the perfect one for you.
Good luck and see you again soon!