Best Bass Guitar Review in 2017

The bass guitar might not get the same amount of attention as its smaller cousin, the guitar, but it still plays a huge role in many different genres of music. In this post, I'll write up the best bass guitar reviews of 2017, showing you where you can get the most value for your money.

What Makes A Good Bass?

Genre Fit/Features

Best Bass Guitar

A bass guitar is often a specialized instrument. While you can use it any way you want, certain brands and certain models have a feature set and design that is rooted in the expectation that you will be playing one genre or another. For example, metal and jazz bass guitars will tend to have different looks, pickups, sound, and so on. This is partially marketing, of course, but it does have some functional effect on the bass and how it plays. If you are interested in playing one genre in particular, and many bass players are, then it makes sense to learn what makes a bass suitable for that genre. You don't necessarily need to buy one of the specialized instruments, but it helps to understand what sets them apart so you know what features to keep an eye out for. You'll soon learn which of these features you really need and which are just window dressing. The task is easier if you can try out lots of different bass guitars in person.

Tone

Each bass guitar sounds a little different. In an acoustic instrument, it's the resonating body that makes most of the difference, while in an electric, it mostly comes down to electronics and related elements. Some of these things are easy to change when you are buying a bass. For example, it's very easy to get new strings. This can make a small difference to the tone and a big difference in the play-feel. There are also harder changes, like switching out the pots/knobs or getting new pickups. This is all to say that the tone of your potential bass is not set in stone. It might take time and extra money, but you can alter how it sounds. The quality of the electronics and the pre-amp will play a role in how it sounds and how well you can mix the tone. And while tones do vary from bass to bass, you are likely going to be applying some additional changes in your signal chain by using pedals and your amp to add effects. Keep that in mind when selecting your bass: the tone should play well with your existing hear and your goal sound.

Appearance

Don't pretend that the appearance of the bass doesn't matter. For any instrument that you play live in small groups, the appearance is going to make a big difference in how you feel playing it and how much you enjoy playing it live. Here, again, genres can vary a lot. Moreover, some bass guitars are built as throwbacks to classic designs while others try to innovate, and still others might be signature designs that mimic what current players use. A good place to start is by looking at some of your primary influences and favorite bass players and see what their instruments look like. The appearance includes the body style, the paint, any detailing or inlay, the bridge's appearance, the tuners, and so on. Make sure you are happy with how your bass looks because that can make a big difference in your on-stage confidence. You probably should not make this the most important criterion you use, but there's nothing wrong with making it a tiebreaker.

Value

Bass guitars are like any other piece of musical gear: it is very easy to spend way more than you expected on them. They range considerably in price from the low hundreds to the upper thousands, and you can't always assume that more expensive means better. You might just be paying for a brand name. Do careful research to learn how much each feature is really worth. It is also a good idea to set up a budget and ensure that you do not exceed it. Not only is this a good way to control costs, but it can also help you narrow the focus of your search. If you don't stick to a hard budget, it is too easy to be tempted by alternatives that cost just a little more but offer a little more in features. This can go on for a few rounds until you settle. Avoid this by staying strong on your budget and not even looking at instruments that are out of your range. Moreover, you need to decide on which features are core essentials for you and which are just nice to have. That is another good way to narrow your search. Even considering the fact that you should have your bass for years, you don't want to overpay. That would leave you with less money to spend on other parts of your collection.

Five Best Bass Guitar 

Ibanez GSR200TR 4-String Bass Guitar

Best Bass Guitar

Ibanez is a popular guitar and bass manufacturer that is known for rock and metal, but the GTR200 model is a jack of all trades beginner bass. At just $200, it is very affordable. You do get a lot for that money. It has a body made of agathis and a maple neck. The fretboard is rosewood, and it comes with a simple dot inlay. In terms of electronics, the GSR200 comes with a jazz-style bridge pickup and a precision-style neck pickup, and you can switch between using one, the other, or both. In addition, it also has an active EQ and a bass boost. Those features are a little more rare, and they are perfect for helping you craft your tone at the source. If you are buying a beginner bass and you only have a basic, inexpensive bass amp, then the EQ is a real help because you can take some of the load off the amp. It has a balanced tone that is well-suited to essentially any genre of bass play and comes in a few different finishes to give you variety for how the final product looks.

Pros

  • Amazing value for such an inexpensive guitar, especially when it comes to tone, features, and durability
  • Great form factor that takes up less space than other bass guitars but still manages to stay comfortable
  • Has the versatility to sound good in more or less any genre, opening up many possibilities

Cons

  • Neck plays a little too slowly out of the box
  • Pickups and electronics create a signal that is weak and might need boosting via master volume or a preamp if you want to play live
  • Need to remember to have a 9V battery on hand to power the active electronics

Yamaha TRBX304 MGR

Best Bass Guitar

Yamaha is one of the biggest music companies in the world. Their bass and regular guitars are known for having a balanced tone. It is a step up in price at $350. The TRBX is similar to the Yamaha in that it is a jack of all trades, but it has a better tone, better construction, and more advanced features. First of all, the design is excellent. The beveled edge on the body makes it lighter and very comfortable to play. It comes in a very large selection of colors and finishes so you can customize it quite a bit. The body has a few different wood options and you can opt for a 5-string version as well. The balance is excellent. As for the tone, it is quite neutral, but there is a standout feature: a five-band EQ system that gives you a huge degree of control over the sound. Each band of the EQ can be adjusted separately, and there is a two-band master EQ on top of that. The pickups are a pair of Yamaha-designed M3s and they sound great with either fingerstyle or picking.

Pros

  • Exceptional versatility but has a great sound at the same time, so you can use this professionally in nearly any genre
  • Very comfortable to play regardless of your style or how you like to hold your guitar
  • Advanced electronics make it easy to adjust the tone on the fly using the pots and switches

Cons

  • Not aggressive enough for full-on specialization in any particular genre
  • Requires batteries to power the onboard EQ and pickups
  • Humbucker pickups only, with no option for a single or split pickup without modification

Schecter Stiletto Extreme-4

Best Bass Guitar

The Stiletto Extreme-4 is a bass with 4 strings from Schecter that will cost you about $450. Schecter is generally associated with metal, especially their guitars, but the Stiletto is actually an excellent generalist instrument. The appearance is certainly on the dark and edgy side, but the solid mahogany body and active pickups will let you play more or less anything you want with the exception of midcentury classic rock. Metal, jazz, funk, blues, R&B, slap-bass- the tone is warm and rich. The pickups are Schecter's Diamond design. The neck and fingerboard are fast to play. One of the most attractive elements of this bass is the fact that there is a lefty version available for about $30 more. It's not fun for a lefty having to pay more, but the selection is so limited that it's welcoming to see an affordable and versatile bass for lefties. For the curious, there is also a version with 5 strings. The Stiletto plays and sounds like a much more expensive bass. In terms of value, it's one of the best in the $500 range. Changing the batteries for the active pickups is a little inconvenient because you have to open up a panel in the back by taking off 4 screws, so that part of the design could be improved.

Pros

  • Excellent value in terms of the sound quality and playability for this price range
  • Versatile enough to play almost any genre and work with any amp or other elements in your signal chain
  • Has a lefty version, a 5-string version, and either red or black finish for some variety

Cons

  • Unable to reproduce the tones for classic rock
  • In terms of appearance, it might not fit in for performances outside metal due to the dark color options
  • The included strings are not particularly good and will probably need to be replaced for a better tone

Fender Standard Jazz Electric Bass Guitar

Best Bass Guitar

Fender is one of the oldest names in the guitar business. The Standard Jazz is a $600 instrument that is of professional quality. It has 2 single-style jazz pickps, as you might have concluded from the name, and the classic Fender black and white design. The Standard series is made in Mexico. The Mexican Fenders tend to offer exceptionally good value with the one possible caveat that they might need some setup, such as fixing the neck using the truss rod. The Standard Jazz is much less expensive than Fender's American-made model and if you invest some money into a few upgrades, like a professional tuneup, a new bridge, and possibly pickups, the Standard will sound at least as good as the American for much less. The tone is extremely good and the single pickups give you some versatility, so it isn't only a jazz bass. Like the Stiletto, it comes in a few different finishes as well as a lefty version (for the same price!) and even a fretless version. If you want to move up from beginner to professional-quality, then this should be on your radar.

Pros

  • Fender quality means each part is well-built and will last for a long time
  • Excellent tone that can get you to the classic jazz and rock sounds of the 20th century
  • Has the decades-old Fender look that has been famous for as long as the company has existed

Cons

  • Might need some setup out of the box and in the long term, a new bridge and pickups to reach its full potential
  • Lack of active pickups means you might not be able to get quite the tone you want for blues, rock, metal, and other genres
  • Neck is a little too thick for fast play

Sterling by Music Man RAY34-BK

Best Bass Guitar

Music Man is one of the gold standards of the bass world. It is no wonder that this instrument is a significant step up in price at about $1100. For another $50 you can get the 5-string version. The body is swamp ash and the pickups are in-house Music Man Sterling 3s with active preamps. This bass is a joy to play and can truly distinguish itself in any genre and band. The neck is smooth and fast, the body is light and comfortable to hold, and it is very easy to make a an amazing tone. The pots consist of a volume knob, a bass knob, a mids knob, and a treble knob. It is hard to find any flaws in this bass for this price. This model is made in Indonesia. Music Man has a classic American-made version just as was the case with the Fender, but it is difficult to tell the difference between them tonally. This is an entry point to the realm of higher-end bass guitars. If you are willing to spend over a thousand dollars and you like active pickups, it is hard to find anything that will match this in quality without costing far more.

Pros

  • Very high quality throughout and looks and sounds like a bass that costs $2000 or more
  • 3-band EQ gives you a lot of control over the tone at the source
  • The tone can perform anything from metal to funk with some adjustments to the EQ and the right amp

Cons

  • High price point makes it somewhat inaccessible for most people, especially beginners
  • Due to the fact that it is overseas, it might not hold its value if you ever want to sell it
  • No lefty version is available

Conclusion

From among these five bass guitars, I believe the best one you can buy is the Yamaha TRBX304 MGR. It has the right balance of price and versatility for beginners and those who aren't sure what they want to play yet. If you don't want to invest that much money, the Ibanez is a good fit, and the others on this list represent upgrades from the Yamaha in one way or another.

A good bass is absolutely key to a band in many different genres, and it's surprisingly easy to get excellent value without spending too much money. With a little knowledge you can find exactly what you need at a good price, and the bass market has so many options that you will be able to find upgrades later on if you want them.

Stephanie Su
 

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