Top 10 Best Bass Guitars Under $500
Search Heavy

Top 10 Best Bass Guitars Under $500

cheap bass guitars, cheap bass, best bass guitars

Choosing your first (or even second) instrument seems daunting. There are a lot of options out there, and you’ve got to immediately familiarize yourself with an awful lot of terms just to know what exactly you’re buying. Around the time you’ve sorted all of that, you’ll start to get curious and want to try a lot of different things just to see what they’re like.

This is no different in the world of basses. You might not have a huge pedalboard like the guitarist in your band (though you might have a few), so you can at least cut down the constant tweaking there. Even at that, you’ll probably be curious to try a few different styles of bass, and perhaps have basses suited to particular jobs.

If you aren’t a professional bassist, this can get kind of costly. It isn’t hard to spend over $1,000 on any stringed instrument, but basses take a lot of wood, so the price can climb quickly. Fortunately, there are a number of excellent choices available under $500, a threshold that most hobbyists can generally afford. Both my main guitar and my main bass were around $350 and they’ve served me well for years.

Quite honestly, the main thing to focus on when trying to choose a bass is comfort. I’ve seen this sentiment countless times in reading forums and comments. As long as the bass is comfortable, has decent components, and gets a good setup, you can make a lot of magic. You don’t need to spend thousands on a bass to get one that sounds great and gives you all the muscle you need to hold down the all-important rhythmic low-end in any band setting.

Having said that, buying too cheap will land you in a world of fret buzz that will make you crazy. The basses on this list may need a setup when they arrive, but once that’s done, you’ll have an instrument you can use in studio and on stage for many years.

Whether you’re just starting out or looking for an affordable upgrade, here’s our list of the top ten best basses under $500.


1. Ibanez SR300E Electric Bass Guitar

cheap bass guitars, cheap bass, best bass guitars

(Ibanez)

Believe it or not, the Ibanez SR line has been around for about 25 years now. In that time, the line has more or less continuously supplied an above-average bass that spans from beginner to the upper midrange, so they’re good as a modest upgrade or as an instrument that will grow with the player a bit.

This version in particular combines the modern evolution of the SR line with a really useful electronics feature set. The PowerSpan humbucker pickups themselves are passive, but they’re connected to an active three-band EQ system. To add to that flexibility, the pickups are coil tappable in three modes: Tap Mode (single coil), Series Mode (humbucking), and Power Tap Mode, which combines the two. This versatility means you can easily dial in modern and vintage tones, suitable for just about every style of playing.

To top it off, the mahogany body comes in the following colors: Seashore Metallic Burst (pictured), Root Beer Metallic, Iron Pewter, Metallic Gray, Champagne Gold, Charred Champagne Burst, Pearl Black Fade, Candy Apple Red, Autumn Fade Metallic, and more.

Why you would choose this one: You want a modern bass capable of delivering a wide variety of tones.

Need more options? Browse more Ibanez basses here.

Price: $349.99

Buy the Ibanez SR300E Electric Bass Guitar here.



Specs:

  • Body wood: Mahogany
  • Neck wood: Maple/Rosewood
  • Pickups: PowerSpan Dual Coil
  • Active pickups?: No
  • Active EQ?: Yes
  • Coil tap?: Yes

Find more Ibanez SR300E Electric Bass Guitar information and reviews here.



2. Squier by Fender Vintage Modified ’70s Jazz Bass

cheap bass guitars, cheap bass, best bass guitars

(Squier)

Starting at the same price as the Ibanez, this Squier model roughly stands in where the MIM Fender Standard Jazz Bass used to be. The Vintage Modified and Classic Vibe Squiers deliver excellent value on solidly made instruments in several configurations. I have a 1997 MIM Standard Jazz Bass, which is really quite good, and I think the VM is just about on par.

What you lose in comparison to the Ibanez in terms of flexibility, you gain in vintage mojo. The neck is a bit slimmer C shape as a modern update to an actual 70s era J-Bass. They’ve spruced up the pickups from previous-era Squier models and some reviewers note that you’d have a hard time telling the difference between this and a higher-priced Fender. Sure, it is an Indonesian build, but we’re pretty far from Affinity territory here.

This particular model comes in Olympic White (pictured), Sunburst, Natural, Candy Apple Red, Black, and Amber Burst. Lake Placid Blue and Inca Silver are apparently also occasionally available. For just $30 more, you can pick up the five string version, too. For those of you who prefer it, the Classic Vibe 70s P-Bass is $399.99.

Why you would choose this one: You miss the days when you could grab a new MIM J-Bass for under $500 and are prepared to be impressed by a Squier.

Need more options? Browse more Fender basses here.

Price: $349.99

Buy the Squier by Fender Vintage Modified ’70s Jazz Bass here.



Specs:

  • Body wood: Maple
  • Neck wood: Maple/Maple
  • Pickups: Fender-Designed Single-Coil Jazz Bass
  • Active pickups?: No
  • Active EQ?: No
  • Coil tap?: N/A

Find more Squier by Fender Vintage Modified ’70s Jazz Bass information and reviews here.



3. Sterling by Music Man S.U.B. Series Ray4 StingRay Bass

cheap bass guitars, cheap bass, best bass guitars

(Sterling by Music Man)

At the time of this writing, you can pick up arguably one of the best inexpensive basses ever made for under $300. The Sterling S.U.B. line is perhaps even better than the Squier VM/CV models at its own game — offering much of the tones and qualities of the parent company’s top-of-the-line models for starter bass money. The price escalates quickly from here, with the Sterling by Music Man Ray34 going for over $800 and the actual Music Man StingRay4 over $1,700. The original price is still less than $500, but this is a solid deal.

As with the Ibanez, you get an active EQ circuit with controls for bass and treble wired to a modern-sounding humbucker. It’s round and punchy, but capable of just about anything with some careful tuning. It is a basswood body, but that doesn’t seem to slow it down very much. Depending on the color you choose, you’ll get either a maple or rosewood fretboard on a satin-finished maple neck.

Colors include Black, Fiesta Red, Honey Burst Satin, Mint Green (currently 5-string only), Red Ruby Burst Satin, Translucent Blue Satin (currently 5-string only), Translucent Red Satin, Vintage Cream, and Walnut Satin.

Why you would choose this one: You love the StringRay design and getting a great deal.

Need more options? Browse more Sterling by Music Man basses here.

Price: $299.99 (30 percent off MSRP)

Buy the Sterling by Music Man S.U.B. Series Ray4 StingRay Bass here.



Specs:

  • Body wood: Basswood
  • Neck wood: Maple/Maple or Maple/Rosewood
  • Pickups: Sterling by Music Man Humbucker
  • Active pickups?: Active preamp
  • Active EQ?: Yes
  • Coil tap?: No

Find more Sterling by Music Man S.U.B. Series Ray4 StingRay Bass information and reviews here.



4. Washburn Taurus T25 5-String Bass

cheap bass guitars, cheap bass, best bass guitars

(Washburn)

If the general J-Bass style appeals to you, but you’re looking for something more, this Washburn turns up on lists all over the internet. It has the exotic look of a custom-built bass with none of the attendant cost. Right now this is going for under $500, but we’re not sure how long that will be the case.

It’s not just the look, either. The body is made of mahogany, which extends the entire length of the instrument with the neck-through design, increasing overall resonance. Each of the J-Style single coils gets a volume and a tone pot so you can blend the pickups to your liking. You get five strings, 24 frets, and a natural matte finish to round out the custom sensibility of this instrument.

No color options, I’m afraid. Just the natural splendor of mahogany.

Why you would choose this one: You’re looking for a J-Bass with custom finishes.

Need more options? Browse more Washburn basses here.

Price: $471.34 (14 percent off MSRP)

Buy the Washburn Taurus T25 5-String Bass here.



Specs:

  • Body wood: Mahogany
  • Neck wood: Maple/Mahogany/Rosewood
  • Pickups: Washburn ABT J-Style single coils
  • Active pickups?: No
  • Active EQ?: No
  • Coil tap?: N/A

Find more Washburn Taurus T25 5-String Bass information and reviews here.



5. Stagg SBJ-50 SB Custom “J” Style Bass Guitar

cheap bass guitars, cheap bass, best bass guitars

(Stagg)

If you’re just starting out, you’re probably looking at the Squire Affinity Basses. It’s where most of us start. Having had one, though, I would urge you to skip them. They’re usually not worth the frustration. On the other hand, Stagg basses fill this role nicely for only a little bit more. They’re often mentioned as being fun to play, which, when you’re starting out, is exactly what you want.

This no-frills machine offers an alder body and a maple neck. The controls are in the classic Jazz style of two volumes and one tone. The switch changes it from series to parallel wiring for a broader tonal palette. The sunburst is a nice little added touch, but you can also get it in black and red.

You might also keep one of these on hand for practice or for settings where you don’t want to take your main bass with you. They’re surprisingly good, but you won’t feel too precious about it, either.

Why you would choose this one: You need a solid starter bass and are unimpressed with the equivalent Squier offering.

Need more options? Browse more Stagg basses here.

Price: $238.45

Buy the Stagg SBJ-50 SB Custom “J” Style Bass Guitar here.



Specs:

  • Body wood: Alder
  • Neck wood: Maple/Maple
  • Pickups: J-Style single coils
  • Active pickups?: No
  • Active EQ?: No
  • Coil tap?: N/A

Find more Stagg SBJ-50 SB Custom “J” Style Bass Guitar information and reviews here.



6. Yamaha BB424X 4-String Bass

cheap bass guitars, cheap bass, best bass guitars

(Yamaha)

Similar to the RevStar I included in our best electric guitars for Christmas this year, this Yamaha bass combines some interesting features to make its own unique offering. The BB has been around while, and this particular configuration would be considered the entry level.

Ostensibly based on the Fender P/J basses, this combines a P-style split coil with a blade-style single coil for wide tonal variation. More than one reviewer noted that the low end sounds not unlike a piano, which speaks to the instrument’s resonance. Most of what you’ll get on this bass are classic/vintage tones packaged in excellent build quality and reliable electronics. Style-wise, it splits the difference between the Squier and Sterling basses above.

Colors include Vintage White, Tobacco Sunburst, Black, and Red Metallic. Only the four string fits under our price cap, and the five string is $100 more.

Why you would choose this one: You’re looking for reliability and classic tones.

Need more options? Browse more Yamaha basses here.

Price: $499.99

Buy the Yamaha BB424X 4-String Bass here.



Specs:

  • Body wood: Alder
  • Neck wood: Maple/Nato/Rosewood
  • Pickups: Split single (neck) blade single-coil (bridge)
  • Active pickups?: No
  • Active EQ?: No
  • Coil tap?: N/A

Find more Yamaha BB424X 4-String Bass information and reviews here.



7. Yamaha TRBX304 4-String Electric Bass Guitar

cheap bass guitars, cheap bass, best bass guitars

(Yamaha)

Here’s another solidly-made Yamaha to consider. Like it’s six-string counterpart, the Pacifica, this bass is available in a few different configurations to give you options when shopping. From just under $200 to just under $500, there’s a bass for a few levels of player in here.

The active electronics in this bass includes a unique five-way switch that give you tones for Slap, Pick, Flat, Finger, or Solo, depending on the style you’re using for a particular passage. They control the two humbuckers, which also have a tone and volume control each. That gives you a wide tonal range, but also the convenience of choosing one position on the switch and leaving it. The contoured body, in this case, mahogany, makes it incredibly comfortable to play, more along the lines of the Ibanez at the top.

If you’re just starting out, you can opt for the very similar TRBX174 with an agathis body in Dark Blue Metallic, Black, or Old Violin Sunburst for $199.99. There’s a variation with an exotic-looking mango wood top for $20 more. For about $80 more, you can step up to the TRBX204 with a basswood body in Galaxy Black, Bright Red Metallic, Gray Metallic, or Old Violin Sunburst. That probably isn’t worth the money, so unless you can’t live with the colors the agathis is available in, go for the cheaper one if you’re deciding between the two as the tonal variation between agathis and basswood are virtually non-existant. These have the split single coil configuration and lack the five-way switch.

At $349.99, the TRBX304 has a solid mahogany body and the fancy electronics in Black, Pewter, Candy Apple Red, White, and Mist Green. I think this is the sweet spot, and provides the best value for the money. If you want to jump up again, the TRBX504 has controls similar to the Ibanez and a mahogany body in Translucent Black, Tobacco Brown Sunburst, Translucent Brown, and Translucent White.

Why you would choose this one: The TRBX304 combines excellent build quality, unique features, and a comfortable body.

Need more options? Browse more Yamaha basses here.

Price: $349.99 with mahogany body, options available

Buy the Yamaha TRBX304 4-String Electric Bass Guitar here.



Specs:

  • Body wood: Mahogany
  • Neck wood: Maple/Mahogany/Rosewood
  • Pickups: Humbuckers
  • Active pickups?: Yes
  • Active EQ?: Yes
  • Coil tap?: No

Find more Yamaha TRBX304 4-String Electric Bass Guitar information and reviews here.



8. Epiphone Thunderbird Pro-IV Bass Guitar

cheap bass guitars, cheap bass, best bass guitars

(Epiphone)

For 2016, Gibson didn’t make a Thunderbird bass, leaving the entire line to their Epiphone label. That means, like the Yamaha, it’s kind of a choose-your-own-adventure shopping experience with the line. Prices range from $349.99 and go over our budget to $549. I won’t stop you from shelling out the extra bucks if you want, but again I’ve gone with the middle option here, which gives you active electronics and a mahogany body.

The pickups are the Epiphone T-PRO humbuckers which are controlled via active electronics, one volume and one tone each. On this middle option, you also get a BadAss bridge, which is a nice upgrade from the entry level. The neck is through-body, unlike the cheaper bolt-on, and is made of walnut and maple with a rosewood fingerboard. If you want the iconic shape with some modern touches, this could be the one for you. I think at this price it might be in upgrade territory from an absolute beginner bass, but if you’ve got the money to spend, go for it. As they remark in the video below, it doesn’t feel much different than a more conventionally-shaped bass, so don’t let that hold you back.

For $100 less, you can step down to the non-Pro Thunderbird-IV, which is a passive bolt-on made of alder in a vintage sunburst finish. For the same price, the Goth Thunderbird-IV is also availble in all its blacked-out glory.

For $100 more than the Pro, you can pick up the Thunderbird Classic-IV, which gives you actual Gibson USA pickups, but reverts to the vintage-style bridge and control layout. Colors include Vintage Sunburst and White.

Why you would choose this one: The iconic rock-and-roll style appeals to you, but you want modern appointments.

Need more options? Browse more Epiphone basses here.

Price: $449

Buy the Epiphone Thunderbird Pro-IV Bass Guitar here.



Specs:

  • Body wood: Mahogany
  • Neck wood: Walnut/Maple/Rosewood
  • Pickups: T-PRO Humbuckers
  • Active pickups?: Yes
  • Active EQ?: Yes
  • Coil tap?: No

Find more Epiphone Thunderbird Pro-IV Bass Guitar information and reviews here.



9. ESP LTD B Series B-205 Five-String Bass Guitar

cheap bass guitars, cheap bass, best bass guitars

(ESP)

If a five-string is a must, this killer option is available at the time of this writing for just inside of our price cap. It comes from ESP’s LTD line, which we previously noted as being good quality and great value.

This bass has a great high-end look with a spalted maple topper on an ash body. While the pickups are passive, there’s an active three-band EQ to shape your tone. The other two knobs are an overall volume and a balance to blend the two pickups. The bridge on this can be strung either as a through-body or as a toploader, depending on your preference. Like the Washburn above, the appeal of this one is getting something refined in aesthetic that doesn’t sacrifice anything on the tonal front.

No color options available on this model, but there is a fretless version available for the same price. The six-string model goes over our price cap, but not by very much at $529.

Why you would choose this one: You love a spalted wood finish and need five strings, but can live with passive pickups.

Need more options? Browse more ESP basses here.

Price: $499 (30 percent off MSRP)

Buy the ESP LTD B Series B-205 Five-String Bass Guitar here.



Specs:

  • Body wood: Ash with Spalted Maple Top
  • Neck wood: Maple/Rosewood
  • Pickups: ESP-Designed SB-5B & SB-5N humbuckers
  • Active pickups?: No
  • Active EQ?: Yes
  • Coil tap?: No

Find more ESP LTD B Series B-205 Five-String Bass Guitar information and reviews here.



10. Schecter Omen Extreme-4 Bass Guitar

cheap bass guitars, cheap bass, best bass guitars

(Schecter)

By now you’ve caught on that there’s a good amount of overlap between basses under $500 and guitars under $500 in terms of brands and models. That makes a certain amount of sense, given that some makers are dedicated to making solid midrange offerings and don’t waste their time targeting the really iconic brands. To that end, here’s the bass equivalent of the Omen-6 guitar, this one the slightly upgraded Extreme version.

This bass features a mahogany contoured body, topped with arched flamed maple. The pickups are active Diamond hubuckers, controlled with one volume knob, one pickup selector, and a two-band EQ. The tones generated by those electronics are firmly in modern territory, so you’ll want to look at something else if you need either vintage tones or more flexibility. It’s a bolt-on, but like the Sterling, it has six bolts for excellent stability.

To be totally fair, the Schecter Stiletto is more frequently recommended according to my research, and is the same price. I like the little touch of the arched maple top, which looks great and feels nice, so I’d personally opt for the Omen if I were on the hunt now.

For $10 more, you can get this in Vintage Sunburst, as opposed to the Black Cherry pictured above.

Why you would choose this one: You need thoroughly modern tones in a bass with a beautiful finish.

Need more options? Browse more Schecter basses here.

Price: $449

Buy the Schecter Omen Extreme-4 Bass Guitar here.



Specs:

  • Body wood: Mahogany with Flamed Maple top
  • Neck wood: Maple/Rosewood
  • Pickups: Schecter Diamond humbuckers
  • Active pickups?: Yes
  • Active EQ?: Yes
  • Coil tap?: No

Find more Schecter Omen Extreme-4 Bass Guitar information and reviews here.


If the other half of your rhythm section is starting out right alongside you, check out our list of the top ten best drum sets for kids and beginners.


Heavy, Inc. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to Amazon. Our product recommendations are guided solely by our editors. We have no relationship with manufacturers.
No Comments

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Discuss on Facebook