11 Best Cheap Bass Guitars Under $500 (2018)

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, pick up a great cheap bass guitar for under $500.


1. Ibanez SR300E Electric Bass Guitar

Image of ibanez sr300e

(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.

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

Image of squier vintage modified jazz bass

(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.

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

Image of sterling by music man ray4 stingray

(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.

Price: $299.99

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

Image of washburn taurus t25

(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.

Price: $499

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

Image of stagg sbj-50

(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.

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 BB434 4-String Bass

Image of yamaha bb434

Yamaha

Similar to the RevStar I included in our best electric guitars for Christmas, 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 Teal, Tobacco Sunburst, and Black.

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

Price: $499.99

Buy the Yamaha BB434 4-String Bass here.


Specs:

  • Body wood: Alder
  • Neck wood: Maple/Nato/Rosewood
  • Pickups: Split single (neck) and single-coil (bridge) YGD Custom V5 AlnicoV
  • Active pickups?: No
  • Active EQ?: No
  • Coil tap?: N/A

Find more Yamaha BB434 4-String Bass information and reviews here.


7. Yamaha TRBX304 4-String Electric Bass Guitar

Image of yamaha trbx304

(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.

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. Orange O-Bass 4-String Electric Bass Guitar

Image of orange o-bass

Orange

It’s not at all uncommon to see Orange amps (even guitar-focused ones) amplifying basses. Their tone is perfectly suited to cutting through a mix and providing that lovely breakup. What’s less common is Orange making the bass itself.

This bass first appeared as something of a secret on the floor at NAMM 2014, and following a number of video leaks, the company was obliged to put the thing into production. This is a vintage-inspired bass, suited to the rock roots of the company with its P-bass format.

You get master volume and tone knobs to control the split humbucker set into a relatively light but resonant okoume body. That’s it; simple and really, really good. These guys know tone, so you can trust them to make you a decent bass that just so happens to come in under budget.

Choose from Sunburst or Black, both with antique white pickguards.

Why you would choose this one: You want to try something a little different in the P-bass style from the makers of world-class gear.

Price: $449

Buy the Orange O-Bass 4-String Electric Bass Guitar here.


Specs:

  • Body wood: Okoume/Basswood
  • Neck wood: Maple/Rosewood
  • Pickups: Custom wound split humbucker
  • Active pickups?: No
  • Active EQ?: No
  • Coil tap?: No

Find more Orange O-Bass 4-String Electric Bass Guitar information and reviews here.


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

Image of esp ltd b-205

(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.

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

Image of schecter omen extreme-4

(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.

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.


11. Hofner Ignition 500/1 Electric Violin Bass Guitar

Image of hofner ignition 500/1

Hofner

For fans of either the Beatles or unique basses, Hofner has made an affordable version of the well-known 500/1 Violin bass based upon the 70s iteration. This is a hollowbody bass, which produces a warmer, more vintage sound than the modern punchy tone most of the other basses on this list are good for.

Controls include a master volume and tone, independent on/off switches for each of the humbuckers, and a Rhythm/Solo switch. That Rhythm/Solo switch attenuates the volume, dropping it to 70 percent on Rhythm tone and somewhat darkening the overall character subtly. Certainly McCartney-esque tones are available here, but so are a wide variety of very usable sounds.

Available in the pictured sunburst or black.

Why you would choose this one: Come for the Beatles vibe, stay for the super clean tones and interesting controls.

Price: $349.99

Buy the Hofner Ignition 500/1 Electric Violin Bass Guitar here.


Specs:

  • Body wood: Flame maple/spruce
  • Neck wood: Maple/rosewood
  • Pickups: Dual Hofner Staple humbuckers
  • Active pickups?: No
  • Active EQ?: No
  • Coil tap?: No

Find more Hofner Ignition 500/1 Electric Violin Bass Guitar information and reviews here.


See Also:


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