12 Best Bass Guitars in 2017

There are a thousand wannabe lead guitarists out there, but the thump and growl of the bass is what really moves the song along, and for you to get the sound you want, you’ve started looking for the best bass guitar.

There aren’t any easy answers when you’re looking for the right instrument, but thanks to our expertise in the field along with a bit of in-depth research, we can help you wade through all the options and lead you through the bass guitar shopping process.

Top 12 Bass Guitars Comparison Table

DesignNameAcoustic or ElectricFull-Sized or ¾ ScaleRating (1-5)
  1. Kala UBASS-SSMHG-FS Solid Spruce Top Mahogany U-Bass Fretted Acoustic 3/4 4.9
  2. Epiphone THUNDERBIRD CLASSIC-IV 4 String Electric Bass Guitar Electric Full-size 4.9
  3. Squier by Fender Affinity Jazz Beginner Electric Bass Guitar Electric Full-size 4.6
  4. Ibanez GSRM20 Mikro 3/4 Size Bass Guitar Electric3/4 4.6
  5. Fender Standard Jazz Electric Bass Guitar Electric Full-size 4.6
6. Ibanez PCBE12MHOPN 4-String Acoustic Bass Guitar Acoustic 3/4 4.6
7. Squier by Fender Vintage SS Modified Special Jaguar BassElectric Full-size 4.5
8. Yamaha TRBX174 BL 4-String Electric Bass Guitar Electric Full-size 4.5
  9. Squier by Fender Deluxe Active Jazz Bass IV String Electric Full-size 4.5
  10. Dean E09M Edge Mahogany Electric Bass Guitar Electric Full-size 4.2
  11. Sterling by Music Man S.U.B. Series Ray4 StingRay Bass Electric Full-size 4.2
  12. Dean Acoustic-Electric Bass, Classic Black Acoustic-Electric 3/4 4.1

How to Choose the Best Bass for You

Choosing the right instrument has a lot to do with the feel of it. If the feel of an instrument isn’t that good, chances are that you won’t want to play it, let alone practice it, and that means that pretty soon you’ll stop playing. Obviously, the best bass guitar is the one you’ll love to play, so this is a pretty important discussion for any future bass-player.

Now “feel” might seem like a vague standard, but when we say that, we’re talking about a few of the following things:

  • How Big Are You and How Strong Are Your Hands? – For smaller players who don’t have the grip strength of a lumberjack, playing the wrong bass can wear you out. Before you’ve finished your jam session, your hands will be cramped and you’ll have blisters on your fingers; this is where you want to look at a 3/4-sized bass. These scaled-down instruments are roughly the size of a standard electric guitar.

They hit all the same notes, but on a frame that’s easier to handle, and don’t worry about looking small, because the only person who’s really going to notice the size difference of the instrument is you; that’s a good thing!

  • The Size of the Body Makes a Difference – Guitars can vary somewhat, but the size difference in bass guitars can be enormous. If you’ve got one that’s too big, like a mariachi bass for instance, it’s easy to find one that’s smaller, like a Kala bass.

The same goes for electric basses. The Hofner bass has a slightly thick body that some people find difficult to play, while other people prefer the thin profile of an Ibanez. Buying a bass can be like buying pants. Sometimes you just have to try them on and walk around a bit to see how you feel.

Action Is Essential

When we talk about action, we’re talking about the distance between the strings and the frets, those metal lines across the neck. High action requires more pressure to play, but you get less fret buzz; this can be great when you need a clear, defined sound like you’d want when playing jazz or bluegrass.

Low-action instruments let you move quickly around the fretboard, but you can get a bit of buzzing if the string vibrates with enough force to hit neighboring frets. While you wouldn’t want to hear this during your folk-music set, if you’re in a metal band and you’re playing hard and fast through a dozen different pedals, a low-action instrument may be exactly what you’re looking for.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Acoustics

Seeing a guitarist who plays both acoustic and electric guitars is far from unusual, but it seems that only very serious bass players venture into the realm of acoustic bass guitars. Don’t be frightened, and don’t let anyone tell you that an acoustic bass can’t rock.

The tones and voice that you can produce with an acoustic bass guitar can be awe-inspiring, and that’s before you ever hook one up to a PA system. You already the deep, driving notes that playing a bass can give you, and we think you’ll be very pleasantly surprised at how rich and powerful the sound of an acoustic bass can be.

Top 5 Best Bass Guitar Reviews

1. Kala UBASS-SSMHG-FS U-Bass Fretted

The Kala UBass might not be what you think of when you think of a bass, but just close your eyes, strum out a few notes, and just try to tell us that isn’t some of the richest bass notes you’ve ever heard. Excellent sustain and deep tones are the hallmarks of this unique design.

The size might make it look more like a ukulele, but the rigidity of the body and the deep tone of the plasticized strings produce bass tones that can challenge any upright bass. The rosewood fingerboard and thick neck keep a true, flat surface. Fret buzz isn’t a problem, and the interior reinforcement of the body keeps it from twisting while still providing a deep, clear resonance.

High-quality tuning pegs and the unique strings make this bass work, and we think that you’ll love to show it off every chance you get.

2. Epiphone THUNDERBIRD CLASSIC-IV

The reverse curves of an Epiphone Thunderbird are unlike any other guitar, and that’s just one of the reasons that you’ve seen it played by members of Kiss, Nirvana, and The Who. However, they aren’t just playing it because it looks good. The low, growly noise of this bass is a must-have for any aggressive bass player.

That long neck actually goes further into the body than most instruments, providing exceptional rigidity that makes it easier to play and keep in tune. A pair of Gibson TB Plus humbuckers provides superior gain and tone, which you’re going to need when you’re looking to hit those low bass notes.

The odd shape provides a nice balance that feels even in your hands, and the rounded back of the neck makes it more playable than some basses that have a flat neck that’s harder to grab.

3. Fender Squier Affinity Electric Bass

Squier used to have a reputation as a cheap knock-off of the Fender brand, but this electric bass shows just how much the Squier brand has improved in recent years. The quality of the materials, electronics, and craftsmanship may not be as high as a Fender, but they’re still higher than many items on the market, and for this particular instrument, they come together nicely.

The shape of this bass mimics the slightly offset shape of a Fender Jazz Bass, and the little touches are all there, such as a rosewood fretboard and high-quality Fender-grade hardware. The C-shaped neck is designed to be easy for beginners to navigate, and a single-coil tone delivers a deep, low-end tone while still keeping down the overall cost of the instrument.

The low cost of the Squier line also makes them very affordable, so they’re ideal for beginners or experienced players who just want another instrument to fool around with.

4. Ibanez GSRM20 Mikro 3/4 Size Bass

The length of a full-size bass makes them harder to transport and more difficult to play for smaller musicians, but this 3/4-size bass is made with Ibanez quality on a scaled-down frame that’s almost the same size as the standard electric guitar.

The agathist hardwood body has a sunburst finish that flows into the rosewood fretboard with pearloid dots. High-quality tuning pegs produce the classic, Ibanez-style low action that makes their bass guitars so much fun to play. The combination of a bridge pick-up and an off-set center pick add a lively, punchy tone that’s perfect for rock and metal.

Even with the short neck, the quality of the pickups and tuning hardware ensures that you’ll get a deep, rumbling tone. After this bass, you may never go back to playing a full-sized instrument. This bass also fits standard-sized gig bags and hard cases, which is a cost-saver down the road.

5. Fender Standard Jazz Electric Bass

We’ve talked a lot about Fender basses, so it only seems right that we have one on our list. This bass has been the standard for the electric bass guitar since it hit the scene in the 1950’s. The design hasn’t changed very much since then, and that’s for a good reason. Everyone from Elvis’ band to Maroon 5 play the Fender Jazz bass, and we have no doubt that you’ll continue to see them in the future.

This instrument provides exceptional balance with the high-quality of Fender hardware and craftsmanship. The C-shaped, maple neck provides a good mix of durability while still being easy enough to travel for quick playing.

A split single-coil pickup gives a livelier, two-level tone, but the offset control can let you achieve a single-coil sound just by flipping a switch. Fender instruments are designed to last for years, and they are exceptionally good at holding their value, making them excellent investments as well.

Final Thoughts

Our top choices for best bass guitar really come down to your situation.

If you want an acoustic bass, the Kala Ubass is going to blow your mind. The small frame and huge size is surprising at first, and then you just fall in love with the ability to make such huge noises on such a small instrument.

We love all the electric options in the Top 5, and the only way we can really separate them is by cost. They each sound fantastic and look awesome, so for anything from Punk to country, you’re going to get the job done. If you’re on a budget or if you’re just getting started, the Squire is the way to go. It’s built with quality, but not so much quality that you have to take out a loan.

The Fender is going to cost the most, but they are built to provide a reliable sound that will be measured in decades, not years or months like other guitars.

Right in the middle is the Epiphone Thunderbird. The mid-range cost is affordable for the serious amateur, and that reverse-wing shape never goes out of style.