So, you want to discover the best bass guitar brands?
There are hundreds of bass guitar manufacturers out there. Not to mention each brand has different models in its lineup.
So, it’s hard to know where to start when buying a bass guitar. What’s supposed to be an exciting journey can leave you frustrated or even worse, buying the wrong instrument.
Let’s make things easy and start with the basics.
By knowing the best bass guitar brands, you won’t buy a bass of poor quality. Furthermore, we’ll outline why each brand could be for you in this article.
The Best Bass Guitar Brands
- Ernie Ball Music Man
Fender is a powerhouse of a brand. That extends to bass guitars too.
Two flagship bass guitars in the Fender lineup are the Precision and Jazz.
A few manufacturers attempted to make the first electric bass, but the Precision became wildly popular. The Precision was designed to replace upright bass guitars that had become inaudible because of the loudness of electric six-string guitars. As they say, the rest is history.
Since its groundbreaking launch in 1951, you’ll find the Precision bass played in many genres. Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, Sting, Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, and Dee Dee Ramone of the Ramones all use a Precision.
How does the Precision bass sound?
It has depth and warmth with a robust mid-range presence. Such characteristics make it a simple yet in-your-face bass tone.
The Fender Jazz came along in 1960 with a more playable design. While the Precision has a consistent neck width, the Jazz tapers by the nut making it more manageable for smaller hands.
There’s more tonal versatility with a Jazz. The extra dials are sensitive and even the slightest change will adjust the tone.
Compared to the Precision, the Jazz has a brighter tone. The more vivid bass sound makes the bass more prominent in the mix and it became a favorite of Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones and later Adam Clayton of U2.
The Jazz also has an identifiable slap tone, hence why Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers uses the Jazz as a go-to bass.
You’ll find other models in the Fender catalog such as the Mustang, Jaguar, and Meteora, but the Precision and Jazz are the most popular.
So who should opt for a Fender bass?
For genres such as classic rock, indie, funk, and jazz, you can’t go wrong with a Fender. What’s more, you’ll find professional and intermediate guitars in the Fender bass range.
You’ll have the choice of an American or Mexican-made Fender. Which depends on your budget.
The most expensive bass guitars in the Fender bass lineup are American-made. These are the Performer, Ultra, and Professional models and are your premium Fender bass guitars.
Yet, if you can’t afford an American-made Fender, you can opt for the more affordable Mexican-made. We know these as the Player Series.
What’s the difference between an American-made and Mexican-made Fender bass?
Not much. The biggest difference is the price. That said, there are improved pickups in the American-made bass guitars. You’ll also notice a better finish when compared to a Player. But, although cheaper, Player basses are true workhorses.
If you want prestige and the finest craftsmanship, then an American-made Fender is the one for you. But Player bass guitars are well-built and capable of gigging and studio performance if you’re on a strict budget.
The Ibanez bass guitar lineup is diverse.
For example, they offer many acoustic bass choices perfect for a stripped-back performance or practice. An AEB8E is an affordable acoustic bass, with a built-in tuner, it’s ideal for a beginner.
Then, there’s the Artcore Bass series, offering hollow body warmth. With a vast open voice, these are super for players looking for a mellow upright bass tone from an electric bass body.
Bass guitars are often challenging to play if you’ve got smaller hands. So, the miKro is a welcome addition. The shorter scale length ensures you won’t be stretching to the headstock.
Ibanez has everything in their locker, from the Tallman with Fender sensibilities to the extensive collection of 5-string basses.
While the collection is diverse, the heavy rock and metal bass guitars have gained traction amongst bassists.
The RGB series is the essential Ibanez for the modern metal player. With a black body and shark tooth inlays, it looks metal.
But, beyond its gothic demeanor, Ibanez prime the RGB for metal playing. It’s a shred machine with fast playing in mind. A slim satin neck allows you to fly along the fretboard. The pickups grind out a modern compressed metal tone and the RGB is achievable on a beginner budget.
On the premium side, there’s the Prestige SR5000. It is made in Japan and boasts peak craftsmanship with tonal flexibility for many genres.
If you’re searching for a 5-string bass, start with Ibanez, because of their extensive collection. Furthermore, the price diversity makes them ideal for any skill level. There’s a bass for you regardless if you’re playing jazz or metal.
Ernie Ball Music Man
The sad news first. Not got $2,000 plus to spend on a bass guitar? Then, Ernie Ball Music Man is out of reach.
Ernie Ball Music Man bass guitars are for professional bassists with a premium budget. What do you get for your outlay?
Every bass guitar is a product of their San Luis Obispo, California factory.
What’s this mean?
As American-made instruments, you can expect premium quality.
It starts with hand-selected tonewoods; only the best woods cut. Using high-quality tonewood, each bass has natural charm and consistent grain patterns. Not to forget, such high-grade tonewoods supply rich tonal qualities.
A standout feature is a flawless finish. To achieve this, the skilled team sand the body and neck by hand. Then they apply three layers of high gloss finish. Hence why Ernie Ball Music Man bass guitars are synonymous with a state-of-the-art finish.
So Ernie Ball Music Man basses look great, but how do they play?
Each fret is hand-leveled and crowned by skilled luthiers. Before leaving the factory, there’s a setup performed by trained technicians. Upon arrival, intonation and action are prime out-of-the-box.
So you’re a professional with a large budget. Should you go to Ernie Ball Music Man?
The Stingray model is an example. It has the sound and playability of an updated Fender. The tone offers more in every department. Bass frequencies are deeper, the midrange is more pronounced, while there’s presence in the high end, something that’s often forgotten with bass guitars.
The 3D tone has a contemporary coloration. You’ll see artists such as Tony Levin of Peter Gabriel and King Crimson use a Stingray.
Sure, there’s no affordable choice. But if you’ve got the budget, there are premium bass guitars on offer from Ernie Ball Music Man. For rock, jazz, funk, experimental, and progressive genres, an Ernie Ball Music Man bass sits boldly in a mix.
Rickenbacker is an American company renowned for producing electric guitars and basses, favored by many iconic musicians. Known for distinctive designs and rich tone, they played pivotal roles in rock and popular music history.
A Rickenbacker bass guitar is as original as they come. The distinguished shape and premium quality has made them sought-after bass guitars.
You won’t find any cheap Rickenbackers. Every Rickenbacker bass is a premium model. If you find a cheap one, it’ll be a fake. See as sought-after guitars, fakes have infiltrated the world wide web. You need to buy from a legit site.
Want to grab a bargain with a second-hand model? Think again. A modern Rickenbacker bass guitar will drop in price upon sale. But even considering the drop, they’re still expensive.
What’s more, vintage Rickenbackers retail for enormous sums. A Rickenbacker is a good shout if you’re looking for something to hold its value.
So what makes a Rickenbacker so good?
Let’s start with the build quality, which applies across the board, regardless of model. Rickenbackers are handmade in the USA to high standards.
What does a Rickenbacker bass sound like?
Modern Rickenbacker bass guitars have two pickups, so have two volumes and two-tone dials. This makes sure the tone is versatile.
Likewise, new Rickenbackers come with a switch to change the tone from vintage to modern to further versatility.
The Rickenbacker tone is the benchmark for a 60s, 70s rock tone. This extends to subgenres like progressive and psyche as their treble-rich tone takes well to modulation effects.
Rickenbacker bass guitars are for professional players with a large budget. But, what you get for your outlay is a premium instrument that’ll stand the test of time. Most of all, the Rickenbacker-made single coils produce a timeless tone full of thickness and punch.
Gibson is a powerhouse guitar company. They get the plaudits for their six-string instruments, but they also deserve it for their bass guitars.
Gibson has produced bass guitars since the 50s. The first is the EB1 with its violin-like shape. Then, the EB-2 bass was born with its semi-hollow body and became a much-desired instrument. These are iconic and expensive bass guitars no longer in production.
What bass guitars does Gibson produce nowadays?
It’s a streamlined collection with Thunderbirds, an SG, and a Les Paul Junior totaling five basses.
Let’s start with the Thunderbirds. The most expensive is the G2, a Gene Simmons tribute. As the bassist in Kiss, as you can imagine, the G2 is a full-on rock machine. The Original and Modern Thunderbirds, as the G2, come with humbuckers, so will handle rock and metal tones.
Another is the SG bass. The SG is an iconic shape screaming rebellion with sharp double horns. These bass guitars look the part with their nitro finish.
The mahogany body supplies a woody tone. When compared to a Thunderbird, an SG bass has a more vintage nature.
You’ll get plenty of versatility out of it too with rhythm and lead humbuckers. A bold midrange with hip highs, you can tweak to darken and brighten the tone to suit.
As the cheapest bass in the Gibson lineup, the Les Paul Junior Tribute DC Bass has a niche. The short-scale makes bass playing easier for bassists with shorter arms.
With a single volume and tone, it’s a simple to use bass guitar. A clever feature is the coil tap to further lose the midranges and shape the tone.
As a general rule, Gibson basses are for professional players. Nevertheless, the Les Paul Junior bass is superb for intermediate and younger players.
They all have a top build quality and carry the Gibson name. The downside is the lack of choice in their collection. But, if you want a pro bass, for rock and its subgenres, consider a Gibson.
Earlier, you learned details of Fender bass guitars. Do they sound perfect for your needs but you don’t have the budget? Then a Squier is for you.
Squier bass guitars reproduce the classic tones of Fenders but without the cost. They’re not your standard copy, though. Fender owns Squier as such they can create close replicas.
How do they keep the prices low?
Fender makes Squier bass guitars in China. The lower factory and labor costs make sure they can retail for cheaper.
Of course, they won’t have the same quality as Fender and you’ll find cost-cutting on hardware. But, for beginners and intermediates, Squier is a perfect avenue to get a hold of Fender designs at a fraction of the cost.
The original bass guitar is the Precision and has been a mainstay since its introduction in the 50s. Squier Precision bass guitars replicate the classic tone.
Furthermore, if you want a retro tone, the Squier Precision Classic Series mimics Precisions’ aesthetics, sound, and playability from different eras. There’s a Classic 50s, 60s, and 70s, so you can pick which suits your style.
Likewise, the Jazz model has Squier Classic 50s, 60s, or 70s. Articulate and with a powerful midrange, these give a more vivid tone.
With the Squier bass catalog, there are plenty of choices. Whether you’re a left-hander or want a Jazz with humbuckers instead of single-coils, there’s one for you.
Overall, you won’t have the Fender name splashed in large lettering on the headstock. But A Squier is an affordable entry into bass playing for classic rock, indie, jazz, and funk players on a budget.
All while reproducing a classic sound. Not to forget the build quality with manufacturing overlooked by Fender.
Gibson acquired Epiphone in 1957. With six-string guitars, we often consider Epiphones as affordable Gibsons. This isn’t the case with bass guitars.
So what’s the story? Gibson doesn’t produce modern incarnations of some of their early designs. Here’s where Epiphone steps up by producing bass guitars with a likeness to early Gibson basses.
Say if you want a semi-hollow EB-2. Then, look at the Epiphone Jack Casady. Both semi-hollow, they bear similar acoustic-like qualities.
They’re not identical. The short-scale EB-2 makes it more plucky and suited for British Invasion vibes. Whereas, the brighter tone of a Jack Casady is more versatile.
Jack Casady, Jefferson Airplane bassist, designed the Casady himself with the goal of a bass guitar with thumping acoustic spirit and excellent clarity.
Here’s where you find it in use. Casady uses his with Jefferson Airplane for folk, psych, and classic rock sentiments. Yet, another user is Black Rebel Motorcycle Club bassist Robert Been uses the Casady for heavier bluesy rock tones.
Another standout Epiphone bass guitar is the Viola bass. You know that violin-like bass Paul McCartney uses, well, this shares a close likeness. First introduced in 1995, it’s a copy of the Hofner bass made famous by McCartney. So for a 60s British sound, it’s a good choice.
Epiphone bass guitars have a price point achievable for intermediates, but their qualities have caught the eyes of pros. They’re niche bass guitars, but for the purposes outlined, they’re a leader.
A standout feature of the Yamaha bass guitar catalog is the price diversification.
Are you a beginner wanting to try your hand at bass? Then, for just over $200, you can get a Yamaha electric bass guitar. If this budget is familiar, browse the TRBX170 Series.
These bass guitars play well and won’t break the bank, so suit players learning in bedrooms.
The TRBX Series has 300, 500, and 600 models too, each increasing in price respectively. TRBX600 basses are much more complicated to play with a series of bass, mid, treble cut, and boost dials. These are more intermediate bass guitars for players looking to experiment with their sound.
Talking of complicated, do you fancy a challenge? Look no further than the TRB1006J. A six-string bass guitar, this setup makes the low B playable, unlike your standard four-string bass.
You’ll find out-there designs in the Yamaha catalog with modern shapes and features. But as a company, they cover many styles. Take the BB basses as an example.
Yamaha bass guitars in the BB Series have a more classic appearance. With its Japanese build quality and crisp sound, the BB Pro Series is for professional users.
The BB Pro Series has a bass tone employed by Megadeth’s James LoMenzo and Mexican session bassist Abraham Laboriel. Its use in such different genres says loads about the versatility of the BB Pro Series. It’ll do it all.
There’s a Yamaha bass guitar, whatever your style or skill level. Yet, perhaps the biggest pull of Yamaha bass guitars is the budget options for beginner players.
ESP is a Japanese guitar manufacturer with an impressive collection of metal bass guitars.
Can you get more thrash metal than Slayer?
Tom Araya, bassist and frontman of Slayer has a signature ESP. The Tom Araya FRX bass is a handcrafted bass made in Japan. Not only well-made, but it also throws out thunderous bass tones.
Custom shop guitars are expensive, so a more achievable model is the ESP E-II. Priced around $2,500, it’s still expensive, but it’s over half the price of the Tom Araya FRX.
The E-II BTL bass guitars are available in four or five-string and with Seymour Duncan pickups, you can create plenty of noise.
They’re professional bass guitars suited for heavier genres. But as often is the case, they’re expensive. Not got thousands of dollars to spend? Well, look at LTD.
ESP and LTD are the same company.
What’s the difference between ESP and LTD?
ESP bass guitars are high-grade models, while LTD bass guitars are cheaper. ESP has improved quality, handcrafted to immaculate detail. These are your pro instruments.
LTD, on the other hand, are much simpler bass guitars. They have a more production line feel to them, but that’s not to say they’re poor guitars. They’re well made and open the door to bass guitars that are the dream of metalheads.
Take the Tom Araya FRX for example. At over $5,500, it’s out of reach for most. But the LTD version is named TA-204 FRX and retails at under $700. Offering the same shape and reminiscent tone.
There are other options; for example, the 87 Series offers Fender Precision aesthetics with more modern playability.
But for me, ESP is at its best with metal bass guitars. And, while ESP is your professional choice, intermediate bassists can taste the thunder by diving into their LTD lineup.
Founded in 1976 by David Schecter, Schecter Guitar Research, or Schecter for short, is an American company.
The bass catalog is full of variation. You’ll find bass guitars for most genres and budgets.
While an American company, they make most bass guitars in the Far East. In fact, only the custom shop bass guitars are US-made. At the moment, that’s just the Michael Anthony Signature Model.
But they cater to pros. For the professional, you’ll have to look at the top of the range Far-Eastern bass guitars.
The SLS Elite Series a top performer with modern playability. The slimline necks are for speedy playing, and powerful Fishman pickups offer a hefty output supply. They’re great for heavy metal.
But as mentioned, there’s a bass, whatever your genre. The Retro collection has a bass for everything from jazz to hard blues. A Corsair model is a semi-hollow akin to Epiphone’s Jack Casady.
You won’t find a budget bass. Still, the Schecter catalog has more affordable models that cater to beginners and intermediates. A fine example is the Omen range. It parades metal sensibilities with a sharp-edged headstock and gothic inlays, all while retailing at around $500.
It’s worth exploring the Schecter catalog. Whether you’re a jazz or metal bassist, chances are you’ll find a bass guitar to suit your genre. What’s more, whether you want extravagant finishes or traditional simplicity, Shecter basses come in various finishes.
Although there’s only one American-made model, they’re well-made bass guitars.
Here’s one for the traditionalists. Gretsch’s bass collection is full of vintage style and demeanor. These are classy bass guitars with plenty of bass frequencies to boot.
Best of all, Gretsch has affordable options. The Jet shape has been a hit in the world of six-string guitars. Now, the G2220 brings the Jet style in a bass package.
As a short-scale bass, the strings have a loose touch that many bass guitarists find easy to play. They’re an ideal starting point if you’re learning the ropes.
But at the same time, you can’t help but feel with the hefty bass frequencies, it’ll be hard to let it go when you get out of your bedroom and onto the stage.
But, does Gretsch make premium bass guitars?
The White Falcon has become a staple of Gretsch. The hollowbody with oversized f-holes pours out a tide of pure tones. Liking the sound of a hollow body bass? There are the G5440LSB and G5442BDC, both hollow bodies while one is short, and the other is long scale.
Modern bassists won’t fancy what Gretsch offers. But, if you say “they don’t make them like they used to”, consider having a look around the Gretsch catalog, whatever your skill level.
Danelectro is a guitar brand that is known for providing high-quality electric guitars at an affordable price. If you're a beginner or intermediate-level player, then Danelectro is definitely a brand you should consider.
Danelectro has pushed serious boundaries since its inception in 1947. Their bass catalog does just that.
You won’t find a plethora of options. But what they have is extraordinary with unique Danelectro styling.
Like their six-string counterparts, their bass guitars will turn heads. There are two flagship bass guitars, the Longhorn and the 59DC.
Let’s start with the Longhorn Bass and what makes it so distinctive?
First made in 1958, it has unique selling points. The body shape is one of a kind, but these aesthetics serve a purpose.
Two deep cutaways make sure you can access high frets. Here’s the thing, there are 24 frets and you can play each one. 24 is at the higher end of the scale for a bass guitar. Yet the remarkable thing is the ability to play every fret.
What’s more, a scale length of 29.75″ makes it easy to do so.
So what about the 59DC?
The 59DC became a hit throughout the 1990s with its rounded tone. The scale length is 34″ and there are 20 frets, so it’s a different proposition to the Longhorn.
What do Danelectro bass guitars sound like?
Danelectro bass guitars have a distinct sound that you can only replicate with a Danelectro. They aren’t bass-heavy and have a thinner and twangier sound.
It’s a professional tone suitable for rock, indie, and more. A recent pioneer of the Longhorn is Victoria De Angelis, from the Italian rock band Måneskin.
Danelectro won’t be for you if you’re looking for ample options. But for intermediate and pro bassists looking for an eye-catching bass with a pinpoint plucky tone, then take a Danelectro for a spin. The surprising thing is, they’re affordable at around $500 to $600.
Jackson bass guitars are modern instruments built with technical playing in mind.
You’ll find most Jacksons have sleek playability. Down in no small part, to their super streamlined necks and jumbo frets. The bodies are small and contoured, making them lightweight to further improve playability.
The razor-sharp edges on the body and headstock direct you to Jackson’s target audience. For heavy rock and metal, they’ll meet your thrashing needs.
Most Jackson bass guitars come with humbuckers. Designed to handle distortion, they’ll take to every overdrive you throw at it.
Another feature of Jackson’s is their emphasis on EQ. They come with blend dials to mix the two pickups and controls to boost and cut bass, mids, and treble.
For fast playability and a powerful sound, Jackson’s bass guitars reign supreme.
Yet, you don’t need an astronomical budget for such qualities.
Sure, you’ll bump into signature models that’ll break the bank. But, the Pro Series retails at around $1,000. For a professional bass in your rig, that isn’t too expensive.
But where the Jackson catalog is a genuine delight, is in the beginner market. You’ll encounter an array of options whatever your budget. For example, the metal-ridden JS1X retails for around $200.
So, if you’re tired of the lack of budget metal bass guitars, Jackson is a leader in the market.
G&L is a guitar company co-founded by Leo Fender, known for crafting quality electric guitars and basses. Building upon Fender's legacy, G&L instruments feature innovations in tone and playability, revered by musicians worldwide.
Are you new to the brand G&L? Well, check this.
G&L is the brainchild of Leo Fender. After CBS bought Fender in 1965, Leo moved to Music Man before starting G&L in 1980.
So, you can expect G&L bass guitars to have similar sensibilities, making Fender such a highflier.
G&L basses have the traditional looks, albeit models such as the JB-2 air on the more contemporary. Many of the models bear resemblance to classic Fenders. The LB-100, for example, has striking similarities to a Fender Precision.
So I suppose the big question is, Fender or G&L?
It depends on the make and model. G&L bass guitars range from upwards of $3000 to $500. So, you can’t generalize.
But what about a Mexican Fender vs. a G&L at a similar price?
Many bassists claim the build quality of G&L is a step up on these Fenders.
But on the other hand, loyal Fender bass players stand stoic in their love for Fender.
Let’s say this…
With tone, G&L bass guitars tend to have more punch, whether played with or without a pick. A punchy tone could be appealing. Nevertheless, you may prefer the drudgier tone of a Fender.
Whether G&L topple Fender’s popularity is another question. But what is for sure, G&L bass guitars deserve to be on this list as one of the 15 best bass guitar brands.
For intermediate to pro budgets, a G&L bass is for the ex-Fender fan who thinks the powerhouse has dropped their game.
Lakland is a prestigious bass guitar manufacturer based in Chicago, known for producing high-quality instruments with exceptional playability and tone. Favored by professional musicians, Lakland basses blend traditional designs with modern craftsmanship and innovation.
While they may not be as famous as other brands, Lakland also makes high-performance bass guitars with top sound quality.
Is a Lakland bass guitar for you?
They excel by making modern spec bass guitars but with traditional aesthetics. So they offer the best of both worlds.
Lakland makes bass guitars in the USA or Indonesia. They separate their bass guitars into three series, the USA, Classic, and Skyline.
The US-made models are the premium choice used by the likes of Geezer Butler of Black Sabbath and Ben Kenney of Incubus. The US-made are the USA and Classic series which they make in their Chicago factory.
The Skyline series brings Lakland spirit into a more affordable price bracket. They’re not budgeted and still retail at around $1,000. But the thing to remember is that even the lowest-spec Lakland is a professional bass guitar.
Lakland is big on sound quality. They make their own pickups hand-wound in their Chicago factory. The common theme throughout is versatility. From the pop anthems of Florence and Machine to the blistering heavy rock of Sabbath. Lakland does it all.
A family-owned company Lakland bass guitars are high-grade and full of personality. These are the choice for the most demanding of bass connoisseurs.
There we have it… the 15 best bass guitar brands.
The brands here build the best quality bass guitars on the market today. But, each brand creates bass guitars with differing qualities.
So which one’s right for you?
It’s wise to pick a brand when deciding on a bass guitar. Use this article to find what brand is right for your playing style and genre.
From here, you can find one in your budget. Of course, a few brands like Rickenbacker and Lakland only make pro instruments. So these may be out of reach.
But even if these are unaffordable, plenty of bass brands are listed here that offer beginner bass guitars.
Good luck! I hope you’re now knowledgeable and have decided on your bass guitar brand.