There's a whole host of bass guitars out there. And whether you're purchasing your first bass or simply adding one to the collection, it's a good idea to look first at some of the best bass guitar brands out there. And no need to worry if you're new to the world of bass -- we've included our top bass guitar brands (along with a little about each one) below.
Our Top Choices for Best Bass Guitar Brands
Ibanez has come a long way from where it started: importing classical guitars in the 1920s. From there, it became known for interesting new guitar designs, and during its "lawsuit era," it made affordable yet decent-sounding replicas of popular Gibson and Fender guitars. But Ibanez really shot to popularity when metal-influenced music became popular in the 2000s.
Despite being known for its fast-playing superstrat-style guitars and extended-range instruments, Ibanez makes a collection of impressive bass guitars for just about every genre (and every price point). The miKro basses, like the corresponding miKro guitars, are affordable options that are ideal for beginners. Hollow-bodied, humbucker-equipped options like the AGB200 are ideal for achieving a "round" sound more like that of an upright bass. And many Ibanez basses are equipped with both a P-style and a J-style pickup, making them exceptionally tonally versatile.
Ibanez doesn't always get the same respect as high-end manufacturers do, but it does boast a long list of signature artists and players who enthusiastically endorse the brand. The K5 bass is the signature instrument of Fieldy, the bassist for the band Korn. Another signature artist is the talented bassist Thundercat, who has worked with a number of other acts as well as released several studio albums. This video shows him breaking down some of his favorite basslines.
All in all, we appreciate the fact that Ibanez makes quality basses for any price point, and their diverse catalog means there's something for almost every genre.
Schecter Guitar Research was founded in 1976 as a guitar repair shop in Van Nuys, California. It started offering its own guitars in 1979 and switched to mass production in 1983. Today, Schecter remains a highly accessible electric guitar and bass guitar brand. It offers affordable yet decent-quality models for players on a budget, but it also offers high-end custom models. If you're interested in learning more about the brand, check out this video on Schecter facts.
Many Schecter basses have unique and eye-catching finishes. One of their newer models, the C-5 apocalypse, has a beautiful swamp ash body with an ebony fingerboard and glow-in-the-dark side marker dots. It also comes with two J-style humbucker pickups for rich, low-noise performance. Another new model, the C-4 Silver Mountain, comes with a detailed Toxic Venom finish and unusual but beautiful abalone line fingerboard inlays. One of their more popular models is the Schecter Stiletto, an affordable model that still offers an impressive low end.
Schecter notes that their guitars and basses can be used for any genre, but a look at their artist roster suggests that Schecter guitars are most popular with metal and hard rock players. Balsac of GWAR, East Bay Ray of the Dead Kennedys, Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse, and Jerry Horton of Papa Roach all play Schecters. The brand also has a popular Artist Signature Series, where guitarists can purchase the same guitars their favorite artists play on stage.
We think that Schecter basses could do well in any genre, but their "heavy" tone makes them an especially good choice if you play as part of a rock or metal band.
Of all bass guitar brands on the list, Fender has had the greatest impact on bass history. The legendary Precision Bass, first made in 1951, was offered in an era when most groups still relied on upright bass. The first Precision bass guitars had non-contoured bodies that were roughly shaped like Stratocaster bodies. They also used unique split-coil pickups, which offer the sound of single coils with a noise-canceling effect. But perhaps the most important feature was the scale length -- Leo Fender set it at 34", which is still considered the standard today in both Fender bass guitars and those made by other brands. Later on, many manufacturers released "short scale" four-string bass guitars as well (Fender jumped in with the Mustang short scale), but the short-scale versions never reached the same popularity.
The Fender Jazz bass (also called a J-bass) was released in 1960, and it offered more tonal versatility than the Precision bass thanks to its two pickups. The Jazz Bass pickups let players choose from a full, rich low end (at the neck pickup), or distinct growling tone (from the bridge pickup). That versatility made the Jazz Bass a favorite among both performers and session musicians. And despite the name, the Jazz Bass is still popular in many non-jazz genres. The J-bass has been played by Sting of the Police, Geddy Lee of Rush, Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Adam Clayton of U2. If you're interested in learning more about the differences between the Fender Jazz and Precision basses, check out this helpful video.
Today, Fender's Jazz and Precision basses are still immensely popular. Squier by Fender, Fender's budget brand, offers several affordable Classic Vibe versions of the Fender Jazz Bass. Squier also offers a collection of Vintage Modified bass guitars, many of which are made to replicate the look and feel of the 70's Fender Jazz Bass. The Vintage Modified and Classic Vibe J-bass series are ideal for beginners or players on a budget. If you have a little more to spend and want an incredible playing experience, the Fender American Ultra Series is a great choice. Fender American Ultra Jazz Bass and Precision Bass models are designed with new body contours and ultra-noiseless pickups, as well as fast satin necks. Some are available with active pickups for powerful and high-output sound.
The Rickenbacker guitar line has an interesting history -- founder Francis C. Hall initially worked as a distributor for Fender. And even from the start of the company's guitar manufacturing, Rickenbackers had unique design features. The first was the unique horseshoe-style pickup. It had two coils -- when used together, they worked as a humbucker, and separately, they functioned as single coils. Rickenbacker was also the first to use a neck-through design, which means that the neck effectively continues through the instrument's body, leading to unprecedented sustain. The body and neck are effectively one piece, with the sides of the body being glued or bolted on.
But Rickenbacker basses in particular really took off with the rise of the Beatles. Paul McCartney was given a free Rickenbacker 4001S bass, which he then began playing at shows. His use of the Rickenbacker led to the company's recognition on an international level.
Today, Rickenbacker continues to be one of the world's most innovative high-quality bass manufacturers. One of their current offerings, the Rickenbacker 4003, has two single-coil pickups and can be played in stereo -- a great feature for both recording and performance. To see the 4003 in action, check out this interesting video.
Between their unique body shapes and interesting finishes -- including Fireglo and Autumnglo sunbursts as well as natural walnut finishes -- Rickenbacker bass guitars are sure to make you stand out on stage.
Warwick is a German-based bass guitar manufacturer (although their U.S. headquarters are in Nashville) known for exceptionally high quality. Warwick is also unique in that it specializes in bass guitars. Many bass guitar brands offer a whole range of guitars with only a handful of bass options.
Thanks to their attention to detail and their impressive range of tonewoods used, Warwick basses typically come with a high price tag. But for the serious bassist, the cost is worthwhile -- you're getting a highly playable (and handmade, if it's part of one of the higher-end series) bass. Many Warwicks also come with unique and beautiful finishes. For example, the Custom Shop Streamer Stage, a six-string bass, has an AAA-graded flame maple body finished with an Emeraude Green Transparent high-polish finish.
Despite their high cost, Warwicks are prized by the bass community. thanks to their "soulful" sound and highly playable thin necks. If you'd like to see a few of them in action, check out this thorough demo video.
Warwick also offers some of the most truly unique body styles in the bass world. For example, their Bootsy Collins signature Space Bass has a body in the shape of a purple star, and its glittering finish makes it a true stage standout.
You likely already know that Yamaha is one of the best instrument manufacturers when it comes to value. They may be best known for making affordable student models, but their higher-end instruments frequently offer the same features as very expensive instruments without the high price tag. The brand has been around longer than many on the list -- the founder, Torakusu Yamaha, made his first reed organ in 1887.
Yamaha is a remarkable manufacturer in that it offers bass guitars for just about any price range. And regardless of price, many of its basses have features you'd typically see on more expensive models from other manufacturers. For instance, the Yamaha TRBX174 is under $250. But it has a mahogany body and a maple neck. Mahogany is one of the most desirable tonewoods for bassists. It also offers both a P-bass style and a J-style pickup. This arrangement makes it easy for new bassists to explore the entire range of bass tones. It also sounds pretty good, especially for the price -- check out this video demo and see for yourself.
On the higher-priced end, Yamaha also offers a John Patitucci long-scale signature bass. This one has custom-voiced Alnico V humbuckers, a solid brass bridge for great clarity and sustain, and a body made of figured maple, alder, and ash. It also has a 3-band EQ for exceptional control over your sound. It's also one of the many six-string basses Yamaha makes. In short, Yamaha is an excellent brand if you're searching for the best bass guitar for you, regardless of where you are in your bass career.
When you think about the best bass guitars, Danelectro may not immediately come to mind. After all, this brand may be best-known for its funky, retro-inspired guitar designs and its quirky, affordable effects pedals. The brand started in 1947, and Danelectro guitars became popular because they were affordable and accessible. The originals were made of plywood and masonite, and their pickups were housed in actual lipstick tubes purchased from lipstick manufacturers. To learn more about the brand's history, check out this interesting video.
Now, vintage Danelectros can sell for incredibly high prices despite their relatively poor build quality. But the brand also makes contemporary bass guitars, many of which are effectively reissues of the classic ones. For example, the '59DC four-string, long-scale bass is made of hardboard and plywood as the original Dano guitars were. And the pickups are still made the same way -- the coils are wound around an Alnico magnet and then wrapped in tape. The result is a distinctive sound that's both punchy and warm. And while you might think that a plywood instrument wouldn't make the best bass guitar, Danelectros are still featured on records to add a vintage edge.
Their instruments are still used by a range of artists, including Phoebe Bridgers, Beck, Mac Demarco, Mick Jagger, and Cat Power.
8. Ernie Ball Music Man
Music Man was founded in 1974, and its innovative focus made it famous -- Ernie Ball Music Man was the first to manufacture instruments with active electronics. Its instruments are still made in California (although Sterling by Music Man, its budget brand, has instruments manufactured overseas). Music Man made a mark on the bass world with its StingRay bass, one of the best bass guitars ever made. The StingRay was designed by Leo Fender, the mind behind many of Fender's groundbreaking guitars. This quickly became regarded as the best bass guitar for just about any genre, and its powerful low-end was noticeable in just about every track it was featured on. For a glimpse of what the StingRay bass guitar can sound like, check out "Another One Bites the Dust" by Queen.
Later, Ernie Ball Music Man designed a short-scale edition of the Music Man StingRay bass in order to appeal to more players. But the Music Man bass guitar collection expanded with the Bongo bass guitar. The Bongo broke many conventions in the bass guitar world. It was made with active neodymium pickups and an onboard 18V preamp. It also had a four-band EQ for unprecedented tonal control. The Bongo comes in four-string, five-string, and six-string versions.
Ernie Ball Music Man offers some of the best bass guitars and electric guitars in the business, and they have a wide following of accomplished artists, including St. Vincent, Paul McCartney, John Petrucci, Elvis Costello, and Fall Out Boy.
The Gretsch brand story started in 1883 when a young German immigrant began manufacturing instruments in Brooklyn. When the brand finally started making guitars, they focused on jazz-style archtops. Today, Gretsch is primarily known for its hollow and semi-hollow instruments, but they do also make similar basses.
The G2220 Junior Jet Bass II is Gretsch's solidbody four-string bass guitar model, and it's made a lot like their affordable Junior Jet electric guitars. The Junior Jet's short-scale design and lightweight basswood body make it one of the best bass guitars for learning children. But it still has a remarkably good sound thanks to its two mini-humbuckers. Two-way pickup switching gives you access to a range of different tones. Best of all, it's an accessible instrument even if you're shopping within a low price range. If you want to hear it in action, check out this video demo.
Gretsch also makes highly resonant bass guitars, including the G5440LS hollowbody bass guitar. If you want warm and resonant tones similar to that of upright bass, this is one of the best bass guitars for the job. And thanks to its Black Top Filter'Tron humbuckers, it has surprising clarity for a pleasantly focused sound. Three-way pickup switching lets you use the pickups separately or together.
Gretsch instruments have been played by the likes of George Harrison, Chet Atkins, and Eddie Cochran. And if you're looking for a mold-breaking bass that also looks cool on stage, you might want to take a look at Gretsch.
If you're a new or casual bass player, you may not have heard of Lakland basses. This is a smaller brand that makes especially high-quality bass guitars and electric guitars. Its name is a combination of the two last names of the founders, Dan Lakin and Hugh McFarlane.
One of Lakland's most interesting bass guitars is the Geezer Butler Signature, designed with the help of Black Sabbath's Geezer Butler. It's especially notable that you can customize your guitar before you order -- the standard version comes with a P-bass style pickup only, but you have the option of adding a J-style pickup and switching to a J-style neck. Lakland also offers an impressive collection of five-string and six-string bass guitars.
For players looking for Lakland quality in an affordable package, the Skyline Series offers plenty of playability and great sound without breaking the bank. And despite their lower prices, they offer remarkable build quality. One of the best bass guitars in the Skyline Series is the highly-contoured, beautiful Darryl Jones DJ-4. Its swamp ash body is highly resonant, and its two single-coil J-style pickups give you a wonderfully round and warm sound. Its curved body shape also makes it a visual standout. To hear more about the Skyline Series, check out this informative video.
Lakland basses are played by a wide variety of professionals, including bass players Ben Kenney of Incubus, Alissia Benveniste of Cee-Lo Green and Mark Ronson, and Branden Campbell of Neon Trees.
Jackson is another bass guitar brand that is more aligned with rock and metal than it is with other genres. Originally, the brand made high-end metal guitars for established artists, including Randy Rhoads. If you're curious to know more about the brand, check out this video on the company's history.
Now, however, Jackson is somewhat like Ibanez in that it offers rock and metal guitars at almost every price point. One of their offerings for the more budget-minded is the JS3 Concert bass guitar. Though it's under $300, this bass has a compound radius fretboard for enhanced playability, as well as a 3-band EQ. The 3-band EQ gives you much more control over your sound compared to the 2-band EQ or single tone knob you sometimes see. The JS3 also comes with two active humbuckers that give you the high-output sound you need to perform.
Even the Jackson Pro Series basses, designed to be playable and eye-catching enough for professional performers, are still fairly affordable. The Spectra Bass SBP IV is under $800, but it has an especially stunning Caribbean Blue finish that you'd typically only see on very expensive bass guitars. The body is made of a combination of poplar burl, walnut, maple, and mahogany, and the incredibly thin "Speed Neck" profile lets you play as quickly as you need to. This bass guitar also comes equipped with two Nordstrand SB4 pickups.
If you're a rock or metal bassist who wants a great-looking bass that's also affordable, or if you're just starting out and want to learn on a reliable instrument, we think this is a great band to check out.
Spector is one of the younger companies on the list -- it was founded in 1976 in Brooklyn. Spector is another brand that exclusively manufactures bass guitars, and their uniquely comfortable contoured body shape was designed especially for them in 1977. If you're looking for a brand that dedicates all of its research and development energy to bass guitars, Spector is one of the first places you should look.
Spector might not be the most famous bass brand out there, but their basses are played by a variety of accomplished artists. Bryan Beller, the bassist for Steve Vai and Joe Satriani, plays one, as does Guy Pratt (who has played bass for Madonna, Pink Floyd, and Michael Jackson).
The most high-quality instruments from Spector tend to be very expensive, but they do make some affordable bass guitars perfect for the player on a budget. The Performer 4 is a great example -- it comes with a P-bass style and a J-style pickup for tonal versatility. The graphite nut and Amara ebony fingerboard are high-end touches. The body is made of nyatoh, a relatively cheap tonewood, but the Performer 4 is still one of the best bass guitar models for beginners.
The Euro 4 LT bass guitar is a stunning example of one of Spector's, especially high-quality instruments. It has an alder body topped with beautifully figured maple, and it comes with two custom-wound Bartolini pickups.
To see some of the models from the Euro ET collection in action, check out this video.
Charvel guitars were first made only as custom-shop instruments in California, but they eventually were made in Japan. Charvel was started as a sister company to Jackson, and like Jackson guitars, many Charvels were geared toward shredders. Fender bought out the brand in 2002, and Charvel bass guitars are making a comeback.
In many ways, the new Charvel bass guitars look a lot like Fender's newer instruments -- their sleek bodies are topped with new and exciting finishes. For example, the Pro-Mod San Dimas Bass PJ IV is finished in metallic lime green. It has an active 3-band EQ to give you great control over your sound, and it comes with two top-notch DiMarzio pickups -- one J-style and one P-bass style. An alder body makes it both lightweight and resonant. And despite this bass guitar's excellent features, it's still relatively affordable. Some bass guitars in the Pro-Mod San Dimas Series come with two J-style pickups instead of one P-style and one J-style. To hear some of these bass guitars in action, check out this demo video.
Since the Charvel brand has gone through phases of making great quality guitars and cheaply-made budget models, many players still disagree about the brand's overall quality. But the newly-made bass guitars seem to be taking the brand in a hopeful direction.
Guild Guitars was founded in 1952 by a professional guitarist and the former vice president of Epiphone. It was eventually bought out by Fender, which opted to interfere as little as possible with Guild's existing guitar development. While the brand primarily focuses on acoustic guitars, it also makes a good bass or two.
Most of Guild's relatively small bass guitar collection is made up of acoustic basses. Its electric bass guitar is the semi-hollow Starfire II, the bass counterpart to the Starfire electric guitar. The current Starfire II bass is effectively a reissue of the 1960s model. This model found fame thanks to Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead and Jack Casady of Jefferson Airplane.
Three-way pickup switching gives you plenty of tonal versatility, as do the two BS-1 Bisonic passive pickups. It's also a remarkably playable instrument -- the double-cutaway body gives you easy fret access, and the slim, round neck is fast-playing even for bass players with smaller hands. As for tone control, you only get one volume and one tone control for each pickup, and some players have lamented that the Starfire doesn't offer more tone-shaping options. And if you like bass guitars with some historical significance, this one might be right for you. If you want to hear what this warm, resonant bass sounds like, you might appreciate this video demo.
The Starfire II is a good bass guitar, but it may not be right for all genres. For instance, if you play high-gain metal, this might not be the best bass for you. But if you play blues, rockabilly, or even mellow acoustic music, the combination of thump and resonance that the Starfire II offers makes it an excellent choice.
If you're a metal fan, you may already be familiar with the distinctive body shape of Strandberg guitars. The angular body, sleek fretboard, and headless design all make them stand out on stage, as do their often eye-catching finishes. But Strandberg also makes bass guitars of similarly high build quality. The brand is based in Sweden, and it interacts with a global community of musicians to add new design features to its instruments. If you're looking for a high-end performance machine, this is a great place to look.
Strandberg offers four-string and five-string basses, all of which come with a considerably high price tag. One of their most striking models is the Boden Bass Prog 5. It has a chambered ash body for incredible resonance. The neck is made with Strandberg's unique EndurNeck profile, which is in a trapezoid shape for better string access. It has a master volume control with a push/pull active/passive control, and it also has an onboard 3-band EQ. And while the finish is simply described as "brown," it's a slightly stained, beautiful book-matched flame maple cap. You can see this remarkable bass for yourself in this interesting video review.
While Strandberg might not be as mainstream as some other bass guitar brands, their instruments have been played by a diverse cast of artists. Per Nilsson (of Meshuggah and Scar Symmetry), Sarah Longfield and Riko Kohara (of Raise a Suilen) are among those who have chosen a Strandberg. These basses are a serious investment, but if you're serious about your playing, they're definitely worth a look.
If you've followed the conversation around Gibson over the past several years, you may have discovered that there's a portion of guitarists who think Gibson is now just charging for the brand name, as their instruments' quality has declined precipitously. There's another contingent who insists that you get what you pay for and that Gibsons are worth every penny.
While Gibson is known for making some of the best electric and acoustic guitars, the brand really doesn't make too many basses. But their best model just might be the SG Standard bass. Just like the SG electric guitar, this mahogany-bodied bass delivers a perfect balance of growl and punch. It comes with two beefy bass humbuckers for a powerful low end that suits just about any genre. It also has a shorter 30" that's especially comfortable to play and easier to take on the road. To hear it in action, check out this video demo.
And even though Gibson doesn't make nearly as many basses as it does guitars, there are still several high-profile artists who play or have played Gibson basses. Jack Casady had his own Les Paul Signature bass. Gene Simmons and Nikki Sixx have played Gibson basses, too. If you want bass in an iconic body style that's also from a respected manufacturer, make sure you check out Gibson.
ESP doesn't always get the same respect as some other guitar manufacturers. But like many on the list, they make a range of basses for a variety of price points. The brand was founded in 1975 in Tokyo. ESP then began to rise to prominence by making guitars for already-established artists including Bruce Kulick of KISS and Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones.
ESP offers an interesting array of signature models. One is the ESP LTD Frank Bello FBJ-400, which was designed with the help of the bass player from Anthrax. It has a mahogany body with a beautiful Macassar ebony fingerboard. And for maximum versatility, it comes with two of the most famous bass pickup options -- a P-bass and a J-bass pickup. This signature bass has a satin black finish with bright red accents. And despite its quality specs, it's remarkably affordable.
If you want to see Frank Bello himself playing his signature bass, check out this video from ESP.
If you're looking for a brand that offers good-sounding basses with excellent components (and offers them for a fair price), ESP is a brand worth looking at.
We hope you enjoyed our list! And next time you're looking for a new bass guitar, we hope you check out one of the electric bass guitar brands we've written about here. But what do you think? Are there any other great bass guitar brands we've left out? Let us know in the comments, and please don't forget to like and share if you found our list useful!