The Best Bass Guitars in 2018 Reviewed and Tested!
Welcome to our Bass Guitar review page where we have searched high and low to find you the best bass guitars the market has to offer in 2018. You’ve got the groove and the rhythm, but do you have the best bass guitar? If you’re looking for an instrument that can help you advance your musical career, something powerful that will stay with you for a good long time, we’ve got the perfect bass guitar models for you.
In this list you’ll find the top offerings from trusted brands such as Fender, Rickenbacker, Gibson and Warwick, along with mid-priced models from Ibanez and Yamaha. So whether you’re a professional musician or on your way there, there should be a 4-string bass guitar here for you. Check them out!
- Our Top Bass Guitar Picks
- 1. Rickenbacker 4003 Electric Bass Guitar
- 2. Ibanez SR500 Electric Bass Guitar
- 3. Fender American Professional Precision Electric Bass Guitar
- 4. Fender American Elite Electric Bass Guitar
- 5. Gibson Thunderbird Electric Bass Guitar
- 6. Gibson SG Electric Bass Guitar
- 7. Yamaha BB434M Electric Bass Guitar
- 8. Warwick RockBass Corvette Double Buck Electric Bass Guitar
- Choosing the Best Bass Guitar for You: Key Points to Consider
Our Top Bass Guitar Picks
|Rickenbacker 4003 Electric Bass Guitar||There have been many notable Rickenbacker bass players in the history of music such as Geddy Lee, Paul McCartney and Chris Squire. With the Rickenbacker 4003, you can be one of them. This iconic bass with the classic Rick tone now has a more lightweight yet robust and beautifully crafted walnut body as well as a maple fingerboard. A bestseller!|
|Ibanez SR500 Electric Bass Guitar||For beginners and bass players looking for a professional bass without spending too much, the Ibanez SR500 is a fantastic option. It’s priced around the $600 mark but it can definitely compete with more expensive basses. Part of the Soundgear or SR series of basses, this model features a sculpted mahogany body and a super-thin and fast neck.|
|Fender American Professional Precision Electric Bass Guitar||The Fender Standard Precision Bass remains to be one of the best bass guitars in the world. It’s got the feel, the looks and most importantly the sound that’s perfect for any situation and genre, from rock and funk to reggae and hip-hop and everything in between. The latest Fender American Pro Precision Bass is definitely a must-have for bassists.|
|Fender American Elite Electric Bass Guitar||Another P-Bass in the list is the Fender American Elite Precision Electric Bass, the latest improved version of the Fender American Elite. This model has seen plenty of action in jamming sessions, recording studios and live performances all over the world. The American Elite P-Bass features premium appointments such as an ebony fretboard and the proprietary Fender Hi-Mass Bridge.|
|Gibson Thunderbird Electric Bass Guitar||For Gibson fans, we’ve picked out the high-end Thunderbird. The 2018 Limited Edition Gibson Thunderbird electric bass is all kinds of awesome, featuring a mahogany body and neck for a warm tone with plenty of sustain as well as a full contact bridge to make the sustain last even longer. Plus, that Thunderbird bass shape will surely turn heads.|
|Gibson SG Electric Bass Guitar||Also new from Gibson for 2018 is the latest version of the SG bass. The updated SG electric bass features the traditional combo of a rich-sounding mahogany body and neck with a smooth-playing rosewood fingerboard. The classic look and tone, along with a super playable short scale length, makes the Gibson 2018 SG a top axe for bass players.|
|Yamaha BB434M Electric Bass Guitar||The Yamaha BB434M is another moderately priced pro-level bass. It’s part of Yamaha’s BB400 series of bass guitars and is packed with features that bassists of all skill levels will surely appreciate. These include a solid alder body, maple fretboard, miter bolting on the neck joint, YGD Custom V5 pickups and a thinner neck than previous BB basses.|
|Warwick RockBass Corvette Double Buck Electric Bass Guitar||Warwick basses are famous for having a distinctive low growl, and the RockBass Corvette delivers in that department. The Warwick RockBass Corvette Double Buck bass features a beautifully crafted ash body and a maple neck with ekanga veneers. It looks good, feels great and has a superb tone you can leave alone or tweak to your heart’s content.|
If you want to have the tone of legendary rock bassists Chris Squire, Paul McCartney and Geddy Lee, you’d better get yourself a Rickenbacker ASAP. The Rickenbacker 4003 electric bass is a prime pick with its classic look and sound but with modern appointments. Part of the 4000 series, the 4003 model boasts the same solid bottom end, punchy treble and ringing sustain that classic 4000 bass guitars are known for.
The Rickenbacker 4003 now has a solid walnut body with a maple through-neck. It also has a maple fingerboard with 20 frets, deluxe triangular fret markers and Schaller Deluxe tuning machines. The lighter weight – this bass weighs only 4.1 kilograms – gives this bass greater playability, making you feel like you can play for hours without stopping.
This bass guitar is equipped with two single-coil pickups and two output jacks for mono and stereo output. The stereo Rick-O-Sound output is pretty special as its outputs the two pickups separately. This means that players can send the bridge pickup to one amp and the neck pickup to a separate amp, use different effects pedals for each signal path and just simply play around with the output.
- Beautiful design with timeless look
- Lightweight walnut body
- Classic Rickenbacker sound with lots of sustain and resonance
- Comes with hardshell case
- Can be tricky to play with the back pickup cover
- Price makes it inaccessible to most players
The Ibanez SR500 is a bass that will not let you down and will not break the bank – even if by all rights it should be priced a lot higher than $600. If you’re looking for the best bass guitar that can take you from beginner to intermediate and pro in one go, this is the guitar for you.
The SR500 belongs to the SR or Soundgear line of electric basses, which were first sold in 1987. Just as some things from the Eighties were improved to become the tech they are today, so did the SR line. The Soundgear basses were updated to include new tech while retaining the classic features that bass players love, such as thin and fast-playing necks and also lightweight and contoured bodies for optimum playing comfort.
The Ibanez SR500 sports a mahogany body, a 5-piece jatoba/bubinga neck, rosewood fingerboard with 24 medium frets and Bartolini MK1 neck and bridge pickups. The Bartolini MK1 3-band EQ is efficient at allowing players to shape their sound and it’s reliable too, so you won’t have to worry about the bass letting you down in the middle of a gig or a recording sesh.
- Excellent playability with a slim, fast neck
- Lightweight and comfortable to play
- Great intonation and sustain
- Tuning pegs feel a little flimsy
- Finish is soft and scratches easily
- Case is sold separately
Ask any bass pro for recommendations on the best bass guitar and the Fender Precision – or P-Bass – would most likely come up several times. The Precision’s popularity instrument isn’t just because it’s been around since the Fifties (1951 to be exact), though its ability to stay in the market for so long is testament to how awesome it really is.
The Fender P-bass has undergone several changes and reincarnations over the years, with the Fender American Pro Precision Bass being one of the latest. Fender’s American Professional lineup features guitars that are all made in the United States and built with top-quality materials and new tech.
The new Fender American Pro Precision Bass has an alder body with a slim waist and trademark P-Bass shape. The bolt-on maple neck with a satin finish has a comfortable and fatigue-preventing 1963 P-Bass neck profile. It is topped with a maple fingerboard with 20 narrow-tall frets, a new feature that contributes to less resistance when bending strings.
This P-Bass also features knurled flat-top control knobs for volume and tone, a new V-Mod Precision split single-coil pickup and redesigned Fender Lightweight Vintage-Style tuners with tapered shafts for greater tuning stability.
- Comfortable neck means less fatigue when playing
- Comes with hardshell case
- Classic P-Bass tone and look with a modern appeal
- New offered finish (Antique Olive) looks a bit drab in person
- Price too high for most bass players
Another P-Bass in our list of best electric basses is the Fender American Elite Precision Bass. This model features the classic design of the P-Bass and new technology, opening up a world of tonal possibilities.
The American Elite P-Bass sports an alder body with a gloss polyurethane finish, a maple neck with a smooth satin finish and an ebony fingerboard with 21 medium jumbo frets and white pearloid position markers.
Fender decided to use sustainably harvested ebony wood for the fingerboards of the guitars and basses in the American Elite lineup following the restrictions on the importation of rosewood. In terms of tone, ebony sits in the middle of rosewood and maple. It has a bright, warm sound and it can clearly articulate mid-range and high tones.
The tone that the ebony fingerboard produces also works exceptionally well with the fourth-generation Noiseless pickup at the bridge.
The maple neck has a compound back shape, going from a modern C shape at the nut to a D neck profile at the neck heel. Other features include a two-way mini toggle switch for active/passive mode, a HiMass Vintage bridge and Posiflex graphite support rods for greater neck stability and resilience.
- Sold with a case
- Redesigned electronics for the best P-bass sound
- Ergonomic and comfortable to play
- Not for bassists with a modest budget
- Multiple tone settings can take some getting used to
Gibson-loving bass players will be thrilled to know that the iconic Thunderbird bass is back in action – in Bright Cherry, Vintage Sunburst and Ebony color options.
Also known as the T-Bird, the Gibson Thunderbird is not only the brand’s longest-running electric bass but also its most popular. Gibson decided to make a 2018 series of the iconic model for bass players craving the Thunderbird sound and its distinctive body shape.
The 2018 Gibson Thunderbird Bass features a neck-through-body construction. It has a solid mahogany neck/body centerpiece with a meticulously applied gloss nitrocellulose lacquer finish. The wings are also made from solid mahogany. The neck has with a rounded profile with a satin finish and a 20-fret rosewood fingerboard with acrylic dot inlays. The pickguard shows off the Thunderbird logo.
The limited-run Gibson Thunderbird is equipped with premium hardware with a black chrome finish. This includes Grover bass tuning keys, black top hat control knobs with silver inserts and a Babicz 3-point full contact bridge.
As for electronics, Gibson installed the bass with a rhythm T-bird neck pickup and a lead T-bird bridge pickup. Players are provided with a control knob for the master tone and two controls for the volume.
- Comes with a hardshell case
- Tone is suited for rock and metal
- Iconic Gibson bass design
- Limited availability
- No weight relief on the neck - neck is heavy and may feel uncomfortable to play
- Sound does not have as much presence and sustain as other bass guitars
Another Gibson guitar that made a comeback in 2018 is the SG bass, popular for its short scale length and trademark shape. This is also a limited-run electric bass that, like the Gibson Thunderbird, also has a mahogany body and neck, a rounded neck profile and a rosewood fretboard with 20 frets.
The 2018 Gibson SG Bass also shares other similar specs with the 2018 Gibson Thunderbird Bass, namely the 3-point full contact Babicz bridge, the black top hat knobs with silver inserts, the pickups and controls as well as the black chrome plating on the hardware. There are minor but notable differences in the fretboard position markers (the SG bass has acrylic trapezoid inlay) and the tuners (the SG has shamrock-style machine heads).
The 30.5-inch scale length makes the SG bass stand out from the rest of the Gibson bass guitar bunch. The shorter scale makes the SG bass ideal for players with smaller hands and a limited reach for stretching. And because shorter strings on the bass would require less string tension for correct intonation, there is a looser feel to the strings. The result? Fatter-sounding lows, which many bass players aim for.
If you’re looking for an upgrade to your intro bass or a secondary/backup bass that comes with a reasonable price tag, consider the Yamaha BB434M, priced under $600. Part of Yamaha’s BB400 series of electric basses, the BB434M has features that make it worth a lot more.
The BB series used to have a reputation for being heavy, but that isn’t the case anymore thanks to the solid but lightweight alder body as well as a thinner neck shape and lightweight tuners. The overall result is a smaller and lighter body that won’t induce fatigue even if you play for hours.
This bass guitar also has a 5-play maple and mahogany laminated neck that’s topped with a 21-fret maple fingerboard. We’d like to highlight the 6-bolt miter neck joint – the miter bolting is effective at holding the neck closer and more tightly to the body, making it feel like the neck and body are one piece. The miter bolting lets the string vibration transfer more efficiently throughout the body, resulting in an enhanced sustain and resonance.
The Yamaha BB434M also features the Vintage Plus Light convertible bridge, YGD Custom V5 pickups and control knobs for tone and volume.
- Thinner neck and lighter body overall contributes to better playability
- Convertible bridge reduces stress on the strings
- Reasonably priced pro-grade bass
- No Yamaha gig bag
- May be too plain-looking for some players
Warwick basses have a reputation for being extremely expensive and there’s a good reason for that. Warwicks are made from the finest materials and are equipped with high-quality electronics and hardware. The processes done to make them are also advanced.
That said, that doesn’t mean Warwicks are inaccessible to most bass players. The China-based RockBass branch of the company produces guitars that fit the spending limits of consumers. The Warwick RockBass Corvette Double Buck, for instance, is priced a whole lot less because it is made from less exotic tonewoods and more inexpensive materials. Nevertheless, the sound quality remains the same.
The Warwick RockBass Corvette features a flat ash body and a maple neck with ekanga veneer stripes. The bolt-on neck is topped with a wenge fingerboard with 24 frets. Tonally, wenge is a good substitute for Brazilian rosewood. Warwick makes use of sustainably sourced wenge wood, which brings down the price of the bass.
Other appointments include Warwick tuning machines, Just-A-Nut III nut, Warwick security locks, a two-piece Warwick bridge and chrome hardware.
This 4-string RockBass Corvette is equipped with passive MEC humbucking pickups and a passive EQ with two controls for volume and one control knob for tone.
- Two-piece bridge allows for string spacing adjustments
- Looks and feels good
- Quality sound and craftsmanship
- Not immediately playable out of the box; needs a setup
- Hard case not included
Choosing the Best Bass Guitar for You: Key Points to Consider
You can be the best bassist you can be with the best bass guitar, so what do you need to consider when choosing one?
First, of course, is how much you can and are willing to spend on the bass. Musicians are advised to buy the best instrument their money can buy. “Best” doesn’t have to mean the most expensive model, but the one that will fit their playing style and personal preferences.
In this list we’ve included models from different price ranges, showing you that there are awesome guitars you can go for even if your budget is less than $1000.
The kind of of woods used in a bass guitar shape the overall tone. When choosing the best bass guitar for your needs, consider not only the tonewood used in the body but also its quality and how it interacts with the neck wood, fretboard wood and even the strings. Keep in mind that the kind and quality of the tonewoods used in a bass guitar also affect its weight, appearance and price.
Different models of bass guitars have different tonewood combinations and therefore different tonal outputs. How a bass guitar sounds can be subjective especially when you consider pickups can work differently as well. For this reason, it’s recommended to try out different bass guitar models or at least watch demo videos so you can determine which one produces the sound that you like.
Bass guitars may have an active pickup, a passive pickup or both. Passive pickups were the first to be used in electric bass guitars. Passive pickups are known to produce a fat and punchy tone with a dynamic, warm and full sound. However, bass players don’t have much control over it – you can only adjust the bass or treble.
On the other hand, active pickups tend to produce a bright, snappy and clear tone. Active pickups also come with a battery-powered preamp, giving them the ability to produce a higher output than their passive counterparts. With active pickups and a preamp, you can boost as well as vut certain frequencies. With better control over your tone, you can shape your sound as you see fit- just remember to bring spare 9-volt batteries with you to power up the preamp.
How the bass guitar neck attaches to the body is another factor you need to consider. A bass guitar may have a set neck, a bolt-on neck or a thru-body neck. A set neck is attached to the bass guitar body using a dovetail or mortise joint. This type of neck contributes to a better sustain and resonance in a bass guitar. However, adjusting it can be quite tricky.
Necks that are bolted onto the body of the bass guitar are called bolt-on necks. The bolts should be placed in such as way that they keep the neck stable and connect to the body without any shifting, no matter how minor. The tighter the connection is, the better the sustain and string vibration transfer will be, and the more stable the guitar is overall.
If the bass guitar has a thru-body neck, it means the neck essentially makes up the body, with wings attached on each side. The wings serve to form the upper and lower parts of the bass guitar. There are no joints and no bolts, just one continuous length of wood. A thru-body neck is usually made by a skilled luthier, which is why you would usually find this type of neck on high-end bass like the Gibson Thunderbird. A thru-body neck on a bass guitar results in an impressive sustain and response because there is nothing that will hinder string vibration.
Shape and Color
You are going to be playing it – and be seen playing it – so the bass guitar you choose should be the one that appeals to you visually. Bass guitars come in different iconic shapes – just take a look at the Rickenbacker 4003 – so you can take your pick of the one that calls out to you. Consider the color and finish as well – some bass players like a bright red color while others prefer a more vintage-looking sunburst finish.
Those are just some of the things to consider when choosing the best bass guitar that would meet your needs. There are other factors of course, such as scale length, the bridge and even the controls, but these can be considered later after you’ve decided on the basics. You can already narrow down your options based on these criteria, so good luck and we hope you find ‘the one.’