The prospect of spending several hundred pounds on an instrument makes you think about many things before pulling the trigger, so to speak. Ultimately, you want to ensure that your particular playing style is accommodated for, so that you can express yourself with no hindrances. A bass guitar’s features and construction will therefore be the most important aspects to consider.
You can spend literally hours scouring online forums looking for recommendations, or checking out customer reviews on retailer sites. While they are great sources of information, sometimes it’s nice to have a concise article that highlights some cream-of-the-crop choices, to make the process easy and enjoyable!
We touched base (pardon the pun) with Guitar Department manager and ‘All About The Bass’ host Lee Voss, to help us choose some top contenders:
1. Squier Vintage Modified 70s Jazz Bass
Inspired by the stunning models that graced the 70s, this distinctive 4-string features block fingerboard inlays and a beautiful natural finish. A winner on the aesthetics front, this bass also boasts brilliant tones.
With a Maple neck and body, the Squier Vintage Modified 70s Jazz Bass projects a super-bright and vibrant sound, especially through a pair of punchy single-coil pickups. With a slim “C” neck profile and medium jumbo frets, the playability of this instrument is also outstanding.
Best for: An instrument with old-school tonal character. A true classic.
2. Sterling SUB StingRay Bass
Another iconic design, the StingRay is a familiar-looking bass that has carved its own niche in the bass world. Admired for its single humbucker, the Sterling SUB StingRay delivers a thick, potent sound with plenty of mid-range definition and low-end rumble.
A light Basswood body makes this instrument great for live performance, and with a Maple neck you can expect a snappy response to notes that’ll easily cut through in a mix. This is also helped in part by the placement of the humbucker, installed near the bridge to also bring out some top-end clarity.
But unlike the Squier, the Sterling SUB StingRay features an active preamp, giving you more flexible control of your tone and a bolder output, not to mention richer harmonics.
Best for: A wide variety of styles, but its signature sound lends itself well to funk and hard rock, where the bass plays a pivotal role in the overall texture.
3. Sire Marcus Miller V7 Alder Bass
A firm favourite amongst the Andertons Music Co. staff, Sire Marcus Miller Basses are gaining significant popularity and acclaim. The V7 Alder model isn’t at all dissimilar to the Squier in terms of appearance, heavily inspired by the renowned 70s Jazz Bass.
However, it does have some contrasting features, most notably a North American Alder body as opposed to Maple. With more balanced tonal qualities, this wood serves as a great foundation for the Sire-designed Premium pickups, which emit a traditional J-Bass tone and plenty of upper mid-range bite.
The Sire also features a sleek Rosewood fingerboard atop its Canadian Hard Maple neck, which produces a smoother and more-rounded low-end. But the aspect of this instrument that really sets it apart is its hugely-versatile control set, featuring a powerful 3-band EQ for precise manipulation of your tone.
Also boasting a passive/active switch, you have the best of both worlds completely at your disposal, allowing you to flick between a vintage or modern sound on-the-fly.
Best for: Almost any bassist. Great versatility and featuring a number of high-quality appointments that you’d expect to find on basses over double its price.
4. Sire Marcus Miller P7 Alder Bass
The P-Bass equivalent of the V7, the P7 retains many of the same features, but gives players a choice over which particular aesthetics they prefer.
Looks aside though, one notable difference that the P7 has is its P/J pickup configuration. With the neck split-coil pickup projecting thicker lower mids, the P7 can achieve warmer tones ideal for subtler styles, however its bridge single-coil can still deliver plenty of bark.
With the same Heavy Mass Standard bridge and natural bone nut found on the V7, the sustain provided by this bass is unparalleled at its price-point.
Best for: Much like its V7 counterpart, it’s fair to say that its feature-set is hard to beat, especially with the highly-flexible electronics. Excellent tonal versatility.
5. Ibanez SR500 Mahogany Bass
Arguably the most modern-looking bass of the 5 contenders that we selected, the Ibanez SR500 also boasts many features that would appeal to more technical, contemporary-minded bassist.
With a remarkably elegant design, the SR500 has a thin and smooth contoured body to ensure excellent playing comfort when sitting or standing up. To make up for its lean construction, the SR500 has a Mahogany body, expending a solid low-end and sparkly highs. With a super-slim 5-piece Jatoba/Walnut neck that even guitarists would feel at home on, this layered type of construction gives the neck excellent stability, making it less susceptible to warping in differing climates.
Much like the Sire basses, the Ibanez SR500 has a sophisticated set of electronics, which can be used to control its pair of Bartolini MK-1 pickups. As the only bass that features aftermarket pickups, there’s a reason why the SR500 costs more than the other contenders, and these pickups can transmit every nuance of your playing beautifully.
Best for: Everything modern. These pickups can handle any playing style and provide real clarity.
Want to Know More?
If you'd like more guidance and advice on these basses or others, please contact us and a member of our Guitar Department will offer assistance! If you're a complete beginner, take a look at our 'Ultimate Guide to Electric Bass' for all of the bas(s)ics.
If you've come across this page, there's also a chance you're looking for a guitar that's suitable for beginners. We've curated a selection of the best bass guitars for beginners to save you a little bit of time!
Don't forget to also check out our selection of 'All About the Bass' videos on Andertons TV too!