For beginner bass players, finding the best inexpensive bass guitars can be a difficult process. Not knowing what to look for in a bass guitar can lead you to purchase an instrument of low quality.
On the other hand, having a good grasp of what a good quality low-budget bass guitar has can ensure you get a good instrument. A good instrument will have excellent build and could last you a long time. This is why we have created this article.
In this article, I will touch on all of the different elements to look for in a bass guitar such as tonewood, electronics, and hardware. Finally, we will design a list of the best inexpensive bass guitars so you can take a look at them. We will create an in-depth review of each bass on this list in another article. Click here.
Let’s jump right into it:
Budget and Intention
The first thing you have to think of is how much are you willing to spend on a bass guitar. This can help you limit your options or broaden them, according to what you are looking for.
In terms of the best inexpensive bass guitars, I’d say that you don’t need to spend more than $200 to find bass guitars that are greatly made and that can fulfill your needs. At the same time, I would not recommend spending less than $150. At that point, it is possible you encounter the risk of getting a bass with a bad build quality. You can also risk getting a bass with poor electronics.
It is important for you to understand that your first bass should have all of the quality checks marked. Getting a bad-quality bass can break your motivation going forward.
To all of this, your intention is also key in the decision-making process you’ll undergo. Some people like to get a cheap, decent bass at the beginning just to see if they are actually into it. If they discover they are committed to learning more about the bass guitar, then they can decide to get a better sounding, more professional bass.
Consequently, there are people who skip this and go straight for great quality bass. They will probably spend more at the beginning but there are some upsides to it. It is more likely that their bass will be more durable in their journey. It might also be a big motivator to have a bass that sounds really good from the get-go.
Both ways are good ways to start your journey and I’d recommend you take some time to figure out how much you are willing to invest.
Before getting into types of tonewood or scale lengths or things that give a bass its uniqueness, it’s important to check the build quality. When I talk about build quality, I’m mainly referring to intonation and string action of the instrument. Overall aesthetics play a role too and in that case, you just have to make sure the bass doesn’t have any bumps or bruises.
Speaking of intonation, there is nothing worse than a bass that loses tuning stability when playing higher up the fret. At the same time, having a bass with loose tuning machines (which we will discuss in “hardware”) will not allow your bass to stay in tune.
The best way to ensure this is by playing the bass up the neck and seeing if the intonation stays. I’d recommend you play any open string and then the 12th fret of that string. They should be as close as possible for the bass to be properly in tune. It is important you have a tuner at hand to ensure the tuning is correct.
Now, string action involves having the strings close enough to the fretboard to give your hand ease when playing. However, is it is too close, you can encounter buzzing on the strings. I’d recommend you play up and down the fret looking for a buzz. You also should be wary of how comfortable or not is playing that bass.
All of these things can be adjusted and do not determine if the bass is poorly made. You should, however, make sure all is in place before you buy it. The best inexpensive bass guitars will not have these issues.
Bass tonewood means the type of wood used to build a bass. This is particularly impactful in the construction of the bass’s body. The tonewood of the bass will impact its tone and resonance. This is why it’s important to have somewhat of an understanding of this.
The most inexpensive bass guitars will most likely have poplar or basswood. The best inexpensive bass guitars have mahogany:
Poplar is a soft tonewood that is commonly used as Adler’s substitute. It is a soft tonewood with good resonance and a thick tone.
Basswood is also very similar to Alder. It has good resonance, is well-balanced, and its low-range is slightly punchier. Poplar has a bit more characteristics to its sound.
An inexpensive bass made out of mahogany is definitely a good deal. Mahogany is one of the most popular tonewoods out there. This tonewood produces a warm tone with good low-end and mid-range. Out of the three, this is the most recommended tonewood to find.
It is particularly important to understand scale length to know if a bass is suited for kids or adults, small hands, or bigger hands. Scale length is the distance between the nut of the bass (where the open string begins) and the bridge. The most common scale length is 34”
Smaller basses go down to about 30” and are ideal for kids. Longer basses go as far as 35” and will usually include more frets.
Hardware refers to all of the metal-based elements of the bass. The hardware ensures the bass works properly. It also ensures you can handle the electronics properly. In reality, the type of hardware used (nickel, chrome, or brass) functions mainly for aesthetic purposes. The main element to investigate in terms of hardware is the bass’s bridge.
The bass’s bridge’s main function is to allow proper resonance from the string into the body. It is then that the electronics will capture the sound and amplify it. The bridge’s saddles are where the strings pass through the bridge and can be adjusted to increase/decrease string action and adjust the intonation.
Better bridges are usually made of brass, and can often be covered in chrome or nickel silver.
There are the most common types of bass bridges out there:
- Through-bridge: On this type of bridge, the strings go through the bridge into the saddles
- String-through body: This bridge is similar to the through bridge except for the fact that it goes through the bass’ body before being fed into the bridge
- Bridge and tailpiece: This bridge is common in vintage basses. A tailpiece works as an independent part of the bridge and its where the strings are fed into first. This one usually gives more resonance to the bass.
Out of these three, the through-bridge is the most common and you will most likely find this one in all of the best inexpensive bass guitars out there.
When speaking of electronics, the two main components on a bass guitar are its pickups and their EQ system.
The most common types of pickups are single-coil or humbuckers. Single-coils have a brighter, more pricing sound. A humbucker will have a rounder, fatter sound although it might get muddy when playing at high volumes.
In reality, one is not better than the other, they just have different flavors. At this point, you should be more interested in whether you like the sound of a particular bass or not.
Now, speaking of EQ systems, usually, all basses have a master volume control and tone control. However, better basses will also have some sort of EQ system (still knobs) that allow you to adjust your tone even further.
This is recommended if you wish to have more versatility to your sound. However, simplicity can also be beneficial, and maybe having just a master volume and tone control can prove effective for some people.
Best Inexpensive Bass Guitars
Here are our top options for the best inexpensive bass guitars. As mentioned before, you can look at a full review of each of these basses in our other article. Click here.
This bass comes from the Ibanez Mikro Series. This series is designed to have a short scale and is very well suited for kids. It comes with a poplar body, black-chromed hardware, and a string through bridge type of bridge. A very versatile bass with an excellent sound and playability. This bass particularly favors heavier genres such as hard rock and metal.
AMAZON: Ibanez GSRM20
Ibanez Talman TMB100 IV
Another great option from Ibanez. This one comes from it’s classic Talman Series and is characterized by having a vintage sound that is very versatile in nature. It comes with a poplar body, chromed hardware, passive pickups, and a string through bridge body as well. This bass particularly works well for classic rock, funk, and pop music.
AMAZON: Ibanez Talman TMB100
Squier by Fender Bronco Bass
This bass comes from the Affinity Series, which can be easily considered part of the best inexpensive bass guitars out there. This bass is also made out of poplar and has a special design single-coil that characterizes Fender’s sound. This is potentially one of the best inexpensive bass guitars on any list and can also be upgraded for slightly more expensive models such as the Jazz Bass or the Precision Bass.
This is, in my opinion, the best bass on this list. A highly versatile bass guitar with very good playability and comfort that proves to be an excellent beginner’s bass. An upgrade over the other basses on this list is that it has a mahogany body. it also comes with two passive pickups and a 2-band EQ to help you shape your tone. The bridge is a die-cast bridge, which is a type of string through bridge and holds excellent tuning stability. Perfect for any and all styles of music.
AMAZON: Yamaha TRBX 174
The only bass on this list that has a basswood body, thus giving you all of the 3 options I previously mentioned. The Dean E09M is particularly favored for having a contoured body that enhances comfort and playability. It has one passive pickup that helps you keep things simple. Finally, its hardware includes a DMT Designed kind of bridge that allows you to have very good string action and intonation. This bass is also very versatile but favors styles such as rock and funk.
AMAZON: Dean E09M
Jackson JS2 Spectra Bass
This bass comes from Jackson’s JS Spectra Series and is a great option for heavy genres. It comes with a poplar body and black chromed hardware. The great thing about it is that its equipped with the classic Jazz-style/Precision-style dual pickups that not only give you a vintage sound but give you a lot of tonal versatility. It also comes with a bass booster controller to further enhance your low-end, which is very favorable.
AMAZON: Jackson Spectra JS2
There are many factors that can push the direction of bass into a good quality bass or a bad quality bass. As I mentioned before, things like intonation and string action should be your top priority when buying a bass. This will ensure you get the best sounding, most comfortable instrument so you can get right into the meat and bones of bass playing.
Having said that, I hope you have a better understanding of what you should be looking for in a bass guitar. Ultimately it comes down to one thing, do you like how it sounds, and does it feel comfortable? If the answer is yes, then you have most likely found the best inexpensive bass guitar for you.
Check out our article where we do a full review of the previously mentioned basses if you wish to know more about them. Click here.
Keep on rockin’!