Best Bass Guitars 2024: 4 and 5 String Options

Published on 21 February 2024

 

Are you looking for the best bass guitar around? Whether you are a beginner, an experienced player or a guitarist looking to incorporate bass into your repertoire, today’s blog highlights the best basses in the market today.

As a bassist myself, and a former guitar shop salesman, I can talk to you about this subject with experience and perspective. I know which cheap basses are still excellent, and which expensive models will give you the greatest performance. I’ll look at a range of price points, and I’ll take in both 4 and 5 string basses.

Regardless of which styles you plan on playing, there will be a great bass here for you in today’s blog! Have a look through today’s choices and picture how they’ll fit into your style, your budget and your life!

 

Contents

Fender Vintera 50’s Precision Bass

Squier Classic Vibe 60s Jazz Bass

Epiphone Thunderbird E1

Ibanez SRMS805

Sterling Sub StingRay Ray4 

Yamaha TRBX 305

Rickenbacker 4003

Fender Custom Shop Historic 1951 Precision Bass Nocaster Blonde

Choosing Your Bass

 

Fender Vintera 50’s Precision Bass

I’ll begin at the beginning, with the design that started it all. Yes, Leo Fender was responsible for the first ever electric bass guitar, and the Precision Bass of the fifties is a design that holds strong today. 

The P-Bass would always be an iconic instrument for purely historical reasons, but there is so much that is still so ‘right’ about this design, I often feel that it wraps up the whole subject of the bass guitar in one instrument. It actually isn’t the very, very first iteration of the P-bass, but it’s the one that took off in the fifties and changed the world. 

This Fender Vintera 50s P-Bass represents those historical basses particularly well, and I think the price point is about perfect for the serious player, professional or otherwise. Mexican-made Fenders have long since been ‘good enough’, so dispel any qualms about not buying American. This P-Bass gives you an excellent chunky neck, a pickup with plenty of authority and some lovely period-correct finishes. Did I mention there’s also a gold anodised pickguard? You cannot out-cool this bass!

 

Squier Classic Vibe 60s Jazz Bass

Squier - Fender’s affordable ‘import’ range of instruments, have slowly become more and more essential over the last few years. Still loved as the ultimate beginner’s range, Squier are now creating a large range of very cool guitars and basses that bring the looks, the feel and the sound that you want at fantastic prices.

Take this Squier Classic Vibe 60s Jazz Bass, for example. Squint your eyes and this could be a vintage original from a distance, with its authentic shape, colour, hardware and sound. It’s very hard to find fault in Squier’s output, and the Classic Vibe range in particular have long since been a go-to for those in the know. 

I’ve picked a Jazz bass here (Squier do great P-Basses too) in order to illustrate the difference between Fender’s two main designs. The offset Jazz bass body generally gets paired with a slimmer neck, and that’s certainly true here: if you’re transitioning over to bass form guitar, this could be the most comfortable ‘full-size’ bass for you. It’s also the best budget buy by a country mile, with a pair of single coil pickups that give you that classic Jazz bass clarity and attack. You basically can’t go wrong with this!

 

Epiphone Thunderbird E1

The Epiphone Thunderbird E1 is for anyone who believes that attitude comes before technique. This is a rockstar’s bass for sure, as long as a spear and design for riffing & posing.

This Epiphone is of course an affordable take on the Gibson Thunderbird (or T’Bird) and is a pretty different proposition to the likes of the Fender basses we’ve just looked at. To begin with, it’s made with a ‘neck-through’ construction, so instead of the neck being bolted on to a body, it actually runs the entire length of the instrument. The body is actually made up of two mahogany ‘wings’ that are glued to the sides of the neck! 

In playing terms, this means some seriously thick tones, will punch and power aplenty. Stylish, classic and definitely giving off a strong stage vibe, the EPi T’Bird is a great one for rockers.

 

Ibanez SRMS805

This Ibanez SRMS805 is exotic in so many ways: there’s the ‘Tropical Seafloor’ finish which stuns (if Ibanez can be accused of using boring codes for model names, they certainly make up for it with their finish names!), and there’s the plethora of exotic timbers used in the build. Check this lot out: the body is made from Okoume with a Poplar Burl top, and the neck is a 5-piece blend of Jatoba and Walnut with a panga panga fretboard! It’s like holding a rainforest in your hands!

I jest, of course: these are all sustainable, plentiful timbers, but they combine to make a pretty beautiful looking bass, and that beauty is not just skin deep, thankfully. Ibanez have loaded this with features, from the multiscale neck to the Bartolini pickups, active 3-band EQ and mid-frequency switch! 

Did I mention it’s a 5-string as well? There’s really nothing this bass can’t do, and whilst I understand that certain aesthetics only work in certain situations, every player looking for function, performance and exotic beauty will have won a watch buying this one! 



Sterling Sub StingRay Ray4 

Music Man StingRay basses are some of the most beloved on the planet. Sitting in that perfect spot between classic Fender basses (Music Man was Leo Fender’s company, don’t forget!) and the more contemporary hot-rodded likes of Sadowsky etc, the StingRay has become a classic bass and a classic sound.

Indeed, this is so much the case that Music Man now licence their own cheaper overseas replicas, just as Fender do with Squier and Gibson with Epiphone. The Sterling Sub StingRay Ray 4 is - right now at least -  the most affordable way to get a taste of that famous feel and powerful sound.

I’d recommend this for any prospective bassist who wants a powerful sound but a relatively classic look. The very affordable price point for this Ray4 bass (5 string variants are available as the Ray5) doesn’t feel like a ‘cheap’ bass at all: quite the opposite in fact! The powerful humbucker pickup delivers a good take on the classic StingRay high-fi tone, and I reckon it’s a bit of a looker, too! 

 

Yamaha TRBX 305

Time for another 5 string, and this Yamaha TRBX305 actually occupies a relatively similar space in the market to the Sterling Ray series we just looked at, albeit with an extra string this time!

This 5-string TRBX 305 is definitely from the ‘contemporary’ school of bass, with 5 strings, 24 frets, an active EQ section and a pair of powerful ceramic humbuckers. Ceramic magnets in pickups definitely sound more modern as opposed to vintage, and I’d say that this is part of Yamaha’s plan here. Along with that EQ section, you can sculpt out some pretty powerful tones! This bass is great for players who place themselves more in the fusion, prog and metal worlds.



Rickenbacker 4003

When you absolutely have to dominate the stage with unadulterated coolness that reaches from the front row to the back, only a Rickenbacker bass will do! As with the brand’s guitars, these are idiosyncratic, iconoclastic instruments that have entirely their own thing going on. 

Rather like the Thunderbird we saw earlier, the Rickenbacker 4003 seems to work very well when aligned with rockers - Motorhead and Killing Joke spring immediately to mind - but there’s no reason why you can’t employ this powerful sounding bass in other musical situations. The sound itself is famously distinctive: It’s very ‘there’, whether in a live mix or a studio one, and it sounds great when played with a plectrum.

Subtle? No. But did you want subtle?

 

Fender Custom Shop Historic 1951 Precision Bass Nocaster Blonde

I’m coming back around full circle here for my last - and by far most expensive - choice today. Remember I mentioned that the Vintera 50s P-Bass was based on an early example, but not the very first Precision bass? Well, this stunning fourstringer is!

The Fender Custom Shop Historic 1951 Precision Bass is a beautiful replica of that very first P-Bass, captured in exhaustive detail and finished in ‘Nocaster Blonde’. What a beauty!

This is one of those solid, steady, ‘forever’ basses: it has that wonderful thick feel, a resonant tone that adapts to all genres and the mark of master craftspeople across every inch of its ash and quarter-sawn maple body and neck. If you want the best, and you love heritage instruments, then it is very, very hard to beat a good Fender Custom Shop example. Very cool and full of quiet authority, this bass helps you get right to the point, and it does it with some style.




Choosing Your Bass

Though this isn’t a buyer’s guide per se, I think it’s probably timely to sign off with some perspective on buying a new bass. 

Some people will buy a Squier bass and never look back. This is totally excellent and I’m all for it if that’s you! Other people will need different basses for different jobs, and that’s equally fine (of course it is!) but I do tend to notice that bassists are less often buying more and more basses. Is that because one well-chosen instrument can handle the lion’s share of any player’s needs? Maybe so! Maybe it’s a whole difference of attitude, but what I can tell you is that the above basses are all performing to a high standard, and that even the most affordable models are good enough to practise, rehearse and record with.

Some are more versatile than others: a Jazz Bass is more versatile than a Thunderbird (it just is) but if you dream of yourself on stage giving it some Lemmy/Nikki Sixx vibes, then maybe versatility isn’t as possible as aligning with your own dreams and visions.

Whichever way you eventually go, make sure you try a good selection of different basses when you’re in shopping, and maybe the staff members will have an idea or two as well? As a gigging guitarist myself, I can say that it’s in all of our interests to have more bassists out there! Good luck! 

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About the author

Ray

Features Editor, Warehouse

I'm a musician and artist originally from the South West coast of Scotland. I studied Visual Arts and Film Studies at...

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