The Best Bass Guitars 2021 Review

After directing three of the most respected bass DVDs on the market, I’ve had a chance to be up close and personal with some of the best bass players in the world. But I also got to experience their greatness on some gorgeous custom basses that would blow your mind. From Andrew Gouche’s signature MTD Bass, to Janek Gwizdala’s custom Fodera, GospelChops knows what it takes to build a quality bass guitar.

Our top bass guitar picks for 2019 were evaluated based upon the following criteria:

  • Build Quality
  • Playability
  • Appearance
  • Price/Availability

One topic that I won’t discuss here is custom, handmade basses by luthiers. Those basses are personal works of art and specially made-to-order for each individual. Look for a future blog post to cover that topic in-depth.

I also don’t go into much detail regarding the type of music that you play on your bass. Although the musical genre is an important consideration when purchasing a new bass guitar, it’s a personal decision that only you should make when buying your bass. However, the following reviews are among the most versatile basses and each of them would be an excellent choice for most musical styles.

Best Bass Guitar Brands

There are many quality bass guitar companies around the world, including a few high-quality small luthiers. But if you are new to playing bass or just beginning your musical journey, I suggest that you limit your search to a few brands that have consistently produced quality basses for many years. Here are a few brands that you should consider:

Fender Bass

Fender American Elite Jazz Bass

Whether it’s the classic Motown sound of James Jamerson’s P-bass or the funky hi-fi tones of Marcus Miller’s Jazz Bass, Fender has become the go-to brand for solid bass guitar quality. This is the brand most chosen by the legends of the craft and even when professional bass players endorse other brands, they usually keep a Fender within arm’s reach.

Ibanez Bass

Ibanez Artcore AGB200 Semi-hollow Bass 

Ibanez is a major brand in the bass industry and its name has become synonymous with quality instruments. They specialize in light-weight, playable basses with sleek modern body shapes. With plenty of options for electronics and colors, Ibanez always makes the list of best basses.

MTD Bass

MTD (Michael Tobias Design) is known for its premium-quality custom basses which are hand-crafted by Michael Tobias. For the past decade, MTD has produced a commercial line of basses that play and sound like their custom-made big brothers. The Kingston models are particularly popular among gospel bass players around the world.

Squire Bass

Squire is the low-cost little brother to the Fender brand. Manufactured by Fender in Asia, Squire produces quality starter basses at reasonable price points. The build quality is solid and the electronics are the best in this price range. Throw on a high-quality set of bass strings and you’ll be ready to rock!

Lakland Bass

Lakland Skyline Series 55-01 5-String Bass

Lakland is a quality American bass luthier whose products are commonly seen in churches and heard on gospel records. Lakland basses are available at prices and quality standards from beginner models to custom-made professional basses.

Warwick

Warwick Corvette $$

Warwick is a German company that crafts quality bass guitars with superb electronics that deliver beefy tone and high performance that works well for rock, metal, and gospel music. Thumping, slapping, and high-energy music comes to mind when the name Warwick is mentioned.

4-string Bass

If Jaco Pastorius didn’t need more than four strings, neither do you. The 4-string bass is the standard configuration of electric basses. The strings are typically tuned to E-A-D-G and that’s enough to provide thumpin’ low notes, chords, and high solo notes. Here are the top 4-string basses of 2019:

Squire Vintage Modified Jazz Bass ’70s

The Squire Vintage Modified Jazz Bass ’70s is the perfect beginner bass when cost and quality are important to you. The construction is solid and durable. The C-shaped neck profile is a perfect match to the 9.5 radius fretboard, ensuring hours of comfortable playing. With basic electronics and overseas manufacturing, Fender has managed to put its base-level quality into a nicely priced package.

Notable Specs:

  • Solid maple body
  • Durable construction
  • Variable tone profile from dual Fender-type pickups
  • 20 jumbo frets make learning bass easier
  • Chrome hardware
  • 34-inch scale

Squier Classic Vibe P-Bass ’70s 

This Fender Precision Bass copycat has developed a reputation of its own as a quality starter bass that includes everything you need to bring the funk. Squire uses quality bass parts from the standard C-shaped neck to the split-coil pickup that matches the classic Fender design. The tone control is limited to one volume knob and one tone knob, just like the classic P-bass. This bass is also visually appealing with a classic 70’s look and feel. We highly recommend this bass as the best bass guitar for beginners.

Notable Specs:

  • Solid Basswood body
  • 20 jumbo frets with block inlays
  • Chrome hardware
  • Rosewood fingerboard
  • 34-inch scale

Fender American Ultra Precision Bass

The Fender American Elite series is a top-notch bass for serious professionals. The Precision Bass is a modern reinvention of the classic P-bass with improved aesthetics and superior electronics. With an 18-volt active preamp and 3-band EQ, pulling ultra-modern tones from this classic body style is a breeze. Tonal flexibility and ultra comfort make this bass the player’s choice for funk, gospel, and R&B music.

Notable specs:

  • Newly designed D-shaped neck feels like a custom bass
  • Super fast playability
  • 9.5″-14″ compound fretboard radius
  • Elite Precision Bass neck single-coil pickup
  • An active/passive preamp switch
  • Chrome hardware
  • Ebony or maple fretboard options
  • Made in USA

Fender American Ultra Jazz Bass

Is there anything that sings like a Fender Jazz Bass? Meet your new favorite bass guitar. With modern electronics on this classic body shape, coupled with eye-popping color schemes, this is the ideal bass for the experience bass player. The moment you pick up this beast, your fret hand will fall in love with the newly designed D-shaped neck profile. The truss-rod adjustment wheel is located at the butt-end of the neck for easy access. It’s not inexpensive, but it’s worth every penny.

Notable specs:

  • Pro-level construction with superior electronics
  • Active 3-band EQ
  • An active/passive switch
  • Noiseless vintage-style pickups
  • Chrome hardware

MTD Kingston Saratoga

This intermediate-level bass provides the high-quality construction we’ve come to expect from MTD. The body style is similar to a classic jazz bass, but with ergonomic belly and arm contours for hours of comfortable playing. The electronics are basic by MTD standards, but the J-style pickups sing with classic tones. 21 frets and 34-inch scale, this bass is a true workhorse for the modern bassist.

Notable specs:

  • Asymmetrical MTD-style neck for comfortability
  • Carved Basswood body
  • Quick-release bridge with 19mm spacing
  • Zero fret 1.5″ wide
  • Approximate weight: 9 pounds
  • Buzz Feiten tuning system
  • Maple, rosewood, or lined-fretless fingerboard options

5-string Bass

In modern music, sometimes you must have access to lower notes to match booming drums. The low B-string that is added to 5-string basses provides all the depth that most bass players will ever require. In fact, many 5-string bass players only use the low B-string sparingly. But for gospel music or modern rock, the 5-string bass has become a necessity. If you plan to play these genres, it’s best to start learning on one of these 5-strings:

MTD Kingston Bass Guitar ZX 5 

The ZX5 has become a standard item among gospel bass players because of its comfortable MTD body style and modern-sounding electronics. This Kingston model feels, plays, and sounds like a custom-made MTD bass without the custom price tag. The Bartolini preamp and soap bar pickups provide a wide range of tones with a 3-band EQ and pan control for extreme sound shaping. Incredible playability. Beautiful tone. Stunning cosmetics. This bass has it all!

Notable specs:

  • Carved mahogany body with a maple burl top
  • Buzz Feiten tuning system
  • 5 controls: 1 volume, 1 pan, 3-band EQ
  • Push/pull volume and midrange knobs
  • 24 fret 35-inch scale
  • Zero fret 1.75″ wide

Fender American Ultra Jazz Bass V 

Just like its 4-string counterpart, the Fender American Elite Jazz Bass V provides the look of the classic jazz bass with the newly design D-shaped neck profile and the low B-string necessary for modern playability. Fender listened to the recommendations of contemporary bassists and compiled all of their requests into this modern monster jazz bass. Sleek color options are the icing on the cake, but the flexible tone of this bass wins the day, making this one of our top bass picks.

Notable specs:

  • Pro-level construction with superior electronics
  • Active 3-band EQ
  • An active/passive switch
  • Noiseless vintage-style pickups
  • Chrome hardware
  • Low B-string for extended range

Squier Contemporary Active Jazz Bass V HH

Why wait to upgrade to a 5-string bass when you can start learning it from day one? This 5-string beginner/intermediate bass is a solid option for low-cost quality with extended range. The Squier Contemporary Active Jazz Bass includes dual humbucking pickups for vibrant J Bass tones. Electronics are greatly improved by simply adding a superior set of bass strings. This go-to bass has a classic C-shaped neck and contemporary aesthetics.

Notable specs:

  • Solid ash body
  • 12”-radius maple fingerboard
  • Variable tone profile from dual modern-style pickups
  • Traditional tone and stacked boost controls for bass and treble.
  • Active 9-volt preamp
  • 34-inch scale

Lakland Skyline 55-60 Vintage J-Style 5-String Bass Guitar

Quite simply, this bass SLAPS! This 35″ scale bass shares many of the features of its USA handcrafted big brother. The passive J-style pickups sing beautifully. The passive controls offer a vintage 60’s Volume/Volume/Tone layout. The graphite reinforcement, enhanced neck joint, and passive pickups create a tonal quality that is unmatched at this price.

Notable specs:

  • Passive electronics
  • 22 frets
  • Flat-sawn maple neck
  • Tuners: Hipshot Ultralites
  • Lakland Vintage J single coil pickups
  • 10-13″ fingerboard radius

6-string Bass

Six-string basses, also known as extended-range basses, are all the rage in modern jazz and fusion music. They provide the low B-string for deep, resonating bass notes, while also offering the high C-string for expanded soloing and bass chords. Quite simply, the 6-string bass is the do-it-all solution for bass players who want to explore all the possibilities of modern bass playing. Check out these top 6-string models:

Warwick German Pro Series Corvette Ash, 6-String, Nirvana Black OFC

The Warwick Corvette 6-string is a monster bass that has all the beef you will ever need. The ergonomic body design makes this bass very comfortable and the electronics are aggressive and bold. The 24 jumbo nickel-silver frets have been treated with Warwick’s IFT technology and the fretwork is impeccable.

Notable specs:

  • Wenge fingerboard
  • 24 Jumbo Nickelsilver frets
  • Active MEC 2-way electronics
  • 2-3 pcs Swamp Ash body
  • 34″ scale

MTD Kingston Bass Guitar Z 6 String

The MTD Kingston Z 6-String is a modern-sounding solution for budget-conscious bass players. Bartolini electronics supply that signature MTD sound that can be heard on modern gospel songs. The asymmetrical neck provides comfortable playability even for bassists with smaller hands. It has a carved mahogany body and a burled maple top, which has a rich voice and a darker overtone. MTD is a top choice of modern bass players.

Notable specs:

  • MTD Quick Release Bridge
  • Buzz Feiten Tuning System
  • 24 Medium Jumbo Frets
  • Solid mahogany body and burled maple top
  • Superior clarity, feel and response
  • Fast neck and professional playability

Ibanez SR1306 Premium 6-String Electric Bass Guitar

Ibanez scored a big win with this extended-range 6-string model. The SR1306 is an intermediate, boutique-quality bass with superior playability. Two aggressive Nordstrand Big Single pickups deliver a BIG tone with booming bottom and singing highs. Whether you play fingerstyle, picking, or slap bass, the SR1306 has got you covered with premium sound at an affordable price.

Notable specs:

  • Mahogany body with Ash/Walnut top
  • 5-piece Panga Panga/Purpleheart neck
  • 3-band Active EQ
  • Gotoh tuners
  • Custom Ibanez electronics with 3-band EQ

Conclusion

As you can see by these examples, there are plenty of quality bass guitars on the market that can meet the needs of even the pickiest bass players. Although Fender still comes to mind when considering versatile, quality bass, Ibanez, MTD, and eve Squire each provide valuable performance specs that will easily get the job done in most situations.

If you play gospel music or just want to sound like your favorite gospel bass player, any of these top picks are sure to bring you musical satisfaction for years to come. From a few hundred dollars to a few thousand, there’ something here for everyone.

Additional GospelChops Articles

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.