Welcome to our reviews of the best bass guitars in 2021; we’ve searched far and wide for the best-sounding, most versatile four and five-string basses, fretless basses, vintage ones, both nostalgic and modern ones. Following a very – and we really mean very thorough research, we have come up with the following rundown of top 10 products. So, without any further ado, let’s jump straight into the reviews and see what we have in store for you.
Here are the best bass guitars 2021:
- Fender American Performer Precision Bass
- Ibanez Affirma AFR5WAP Bass
- Squier Contemporary Active Jazz Bass HH
- Squier Classic Vibe ’70s Jazz Bass
- Fender Special Edition Mustang PJ Bass
- Squier Classic Vibe Jaguar Bass
- Schecter Stiletto Stealth-5
- Fender CB-60SCE Bass
- Squier Affinity Precision Bass PJ Pack
- Fender Jaco Pastorius Jazz Bass
1. Fender American Performer Precision Bass
The best overall bass
We’re opening up with the bass that is held in high regard by professionals and veterans; the bass that can cater to the needs of both experienced and beginner players, and the bass that provides both versatility and playability without sacrificing the quality of tone. We’re opening up with Fender’s American Performer Precision Bass as our prime pick of the best bass guitar reviews.
Essentially, the era of electric basses began with models such as these, and it’s pretty safe to say that when old-school traditions meet the technologies of the modern era something great is bound to happen.
In terms of design, this is a classy 4-string precision bass guitar that features the Modern C neck profile and a gloss polyurethane finish. Apart from being quite an eye-catcher, the American Performer P Bass is also incredibly playable. It comes equipped with twenty medium jumbo frets and easily accessible volume and tone controls.
Speaking of which, the tonal versatility of this bass guitar is pretty remarkable. It features two volume control knobs, one master tone control knob, and Greasebucket tone control knob, all of which allow you to fine-tune the soundstage on the fly.
Intonation-wise, American Performer P Bass features Fender F vintage paddle keys equipped with proprietary tapered shafts and a nut made of synthetic materials; it will stay in tune for weeks, even if you play it every single day.
The body of American Performer P Bass is made of high-quality alder material, its neck is made of maple, and its fingerboard is made of top-quality rosewood; this combination of tonewoods provides an excellent balance between tonal diversity and durability; you can rest assured that this bass will remain intact for decades given proper use and maintenance.
Precision basses both feel and sound a bit different from ‘regular’ electric bass guitars; this is certainly not a downfall, especially if you know what you are looking for, but people who can’t tell the difference will not be able to find as much value in it.
|Image credit: Fender Check Sweetwater||
Although it does not cost a fortune per se, American Performer Precision Bass is pretty pricey. Even so, it’s one of the best-made bass guitars that Fender released as it was built after the specifications of the timeless Fender ’50 P-bass; it also features a multitude of new technologies that allowed it to keep up with modern precision bass models.
2. Ibanez Affirma AFR5WAP Bass
A high-end bass for under $2000
If money is not that much of an issue and you’re looking to get the biggest bang for your buck, we highly recommend checking the Ibanez Affirma bass out. In a nutshell, this entire series of basses is a natural progression from beginner ‘Gio’ and right before the professional exclusive ‘Workshop’.
This is clearly a boutique-level bass that has ‘unique’ slapped all over it. Its inlays, design, choice of tonewoods, timbre, and sound are all exquisite; and more importantly, they work in harmony to provide the most value possible.
First and foremost, this is a five-string bass with Ibanez’s proprietary AFR Premium body design. It sports a body made of walnut graced with a satin polyurethane finish, a three-piece maple neck, and a fretboard made of ultra-robust ebony.
The only thing we didn’t like so much about it is that its nut is made of plastic, so it’s not exactly all too durable. Regardless, every other hardware piece is pretty robust, including the AeroSilk tailpiece, the Ibanez tuning heads, and such.
Tone controls are pretty versatile; the Affirma sports one volume control knob, one Piezo volume control knob, bass control knob, treble control knob, and Piezo tone control knob. Furthermore, they’re all perfectly positioned and have just about enough space between themselves for easy access.
Another pretty unique feature of Ibanez’s Affirma is the single inlay on the 12th fret. Not only is it positioned way up onto the highest string, but it’s also the only inlay onboard the fretboard (as opposed to the standard 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 9th fret inlays).
In terms of sound, the Ibanez Affirma possesses the means to change the way you perceive how basses perform. Its combination of tonewood is nothing short of amazing, and its soundstage is very balanced. Even though it costs a fortune, it’s still one of the best bass guitars under $2000.
|Image credit: Ibanez Check Sweetwater||
Although the Ibanez Affirma AFR5WAP might not be the best bass guitar ever made, it’s one of them for sure. There are only a handful of boutique basses that could hope of matching its tonal versatility and sonic performance, not to mention that it looks and feels as great as it sounds.
If you don’t mind paying top dollar, the Ibanez Affirma will fully cater to your bass-playing needs; it’s ranked pretty high up among the top 10 bass guitars in 2021.
3. Squier Contemporary Active Jazz Bass HH V
The best classic-sounding bass
Not many beginners can differentiate different basses simply based on how they sound, and we usually pick up any given instrument wanting to at least sound a bit like our heroes and idols. If your ears are accustomed to the roaring bass of Gene Simmons, or on another hand if you have a thing for the subtlety and innovative touches of Paul McCartney, you probably want a bass that can get you closer to their tone.
One such bass guitar is the Contemporary Active Jazz Bass HH V. Essentially, Squier guitars and basses are already renowned among musicians for producing recognizable instruments, and it’s pretty sure that you already know what to expect. However, the Contemporary Active Jazz Bass HH V is actually a hybrid bass that sports various elements from different Squier basses.
This is a 5-string jazz bass that features a body made of high-quality ash with a gloss polyurethane finish, a C-shaped neck made of maple, and a fingerboard made of maple. In its ‘passive’ state its sound is like a starving, caged beast, but once the SQR humbuckers come into play the Contemporary bass’s tone gains another dimension in terms of sonic accuracy and sharpness.
Of course, you’ll be able to dial into any kind of tones you want given the fact that there are four control knobs at your disposal, including the master volume knob, the master tone knob, the pickup blend control knob, and bass/treble boost knob.
As far as hardware is concerned, this bass features premium-quality gear. It rocks a robust nut made of synthetic bone, a 5-saddle high-mass tailpiece, and open-gear machine heads that provide excellent intonation regardless of how high (or low) the action is.
If you’re a beginner looking for a great-sounding classy bass but you don’t feel like you can handle the five-string layout, the Contemporary Active Jazz Bass HH V is also available in the four-string variant. Both versions come supplied with the exact same features and perform the same; the only difference is the ‘extra’ string or the lack thereof.
Lastly, in terms of aesthetics, the Squier Contemporary Active Jazz Bass is something to marvel at. It’s available in eight different finishes, including black, burgundy, red, blue, and many more. These are just some of the many reasons why this model is one of the top-rated bass guitars this year.
|Image credit: Squier Check Sweetwater||
In all truth, Squier basses are by default valuable for the money, but there’s a common thread lined through them in terms of sonic performance. If you are a fan of the brand who loves Squier for their recognizable sound but also wants to try something a bit more different, we highly recommend checking the Contemporary Active Jazz Bass V HH out.
4. Squier Classic Vibe ’70s Jazz Bass
The best budget bass
Here we have another Squier bass, and this time around we’ve delved a bit deeper into the budget section of the market. We present to you the Classic Vibe ’70s Jazz Bass, which is a nostalgic-sounding, classy looking, feature-packed jazz bass meant for beginners and skilled bass players, but it’s also perfect for professionals who want a simple backup bass guitar.
The Classic Vibe ’70s Jazz Bass is first and foremost a very reliable instrument. It is made of exceptionally durable wood materials, and both its hardware and tonewoods are superiorly robust in comparison to most budget electric bass guitar models.
The entire construction of this electric jazz bass is comprised of maple tonewoods, where the only exception is the body that features ‘softened’ maple. Basically, the main purpose behind this engineering decision was to make the body a bit lighter, which in turn also makes it much easier for beginners to play on and use.
We also see the C-shaped neck profile that offers a natural grip and impeccable playability, which is, again, something that beginner players will welcome with open arms. Furthermore, we also loved the block inlays that offer easier navigation across the fretboard due to enhanced visibility.
Sound-wise, this bass is pretty warm, which was only to be expected since there’s not a lot of versatility in the tonewoods used in the construction process. Additionally, it packs two Fender Alnico single-coil pickups; these magnets are quite hot, but they’re also very easy to ‘handle’, especially if used on dominantly clean amps.
In terms of hardware, Classic Vibe ’70s Jazz Bass features a sturdy nut made of bone material, a four-saddle vintage-style tailpiece, and vintage Squier machine heads. This bass offers much in terms of intonation, although its initial action might not suit all beginner players.
Lastly, let’s talk a bit about the onboard controls. The Classic Vibe ’70s Jazz Bass features two volume control knobs and a single master tone knob; this is still to be considered as ‘versatile’ since we’re talking about a budget electric jazz bass.
As far as aesthetics are at stake, the Classic Vibe ’70s Jazz Bass is available in natural, black, and vintage sunburst finishes, all of which look absolutely fantastic. This is a fine-looking electric bass regardless of which finish you opt for in the end.
|Image credit: Squier Check Sweetwater||
Searching for a cheap bass that actually sounds alright is often hard, especially if it is to become your first instrument. Luckily, you can’t go wrong if you go with Squier, and the Classic Vibe ’70s Jazz Bass is a perfect example of a great-sounding, playable, and reliable low-end bass guitar.
People who are on a cash-strapped budget should definitely consider it. Even if it was not as cheap as it is, it would still be one of the best value bass guitars on the market in 2021.
5. Fender Special Edition Mustang PJ Bass
The best mid-range precision bass
Most of us have started with a low-end bass of questionable quality, eagerly waiting to save up some cash for a decent new upgrade. However, newer basses need to actually be a bit more versatile, a bit more accessible, and they also need to sound better, which is not always the case.
If you want to spare yourself hours and hours of searching for an upgrade, we suggest you check out Fender’s Mustang PJ Special Edition bass.
What makes this bass different from most models we’ve reviewed so far is the fact that it has a slightly shorter scale length (30 inches); this means that its playability is vastly increased, allowing for a seamless transition from beginners who are moving on from their budget basses to a more improved, better-sounding one. It offers a very familiar feel, although it’s drastically different in terms of sonic performance.
Speaking of which, let’s mention the tonewoods. The body of this bass guitar is made of alder material, it rocks a C-shaped neck made of maple and a fingerboard with medium jumbo frets made of maple. Granted, the tonal versatility of the Fender Special Edition Mustang PJ Bass is not exactly exemplary, but it’s still fantastic. It offers a consistent, warm tone that offers a solid canvas to paint on with volume and tone controls, as well as with pedals.
In terms of hardware, the Special Edition Mustang PJ Bass features a nut made of robust synthetic bone, a four-saddle standard bridge, and vintage Fender machine heads.
Another very interesting thing about this bass is that it features one precision single-coil pickup and one jazz single-coil pickup; this means that it is capable of accommodating different styles and genres of music pretty easily. What’s more, Fender’s Special Edition Mustang PJ bass sports one master volume knob, one master tone knob, and a three-way pickup switch.
Seafoam green, Tidepool Blue, and Buttercream are the available color finishes you can choose from, but it should go without saying that every variation looks absolutely amazing.
This is a rather affordable bass guitar, and it certainly has plenty of value to offer for a mid-priced model, but there are still a couple of things that we thought could be improved.
First of all, the pickup selector switch is placed pretty far from the control knobs, making it a bit harder to reach. Secondly, the initial action of the Special Edition Mustang PJ Bass is not doing it any favors in terms of playability, although it does help the bass project sounds with increased accuracy and a roaring ‘thump’.
|Image credit: Sweetwater / Fender Check Sweetwater||
If you are on the market searching for a bass that will take your game to the next level, we encourage you to give Fender’s Special Edition Mustang PJ Bass a shot. This bass is unlike any other model within the price range in the sense that it is vastly more versatile and more durable, but it’s also laden with a ton of exceptional and exquisite features, making it one of the coolest bass guitars in our review.
6. Squier Classic Vibe Jaguar Bass
The best vintage-style bass
Vintage basses are not only pursued by collectors; experienced musicians are well aware of the fact that old-school basses sounded much better than modern ones (that aim to replicate them with little success), but even people who have a keen eye for aesthetics love to have them around the house.
Now, the bass we have here encompasses a huge variety of qualities any musician should be on the lookout for – it looks stunning, it’s super light and easy to play, and to top it all, it boasts an exquisite, almost nostalgic tone. The Classic Vibe Jaguar Bass is an elegant bass that you have probably already heard on some of your favorite records, and now you have the opportunity to snatch its tone and make it your own.
Aesthetics aside, this is a rather simplistic 4-string bass that sports a Jaguar body type, a C-shape neck profile, Pearloid block inlays that will help you conquer the fretboard a bit more easily, and a pair of incredibly powerful and versatile pickups. Let’s have a quick rundown of its main specs.
First and foremost, the body of this bass guitar is made of nato (eastern mahogany) material; its neck is made of robust maple while its fingerboard features Indian laurel materials. It has a relatively short scale length of 32 inches and two narrow frets.
It feels a bit different when compared to average electric bass guitars due to the fact that its frets are much narrower (and hence taller too). Some musicians might find this as extremely helpful, but then again, others might not like it too much.
Another thing that we should definitely mention is that Squier’s Classic Vibe Jaguar Bass is also very affordable. It’s one of the cheapest vintage instruments on the market, and it’s one of the least expensive Jaguar bass guitars out there, for sure.
As far as hardware goes, this electric bass features two Fender Alnico single-coil pickups; however, the middle pickup is slightly different from the bridge magnet as it is a ‘split single-coil’ as opposed to ‘wound’ single-coil. The volume controls aren’t too versatile as there are only two stacked volume and tone controls for the neck and bridge magnets. Nevertheless, this should be enough to shape up the timbre of the Classic Vibe Jaguar Bass.
|Image credit: Squier Check Sweetwater||
In a nutshell, the Squier Classic Vibe Jaguar Bass is a marvelous vintage-style bass. It offers a classic, familiar tone, and it actually sounds much better than you’d bargain for the money. Speaking of which, it’s also pretty affordable, although it wouldn’t hurt to have a couple more volume and tone control knobs onboard.
7. Schecter Stiletto Stealth-5
The best 5-string bass under $1000
Once you handle the rhythms and the grooves of the squarely-composed songs you’ve played with your first bands, you will start to feel the urge to compose a bit more intricate licks and riffs; you will also find that four strings of your old bass might not suffice to handle your unbridled creativity, so you might want to switch to a 5-string.
Aside from being one of the best 5-string bass guitars, the Stiletto Stealth-5 is also the best bass guitar for metal. Namely, Schecter’s selection of instruments typically caters to the needs of those with a bit rougher taste for music, specifically rockers and metalheads. However, most (if not all) Schecter basses are so versatile that they can be used for pretty much any genre of music, and Stiletto Stealth-5 is not an exception.
First and foremost, the Stiletto Stealth-5 features a basswood body with a urethane finish, a maple neck with a Thin C profile, and a fretboard made of rosewood. Although it goes without saying, this bass has a darker tone that requires some time to adjust to, but its projection and presence are absolutely unparalleled.
Playability-wise, the Stiletto Stealth-5 features 24 X-Jumbo frets with Pearloid dot inlays, which means that you’ll have no trouble navigating the fingerboard, regardless of your skill level. As a matter of fact, this is the best bass guitar for small hands precisely because of the X-Jumbo frets.
The Stiletto Stealth-5 also packs a wider scale length of 35 inches, and it is absolutely perfect for virtuosos who don’t only want to keep the vibes going, but who also want to compose on this instrument.
The hardware that this bass guitar comes supplied with is unequaled in terms of quality. It packs S-Tek tailpiece, Shecter’s proprietary tuners, the Diamond P neck pickup, and the SuperRock MM bridge pickup. Furthermore, it rocks two active EQ knobs, one blend knob, and a single volume knob.
Suffice it to say, Stiletto Stealth-5 is insanely versatile tone-wise, and you’ll be able to glide across its tonal spectrum with elegance. It also comes pre-strung with Ernie Ball V-string Super Long .045 strings, which are probably the finest factory strings one could hope to have. All things considered, this is easily one of the best bass guitars under $1000.
|Image credit: Schecter Check Sweetwater||
If you are looking for a quality five-string bass, look no further than the Schecter Stiletto Stealth-5 electric bass guitar. It has everything you can possibly need in terms of sound, versatility, and playability, and then some, especially if you’re into heavier genres and styles of music.
8. Fender CB-60SCE Bass
The best acoustic-electric bass
Acoustic-electric basses are basically acoustic bass guitars that can be hooked to an amp for a drastic volume boost. Now, that would be the gist of it, but the truth is that you can use semi-acoustic basses in pretty much any scenario. If you’re recording an avant-garde musical piece, playing in an orchestra, playing in a band, busking on the streets, you name it.
Now, here we have the CB-60SCE concert acoustic-electric bass; it looks pretty simplistic and straightforward but underestimating it would be a huge mistake. Namely, this model features spruce, mahogany, and walnut tonewoods atop of premium-quality Fishman electronics, so in a nutshell, it sounds like a beast, to say the least.
The top of Fender’s CB-60SCE is made of solid spruce and it features a natural gloss finish; its back, sides, and neck are all made of high-quality mahogany while its fingerboard is made of walnut. Furthermore, it rocks Acrylic Dot inlays that offer a big boost to its already-great level of playability.
Speaking of which, the scale length of Fender’s CB-60SCE measures 32 inches and it has 22 medium-large frets.
As far as hardware is concerned, Fender’s CB-60SCE features chrome die-cast machine heads, a walnut bridge, and a plastic nut. Sadly, the durability of the nut is rather questionable, so you should probably invest a bit of extra attention when handling it.
As mentioned earlier, Fender’s CB-60SCE is also equipped with Fishman electronics, and it’s also pre-strung with Fender’s Phosphor light .045 strings that are as sturdy as they are light.
|Image credit: Fender Check Sweetwater||
People who think that semi-acoustic bass guitars are all alike will probably change their minds as soon as they rip out a couple of licks on the Fender CB-60SCE. Not only does it have superb electronics, but it’s also made of the finest selection of tonewoods that work in harmony to provide a well-rounded sonic spectrum. It’s pretty affordable, and if you are searching for value, look no further than the CB-60SCE Bass.
9. Squier Affinity Precision Bass PJ Pack
The best bass guitar starter pack
Saving up enough cash for a decent bass, an amp that actually works, a gig bag, and all the accessories that a player needs can be pretty frustrating, so most people who are in such a position opt for bass guitar packs and bundles. If you don’t want to spend hours and days searching for individual components of your soon-to-be beginner’s ‘rig’, we suggest you stick with us for a while as we review one of the best bass guitar packs of 2021 – the Squier Affinity Series Precision Bass PJ Pack.
Basically, this pack is comprised of the Affinity Series Precision Bass PJ, the 15-watt Fender Rumble amp, a padded gig bag, a tremolo bar, a couple of guitar cables, and a guitar strap. This is the most basic beginner bundle that will gear you up for band rehearsals and your first gigs, with the exception of Rumble amp, which is a bit too weak for actual concerts. Speaking of which, the Rumble sounds pretty amazing. It features a three-band EQ (Bass, mid, and treble), a headphones port, and an auxiliary port, which means that it’s a perfect practice home amp.
The bass itself is rather extraordinary too; it rocks a poplar body with a gloss polyurethane finish, a C-shaped neck made of maple, and a laurel fingerboard. Although most experienced players aren’t particularly fond of poplar materials, we can at least say that it’s pretty sturdy.
The Squier Affinity Precision Bass PJ features a 34-inch scale length and 20 narrow frets across its fretboard. Its playability is great, especially for beginners who are yet to get accustomed to the mechanics of precision basses.
Moving on to hardware, the Squier Affinity precision bass features a 4-saddle tailpiece and open-gear tuning pegs, as well as a standard precision neck pickup and a standard jazz bridge pickup. In terms of sonic performance, this bass is pretty versatile.
Furthermore, it sports two volume knobs (one for each pickup), and one tone control knob. It’s also pre-strung with .045 strings that are decently durable, although they won’t help the sound much.
What we liked the most about this beginner bass guitar package is that it features everything that a starter bass player needs; a cool-looking bass that sounds pretty nice for the cash, a decently strong amp, and a carry bag to prevent him/her from becoming a ‘bedroom musician’.
As we already mentioned before, the tone of this bass is not exactly ‘world-class’. This is a budget-friendly beginner bass guitar pack after all; furthermore, its poplar body acts as a shield from physical harm more so than anything else, so you shouldn’t expect much in terms of sonic versatility.
Even so, a couple of pedals and a steady, patient hand with the tone controls might completely morph the sound of the Affinity Series Precision Bass PJ, although this will inevitably ask for some time, and potentially a bit more cash.
|Image credit: Sweetwater / Squier Check Sweetwater||
There’s much value to be had in the Squier Affinity Series Precision Bass PJ Pack, but only if we perceive it as a whole; the individual components of this bundle are of mediocre quality, but they work in harmony to provide a well-rounded approach to practice (be it at home or with a band), and even potentially having actual gigs.
10. Fender Jaco Pastorius Jazz Bass
As years go by, many people update and change their lists of the top 10 best bass guitars; we’ve seen Yamahas, Squiers, Fenders, and Schecters leap atop each other, but let’s not forget what the ultimate bass guitar is; we’re talking about the Fender Jaco Pastorius Jazz Bass, which is commonly referred to as ‘the Bass of Doom’.
Of course, we are looking at a replica here, as the original has endured decades of use, abuse, and misfortunes and it is currently in the hands of none other than Metallica’s Rob Trujillo.
The ‘Bass of Doom’ is, without any shadow of a doubt, the best bass guitar under $2000, there are no two ways about it. It’s made of the most durable, best-sounding alder and maple materials; it packs the hottest and most controllable pickups, as well as the classy, vintage design.
Let’s start from the start, this is a four-string fretless jazz bass that rocks an alder body, a bolt-on C-shaped maple neck and Pau Ferro fretless fingerboard. Its scale length measures roughly 34 inches, and contrary to what its price tag suggests, it’s actually pretty great for beginner fretless players too.
As far as hardware goes, the Bass of Doom sports the American Vintage jazz bass tailpiece and vintage-style reverse machine heads, and two vintage jazz bass single-coil middle pickups. It also sports two volume control knobs and one tone control knob; it’s pre-strung with the Flatwound 9050M strings made of incredibly durable stainless steel, although they are slightly heavier than average.
|Image credit: Fender Check Sweetwater||
Sonically, the tone of this bass is pretty hard to describe. There’s enough sustain to hold the song together; there are elements of both edges of the tonal spectrum (bright and warm), and it’s literally the ultimate jazz bass built after the specifications of the ultimate jazz bass player.
One of the many reasons why it’s considered as the best bass guitar of the century is because it does not have any design-based flaws. You may not like its tone or you may not like its fretless body, but these features were purposefully integrated.
The term ‘best bass guitar’ is completely subjective; some people favor jazz bass guitars over precision basses; some rely on the inlays and frets while some love the sound and unhinged performance of fretless basses; some people still cling to the nostalgic sound of ’70s basses while younger players embrace the more modern sounds.
Anyway, while labels and categories are subjective matters, quality is objective, and we’ve made sure to follow the latter while we searched for the best bass guitars available in 2021. We hope that you have liked our selection and wish you all the luck in finding what you were after. Make sure you are staying safe in these times we are going through. Have a good one, rock steady, roll easy!