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Today we’ve embarked on a journey of finding the best beginner bass guitars in 2021. Given the fact that the market is overflowing with low-cost instruments, finding a quality piece of wood that can withstand a bit of pounding while still sounding right might be a bit more difficult than most people would expect.
Only a handful of people are in such a position where they can afford an expensive instrument right off the bat; more importantly, are there any reasons for buying a boutique instrument outright?
Beginners typically can’t tell the difference between good and bad-sounding basses, flimsy and durable models, and frankly speaking, no one can tell for sure whether they’ll stick with the instrument or move on. Going with a cheap, budget model in the price range of under $200-300 sounds like a better idea.
We’ve made sure to include models from popular brands such as Ibanez, Yamaha, Gretsch, and Jackson, so you can rest assured that even the cheapest instruments we’ve covered still have plenty of things to bring to the table. Without any further ado, let’s dive into the reviews.
Here are the best cheap basses for beginners:
- Ibanez miKro GSRM20
- Gretsch G2220 Junior Jet Bass II
- Yamaha TRBX174EW
- Luna Tattoo 30″ Scale Bass
- Jackson Spectra Bass JS2
- Ibanez Gio GSR105EX
- Squier Affinity Precision Bass PJ Pack
- Dean Edge 09
- Yamaha TRBX204
- Squier Affinity Bronco Bass
1. Ibanez miKro GSRM20 – Best Option for The Money
The best option for beginners under $200
Our top pick of the day is a budget all-around bass that offers a smooth, versatile performance. It’s an all-around bass that was manufactured out of high-quality, durable tonewoods, it sounds amazing for the buck, and it looks nothing short of remarkable.
First things first, the body of the Ibanez GSRM20 is made of top-shelf poplar and features a gloss polyurethane finish. Although poplar isn’t a standout tonewood choice in terms of sonic performance, it offers sturdiness beyond compare in comparison to similar basses in this price point category.
The neck of this bass guitar is made of maple while the fretboard is made of exotic jatoba; it features standard white dot fretboard inlays and 22 medium frets. Its playability is excellent, and due to the peculiar size of its frets, it can easily accommodate technical-savvy jazz players as easily as it can cater to the needs of rock bassists.
The Ibanez GSRM20 features standard-issue Ibanez hardware comprised of die-cast tuners, a fixed bridge, and a plastic nut. Most people would agree on the fact that the nut could’ve been made from a bit sturdier material, but that’s pretty much the only downside to this bass.
Furthermore, the GSRM20 rocks a split-coil Dynamix P neck magnet and Dynamix J single-coil bridge magnet, as well as two volume control knobs and a master control knob. Tone-wise, it’s both versatile and strong enough to punch through even the weakest of amps.
Another thing that makes this bass so great for the buck is that it is available in both left and right-handed orientation models. Last, but certainly not least, the GSRM20 has a sleek, beautiful body, and even though it’s not a professional instrument, it sure looks like one. It is also available in several color style variations, all of which look fairly modern.
|Image credit: Ibanez Check Sweetwater||
If the GSRM20 is your first bass guitar, you will get the opportunity to get accustomed to clean, warm tones and high-level performance even early on. It’s one of the most versatile beginner-friendly basses, and its value far exceeds the figures on its price tag, so if you’re looking for quality, look no further than the GSRM20 from Ibanez.
2. Gretsch G2220 Junior Jet Bass II – Premium Choice Bass Guitar for Beginners
The best beginner bass if you can afford it
Our next pick is slightly more expensive than an average beginner bass; however, it comes supplied with much better features, and it generally sounds stronger than an entry-level bass, which is why we think it’s the best model – if you can afford it, though.
Just like many other cheap beginner basses, this model features a basswood body. What makes it a bit different is that it rocks a layered high-gloss finish that keeps the overtones tame while also heavily improving the aesthetic aspect of the instrument.
The G2220 Junior Jet Bass II also features a maple neck and a walnut fretboard with 20 medium-jumbo frets. The main reason why this bass is called ‘Junior Jet’ is that it offers a 30.3-inch scale, which is a couple of inches shorter than average. The shortened scale makes the frets much easier to access, which drastically increases the playability of this instrument.
As far as tone goes, the G2220 Junior Jet Bass II sports two mini-humbuckers that are surprisingly powerful. Aside from the volume control knob and the tone knob, there’s also a three-way toggle switch that you can use to switch between magnets (or use them both at the same time), which drastically boosts the tonal versatility of this bass.
Additionally, the Gretsch G2220 Junior Jet Bass II rocks hardware of amazing quality. It rocks a 1.56-inch nut made of synthetic bone, a four-saddle standard tailpiece, a set of die-cast tuners, and a pack of nickel-plated steel .045 strings.
This bass is also perfect for people with smaller hands, mainly because the shorter scale length is only complemented by the medium-sized frets. On top of it all, the G2220 Junior Jet Bass II just looks stunning, and even though only a handful of finish options are available, each one of them is as unique as the next.
|Image credit: Gretsch Check Sweetwater||
The Gretsch G2220 Junior Jet Bass II brings so much to the table, and the only thing that you might not like so much about it is the slightly heftier price tag. Regardless, the quality of its tone and sound is complemented by the well-rounded choice of tonewoods, which yields an excellent all-around bass for both beginners and intermediate-level players. This is one of the best basses under $300 for sure.
3. Yamaha TRBX174EW – Easy-to-Play Bass Guitar for Beginners
The best cheap bass with exotic tonewoods
Next up we have the Yamaha TRBX174EW as our top pick for the best cheap bass with exotic tonewoods. In general, tonewoods usually affect how the instrument sounds, feels, and endures the damage. There are typical tonewoods that are used in the manufacturing process of budget basses (such as basswood, for instance), and then there are rarer, ‘exotic’ tonewoods that make the instrument stand out from the rest.
The Yamaha TRBX174EW features a mahogany body, a maple neck, a rosewood fretboard, and a top made of mango. Now, the mango tree is sometimes used in the construction of ukuleles and it resembles maple quite a bit; it is ultra-sharp and bright, and it gives acoustic instruments vibrant, natural sustain and resonance. Once electrified, instruments that feature this tonewood roar like caged beasts, which is not something many budget basses can boast about.
This is a four-string bass that rocks a gloss polyurethane body finish, a dotted fingerboard for easier playability, 24 frets, and the standard 34-inch scale length. Its durability is something to marvel at, especially given the fact that it’s made of so many different elements.
In terms of hardware, the TRBX174EW sports a urea-made 1.57-inch nut; a vintage-style tailpiece, covered tuners, and two ceramic magnets (a split-coil on the neck, and a single-coil on the bridge). It also sports two volume control knobs and one master tone control knob, as well as standard .045 strings.
Given the fact that this bass features four distinctly different tonewoods, locating its ‘original’ tone on the tonal spectrum is quite hard for inexperienced ears. Maple pulls it over to the brighter side, rosewood leans towards the warm end along with mahogany. However, mango is pretty bright too, so be ready to expect anything. Using the tone control knob you will be able to channel these currents whichever way you see fit.
|Image credit: Yamaha Check Sweetwater||
The Yamaha TRBX174EW is without any shadow of a doubt one of the best beginner bass guitar models that this brand has released up to this point. It looks classy and modern, it feels comfy and decently light, and playing it is pure joy. Most budget basses offer a couple of different tones while the TRBX174EW offers thousands, which is a huge plus.
4. Luna Tattoo 30″ Scale Bass – Attractively Designed Bass Guitar for Starters
The best short-scale electric bass on a budget
We’ve already included a couple of budget basses with shorter scale length, but the Luna Tattoo 30-inch scale bass takes the prime spot in this particular field. This is a cool-looking bass guitar that was specifically designed for players with smaller hands and for those who would rather stick close to the top-end of the fretboard while nailing down the grooves and rhythm licks.
This is a 4-string bass that features a mahogany body with a beautiful satin finish; a C-shaped neck made of maple, and a smallish fingerboard made of walnut with pearl-moon phase inlays. Its scale length is 30 inches, and it’s pretty safe to say that it offers a ridiculous level of playability, regardless of whether this is your first bass guitar or if you’re an experienced veteran.
The pearl moon inlays are exquisite no matter how you put it, but only the ones in the very middle are actually fully visible. It might take you some time to get accustomed to this idiosyncratic type of fret indication, although it’s quite rewarding in the end.
As far as hardware is concerned, the Tattoo 30″ scale bass features a plastic 1.625-inch nut, ABM die-cast tailpiece, and closed-gear die-cast machine heads. Although this bass guitar will remain in tune for quite some time before it needs any adjustments, the plastic nut is something you should keep an eye out for. Gentle bumps won’t crack it, but keep in mind that it’s pretty flimsy.
Lastly, the Tattoo bass comes supplied with a single Vintage P-Bass split single-coil middle pickup that is strong enough to support even the wildest rock subgenres, and obviously anything mellower and softer. This bass also comes pre-strung with D’Addario .045 strings.
|Image credit: Luna Guitars Check Sweetwater||
The Luna Tattoo 30-inch scale bass is one of the most brilliantly designed bass guitars in the $200-300 category that have both the looks and the strength to back it up. It’s a simple bass, but its versatility and well-roundedness might still surprise you; even though it’s tailor-made for beginners and inexperienced players, seasoned bassists will still be able to find much value in it.
5. Jackson Spectra Bass JS2 – Most Durable Electrical Bass Guitar
The best-sounding budget bass
Sound is one of the most important elements of any instrument, but sadly most beginner players can’t differentiate ‘good’ from ‘bad’ in terms of sonic performance. What’s more, something as abstract as ‘tone’ is clearly subjective in all terms, but there are a couple of bass models that boast such a tremendous sound that they go well beyond conventional definitions.
A great example of such bass is the Jackson Spectra Bass JS2. Generally speaking, Jackson doesn’t have a lot of budget models in their assortment, but the ones that they do offer are unparalleled in terms of versatility and quality of tone.
The Spectra Bass JS2 features a poplar body and a Thin U 1-piece neck made of high-quality maple while its fingerboard is made of durable laurel. It sports 24 jumbo frets with dotted inlays that are easy to grip; this specific type of neck profile offers more leverage, although you might find fretting notes higher up as a bit harder than usual.
This bass features a 1.5-inch nut made of plastic and Jackson’s sealed die-cast machine heads; they offer superb intonation, and they’re generally very easy to operate. However, the nut is quite flimsy, and we think this is the only field where there’s some room for improvement.
As far as magnets are concerned, the Spectra Bass JS2 features Jackson’s P-style split single-coil neck pickup and Jackson’s J-style single-coil bridge pickup, both of which are active. What separates this bass from other active-magnet bass models is the fact that you can switch the magnets on and off by pushing (or pulling) the master volume knob.
Furthermore, there’s the pickup blend switch, as well as the bass boost, which only works with the active pickup mode. Spectra JS2 also comes pre-strung with standard-issue .045 strings.
|Image credit: Jackson Check Sweetwater||
If you are looking for a cheap beginner bass, look no further than the Jackson Spectra Bass JS2. It’s one of the best cheap bass guitars available on the market in 2021, as well as one of the best basses under $200, so even though you’ll probably pay a couple of bucks more than you’d like, you can rest assured that you will get nothing but top-quality for the money.
6. Ibanez Gio GSR105EX – Versatile Design Bass Guitar
The best budget 5-string bass under $200
Generally speaking, 5-string basses are usually way more expensive than their four-stringed counterparts. However, Ibanez’s Gio series delivers once again, and we’re wrapping our review of the top 10 best budget basses for beginners with the GSR105EX bass guitar.
The 5-string Gio rocks a mahogany body with an oiled finish, a maple bolt-on SR-shaped neck, and a jatoba-made fingerboard with 22 medium frets and dotted inlays. This particular combination of tonewoods is very diverse, and it offers much in terms of tonal versatility.
Playability is an important aspect of any instrument, especially five-stringed basses which are innately a bit more difficult to play. Luckily, the scale length of GSR105EX is only 34-inches (which is a couple of inches shorter than average), and the medium-sized frets lend themselves to the player nicely.
Hardware-wise, the Ibanez GSR105EX features a plastic 1.77-inch nut, a B15 tailpiece, and a set of chrome tuners. There’s only one pickup on the bridge, which is a standard PPD5 humbucking magnet. You’ll be able to use volume and tone control knobs to adjust the performance of the 5-string Gio, which should be enough to start with.
|Image credit: Ibanez Check Sweetwater||
The Ibanez GSR105EX is a straight-ahead bass that offers a great balance between playability, raw performance, and sound quality. It is easily one of the best cheap 5-string bass models out there, and it’s most certainly one of the most popular ones, so you better hurry lest it runs out of stock.
7. Squier Affinity Precision Bass PJ Pack – Best Cheap Bass Guitar for Live Show
The absolute best value starter pack
Next up we have the absolute best value for money pack from Squier – the Affinity Series Precision Bass PJ pack. In essence, this bundle is perfect for beginners who want to get familiar with the bass as an instrument, but it’s also excellent for those who want to form bands and perform.
This package features the ‘bare bones’ of a bass player’s rig; it is comprised of a lightweight gig bag, a couple of guitar cables, a guitar strap, and a small 15-amp Fender Rumble.
Let’s begin with the bass itself; the Affinity Precision Bass PJ is a 4-string P bass that rocks a poplar body, a laurel-made fretboard, and a C-shaped maple neck. It also sports 20 narrow and tall frets, which is pretty standard for precision basses.
Although swinging across different tunings might be a bit harder than you’d expect, the Squier open-gear machine heads at least hold the tune for weeks; once you’re locked in, you’ll have nothing to worry about, which is what makes this bass so great for live gigs and band practice.
In terms of hardware, the Affinity Precision Bass PJ rocks Squier’s Precision split-coil neck pickup and Squier’s single-coil Jazz bridge pickup, as well as two volume control knobs and one tone control knob. Initially, its tone and sound are tame and bright, although you will be able to capture a variety of tones with the control knobs.
Now, let’s briefly talk about the accessories that this bundle comes outfitted with. Fender’s 15-watt Rumble is an excellent beginner amp; it rocks a standard 3-band EQ, a volume knob, and a headphone port. Even though it might not be strong enough to support you in a live gig scenario without wiring it up with a microphone, it certainly does the job, and then some.
|Image credit: Sweetwater / Squier Check Sweetwater||
The Squier Affinity Series Precision Bass PJ pack is easily one of the best bass guitar starter kits that the market has to offer; it is outfitted with a phenomenal amp and accessories, and the bass itself both sounds and feels great. It might not be the easiest bass guitar to play since it’s a Precision bass, but its versatility and playability are still pretty phenomenal.
8. Dean Edge 09 – Retro-Designed Bass Guitar for Beginners
The best-looking budget bass for guitar players
Entry-level bass guitars typically look pretty much the same. Finishes typically pump up the price, and precise cutaways are quite a factor, so we can’t exactly blame the manufacturers for making affordable instruments look as bland as they do. However, there are several exceptions, and we’ve picked Dean’s Edge 09 as the best-looking budget bass guitar in our review.
The Edge 09 is actually a beginner bass for guitar players; the way this instrument is built and configured resembles the architecture and playability of an actual guitar, which means that the transition process should go over smoothly.
The neck and body of the Edge 09 bass are designed in a very unique way; although the ‘Edge’ body design is present in a couple of Dean-made guitars and basses, the flat-top neck is what makes this instrument so beautiful and exquisite.
This is a decent starter bass with a body made of basswood, a C-shaped neck made of maple, and a fretboard made of walnut. It rocks 22 medium frets and 34-inch scale length, so its playability is pretty great, especially if you’re completely new to the instrument.
Aside from the fact that it’s one of the best-looking cheap basses on the market, it’s also the bass with some of the finest hardware pieces available. It sports a 1.5-inch polymer nut, sealed die-cast tuners, a sturdy die-cast bridge, and a dual-action truss rod. On top of that, it also sports a single DMT pickup on the bridge and comes pre-strung with OEM .045 strings.
As far as tone goes, the Edge 09 is mostly made of basswood, which is a rather cheap tonewood. On a bit brighter note, the instrument sets itself right in the middle of the tonal spectrum between warm and bright, and it’s quite easy to shift its sound whichever way with the tone control knob.
|Image credit: Dean Guitars Check Amazon||
The best way to describe the Dean Edge 09 is as an aesthetically pleasing, exceptionally playable guitar made of well-rounded tonewoods and premium-quality hardware. Notice that this typically isn’t what comes to mind when you think of a cheap beginner bass, which is a testament to Dean’s quality and the uniqueness of the Edge 09 bass.
9. Yamaha TRBX204 – Best Bass Guitar In the Category
The best active pickup bass under $300
Active pickups are obviously much hotter than passives; the extra roar they provide is something metal and rock players hold in high regard, but even bassists that dabble in mellower music genres can utilize them for live gigs and performances. Our top pick of the day for the best active pickup bass is the Yamaha TRBX204.
Let’s start off with the basics; this is a four-string bass guitar that rocks a basswood body with a gloss polyester finish, a neck made of maple, and a rosewood fretboard with dotted inlays. It sports 24 medium frets and a scale length of 34 inches, which is just slightly below the average.
Furthermore, it packs premium-quality hardware comprised of urea-made 1.57-inch nut, a set of die-cast tuners, and D’Addario’s EXL .045 strings. The machine heads hold the tune remarkably well, even for weeks at a time, and they’re pretty responsive in the sense that you will be able to re-tune into different tunings rather easily.
Pickup-wise, the TRBX204 is outfitted with a ceramic split-coil magnet on the neck, and a ceramic single-coil on the bridge. This particular pickup combination yields a plethora of options in terms of tone, and you can even adjust the performance of the pickups via 2-band magnet EQ.
As far as tone is concerned, basswood generally sits well with any other tonewood as it is innately pretty neutral. Maple and rosewood complement one another flawlessly; while maple is one of the brightest, rosewood is one of the warmest ones, which means that you’ll be able to capture and reproduce a myriad of different sounds with this bass.
Lastly, we should also mention that the Yamaha TRBX204 doesn’t look like a budget bass; in fact, it’s quite the contrary. It is available in several different color styles, most of which are complemented with metallic tints.
|Image credit: Yamaha Check Sweetwater||
The Yamaha TRBX204 might as well be the best bass guitar for beginners as it is both well-rounded and durable. In short words, it looks beautiful, plays easy, and sounds like a monster for the money. The only thing that you might not like so much about it is the top-lock, although it does bring quite a few benefits to the table as well.
10. Squier Affinity Bronco Bass – The Most Playable Bass Guitar
Cheap beginner bass with the best playability
Squier and Fender are brands that have been in the game a bit longer than most, so it’s pretty much obvious that they know what musicians need. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that their beginner basses are some of the most playable ones, and the Bronco Bass is an excellent representative of such.
The body of the Bronco Bass is made of agathis and it rocks a beautiful urethane finish; it also sports a bolt-on C-shaped neck made of maple and a fingerboard with a 9.5-inch radius made from maple as well. It sports 19 medium-jumbo frets with dotted inlays on all the usual positions (third, fifth, seventh, ninth, twelfth, fifteenth, and seventeenth).
Just like the rest of the features it comes outfitted with, the hardware that the Bronco Bass is equipped with is pretty simple, yet highly efficient. It comes supplied with a 1.5-inch plastic nut, a two-saddle bridge, and covered mini-tuners that offer premium intonation in comparison to similarly priced models.
There’s only one (middle) pickup in Bronco’s rig, and it’s a specially designed single-coil magnet that packs one hell of a punch. Its projection is phenomenal, regardless of the strength of the amp that it is wired through, although the lack of the second magnet might make the search for the perfect tone a bit of a longer journey.
Another pretty peculiar thing is that the Bronco Bass comes pre-strung with Fender’s Super 5250XL strings that are a bit thinner than average (.040s), which again really helps with its playability; if you don’t happen to like them for whatever reason, upgrading and replacing them shouldn’t cost more than a couple of bucks.
|Image credit: Squier Check Sweetwater||
The Bronco Bass is arguably one of the best starter bass guitar models for a variety of reasons aside sheer affordability. One of the reasons why the Bronco Bass offers superior playability can be traced back to its simplicity. It has only one single-coil pickup and it’s made of only two kinds of tonewoods.
On top of that, it doesn’t have too many control features, and its scale length is pretty short. Beginners and musicians with small hands will be able to grip it as easily as it was an electric guitar.
Choosing the best beginner bass on a budget
Choosing an instrument requires a bit of preparedness, regardless of how cheap or expensive it is. The same things that boutique models are comprised of are the features that budget instruments are supplied with, so essentially you should keep an eye out open for similar things, only with a slightly lower standard.
Some of the most important aspects of every bass guitar are:
Understanding tonewoods is a pretty broad subject, but luckily budget basses are generally made of similar materials. You won’t find many basses that feature, say ebony for example, but you will find that nearly every second bass features a basswood body.
There are a couple of things that manufacturers take into consideration before choosing tonewoods for their bass – price and tonal characteristics. Obviously, cheap basses are generally made of a narrow selection of tonewoods mainly due to the price factor, but reputable brands seldom neglect the importance of tonal characteristics of tonewoods they implement.
Basswood is widely accessible and it’s simple to refine, which is why most entry-level basses are constructed from it. Tonally it is pretty much neutral, leaning slightly towards the warmer end of the tonal spectrum.
Mahogany is more popular in the world of acoustic instruments, although both guitar and bass manufacturers use it for back and sides when the budget allows it. Even though it’s slightly more expensive than basswood, it’s still pretty cheap; it also looks a bit more elegant due to its reflective properties, and it’s substantially warmer tonally.
Walnut is another popular tonewood that better-quality low-end basses are made of. It’s a natural substitute for maple, with which it bears the most semblances it also offers a strikingly bright tone and plenty of sustain. It also ‘accepts’ oily finishes like no other.
Rosewood is a type of material that is almost exclusively reserved for fingerboards. It’s a bit delicate and not as simple to work around with, but it enriches the instrument in terms of resonance and overall volume substantially.
Lastly, maple-made basses aren’t all too common in the budget price range, but the exceptions from this rule are well worth the buck. Maple is the brightest-sounding tonewood that is tough, sleek, and absurdly strong in the sense that it almost completely defines the tone of the instrument it is integrated in.
The playability of any given instrument refers to its ability to be played in the simplest fashion possible. Playable instruments are the ones you can grip comfortably and the ones that feature ‘easygoing’ fretboards.
If you struggle with fretting a note or climbing a scale, the playability of an instrument is not exactly top-notch. On the other hand, if you feel pretty natural about pulling licks and techniques, the instrument’s playability is great.
There are several factors that influence the playability of an instrument, including the (initial) action, the size of the frets, the scale length, and of course, the subjective feel of the instrument itself. Most of these factors can’t be altered, although you can lower (or rise) the action to compensate for the playability level a bit.
Hardware is often considered as ‘subsidiary features’, mainly because this term refers to small bits and pieces that generally don’t affect the performance of the instrument in a drastic way. However, this is not necessarily true, as poor hardware can destroy the bass, just like high-quality hardware can help preserve it.
Hardware pieces include the nut, the tailpiece, the machine heads (tuning pegs), and the strings. Some people put the bass’s magnets into the same basket, which is not entirely wrong. With the exception of pickups, all the hardware pieces need only to be durable.
Pickups (magnets) in many ways define how the bass will perform and sound like. Having multiple magnets will help you find a better tone while single-pickup basses may not be as well-rounded, but they’re generally a bit more reliable.
Packages and bundles vs. standalone basses
Bass packages are perfect for beginners who don’t have the necessary gear; a bundle essentially equips you with all the components you will need to start playing with your friends right away. However, the downside of bass bundles is that the instrument itself is usually not of the finest quality.
The bass guitar is a wonderful instrument that deserves as much respect as any other. Budget basses are not necessarily worse in terms of quality and performance in comparison to their more expensive counterparts, although that is more likely to be the case than not.
We hope that you have liked our selection of the top 10 best budget bass guitars for beginners, and we advise you to check out the buying guide for valuable information regarding the criteria we used to evaluate the performance of each individual model.
We wish you good luck in finding the best beginner bass! We hope that you’ve learned something new today and that you managed to find your own best budget bass guitar. Stay safe and rock on, guys!
Marko is a writer, bassist, and fan of all things music. His passions include quality music gear, King Crimson, and sifting the web for the latest music updates.