The Best Cheap Bass Guitars - Electric Under $300

The Best Budget Basses

Original photograph above by Roman Voloshyn / Shutterstock.

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Here we look at top rated 4-string bass guitars in the sub $300 price range, based on the most recent ratings and reviews data, up to February 2019. The star of this update is Ibanez, represented by three top rated bass guitars.

These budget friendly bass guitars are great for students of the instrument, and can also work well as back up instruments. Be it for yourself, or for a special someone who's learning the ropes, these market favorites are proven to provide satisfactory sound, performance and value. They can also be ideal for multi-instrumentalists who want to get a bass guitar without spending too much.

The Best Cheap Bass Guitars

Here are the bass guitars that ranked highest in the entry level market. We've provide detailed specifications and notable features, along with a summary of the pros and cons that people mention in reviews.

Ibanez GSRM20 Mikro Bass (Short Scale)

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 450+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$180
Ibanez GSRM20 Mikro Short Scale Bass Guitar

Ibanez knows how to make guitars, including affordable bass guitars, play as fast and comfortable as possible. Case in point is the Ibanez GSRM20, which features Ibanez' smooth playability with its flat 12" fingerboard radius and low action setup.

Combined with its short scale configuration, lightweight body, and contoured edges, this super affordable bass is considered by many as the most playable basses in the entry level market, as reflected in reviews. And it's not just playability because Ibanez did not skimp on the quality of the pickups and tonewoods, which are well appreciated by owners.

Features:

  • Body: Mahogany
  • Neck: Maple (Bolt-on)
  • Neck Profile: Slim
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Scale Length: 28.6"
  • Nut Width: 1.614"
  • Fingerboard Radius: 12"
  • Frets: 22 Medium
  • Middle Pickup: PSND P Single-Coil
  • Bridge Pickup: PSND Single-Coil
  • Controls: Volume 1, Volume 2, EQ, Tone
  • Bridge: B10
  • Weight: 8.4 lbs.

Pros

The saying "age doesn't matter" easily applies to the Ibanez GSRM20, with its long list of commendations from young players who are just starting out, and older more experienced players who just want an affordable bass that's easy on the hands. As expected, Ibanez' ergonomic and fast neck action get a lot of praise, with many being glad at just how easy and comfortable this bass is. The general sentiment is that this bass guitar has surprising quality for the price.

Cons

There are a few who complained about the quality of the tuning pegs, with a small number of reports of tuning instability. There are also some who complained about fret buzz, one of the drawbacks of having low action. Thankfully, this can be easily corrected with a few adjustments.

Overall

If you're looking for a cheap bass guitar that's easy to play, while still sounding good, then check out the Ibanez GSRM20.

Ibanez TMB-100 Bass guitar

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 90+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$200
Ibanez TMB-100 Bass guitar

Here's the reality, most bass guitars in this price range probably share similar components, but Ibanez packaged the TMB-100 to not look cheap at all. And this is what enthralls many users, with its distinct retro style offset profile and color options.

Ibanez calls the body shape of this bass as Talman, and to my eyes, it looks like a cross between a Sting Ray and a Mustang. This bass has two pickups, which you can blend as you please, and it also sports a 2-band EQ. Controls are implemented in an brilliant way, by designing each of the two knobs to have two rotary controls.

Features:

  • Body: Poplar
  • Neck: Maple (Bolt-on)
  • Neck Profile: TMB4
  • Fingerboard: Jatoba
  • Scale Length: 34"
  • Nut Width: 1.614"
  • Frets: 20 Medium
  • Neck Pickup: Dynamix P Split-coil
  • Bridge Pickup: Dynamix J Single-coil
  • Controls: 1 x Volume/Balancer, 1 x Treble/Bass Boost/Cut
  • Bridge: B10
  • Weight: 8.6 lbs.

Pros

From the sound to the overall feel of the instrument, the general consensus is very positive. Since beginners and students are easily impressed, they make up most of the users who give the Ibanez TMB-100 high ratings. But there are also some experienced bassists who are just as impressed, especially with the range of tones they can get for the price. Mike Brooks of Music Radar concludes his review by saying: "It’s solidly constructed, performs very well and is comfortable to wear."

Cons

There are some negative comments about playability, but they may be due to string action and setup, both of which are adjustable. There are also a few who describe the sound as a little too plain, but it does have reasonable sonic flexibility for its price.

Overall

If you are looking for an affordable bass guitar with a different appeal, then check out the Ibanez TMB-100.

Ibanez GSR200

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 1950+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$200
Ibanez GSR200 Bass Guitar

The Ibanez GSR200 is an affordable standard size bass guitar with Ibanez' trademark playability and impressive tone versatility. It is part of Ibanez' Sound Gear line, which are well known for their quality and tone shaping capabilities, only this one is stripped down to keep the price affordable. The GSR200 comes with a standard scale length of 34", a nut width of 1.614" and their flat fast action 12" fingerboard radius. Ibanez equipped this bass with two single-coil pickups (P/J) for tone variation, but what makes it special is the addition of Ibanez' Phat II EQ knob, which is essentially a bass boost built in for emphasizing the lows better.

Features:

  • Body: Agathis
  • Neck: Maple (Bolt-on)
  • Neck Profile: GSR4
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Scale Length: 34"
  • Nut Width: 1.614"
  • Fingerboard Radius: 12"
  • Frets: 22 Medium
  • Middle Pickup: Powersound P Single-Coil
  • Bridge Pickup: Powersound J Single-Coil
  • Controls: Phat II EQ, Master Tone, Volume 1 and Volume 2
  • Bridge: B10
  • Weight: 9 lbs.

Pros

It's not surprising that playability gets the bulk of the commendations. But it was interesting to read how parents who bought this bass for their kids end up "borrowing" the bass from them because of its quality. The fatter sound of the bass via the Phat II EQ also got a lot of positive mentions, with many stating that this sonic versatility is great for beginner to intermediate players who are beginning to craft their own sound. Value for money and its eye pleasing appearance were also appreciated by many of its users. Interestingly, there was one reviewer who has had this bass for over 5 years and reported that it still plays well and sounds good.

Cons

Like the other basses in this price range, there were users who reported on the GSR200's tuning stability and occasional fret buzz. But it is not as common as some think, given the very small number of people that reported having issues.

Overall

If you prefer Ibanez' flat fast action fingerboard, but want a standard scale one in the sub $200 price range, then you should get the GSR200.

Dean Custom Zone Bass

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 125+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$229
Dean Custom Zone Bass Bass Guitar

I was about to write this one off as just another flashy looking toy, but the specs and reviews told me otherwise. While the sharp colorful finish options are really what make this bass stand out, the guitar's tried and tested specs also deserve special mention.

While it does look different, everything else about this bass follows classic specifications. From its standard scale length of 34", nut width of 1.5" and fingerboard radius of 9.5", to the single P style split-single coil pickup. Still, Dean must have executed the simple design of this bass really well for it to gain quite the popularity and positive ratings in the entry level market that it has. Available finishes include Nuclear Green, Yellow and Fluorescent Pink.

Features:

  • Body: Basswood
  • Neck: Maple
  • Neck Profile: C
  • Fingerboard: Maple (painted)
  • Scale Length: 34"
  • Nut Width: 1.5"
  • Fingerboard Radius: 9.5"
  • Frets: 20
  • Bridge Pickup: DMT Design P Style
  • Controls: Master Tone, Volume 1 and Volume 2
  • Bridge: Diecast bridge
  • Tuners: Sealed Diecast
  • Weight: 9.8 lbs.

Pros

Many of the users who bought this bass were attracted to the instrument because of its fancy colors, but the reviews show that they got more than just eye candy. The general consensus is that this bass is a great looking and great sounding instrument, considering the price. There were even experienced players who found the quality surprising enough to write up a good review, and this sentiment is shared by YouTube gear reviewers as well. Having said all that, it is still the color that got the most compliments, both from the reviewers and from their friends and audiences.

Cons

Fret buzz out of the box was reported a few times by more experienced players, thankfully these same people were able to make the adjustments to get the action just right. Tuning stability was also raised by a few users, who said that while they are usable, they will probably switch out the machine heads for something better.

Overall

If your budget is limited and you want a colorful bass that literally and visually stands out from crowd, then this is your best bet.

Gretsch G2220 II Junior 4-String Bass Guitar

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 80+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$300
Gretsch G2220 Junior

The Gretsch G2220 II Junior is a short-scale bass guitar, with 30.3" scale length, ideal for students of the instrument and for those who are looking for a bass guitar that's smaller and easier to play. It sports a single-cutaway basswood body that follows their "Jet" profile, only this one is a bit more compact.

Another distinct feature of this bass guitar is its two mini-humbucker pickups, which gives it a distinct tone that complements the slackier sound of its strings. Everything else is straightforward, including its volume and tone knob, and pickup selector.

Features:

  • Body: Basswood
  • Neck: Maple
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Scale Length: 30.3"
  • Fingerboard Radius: 12"
  • Frets: 20 Medium Jumbo
  • Middle Pickup: Mini-Humbucker
  • Bridge Pickup: Mini-Humbucker
  • Controls: Master Tone, Master Volume, Pickup Selector
  • Bridge: Standard 4-saddle Bridge
  • Tuners: Chrome Die-cast Tuners
  • Weight: 8.375 lbs.

Pros

It gets a lot of thumbs up for its easy playability, many of which are from guitar players who are happy with the minimal adjustment required to play this bass. It's straightforward operation is also well received, along with its simple yet pleasing aesthetics. Many of the positive comments are from non-bassists who want to add the bass guitar into their tool kit.

Cons

There are some comments about the quality of the string that it ships with, but those who replaced the strings report dramatic improvement. There are also a few who complained about hardware issues like loose output jack.

Overall

If you're looking for a nice looking short scale bass to add to your tool kit, then check out the Gretsch G2220 II Junior.

Things to Consider When Buying a Cheap Bass Guitar

  • Body Shape, Finish and Weight

    Having a bass guitar that appeals to your eyes can spell the difference between forced and inspired practice, so it is important to get the look you prefer - right at the start. Bass guitars are also notorious for being hefty and heavy so if you're getting one for a child you'll want one that you they can comfortably carry around.

  • Playability

    There are multiple factors that dictate playability for bass guitars, one of which is Scale Length, it is basically the distance that your strings are stretched out, and as such it indicates the tension of the strings. The most common scale length for bass is 34", because it has just the right balance of tension and tone. Other basses can have a scale length that is as short as 30", which significantly reduces string tension, ideal for young players or for those who want an instrument that's smaller and easier to play.

    Fingerboard Radius, which indicates the curvature or flatness of the fingerboard, is an important playability specification that you should look at. Although the fret board may look basically flat at first glance most of them are actually curved outwards. Higher radius fingerboards are closer to being flat. Ibanez is known for their 12" fingerboard radius which is one of the flattest, while traditional bases have a lower radius that results in more curve. Flatter 12” and up fingerboards are ideal for beginners and younger players. The Nut Width tells you how far apart the strings are spaced, the narrower the nut width is, the easier it is for smaller hands to reach each string. The Neck Profile describes the shape of the back of the neck, the thinner and flatter, the easier it is to play, but there are some who prefer fatter necks for better grip. A bass guitar with a good cutaway at the neck joint allows for easier access to the upper frets.

    String Action refers to the height of strings above the fretboard. It's a specification that's not always directly given by the manufacturer because it can vary for each instrument. Beginners will want those with low action, but not too low to avoid "fret buzz", which means that the vibration of your string is hitting the frets. Some buyers report "fret buzz" in new bass guitars and although this can be annoying it can be fixed by raising the action. There are those who prefer slightly raised action for better intonation control of each note as you press the strings, and better overall string resonance as well.

  • Pickups

    Being an electric instrument, pickups dictate most of the instrument's resulting sound. Single Coil pickups are the most common, because of their crisp and detailed sound which reproduces classic bass tones as heard on countless tracks from the past. Split-Single Coil pickups are often labelled as "P" style pickups since they were first used in Fender's Precision bass. The other popular pickup type is called the "J" style, which is short for Jazz bass pickups that have two magnetic poles assigned per string. Humbuckers generally sound warmer and fatter, and are widely used for modern rock and metal. If you don't have experience or a particular preference yet, then just go for the pickup configuration used by your favorite bassists.

    Most of the basses in this price range have Passive pickups and electronics, which means they do not require a battery and have limited tone shaping options. Those with Active pickups and electronics allow for more tone shaping but require a 9V battery to properly function.

Cheap Bass Guitar Selection Methodology

This guide was first published on Sep. 20, 2016 and last updated on Feb. 14, 2019.

To streamline the list, we only feature sub $300 bass guitars with standard 4-string setup. We also limited our scope to those with fretted fingerboards and magnetic pickups. And to make the resulting list useful, we only consider bass guitars that can readily be bought from major gear retailers in the US.

For this February 2019 update, we gathered the most recent reviews, ratings, recommendations, and discussions about the basses that met our criteria - amounting to over 3,900 review and rating sources. All these data are then processed by our Gearank Algorithm to produce a score out of 100 for each one, which helped us narrow down the list to just the cream of the crop. For more information about this process please read How Gearank Works.

Comments

Your demo video on the Toby

Your demo video on the Toby is almost useless, I play bass, not guitar, and your demonstrater seems more interested in pretending he's playing a guitar. That doesn't help me, if I want to sound like a guitarist, I'll plug in a Les Paul.

If you watch the video all

If you watch the video all the way through you'll see that he demonstrates traditional styles as well as the style of play you didn't like - the main thing is that it does demonstrate the different tones you can get from the Epiphone Toby Deluxe IV.

So the editor's pick of the

So the editor's pick of the best sub<$300 bass is the bass listed for $400. Fantastic journalistic practices. That's one way to completely ruin an otherwise very good and highly useful comparison review.

The "Editor's Pick" is an

The "Editor's Pick" is an item which we described as "This is where we sometimes present additional options which didn't quite fit into our list above but which you may also find interesting and useful."

But I can see how people would be confused if they didn't read that, so I've changed the title of the section to "Additional Option".

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