Table of Contents
Seeking to satisfy a craving for premium quality at a bargain price? Intense desire to get a top-tier bass guitar model? A timeless beast that will keep you locked in and your band swinging?
When it comes to high-quality bass guitars, you’ll need significant wallets, but that’s to be expected. You’ll have to sort through a dizzying array of excellent instruments that are all vying for your time and money before you can make a decision.
Should you think big picture or small? Whether you prefer vintage or modern furniture, we have you covered. What role do you play? Is it better to have four or five strings? Or six? We recognise how difficult this decision may seem and are here to provide us assistance. Here we’ll share our thoughts on seven of the top high-end bass guitars currently available.
BEST HIGH-END BASS GUITARS: PRODUCT GUIDE
1. Fender American Ultra Jazz Bass Guitar
- 4-string Electric Bass with Alder Body
- 2 Single-coil Pickups
- Active Electronics – Texas Tea
- Maple Fingerboard
- Maple Neck
|Item Dimensions LxWxH
|42 x 16 x 6 inches
|Top Material Type
|Maple Wood, Rosewood, Alder Wood
|Back Material Type
|Number of Strings
The Fender American Ultra Jazz Bass embodies the spirit of innovation, evolution and inspiration. Its modern design and comfortable, rounded neck combine to deliver supreme comfort and easy access to the upper register. Its two-piece headstock features a unique sculpted heel for maximum comfort and easy playability.
The Fender American Ultra Jazz Bass is a versatile and affordable Jazz bass. It has vintage-paddle tuning machines and a bone nut. It also includes a premium molded hardshell case. All these features add to the overall sound of the instrument. In addition, it features a variety of hardware, making it a great choice for any bassist.
The American Ultra Jazz Bass guitar is Fender’s most technologically advanced bass. It features a Modern D neck profile with a tapered heel and a 10″-14″ compound-radius fingerboard with 21 medium jumbo frets. The Ultra Jazz Bass also features Ultra Noiseless(tm) Vintage pickups and a redesigned preamp. It also features a sculpted rear body contour.
The Fender American Ultra Jazz Bass is an excellent choice for beginning bassists. Its lightweight design and acoustic tone make it a popular choice. Its noise-free pickups eliminate annoying buzzing when wound down. The bass’s two-tone controls also let you choose between passive and midrange tones.
2. Warwick Masterbuilt Streamer Stage 1 4 Bass Guitar
- Pickups: Active MEC P/J pickups with brushed Metal Cover
- Electronics: Active Warwick 3-way electronics with rechargeable Lithium Battery
- Pot layout: Volume (P/P) / Balance / Mid / Treble and Bass stacked
- Bridge system: 2-piece solid Brass Warwick Bridge
- Strap system: Warwick security locks
- Construction: Neck-through
- Color Possibilities Righthand: Natural Oil Finish, Transparent Satin or High Polish Finish
- Color Possibilities Lefthand: Natural Oil Finish, Transparent Satin or High Polish Finish
- Hardware colour: Gold hardware
- Weight: Warwick basses are crafted using only the highest quality sustainably grown woods from multiple species and origins. Due to the organic nature of wood, the density of individual pieces may vary. It is not possible to advertise the exact weight of the instrument.
|Graph Tech Ratio Machine Heads with wooden pegs
|Just-A-Nut III Brass
|Wenge neck with Ekanga veneer stripes, 3 laminations
|Wenge fingerboard (fretted), Tigerstripe Ebony fingerboard (fretless)
|Fluorescent Side Dot
|Fluorescent Side Dots
|34″ / 864 mm (long scale)
|38,5 mm / 1.5″
|Width 12th fret
|54,0 mm / 2.1″
|Width 24th fret
|62,1 mm / 2.4″
|Fret quantity of material and size
|24 Jumbo Bronze (extra hard) frets (width: 2.9 mm / height: 1.3 mm)
|IFT – Invisible Fretwork Technology
|Curved Body shape
|Body wood (Top wood / Backwood)
|AAA Flamed Maple body
The Warwick Masterbuilt Streamer Stage I guitar has a black korina body, flame maple neck and pau ferro fretboard. It also features passive Bartolini soapbar pickups and an active MEC 3-band preamp with volume, balance and stacked treble controls. It also comes with a heavy-duty RockBag Warwick handmade leather gig bag.
Want to hear what a Streamer Stage 1 sounds like in the hands of a gifted player? Then listen to Stuart Zender laying down some masterful grooves on early Jamiroquai tracks. Since its inception in the ’80s, it’s always been a favorite with the funk and slap fraternity, but it can do heavy too, as Robert Trujillo continues to prove with Metallica (albeit with EMG pups).
This particular Streamer is plucked from Warwick’s top-end Masterbuilt series, which means it’s drop dead gorgeous. Its AAA flamed maple top is mated to a thin, three-piece wenge neck, with a wenge fingerboard that’s wearing 24 highly polished, jumbo bronze frets. Hardware is high-mass, gold-plated brass. Stunning.
Active MEC P/J pickups and three-way EQ lend it awesome tone and formidable versatility. Hate searching around for 9v batteries? Us too. Well, fret no more because this Streamer comes with a rechargeable lithium battery and USB charge port.
All that maple makes this a relatively lightweight bass with additional clarity in the mid-range and highs, which gives it a tone that’s particularly punchy and clear. If, however, you’re looking for more warmth, seek out a Stage 1 or Stage 2 made from alternative tonewoods – there’s plenty of choice.
3. Marleaux Consat Signature 5 Walnut bass guitar
- Body: Alder
- Top: Walnut
- 3-Piece neck: Maple
- Fingerboard: Ebony
- Long scale
- 24 Frets
- 2x Delano Timesquare pickups
- 2x Pickup coil circuit: serial, parallel, single coil split
- Marleaux EQ Votan (2-band active/passive, passive treble cut-off)
- Schaller machine heads
- Chrome hardware
- Colour: Natural
Gerald Marleaux, a world-class bass luthier from Germany, designs a wide range of instruments that blend the highest degrees of form and function. His Signature range includes 6-string basses, 5-string basses, and 4-string basses. The Consat Signature is a luxury version of Marleaux’s flagship Consat model. The Signature model features a three or five-piece birdseye maple neck with ebony-stripes.
The Marleaux Consat Signature 5 Walnut guitar has an all-walnut body and features a solid Mahogany body with a Blackwood fingerboard. It also has a 5 Piece Maple neck and a Custom Wood Rear Access Plate and Battery Cover. The instrument also comes with a Deluxe Gig Bag. This is a high-quality guitar with a classic look. Its premium features include an excellent sound, an easy to play neck and a beautiful case.
4. Ernie Ball Music Man StingRay 5 HH Bass Guitar
- 2 Humbucking Pickups – Frost Green Pearl
- 5-string Electric Bass with Ash Body
- Maple Neck Fingerboard
|Ernie Ball Music Man
|Frost Green Pearl
|Item Dimensions LxWxH
|52 x 18 x 8 inches
|Top Material Type
|Ash Wood, Maple
|Back Material Type
|Number of Strings
The Ernie Ball Music Man StingRay Special is a neodymium-magnet pickup bass that’s light, playable, and slick. This instrument’s sculpted neck joint and enhanced contour allow for effortless upper-fret access. It features an 18-volt active preamp with 3-band EQ. The StingRay 5 HH is currently backordered, but you can reserve one.
The Ernie Ball Music Man StingRay Special has a maple-neck, a rosewood fingerboard, and a special wax finish. The bass weighs just eight and a half pounds, yet packs a big punch. Its lightweight design creates a more balanced neck and provides ultra-reliable tuning stability.
The StingRay was first released in 1976, and it was the first production-model four-string bass with an active equalizer. For the 2021 model, the company is introducing a Smoked Chrome finish. It also features two custom-wound Music Man humbuckers, a roasted maple neck, and three-band EQ controls.
5. Hofner 500/1 Vintage Violin Electric Bass Guitar
- Maple-beech-maple neck
- Rosewood fretboard with 22 frets
- Mother-of-pearl dots
- Scale: 30″ (76cm)
- Neck width at nut: 1-5/8″ (42mm)
- Machine heads: Hofner 61/73B (4 individual)
- Hofner 72/20B ebony bridge with movable metal saddles for perfect intonation and string spacing
- Hofner 62/30 trapeze brass tailpiece
- Hofner 65/36-P floating pearl celluloid pickguard
- 2 Hofner 511B “Staple” humbucking pickups
- Hofner A2-B control panel with 2 volume controls, 2 on/off switches, and rhythm/solo switch for volume boost
- Nickel-plated hardware
- Antique-brown sunburst finish
|Black / White / Black
The Hofner 500/1 was a German-made electric bass guitar manufactured from the 1960s through to the 1980s. The ‘Mersey’ has been described as an iconic instrument that is still played today, but with a different tuning system. The ‘Mersey’ was invented by Edward Hofner and his son, Otto Hofner. It was made in the USA and Germany during the time of Hitler’s regime.
This model is based on the one that was produced for Paul in 1963, and is handcrafted in Germany. It has a flame maple neck, spruce top, maple back and sides, and that classic early Beatles sound in spades. Those of you with keen ears may have noted that the middle pickup is now closer to the bridge, which changes the bass’s tone slightly from Paul’s ’61 bass.
It’s a must-have for every Beatle fan, but if this bass guitar is going to be your only one, you might want to seek elsewhere. Similarly to when Paul switched to his Rickenbacker in 1965.
6. Rickenbacker 4003
- Double Cutaway Maple Body
- 33.25″ Scale Maple Neck w/ Rosewood Fingerboard
- Dual Single-Coil Pickups
- RIC Bridge, Schaller Deluxe Open-Gear Tuners
- Includes Hardshell Case
|Right / Left Handed
|Number of Strings
|Number of Frets
The Rickenbacker 4003 is a bass guitar, manufactured in the early 1950s by Rickenbacker. It is the second best-selling electric bass guitar of all time. It’s true that there’s some room for experimentation; after all, Macca got his very identical 4001 to produce some gorgeously soothing sounds during the late Beatles era. However, most guitarists choose a Ricky because of the guitar’s bold, aggressive neck pickup, which is characterised by a punchy, treble-prominent clarity. Anyone from Geddy Lee to Chris Squire have that tone in abundance.
With Rickenbacker 4003, bass guitarists can play without a pick and learn the hard way. The instrument is a bit more difficult to play than you think. The range of styles that this bass can cover is impressive, including rock, progressive rock, punk, indie, heavy metal, and extreme metal. It appears to be an instrument with a wide range of applications.
Rickenbacker 4003 bass guitar was the first electric bass guitar. It is a great instrument for beginners and it has excellent sound quality. The 4003 has been made in large numbers since the 1950s, but it is still very popular today.
7. PRS Grainger 5-String Bass Guitar
- Designed by PRS and Gary Grainger
- A gorgeous-looking bass guitar with impeccable sonics and playability
- Mahogany body with figured maple 10-Top delivers deep tones with punch and clarity
- Active/passive pickups and electronics are ready for any live gig or studio session
- Shape your tones with active 3-band EQ
- 18V active electronics provide optimized headroom
- Functions passively without batteries
|Number of Frets
The PRS 5-string bass guitar is a great instrument to play. It has a beautiful sound and the pickups are very sensitive. When you play it, you will feel the strings vibrating in the body of the instrument. The PRS 5-string bass guitar has been used in many famous bands such as Queen, Pink Floyd and Fleetwood Mac.
PRS 5-string bass guitar has been a favourite of many musicians and collectors for many years. The reason is that it’s a great instrument, with a warm and smooth tone, which is very versatile. Gary Grainger, a frequent collaborator of John Scofield’s, created the Grainger, which bears all the hallmarks of a PRS guitar. The Grainger also benefited from the expertise of Wyzard (Mother’s Finest) and Kevin Walker (Justin Timberlake). Surely Paul Reed Smith contributed as well.
The PRS 5-String Bass Guitar is designed to be used as both a stage instrument and as an accompaniment to the classical guitar.
OUR BUYING ADVICE
A high-end bass is as close as the satisfying ‘ka-ching!’ of a cash register if you’re lucky enough to have a wad of bills burning a hole in your pocket. The most likely scenario is a virtual one, but such exist, right?
At some point during the research phase, you may realise that having more cash on hand means more alternatives, which is great, but can also lead to agonising indecision as you try to make sense of everything.
Don’t worry; we’ll simplify the process of shopping for a bass for you.
Factory-built vs custom shop vs single luthier
Instead of playing a mass-produced bass, why not have a one-of-a-kind creation made just for you by a skilled luthier?
With only a few clicks of your mouse, you can get the contact information for dozens, if not hundreds, of luthiers who would be happy to make you a beautiful bass. Not all of them will be household names, but those who are will have impressive bodies of work to their credit. Hiring the former will likely need a significant time commitment (months to years), while the latter carries a degree of uncertainty.
One common complaint about independent luthier shops is that they don’t stock nearly as many varieties of high-quality tonewood as major manufacturers like Fender. There is a lack of purchasing power and a dearth of storage space.
For these reasons, we decided to leave out information relevant to extremely localised construction projects. It’s not that they don’t make great instruments; many of them do.
You might also expect a long wait time if you order a single luthier-built custom shop bass from a larger brand, but at least you’ll be working with a well-known business with more resources and (hopefully) clearer channels of contact. Most well-known custom shops also provide ready-to-sell, team-built stock that you may purchase from the shelf or from your friendly local dealer.
The Hofner 500/1 Vintage ‘Mersey’ Violin Electric Bass Guitar and the Warwick Masterbuilt Streamer Stage 1 4 are just two examples of the team-built custom shop bass guitars we highlight in this book.
Although it costs $6,600/£5,699, one of our favourite basses is the Emperor 5 Standard, which is actually a part of Fodera’s Standard range and not the company’s custom shop. It is constructed to the same demanding standards as any other custom shop bass; however, Fodera has opted to take the quality of its bespoke models to a whole new level.
The modern-looking Jazz Bass Ultra is the apex of Fender’s mainline build, sitting just below the custom shop models. It’s not unique and it doesn’t have a logo from a fancy custom shop, but the specs are high and the construction is solid. In fact, it’s so good that we’d pick it above some of the more expensive bass guitars here if we needed something for a fast-paced recording session.
A $/£2,000 bass, whether made in a custom shop or not, should be in perfect condition.
Vintage vs contemporary
Owning a Ricky 4000 series bass or a Hofner in the style of Macca Fender creates a certain kind of magic. Whether it’s the retro feel or the comfort of playing a straightforward instrument, there’s something captivating about these original reissues.
The advent of active electronics and a fifth or sixth string, however, has made bass guitars significantly more versatile in recent decades.
Even classics like the Fender Jazz and Music Man StingRay have been updated to fit in with today’s bass guitar styles. If you’re a diehard Beatles fan and don’t play much else, the Hofner is a great choice, but if it’s going to be your sole bass, a more versatile instrument like a Fender or PRS would be better.
How many strings you should have in your bass guitar?
Perhaps the greatest bassist of all time, Jaco Pastorius, used a beat up vintage ’62 Jazz bass with only four strings and seemed completely unfazed by it. Unfortunately, musical tastes have evolved since his untimely demise in the late ’80s, and many modern metal guitarists prefer five or six strings to achieve the low, heavy rumble they so desperately want.
They are not alone, though, as funk and jazz musicians are now beginning to recognise the benefits of a low B string. We believe that if you are going to spend a lot of money on a bass, you should consider getting one with five strings. The number six is a good option for metal fans.
Bass guitars often use the same common tonewoods used in electric guitars. Popular neck woods include maple, and fingerboard materials include maple, rosewood, and ebony. Bodys made from alder and ash are prized for their even tone, while those made from mahogany are commonly topped with maple to boost the highs.
Expensive bass guitars in the $2,000-£2,000 price range will have tonewoods that are straight-grained and of high quality, without any obvious flaws. Spending a little more will get you a guitar with a gorgeous AAA maple tiger-stripe top and a highly ornamental neck. If you’re willing to shell out a hefty sum, you’ll have your pick of exotic woods like Walnut and African Dibetou.
Keep in mind that the aesthetic value of a pricey block of burl wood is not necessarily reflected in the instrument’s tonal quality or its ease of play. Prioritize the neck, electrics, and hardware with the money you have available before going crazy with ornate figuring.