Bass on a Budget: 12 Basses Under $500

We see and cover a ton of basses here at No Treble (I know, tough life). And while the features are often as varied as they get, they also vary wildly on price.

Many basses today are topping the $5,000 mark. Some by a lot. We hear more about price from readers when the basses hit these upper ranges than about the features.

But there have been plenty released in 2012 with street prices under $500 too. So we decided to take a look back at these low cost basses — all at once.

This is not a “best bass under $500” list – we don’t like those lists much anyway. We’ll leave that up to you decide.

Of course, if you have any experience or feedback on any of these basses, we always love hearing from you. Just drop a note in the comments.

Boulder Creek JB and RB Series Electric Basses

Street prices: $489 to $499

Boulder Creek JB Series 5-string Bass

Boulder Creek launched two new lines of electric basses at the 2012 Winter NAMM show with the introduction of the JB and RD series of basses.

The two models are aimed at jazz and rock styles, respectively. This new line of solid body basses is a first for Boulder Creek, who is known for their acoustic basses.

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Traveler Guitar Ultra-Light Bass

Street Price: $399

Traveler Guitar Ultra-Light Bass (front view)

New for 2012 is the Traveler Ultra-Light Bass, an extremely lightweight and compact bass guitar. The whole instrument measures 33 3/4? in length and weighs in at a mere three pounds, 6.5 ounces. Built from a solid piece of Eastern American Hard Maple, the Ultra-Light Bass features a removable metal lap-rest and a built in thumb rest for comfort. It also has a custom piezo pickup for plugging in.

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Jackson X-Series Dave Ellefson Signature Basses

Street prices: $400 – $500

Jackson David Ellefson Signature CB-X Bass

Jackson unveiled two new Dave Ellefson signature basses at the 2012 Winter NAMM show as part of their X-Series. The Ellefson signature basses are offered in two models: the David Ellefson CB-X 4-string and the David Ellefson CB-XV 5-string.

The CB-X is a four-string with dual humbucking EMG pickups with an alder Concert Bass body. The CB-XV Bass offers the same features of the CB-X, in a 5-string bass.

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Kala’s Five New U-Basses for 2012

Street Price: $450
Kala uBass

Kala increased their U-Bass lineup with the addition of five new models of the 21? scale basses. The new models include Sunburst, Gloss Black, Solid Spruce Top HH (Hutch Hutchinson Model), Spalted Maple, and Exotic Mahogany. The Sunburst, Gloss Black, and Solid Spruce Top HH basses all feature solid spruce tops with mahogany back and sides.

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Höfner Shorty Bass Reissue

Street Price: $278.00
Höfner Shorty Bass Reissue

Earlier this year, Höfner reintroduced the Shorty Bass, a model they ran in the 1980’s featuring an extremely short scale and body. The updated version bumps the scale up from 28? to 30? for easier playability, as well as utilizing better string spacing, similar to that found on their trademark Violin Bass.

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Squier Mikey Way Signature Mustang Bass

Street Price: $299

Squier Announces Mikey Way Signature Mustang Bass

Squier’s latest in their Artist Model Series is the Mikey Way Signature Mustang Bass, a short-scale bass made with input by the Chemical Romance bassist. The bass takes on the class Mustang features and adds some flair, with a large-flake Silver Sparkle finish with black racing stripes, with a black headstock with a silver Squier logo on the front, and Way’s signature on the back.

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Ibanez SGBE Acoustic Series Basses

Street Price: $299

Ibanez SGBE110VS Acoustic Bass

Ibanez SGBE announced a new SGBE series of acoustic bass guitars this year, available in natural and sunburst finishes. Also fit for electric sets, the basses feature under-saddle piezo pickups and Ibanez’s AEQ202T Preamp with a 2-band EQ as well as an onboard tuner.

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Eastwood Stormbird Bass

Street Price: $469

Eastwood Stormbird Bass

Eastwood has issued the Stormbird, a bass with vintage-vibe and a Metallic Blue finish that conjures images of surf rock. The 34? scale bass sports a basswood body, set maple neck, and a rosewood fingerboard. The Stormbird is equipped with a pair of humbuckers with a three-way selector switch, and volume and tone controls for dialing in your tone.

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Michael Kelly Sojourn 4 Acoustic Travel Bass

Street Price: $349.99

Michael Kelly Guitars: Sojourn 4 Travel Bass

Michael Kelly unveiled the Sojourn 4 Travel Bass earlier this year. The compact acoustic bass guitar offers up a travel-friendly 24.5? scale and features a solid Englemann Spruce top. The company says the bass has a big sound for such a little bass. The Sojourn 4 comes equipped with a B-Band 22R UST (under saddle transducer) and B-Band A1.2 preamp.

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Epiphone Thunderbird Classic-IV PRO Basses

Street Price: $499
Epiphone Thunderbird Classic-IV PRO VS - Vintage Sunburst

Epiphone is unveiling a new version of a classic with the Thunderbird Classic-IV PRO. The bass is set apart from its siblings by being equipped with a pair of Gibson TB Plus Humbucking pickups featuring ceramic magnets, which the company says produce “high gain, smooth tone and high-end definition.”

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Höfner Ignition Series Club Bass

Street Price: $399

Hofner Ignition Series Club Bass

Höfner has expanded their Ignition series with a new version of their Club Bass. First introduced in 1965, the Club Bass is is a hollow body, single-cut design, and the new Ignition model provides a cost-effective version for vintage bass lovers.

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Ibanez Fretless SR Bass Models

Street Prices: $399 and $449

Ibanez SR370F Fretless SR Bass

Ibanez is now offering fretless versions of their SR370 and SR375 models. Aimed at providing fretless basses at a cost-effect price point, the company chose to start with the SR370 due to its maple body which they explain lends itself seamlessly to a fretless version. The SR370F and SR375F are 4- and 5-string basses, respectively, and are built with slim 5-piece maple/rosewood necks with rosewood fingerboards.

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Share your thoughts

  1. Stagg is actually a decent brand of bass, I bought a 5 string music man copy and man I love that thing!

  2. Everyone is hating on the Mikey Way Signature Bass, but I have one. It sounds awesome. Feels awesome. Mhm.

  3. Squier jaguar short scale is the one! Easy to play, good sound, perfect for vintages rock

  4. That Boulder Creek looks interesting. I like the Stang too, 30″ basses are a riot to play and they have their place. A good source in the under 5 bills department is They have a pretty good selection of affordable basses that actually play pretty nice.

  5. Oh yeah this is definitely not a best bass under 500 dollar list.

  6. No Mexican jazz bass? Also this is not the squier I would have chose by a long shot! Honorable mention should go to the Ibenez sdx line. Diddint know jackson still made bass guitars will have to look into that one

  7. My roommate has a mexican squier jazz and it’s awesome! He originally bought it as a temp bass but it plays and sounds just as good as the current american jazz basses so he’ll keep it (after replacing some of the cheap hardware).

  8. When you say bass on a budget I don’t think $500… You can get some decent sounding basses for around 300.

    • “Budget” is a subjective term, for sure. But it was also the limit for this article (there are a few $300-range in the list).

  9. I’m really surprised you don’t list the Peavey Grind series of basses – these are some of the best sub-$500 basses on the market today. Great tone, awesome feel, smooth action, and a killer look – these things are made to be played and played often. Definitely do not overlook em!

  10. now this is what I call a usefull article! although I’m not planning to buy in this price range, I love it! thanks! :)

  11. I knewer knew eastwood still existed.

  12. awesome list! The Fret less Ibanez is something I’m definitely looking into.

  13. I was looking at getting one of those Traveler Ultra-Lights, but for now I’m saving money for studio gear. All my basses are cheap. My main bass is my Ibanez SR305, which I paid $450 for, if I recall correctly. It plays well and sounds good, and has the nice slim neck I like. Sure, I could pay twice as much for a bass, but I wouldn’t be getting a 100% improvement, so paying 100% more just doesn’t make sense, and paying $thousands for cosmetics is just ludicrous.

  14. Where do they sell the hofner left-handed ignition club bass, I have looked for it but with no results at all.

  15. Ibanez is one of the best ways to go for price and quality, its like buying a Honda, runs forever and easy to fix. I have a $300 6 string bass and I love it, my Hofner is 400 and is amazing for the price.

  16. Mmmmmmm….. Ubass…….

  17. OLP by Music Man is really good value for the money, if you can find one. Unfortunately they stopped making them in 2009. Too narrow profit margin?

    • I have an OLP Tony Levin signature 5 string and I wouldn’t trade it for the world, especially with a basslines pick-up installed instead of stock.

  18. Brian McElroy

    I assume that the $500 threshold is based on MSRP. The reason I say this is that I’ve seen many basses at certain retailers selling below MSRP that result in a price of $500 or less.