Bass on a Budget: 14 Basses Under $500

Last year around this time, we published Bass on a Budget: 12 Basses Under $500 – a roundup of basses released through the first half of 2012, with a street price of $500 or less.

Time to do it again. Here are 14 basses we’ve covered in the year since then with price tags of $500 or less.

As we said last time: 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.

Sterling by Music Man S.U.B. Series

Sterling By Music Man S.U.B. Ray4 Bass

Sterling by Music Man’s S.U.B. line of basses are designed to make Music Man designs available at more affordable pricing. The line includes the Ray4 and Ray5, which are cousins to the Music Man Stingray 4 and 5 basses.

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Squier Vintage Modified Telecaster Bass and Telecaster Bass Special

Squier Vintage Modified Telecaster Bass

Squier beefed up their Vintage Modified series last year with the introduction of the Vintage Modified Telecaster Bass and the Vintage Modified Telecaster Bass Special. The new models feature classic body and headstock shapes as well as a medium 32? scale.

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Epiphone Tobias-Designed Toby Deluxe-V Bass Guitar

Epiphone Toby Deluxe-V Bass

Epiphone’s Toby Deluxe-V is a 5-string version of the bass originally designed by Michael Tobias. The instrument shares many of the same features of the last year’s reintroduced Toby Deluxe IV, including an asymmetrical neck profile, Tobias SCR and SCT split humbucker pickups, and the Active Tonexpressor Bass Enhancement control.

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Ibanez SR256 6-String Bass

Ibanez SR256 6-String Bass

Ibanez’s SR series got a little bigger with the addition of the SR256PW, a 6-string bass with active electronics and a price most can reach. Offered in Pearl White, the bass is built with a mahogany body and a bolt-on 3-piece maple neck. The rosewood fingerboard has pearl dot inlays as position markers.

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Jackson JS2 Kelly Bird IV Bass

Jackson JS2 Kelly Bird IV

David Ellefson developed the Kelly Bird basses with Jackson to combine the elements of a classic bass style he sported during Megadeth’s “Countdown to Extinction” tour with the company’s Kelly guitar model. Jackson introduced them as part of their JS Series. Available in Burnt Cherry Sunburst and Matte Black finishes, the Jackson JS2 Kelly Bird IV is built with a basswood body, bolt-on maple neck, and a 21-fret rosewood fingerboard with block inlays. The fingerboard also features Jackson’s compound radius.

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Vox Apache Series Bass Guitars

Vox Apache I Bass - 3-tone sunburst

Vox expanded their bass lineup in 2012 with the Apache series of basses, which pick up where their predecessors from the ’60s left off. The new travel instruments are separated by body shape, as the Apache 1 Bass features Vox’s classic Teardrop shape while the Apache 2 Bass features their Phantom body style.

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Squier Chris Aiken Signature Precision Bass

Squier Chris Aiken Signature Precision Bass

Squier introduced the Chris Aiken Signature Precision Bass in October, which the Strung Out bassist helped design. Finished in white, the bass has a mirrored acrylic pickguard and white binding and pearloid block inlays in the 20-fret maple fingerboard. The pickup is a Duncan Designed PB-105 which is controlled with a single volume knob. Aiken’s signature and Strung Out’s “Astrolux” logo are on the headstock.

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Ibanez IJXB150B Jumpstart Electric Bass Package

Ibanez IJXB150B Jumpstart Electric Bass Package

Ibanez has everything covered for a beginner with their IJXB150B Jumpstart Bass Package. The package includes a GSR190 bass, bass amp, gig bag, tuner, stand, cable, accessories pouch and a card good for online lessons.

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Ibanez 5-String Mikro Bass

Ibanez 5-String Mikro Bass

Ibanez expanded their GSR Mikro bass with the addition of this 5-string model late last year. Sporting a 28.6? scale, the company explains the GSRM25 is perfectly suited for young students as well as adult players who prefer a short scale.

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Dean Edge Basses with EMG Pickups

Dean Edge 4 Bass with EMG's

Dean introduced a new variant of their flagship Edge series of basses at the 2013 Winter NAMM show. The new Edge 4 bass distinguishes itself from the pack with upgraded electronics including a pair of active EMG pickups.

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Jackson Dave Ellefson Signature Kelly Bird Bass

Jackson Dave Ellefson Signature Kelly Bird Bass

Jackson expanded on the Kelly Bird basses with a signature model for the guy who helped design them, David Ellefson. The 4-string signature bass stands out with the Megadeth bassist’s signature red pinstripe finish over its modern body shape.

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ESP LTD FB-204 to Frank Bello Signature Series

ESP Frank Bello LTD FB-204 Signature Bass

ESP’s Frank Bello LTD Signature line of basses got a new addition in March with the announcement of the FB-204. The FB-204 is an entry level model with bolt-on construction and a black satin finish to suit the Anthrax bassist’s style.

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Epiphone Limited Edition TV Pelham Blue Bass Collection

Epiphone Limited Edition TV Pelham Blue EB-3 Bass

Back in April, Epiphone is paid tribute to the old school with a limited edition of six of their models in TV Pelham Blue, a color finish that was first introduced in the ’60s. The color was offered as a custom option in its heyday and as such is rare to find on vintage instruments.

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Squier Affinity Series Precision Bass PJ Model

Squier Affinity Series PJ Bass

Squier added to their Affinity Series this year with a new Precision Bass PJ model. Building on a traditional P-bass style, the new bass includes a single-coil Jazz Bass pickup in the bridge position for further tonal variety. Other new features include a two-color headstock logo and a three-ply black/white/black pickguard.

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  1. I reckon Ibanez ATK should get a mention.

    • According to the information we got at the time we published the article, those basses were announced at $700 – $750 range, so out of the price range of this group.

    • that would be ATK800. ATK200 or 205 is definitely below $500. Anyway, impossible to include everything, there’s so much stuff right now. Still, three Ibanez SRs, two Jackson Kellys, three Squiers…

    • Gotcha. Looks like the ATK200 was 2010 or 2011, and not in this timeframe. We could have missed some, to be sure, but these are the ones we covered since last June.

    • fair enough, the article clearly states so at the beginning.

  2. The fact that the Squier Vintage Modified Jazz basses aren’t on this list is a shame. And I wouldn’t wish those Ibanez Jumpstart basses on worst enemy.

    • It is a shame, as they kill. I can understand your new 5 ONLY because it MSRP’s for 530 bucks, but at least that really sweet Chris Aiken model is up there….but yeah, there’s a whole buncha toilet-filler on that list. How can I take this list seriously when there’s a bundle pack bass on the list? And those Epiphone Tobys are a true sacrilege to the namesake.

    • Perhaps they were on last- years list? Or because they came out before 2012?

    • The Squier Vintage Modified Jazz came out in 2011, as far as I know. This list covers basses announced over the last 12 months.

    • I bought my first VMJ in 2010. I would go farther and say it should be on a list for basses under $1000.

  3. This is ridiculous! The Fodera Monarch Standard should easily be top of the list! This is absolutely disgus-….. oh no wait, I didn’t actually read the article. Maybe I should go do that first. Yeah.

  4. The Sterling SUB is a decent sounding bass but, in that price range, I bought the Squire VM Jaguar bass (not the special), which IMO has a wider tonal range, an overall better feel and killer looks.

    • How bad can be a SUB Ray 4? Isn’t it same pickup, bridge and wood used on the Sterling Ray 4? I have a Sterling Ray 4 and it is a great bass. If the SUB had a fretless version I would probably own one.

  5. I have the Squier Vintage Modified Tele bass, two pick model… took out the single coil and added a matching Fender “Wide Range” humbucker… it has more gain than anything I’ve ever owned and monstrous punch… the finish on the neck is gloriously vintage and the whole look is pure Fender… my only complaint is the weight…

  6. I think the G&L Tributes come in under $500, and those are amazing…

  7. Don’t forget that the Squier VMJ Fretless is schweet. Plays like butter with mwah on top. Less than $300 on sale.

  8. out of all of these I would pick the music man but the ibanez SR cheap 6 string is tempting to add to the stable. for people who are just starting out you honestly can’t go wrong with a used fender as long as you check it out first. my favorite bass is a fender I bought used years ago for about 200 bucks almost 10 years later and I still can’t put it down and I play it more then the few “shiney” brand new bases I bought for close to a grand each.

  9. Can’t believe the ESP D-5 didn’t make this list…it is an exceptional bass for about $429.00.

  10. Of the 14 listed…I haven’t played them all, but the Tobias basses put out by Epiphone have been pretty impressive for the money. It would make a good beginner bass or a throw and go bass.

  11. Jon Xavier

    Peavey for sure, via especially when finding the Grind (even 5 string) on sale.