Having a 5-string bass can open up a lot of doors for you musically. Whether you’re looking to try something new, or lately, you’ve been finding that you could really use that extra string, having a 5-string bass can be very useful, even if you mainly play 4-stringers. This guide will show you some of the best affordable 5-string basses around different pricing points but all under 500 dollars.
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1. Ibanez GSR205
Ibanez makes great instruments for different levels of players, and for entry-level 5-string bass, you can’t go wrong with the GSR205.
These basses typically go for around $250, making them a perfect candidate for beginners or even more experienced players who are on a budget and are unsure if a 5-string bass is right for them.
The parts and overall construction are decent and get the job done, which is something I can’t always say about some of the cheap instruments around this pricing point.
However, what I find exceptional about it is the neck’s playability and how lightweight the bass is, but that’s pretty standard for this brand.
Thin and comfortable necks are pretty much synonymous with Ibanez, so this can help ease any concerns players might have about 5-string basses being too large for their hands and what-not.
The passive J-bass style pickups have a lot of output, and they’re very responsive. You also have different EQ controls that let you shape your tone the way you want, but this is a feature that you’ll see on most basses at this price range.
Overall, this bass brings good value and all of the benefits of having a 5-string bass while making it as comfortable as possible. I also recommend looking into the Ibanez SR305 or SR405 models if your budget permits it and you can afford something that’s more suited for the intermediate to advanced player.
2. Squier By Fender Affinity Series Jazz Bass V
Fender created two of the most iconic bass guitar designs, the jazz bass and the precision bass, and this list wouldn’t feel complete if I didn’t include at least one of them.
For this guide, I’ve selected a Jazz 5-string bass that you can get for around $300, the Squier Affinity Jazz Bass V, which gives you a very versatile instrument with a classic look.
I absolutely love Jazz basses, and I think they’re great for any genre of music – you can find well-known bassists all over that use them. P-basses are also a great design and share nearly the same popularity, but Jazz basses’ necks are slightly slimmer, and I know many people prefer that.
These days I use a Fender Player Series Jazz Bass V as my main bass for everything, and I highly recommend them, but ones are closer to $1000, so I couldn’t add it to this list.
Many Fenders use a C-shaped profile for their necks that I think feel great, and like the Ibanez, these are also pretty lightweight.
This bass is super cool and stylish, and these passive J-bass pickups will give you that signature punchy growl tone that Jazz basses are known for. However, if you’re looking for something more of a step-up in terms of better quality, you could check out the Squier Classic Vibes ‘70s 5 string bass, which usually runs for around $500 but not under it.
3. Jackson JS Series Concert Bass JS3VQ
If you like your instrument to have a bit more edge to it, the first bass I can recommend around the $400 price range is the JS3V Concert Bass by Jackson.
In appearance, Concert basses are essentially adaptations of the Dinky or Soloist design, which are popular superstrats. The sharkfin inlays on the fingerboard and the pointed headstock are also iconic and give it a distinct look.
This makes it a popular choice, particularly with metal fans, and the instrument, as a whole, is definitely a reflection of that. The stock active soap bar bass pickups are loud and powerful, and you also have three EQ knobs to help shape your sound.
This bass has a 12-16” compound radius on the neck, which means that the neck is rounder at the nut and flat and wider towards the body of the guitar.
The compound radius is something that’s very characteristic of most Jackson instruments and helps add more comfortability while you’re playing all over the fingerboard.
Since I’m a big fan of superstrat-style guitars, I think the style of this Jackson bass is really cool, especially with the quilted maple top, but if you’re looking for something that’s less “pointy,” you might like the next bass more.
4. Yamaha TRBX305
Yamaha is one of the most criminally underrated guitar brands of all time, and naturally, the same thing applies to their basses.
This is mainly because they are well-known for their beginner guitars and basses, but people tend to overlook the higher-quality instruments they’ve put out over the years.
One of these is the Yamaha TRBX305 5-string bass, which is an affordable powerhouse that shouldn’t be glossed over by any means.
Aside from the cool, modern look and being a great bass to play, the pickups and the tonal control is what really set this one apart from the others.
The active pickups are very impressive and give a loud and clear tone, and you also have a knob that can help blend the two pickups together and two more knobs for your typical EQ controls.
At the same time, you also have a toggle switch similar to a pickup selector on guitar, which gives you even more options in this regard, depending on how you’re currently playing (i.e., fingerstyle, slap, with a pick, etc.)
Around $400, I think this bass is sonically and aesthetically pleasing, and it’s solidly made. Don’t sleep on Yamaha because they’re very reliable instruments that can serve you for a long time.
5. Sterling By MusicMan Ray5
MusicMan guitars and basses are super popular nowadays, and their Sterling line makes getting these amazing-looking instruments at an affordable price.
The Ray5s can vary in price depending on which kind you get – there are the double-humbucker ones that you can typically get for around $450, but there is also the single-humbucker one that you can find for a bit of a discount.
For a lot of people, having just one active pickup on this bass is perfectly fine because of its position, plus you still have the two EQ knobs to play with.
Though no matter what, you should never have a hard time cutting through the mix with these Sterling SUB basses, but if you choose to go with the one with the two pickups, you’ll only be giving yourself more options.
So, not only do they look great, but they sound incredible too, and I’ve actually heard of people saying they’re almost as good as the expensive MusicMan Stingray basses and are more than good enough for gigs and recording. I would have to agree with them there.
The Sterling By MusicMan Ray5 is a bit on the heavier side in terms of weight, so it might not be the best for beginners looking for something more lightweight. However, those who have experience with the instrument and don’t mind a bass with more meat to it will have no issues whatsoever. The neck is still thin and comfortable, though, and a joy to play on.
I personally would rate this bass the highest out of all of the ones on the list, but the others are fantastic in their own ways, and you are encouraged to explore all of your options.
Why Should You Get A 5-String Bass?
There are plenty of practical reasons why someone should pick up at least one 5-string bass.
Having the extra string, regardless if you’re using it for a low-B as most people do, or you want to have a higher register and modify your bass to have a high-C, will expand how many notes you can play, and it can also make playing certain passages easier, by requiring you to move less.
A lot of music these days, not just metal, utilizes 5-string basses, and it’s always a good idea to have the option so you can be ready for any opportunity you run into.
If you’d like to learn more in-depth about what you can expect with 5-string basses, check out my article on their pros and cons.
Though, in my opinion, the benefits vastly outweigh the drawbacks they can have, especially since many of the disadvantages are something that bassists can overcome or get used to rather quickly. Aside from the most important feature it can bring to the table, being the additional string and its notes, I don’t think they’re drastically different than 4-string basses, and it’s not really unusual for beginners to start out with a 5-string bass.
Finding a bass that fits your budget can take a lot of consideration, but hopefully, you find something that suits you out of these 5-string basses under $500. There is something here for players of all skill levels, and more than likely, there’s something that catches your eye here, but if these specific ones aren’t exactly what you’re looking for, I have no doubt that these will at least give you some good ideas and lead you in the right direction to finding the best 5-string bass for you.