If you’ve found yourself hankering for even more low-end from your bass guitar then you’re in luck! The best 5-string bass guitars give you the extra heft of an added string while still remaining as playable as a regular four-string bass. While the extra string is only technically five more notes, this extended range allows you to take your bass playing into dimensions hitherto undiscovered. Many of the most famous bass guitar players have utilised these, from classic players like John Paul Jones and Jack Bruce, right through to modern masters Fieldy and Robert Trujillo.
Best 5-String Bass Guitars: Guitar World’s Choice
The Yamaha BB435 takes the top spot for us thanks to its ability to do both vintage and modern styles, at a price that won’t break the bank. The impeccable build quality you’d expect from Yamaha is present and accounted for and it looks absolutely phenomenal to boot. Truly one of the best 5-string bass guitars money can buy.
If you’re looking for something more premium, then the Fender American Professional II Jazz Bass V is the one for you. With an incredibly versatile yet nuanced tone, the player-friendly features of this 5-string bass guitar go far beyond what you’d expect from a traditional bass guitar.
Best 5-string bass guitars: Product guide
The Yamaha BB435 TBS is a super versatile instrument that can do vintage or modern tones thanks to its P/J pickup configuration. Considering the low price-point you get a brilliant spec too, with materials you’d normally find on pricier instruments.
Independent volume controls for each pickup allow you to mix and match the characteristics of both, resulting in excellent tonal flexibility. A single tone knob does your EQ sculpting for both pickups simultaneously.
As you’d expect from Yamaha the build quality is second to none. The low B feels rock solid with no floppiness at all, helping you really nail those super low grooves on the bass guitar. The ingenious bridge with its 45-degree string break angle means you get great intonation and stability too.
The Fender American Professional II Jazz Bass V is a top-of-the-line instrument that’s the result of decades of innovation from the California-based outfit. Coming with newly modeled pickups and a host of other upgrades, this is one of the best 5-string bass guitars money can buy.
The Jazz Bass offers a different tonality to its more popular brother the P-Bass. We find it more versatile and understated, and the new V-Mod II pickups help deliver plenty of punch and clarity when you explore that low B string.
The neck uses Posiflex graphite rods for reinforcement, so you know it’ll put up with plenty of abuse out on the road. The sculpted neck heel allows for more comfortable playing higher up the neck while a HiMass Vintage bridge gives you enhanced sustain and stability.
The Sterling by Music Man S.U.B. Sting Ray 5 TBS is the cheaper version of its full-blooded Music Man brethren, but it’s more than a match for any premium-level 5-string bass guitar. Versatile enough to handle anything from pop to hard rock, this guitar proves you don’t have to spend big for huge tone.
The sound is very close to its more expensive big brother, with a single humbucker that’s versatile thanks to the onboard 2-band EQ. Dig in with a pick and you get that signature punchy bass tone, with a round warmth when you use your fingers.
The string spacing at the bridge is narrower than your typical 5-string bass, making it extremely comfortable for those with smaller hands. The ‘D’ profile of the neck feels sleek enough that you can move quickly despite the extra width required for the extra low string.
Whilst not well known for its bass guitars, Schecter has been steadily building its name as one of the premier guitar manufacturers since 1976. The Schecter Stiletto Studio 5 is an exquisite looking bass guitar with the sound to match.
A pair of EMG 40Hz pickups matched with a three band EQ give you plenty of powerful low end rumble and a distinctive tonality. Rather than try to emulate the classic bass tones, Schecter have opted to give the Stiletto 5 its own voice.
The mahogany body helps this guitar deliver bags of sustain, paired with a maple and walnut neck. The thin ‘C’ profile is nice and slinky in your hands and an absolute joy to play on, making light work of various playing styles.
The Ibanez EHB1005SMS is a space-age 5-string bass that gives you a boutique feature set without the price tag. The fact that Ibanez is able to offer a multi-scale bass guitar at this price is truly an astonishing feat.
A set of Bartolini pickups with Vari-mid 3-band EQ gives you a huge variety of tones to choose from. An EQ-bypass switch lets you change the bass to a passive one for even more sounds, as well as helping you save your battery.
The neck on the Ibanez EHB1005SMS will take some getting used to if you’ve never played a multi-scale instrument before. Once you adjust however, the sound benefits it offers will make you wonder how you ever did without one.
Fender’s Jazz Bass is a legendary sound in the world of bass guitar and with this Squier Classic Vibe ‘70s version you get a boutique tone on a budget. If you’re in the market for vintage tone, you could do a lot worse than this great bass.
The two single coil pickups in the classic Jazz Bass configuration offer that trademark growl in spades, and it retains great articulation when playing the low B. The controls give you individual volume for each pickup, allowing you to blend both for your perfect tone.
It’s a glossy neck but it doesn’t feel sticky like some new necks do, offering great playability from the off. The build feels hefty overall, and it’ll certainly put up with plenty of abuse on the road, on stage, and in the studio.
The Warwick German Pro Series Thumb BO is seen as a modern classic bass guitar, excelling in both metal and funk styles. This is a thoroughbred bass guitar that’s geared towards players of modern styles.
The MEC pickups deliver an in your face bass tone that’s powerful, yet still remains articulate on the low B string. A two band EQ offers great flexibility despite the lack of a mid control, with a handy push-pull knob that bypasses the active electronics.
The ovangkol body and neck are sustainably sourced, offering a tonal quality reminiscent of rosewood. Combine that with outstanding German-made build quality, and you’ve got yourself a bass guitar that will last a lifetime.
Despite looking like it came straight off the set of Stranger Things, this spiky looking ESP LTD F-205 isn’t just for metalheads. It excels at a variety of styles from funk right the way through to death metal.
A pair of ESP designed pickups combined with a three-band EQ gives you plenty of options for tone sculpting. The pickups offer a rich tone that can go from tight and articulate to round and powerful with a little tweaking of the EQ.
The neck feels super comfortable for slap bass, with the extra long scale helping keep that low B nice and articulate. Despite the low cost, this 5-string bass guitar punches well above its weight.
Yamaha’s TRB1005J sits in the Goldilocks-zone of 5-string bass guitars that have a professional level feature set while staying below a grand in price. It’s versatile enough to do vintage and modern tones, all while looking absolutely amazing.
The pickups look like humbuckers but they’re actually hum-canceling single coils. The electronics are quiet, with no audible hum or hiss even at high volumes. The onboard EQ allows for great tone sculpting, doing everything from tight and funky to a low rumbling growl.
It’s a stunning looking bass, giving off an aura that belies its price tag. The quilted maple top is gorgeous, with a ‘D’ neck profile that excels at a variety of playing styles and techniques. The fretwork on this bass is really good too, so you can have the action nice and low.
The Dean Edge 09 is the perfect entryway for beginner bass player to get into the world of 5-string bass guitars. Providing a cost effective build with a simple electronics layout, this guitar lets you get down to business with minimal faff.
The single ‘soap bar’ style pickup is an unusual configuration, offering a throaty tone that’s not subtle. The sound of this bass guitar is definitely suited to rock and blues players, with plenty of grit that helps you cut through on stage.
The vintage-style bridge isn’t flashy, but it’s certainly functional. It’s a theme throughout this guitar, everything looks reserved and stealthy but works well to ensure excellent stability and durability.
Best 5-String Bass Guitars: Buyer’s Advice
Buying a 5-string bass guitar can be a minefield if you’re not experienced with the subject. From the additional weight to the longer scale length, there’s plenty to think about when making a purchase. Lucky for you, here at Guitar World we know a thing or two about getting low, and we're here to ensure you make an informed purchase.
Bass guitars are heavy. As huge slabs of wood with massive necks, it’s really part and parcel of the deal. Unfortunately, five-string bass guitars require more wood thanks to their longer scale length, larger hardware, and the extra room required for electronics. So if you’re getting into the world of the five-string bass be prepared to lug some extra weight around with you.
This relates directly to another important factor, the scale length. This is of particular importance because the extra length is a necessity to ensure the additional low string doesn’t flap around or choke out on the fretboard. The rule is that the thicker a string is, the longer the scale length needs to be to ensure the string can sit low enough to the fretboard to remain playable. That means that a five-string bass guitar generally has a longer scale length. Though rare and often costly, you can get multi-scale bass guitars that have angled frets, allowing you to pack different scale lengths into the same guitar to keep things more compact.
Whether choosing a four or five-string bass guitar, you’ll also need to pay attention to the electronics and more specifically, whether they’re active or passive. Passive basses require no additional power to be used, working on the voltage generated by your pickups. Being an older technology, passive basses are typically described as sounding ‘fat’, ‘round’, or even ‘earthy’, making them well suited to rock, blues, and jazz.
Active basses on the other hand pack in a preamp, sometimes an EQ, and even a compressor to help you sculpt and control your sound more easily. These additional electronics typically require extra power, most often found in the form of a 9v battery compartment in the body of the guitar somewhere. This extra control means that active basses sound brighter and more snappy than passive ones, which is why they’re often used in funk and metal. The preamp also allows active basses to deliver a stronger signal – great if you want to plug straight into the PA or mixing desk.
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