Best jazz bass 2024: recommended J-Bass guitars to suit all levels, budgets and tastes

Black Fender Jazz Bass with white scratchplate
(Image credit: Future)

For many bass players it’s a simple choice; are you a J or P player? If you chose J, which stands for jazz, then you’re in the right place as we're here to round up the best jazz bass models available today.

The ‘JB’ is known for its versatile tone and comfortable playability, usually comprising two single-coil pickups that can be blended together or used independently, giving the player a wide range of sonic possibilities. The jazz also has a slimmer neck than the Precision Bass, making it easier to play for those with smaller hands. The jazz bass body is also offset, similar to a Fender Jaguar or Jazzmaster.

This guide covers the best jazz bass styles for every budget, including some non-Fender models for good measure, helping you zero in on the specific model to suit your needs.

We've also included some buying advice towards the bottom of the page if you're looking for more guidance. 

Best jazz bass: Guitar World Recommends

Visually, and in terms of playability, the jazz bass has similarities whichever price bracket you’re shopping in. For beginners, it’s easy to recommend the Harley Benton JB75, which offers the full jazz experience at a very low price. 

You’ll quickly outgrow these though which is why, if you’re able, we’d recommend pushing towards the higher-priced Sire Marcus Miller v7. These models come with plenty of high praise from the bass world, and could feasibly serve as a beginner and intermediate instrument all in one.

If you have your sights set on a true Fender jazz bass, the Fender Player Series Jazz bass is a great option for the budget-conscious player.

Best jazz bass: Product guide

Best jazz bass: Fender Player Series jazz Bass

(Image credit: Fender)

1. Fender Player Series Jazz Bass

The best mid-range jazz model

Specifications

Body: Alder
Neck: Maple
Fingerboard: Maple
Strings: Four
Pickups: 2 x Alnico Player Series single coils

Reasons to buy

+
Great selection of colors
+
Classic jazz sound
+
Sturdy build

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive for a mid-range model

It makes sense to start with the option most players will consider at some point in their playing careers. The Fender Player Series Jazz Bass is the mid-range option which offers a step up from the basic, entry-level models, yet doesn’t quite hit the heights (or the four-figure price tag) of the US-made versions.

For a sensible amount of money, you get a very sensible bass indeed. We like the range of colorways and find the alder bodies on these variants ensure they’re lightweight and sound great across a range of musical genres. 

Best jazz bass: Harley Benton JB75

(Image credit: Harley Benton)

2. Harley Benton JB75

The best entry-level jazz model

Specifications

Body: Ash
Neck: Maple
Fingerboard: Maple
Pickups: 2 x Alnico single coils

Reasons to buy

+
Outstanding value
+
Looks the part
+
Decent pickups

Reasons to avoid

-
Build quality may show itself over time

If imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, then Fender must be blushing when it sees the Harley Benton JB75. As a near carbon-copy of the recent Squier Vintage Modified jazz model, this is treading well-worn ground but it’s still easy to recommend to new players. The American ash body gives it a nicely resonant sound, while the neck is easy and comfortable to learn on. 

We found the pickups slightly lacking in power, but at this price we could easily see the JB75 acting as a blank canvas for enthusiastic modders to tear it down and rebuild it in their own image. Hard to find too much fault at this price. 

Best jazz bass: Fender American Pro II

(Image credit: Fender)

3. Fender American Pro II Jazz Bass

The best high-end jazz bass

Specifications

Body: Alder
Neck: Maple
Fingerboard: Maple
Pickups: V-Mod II single coils

Reasons to buy

+
Outstanding pickups
+
Elite build quality
+
Highly playable neck

Reasons to avoid

-
Quality like this certainly costs

If you’re looking for the peak of jazz bass performance, then Fender has you covered. The Fender American Pro II is its flagship model, packing in the pinnacle of high-end bass design, playability and comfort. Of particular note are the V-Mod II pickups, which excel across any genre and deliver a heft and reassuring weight to your performance. 

In Fender’s marketing spiel for the American Pro, it claims the neck has been newly sculpted for better hand positioning, and we certainly found it to be among the more comfortable on test, although for nearly $/£2k you would expect it to feel like a velvet glove…

Best jazz bass: Squier Contemporary Active Jazz V

(Image credit: Squier)

4. Squier Contemporary Active Jazz V

The best for heavier music styles

Specifications

Body: Poplar
Neck: Roasted maple
Fingerboard: Roasted maple
Pickups: Fender SQR Active Humbuckers

Reasons to buy

+
Looks slick
+
Decent pickups
+
Lots of tonal control

Reasons to avoid

-
This is a weighty guitar

The Squier Contemporary Active jazz bass takes things in a slightly different direction. Where the others on this list all follow a similar pattern, the Contemporary Active shows itself as being more suited to heavier styles of music thanks in part to the additional string, but mainly because of the monstrously heavy active pickups. 

We’re big fans of the grittier finish, with matching headstock, and the black hardware too. It’s unlikely you’ll see too many actual jazz players using this version, but if your tastes are a little more extreme then you’ll find the perfect tool for you here. 

Best jazz bass: Sire Marcus Miller v7

(Image credit: Sire)

5. Sire Marcus Miller v7

The one with all the hype

Specifications

Body: Alder or Swamp Ash
Neck: Maple
Fingerboard: Ebony or Maple
Pickups: Marcus Super-J Revolution

Reasons to buy

+
Great value
+
Onboard EQ is helpful
+
Superb build quality

Reasons to avoid

-
You’ll need strong shoulders…

If we were giving prizes for being the most talked-about jazz bass that doesn’t have ‘Fender’ on its headstock, then the Sire Marcus Miller series would be a clear winner. Not without good reason, either. The Marcus Miller V7 combines the best build quality you’ll find under $/£500 with some meaty pickups and an onboard preamp with 3-band EQ for sculpting the tone you’re looking for quickly and easily. 

Rolled fingerboard edges make this a comfortable bass to play too, making it a pretty compelling package for the price. 

Best jazz bass: Squier CV 60s Jazz

(Image credit: Squier)

6. Squier Classic Vibe 60s Jazz Bass

The best jazz bass for all-round value

Specifications

Body: Alder
Neck: Maple
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Pickups: 2 x Alnico single coils

Reasons to buy

+
Fender seal of quality
+
Great color options
+
Pickups sound great

Reasons to avoid

-
Some prefer satin finished necks

The Squier CV 60s Jazz Bass is modeled after the original jazz bass models from the ’60s, and brings with it a bunch of period-specific features. It has a comfortable C-shaped neck profile and a 9.5-inch radius fingerboard that makes it easy to play, along with the usual two single-coil pickups that can be blended together or used independently, giving you a wide range of tonal possibilities.

The body is made from alder which gives it a warm, resonant sound, and we were impressed with the hardware, including vintage-style tuners and a four-saddle bridge, which modern Squiers always seem to get right now. Overall, the Squier CV 60s Jazz Bass matches that classic Fender design, comfortable playability, and versatile sound at a price which many can afford. 

Best jazz bass: Sandberg California II TM 5

(Image credit: Sandberg)

7. Sandberg California II TM5

The best for experienced players

Specifications

Body: Ash
Neck: Maple
Fingerboard: Pau Ferro
Pickups: 1 x Sandberg single coil and 1 x Sandberg humbucker

Reasons to buy

+
Really well made
+
Love the Blueburst finish

Reasons to avoid

-
Long lead times mean you could be waiting a while

The Sandberg California range is one of the most respected high-end bass rosters around right now, and for good reason. These bass guitars marry up high quality materials with exceptional craftsmanship, making for some top-tier instruments capable of tackling any musical genre. 

We’ve opted for the California II TM 5, on account of the additional string and superb Sandberg preamp system which allows you to dial in any tone you can think of. We should warn you though – this is a heavy instrument, so make sure you’re combining it with a suitably padded guitar strap

Best jazz bass: G&L Tribute Series JB

(Image credit: G&L)

8. G&L Tribute Series JB

The best for traditionalists on a budget

Specifications

Body: Poplar
Neck: Maple
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Pickups: G&L Alnico V

Reasons to buy

+
Iconic body shape
+
Good hardware
+
Sweet pickups

Reasons to avoid

-
Lots of competition at this price bracket

We’ll round the list off with a tribute to the original jazz bass styles, coming from the G&L Tribute Series JB. Honestly, there’s not a lot that could go wrong with this guitar, from the Fender-designed saddle lock bridge to the stunning Lake Placid Blue finish on offer. This is, as you can tell, a genuine Fender in all but name. 

Where this differs from a ‘true’ Fender is mostly in the tonewood – the cheaper poplar is present here, compared with the ash or alder you’d see on more expensive models. Regardless, this means this superb bass sits much closer to the affordable end of the scale, meaning more players can get their hands on one. 

Best jazz bass: Buying advice

Pair of jazz basses laying on the ground

(Image credit: Future)

The history of the jazz bass

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Coming hot off the heels of the mega-successful Fender Precision Bass, the Jazz Bass would be unleashed onto the newly formed bass community in 1960. This radical contemporary bass took much of its design cues from the company's new flagship Jaguar and Jazzmaster models and offered players not only a striking new look but also a bold new sound.

At the turn of the decade, Fender found a lot of success with their revolutionary offset guitars, so it makes sense that Leo would extend this design trend to his bass models, and thus the Jazz Bass was born. Now, the J-Bass wouldn't only sport a flamboyant new look. It would also offer players a completely different sonic experience when compared to its older brother, the P-Bass. Fender would use the Jazz Bass model to debut their new bass single-coil pickups – a pickup set that's just as popular today as it was back then.

The early Jazz Basses would feature a much thinner and more comfortable neck profile - coming in at 1 1/2″ at the nut - as well as a Brazilian rosewood fingerboard and clay dots.

Of course, as with any game-changing musical innovation, there were bound to be copycats – and that's precisely what happened. Many emerging manufacturers jumped on the J-Bass trend, taking Leo's now iconic design and running with it. This would lead to even more innovations and advancements in bass technology. Today companies such as Ibanez, Sandberg, Sire, Harley Benton and more make brilliant takes on the Jazz Bass formula, meaning you aren't restricted to only Fender instruments.

How to choose the best jazz bass for you

If you’ve settled on a jazz bass as your instrument of choice, then you can rest assured you’ve opted for one of the most versatile and comfortable bass styles on the market. There are, however, a lot of options even within the sub-genre of jazz bass models, including four and five-string versions, so let’s break down a few of the misconceptions and help you choose the model that works best for you.

Naturally, budget will be a major factor in your decision-making. With jazz basses starting from as low as $/£150, and heading right up towards the $/£5k mark, you can be sure there will be a model to fit your specific requirements. But what does the extra money get you, in terms of specification? As with guitars, expensive jazz bass models will have higher quality hardware – think tuning pegs, bridges and electronics – meaning they will last longer and will be more durable.

Likewise, the choice of pickups on an expensive bass will go a long way to opening up the tones available to you. Price will also dictate which tonewoods are used for the body, neck and fingerboard. Some are chosen for their weight – a jazz bass is a large instrument, after all, so smaller players may prefer a model with a lighter tonewood, like poplar. Other tonewoods are selected because they impart specific tonal qualities, like alder which provides a bright sound, or ash, which offers a richer, more resonant tone. 

Whichever end of the price spectrum you’re shopping at, there are some qualities specific to every model of jazz bass. Things like the slightly smaller neck (compared to a P-Bass), which makes it ideal for smaller hands. Or the better balance the jazz models achieve by offsetting the body weight slightly, making it better for playing standing up. 

Overall, the jazz bass is a versatile instrument that can be used for a variety of genres, but it does have its strengths and weaknesses. For example, the jazz bass is known for its bright, punchy sound, which makes it a good choice for genres like funk and jazz. However, the jazz bass's sound can be a bit too bright for genres like rock and metal. The best advice we can give is to try a few models out and see which feels the best, offers the most comfortable playing experience, and gives you the sound you’re looking for. 

How we choose the best jazz basses for this guide

Here at Guitar World, we are experts in our field, with many years of playing, creating and product testing between us. We live and breathe everything guitar gear related, and we draw on this knowledge and experience of using products in live, recording and rehearsal scenarios when selecting the products for our guides.

When choosing what we believe to be the best jazz basses available right now, we combine our hands-on experience, user reviews and testimonies and engage in lengthy discussions with our editorial colleagues to reach a consensus about the top products in any given category.

First and foremost, we are guitarists, and we want other players to find the right product for them. So we take into careful consideration everything from budget to feature set, ease of use and durability to come up with a list of what we can safely say are the best jazz basses on the market right now.

Find out more about how we make our recommendations, how we test each of the products in our buyer's guides and our review policy.

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