Epiphone/Tobias Toby Deluxe IV

Reviewed at $229

Playability
80%
Tone
50%
Comfort
60%
Versatility
60%

VERDICT Did this bass live up to the Michael Tobias name? In our opinion, not so much. The only sounds that really impressed us from this bass were the aggressive rock sounds. For anything else, keep looking.

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Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar

Reviewed at $249

Playability
70%
Tone
60%
Comfort
50%
Versatility
70%

VERDICT Squier makes some really solid entry-level instruments, but this Jaguar has a couple issues. Gio described the active bass boost as a “doom knob” that could be really dangerous on your first gig if not handled carefully, and I totally agree.

This bass had a wide spread in the ratings between the three of us. Despite the bass boost issue, Gio liked it a lot more than Ben and I did, which he readily admits may be because a higher-end Fender Jaguar is one of the basses he plays regularly so this bass felt very familiar.

It’s not the worst beginner bass you could choose, but let’s keep looking and see if we can find something better.

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Cort Action 4 PJ

Reviewed at $199

Playability
80%
Tone
60%
Comfort
80%
Versatility
70%

VERDICT Is this lesser known bass worth checking out? Yes, definitely. We were all really pleasantly surprised by this bass. It wasn’t the best bass we played, but for the money you would be hard pressed to find a better instrument. We’re very interested to try out Cort’s more expensive offerings later down the line.

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Ibanez Gio GSR200

Reviewed at $199

Playability
60%
Tone
30%
Comfort
60%
Versatility
60%

VERDICT Despite its popularity and favorable reviews elsewhere online, the resounding chorus from all our pro bassist reviewers is that this bass sucks. Don’t buy it.

My one regret with selecting basses for these reviews is that I would love to hear the cheapest bass in the Ibanez SR line up against the Yamaha TRBX304 we look at later, they’re at the same price point and have a lot in common. The Ibanez SRs I’ve played are much better basses than this GSR200.

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Dean Edge 10 PJ

Reviewed at $239

Playability
40%
Tone
20%
Comfort
60%
Versatility
40%

VERDICT Despite all the positive reviews elsewhere, this bass did not fare well in our tests. All of three of us agreed – only buy this bass if you just care about looks and have matching white shoes.

Otherwise, look elsewhere. With the huge disparity between this bass’s user reviews and our experience with it here, I have to guess that most bass reviews are written by beginners who aren’t qualified to comment on the differences between instruments and how they stack up to professional quality instruments.

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Yamaha TRBX304

Reviewed at $350

Playability
70%
Tone
80%
Comfort
80%
Versatility
90%

VERDICT Do you get what you pay for? For the most part, the answer is yes. The electronics in this bass operate at higher standard than any other bass we looked at. To quote our bass tech Kent, “The Yamaha is a really nice modern bass, it’s got a lot of really great features for an entry level bass. The fit and finish is really nice, the hardware’s good… a step above everything else we’ve looked at. I’m pretty impressed. You definitely get what you pay for”

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Squier Vintage Modified Jazz

Reviewed at $349

Playability
60%
Tone
70%
Comfort
50%
Versatility
90%

VERDICT The verdict is in: this thing rocks. It’s built well, the electronics are nice and simple, and it gives you the sounds you want from a Jazz bass. Being a passive instrument, it doesn’t have as many tone options as we saw with the Yamaha TRBX304, but the sounds it has are great.

There was some disparity in our reviewing of this bass over the bridge pickup. My guess is that Ben and Gio would have both given higher ratings for tone if they could have heard my pickup height adjustment.

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The Final Showdown

We’ve seen some great beginner basses, and some surprisingly lame ones. But which bass guitar punches above its weight to win the BassBuzz Beginner Bass award? Drum roll…

BASSBUZZ AWARDS BEST BEGINNER BASS

Overall Winner Yamaha TRBX304

The Yamaha TRBX304 had hands down the highest quality construction and electronics we looked at, and comes with a wide range of tones you can explore for different styles of music and bass playing.

Vintage Winner Squier Vintage Modified Jazz

While it was less versatile than the Yamaha, if you’re just looking for that classic growly-yet-refined sound of the Fender Jazz, you’ll get a wallet-friendly version of it with the Squier Vintage Modified Jazz. A simple, functional Fender-style bass with a few great sounds.

Budget Winner Cort Action 4 PJ

The Cort Action wasn’t the best bass we played, but for the price it was built well and had some cool features like a 24-fret neck. If you’re on a tight budget, this bass will perform as a beginner instrument no problem.

Some Pointers for Buying

Reviewing all these basses, having them setup, and having multiple reviewers play them was a big undertaking. What did we learn?

1. Active bass boosts — be wary. Me and my reviewers all share a concern about cheap active bass boosts. They have a HUGE effect on the output of the bass, so beginners need to be extremely careful about moving those knobs around on a gig where the bass is running through a house sound system. These basses also tended to sound thin without the bass boost, which makes me think these basses could have been better with higher quality passive pickups and no cheap/gimmicky active electronics. If you’re going for a bass under $300, you’re probably better off buying a passive instrument than getting a cheap bass boost “doom knob.”

2. Fret Access. We all love the classic tones you can get out of Fender basses, but really hate that huge block of wood at the neck joint and the terrible higher fret access. Fender needs to step it up in that area to attract players who like doing a lot of soloing, chords, tapping, and anything else that uses the upper register.

3. You Get What You Pay For. Based on what we saw with these seven basses, it seems to be largely true that “you get what you pay for.” The more expensive Yamaha TRBX304 had nicer, more versatile electronics than any of the other basses.

4. Look to Spend $200 Minimum. Based on these basses and past experience, I don’t think you should try to spend less that $200 on a new bass. If the electronics or construction were any cheaper in these basses, they would really suck. This is the lowest tier of basses that I would actually consider playing in public. If you’re trying to save money, buy a used bass from a well known brand, not a brand new bass from a company you’ve never heard of.

5. Different Strokes. With both Ben and Gio, the favorite they picked in the shootout was not the bass they had given the highest star rating in the individual reviews. This shows that pros pick basses primarily by feel, and all the analysis we do is helpful, but secondary.

Go Buy a Bass

Now you’ve got a good idea of the beginner basses that are available and what to look for hopefully you’re ready to buy a bass and start rocking. What are you waiting for? 🙂

P.S. If you’re looking for a quality practice amp for your shiny new bass, check out our amp reviews here.

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