8 Best Acoustic Bass Guitars – Reviews (Budget & Standard)
While you don’t see that many acoustic bass guitars being played, they do have their own special place in various styles of music.
Jamming on one of the best acoustic bass guitars can help boost your creativity, let you enjoy music outside the norm, and even make the bass guitar stand out from the other instruments.
8 Best Acoustic Bass Guitars for Beginners and Pros
Whether you’re new to this or you’re a seasoned bass player looking to experience something different, hopefully my recommendations and tips will point you in the right direction.
Table of Contents
- 8 Best Acoustic Bass Guitars for Beginners and Pros
- The Importance of Electronics
- How Do Acoustic Basses Handle Tone Shaping?
- Unplugged vs. Plugged Sound
- Fretboard Considerations and String Action
- Materials and Build Quality
- Scale Length
Starting things off with one of the more affordable acoustic basses, the Ibanez PCBE12MHOPN offers an interesting acoustic experience. The bass is in terrific shape and does justice to Ibanez’s long-standing tradition of producing quality instruments.
The instrument has a grand concert body shape, and uses mahogany on the sides, back, and top. The maple fretboard offers a sleek playing surface and also favors speed. This is a good thing for experienced players that play complex melodic lines.
One of the most interesting features is the tortoiseshell tuning machine. Together with chrome tuners this allows good tuning sustain. I should also point out that the fretboard has just 20 frets, making it more accessible to beginners.
The bass also comes with an Ibanez pickup and an AEQ-2T preamp with the standard onboard tuner. There’s a lot of tone calibration that you can do, which is always a good sign. Another thing I like is that the finish isn’t too glossy.
This helps prevent screeching sounds and warms up the tone considerably. Both feel and sound are well above the price point, and that’s all that ultimately matters.
You can find the Fender FA-450CE in a variety of colors. The sunburst model looks best in my opinion and also has a more professional finish. I like the use of a two by two headstock as it provides better tuning retention and doesn’t mess too much with the string action or tension.
The Viking bridge is also a nice touch. The bass is made mostly of mahogany, with the exception of its Nato neck. Speaking of the neck, it has a 9.5” radius. This makes it just the right size to play in any genre without much trouble.
One of the better aspects of the FA-450CE is perhaps the Fishman preamp. Not only does this help create a clear tone but it also allows for customization. Along the volume control, the instrument features bass and treble controls for customized tone shaping.
The overall sound is rich and has great note articulation. The voice is warm but not too warm that it muddies the lower strings.
Note that the bass has a 32” scale. It’s a bit bigger than most, hence the better resonance and wider melodic range. But, it’s also one of the reasons why I don’t recommend it to beginners. It’s a bit more physically demanding to use at its full potential.
You should also change its strings right away as the stock strings have the smallest gauge. And they’re not particularly great on the fingers either.
Offering just 20 frets and an overall scaled-down size, the Taylor GS Mini-E is an excellent starter acoustic bass guitar. It’s accessible to players with small hands, yet it still has very good resonance and volume, as well as impressive voice quality on the lower strings.
As far as acoustic basses go, this one does a good job of balancing playability, sound and portability. Being smaller and lighter certainly makes it more convenient to carry to the studio, for small indoor gigs, and to bass lessons away from home.
However, this isn’t exactly the cheapest acoustic bass you can find. For beginners anyway, the 23.5” scale length is great, but probably not at this price point. That said, this is a professional-sounding instrument which means that musicians can get plenty of use out of it.
And, it’s not like you’re not getting a lot for the extra money. The ES-B electronics are top of the line. Not to mention the quality of life features such as the chromatic tuner and LED display.
The display which also shows battery life. Furthermore, the use of Taylor’s unique dual-prong bridge pin helps a lot in reducing the risk of strings breaking, while also maintaining the desired string action for a short scale bass.
Another impressive-sounding Fender acoustic bass is the CB-60SCE. Midrange pricing, quality craftsmanship, and Fishman electronics – all of these make it a strong contender for one of the best acoustic bass guitars, especially for players on a budget.
The mahogany back and sides are finished off with a solid spruce top. Scalloped X bracing has been used to up the visual quality and ensure build reliability. The rolled fretboard edges are a nice touch as they help ease finger pressure.
They also help improve left-hand accuracy and speed. However, the E string doesn’t benefit as much from this design as it does show signs of slipping when you’re playing fast. The D string may cause some buzzing too, but only at the 24th fret.
That’s hardly an issue in my opinion, especially if you’re considering this as a learner’s instrument. Surely the loudness of the bass can compensate for all of this. Especially if you consider that it’s much louder than most of its more expensive direct competitor models.
All in all, the CB-60SCE is a very dynamic bass, or allows for dynamic playing. Much more so than quieter, and some better-build instruments. Its electronics are nothing too special but allow for decent tone shaping nonetheless.
If you want to stand out with more than just your playing, then the Ovation Applause AEB4II is guaranteed to get you some applause on stage. The bass looks amazing, whether you get the vintage varnish or the black flame maple model.
The medium depth cutaway design makes this an ideal choice for soloing. The CE304T Ovation preamp allows comprehensive tone shaping while also providing satisfying volume. You may also appreciate the soft V-neck, which also improves the playability and comfort.
In terms of tone, the bass is more balanced than many and doesn’t have an aggressive low end. There’s little to no buzzing or muddying to worry about. The lows are still warm but the tone gets enough crispness and bright nuances to help it blend into the mix and cut through it when necessary.
The high-end Ovation electronics help cement its position among the best acoustic-electrics on the market. And, due to the use of a Lyrachord Roundback design, there’s punchier tonal nuance. Something that’s really a trademark of Ovation.
Surprisingly, the bass is low to midrange priced. But, unlike others, it doesn’t have enough resonance if you play it unplugged. The experience is less than satisfactory in my opinion. So, I do recommend using the AEB4II if you have, or plan on getting some means of amplification too.
As an older model, the Oscar Schmidt OB100 has stood the test of time well. The design features a Venetian cutaway and a concert body. While the cutaway provides access to the higher frets and makes the bass easier to solo on, the concert body improves the resonance and allows for more volume.
I like this bass guitar both plugged and unplugged. The built-in preamp may not allow a lot of tone shaping, but the standard calibration creates a good enough tone for a variety of genres. In particular, the deep tone can make this an impressive Jazz bass.
In terms of build quality, there’s nothing too special about it. But it’s not cheap either. The mahogany neck boasts a rosewood fingerboard, as most other acoustic basses in this price range. The craftsmanship is spot-on and ensures for a long-lasting instrument.
Another great thing about the OB100 is that it comes with a sturdy gig bag. This adds even more value to an already budget-friendly bass guitar. You should note that the bass is considered medium scale. So keep that in mind when changing the strings.
Also, note that the electronics aren’t really top of the line. In fact, the LED indicator may not have the best wiring either. But, if you’re looking for a smaller acoustic bass, know that this one delivers a balanced tone and has great string action straight out of the factory.
If you’re looking for a Parl Body Style acoustic bass, then there’s only one model that I can really recommend. The Ibanez PNB14E is my favorite in this category. It looks great with its natural open pore finish, and is very durable too.
It features a combination of Okume and mahogany. This creates a unique resonator box and a one-of-a-kind tone. Minimal tone shaping will be required for you to create a sound that’s unmistakable in any genre.
Along with the classy looks and very interesting tonal profile, the PNB14E is a very comfortable instrument too. You can play it while sitting down or standing up. No matter what your role is in a band.
The price point is somewhat unreal if you ask me, given all the quality of life features and sound. However, nothing in this world is perfect. While the PNB14E may excel at many things, it doesn’t boast high-end Ibanez electronics.
When run through an amplifier it won’t offer the most impressive clarity. It’s nothing to be scared of in terms of unwanted distortion or buzzing. But it’s also not the cleanest sounding Ibanez either. That said, I think the overall level of comfort you experience while playing it should make up for that in spades.
BCP, or Best Choice Products, offer lots of best-sellers when it comes to instruments. This bass doesn’t make too many compromises and provides a good balance of tone, accessible fretboard, string action, and electronics.
One of its trademark features is a four-band EQ, which, let’s face it, not many acoustic basses in this price range will offer. The tone shaping you can do on this bass is a bit surreal if you ask me. And at the same time, it’s much needed.
That’s because the BCP acoustic bass doesn’t rise to the level of craftsmanship or material quality to that of other top manufacturers. So, it’s a great thing to see the 7545R preamp in action. It will help balance out the frequencies and enhance the tone considerably.
Note that the SKY426 is the black variant. There are also blue and natural models. So if you prefer something different, look for the SKY425 and SKY427 respectively. All models have the same glossy finish, which is why I prefer the black variant myself.
I should also mention that the fretboard doesn’t have the smoothest finish. You may need to polish this bass more often than you would others.
The Importance of Electronics
Having a great preamp isn’t mandatory but very nice nonetheless. Unlike acoustic guitars, acoustic bass guitars will lack a lot of resonance and articulation. Especially when playing the low E string. This means that even during acoustic jam sessions, most musicians prefer to run their acoustic bass through an amplifier.
When it comes to electronics, the most reputable manufacturers will likely offer the best preamps. But the same can’t be said about tone shaping options.
How Do Acoustic Basses Handle Tone Shaping?
Any good preamp will come with a built-in equalizer or EQ. For the most part, an acoustic bass will have a two-band EQ with bass and treble tone controls.
However, some preamps offer up to a five-band EQ. This is something that I believe to be essential if you want to play in more than one genre and change your tone to complement the style.
Again, it’s not something mandatory, but it is worth the extra penny if you’re looking for a more versatile instrument.
Unplugged vs. Plugged Sound
As already mentioned, most players run their bass guitars through an amp. But this doesn’t mean that your bass shouldn’t sound good when unplugged.
You’ll notice, as you test various models, that not all acoustic bass guitars have the same resonance. The design of the body can say a lot about how your bass is going to sound. Take for example the Ovation model reviewed in this article.
Without an open resonator box, the instrument lacks a lot of volume and note articulation when you’re playing it cold. But, it turns into a real beast after you run it through an amp.
Depending on how much unplugged playing you expect to do, you may want to choose an acoustic bass with a larger body, and better materials that will favor acoustic resonance and volume.
Fretboard Considerations and String Action
As is the case with all acoustic guitars, electric guitars, and electric basses, there’s a big concern about string buzzing. Smooth and rolled fretboards can be very comfortable to play on. Especially if you’re a beginner and you’re finding it hard to press down and slide on the strings.
But sometimes, the smoother the roll the more likely that the first or last string will slip out of place. You should also look into adjustable string action basses and invest in a hex wrench for the truss rod. You won’t always get one as an accessory to your bass.
Just because the factory calibration seems a bit off, it won’t mean that you bought a faulty instrument. Maybe it just needs a proper tune-up before you can really enjoy it.
Materials and Build Quality
If you ask me, I’d say avoid basswood acoustic basses, if your budget allows for something better. Mahogany is a solid choice, and maple fretboards are pretty much the standard these days.
Of course, not all mahogany necks will have the same quality, or the same size for that matter. But sticking with reputable manufacturers will give you some guarantees as to the quality of the instrument.
I can’t give a recommendation as to what’s the best scale length of an acoustic bass guitar. All I can give you is a few guidelines to follow. A longer scale length, say 30” or higher, is best-suited for experienced players or players with big hands. Think Steve Vai fingers.
Short scale bass guitars are more beginner-friendly as they have less fret separation and less string separation. They’re easier to practice dexterity development and to maintain finger accuracy.
But in some cases, not all, a shorter scale will also imply a smaller melodic range. Not all short-scale or medium scale acoustic basses will have 24 frets, so keep that in mind before you decide on anything.
Niche Instruments but Overall Worth It for Bass Players
If you already own an electric bass guitar, then it’s hard to think of any set of circumstances where an acoustic bass will make more sense. But, the unique sound of an acoustic bass can add more dimension to blues, jazz, and even practicing certain techniques.
I whole-heartedly recommend you try playing on one to see the difference. Besides, if you ever need to play a bass line in an acoustic setting where amplification is out of the question, there’s not much you can do with a big, heavy, electric bass anyway.