In-depth Review of the Best 5 string bass guitars

In-depth Review of the Best 5 string bass guitars

If you’re looking for more versatility and an extended range, an upgrade to a five-string bass is an excellent choice. Fifteen years ago, I tried my first five-string bass after three years of playing and never looked back. I remember thinking back then, sure, the neck might be a bit thicker, and the strings are closer, but the extra string was a fantastic tool I could put to use creatively. It expanded my playing options and let me play a variety of things I could never do on a four-string bass.

Naturally, I tried out a lot of different five-string basses, from the low-end to the ultra-high-end. My years of experience trying these basses, including over the long-term with some that I personally own, as well as listening to customers and students describe their experiences, greatly informed the recommendations given in this article. So then, let’s explore the best five-string bass guitars and see all the great features they have to offer. We’ll end with a final recommendation after we take into consideration everything.

1. Sterling by Music Man Stingray Ray5

This iconic five-string bass from Sterling by Music Man flaunts the classic Stingray style that was first introduced by Ernie Ball in 1976. Manufactured in Asia, The Stringray Ray5 features top-notch electronics, high-quality craftsmanship, and a well-rounded tone all at a wonderful price point. Overall, this bass is a great option for anyone who isn’t willing to shell out the few thousand dollars for an Ernie Ball Stingray5, but still want to maintain the vintage look, quality craftsmanship, and great tonality.

Specs at a glance:

  • Basswood body
  • Hard maple neck
  • Maple fingerboard
  • 1 ceramic humbucker pickup
  • 2-band active preamp with cut and boost
  • Easy access truss rod adjuster
  • Heavy-duty fixed bridge
  • Mint green finish
  • White pickguard
  • 22 frets
  • 34” scale length

How it looks

This bass is an impressive sight to behold, offering up a classic, vintage look that defined a generation of bassists in the 1970s. The comfortable, contoured body is made of basswood, which is a great lightweight wood that packs a deep, natural resonance. The extended cutaway body shape allows for easy upper fret access.

The solid maple neck features a strong 6-bolt construction that guarantees extra durability and playing stability. The fretboard is also made from solid maple. It features aesthetic solid black dot inlays.

The signature teardrop white pickguard is a great design choice, complemented by a variety of available finishes. The Maple fretboard version comes in black, mint green, and vintage sunburst satin finishes. The Jatoba fretboard version comes in walnut satin, trans blue satin, and ruby red burst finishes.

How it plays

While standing, this bass sits nicely against the body. It is heavier than the other 5-strings I played, but with great weight balance. The stable neck has a 12″ radius which makes for smooth and easy playing. The satin-finished neck adds extra comfort, with no obvious fret sprout.

The adjustable, heavy-duty bridge gives you complete flexibility with the height of the strings and the intonation of the instrument. This allows each player to dial in the most comfortable playing experience. This is complemented by the high-quality stainless steel saddles, whose precision will ensure no sideways movements of the strings, even under heavy playing. The chrome open-gear tuners add even more playing stability.

How it sounds

One ceramic humbucker pickup designed in-house by Music Man drives the bass. It generates naturally warm tones with an impressive low-end response. Three individual metal knobs control the volume and high/low boost for dynamic control over the tone. The 2-band preamp is powered by a 9V battery that’s easily accessible from a compartment in the back of the body.

While there is no midrange EQ in the controls, this bass still has lots of tonal versatility. Even with both EQ controls set flat, the tone is very well-rounded and natural sounding. Players of all styles will find what they’re looking for in this bass. I found that this bass can make some great slap/pop sounds, and can create some seriously deep dub tones with the treble low.

Check out this video to hear this bass in action.

What we liked:

  • Fantastic value for the price
  • The iconic style looks great
  • The active preamp allows for tons of tonal possibilities
  • Set up and inspected in the United States

What we disliked:

  • May require some initial set up for best playing
  • Lack of mid-range EQ
  • No gig-bag included

2. Yamaha TRBX605

The Yamaha TRBX605 is part of the widely acclaimed TRBX 600 series. It is the five-string addition to this higher-end collection from Yamaha. The TRBX605 perfectly combines highly versatile active electronics, an attractive modern design, and quality, precision engineering.

Specs at a glance:

  • Alder/maple-laminated body
  • Five-piece maple/mahogany-laminated neck
  • Rosewood fretboard
  • Satin polyurethane finish
  • 3-band EQ active electronics
  • 2 H5 Alnico V Humbucker pickups
  • 24 frets
  • 43mm nut width
  • High-mass, die-cast bridge
  • Chrome-sealed tuners

How it looks

This bass has a remarkably memorable visual appeal, thanks in part to its beautiful natural grain patterns and modern design. The 3D-sculpted, double-cutaway body design creates highly aesthetic and comfortable contouring around the edges. The TRBX605 comes in a variety of finishes, including natural satin, translucent black, dark red burst, and matte amber. The natural satin really lets the natural grain patterns stand out and gives the entire bass a beautiful, stylish look.

The five-piece maple/mahogany-laminated neck houses a rosewood fretboard with offset dot inlays. Going up the neck, the headstock sports the classic Yamaha TRBX shape. It has three tuning pegs on top and two at the bottom. The finish on the headstock matches the neck and body finish, and overall looks top-notch.

How it plays

The first thing I noticed once I first held this bass was its weight optimization feature. The weight on this bass is distributed very evenly, and it feels highly comfortable to play either sitting on the knee or standing up.

After playing for some time, the tuning stability and intonation on this bass were very evident. The slim, fast neck features a bolt-on construction with four screws. This adds to the playing stability and aids in overall strength, vibrational transfer, and easy upper fret access.

The advanced headstock design prevents lateral string tension and also supports near-perfect tuning stability. This is due in part from the straight string pull from the nut to the machine head. Additionally, the high-mass die-cast bridge is easily adjustable and maintains spot-on intonation.

How it sounds

This bass truly shines in the wide, dynamic tonal range that it can produce. The active electronics onboard allow for an incredible range of tones while also being very intuitive to use.

Two H5 alnico V humbucker pickups sit at the neck and bridge position. There is one master volume control knob, one master tone knob (used in passive mode), and a 2-way toggle switch to flip between 3-band EQ active and passive mode. In the active mode, the bass has a very dubby, full sound when the neck and bridge pickups are blended. When the neck pickup is favored, you get a large, heavy sound. The bridge pickup produces a trebly, higher-end biased sound. There is a nice battery indicator LED on the backside that can alert when the battery is running low. If it does run out, the passive mode can take the reigns and produce a clean, vintage sound.

Overall, players of nearly every genre, whether its metal, pop, funk, jazz, or blues, will find what they’re looking for after some tone crafting. Here’s a video explaining some more details about this bass and demoing the various tones that this workhorse can produce.

What we liked:

  • Fantastic tonal versatility
  • The comfortable, slim neck makes for easy playing
  • Beautiful body finish that is sure to turn heads
  • Great load of features for a cost-effective price

What we disliked:

  • Battery for active electronics drains fairly quickly
  • A few Amazon customers report QA defects upon arrival

3. Ibanez SR505BM Soundgear

For players willing to dish out a little more money, the SR505BM five-string bass from Ibanez may be one of the most impressive electric bass guitars in its price range. It combines outstanding craftsmanship and classic design choices. This Ibanez five-string bass is part of the SR series from Ibanez, a line well-known for its great looks and fantastic tonewoods. Both intermediate guitar players and practicing musicians should look no further than this versatile instrument.

Specs at a glance:

  • Mahogany body
  • SR5 5piece Jatoba/Bubinga neck
  • Jatoba fretboard with abalone oval inlay
  • Brown Mahogany color
  • 3-band active EQ
  • Dual Bartolini pickups
  • Accu-cast B305 bridge (16.5mm string spacing)
  • Cosmo black hardware
  • 24 frets
  • 34” scale length

How it looks

Right away you’re struck by the modern, classic look of the contoured solid Mahogany body.

The long-grain pattern on the body and abalone oval inlays are supremely attractive features that contribute to this bass guitar’s stunning looks. The brown mahogany finish completes the overall visual appeal of this beautiful bass guitar.

How it plays

When I first picked this bass guitar up, I was immediately struck by how lightweight it was. It feels very well balanced, and the contoured mahogany body adds to the overall comfortable playing experience.

The smooth, fast neck features a bolt-on construction for superb stability and is made of Jatoba and Bubinga. Bubinga is also known as African Rosewood. It’s a bit denser than traditional Rosewood and contributes a highly aesthetic swirly bronze pattern on the neck. The neck profile is super slim, at only .80 inches at the first fret, which can make for very fast and comfortable playing.

The Accu-cast B305 bridge provides easy and efficient string changes, while the single-screw design on the saddle height adjustment further adds to the excellent stability.

How it sounds

This bass has a truly consistent and rich tone all the way up the fretboard. The outstanding sound on this bass is driven by two Bartolini MK1-5 split-coil pickups, and sculpted by the versatile 3-band EQ. The solid Mahogany body generates a naturally warm, resonant low-end response and an excellent sustain. I was also impressed by the high-end tonal response, producing a crisp, clean, trebly sound. The stock Elixir strings add to the brightness of the tone, which can be lessened if needed by rolling off the treble with the EQ.

To learn more about this bass guitar and hear it in action, check out this video.


What we liked:

  • Beautiful Mahogany finish
  • An excellent, consistent tone
  • Great tone sculpting possible with 3-band active EQ
  • Outstanding tonewoods used in the construction

 What we disliked:

  • No gig bag included
  • The screw-based battery compartment can be a bit difficult to access

4. Fender Player Jazz Electric Bass Guitar V

The Player Jazz bass guitar from Fender harkens back to the 1960s and upholds the time-tested vintage design and authentic Fender tone. This Fender five-string bass guitar is immensely comfortable to play with its slim neck design. It delivers the legendary Fender Jazz Bass tone widely sought after by intermediate and advanced bassists.

 Specs at a glance:

  • Solid Alder body
  • Maple neck
  • Pau Ferro fingerboard
  • 20 frets
  • Gloss finish
  • Nickel/Chrome hardware
  • Standard open-gear tuners
  • Two Player Series jazz bass pickups
  • 34” scale length

How it looks

This bass guitar features the classic Jazz Bass offset body shape. The alder body contains a durable gloss finish, a nice addition for anyone taking it on the road and wants some damage control against bumps and scratches. There is a satin urethane finish on the back of the neck, and a gloss urethane finish on the headstock face. On the slim maple neck lies a Pau Ferro fingerboard with classy white dot inlays on the medium-jumbo frets. On the 4-bolt neck plate lies the authentic “F”-stamped Fender logo, true to its authentic name.

How it plays

This guitar feels great to play either sitting down or standing up thanks to the offset waist body shape. The C-shaped neck profile coupled with the slim 9.5” radius fingerboard makes for very fast and easy playing. It’s remarkably slim compared to the Fender Precision bass neck. Additionally, the fingerboard is made out of Pau Ferro. Pau Ferro is a South American tonewood widely known for its highly smooth feel.

Some other great playing features include the Player series 5-saddle hardtail bridge, which delivers spot-on intonation and allows for easy action adjustment. One thing I noticed holding this bass is that it is definitely heavier than other basses in its price range. This isn’t an issue, however, if you have a well-made strap.

How it sounds

The tone of this guitar comes from electromagnetic magic created by two Player Series single-coil jazz bass pickups. These Alnico V pickups produce a powerful, punchy tone perfect for studio or live playing. The Alder body also helps develop its rich tone and great sustain, as this wood is known for its high resonance. The sound is controlled by two volume control knobs and one master tone control knob. This bass will meet the tonal needs of players of blues, funk, rock, country and (of course) jazz.

Here’s a great demo of this awesome bass guitar in action.


What we liked:

  • Classic Fender Jazz Bass look
  • Very slim neck profile makes for easy, fast playing
  • Excellent quality control from Fender
  • Comes in left-handed and right-handed orientation

 What we disliked:

  • No gig bag included
  • Tonal versatility lacking compared to active electronic bass guitars

5. Squier Affinity Jazz Bass V 5 String LRL BSB Bass Guitar

The Affinity Jazz Bass from Squier is a great choice for beginner bassists or anyone looking to try out a five-string bass for the first time. This bass guitar offers quality craftsmanship and a great tone while certainly not breaking the bank. This Squier five-string bass guitar is an affordable version of the renowned Fender Jazz Bass guitar.

Specs at a glance:

  • Alder body
  • Maple neck
  • Rosewood fingerboard
  • Chrome hardware
  • Dual single-coil Jazz Bass pickups
  • 5-string vintage-style bridge
  • 20 frets
  • Open-gear tuners
  • 34” scale length

How it looks

The Squier Affinity Jazz maintains the time-honored Jazz Bass look. The solid Alder body has a comfortable double-cutaway body. The finish comes in either brown or black sunburst, both of which give off the classic yet simplistic Fender vibe. The control strip, open-gear tuners, and bridge are plated in chrome. Overall, this bass may be simple on the visual side of things, but it definitely gives off that long-established Jazz look.

How it plays

The neck has a slim C-shaped design that makes for fast and comfortable playing. The 20 medium-jumbo frets give plenty of room to navigate the fretboard. The bolt-on maple neck is constructed in one solid piece, which improves the vibrational transfer to the pickups from the strings and gives the neck a durable feel.

The vintage-style five-string bridge and single-groove saddles function in tandem to maintain great stability in the strings. This due in part to the bridge’s top load design, which helps reduce the break angle across the saddle. The saddle can be easily adjusted for accurate intonation.

Overall, this bass is pretty heavy thanks to the solid Alder construction and the full 34” scale length. A good strap will be necessary if you’re looking to play standing up for extended periods of time.

How it sounds

In terms of hardware, this bass features two single-coil Jazz Bass pickups at the neck and bridge position. The pickups are controlled by two volume control knobs and a single master tone control knob.

They can produce a rumbling, punchy tone well-suited for a variety of playing styles. There is a clear, growling mid-range and a crisp high-end. When just using the neck pickup, you produce a mellow, warm sound. On the other hand, the bridge pickup generates an edgier, trebly tone. Thanks to the Alder body construction, the sustain is very good overall.

Here’s a video explaining more features of this economical bass guitar and demonstrating its tone in action.


What we liked:

  • An excellent price tag for the quality
  • The slim, comfortable neck makes for easy playing
  • Great beginner bass
  • Low-cost investment for anyone looking to try a 5-string bass

 What we disliked:

  • Likely requires set-up out of the box
  • No gig bag included
  • Not the greatest visual appeal out of the five-string basses overviewed

6. ESP LTD B-205SM Spalted Maple

The B-205SM is part of the B series of LTD basses from ESP Guitars. This guitar offers a distinctive, beautiful look thanks to its Spalted Maple top. The quality craftsmanship and tonal capabilities of this bass guitar will appeal to a wide variety of players of metal, heavy rock, modern pop, and more.

Specs at a glance:

  • Spalted maple top
  • Ash body
  • 5-piece Maple/Rosewood neck
  • Rosewood fingerboard
  • Dual ESP-designed SB-5 pickups
  • 3-band active EQ
  • String-thru body design
  • LTD tuners
  • 34” scale length

How it looks

This beautiful bass guitar features a unique grain pattern and body coloration thanks to the Spalted Maple top. The guitar has a perfect natural satin finish that adds a nice glossy look to the natural grain. The great-looking black nickel hardware is a nice touch on the body and headstock.  Overall, this bass guitar will have a great stage presence thanks to its striking, unique look.

How it plays

The extra thin U-shaped shape neck supports fluid, easy playing. The 5-piece neck made from Maple and Jatoba is bolted on the Ash body and feels extremely stable. The fretless design is a nice feature that requires higher accuracy but makes the neck feel very fast and comfortable. The 24 X-Jumbo frets give you plenty of room to work with.

Be advised, this bass is pretty heavy. Smaller-framed players may want to opt for a lighter weight bass, but with a high-quality strap, there shouldn’t be an issue for most.

Other useful features include the LTD BB-605 bridge, which has a string-thru design for easy and efficient string changes.

How it sounds

The EMG pickups produce a bright, rich sound thanks to its solid ash body and EMG pickups. The active ABQ-3 3-band EQ can produce heavy metal tones or more classic, clean bass sounds. There is a clear, fast attack and deep low-end response. With the bridge pickup activated, you can get a crisp, singing high-end response. This bass can accommodate a wide variety of playing styles and genres, but it is best suited for players of modern styles such as heavy rock and metal. Be sure to check out this video to hear this bass in action.


What we liked:

  • Spalted Maple top is one-of-a-kind
  • Active electronics gives tons of tonal versatility
  • String-thru design is very efficient

What we disliked:

  • Customers recommend replacing the default strings

7. Schecter Stiletto Custom-5

Made in Indonesia, the Stiletto Custom-5 electric bass from Schecter is a great bass guitar for players of all skill levels and playing styles. The Stiletto Custom takes after the Stiletto Studio concept while offering more flash in the finish and hardware. One of the most notable features are the high-quality EMG pickups, which deliver a high-powered sound and a truly rich tone.

Specs at a glance:

  • Mahogany body
  • Flamed Maple top with Walnut
  • Maple/Walnut multi-ply neck
  • Rosewood fretboard
  • S-Tek bridge
  • EMG 35HZ pickups
  • Satin gold hardware
  • Schecter tuners
  • 24 jumbo frets
  • 35” scale length

How it looks

This is a very beautiful looking bass. The flat top is made of Flamed Maple with Walnut, and features an elegant natural satin finish. The Custom-5 also comes in a stunning vampire red satin finish.

The darker Mahogany body contrasts the lighter top woods and has attractively smooth natural-grain contours that wrap around the edges. The lighter top is due to the Flamed Maple with Walnut which also adds to its great sustain and deep, natural resonance. The satin gold hardware on the control knobs, tuners, and S-Tek bridge give this guitar a very high-end, regal look. The Maple/Walnut multi-ply neck features a smooth Rosewood fingerboard with attractive pearloid offset dot inlays.

How it plays

The neck features a thin, C-shaped design for enhanced playability and comfort. The neck is joined to the body with a solid 6-bolt design for ultimate stability. The 45mm nut width is thick enough to accommodate the extra low B string yet thin enough for fast playing. The 35” scale length further increases the low B-string clarity.

The two-way adjustable truss rod allows for easy neck relief adjustments to personalize the playing experience. The Schecter tuners and S-Tek bridge support spot-on intonation and great playing stability.

How it sounds

Two EMG 40HZ pickups at the neck and bridge position produce this bass guitar’s high-powered sound. The electronics are controlled by a master volume knob, a blend knob, and a 2-band EMG active EQ.

Players will appreciate its clear rumbling low-end and punchy high-end, all sculptable with its active electronics powered by a 9-V battery. Here is a video demo of this axe in action.


What we liked:

  • Stunning looks from the top woods and natural satin finish
  • Active electronics allow for wide tonal range
  • Slim neck profile and increased scale length improve playability and comfort
  • 9-V clip-in battery compartment is easily accessible

 What we disliked:

  • No gig bag included

Final Verdict

Moving over to a 5-string bass can be an exciting and immensely rewarding experience for any bassist. The extra string gives you much more creative leeway while not sacrificing much in terms of playability.

Based on this list, there is a wide range of great options that balance high-quality craftsmanship, excellent tonality, and beautiful looks. However, after teaching students for many years and owning several of these basses, I have to narrow down the list to the Sterling by Music Man Stingray Ray 5.

While the best 5-string bass guitar may be dependent on the unique needs of the player, you will be hard-pressed to find a better bass guitar for under $1000. This bass guitar combines excellent tonewoods, tons of finish options for that vintage look, and outstanding playability. Even further, I’d argue it has a tonal quality similar to the classic Stingray from Ernie Ball.

Don’t forget to also check out the following articles on bass guitars, depending on your budget:

Bass Guitars Under $500

Bass Guitars Under $1000

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