‘Cause it’s Saturday night and you just got paid. You want to Rip it up on a Bass guitar but your capitalist junkie boss is paying minimum and you’ve got about 25 hours a week.
You’re in college 4 days in the week and have largely survived off Porridge and sweet potato fries for the past month.
Well, at least that’s what I did when I was in college.
But anyway, whatever the reason you’re looking, I’m going to point you in the direction of the best new & used basses I can think of that fit within the student budget.
In order from most expensive to cheapest:
1. Epiphone EB0 – approx. €230 new
The Epiphone EB-0 is a tone classic and just about as basic as it gets. I know it’s a controversial decision to choose the EB-0 over an EB-3, but i’m maintaining the opinion that even in it’s more simplistic form, this bass trumps almost everything else within it’s price range on the market.
With one wide neck position humbucker, this muddy short scale bass is burning with classic Jack Bruce and Andrew McMahon vibes. If you’re a fan of classic 60’s sounds as much as I am, but something like a Rickenbacker or Danelectro longhorn is just a little bit outside your budget; I would personally recommend testing out an EB-0. It is a completely different caged beast to a Dano or a Rickenbacker, but it has a lot of the short scale bass characteristics heard on a lot of 60’s records.
Throw on some Rotosound 77’s and play through an Ashdown Five Fifteen and let the tones of the psychedelic era inspire you.
If that hasn’t excited the elves in your wallet, it also comes in black.
It’s not exactly a Epiphone EB-0, but here’s Polish jazz bassist Kinga Glyk showing the full potential of the ’67 Gibson EB-3, which the Epiphone EB-0 pays clear homage to.
2. Aria GT Series Bass – Approx €130-180 used
I have told people many times that if I ever make it big, and Fender want to make me a signature model, it’s going to be a 5 string P Bass with one big dirty humbucker slightly too close to the bridge.
Completely inspired by these basses.
Aria as a company are incredibly underrated despite one of the most highly acclaimed bass players, Cliff Burton, famously using an Aria Pro bass and creating many many godly tones with it. (I’m not a Metallica fan by any stretch, but I know a powerful gnarly beastly tone when I hear one)
The GT Series Bass is a really unusual design. It’s almost like a Leo Fender homage-lovechild between a Sting ray and a Precision Bass. And the reason for it making the list is it really is arguably the most deserving bass to be on this list.
Although Aria are no longer producing these basses, they are known to pop up from time to time, in anything from car boot sales to oxfam shops.
The sound is definitely closer to a stingray than a Precision; it has a lot of growl and a lot of clarity. I’ve heard them in action before and they are incredible for their price range, especially for a 5 string.
Try out Ernie Ball Power slinky bass strings, EHX Bass Soul Food and go nuts with a Fender Rumble 100.
3. Harley Benton PJ 5 – €129 new
Ok, I know this list is not going to be free from bias since it’s an opinion piece, so i’m including this bass for the reason of it being my own workhorse for the past 3 years.
It’s commonly overlooked how important having a P/J Pickup configuration is. More often than not, a song will call for either a Precision or Jazz sound. I could write a whole essay in itself as to why that is, but maybe Leo Fender just “got it right” the first time.
A Harley Benton Deluxe series bass, made by the in-house brand of Musikhaus Thomann, this is an incredible bass for the price. It has a beautifully dark tone from its alber body and the Pickups are well balanced and confidently hold their own, and likewise the P/J configuration is incredibly versatile.
This bass is still in demand and still in production so no need to go hunting for it.
Rotosound 66 Roundwounds, Orange OB1-500, Boss PQ-4 Parametric EQ.
That’s one spicy pepperoni.
4. Encore E83 – €80-150 used
Encore’s Starchild of the early 90’s, the E83 is a Precision Bass copy that really has it all.
Inspired by the 60s Fender Bass models, the Split coil pickup has a super high output and brilliantly captures the signature Precision bass growl.
If the classic Fender sound is what you desire but you can’t splash out for a Mexican Fender, the Encore E83 is definitely a worthy competitor.
This bass is definitely on the heavy side, the neck is maple and the body is a bit of a mystery for me, but sources can confirm that it is a solid body and not a plywood body.
Like the Aria GT Series Bass, the Encore E83 is out of production but they have been known to pop up all around the place. These basses were very affordable when they first hit the market around 1993, and lots of musicians who began their musical journey between 1993 and 1996 would have played one as their first bass. I managed to nab a Fretless version of the E83 in Dublin last year and it’s sound is phenomenal.
They can be difficult to pinpoint if found on the second hand market, but you should be able to tell by the weight of it being heavier than a Fender P Bass, and the neck gloss finish being similar to the mid-late 80’s gloss finishes.
The Pickup is super hot by comparison to other basses i’m using right now and honestly, it just has that P Bass tone for days.
Labella Flats for this guy, Boss BC-1X Compressor, Ampeg SVT or any other amp with tubes in it.
You’ll completely fool everybody that you picked up this bass at a car boot sale, and are not in fact Duck Dunn, nor have you ever even met Booker T.
So that concludes the 4 best new & used basses for under a month’s rent. I hope you found this interesting and useful and as always if there is anything you want me to talk about next time, please let me know.