Best 5 Strings Bass Guitars of 2019 – Ultimate Buyer’s Guide

When you think of a bass, you probably think of the traditional four-string variety, but there is an option that will challenge you even more and add elevate your performance.

We are talking about the five-string bass. With the simple inclusion of an extra string, you have more tonal range and will be able to up your sound game to all new heights. But which one should you add to your collection? 

There are a lot of options out there and in this guide, we are going to help you by taking a look at some of the key factors that play a role in making a great five-string bass, as well as tell you about several of the best products on the market today. So, get the band together and tune that bass, because we are about to rock your world.

Comparison Chart of the Best 5-Strings Bass Guitars

Product

Rating

Price

Sterling by Music Man RAY35-NT Bass

Sterling by Music Man RAY35-NT Bass (5 String, Natural)

Best Overall

Schecter Stiletto Studio-5 Electric Bass

Schecter Stiletto Studio-5 Electric Bass (5 String, Honey Satin)

Runner-up

Squier by Fender Affinity Jazz V String

Squier by Fender Affinity Jazz V String Beginner Electric Bass Guitar - Rosewood Fingerboard, Brown Sunburst

Best for the Money

Ibanez SR505 Left-Handed 5-String Bass

Ibanez SR505 Left-Handed 5-String Bass Guitar Brown Mahogany

Best Left-Handed 5-String Bass

ESP Fretless Spalted Maple 5-String Bass

ESP LTD B-205SM FL Fretless Spalted Maple 5-String Bass Guitar, Natural Satin

Best 5-String Fretless Bass

Ibanez 5-String Bass Guitar, Right Handed

Ibanez 5 String Bass Guitar, Right, Black (GSRM25BK)

Best Short Scale 5-String Bass

Dean Edge 09 Bass, 5-String

Dean Edge 09 Bass, 5 String, Classic Black

Best 5-String Bass Under $500

What Size of 5-String Bass Do I Need?

The truth is, this all depends on you. However, there are a few things that may make the choice a little easier when considering either a traditional four-string, a five-string, or even a six-string bass for your musical needs. The first is your experience level. If you are just starting out, then a simple, traditional four-string is best for you. 

Once you have mastered that, then you can consider moving up to the best model. Other things to think about are weight and expense. If you are just starting out and are not used to carrying the weight of the four-string, then adding the extra weight of a five or six-string may be a little too much. 

Plus, the extra-stringed basses are in a higher cost range. So, our suggestion is if you are just starting out, stick with the traditional then work your way up to the next level.

Are All 5-String Bass Guitars the Same?

There are so many variations when it comes to the five-string bass that you may be surprised. Let’s start with the material the bass is made with. There are models like the ESP Fretless we discuss below, which is made of maple, and others that are made of other high-tonal woods. There is also the question of construction, including the neck. 

Some of these models will be a bolt-on neck, some may be a set-neck, and still others will be a thru-body. The most common construction is a bolt-on neck. You also have fretless basses like the entry from ESP below. Other things that can vary between brands and models are things like:

  • Bass Scale Length
  • Bass Bridges
  • Pick-Ups
  • Passive or Active Electronics
  • Right/Left-Handed

So, as you can see, there is a lot of versatility and variety when you are looking at five-string basses and each model has its own unique qualities. The models below come in all different styles and shapes, as well as wood types. We specifically wanted to give you a well-rounded selection and we think we did a pretty good job. But, before we get into those, let's talk about how to choose the right five-string bass for you.

How to Choose a 5-String Bass

The last thing you want to do is jump into a decision you may regret later, especially when you are spending your hard-earned money. Making sure you know what to look for and how to choose the right five-string bass is as simple as paying attention to some key features and factors when it comes to this musical instrument. Below, we have chosen five of the most important things to consider when beginning your research on the right bass for you and your musical needs.

Fretless/Unfretted

Most of these factors have to do with the level of experience you bring to the table. One feature to think about is whether you want a fretless or fretted bass. Most normal basses come with frets. This makes it easy to find the notes and make that bass sing. But with a fretless, you are flying a little blind. That is why if you are a newer player, choosing a fretted option may be the best choice for you.

Wood

The wood that the bass is comprised of will have a major impact on a lot of key tonal considerations. There are models made from everything from alder to maple wood. Each wood has a specific tonal quality and resonance, and this will impact the overall sound quality your bass produces. 

Bass Scale Length

This is a consideration for two major reasons, the length and ease of lay. If you are a younger player or a player with small hands, you may not be able to bridge the space of a traditional 34” scale length. This means you will want to go with a bass guitar model that has a short scale length.

Controls

This is also about the experience. If you are just starting out, you will want to choose a five-string bass that allows for easy control. This means knobs and controls that do not get in the way of focusing on the strings and notes themselves. If you are a little more advanced, you can take a chance and go with a little more in-depth control capabilities.

Price

Like anything else, you need to consider your budget. Making sure you get the best quality and the right choice for you without breaking your bank is a major factor in your choice.

Review of the Best 5-String Bass Guitars

So now you know what to watch for and that all five-string basses are not created the same, so let’s begin looking at some of the best options available to you on today's market.

Sterling by Music Man RAY35-NT Bass (5 String, Natural)

PROS

  • Classic But Unique Design
  • Exceptional Low-Tone Capability
  • Neck Crafted in Maple for More Durability
  • Has an Elevated Resonance in the Mid-Tone Range
  • Built-in Humbucking Pickup for Improved Dynamic Range

CONS

  • Design Includes a Bolt-On Neck
  • Not Exceptional in the High-Tonal Range
  • Issues With the Fret Finish Being Too Sharp

What Recent Buyers Report

Other than the odd issue with the sharp edges of the fret finish, most customers are simply in love with the overall look and performance of our overall best five-string bass. With the quality of a high-end competitor, this bass has everything you want from a great dynamic range and improved resonance to rich sound in the low and mid-tones. With the control’s customizability, this is a great investment.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The thing that stands out the most to us in the overall care in design and construction. Using two of the best wood types, mixed with electronics that enhance the overall sound, the Sterling RAY35-NT is a great selection. It is a durable, well-crafted five-string bass that anyone in the music game, whether a hobbyist or professional, will enjoy playing.

Who Will Use This Most

With the design and great sound this five-string bass is perfect for the rocker or metal-head. Overall, this is a great inclusion to the Music Man Ray series and will give its user an elevated performance ability and a richer sound that will have you banging your head for hours and hours.

Bottom Line

There are so many great features built into this, that no matter what type of music you play or the level of experience you have, this bass will be the best decision you will ever make.

Schecter Stiletto Studio-5 Electric Bass (5 String, Honey Satin)

PROS

  • Nice Solid Build
  • Wide Range EQ Controls With Three Bands
  • Great Dual-Passive Pick-Ups With a Wide Range
  • Stability is Excellent Due to the Thru-Body Construction
  • Tone Quality is Excellent With Great Resonance and Punch

CONS

  • Issues With the Flat Sound
  • Some Issues With Fret Buzz
  • The Overall Weight of the Bass

What Recent Buyers Report

This runner-up model has a lot of great qualities, according to recent buyers. Built to last, with a solid construction and thru-body neck, this long-scale bass looks good and sounds better. Though some have had issues with the passive pickups and a flat tone, overall, this bass is a great option for those looking to up their bass game.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Built with high-grade components and designed with the end sound in mind, the Schecter Stiletto Studio-5 has many things that stick out to us. From the double-cutaway body to the combination of wood types used in the neck the construction of this frame, it is absolutely designed to be stunning and durable. The sound quality is amplified using the right components, which means, in the end, you get a great sounding bass that you will be slapping for many years to come.

Who Will Use This Most

If you are a jazz or rock bassist, this model is built for you. With its rich and crisp tones and fast neck, you will be able to handle whatever riffs and solos you need and will do so with ease.

Bottom Line

This bass is a great, solid, rich-sounding instrument to add to your collection. Though this model is perfect for jazz and rock bassists, the truth of the matter is, any musician looking for great sound and a high-quality bass should definitely consider this for their go-to five-string bass. This is the reason we made it the runner-up on this list.

Squier by Fender Affinity Jazz V String Beginner Electric Bass Guitar - Rosewood Fingerboard, Brown Sunburst

PROS

  • Amazing Quality Vs. Value
  • Amazing, Warm Tonal Qualities
  • Offers an Easy to Play Fast Neck
  • Super Comfortable to Play for Extended Periods
  • Design Looks Good, With a Finish That Enhances it

CONS

  • Some Issues With Fret Buzz
  • It Takes a Few Times to Get the Tuning Right
  • Fret Ends Tend to Be Sharp and Need to be Filed Down

What Recent Buyers Report

Recent buyers have a lot of great things to say. The value you get for the price you pay is outstanding. On par with more expensive competitors, this bass offers great action, a comfortable to use build, and a stunning overall appearance. Though there are some issues with fret buzz and you may have to tune it a couple of times before it is just right, overall, they feel that this bass is a steal.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The biggest thing that stands out to us is the great sound and playability you get for such a reasonable price. That is why the Affinity Jazz V-String made it to our list of the best options for any musician looking for a good value on a budget.

Who Will Use This Most

It's all in the name, my friends. Though any musician would get the most out of this piece, probably one that would get just a hair more would be the jazz bassist. Crafted with specific requirements for this musical genre, this model is absolutely the go-to jazz five-string bass.

Bottom Line

You get what you pay for and then some with the Affinity Jazz by Fender. This entry into the Squier series is a must for the musician on a budget. Expect more than you when you pick up this superb offering.

Best Left-Handed 5-String Bass:
Ibanez SR505 Left-Handed 5-String Bass

Ibanez SR505 Left-Handed 5-String Bass Guitar Brown Mahogany

PROS

  • MK1 Pickups Give This Bass Excellent Tone
  • Easy to Change Strings With a High-Quality Bridge
  • Durable, Lightweight, and Well-Constructed for Long Life
  • Built-in 3-Band EQ for More Control Over Shaping the Sound
  • Crafted With Rosewood, Poplar, and Mahogany for Crisp, Rich Sound

CONS

  • Issues With a Flat Sound
  • Not Ideal for Heavier Sounds Like Metal
  • Issues With Neck Screws Becoming Stripped After Extended Use

What Recent Buyers Report

For the most part, recent buyers are thrilled with the value versus price. With a great customizable sound and solid build, they seem to feel that you just can’t go wrong overall. There have been some situations where the screws have stripped and the sound seemed a bit flat. These are not universal complaints, though.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Not every brand or model sees fit to make their product ambidextrous, but this model does. With the ability to choose from left or right-handed operation, this gives that sometimes forgotten left-handed bassist the opportunity to play along with the band. On top of that, you get a high-quality build and components that make this a great choice for almost any type of music.

Who Will Use This Most

The person that will get the most from this is the left-handed player. However, musical-wise any musician that is not playing harder music styles like thrash or heavy-metal will love this item. This model is great for any other musical styling, especially jazz or rock.

Bottom Line

The Ibanez SR505 is a nice piece of workmanship that will enhance your overall sound through the built-in, high-grade electrical components. The fact that this model is equipped to be handled by any dominant hand gives it a leg-up, as well.

Best 5-String Fretless Bass:
ESP Fretless Spalted Maple 5-String Bass

ESP LTD B-205SM FL Fretless Spalted Maple 5-String Bass Guitar, Natural Satin

PROS

  • No Additional, Unwanted Noises
  • High-Grade Pickups for Rich, Crisp Tones
  • String-Thru Design With Active Electronics for Better Sound Quality
  • The Adaptability Makes it a Great Choice for Studio and Live Playing
  • This is a Great Bass to Handle With its Sleek Design and Well-Crafted Frame

CONS

  • Not Lightweight at All
  • Issues With Neck Arriving Bent
  • Issues With the Durability of the Finish

What Recent Buyers Report

The ESP Fretless Five-String bass has a lot to like and the recent buyers have no problem letting you know. The versatility and range of use with this bass are great. With its awesome design and high-grade pickups, you can bet on rich, crisp tones with a nice resonance and sustain. It is a little heavy and there are a few issues that have been noted with necks arriving bent and the finish's durability, but these are not enough to take away its awesome capabilities.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Finding a good fretless bass is not an easy feat. This model makes it so very easy. With its amazing and stylish construction, you get one of the best full-length scale options out there today. It offers a level of versatility in choice that surpasses many of its competitors.

Who Will Use This Most

This model is for the more experienced musician that wants a nicely-crafted bass that offers versatility of use. Great for the studio musician that changes music stylings on a daily basis. The rich, even tones make this a great option for any type of genre track you want to jam to today.

Bottom Line

The ESP Spalted Maple Fretless 5-String Bass is a sleekly designed instrument that offers a wide tonal range and great attributes. Built with high-quality materials from the frame to the electronics, this model would make any experienced player smile as they slap the strings and feel the vibrations.

Best Short Scale 5-String Bass:
Ibanez 5-String Bass Guitar, Right-Handed

Ibanez 5 String Bass Guitar, Right, Black (GSRM25BK)

PROS

  • Price Versus Value is Great
  • Crafted in Lightweight Poplar Wood
  • Easy to Disassemble for Better Portability
  • An Ergonomic and Comfortable Neck Design
  • Designed With a Short Scale Neck That is Great for Younger or Smaller Players

CONS

  • Not as Powerful as Other Models
  • Issues With B-String Tension Quality
  • Issues With the Accessibility of Top Frets

What Recent Buyers Report

The reviews from recent buyers have a lot of great things to say about this model from Ibanez. Though not every bass player loves a short scale length, if you are a smaller or younger player ,this model has a lot to offer. Many recent buyers love this quality and when coupled with the high quality you get for an affordable rate, you are looking at a 4.5-star rating for sure. The remaining half star gets lost due to the lack of accessibility of the top frets and the B-string tension being a little floppy.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This didn’t get the chance to be the best option for short scale five-string bases for nothing. Of all the attributes that make this a stellar instrument, the construction is what stands out for us. The quality and attention to detail Ibanez has become known for in a great short-scale bass is exactly what players have been asking for.

Who Will Use This Most

With a short length scale, players that will get the most out of this bass are beginners and those that are a little smaller-handed. Though you may lose a little range and power, the ease of use that this design gives those players is so worth it.

Bottom Line

If you are a beginner, a youth, or simple a smaller-framed player, getting your hands on this short-scale bass is a great option. You will be able to take advantage of all the benefits without having to stretch and contract your fingers to hit all those notes.

Best 5-String Bass Under $500:
Dean Edge 09 Bass, 5-String

Dean Edge 09 Bass, 5 String, Classic Black

PROS

  • A Great-Quality Passive Pickup
  • Crafted With a Two-Octave Neck
  • Excellent Fast Action Once Set Up
  • High-Quality Soap Bar Pickups for Deeper Low-End Tones
  • Nice to Play With Unencumbered Mobility That is Enhanced by its Dean-Designed Neck Joint

CONS

  • Single Pickup
  • B-String is a Little Loose
  • Issues With Packaging During Shipping

What Recent Buyers Report

Recent buyers love the quality versus value of this model. With a lower price-point and many of the same great features of higher-end basses, the Dean Edge 09 is a fan favorite. Though there are some issues with receiving damaged goods upon delivery and a few complaints about the B-string being loose, as well as the single pickup design, overall, the buyers like this model and give it good reviews across the board.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Ultimately, the thing that stands out the most to us, is the price versus value quotient. Just like recent buyers, we are amazed at the quality of build and sound you get for a price tag that comes in under $500.

Who Will Use This Most

The sound quality gives the more experienced player a wide range of options. This mode of five-string bass is great for those looking for a cheaper, but high-quality, option to build their bass collection up. It is great for studio work as it does have a wide range of tones, which is great for the bassist who has to jump from metal to rock and back again.

Bottom Line

This model is great for the budget-minded musician. If you want a high-quality sound while still being able to grab that beer after the jam session, then this five-string bass just might be the perfect choice for you.

Type of 5-String Bass Guitars

There are many varieties of five-string basses. They can be made of different woods, have different fret configurations, active or passive electronics, and even electric versus acoustic basses. There are so many variations that trying to write a section on the types could be its own small novella. So, we decided to really concentrate on the construction of the neck, as this is one of the most vital connections in the entirety of the bass design. Making sure you have a tight connection can mean the difference between a great bass and just an okay bass. This connection can affect everything from stability to vibration to sustain.

Bolt-On Neck

This is, by far, the most common design. This is where the neck is connected to the body of the bass with a bolt. 

Set Neck

There are models that use mortise or a dovetail to join the neck to the body. Basses designed with this option can offer improved resonance and sustain. They, however, can be difficult to adjust.

Thru-Body Neck

This design is usually present in higher-end basses. This type of bass is one solid piece of wood that continues from the neck through the body. With no joint present, this type offers better response and sustain while decreasing vibrations.

Cautious Considerations to Keep in Mind

The considerations from the section above are important, but when in cautious consideration of which bass to buy, there are a few more things you may want to have in the back of your mind. The choice you make will impact your overall performance. Everything from wood to size and all the basic functionalities will have an impact. 

So, when you are beginning your five-string bass hunt, make sure you know the end intention. This includes things like what type of music you want to play, whether you are working in a studio or hitting the road, and how dedicated you are to the practice. All of these will be of importance when diving through the options both above and elsewhere on the internet.

Conclusion

With the information we have laid out for you, we hope you feel better able to make the right choice for you. By knowing what to look for and having some of the best five-string bass options broken down for you, we are sure you have a better understanding of what you want and need. So, all that is left is to head out to test some basses and come home ready to rock with your brand new piece of equipment.