Best Bass Guitars for Metal – 2020 Top Picks Reviewed

The thunderous growl of the bass is an integral part of virtually all metal. Without it, even the crunchiest guitar riffs and driving drumbeats can go unnoticed and underappreciated.

That’s why most metal players turn to bass guitars with superior power, tone, and playability to tackle the low end needed for a full-on metal attack.

Whether you want to mimic the classic plucking of Black Sabbath’s Geezer Butler, replicate the five-string onslaught of Korn’s Fieldy, or put together your own style, these bass guitars have the features you want and need.

Comparison of the Best Bass Guitars For Metal

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Best bass guitar for metal overall
  • Constructed with EMG HZ pick-ups
  • Better tonal quality from the inclusion of 3-band EQ
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  • Split P pick-up offers hum-free output
  • Comfortable neck for fast, extended play
  • Maximized resonance and clear tonal transfer with the hi-mass bridge
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  • Comfortable c-shaped neck
  • Best bass guitar for metal for the money
  • Crafted with separate controls for each pick-up
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  • Crafted with traditional diecast tuners
  • Built with 4-knobs for better control over the tone
  • Constructed with high-grade tonewoods for optimal sound
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  • Crafted in high-quality tonewoods
  • Constricted with a 34” scale fretboard
  • Fitted with dual TB Plus Humbucker pick-ups
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What Makes a Bass Guitar Great For Metal?

This guitar is a defining feature in nearly all subgenres of metal. Noted for its complex riffs, use of bass chords, and numerous playing styles, metal bass is often listed as the most diverse in all of rock music. Despite the range of styles in metal, most bass guitars have similar attributes, yet each player may have different tastes and needs depending on how they play and perform. When you’re searching for the ideal guitar for metal, make sure to consider these traits before you buy them.

Types of Pickups

Pickups are the devices that capture a string’s vibration and transfer it to the amplifier. Metal bass guitars typically come with three pickup options:

Humbuckers

Though not as crisp as other options, humbuckers can provide a full sound while canceling the noisy hum that comes through the amp.

Single-Coil Pickups

Can be noisy, but these provide a clear tone that’s conducive to metal bass.

Split-Coil Pickups

Possibly the best of both worlds. Found on most precision basses, these pickups provide the tone of single-coil pickups with the noise reduction of humbuckers.

Pickup Placement

Although some bass guitars have a sole pickup, others may offer both a bridge and neck pickup. The intonation and tone may change with the location of the pickup. Many metal bassists gravitate toward the bridge pickup for a fuller sound, but neck pickups offer versatility for different types of passages, i.e. complex riffs, bass solos, or different sounds.

Active vs. Passive Electronics

Old-school and vintage basses almost always provide passive electronics, yet modern basses offer the benefits of active electronics. Both have their advantages and meet player preferences, but here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Active electronics: Powered by an onboard battery, active electronics give you more control over your frequencies. For metal players, the ability to boost or cut highs and lows offers more precision and equalization to achieve a particular sound.

  • Passive electronics: Passive electronics require no extra battery. This come-as-you-are, plug-and-play approach relies on the tone of the bass and a keen ear. Instead of controlling the tone with the bass tone knobs, the bassist leans more on pedals or the amplifier for sound control. This is often a better option for beginners to the metal genre.

Type of Wood

Heavier, denser woods can produce more sustain than lighter woods. However, the type of wood also impacts the comfort of the guitar, based on weight. When choosing a type of wood for your metal bass, the weight often plays a more vital role, especially for gigging musicians. Choosing a bass that has a balance between sustain and comfort is advisable.

Body Style

Many metal basses have a metal aesthetic that reflects the style of the music. Jagged cuts and pointy edges embody the spirit of metal, but the choice of body style doesn’t end there. Top metal bass guitars combine ergonomics (ease of play) with style for the ideal one-two punch.

Fretboard Type

Most bass guitar necks are made of either maple or rosewood. Maple is often preferred for a sharper sound and slap bass while rosewood boasts a warmer tone. 

Number of Strings

Although four-string basses are standard for metal, five-string basses (added low B-string) are popular among bands and players to tune down a step or more from standard tuning.

Review of the Best Bass Guitars for Metal

Now that you understand what makes a great metal bass, it’s time to hop into some of the top metal basses available. Suited for a variety of budgets, sounds, and preferences, these basses will have the metalhead within you drooling over the sonic possibilities.

PROS

  • Great output from active EMG humbuckers
  • Double cutaway offers maximum playability
  • Superb sustain, especially on the lower strings
  • Five knobs to adjust volume, tone, and blending
  • Five strings and 24 frets provide a vast range of notes

CONS

  • Difficult to adjust the bridge
  • Narrow neck can take some adjustment from players

What Recent Buyers Report

Recent buyers report solid craftsmanship and durability as a major selling point of this product. The ability to control and blend tones, as well as the versatile EMG humbuckers are ideal for metal, as well as other music genres.

Why it Stands Out to Us

A three-band EQ, solid humbuckers, and more knobs than almost any other option make this item adaptable and flexible for death metal to classic metal. Multiple color options allow you to find a product that blends your tastes with your style.

Who Will Use This Most

Seasoned five-string players will find this item comfortable and to their liking from ergonomic and tone standpoints. Beginners may find difficulty with the weight of the instrument. Cover band bassists that play a variety of metal styles and rock will love the versatility.

Bottom Line

If you’re hell-bent on providing low-end depth and honing your metal chops, this five-string gives you ample opportunity. The old saying that you’re only as good as your instrument is proof that you can become a top player with this item in your hands.

PROS

  • Rolled fretboard edges provide additional comfort
  • Loud, bright sound, even without active electronics
  • Fifteen-pound maple body delivers unique sustain
  • West Ham United decal and mirrored pickguard provide an alluring look
  • Seymour Duncan Steve Harris SPB-4 split-coil pickup provides improved tone without the hum

CONS

  • Thick neck can be difficult to play for bassists with smaller hands
  • Made in Mexico (MIM) distinction can put off fans of American-made Fenders

What Recent Buyers Report

This item comes playable right out of the box with no obvious or overbearing need for adjustments to the bridge or the action. Solid construction means ultimate durability, but at 15 pounds, this beast can become heavy over prolonged periods.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Signature basses can be synonymous with money grabs, but this item does Steve Harris proud. Not only does it look like Harris' original bass, but it will provide the tone and punch to play classic and modern metal.

Who Will Use This Most

Iron Maiden fans will find this bass to their liking in terms of tone and playability. A comfortable neck, ergonomic design, and lightweight construction are ideal for gigging musicians.

Bottom Line

The legendary Fender P-Bass series, paired with the preferences of the metal prince, Steve Harris, delivers on all fronts. While metal songwriters want a sense of originality, this bass provides a distinct sound that won’t make them sound like an Iron Maiden knock-off.

Squier by Fender Affinity Series Precision Beginnger Electric Bass - PJ - Olympic White

PROS

  • Stays in tune for prolonged periods
  • Thinner, jazz-style neck provides exceptional playability
  • Affordable metal bass option without skimping on features
  • Additional jazz pickup on the bridge adds another layer of sound
  • Two volume knobs and master tone knob for expert tone shaping

CONS

  • Passive pickups have a low output
  • Poor setup out of the box/needs professional setup

What Recent Buyers Report

Some buyers report that the bass comes with a poor setup and may need adjustments to fix the action, fret buzz, and other problems. Other players have stated that you won’t find a better metal bass for the money. With a proper setup, some buyers have compared this bass to ones five times as expensive.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Squier has been making some of the top beginner bass guitars for decades. Yet this model’s dual pickups, above-average hardware, and solid tone make it a great first bass or a capable backup for veteran players.

Who Will Use This Most

Beginner metal bass players will love the tonal qualities and style of this bass. At an affordable price, novice players won’t have to make any concessions on quality, sound, or playability.

Bottom Line

While it doesn’t stick out in terms of looks, the dual-threat of split-coil and single-coil pickups enable players to dial in that unique sound they want. You won’t find that with many other options in this price range, giving it awesome value for the money.

PROS

  • Sunburst and solid color options
  • Easy to blend tones for different types of metal
  • Active electronics provide a fuller, deeper sound
  • Double-octave neck (24 frets) for more sonic possibilities
  • Four knobs provide excellent control over tone and volume (two-band EQ)

CONS

  • Has a generic aesthetic
  • Lack of pickguard can lead to scratching of the body

What Recent Buyers Report

The lows and highs of this bass are well-balanced, providing some clarity in the highs and punch in the lows. Buyers report that the packaging is too light and slight cosmetic damage may occur to the headstock or edges of the body.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This bass fills the void in the budget range for active electronics. Few other basses will have the two-band EQ, dual pickups, and electronics that can create a fuller, deeper sound for metal.

Who Will Use This Most

Gigging musicians will find that this bass is a solid backup model. Beginner bassists or those who want to hone their craft on a 24-fret bass or experiment with active electronics will benefit from owning this model.

Bottom Line

For the money, you won’t find many other models that provide active electronics for a crisp tone on the treble end and a thunderous low end.

PROS

  • Limited amount of fret buzz
  • Great-sounding passive pickups
  • Appealing body and headstock designs
  • Easy to navigate the full range of the neck
  • Lots of tonal possibilities courtesy of two TB-Plus humbuckers

CONS

  • Little sustain
  • Strap knob placement can make the bass feel unbalanced

What Recent Buyers Report

The body style is a crowd pleaser and one of the more original-looking basses on the market. Some buyers report a problem with the bridge popping out of place repeatedly. While most players said the action was ideal, others may need a setup to lower the action.

Why it Stands Out to Us

A classic Gibson-style at an Epiphone price, this bass offers the best of both worlds. While it may not fit the dark-metal style, the tones produced by this are more than enough to propel it into the role of a top-notch metal bass.

Who Will Use This Most

The bass looks great and plays even better, making it an ideal choice for players of all levels. Durable and versatile, it mixes well with the grungy and crunchy edge of numerous metal genres.

Bottom Line

While the edgy aesthetics don’t necessarily scream metal, the passive pickups provide exceptional lows that meld with the drums and guitar. Stellar playability on the neck and three-tone knobs provide a mix of tones for your particular metal flavor.

What Do I Need to Know Before Buying?

Buying the perfect metal bass guitar isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Each player is going to have their own tastes and preferences. That’s why it’s always best to consider these aspects before you decide to buy a bass for practice or your next metal gig:

Create a Budget

Just like other major purchases, you shouldn’t spend money you don’t have. Deciding how much you can afford will narrow the search for your bass and help you discover what features are available in your price range.

Decide Which Pickups/Electronics You Prefer

Both active and passive electronics have their perks, as well as pickups. To create the best metal tone for your style, you need to know which combination of pickups and electronics works for you. Learning to use the EQ can also help you forge the tone you desire.

Understand That You May Need a Setup

Low-end bass guitars don’t always come ready to play. To that effect, you may need a professional setup to make your bass more playable or to your specifications.

John Myung with his guitar. (Source)

Conclusion

Discovering the ideal bass guitar for metal is all about your individual style and preferences. With the right mix of punch, playability, and looks, these basses provide five solid options to evolve your individual technique and playing style into a full metal attack. 

People Also Ask

If you have your eye on a particular bass or have wondered if your current bass can handle the low, guttural growl of metal, don’t fret (no pun intended). These questions should help alleviate your concerns.

Is a Jazz Bass Good for Metal?

Jazz basses have two single-coil pickups, which can provide more versatility and tonal control for metal. Many bassists prefer the jazz bass because its pickups are more articulate and cut through heavy guitar riffs without any trouble. The jazz bass also has a thinner neck, which is a better option for metal bassists with smaller hands. Martin Mendez from Opeth is a famous metal bassist that uses a jazz bass.

Is a P-Bass Good for Metal?

P-basses have been popular since the beginning of metal. The split-coil pickup eliminates hum while providing humbucker-like depth and punchiness needed for metal. A heavier body and thicker neck also provide more sustain, which can help the driving effect of slower-paced metal. Both Geezer Butler of Black Sabbath and Steve Harris of Iron Maiden played P-basses throughout their careers. 

Why is Bass so Quiet in Metal?

Bass isn’t necessarily quiet in metal. It varies on both recordings and live concerts. However, the low-end crunch of the guitar and the thump of the kick drum can effectively drown out the bass at live shows. In recordings, the bass plays a sonic role, connecting the rhythm section to the melodic aspects of the guitar or synth. Metal bass may also follow the exact riff as the guitar, causing a quieting effect.

Is Bass Important in Metal?

Bass plays a vital role in all metal music. From Cliff Burton’s solos in Metallica to Lemmy as the frontman of Motorhead and all genres in between. Although you may not be aware of the bass guitar compared to other instruments, you would definitely notice if the bass was removed. With the low notes it provides, the bass fills out the sound, making it richer and fuller.