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4 fretless bass guitars for under $500

Squier by Fender Vintage Modified Precision Bass, Fretless, 3-Tone Sunburst

A fretless bass is a cool thing to have because nothing else sounds like it. Usually you have to pay big money to get one. But fortunately there are 4 under the $500 mark that get the job done in fine style.

Starting with the bass above is the Squier Vintage Modified Precision Bass Fretless. For most bassists, this is the best choice because it has familiar Fender P-Bass feel without the Fender price.

Also, because it's a P-Bass using a standard split-coil pickup, this bass can be easily upgraded. For example, you could easily install a Fender Precision pickup with alnico 5 magnets for well under $100. Great deal.

Ibanez SR370E Fretless SR Standard - Brown Burst

Ibanez SR370E

A killer fretless with several goodies for under $500. Note the pickups each have 2 pole pieces per string for unbelievably good clarity. The output jack's position is perfect for snaking your audio cable through the strap (very thoughtful design by Ibanez.) No neck dive here as the top horn is neatly placed above where the 12th fret position would ordinarily go. And let's not forget the 3-band EQ. This bass has it.

In other words, the SR370E literally needs no upgrades at all. This is a lean, mean and lightweight fretless that's ready-to-go.

ESP B-204SM Fretless Bass Guitar, Natural Satin


This bass has everything the Ibanez does (including the 3-band EQ) but with the addition of a spalted maple top and a thin U-shape neck that still has a familiar 34-inch scale length. The difference is that the strings can go through the body on this one.

Squier Vintage Modified Jazz Bass Fretless

Squier Vintage Modified Jazz Bass Fretless

I saved this one for last because more often than not, this is the one bassists want when they want fretless for cheap. Yes, it very purposely has the look of the Fender Jaco Pastorious Jazz Bass. That's no accident.

This Squier has a 9.5" radius on the fingerboard, but also has the very familiar 1.5" nut width, meaning it has the close string spacing J-Bass players are very familiar with.

If you've absolutely gotta have a fretless Jazz Bass for cheap, this Squier is your best option.

Your two other options are the Jaco bass mentioned above, and the Fender Standard Jazz Bass Fretless (which is over $500 but not by a crazy amount.)

If you want a Jazz that's the most mod-friendly, the Fender Standard is it. Yes, it's a Mexico build, but Mexico builds follow Fender USA spec a lot more closely compared to Squier. This means that switching out things like electronics, tuners, bridge and so on will be a lot easier, should you decide to do so. And because you get a pick guard, it's easier to work on from the space given under it.

My personal pick of this lot is the Ibanez, because you get the most for your money. And I meant it when I said it needs no upgrades. Most bassists do upgrades simply to get up to the level of electronics and hardware the SR370E already has.

Published 2018 Jun 13

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