In at the low end: the best acoustic bass revealed

Last Updated on February 7, 2021 by Dave Tudor

So who would buy an acoustic bass guitar? After all, electric players could argue that an electric bass can be used in just about any situation from a full-blown stadium gig to the corner of your local bar. On paper at least, they’re more versatile so why buy an acoustic bass in the first place?

Well if you’re perhaps part of a duo or trio that just plays small bars or restaurants and don’t want to deafen your audience then an acoustic bass guitar could be just what the doctor ordered.

Similarly, and this is an underestimated aspect of owning an acoustic instrument – many people just like to have an acoustic guitar lying around in the lounge at home, conveniently located so you can just pick it up when the mood and inspiration takes you. With that in mind, why should six string strummers have all the fun?

Or you just might like jamming with friends in a bedroom where you just don’t want to take the roof off with a deluge of amplified music. And what about bashing away on the beach? Neither situation is ideal for rocking up with an electric bass guitar.

We’ve shone the spotlight on six of the best acoustic bass guitars out there. And as they all can be used amplified or unplugged, they’re pretty versatile. But be warned – don’t expect miracles unamplified.        

And experiment with strings. Phosphor bronze, flatwounds; tapewounds all sound good on acoustic basses but your choice will largely depend on the style of music you’re playing. Bronze strings can be overbearingly bright and harsh; flatwounds are more mellow.  

In a rush? Our best acoustic bass guitar award goes to the Ibanez AEB10E

Criteria

Even the best acoustic bass guitars aren’t for everyone, but if you want one, you’ll need to consider the following:  

  • Sound: both unplugged and amplified
  • Finish: the build quality in other words
  • Electronics: tone shaping and sonic flexibility
  • Bang for buck: worth the beer vouchers or not?  

1. Best Overall: Ibanez AEB10E

The 22 fret, 32” scale Ibanez AEB10E is very much a mid-range acoustic bass, but you get a lot of features for your money which is why it takes top spot in our best acoustic bass guitar hotlist. Like the Fender Kingman, the AEB10 has a spruce top which means sound projection is impressive with good dynamics.

Sapele is used on the back and sides of this acoustic electric bass, but interestingly, for the neck, Ibanez has opted for Okoume which is rapidly becoming a trendy alternative to mahogany on acoustic bass guitars and six string variants. It’s a lightweight, resonant tonewood and used by the likes of Epiphone, Fender Custom Shop and PRS.  

Sound amplification is courtesy of a Fishman Sonicore pickup and Ibanez AEQ-SP2 preamp with onboard tuner. It’s a pretty basic volume/bass/treble set-up but it works well, offering a decent palette of sounds.

It takes AA batteries rather than 9V which is a welcome feature as they’re much easier to get hold of if you run low on power during a gig. Unusually, the output section features both balanced XLR and ¼” jack.

Amplified, the woods used in the AEB10Es construction coupled with the highly usable EQ produce a rich, warm sound commensurate with the best acoustic bass guitars available today. 

The Pros

  • Played through an amp the sound of this acoustic bass is impressive, but the AEB10E is no slouch unplugged either so ideal for bedroom jams and campfire strums
  • Solid, positive tuners
  • Stonkingly good looks. The dark violin sunburst is a sight for sore eyes
  • Its versatility. The AEB10E would suit beginners, intermediates and pro players alike
  • Compared to other acoustic bass guitars, great value for money

The Cons

  • The frets are a little sharp. They could definitely be finished better
  • Prone to feedback at high volumes
  • No case or gig bag

The Bottom Line

The Ibanez AEB10E is the overall winner on our acoustic bass shortlist and for good reason. You can play it hard or soft; it stays in tune well; and can product a wide smorgasbord of sounds. Definitely one of the best mid-priced acoustic bass guitars out there. Experiment with different string types to get the best out of this bass.

Get the latest pricing on the Ibanez AEB10E at zZounds


2. Best on a Budget: Fender CB-60SCE

The CB-60SCE is one of two Fender acoustic basses in this list and is quite a bit cheaper than its stablemate, the Fender Kingman. Price is always an important factor when making purchasing decisions and the CB-60SCE occupies that middle ground. Irrespective of your playing ability, it’ll cut the mustard.  

In common with many other acoustic basses in this review, the CB-60SCE has a solid spruce top and laminated mahogany back and sides, complementing a concert-sized body for a smooth, balanced sound and wide dynamic range. This spruce/laminated mahogany construction is a tried and trusted combo for acoustic bass guitars at this price point. Scale length is 32”.

Fishman is one of the go to companies for acoustic guitar electronics and the Fender CB-60SCE definitely benefits from the basic but functional pickup/preamp unit included with this guitar. It offers volume, treble and bass controls and a built-in tuner that’ll serve you well onstage or in the studio.

On the subject of the tuner though, it is weirdly positioned because, compared to similar acoustic bass guitars, it’s angled towards the rear of the instrument. Unless you’re an orangutan, you may find it difficult to see and tune at the same time. Not a problem if you use your own tuner but not much thought went into this.

The Pros

  • Comfortable smooth mahogany neck. The rolled fingerboard edges are a nice touch and give the bass a ‘played in’ feel
  • Good value for money
  • An acoustic bass that sounds great amplified

The Cons

  • No case or gig bag supplied. Bummer
  • Tuner positioning is odd

The Bottom Line

The Fender Phosphor Bronze strings supplied are a little too bright for our liking but swap these out to a flavor of your choice and spend a bit of time tweaking your amp/EQ settings and you’ll get a really nice sound out of this acoustic bass. Just wrap your ears around this.

Loud enough to be used unplugged for impromptu jamming sessions – the solid spruce top really helps in this regard. Amplified, you’ll need to show some restraint; push the volume too high and there’s the risk of feedback.

In summary however, the Fender CB-60SCE acoustic bass punches well above its weight. And it’s an instrument that transcends abilities. Newbies, intermediate players and pros will like it. It certainly is one of the best acoustic bass guitars at the budget end of the market.

Get the latest pricing for the Fender CB-60SCE acoustic bass on Amazon


3. Recommended: Fender Kingman (V2)

Apparently named for a famous stop along US Route 66, perhaps the most striking aspect of the Fender Kingman acoustic bass is the mahogany, slim taper, C-shape Fender Jazz Bass neck.

For that reason alone this is an acoustic bass that will probably suit those making the transition from an electric. Even the ‘four-in-line’ headstock will look reassuringly familiar – but don’t forget this is an acoustic bass – you will need to get used to the extra body depth (4”).    

This video showcases the neck in all its glory. Note that the model shown here is the older Fender Kingman SCE variant which has been superseded by the newer V2. 

At 30.3”, this is a short-scale instrument. The Kingman sports an attractive gloss black finish and a Fender-exclusive Newporter acoustic bass body shape with a cutaway that allows easy access to the upper reaches of the fingerboard.  

A solid spruce top, bone saddle, Graph Tech NuBone nut, 20 fret walnut fingerboard and bridge, and laminated mahogany back and sides ensure decent sound projection, brightness and dynamic range. 

Taking care of tonal characteristics once you plug the Kingman into an amp is a highly versatile Fishman pickup/preamp system which offers control over volume, bass, middle, treble, phase and brilliance. There’s even a notch control to keep the lid on feedback and a pretty usable tuner. 

The Pros

  • Smooth, fast, slim taper Fender Jazz neck
  • Fishman electronics offer a wide range of sounds when using the acoustic bass amplified
  • Comfortable 30.3” scale
  • Sounds pretty good unplugged. The solid spruce top does its job here
  • Gig bag included

The Cons

  • The neck is a little on the heavy side when used with a strap
  • The Fender Jazz neck is different from other acoustic bass guitars and may not suit some players
  • The supplied Fender Phosphor bronze acoustic strings sound a little harsh to our ears

The Bottom Line

Visually this is a very attractive acoustic bass. The Fender Jazz neck on the Kingman V2 may not be to everyone’s tastes but it’s both smooth and fast to play. It deserves its place in the best acoustic bass guitars hall of fame.

It’s a well-built, versatile acoustic bass with a wide range of excellent sounds that will suit gigging musicians or home jammers alike. The Fishman pickup/preamp really brings this guitar to life. A welcome addition. Recommended.    

Take a look at the Fender Kingman acoustic bass on Amazon  


4. Alvarez Artist AB60CE

Alvarez AB60CE

Spruce is renowned for its tonal qualities so it’s good to see it used as the top material on the 32” scale length Alvarez Artist AB60CE – and indeed most of the acoustic bass guitars in this review. Unlike me, solid woods also tend to improve with age!

The laminated mahogany back and sides and mahogany neck used on the AB60CE are pretty standard fayre at this price point, but the real bone nut and saddle are a welcome feature that add to the guitar’s resonance and sustain.

In a departure from the other acoustic bass guitars in this line-up, Alvarez, a company that has been making guitars for more than 50 years, has opted for an LR Baggs StagePro EQ and Element pick-up rather than Fishman.

It’s definite step-up. Amplified, the resultant sound is open and punchy and the additional phase control helps keep feedback under control. A notch control is also included for mid frequency scooping. Oh and a tuner is included.  

Also worthy of note is the FST2 bracing system used in the AB60CE acoustic bass. This is a forward shifted X brace design which means the axis of the X is closer to the sound hole leading to a fuller, richer sound.

This is complemented by a bi-level bridge which makes the break angle of the strings from the saddle to the top more acute – also contributing to the overall sound in a positive way.

The Pros

  • Excellent LR Baggs EQ and pickup
  • Very smooth, playable neck
  • Decent sounds unplugged. Certainly one of the loudest in this acoustic bass review

The Cons

  • Not really a con, but the jumbo body shape may be too large for some players to handle
  • No gig bag or hard case

The Bottom Line

Alvarez’s guitar building expertise coupled with LR Baggs electronics is a winning combination. The AB60CE holds tune well, sounds great with a decent neck and fret job. Whatever your musical style, this acoustic bass will cope with anything you throw at it.

Check out zZounds for the latest pricing on the Alvarez AB60CE acoustic bass


5. Spector Timbre

The most striking thing about the Spector Timbre is the soundhole position. Yes indeed, you won’t find it in the center of the guitar but rather in the top corner – and it’s oval! Spector claims that the soundhole positioning means more solid mass for the sound to resonate. We wouldn’t argue with the physics. This is a nice sounding acoustic bass.

It’s also the most expensive guitar in this review. It follows the solid sitka spruce top/laminated mahogany back and sides formula with a rosewood fingerboard and 3-piece mahogany neck so sound projection and resonance is good. And it does sound sweet.

Amplified sound is courtesy of a Fishman Presys+ on-board pre-amp system and Sonicore pickup. With volume, bass, middle, treble, notch, brilliance and phase controls, not to mention a tuner, precise sound shaping is a breeze.

Be warned. With a 34” scale length and 5” deep, this is a bit of a beast but the extra mass means the guitar benefits sonically with deep bass, clear mids and bright highs. As you would expect, this is pretty loud when played acoustically.   

The Pros

  • You get a gig bag. This is significant because having something custom made for this guitar would be wallet bustingly expensive
  • Comfortable, smooth neck. Cutaway body means all 20 frets are accessible
  • Fishman Presys+ EQ is excellent
  • Rich, full bodied acoustic bass sound

The Cons

  • It’ll be simply too big for some players
  • No strap pin at the top of the body. A strange omission

The Bottom Line

If you can wrestle with the size of this acoustic bass and the somewhat unusual aesthetics, you’ll appreciate its sonic qualities, versatility and presence. Fishman electronics are a real plus point with this bass: it’s a full, rich sound that’ll certainly benefit from a bit of experimentation with the EQ and amp settings.

See the Spector Timbre (in black) at zZounds
Or check out the Spector Timbre in natural at Sam Ash


6. Dean EAB

Dean EAB acoustic bass guitar

The Dean EAB acoustic bass is the loose cannon in this best acoustic bass guitar list.

It’s the cheapest acoustic bass by some margin and for that reason alone it deserves to be here. For those just starting out or the budget conscious, this really has a lot going for it; and perhaps leaving an acoustic bass in the corner of the room to strum when the feeling takes you is just what you need? Cost and convenience: the Dean EAB ticks both those boxes.  

With its 34” scale length, this is a substantial instrument. A spruce top, laminated mahogany body and mahogany neck means the natural finish EAB is no slouch in terms of construction. A piezo pickup provides the output and a DMT preamp offers pretty basic volume and tone controls and a tuner.

But in terms of quality control, this is where things go a bit pear-shaped because it’s decidedly hit and miss. It sounds OK unplugged and amplified – but only OK. Corners have obviously been cut on the electronics and the build quality is erratic.

Some are blighted by fret buzz; others seem OK. And the overall finish quality definitely fluctuates. We’ve even heard of some cases where the neck is coming away from the body!

The Pros

  • The price
  • This acoustic electric bass may be popular – but you definitely get what you pay for

The Cons

  • No hard case or gig bag provided but here’s something that will do the job
  • Erratic quality control. If you want an acoustic bass to play well out of the box – this probably isn’t it!
  • Preamp is certainly not the best and is quite noisy when it’s cranked up
  • Missing a strap peg

The Bottom Line

The Dean EAB is a bit of an acoustic bass enigma. It’s big and the quality is patchy, but if you accept the fact that most likely you’ll need to make some adjustments, then you probably won’t be disappointed. It does occupy a price point that could make this attractive. It certainly has its fans!

One user described the Dean EAB acoustic bass guitar as ‘a cautiously fair choice for the budget minded’ and that just about sums it up.  

Check the latest pricing on the Dean EAB acoustic bass at zZounds or Sam Ash



The Verdict

This review was a close call. In terms of construction, sound and electronics, with the exception of the Dean EAB, all the acoustic electric bass contenders have something to offer and to be honest you won’t go far wrong with any of them.

But we had to pick a best acoustic bass guitar winner and that accolade goes to the Ibanez AEB10E. It represents a great value acoustic bass and being an Ibanez you can be assured of its quality and pedigree. It represents the best features at the right price.

 

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2 thoughts on “In at the low end: the best acoustic bass revealed”

  1. The best acoustic Bass I ever owned and played was a Tacoma. They were made in Tacoma Washington and by far the loudest unplugged bass and plugged in it sounded like a doghouse. I still have my CB10 and I kick myself for selling my all Mahogany version. I also love my Gretsch G6175. They were made in Japan and the workmanship was second to none. The neck is a little heavy but that and replacing the battery are my only complaints about that bass. It also was a lot thinner and very easy to play and plugged in sound real fat kinda like the Tacoma but not plugged in its not that loud. The Tacomas are loud enough acoustically to play with a guitar and a banjo and project very well. Of course Fender bought out Tacoma in 2005 and like all big companies in this country shut them down. I own several Tacoma guitars and Basses and they were priced right and made with quality in mind. They stand up next to most Martins that cost twice or three times as much. They did have finish problems with the clear coat but that didn’t effect the great tone and playability. That’s all so if you get a chance to play and buy one I know you will love it!!!

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