The bass guitar is an instrument that has proved indispensable for most modern music. Indeed, when those heavy, low notes sync in with the kick drum, suddenly everything grooves. That is what makes people dance, jump, go crazy, and fall in love with music.
But how far can you take that heavy element in music? Well, in this post, we’ll see the best 6-string basses in the market to turn that groove into an earthquake and make the Earth tremble with every note.
I’ve done a lot of research and played a bunch of these so you can choose the one that suits your needs, taste, and budget the best.
Let’s get ready to rumble!
Best 6 String Bass Guitars - My Top 5 Picks!
Table of Contents
- Best 6 String Bass Guitars - My Top 5 Picks!
- The Heaviness isn’t Metaphorical
- The Benefits of a 6-String Bass
- What Kind of Amp Should You Use with It?
- The Bottom End
1. Squier Classic Vibe Bass VI
Have you ever wondered what would happen if a Jazz Bass and a Jaguar had a baby? Well, the Bass VI is a legendary Fender instrument that was used by players the size of Joe Perry, George Harrison, Robert Smith, and Jack Bruce among many others.
You might have noticed that I named three guitarists and one bass player. Well, because this is a 6-string bass with a very friendly neck if you’re a guitarist. Moreover, since it shares the same tuning as a guitar (E, A, D, G, B, E) but one octave below, it’s great to add depth to any riff, chord, or song.
But wait, is it a guitar or a bass? Well, it’s a bass that sounds great when you play it as such. Speaking of which, the three-pickup configuration with the bass cut gives you a huge tonal palette to choose from. For example, I played some righteous Cream with the neck pickup but then also played “Revolution” by The Beatles with the bridge pickup and it sounded perfect.
Furthermore, with this instrument, you can take all chords to the next level by adding a new level to the word “depth”. In this sense, coupled with effects such as a little chorus and/or delay and reverb, you get some eighties-approved The Cure tones.
Finally, I tried using the whammy bar and it was quite a lot of fun to add vibrato to classic bass lines. I played a surf-oriented rendition of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ classic “Around the World” and it sounded powerful, and yet, with a nice edge.
Perhaps, my only concern with this instrument is that, during the heavy-hitting sections on the low E string, it popped out of the bridge. Maybe a specific bridge to fit the fatter strings would be a wise move by Squier.
If you want to have a different experience, you can invest a little more and get the Fender Vintera II version.
In a nutshell, this is a great instrument to broaden the spectrum of your playing.
2. Sire Marcus Miller M7
Outstanding, virtuoso, legendary, epic… and the list of adjectives to describe Marcus Miller’s playing could go on. I mean, he played in seven Miles Davis albums, but also with Aretha Franklin, Wayne Shorter, Dizzy Gillespie, and many more. The credits on his Wikipedia page are extraordinary.
That man designed this bass with Sire and the result is one of the most versatile instruments I ever laid my hands on. It’s got a complicated layout with seven pots and three switches, but it all makes sense once you start playing it. Oh, and another thing, it operates on two batteries, so it’s an 18-volt circuit.
But let’s rewind a little because the first thing that got me about this bass is the flame maple top. It looks 3-D, to be honest, and the alder body adds the midrange and snap this bass needs to cut through the mix. The neck is a 5-piece mahogany and maple creation with rounded edges (not everyone loves that, but I do), and a sweet-sounding rosewood fingerboard.
It’s also surprisingly light for a six-string. I was expecting a much heavier instrument but was pleasantly surprised by this Sire M7.
I know, you’re wondering just how this amazing combo sounds. Well, let’s go right to it. The bass works with a dual circuit that lets you play it as an active or a passive bass. This is great when you want to go from a full Flea slapping to a more Pino Palladino single-note line style. And yes, it is a slapping-friendly bass. Plus, with the dual humbuckers and the series-parallel switches, you can go from singing single-coil to full-body humbucker in a nanosecond.
I played some righteous Jaco, Flea, Pino, and even some Bootsy Collins. The bass offered a natural, usable tone throughout the spectrum making it an incredibly versatile instrument.
Perhaps, my only drawback is that pots and connections are a tad fragile and cheap compared to the quality of the instrument. Other than that, this is a true one-for-all bass.
3. Ibanez Gio GSR206BWNF
Ibanez is a company that works really hard to maintain a level of excellence in instrument building across the catalog. That being said, this is a bass that goes with the affordable 6-string bass bunch.
I mean, if you’re looking to add a new flavor to your arsenal or want to give 6-string playing a shot, this is an awesome candidate. For seasoned players with refined ears, there are a few cut corners that might feel “too little”. Nevertheless, the price tag is very close to the entry-level or budget market, which makes everything else understandable.
So, to begin with, I absolutely loved the Phat II EQ and the active boost it gave the instrument. It’s like that “Gone in 60 Seconds” scene where Nicholas Cage engages the Nitro. You feel like you’re playing a different instrument. Plus, the mahogany body enrichens those lows while the maple neck gives you enough midrange to cut through the mix.
Perhaps, my only caveat with this bass is that the setup was very difficult. There were fret buzzes and floppy sounds on the low register when I lowered the action to make it playable. But that’s nothing a qualified tech can’t fix for you, sanding a bit here and there.
So, I put this Ibanez to a tough test playing the heaviest riffs I know with the phat boost engaged and the result was a little muddy, but very powerful. Then, with the disengaged boost I went for a more melodic approach and the mid frequencies brought clarity and definition.
If you’re in search of a budget-friendly, very powerful six-string bass, this is a must-try-before-you-buy.
4. Spector NS Pulse II
Spector’s list of endorsees speaks for itself. From Living Colour’s Doug Wimbish to Madonna’s Guy Pratt (who also rocked with Pink Floyd and Michael Jackson) to Ian Hill from Judas Priest, Rex Brown (Pantera), all the way to Mono Neon.
It’s safe to say that the brand covers vast sonic ground and has provided the low rumble for stages of every size in every corner of the planet.
This NS Pulse II belongs to the company’s top-tier basses before reaching the USA Custom Shop division. Therefore, you can expect premium tonewoods, accessories, and elite craftsmanship.
In that sense, having a swamp ash body with a quilted maple top is nothing short of elite-level. The entire bass body is hand sculpted to follow Spector’s shape tradition. The 3-piece roasted maple neck enhances that midrange the swamp ash provides, and the ebony fingerboard finishes it off with snap and presence.
Perhaps, the two-band EQ might be a little short. I felt I could have sculpted the sound better from the bass if there was a midrange control. Nevertheless, the powerful EMG humbuckers and Spector TonePump Jr. active preamp keep everything clear, powerful, and punchy.
Finally, the Spector locking bridge, top-notch tuners, and graphite nut keep everything in tune at all times. Believe me, I tried taking this bass from the beaten path by playing some Mono Neon-approved lines on it but the bass remained clear, defined, and punchy even when playing fast.
If it fits your budget, this Spector NS Pulse II is absolutely a candidate you must try before making a decision.
5. ESP LTD B-206SM
Saying that ESP LTD has been making amazing instruments in the past two decades is blowing no scoop for you. Well, this bass continues that legacy and enhances it too.
To begin with, building a six-string bass with ash and spalted maple is a tone decision that sits the instrument comfortably in the midrange and gives it a nice edge to play with. Also, the maple neck does its part adding to the overall snap and aggressiveness.
Speaking of which, the pair of humbucker pickups and the active 3-band EQ do a great job translating this bass’s punchiness into moving air. Moreover, since the EQ is active, you can not only cut signals you don’t like but add some you want and can’t hear.
I tried maxing out the EQ and the bass behaved like a monster but never outside pleasant, usable sounds. Furthermore, the 24 frets are perfect to lay down melodies, riffs, chords, and anything you want.
Perhaps, the only drawback of this ESP LTD B-206SM is weight. It’s way heavier than any other bass on this list and it’s something you notice right away. Although the construction and materials are flawless, it does feel like a mammoth effort to carry it around and play it all night long.
Other than that, if you’re in search of a mid-priced, great-sounding 6-string bass, this is a powerful candidate to bear in mind.
The Heaviness isn’t Metaphorical
There’s a big myth surrounding 6-string basses that we need to address: heaviness isn’t metaphorical. This means that there’s a physical effort involved in playing a 6-string bass that, if you’re used to playing 4 or even 5-string basses, might not be aware of.
The necks on 6-string basses are usually wider and flatter. You can very rarely wrap your thumb on top of the fretboard. Therefore, you might need to readjust your playing style to fit the new instrument.
Also, since these necks are wider, you might have to make an extra effort to play the lower strings on the highest frets.
The body of a 6-string bass is usually bigger and heavier than that of a 4 or 5-string bass. This is because, besides having to host two extra strings, there needs to be room between them to play comfortably.
Plus, most 6-string basses need special active circuitry to shape the, otherwise, too-broad sound palette. So, make sure you are willing to deal with the extra effort and weight.
The heaviness of a 6-string bass might not be suitable for every player. Make sure you play one before you embark on this journey.
The Benefits of a 6-String Bass
What are the benefits of having a 6-string bass in your collection? Let’s take a look at my top choices:
With the addition of the higher-pitch strings, melodic lines on 6-string basses allow imagination to blossom and can take your playing to new, unknown territories.
Moving back and forth between the heaviest tones on the thick strings and the more melodic nuances of the thinner ones enhances dynamics. With a 6-string bass, you can play melody, accompaniment, chords, or all together. Combine this with a looper pedal and you’re your own band. Or, at least, it can open new roads for your playing style.
Broadened Sound Palette
The sound palette most bass players are used to can be broadened with the addition of the extra strings. Suddenly, you’ll realize you can move from one frequency range to another, and thus, you can discover new nuances in your playing.
The idea of taking a single bass that can cover all your needs to every gig is just like the idea of heaven for most bass players. Well, a bass with six strings can be enough to cover all the tones you need in any session or live show.
What Kind of Amp Should You Use with It?
With the extended frequency range and broadened tonal spectrum, can any bass amp handle the power a 6-string bass can generate?
Well, over the past decades, I’ve played through or owned most amp brands and models in the market today.
- Ampeg SVT-7Pro – This is my first recommendation. This amp is class-D power, so it’s super light but has a 12ax7 valve on the preamp, so it exudes tone. But beyond the amp’s natural sound, it has powerful EQs to shape the sound to whatever you want. This is my number-one choice today.
- Orange Little Bass Thing – This super compact 500-watt little monster has all the tone and tone-shaping capabilities needed to get the best out of your 6-string bass. Plus, it fits the gig bag pocket.
- Fender Rumble 200 – With a 4-band EQ, a 3-button voicing palette, class-d power, and a neodymium speaker, this combo amp is as powerful as it is compact, light, and practical. Plus, the 15” speaker can handle all the lows coming from your instrument, and then some.
6-string basses are, for most players, the final frontier. Yes, they are a tad intimidating, but once you get your head, hands, and playing skills around their physiognomy, there’s no turning back.
Dive into this tone universe and unlock new playing skills you didn’t know you had in you.