If you’ve played more than 20 of these luscious instruments in your time, you should be proud – and if you’ve played them all, we want to invite you round for dinner. Here’s our list from 65 all the way down to number 26. Check back tomorrow for the next bunch of entries...
65 GB Rumour
Brighton-based luthier Bernie Goodfellow makes beautiful basses in the finest woods available to man. The Rumour, available in 4, 5 and 6 string versions, has a curvaceous shape inspired, says Goodfellow, by the female figure. Play one of these high-end instruments and you’ll understand exactly how custom makers such as GB earn their keep.
64 Marleaux Mbass
The German Marleaux company specialise in single-cutaway basses of phenomenal playability and build quality, as one pluck of their Mbass model – or indeed any other one that they make – will confirm. While that wacky body shape may look slightly bulky, the company claim that the balance benefits as a result, and who are we to disagree?
63 Kala U-Bass
This cute little bass is essentially a baritone ukulele with a larger neck, passive piezo pickups and polyurethane strings. It may look tiny, but in fact the 20” scale allows you more space than you’d expect. The tuning is standard too, making this among the more desirable ukes for bassists.
62 Skjold Damian Erskine Whaleback
The Damian Erskine signature model is a whole lot of bass, all right, and is named appropriately as its top edge reminds you of a massive whale. The Whaleback may resemble a coffee-table made out of lovely wood and turned on its side, but check out the upper-register access on the lower bout…
61 Gus G3
If Han Solo played a bass in Star Wars, this would be the one he’d choose. With glittering metal horns, a futuristic shape and the ability to shoot lasers out of the headstock (OK, maybe not that), the G3 is the bass you want stored in the Millennium Falcon in case of ‘Imperial entanglements’.
60 Lightwave Saber
Reviewed back in our December 2010 issue, the ridiculously clever Lightwave Saber doesn’t need a pickup to make a noise. Oh no, it’s far too clever for that, using electronic ‘eyes’ to measure the vibration of the strings. As a result, the sustain goes on… and on… and on…
59 Gibson Grabber
Although the Grabber was less loved than its big brother the Thunderbird, it did boast a killer app in the form of a slideable pickup that the player moved up and down the body for extra treble and bass as required. The Grabber’s devotees, and there are many, swore by this cunning device.
58 G&L L2000
Loading a Fender-style body with two full-fat humbuckers is always a great idea, and G&L’s frankly luscious basses have a tone that their players insist is unmatched anywhere else as a result. The L2000’s zippy looks (we love the wavy headstock) give it stacks of on-stage cool, too.
57 Michael Tobias Design Eclipse
American bass-maker Michael Tobias sold his company to Gibson before starting up his own MTD company and continuing the innovative work on finishes which he’d begun under the Tobias brand. Any of his basses are worth a shot, but the Eclipse has great nostalgia value.
56 Washburn AB40
Why not have an acoustic bass or two on the list? After all, this nifty Washburn has none other than Stuart Hamm’s signature on it, and if it’s good enough for him it’s more than good enough for us. The AB40 will be smooth as butter to play, as sure as ham and eggs are Hamm and eggs.
55 Dean Jeff Berlin
Four strings, passive and sweet as a Smartie, Dean’s JB model is as spec-heavy and upmarket as you’d expect for a bassist of Jeff’s calibre. Remember, Jaco Pastorius admitted that Jeff was a better soloist then he was: a guy like that needs a decent axe, right? You know it.
54 ESP TA-600
Based on the ancient Hill and BC Rich basses that Slayer frontman Tom Araya used to play, the ESP TA series is a spiky-looking but slickly strummable instrument that metal players worldwide have embraced. Available in any colour, as long as it’s… oh, you know.
53 Sandberg California PM
We love the P-J configuration over here at BGM, and one good way to get your hybrid kicks is to invest several hundred sovereigns in this lovely instrument. With elite-level electronics and a body to die for, we say the Sandberg’s California range has something for everybody to love.
52 Eccleshall 335
Manchester luthier Chris Eccleshall is best known for the Gibson 335-shaped semi-acoustic basses he made for sometime New Order beard-wearer Peter Hook, a man whose grasp of the haunting upper-register melody is unique. The 335 is tasty, tasty, very very tasty, and highly sought-after in the indie-rock scene.
51 Ibanez GWB
Ah, the finger ramp! Like Marmite, you either love it or avoid it like swine flu, but we’re keen on its many charms, especially on the signature bass designed by its creator Gary Willis. Although Ibanez is best known for its heavy metal endorsees, you can plug their basses into any genre you like.
50 Schecter Stiletto
Reliable, versatile and great-looking. But that’s enough about our features editor – Schecter basses fill a seriously large gap in the bass market in which a reasonable amount of money meets a respectable amount of quality, and they fill it well. Try the Ultra too, for that wacky 1960s look.
49 Peavey Cirrus
Holy price-tag range, Batman! The Cirrus stands at the top of Peavey’s long line of basses, which stretches from the affordable Millennium range to state-of-the-art instruments that cry out to be played. Look at the wood on this bass. Just look at it.
48 Epiphone Jack Casady Signature
Another Gibson 335-alike, this time endorsed by past BGM alumni such as Andy Lewis of Paul Weller’s band, Epiphone’s creamy Jack Casady has a tone that cuts through the most irksome of guitar riffs without suffering from any undue feedback issues. We love that retro headstock, daddio.
47 Hohner Jack
Yes, we know the Hohner Jack was cruelly mocked for being a poor man’s Status back in the 80s. You don’t have to remind us: we were there. Still, though, we think it played like a demon, balanced like an acrobat and influenced a whole generation of fun, affordable basses.
46 BassLab L-Bow
Yes, it looks nuts – so what? We like crazy-looking gear, in case you hadn’t noticed, and the fact that the L-Bow looks like a bit of bubblegum that’s been melted with a blowtorch and then painted day-glo colours doesn’t trouble us. We think all basses should be this way.
45 Sei Flamboyant
If you’ve got a couple of grand to spare, you could do a lot worse than investing in one of these truly splendid, British-made instruments, made from the finest materials and in a gobsmacking array of options. The Flamboyant gets its name for a reason, by the way…
44 Shergold 4040
Shergold were something of a 1970s curio in manufacturing terms but that doesn’t mean they didn’t make some totally skill basses, among them the 4040. This solid beast of an instrument played and recorded like a dream, and came – somewhat ahead of its time – alongside 5- and 6-string models.
43 Vigier Excess
The choice of axe for Deep Purple’s Roger Glover among others, French manufacturer Vigier offer a unique feature on their Excess bass – a metal fingerboard – that adds an audible zing to the instrument’s sound and a slippery edge to the playing feel. This feels most obvious on a fretless. Yummy.
42 Bee GrooveBee
This Oregon-based company make a range of custom and extended-range instruments that use unusual body shapes and woods for a truly unique look. We like them a lot, as well as the fact that Bee prices are manageable for the professional. No need to blow the mortgage on one of these rare insects.
41 Manson E Bass John Paul Jones
Players of the stature of Led Zep’s John Paul Jones don’t tend to accept compromises, and Jones’s recently-launched signature bass from Devon-based luthier Hugh Manson is a world-class beauty through and through. The elegance of the horns… the subtlety of the finish… where do you start?
40 Ampeg ADA4U Dan Armstrong Reissue Plexi
Wait – this bass is made out of see-through plexiglas! You can see its innards and everything, both in the 1960s original and the new one reissued by Ampeg. It’s so unusual that we want to say ‘Wait – this bass is made out of see-through plexiglas!’ again… Oh, we did.
39 Jaydee Classic Series 1
Mark King’s first Jaydee was a slapalicious little bass, painted cherry red (the colour soon became a Jaydee trademark) and toted round the world when King made it big with pop-funk act Level 42. To this day the response of these splendid basses is second to none.
38 Godin A4
The Godin series is one of the wonders of the bass world, all eminently strokable woods and state-of-the-art tones. The A6 is a semi-acoustic instrument which comes in a particular orangey-brown wood that reminds us a bit of a trip to Ikea but without the meatballs.
37 Framus Star Bass 135E
Framus are a proper old-school brand, operating for three decades until the 1970s, when they bit the dust. The Star Bass, staple of many a greasy-haired rockabilly cat half a century ago, played like a tank and looked like a wardrobe, but boy was it influential.
36 Ritter Jupiter
Don’t play, or even look at, this fantastically bizarre bass if you’ve got a hangover: it’s a fairly psychedelic experience just having one around. It isn’t all about looks, though: the Jupiter plays like a dream too. The kind of dream you have when you eat Stilton at bed time.
35 Pedulla MVP
With its weeny horns and luscious wood, the Pedulla MVP – once used by none other than Gene Simmons of Kiss – is iconic. Few basses offer as much sustain per kilo of wood, and fewer still look like a manta ray’s face when you take the neck off.
34 Lakland Skyline
A manufacturer whose instruments are ever-growing in popularity, judging by the number of players we speak to who love them, Lakland are reliable, tonally generous and not over-complicated. That’s a surprisingly rare thing in the bass world, especially in the mid-market.
33 Kubicki Ex Factor
Futuristically-shaped basses were two a penny in the 1980s and 90s, and nowadays they tend to look pretty embarrassing. Not so the Kubicki, whose streamlined arrow shape still looks as keen as mustard to us, perhaps because of its not-headless-but-not-quite-headed appearance.
32 Jackson Concert
Still the headbanger’s choice of bass a couple of decades after its launch, the Jackson Concert has the droopy, pointy headstock that so many other manufacturers copied. In fact, Jackson were forced to fight them off with a trademark action. Quite right too: it’s an icon among instruments.
31 Burns Bison
Too many switches? Too asymmetrical a body shape? Ah, don’t be so picky. Back in the 60s, when session musicians did 12 albums a day and a bass guitar sounded like someone dropping a book on a duvet, instruments needed to be solid and reliable – and this one was.
30 Gretsch Electrotone
If you could play one of these gargantuan basses, you could make it sound pretty cool. The problem was that there was enough room inside for a grand piano. OK, we exaggerate: the Electrotone was and remains an immensely popular bass… among very strong people.
29 Gibson EB0
This curious-looking bass, resembling a Les Paul with two cutaways and a pickup jammed up against the neck to avoid any treble, was much loved by certain players of the 60s and 70s but suffered a loss of credibility as the decades passed. Old ones still sell for thousands, though.
28 Conklin Sidewinder
You know a luthier is fearless when six strings seems an embarrassingly low number and if they offer a 36-fret neck option. Conklin, whose basses seem to know no limits, will take you to places that other basses don’t, which sounds like a shameless plug – but it’s literally true.
27 BC Rich Beast
On this list because its sumptuous, alien curves and hot, hot EMGs make it essential for any true on-stage exhibitionist, BC Rich’s flagship bass is actually painful to play if you’re not careful. But that’s the way some people like it, and who are we to judge them, after all?
26 Fodera Monarch
Victor Wooten uses Fodera for a reason: because they play like nothing else on earth, because they are painstakingly assembled by hand, and presumably also because he likes the colour. Most of the rest of us will never get to own one, but hey, a bassist can dream, right?