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Best Step-Up Bass For Around $350?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Lawdon, Nov 12, 2017.

  1. Lawdon


    Nov 12, 2017
    I've been playing with a pretty entry-level GSR200 from Ibanez for a couple years now (first bass, played for about three years). I haven't played with a band in a while, but I'm looking find some other people and work on some music a bit. The GSR200 has treated me pretty well, but I'm concerned that it won't hold up to playing live all that well. I've never experienced the extreme tuning issues that some have, but especially since I put on lighter strings in order try more tap and slap, it does need regular retuning. Also, when I try and tap, it can sound oddly out of tune. I freely admit some of these issues may be due to my own bad setup, but the neck looks fairly level and the bridge is as low as it will go without having horrible fret buzz. Overall though, it's an okay bass. It's served me well in learning the fundamentals of the instrument and playing some minor gigs. But now, I'm looking to move on. Or maybe mod it somehow, let me know.

    I had a few minutes the other day to try just a few basses at Guitar Center. I first bolted for the Serling Sub RAY 4 & 5, because I've only heard good reviews of those. I plug it in all excited and then...it just felt wrong. I like mounting my thumb on a pickup, and the RAY only allowed me to play near the bridge that way, while I really like the round sound closer to the neck. The fact of the matter is, most of my bass inspirations played P-basses, and that simply is not the right sound. The RAY was buzzy, and just felt a bit one note for me. It both lacked character and subtlety, somehow. I also tried an Squier P-Bass, PJ config, though I don't remember if it was Vintage Modified or Affinity (I didn't want to ask for the staff to pull down a properly nice one like 70's style P Bass). Either way, I was shocked by how much I disliked it. The sound was okay, but the whole thing felt heavy and a tad lifeless.

    But then there was the shocker: I saw a super cheap Yamaha TRBX174EX. I pulled it down, with its kinda goofy mango wood exterior, and plugged it in. Simple three pot layout, I tried both the P and J pickups, and really enjoyed the sound of the bass. It was amazingly light and I could play quickly on it, which I loved. I did find it didn't play harmonics that well (because of the string tree?), but overall I was really surprised. I also tried a TRBX204, and even not knowing what the pots did, I coaxed some sounds I really liked out of the bass. But then I had to leave, before I could try anything more upscale.

    So what should I be thinking about? I've figured I'm probably not that good at setup, so used basses may need more work than I can put in myself, which is cost added. My budget is still not huge, even for my "step-up" bass, at around $350, though I can stretch. I liked the PJ Yamahas and I've liked my PJ Ibanez. My main favorite bassists are all P bass guys, I don't tend to lean to J bass sound or any of the Stingray slap monsters. I mostly play pick and finger style, nothing too fancy.

    How does the Ibanez SR300e stack up against a Yamaha TRBX304? Should I still avoid both because I disliked the humbucking RAY? Would the TRBX204 even be a step up from my Ibanez? Should I look at the Yamaha BB34? Or is there a brilliant alternative I'm missing? Or do I try and mod my current bass somehow?
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2017
  2. Skybone


    Jun 20, 2016
    Set yourself some time aside one day & go back to the shop with the intention of trying different basses out. Go to a few different shops if you can.

    If the GSR sounds good & plays well, then there's no reason why it won't hold up to playing harder. Maybe you should get some new tuners and new pickups for the fraction of the cost of a new bass.

    There again, you can't beat a new toy to play with (and upgrade the GSR as money allows!).

    Sounds like the TRBX was a winner when you tried it, but as I said, try out as many as you can before making your mind up. If you do find something that feels and sounds good, don't be afraid to ask for a discount (or something free if they won't give any).
    TolerancEJ, Reedt2000 and garp like this.
  3. iTzPrime


    May 30, 2016
    Get a used yamaha 424x or the equivalent in the new yamaha series. Best thing to buy used.
    However before you consider buying a new bass, take it to your luthier/guitar shop and get a setup.
    4sight and garp like this.
  4. garp


    Feb 7, 2009
    Connecticut USA
    Keep doing what you're doing: Try as many instruments as you can, and don't pressure yourself (and don't let anyone else pressure you) into purchasing something. You'll know if and when you've found the right instrument.

    As noted above, don't rule out considering a pre-owned instrument. Since you've already mentioned that your favorite bassists are "P guys," try a used Fender Standard Precision (MIM) and/or a used Fender Deluxe Active Precision Special (MIM) to see if either of those float your boat. I also second the recommendation for the Yamaha BB series – a pre-owned BB414 or BB424X would fit within your budget, and they're terrific P/J basses.

    Good luck in your search!
  5. Maxdusty


    Mar 9, 2012
    Michigan USA
    A question, did you check the bass intonation? When you change strings on a bass, you oftentimes have to readjust the intonation when you do - this might have something to do when fretted notes sound out of tune.
    In terms of the bass going out of tune, replacing the stock tuners with better ones will fix the issue.

    The Ibanez SR300e or other basses with humbuckers don't necessarily sound like the Ray, in fact nothing quite sounds like a Ray, so worth trying it for yourself at a music store. Rays do have a distinct sound, very aggressive and are often knocked for not having the variance in tone, it doesn't do subtlety well. Just my opinion. It sounds to me like a passive basses with a P bass pickup or a PJ configuration might be more to your liking. I used to own a TRBX174 in that same finish- it's a pretty nice bass with a stable neck, the quality is really good for such an inexpensive bass but in retrospect, I would probably upgrade the pickups on it- the stock ones are okay but could be better.

    So as mentioned above, I highly recommend to keep trying out other basses at your music store, realize though that some are in need of a set up themselves - some of the basses hanging at GC are bad examples of the basses as they've been demoed so often, and abused by customers ie. had a million "Higher Ground" songs played on them.
    Also consider buying used basses as they will maximize the kind of bass you can get with your budget. For $350 you can find a fairly good bass. Even GC has used basses, you can check their online listings and have any bass from any store in the country delivered to you for around $20-30. Also check the classifieds here on this site and what's available on CL in your area.
    The important thing though is knowing which bass to look for and that you can only know by trying them yourself, which is considered a fun process here in TB. Best of luck with your search.
  6. twc1313

    twc1313 Practice is the cure for GAS...or so I've heard.

    Oct 28, 2013
    Pittsburgh, Pa
    Yamaha BB 424x or the newer 434. Also try an Ibanez Talman at GC, don't be put off by the low price, they are great basses.
    Nunovsky likes this.
  7. AdamK


    Jan 24, 2015
    The bass I have for sale currently might be perfect for you.
  8. OldFunBass


    Nov 5, 2016
    Definitely try the Ibby SR300E. It will feel right to you since you are used to Ibanez, and the two Powerspan pickups combined with the 3-band pre amp make it a very versatile bass. I have one and really love it. Goes for $350 new, so right on your budget. And works for just about any type of music you might find yourself playing. I hear some folks refer to other types of basses as being "one trick ponies", and to me the SR300E is pretty much the opposite of that. It is a great buy for the money.
    Of course, I also like the SBMM SUB Ray4's (for the price). But the SR300E is probably a better fit based on that you started on an Ibanez.
  9. Paulabass

    Paulabass Supporting Member

    Sep 18, 2017
    Just food for thought- $350 isn't really much of a step up from anything. It's another entry level bass. Maybe invest in a set-up on the bass you have, and shop when you are in the mid price bracket, about $1000. It will keep you going for years, and years, until you firmly know exactly what you are looking for. Good luck!
    Ikkir, el_Bajo_Verde and Aberdumbie like this.
  10. Reedt2000

    Reedt2000 Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2017
    Central New Jersey
    +1 to this

    Look at what you've learned from just your short time at GC. Go try lots of options and make sure if you are gonna invest in a nicer bass, it's the right one for you. Used will certainly maximize your investment. Look into return policies, GC gives you 45 days, though you will have to pay shipping costs if you return because you don't like it (If it has problems they will refund shipping too). Their return policy makes buying used from their website very low risk.

    Go plays lots of basses to zero in on what you want, then go hunt down a deal on one.
  11. muddycreek


    Feb 26, 2010
    +1 to several things. Just play a lot, and don't put pressure on yourself to get a new bass because yours isn't "good enough." Here's what I would do with some of that $350:

    You probably need the bass intonated, if it gets more out of tune as you go up the neck that's a dead giveaway.

    Upgraded tuners will probably solve the tuning problem.

    Once you get those sorted, take some time playing it and other basses, and try and find a sound and feel you like. Don't be afraid of playing $1500 basses, it's the only way to know the art of the possible. You may find that a few more upgrades can get you a lot closer within your budget - want cleaner, overall "better" sound? New pickups. Tone close but not there? Try different strings. More, uh, "solid" low end and better sustain? Maybe a heavier bridge. Maybe playing a tad softer and turning up a notch makes all of it better. Try different amps while you're at it, you may find one that compliments your bass and the sound in your head better.

    Your bass has good bones, barring some actual defect, so relax and enjoy it!
  12. jd56hawk


    Sep 12, 2011
    The Garden State
    Ibanez Talman TMB 310.
    Never had much use for Ibanez basses until I tried this one and the TMB600.
    Surprisingly nice bass, especially with some nice flatwounds like Fender 9050CLs, and a great retro look. This one looks even better in real life, but if it's too much for some people, it does come in red or black, etc.
  13. If you want brand new for your price target, then another hearty recommendation for Yamaha, either the PJ configured BB234 or the HH configured TRBX304. Really solid good basses.
  14. The Yamaha TRBX304 sounds great!! Even better than his more expensive brother, the TRBX504.
  15. If you want to buy new: The SR300E. I got one and I love it!
    If you want to buy used: Try to find a SR500. Totally stunning bass!
  16. Sav'nBass

    Sav'nBass Supporting Member

    Jan 18, 2009
    Northern Va.
    I am assuming you mean his old bass...

    I was thinking the same thing..
  17. Sav'nBass

    Sav'nBass Supporting Member

    Jan 18, 2009
    Northern Va.
    I am assuming you mean his old bass...

    I was thinking the same thing..
  18. JustSomeDude

    JustSomeDude Supporting Member

    May 2, 2014
    Nashville, Tennessee
    and buy a Squier. (If you like the general PBass tone). Paying for a real setup is better than paying for an ‘upgrade’

    The setups are generally terrible at the store. And so are the strings.

    My main bass is a late 60’s Precision. I have a Squier Jazz Fretless. I’ve played it in sessions and no one made fun of me (to my face).

    With proper setup, there’s no reason a Squier can’t ‘get you by’ for a very long time. I’ve intended to buy a Vintage Modified for fly dates, but never got around to it.

    The concept that those basses aren’t good enough for advanced playing are completely imaginary.

    If you can afford a higher quality instrument, they are fun to have. I tend to either get vintage, or go cheap and upgrade components if needed
  19. pjmuck


    Feb 8, 2006
    New Joisey
    Truthfully, lower end basses made today (primarily made in China, Indonesia, etc) are miles above the cheaper basses made decades ago in terms of build quality and sound. Most of the better low end instruments made by reputable manufacturers are plekked today, so there's better consistency, and some can even rival more expensive made instruments. Squiers are very good instruments for the money, and buying used is even cheaper. But it really comes down to figuring out where your tastes lie in terms of sound, feel, etc. Try many instruments out, as others have stated, and nail down where your tastes lie. SO many options these days.
  20. Lawdon


    Nov 12, 2017
    Well thank you all for you advice. I played around a bit, and the Black Friday sale at GC was just too tempting after I found the one. Got an Ibanez ER370e. Absolutely loved it. The flexiblity was wonderful, it's light, and I felt it punched out basses far above its price range. It made the Epiphone T-Bird feel like a neck-diving brick.
    OldFunBass and Reedt2000 like this.
  21. Linnin

    Linnin SUSPENDED

    Jul 19, 2012
    Linningrad, Earth
    That's because it is a 'neck-diving brick'! :roflmao:
    Reedt2000 likes this.

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