My most expensive basses are worth over £3000. My cheapest, and most recent addition, cost just over £300 (a 1982 Ibanez Roadster). In my opinion, it's the most playable bass I own. I just feel like I can play anything with it.
There is definitely smoke and mirrors and cognitive biases going on when it comes to bass gear. G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) is a real phenoma, pushing you to buy new gear until you hit the peak of the mythical tone mountain.
I'm here to tell you to use a well set up cheap bass and concentrate on making music! Here are some players who make incredible music with epic tone using a cheap instrument.
1.Thaddeus Tribbet - Vintage VJ74 Icon Bass
This bass retails for £369. Thaddeus absolutely kills it throughout this wonderful Tiny Desk concert.
2. Julia Plays Groove - MusicMan SUB Ray 4
Julia's tone and groove are immense. She uses this £349 Sterling by Music Man SUB Ray 4 recorded using the excellent Zoom B3n multi effects pedal.
3.Andre Berry - Sire Bass
The Marcus Miller inspired Sire bass brand continues to go from strength to strength. Many pros use them and they are a modern day classic. Here's the seriously groovy Andre Berry slapping one almost to death.
4.Carole Kaye - Ibanez SRX-690
Kaye played many a smash hit using her original Fender P bass (don't forget that that was once a new and relatively affordable bass!). She endorsed Ibanez for a while and sounds great on it. I'm not sure if the model in the video below is still in production but here are so many wonderful basses in the affordable Ibanez range.
5. Joe Dart - Fender Squier
Joe sounds like Joe on any bass. That's why his MusicMan signature bass has only one knob. He has a specific touch and attack that makes him sound the way he does. However, he often plays with flats and on this video, there sounds like there's a little compression and harmonic saturation going on.
I'm not 100% sure what model Squier this is but it is a cheap bass! You can see the Squier logo around 1:44.
Affordable Awesome Basses To Check Out
Apart from the basses above, you would do well to check these out:
Ibanez Talman: One of the best live bass sound I heard was a guy in London playing one of these in a covers band.
Bass Centre British Masters: These come from the iconic Bass Centre in London. They're modelled on the basses of British bass greats including Guy Pratt, Norman Watt-Roy, and John Entwistle. They ship worldwide and are cracking basses!