3 Best Upright Basses in 2020

To help you pick out the best upright bass, we shortlisted three of the best products on the market. We based our choices on qualities such as type of wood used for the top, back, sides, and fingerboard, the quality of the saddle and tailpiece for stability and durability, as well as the quality of the strings and their proper placement heights.

Throughout our testing, Cremona’s SB-3 Premier Upright Bass stood out among the rest. It’s our best upright bass thanks to its handpicked and hand-carved spruce top, maple back and sides, and its pre-installed high-quality D’Addario Prelude strings. Keep reading below for the rest of our picks.

Top 3 Best Upright Bass

 #1  Cremona SB-3 Premier Upright Bass

Award: TOP PICK

WHY WE LIKE IT: Cremona’s legendary renown in string instruments is reflected in the SB-3 Upright Bass. It features top-quality, select spruce wood for the top and maple back and sides that are carefully handcrafted for the most-focused sound and attack.

Pros
  • Best craftsmanship
  • High-quality D’Addario Prelude strings
  • Comes with a padded nylon gig bag
Cons
  • Doesn’t include a bow
  • Only comes in natural wood color

Cremona’s SB-3 Premier Upright Bass tops our list as the best upright bass with its top-quality craftsmanship. Its wooden top is made of hand-carved select spruce wood to assure the clearest and best volume when played. Its sides, back, and neck are also hand-carved from curly maple, which helps enhance its sound and provide the best attack signature. It features an adjustable bridge height for fine-tuning action, allowing for various styles of music. If you’re leaning towards folk music, you might also want to learn to play one of the best concertinas.

What we like best about Cremona’s SB-3 is the attention to material quality — the fingerboard is made of ebonite, ensuring longevity without compromising on finger feel, and the saddle and tailpieces are made of ebony wood that lends to the parts’ durability and aesthetic. The Cremona SB-3 comes with D’Addario Prelude strings and a padded 600-denier nylon bag for gigs. It’s available in a 3/4 size, which should be perfect for those looking for a relatively smaller student upright bass. Note that it doesn’t come with a bow, so consider getting a good-quality one to match this instrument. If you want a stringed instrument that doesn’t require a bow, check out the best dulcimer.

 #2  Cecilio CDB Upright Bass

Award: HONORABLE MENTION

WHY WE LIKE IT: This upright bass from Cecilio features a premium-grade oak fingerboard and tailpiece and comes in a laminated wood finish that’s available in a variety of colors and sizes. We also like how it comes in a complete package with a carrying case, bow, and rosin.

Pros
  • Best quality
  • Great beginner package
  • Comes in multiple colors and sizes
Cons
  • Rosin isn’t very sticky

The Cecilio CDB Upright Bass is a perfect upright bass for beginners since it comes in multiple sizes — a 1/4 mini upright bass that’s great to get your young ones started. If you want another great instrument for beginners, take a look at our review of the best cowbell. If you’re a more experienced player, you’ll want one of the bigger 1/2 or 3/4 scale upright bass sizes. There’s also an available 4/4 full-size version that could be more suitable for bigger players. What makes it great is it already comes with a bow, rosin, and a gig bag so you’re ready to bring it out to the next rehearsal.

The upright bass’s fingerboard is made of oak, and it also features a premium oak tailpiece for added durability. Its body is made of laminated wood and comes in either a natural wood look or an option between a black or white glossy finish. You can adjust its bridge for a more personalized sound and fingerboard feel, and its plated brass tuning machine head ensures that the strings’ tuning will hold well regardless of storage. If you need to add percussion to your band, consider the best djembe.

 #3  Palatino VE-500-BK Electric Upright Bass

Award: BEST ELECTRIC

WHY WE LIKE IT: Palatino has a solid offer for those looking for an electric upright bass — its VE-500-BK is a great compact upright bass that has a spruce top and maple back and sides. The electric piezo transducer allows for active tone and volume controls.

Pros
  • Best budget
  • Slim and compact design
  • Comes with carrying bag
Cons
  • Needs work with tuning for use with amplifiers

The Palatino VE-500-BK Electric Upright Bass is a starkly smaller and sleeker instrument that features great sound customizability thanks to its piezo transducer pickup. It comes with a carrying case and features active tone, which lets you tweak its signature based on your preference.

This electric upright bass has a solid spruce top, while maple adorns its back and sides. The fingerboard is also built with high-quality ebony, and the neck is curved, so the instrument is suitable for both finger plucking or playing with a bow. It also isn’t limited in size, since it has an adjustable foot that can be tailored based on its user. These attributes give the Palatino VE-500-BK great versatility in terms of its playability. Another thing we noticed is that the bass’s active tone system is great overall. Just make sure to spend some time tweaking it to get the right sound signature for your use. If you also need a brass instrument, check out one of the best sousaphones.

How We Decided

When choosing the best upright bass, we considered many factors. One is durability — whether using it for recitals and large performances or rehearsals and private gigs, a good upright bass must withstand transport and hold its tune for minimal preparations every use.

The quality of the upright bass depends on the materials that were used — we focused on products that have high-quality, handcrafted single-piece wood materials that produce the best balance between sound quality and durability. We considered the fact that too thick of a material would impact sound clarity, but a subpar material will not give enough durability for hundreds of gigs or more.

We also considered the quality of materials used on the neck and fingerboard because they matter just as much as the body. We found that this also reflects directly on the quality of the sound coming from the strings, especially when the upright bass is played with a bow. We went for fingerboards that are made of hardwoods such as ebony or good-quality wood substitutes such as ebonite — these materials are often rigid enough to withstand humidity and moderate wear without being too uncomfortable to use for fingers.

Next, we considered the best upright bass with complete packages — a gig case is a must, as we know that most upright bass owners will be using their instruments daily on gigs, rehearsals, or recitals away from their homes. We made sure to choose options that also offered a ready-to-use package that includes a bow and rosin for those who play bass with bows.

Finally, we prioritized looking for offers from brands that have the best reputation with string instruments. Looking at the best price to quality balance led us to brands such as Cremona and Cecilio, which have consistently produced good quality bass and other stringed instruments on the market.

Best Upright Bass Buyer’s Guide

The Most Important Features to Consider

  1. Material quality
    Look for upright basses that are made of high-quality materials. You’ll often encounter instruments that are made of laminated wood or hand-carved wood. Upright basses made of laminated wood tend to be more affordable but compromise on quality, but that doesn’t mean that they’re made cheaply. So make sure to go for those that are made by reputable brands. Hand-carved wood, on the other hand, is generally more expensive but has better longevity, so go for that if you plan on using your instrument for the long-term.
  2. Portability
    Upright basses are definitely not the lightest and most compact instruments, with even mini upright basses taking up significant space in your trunk. Opt for those that come with a padded gig bag or traveling case, and make sure that they have good quality straps and latches or zippers. You wouldn’t want them falling while you’re carrying them up a steep flight of stairs.
  3. Size
    You also have to consider the right size of the upright bass you’re thinking of purchasing. Upright basses come in varying sizes, and what you see as a 3/4 size is actually the usual, normal size. Consider the person who will ultimately be using the instrument on a long-term basis. If you’re buying it for a young adult who will eventually go to music school, feel free to get a larger ¾-sized bass that they can eventually grow into. If you’re buying for a class primarily for small children starting out, you’ll likely have to consider smaller, ¼-sized basses.
  4. Durability
    There’s more to an upright bass’s quality than the materials used. The manner that these instruments are put together also factor into its durability. Good upright basses can be maintained with minimal repairs or refits — the craftsmanship quality factors a lot here. Go for instruments made by reputable brands, and you’ll be sure to get the most out of your purchase for years to come.

Upright Bass FAQs

How do you size an upright bass?

There are a lot of sizing options available for upright basses, with the most common being 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, and 4/4. However, the sizing isn’t necessarily standard, and there are actually a lot more sizes in between the widely accepted definitions. As a standard, ¾-sized upright basses are the most common with body heights of up to 43.5 inches and total heights of 71.5 inches. Upright basses that are 4/4, which suit larger players, have a body height of up to 45.5 inches and a total height of 75 inches. Meanwhile, smaller ¼-sized basses suitable for younger musicians are often at 37.5 inches body height and have 61.5 inches of total height.

What’s the difference between carved, laminated, and hybrid type materials?

Fully-carved or carved upright basses pertain to basses with the top, back, and sides made of hand-carved wood from a solid piece. On the other hand, the best laminate upright bass will have different layers or plies of wood that are laminated together to form the top, back, or sides. Hybrid basses are usually made of carved tops with laminated sides and back.

How much does a good upright bass cost?

If you’re a beginner, you can start with an upright bass in the price range of $1,000 to $3,000. And if you’re studying classical music and will be using the instrument for the long-term, you can expect high-quality upright basses starting from $3,000 and up.

Is an upright bass the same as a double bass?

Upright basses are called as such simply because they’re played upright, and these instruments often have “double” the bass lines, hence the name double bass. These names actually pertain to the same instrument.

How do you care for and maintain an upright bass?

Store the bass in a cool place, but make sure to avoid putting it in places that tend to be too dry and hot or too moist. Typically, fully-carved upright basses are best stored in rooms with humidity not exceeding 40%, as too much or too little humidity would compromise the integrity of the wood. If your house has more of a dry environment, it’s best to consider getting a humidifier to bring in more moisture into a room.

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Geri Mileva

Based in Prague, CZ, Geri is a freelance writer with nine years of experience. Technology, marketing and finance are among her favorite topics to write about. She's also a strong advocate of plant-based and ethical living.

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