SX Bass Review: An Outstanding Cheap Bass Guitar for Beginners
SX Bass: Doesn't look like a cheap bass guitar!
What's the best bass for beginners?
"What's the best bass for beginners?"
That's the question I've probably heard most often in my 20+ years of playing the bass guitar. Since I discovered SX bass guitars, I don’t often recommend anything else in the under $200 price range.
I stopped buying cheap basses once I could afford better. After playing high-end Fenders, or boutique basses like Pedulla and Sadowsky, not too many cheap basses get your attention…
…but my attitude changed a little while back when I played my first SX bass.
A good place to see different SX basses, along with user reviews, is
at amazon.com. Here’s a link to their selection of SX basses:
The story: my surprising first SX experience
I was at get-together with about 15 other bassists. Everyone brought basses so we could try out each other's stuff. (LOTS of fun!) There were probably about 25 basses there. I myself brought a high-end USA Fender bass (A Fender USA ’62 Reissue Jazz Bass). There were also other G&L, Pedulla, Schecter, Ibanez, Ernie Ball MusicMan, Hamer, Modulus, other Fenders and more really nice basses.
A younger guy, who had been playing for less than a year, asked if I'd check out his bass. He was going to try out for his first band, and said that since his bass was "really, REALLY cheap." He was worried that it might not be good enough for using with a band.
The headstock said "SX" which was a brand hadn't heard of before. It looked nice enough—almost identical to a Fender Jazz bass. But looks don't mean anything! There are TONS of cheap Fender copies, and many are not very good.
Putting it to the test
I examined it carefully, tested the knobs and tuning keys, and checked the construction. The build quality was good—pretty close to the Fender Standard Series basses, which sell for over $500. It didn’t seem as cheap as the kid hinted it was.
I plugged in and let a couple of notes ring out. Surprisingly, it sounded good—much better than I expected. Certainly not as good as the $1000+ Fender I'd brought, but pretty darned good. In a live band setting, most people would never tell the difference between that bass and a real Fender. Impressive!
I was pleased with the sound. But cheap basses often have bad fretwork that causes buzzing and makes them hard to play. So I ripped through some of my "music store" licks (you know, the stuff people play in music stores to show off :-) ). Again, I was surprised and impressed. It wasn't a speed machine like my $3500 Pedulla, but it played really well—a good, solid player’s bass. Again, a lot like a real Fender.
I started having fun, switching from rapid-fire slapping, to greasy finger funk, to muted thumb plucking, to two handed tapping. A "REALLY cheap" bass had no business being this good...
...and that's when I decided the kid must be messing with me. He’d probably paid about $400 or $450 for the bass and just wanted to see if I could tell.
Cheap bass guitar...really????
I told the kid that yeah—the bass was DEFINITELY good enough to play in a real band. Then I asked him how much he’d paid for it.
He said "About $150."
I told him flat out I didn't believe him. But then another player—someone I actually knew—chimed in and told me it was true. The SX basses cost next to nothing because they’re built in Asia. But the factory apparently has very modern equipment and good quality control. He also told me he had just bought one for himself (a Precision-style rather than a Jazz-style) for a little over $100.
Needless to say, I was floored. I mean, all the basses I’d ever seen for around $100 - $150 brand new were complete junk. But this SX was a real bass. I’d be willing to take it on a paying gig!
Bottom line: Yeah, I'd take it on a paying gig!
Hands down, I can’t think of a better bass for a beginner. It would also make a great backup bass, or a bass to take to those...“not so nice” gigs where things get drenched with beer or stolen out of your van.
Heck, I’d even take it on a “nice” gig as my main bass, just for the fun of it!
So now whenever someone asks me what beginner bass they should get, I tell them without hesitation: "The best bang for your buck is an SX!"