Because it’s a more specialized instrument, it can be hard to find a cheap violin bass. But bassists on a budget aren’t out of luck—even the iconic brand Hofner has a few models in their catalogue for affordable prices. We’ve picked out some of our favorite affordable violin basses below. Whatever your budget, one of them will be sure to give you that classic ’60s British rock sound at a price you can afford.
These are our recommendations for the 3 best cheap violin bass guitars on the market:
Hofner Ignition 4-String Violin Bass Guitar
Every other modern violin bass you see on the market is basically a re-make of the original Hofner version made in the late ’50s and early ’60s. If you’re looking for the iconic early Beatles kind of bass tone, you want to stick with the experts. Other brands can come close, but only a Hofner truly sounds like a Hofner.
The Ignition line from Hofner features a fully hollow-body construction (see full specs), giving your tone a deep, thumping resonance. The result is a tone that has the depth of an upright bass but in the more convenient package of a short-scale electric.
Hofner has also done a great job on this model of combining vintage aesthetics with modern convenience and construction. It uses classic staple pickups that capture the old-school Hofner sound. The modern on-board controls offer a toggle to easily change from solo to rhythm modes, along with bass and treble toggles and separate level knobs for each pickup.
This isn’t the cheapest product, by any means, but the quality of materials and level of craftsmanship make it an incredible value. It’s by far the most affordable way to get that old-school hollowbody electric tone.
Hofner Icon Series Beatle Violin Bass Sunburst
Here’s another excellent option from Hofner. It has a very similar classic look to the Ignition above but uses a different construction and combination of tonewoods. The end result is a subtle update on the classic tone that’s perfect if you want the resonance of a violin bass but need a bit of an extra punch.
The main difference between this instrument and the one above is that it uses a semi-hollowbody construction (see full specs). You’ll get the depth and warmth you want from a Hofner bass but with a bit more clarity, perfect if you find your tone sounds muddy playing on a fully hollowbody model.
Digging into the details, the Icon Series uses solid spruce for the top with maple on the back and sides—a classic tonewood combination for a classic instrument. It has a set neck with a 30” scale length, and the action is incredibly smooth, too, so it’s as easy to play as it is to listen to.
Just like the Ignition, the Hofner Icon series uses vintage pickups that have been modernized to give players all the tone shaping capabilities they need. This is by far the best cheap violin bass if you want a more modern version of the standard Hofner tone.
De Rosa GB-BB2 Silver Sunburst Vintage Violin Bass
The GB-BB2 from De Rosa is the most affordable option on the list. It’s not quite going to give you the traditional Hofner tone, but the sound quality is still quite high and distinctive from what you’d get out of other electric basses.
The electronics are about what you’d expect from a violin bass. It comes with two humbucking pickups, along with standard EQ toggles. The independent level controls are a pro touch on an entry-level product. The construction quality is also higher than you might expect, given the price point. It uses a chambered design and all-maple construction. Combined, they give it a rich, warm sustain—just what you want from a Beatle bass.
Maybe the best thing about the De Rosa is that it’s perfect for a beginner because it’s so easy and comfortable to play. Hollowbody basses in general are lighter in weight than other designs, and it has a shorter scale, so it’ll be easier to use for smaller players. For the money, this is likely the best cheap violin bass period.
Rogue VB100LH Left-Handed Violin Bass Guitar Vintage Sunburst
Finally, here’s something for the lefties on the list. The VB100 from Rogue has a similar feel to the De Rosa above, but with a bit more attention to the details that really makes it work the extra investment, in most peoples’ estimation.
Let’s start with the construction. It’s all-maple, like the De Rosa, but has an arched top and flamed body, subtle changes that give it an even darker, more resonant tone. The neck feels more solid on the Rogue, too. It has a set-in neck joint like you’d find on higher-end models. The slightly longer 31” scale length will also be more familiar to most players.
The hardware on the VB100 is all-chrome, and it uses die-cast tuners so you can trust your intonation to stay solid. While it’s priced for a hobbyist, it has the sound and build quality to look at home on a stage. It’s the perfect choice for a pro who wants to add a violin bass to his arsenal. It’s reliable enough to take on the road without setting you back as much as a professional instrument.
So What’s the Best Cheap Violin Bass?
To answer that question, you should first ask yourself exactly what you’re looking for. If you want that iconic Paul McCartney tone, you want to buy something from Hofner. Other instruments might sound great, but they won’t sound exactly the same.
If you’re more looking for the resonance and depth of a hollowbody bass but aren’t necessarily wedded to a specific tone, your options open up. All four of the options above are built to last and fun to play. Giving them a listen should help you find the perfect one to suit your style. Good luck!