Hey y'all bassists of UG. Lead guitarist here checking in.

I'm thinking about buying my first bass and am looking for recommendations. Ideally used and sub £150 (c. $250).

Will mainly be using it just to practice, and possibly recording some backing tracks, although probably not doing any gigging with it (not ready to give up lead guitar just yet!)

Musical style - everything from classic rock through to 80s metal and beyond. From the stones to alter bridge, guns n roses to led zep, rhcp to motley crue etc., so versatility is a must.

The bass should ideally not have active pickups, and I'm still as of yet undecided whether I want a 4 or 5 string, so need some advice on this too. What are the benefits of getting a 4 string over a 5 string? Aside from increasing the range of notes available, does having an extra string/wider neck sacrifice playability in any way? As a 'beginner' should I opt for a 4 string for simplicity?

Finally, I plan to learn finger style, but will probably also play with a pick at times too - not sure if this affects choice of bass though, just thought I'd add.

Cheers guys, MM
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Well; given your budget of 150 GBP, I think your best bet will be to look at the offerings from Squier; particularly their Vintage modified Jazz. It sells new in the U.S.A. for about 150 GBP. Beyond that, look at used Fender MIM Jazz basses and Precision basses. Of course, you have to take into account the fact that basses probably sell here for less than they sell across the pond.

As a guitarist who is taking up the bass, I think you will find a Fender Jazz-style of bass easier to play than its Precision bass counterpart. The Jazz series has a thinner neck and a narrower string spacing. The Jazz-type basses also have two pickups and are more versatile tonally. Having said that, the Precision is the original and still the standard by which all electric basses are judged.

Given the bands you have listed, you probably do not need a five-string bass. It might by nice to have one for the occasional sub-Standard "E" tuning, but unless you are really into the low-tuned heavy stuff, you will probably not make much use of that extra string. Whether the wider fretboard would make a difference in playability depends on the string spacing distances on the particular bass. For instance, a lot of Ibanez five-string basses have a narrow string spacing, so the fretboard is not at all wide - even for someone used to playing the electric guitar. Now; if you get a five-string bass with the wider Fender or Music Man-sized string spacing, then you might find the fretboard a bit on the wide side; particularly once you get higher than the seventh fret.

As far as pickups are concerned, you are in luck. You are not likely to find anything with active pickups in your price range; nor do you need them (as you have already surmised). A lot of basses have an active EQ and a battery, but they utilize passive pickups. True active pickups are usually found in the high-end basses, and while some people like their "audiophile quality" tone characteristics, the majority of bassists do not.

Welcome to the Low End, my friend!
"Maybe this world is another planet's hell?" - Aldous Huxley
Thanks for the helpful reply, I'll take a look at Squires and used MIM Fenders. How do the cheaper bases from manufacturers such as Peavey, Yamaha and Ibanez stand in terms of reputation, as I see quite a few of them used on ebay?
What's the difference between a chickpea and a lentil?
I've never paid to have a lentil on my face!
I have a Peavey Milestone III bass I picked up used for £50. A couple of proper bassists I know have played it & said it's really good, and I know there have been a few other guys on here that have bought one & liked it.

I'm not a real bassist, I just have it for when I'm recording, but to me it plays well & is built solidly enough for my needs.
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When I got around to getting my bass, I got a Kramer Striker used for about 200 bucks. It plays really nice and was a good bass to transition from guitar with.
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The new Kramer Striker basses aren't bad at all, and IIRC, some of them come with an ebony fretboard, which is always a major "plus" for me. But they are designed with 1980's Hair Metal in mind, so they will not appeal to everyone.

The lowest end of the Ibanez line is not something I can recommend. Ibanez makes some great basses, but at the lowest end of the line, they are often far from great. Yamaha makes solid instruments, and while their lower end might not be fancy, they are good basses for the money. Given your budget, I would stick to the Squier Vintage Modified series and the Music Man SUB series (The MM SUB gives you a hell of a lot of bass for the money). You would be very hard pressed to find better (at least; with regard to new basses) and also see what is available in the used market where you live.
"Maybe this world is another planet's hell?" - Aldous Huxley
Fender Precision - it's classic, it has character because of the 2 (split) single coils, You can get a MIM version for next to nuthin and it's great for any style.

I've tried basses with more than 4 strings and really to me that 5th string gets in the way. I sit in Guitar Center and throw all my skills down on a 5 or 6 string and I can NOT get a smile to appear on my faiche.

Also I hate, or dislike, hearing music where notes below the 4th string open E are coming out of anything but a set of Moog Taurus Bass Pedals. In other words, I hate me a 5th or 6th string. But then I play mostly music that was created before such instruments were invented... If ya gotta hit a low Eb or below, get a set of bass pedals.

The Precision Bass pickup is a stroke of genius. It's not a humbucker. It's alot like the 4th position on a strat - the quack you get from the combination of the neck and middle pickups. There's something about that split design that gives a Pre such character.

My top picks for best bass I've ever played are:

1. Fender Precision
2. Rickenbacker 4003
3. Aria Pro II SB-1000
4. MusicMan Stingray
5. Ibanez Musician (Sting/The Police 1978-80)

My $0.02
Quote by FatalGear41
The lowest end of the Ibanez line is not something I can recommend. Ibanez makes some great basses, but at the lowest end of the line, they are often far from great.

I disagree, personally I think that the lower end Ibanezes (Ibani?) are on par with VM Squiers. I own (amongst other higher end basses such as a Status) an Ibanez GSR190 and a Squier VM Jazz, not a bloody hair between them quality wise. At this price point we shouldn't expect great, we should expect functional.
Quote by Karl Marx
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Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar Special. Best 200$ bass I've played and I'm extremely happy with it. Great tone and a slightly narrow neck compared to the squier p-bass. My first bass was a Squier P-Bass and this bass is way better, in my opinion. For 200$ you can't go wrong with it. Fender/Squier stepped their game up with this bass!
Thanks for all the help folks. Thought I'd update this and let you know I've bought a used Yamaha RBX270J. Was £120, so I'm pretty pleased price wise, just waiting for it to arrive now.
What's the difference between a chickpea and a lentil?
I've never paid to have a lentil on my face!
That is a pretty solid bass. HNBD! Enjoy it!
"Maybe this world is another planet's hell?" - Aldous Huxley