Unless you’re in a high-profile band, there’s a good chance you’re on a budget when you’re shopping for a new amp. Here’s a sampler of affordable rigs for low-enders that offer a surprising amount of tone, output, and options for their price.

Working bass players have two great things going for them: They’re bass players and they’re working. The downside is that the per-gig pay may not be able to buy that retirement cabin in Gatlinburg. You know what? It doesn’t matter. Free hot wings and small stages be damned. We want to perform and be heard, and for that we need some amplification. Luckily, today there are lots of low-cost, powerful options available.

Read MoreShow less

Eastman''s affordable jazzbox puts ES-175 style in the hands of jazzers and rockers alike for under $800.

Until fairly recently, jazzers had few options for affordable, high-quality guitars. But Eastman—which started out in the early 1990s as a maker of violin-family instruments—now offers a range of jazz boxes that deliver nice playability and tones at relatively accessible prices. As Eastman’s line has grown, it has developed guitars for just about every style, from traditional, fully carved 17" archtops for an old-school sound to compact, laminated thinline electrics for those who align more with, say, Larry Carlton’s take on the genre. For this review, we checked out the AR371CESB, an Eastman heavily inspired by the Gibson ES-175, which has been favored by jazz players and a few notable rockers over the years. Like the guitar that serves as this Eastman’s template, it has tones rich and varied enough to tantalize both types of players—and at a price that will tempt a lot of players who’ve rarely considered a big archtop experiment worth the price.

Read MoreShow less

One of their most recent offerings, the Meaden bass (named after ’60s British mod icon Peter Meaden), is a fine example of familiar, new, and vintage—all rolled into one.

The term "doctor/lawyer instrument" is often used to describe a bass or guitar sporting a price tag that only a doctor or lawyer could afford without prompting massive overdraft fees, calls from debtors, and possibly threats of bodily harm (or worse) from significant others. In other words, they’re effectively out of reach for the average working musician. It might follow logically that a doctor who designs and produces instruments himself would put out similarly impractical instruments, but in the case of Nashville’s Waterstone Guitars and Dr. Robert J. Singer, M.D., the results are quality instruments at a relatively affordable price.

Read MoreShow less