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Sterling vs Music Man - is it worth it?


BassAgent

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Couldn't find a good topic about this, so here goes:

So I've been having some serious GAS for a fretted Stingray lately. I'd love to get a "real" EBMM but they're pretty hard to find here and pretty expensive, too. You could pick up a Stingray for about 900-1100 euros a few years back, but now I'm really struggling to find one under 1500. A Stingray will never be my main bass as I'm a Fender-minded player, so I don't want to spend that kind of money on an "extra" bass. I've also been looking at the SBMM series. Can anybody shed some light on the difference between a "normal" (say, a mid 2000's) Stingray and a Sterling Ray34? I'd like a bit more subtle Stingray tone :)

Thanks!

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26 minutes ago, BassAgent said:

Couldn't find a good topic about this, so here goes:

So I've been having some serious GAS for a fretted Stingray lately. I'd love to get a "real" EBMM but they're pretty hard to find here and pretty expensive, too. You could pick up a Stingray for about 900-1100 euros a few years back, but now I'm really struggling to find one under 1500. A Stingray will never be my main bass as I'm a Fender-minded player, so I don't want to spend that kind of money on an "extra" bass. I've also been looking at the SBMM series. Can anybody shed some light on the difference between a "normal" (say, a mid 2000's) Stingray and a Sterling Ray34? I'd like a bit more subtle Stingray tone :)

Thanks!

As far as I can see it’s the tuners

 

I am sure there are other differences - as others will no doubt advise - but to me that seems the main one 

 

The USA made subs are still reasonable value and sell £500 to £700 so worth considering 

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I’ve had a full fat US Stingray, a US SUB and a Ray34 in the past (plus a Ray5 but I’ll leave that out of this post, for the most part). My favourite, both tonally and playability wise, was the SUB, it was a doddle to play and had a warm tone, although definitely a Ray (2 band EQ). The full on, US Ray, was beautifully made, although I found the all maple neck quite chunky, the 3 band EQ was a bit more aggressive and not as, let’s say vintage, as the SUB. Again, quite definitely a Ray. The Ray34 was reasonably well put together, but had a raised fret that needed reseating. It felt OK, played fine, but it wasn’t quite the real deal, although most definitely a Ray and I found the EQ quite brittle, I didn’t keep it for long. In short, there was definitely a difference between the offshore and US models, but given the price difference, I’d expect there to be. Things may have changed, but assuming they haven’t, a Ray34 will give that Ray experience, right down to the considerable weight they all seem to have, but it will probably lack that attention to detail sheen that more expensive models have. This could all probably be addressed with electronic upgrades and set up fettling as and when you feel it is required. In conclusion, the nicest Ray I owned was the 5 string. It was an old one that wasn’t too heavy, was easy to play and had an old warm, worn pickup (alnico I think) and preamp that wasn’t too in your face. It is one of the very few instruments that I wish I still had.

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Similarly to @ezbass above , have owned a US Stingray, US Sub, and a Ray34.
Hands down preferred the Sub in terms of feel and tone. Quality was similar as I recall. Best value was definitely the Sub, at the time they were changing hands around the £3-400 range. The stingray was double that. 
The only thing I had to change was the finish on the Sub neck, it was patchy from wear and tear but didn’t like the stock feel so stripped it and oiled it. Much better. 
 

As with all of these types of posts, it’s always worth trying them yourself as you may find different. 

Edited by Dazed
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I had a Sterling Ray Sub 4 for a while last year & it was a bloody good bass - lovely neck, sounded great & build/finish quality was excellent too.

I actually thought it was far better than the US Stingray 5 I had a few years ago.

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MM do make me laugh with their naming conventions - a series of US basses called Sterling, then a cheaper range of basses called Sterling, none of which (now) is the same design as a US Sterling ;) 

I’ve tried a couple of the cheaper Sterling models and they’re fine instruments, but didn’t feel quite up to the quality of finish (or weight) of the current range. Sound was pretty much indistinguishable (US ones were a touch louder and punchier, but very little in it). You used to be able to snap up a US Stingray for well under £1K but prices new have crept up over time.
I seem to have become a bit of a brand snob over the years so only like the “real” thing now (and I prefer The US Sterling so don’t have a choice, anyway - but if they made a Sterling, er, Sterling then I’d certainly consider it).

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37 minutes ago, Dazed said:


The only thing I had to change was the finish on the Sub neck, it was patchy from wear and tear but didn’t like the stock feel so stripped it and oiled it. Much better. 

I did exactly that too.

 

35 minutes ago, Bunion said:

My stingray weighs just a tad over 8lbs. 

 

Result!

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39 minutes ago, FDC484950 said:

MM do make me laugh with their naming conventions - a series of US basses called Sterling, then a cheaper range of basses called Sterling, none of which (now) is the same design as a US Sterling ;) 

I’ve tried a couple of the cheaper Sterling models and they’re fine instruments, but didn’t feel quite up to the quality of finish (or weight) of the current range. Sound was pretty much indistinguishable (US ones were a touch louder and punchier, but very little in it). You used to be able to snap up a US Stingray for well under £1K but prices new have crept up over time.
I seem to have become a bit of a brand snob over the years so only like the “real” thing now (and I prefer The US Sterling so don’t have a choice, anyway - but if they made a Sterling, er, Sterling then I’d certainly consider it).

SBMM has made a Sterling model, the SB14. I know a guy that has one, still have to try it out. The EBMM Sterling does seem very attractive, but even harder to find than a Stingray...

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I’ve had a Ray4 that I upgraded with Seymour Duncan pickups. It worked great, in fact it made me buy a Stingray special! The special is definitely in a league of its own. Super light, amazing neck and sound to die for! To me it was very worth it. It’s a real dream bass.

Edited by Vanheusen77
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The Ray 34CA was another notch up from the regular model imo. They’ve been discontinued for a few years now and prices have crept up a fair bit

 

I sold mine to get a Classic Stingray but in hindsight there was very little in it other than the better (prettier?) woods used. My CA had the surf green finish with a tinted maple neck and a lovely, warm and very musical sounding 2EQ circuit. It didn’t go really clicky on the top end which was something I always liked about it. As well as this, It also ticked the Jazz bass profile neck on a MusicMan which I like too.

 

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Edited by dub_junkie
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On 17/01/2022 at 20:23, Bunion said:

I do have to say the best stingray I’ve ever played is a Roger giffin custom with a modulus neck and original stingray hardware and internals though. 
1C15837E-BB3B-4A99-A322-ABC74887164F.thumb.jpeg.fa2f11080040f1500c8af76affb3ace8.jpeg

Oooh, I like that!

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3 hours ago, horrorshowbass said:

Agreed on above, I love my 34 but wish it had a jazz style neck. The classic was a stunner but felt clunky. Wonderful basses but worth the money over a 34? No chance in my opinion.

I have a USA Classic Sabre and as much as I like it, it’s got a chunkier neck profile than the 1990 EB Sabre I owned in the nineties. It’s also heavier and doesn’t feel as sleek as what I remember my old one to be. I’m currently thinking of putting a Status replacement neck and hipshot ultralites on it to address some of the niggles I have with the bass.

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30 minutes ago, dub_junkie said:

I have a USA Classic Sabre and as much as I like it, it’s got a chunkier neck profile than the 1990 EB Sabre I owned in the nineties. It’s also heavier and doesn’t feel as sleek as what I remember my old one to be. I’m currently thinking of putting a Status replacement neck and hipshot ultralites on it to address some of the niggles I have with the bass.

@dub_junkiehave seen the Sabre, its beautiful. That would be some weapon with status neck. I loved the classic but felt like I was fighting it all the time. The Ray34, lighter, 3 band eq, sounds same. No fancy bidseye maple but it was 500 quid!!

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I think there's some variance in the quality of the Sterling range, but from what I've seen... they're comparable, but not quite as premium feeling as the MM stuff.  In most cases, it's subtle.  If I played Stingrays, I'd probably use a Sterling Ray 35.  They sound just as good in most situations.

 

Heck, I'd love a Sterling Bongo!

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