Musicman vs Sterling Stingray

Hi folks. I am interested with Musicman Stingray. But upon research, the MIA Ernie Ball Musicman Stingray will cost me an arm and a leg. It’s also hard to find in the market these days.
The Sterling Stingray however is more affordable to me. But I realised that all Sterlings are made in Indonesia. I am not sure about the quality of Musicman vs Sterling. I’m wondering whether any of you had compared it before? I heard that the quality of Sterling Stingray is not even close to Ernie Ball Musicman Stingray. What’s your experience with Sterling vs Musicman?

Thanks for your help folks.

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I’ve got a Sterling Ray4 and wouldn’t swap it.
@T_dub is the man to answer this question I reckon

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Based on what I have heard I would probably rather get a Ray4 and upgrade it than have an EBMM - both the neck and the weight sound much better to me. Never played one though.

As for Indonesian-made instruments, don’t fear that. The ones I have owned have been equal to (or in some cases, better than) MIA instruments. It all depends on model and the parent company’s quality control.

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The neck on the Ray4 is amazing to play and it is light as.
For the money it is a steal

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I have both a Ray4 and a BFR MM Stingray Special.
The Ray4 is amazing (less the electronics) which are easily remedied. This is my ‘testbed bass’ with SIMs pickups in it and I like them in it so much its going to stay this way for quite a while.

The higher end MM Specials are absolutely top knotch in every aspect and it is one of my most favorite for that and the tones. Do you need it, nope. Do I love it, yes. If you want one to have one, then do it, but you don’t need it to get what I think you are looking for.

A properly modded Ray4 is an amazing deal. Out of the box though the pickup is not great, flip that and you are in business. It is one of my favorite necks to play as well btw.

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there are a million comparisons between EBMM and SBMM. general consensus is they are very very close to each other. a lot of people think that the upcharge for an EBMM isn’t a very good value for what you get. YMMV.

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i don’t have anything bad to say about the pickups on my sterling ball short scale.

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I get the feeling that everything with their name on it is good*. Every Sterling and EBMM I have seen have been very nice looking instruments.

I am guessing the same is true of G&L. Never seen one though.

*except their strings :rofl:

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Well you can’t compare the sterling Ray4 to ebmm stingray. They are 2 different basses altogether. Sterling ray34 is the direct comparison. It has the same neck width at the nut vs the 1.5 on the Ray4. Electronics are quite similar as well.

If you like beefy wide neck the Ray4 is not going to cut it. The electronics are the last thing that you have to worry about. All sterling models perform right out of the box. Ray34 is right on par with the sound as the big US brother.

The Ray34 CA is also has the jazz 1.5” width at the nut. So it comes down to neck and weight. Ebmm stingray and Ray34 weight about the same and has the same nut width. The rest has jazz bass neck and lighter weight body.

If you like the ebmm sterling them the sterling sb14 is highly recommended.

Edit:
Also agree with @howard that the level of quality is pretty good. Although both my short scales suffered from fret sprouts. It has nothing to do with workmanship but rather no using fully dried wood.

@T_dub is our residence go to guy for sterlings and MM.

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THanks Al, but you are right up there and @John_E is getting there too.

I pretty much agree with everything that has already been said.
But I can breakdown some differences that have not yet been said.
But the main thing you will want to consider most likely is the neck.
Do you prefer the feel of a Jazz bass neck (1.5" nut width) or a P bass (range from 1.625" nut width or up to 1.75" nut width).
This is kind of the general standard to what necks are, but there are many exceptions, which are based on year, model, or series when you are talking about Fender’s
The Stingray being Leo Fender’s third major invention to the bass world introduced the 1.6875" nut width neck, along with the 3+1 tuners on the headstock, as I am sure he was under strict non compete agreements, even 10 years after selling Fender to CBS.
So
If you like a Jazz neck, you have these options.

1 - EBMM Sterling (not a stingray, this was made special for Sterling Ball, Ernie’s Son, and had the jazz neck and a smaller and slightly offset body profile, along with a 3-way pick up switch selector, giving you option of Series, Parallel or single coil mode.

2 - the SBMM Sterling SB14, a SBMM copy of a Sterling bass, but they are not in production, so you can only find them on the used market.

3 - SBMM Ray4 - much like the first stingray with a 2 band active preamp

4 - SBMM Ray24ca - more like the first stingrays with the flat slab body and two band pre-amp.
5 - EBMM Stingray SLO Special - made in limited quantities in certain years released as part of the BFR (Ball Family Reserve) special editions that come out a few times a year. The SLO (San Luis Obispo - where EBMM plant is in California) is the term they use for the jazz neck, or they call it a Sterling neck since it is on all sterlings so Jazz neck is equal to Sterling neck and to SLO necks in EBMM terms

They are kind of rare, but there are EBMM Sterling SLO Specials available and are awesome and excellent instruments, I have one, it is AWESOME, but I will comment more on that in a bit.

NOW, if you prefer a fatter neck, sadly, the RAY 4 will not be a good fit for you (or the Ray24ca)

The options you have are
1 - EBMM Stingray
2 - SBMM Ray43

They both have a 1 & 11/16" nut width (1.6875 on the RAY 34 they call it 1.69, but its just rounded up, its the same) and they both have 3 band pre-amps and MM pick ups wired is parallel, which is the signature Stingray pick up sound.

Now that necks are out of the way, there are other factors to consider.
NEW or USED?
Do you want to buy a brand new bass, and be the first owner and it to be your very own? There is nothing wrong with that, I have a bass that I bought brand new, and it is my favorite bass of all, everything else I have bought used, or NEW - Old stock for considerable savings.
Or
Would you prefer to get a bass in excellent to MINT / LIKE NEW bass for up to 50% off, just because somebody else bought it new, but never used it, or decided after purchasing it they didn’t like it and wanted something else, so is willing to take a loss on it, or because COVID forces people to sell things for cash quick, and are willing to take a big loss for the benefit of quick cash.
There is nothing wrong with this either, I buy most of my basses used, for super extraordinary low ball prices. I have basses that look like they are brand new, EVEN one that was still in the box, with the tag on the neck, that I paid about 50% of retail, this is a great option, if you don’t want to be the first and only person to put hands on your bass.

after all that said, and everything everybody else said, I would also recommend the Ray4 as your first Stingray purchase, they are a joy to play, sound great (even the stock pick up sounds good, it just is very hot, and the active preamp boosts, especially the highs, can make your ears bleed, but with the bass at around 50% and the highs cut, they still sound pretty good and downright stingrays) and are one of the top buys for the price. It is hard to get much more in a bass for $299 or less.
I would also recommend a pick up upgrade which would range from $50ish to over $150, depending on the pick up you select. I picked Aguilar and I absolutely love it. If I were to get another Ray4 (not out of the question), there are others that I really want to try, like a Kent Armstrong for about $50 on Reverb, or a Herrick on Herrick pickup website for about 90lb or eu.

But if you prefer the fatter neck, and still want a brand new bass, the Ray34 is a great way to go, if you like any of the color options, there are a few good ones, and the natural ash is hard to beat, however, I prefer the black ash, but don’g think the price difference is justified, but if its what you want, then a couple hundred is not a huge difference.

If you want the newest Stingray with the latest upgrades to preamp and pick ups, then you are talking about EBMM Stingray Specials. These were introduced in 2018 taking over the classic Stingray. 2018 is also a year for the Sterling line update and upgrade.

The Stingray Special has the upgraded preamp and neodymium pick ups. New for up to $2400 or used for as low as probably $1500. These are pristine is every way. Lightweight tuners, roasted maple necks, and are just amazing to touch and play

The Ray34, in 2018 basically became the Stingray Classic (pre 2018 stingray) but not made in the USA. The Ray34 adopted the Classic preamp and pick up, along with the maple neck, but is made in Indonesia, which is not a bad thing at all. in fact, for as low as $600, you can have one of these, and if you played it next to a brand new PRE 2018 EBMM stingray with a price tag over $2000, I don’t think you would be able to tell much difference or any at all. That said, but for the light weight tuners and different neck / body profile and neck plate, you probably couldn’t tell the difference to a brand new Stingray Special costing $2300 - $2400

I know there are people here that have both a ray34 and a stingray special and can tell the difference side by side, and I believe they can, but only because they can play them side by side at the same time.

I do believe the eyes play tricks on our ears, in many ways it has been proven with many blind tests. Not everything on Youtube is reliable, but enough of it is, and I have had personal experience with this.

Like I said, I would buy a Ray4 and put in a new pick up (some prefer to upgrade the pre-amp to a 3 band, but I don’t think it does enough to justify the cost IMO, the pick up swap is plenty, the 2 band does a find job in the Ray4) and in the end, would spend under $500. The pick up swap is a piece of cake, and you could easily find YT videos showing how, or even get enough advice here to walk thru it, and it only takes about 20 minutes from start to finish.
Like I said, I have bought a brand new bass off the wall of a Guitar Center, and it is my very favorite bass I own, and it is my Ray4.
I also said I have a EBMM Ray SLO Special, and I play them side by side.
I love everything about the EBMM Stingray SLO Special (that I got for $1050 on offer up, it is a 2016, but in mint condition), and I would not ever want to sell it, yet, I would sell it before my Ray4 any day of the week. I love that Ray4, is is like its a part of me.

ALSO, I loved the Ray4 because of the Jazz neck at first, but I already had Ibanez, which had the slender Jazz neck, but the neck profile is different on the Ray and the Ibanez. The Ibanez is much thinner (from fingerboard to where your thumb rest on the back of the neck) then the Ray 4. one is a modern C and the other is a Slim Modern C I believe. The Ray4 is a little just a little more in the profile, maybe a milimeter or 2, but if feels better in my hands. I also liked the jazz necks because they seem easier to play, and for many beginners this is true. I find that as I improve as a payer, I appreciate the different necks at different times.
I got a Ray34 next. Great deal at a Pawn shop it was sitting at for over a year, and in like new condition, all but the strings that were just dirty and needed a changing. When I got this bass, I didn’t know anything about the necks on different stingrays, and not much about any necks really much at all. It took me a while to figure out why I liked to play the Ray4 more then the Ray34, and that is how I started to learn about the stingrays, I was looking up everything on the Ray4, and the Ray34 to find the differences, and then started researching on the Stingrays, cuz at first, I thought I would not ever want a real stingray if I like the Ray4 (which is a real stingray by the way, is is just made in Indonesia and is the lowest tier on the line), and that is how I found out about the Sterling bass from EBMM and the SLO Specials. fortunately, there was a SLO special for sale during the time I was researching all this, so I snatched it up.
I enjoy the 3 band preamp and the general feel of the EBMM Stingray, and yes, there is a certain feel of exceptional quality about it. But I think that highlights how exceptional the Ray4, for $299 is overall. Other then the feel of the control plate and weight of the knobs, and the tuners on the headstock, it is just an awesome bass.

last thing we should talk about is the H vs HH models. and the Ray24 at the end.

I personally do not like the Ray4HH’s. I did not like any sound from the other four positions of the 5 way pick up selector switch better then the one that has only the bridge pick up on, which is the same as the the single H model. I had one and ended up selling it, it was not that I did not like the sound better then the single bridge pick up, it was that I disliked the other sounds, they just never sounded right.
However, this is most likely due to the fact that the weak spot on the Ray4 is the electronics, or the pick up really, so what I came to realize was that the Ray4HH has 2 weak spots.
If I still had that bass today, I would probably replace both pick ups with Kent Armstrongs for a total of about $110 and give it another shot. However, This might also show a weakness in the Ray4HH preamp, so just pick ups might not be enough to make it likable to me, but if I had it still, I would probably try it out.
Lobster did a video where he tricked out a Ray4HH with killer pick ups and preamp, and it was awesome. He did put more money in electronics into the bass then the bass cost however, so that is something to consider.

@John_E has a Stingray BFR that is an HH, and he loves it in every way. Of course, it has all the right electronics, and I bet it makes all the difference in the world.

Due to Covid, I have never had a chance to play a Ray34HH, nor have I ever played an EBMM 4HH like John and Brian have, they don’t have problems with the HH part about it.

And the Ray24ca, it is just not worth the price. The difference between it and the Ray4 are minimal, and in no way is it $200 worth. The only real difference is that it’s pick up is wired in series, like the Ray 4, but you. can, with a soldering iron and about 15 minutes, wire it in parallel, and it sounds a tiny bit better then the pick up in the Ray4, which is about the same thing, except, they did not leave the wires exposed for you to switch it to parallel from series. IMO, I would replace the pick up in a Ray24 as well, and then have paid as much as a Ray34 cost, that doesn’t need any electronic upgrade ever. The Ray24 has a cool look with the flat slab body, and it does have that classic stingray look from the late 70;s, but it has the exact same preamp as the Ray4, and unless you absolutely love the color and look of them, it is not the Best Buy IMO. However @JerryP has one and loves it just fine, and truth be told, I like the blue one enough to pay the difference, if I were in the market for one, cuz that Taluca lake blue is magical, the butterscotch is pretty cool too.
And the eyes, they hear as well.
Like Lemmy said, “I don’t care what it sounds like, I have amps and FX to make it sound any way I want, I only care what it looks like, does it look tough and cool, then it sounds great”

It is not an easy choice to make, and it is hard to have only one.
I have
1 Ray4
1 Ray34
1 Stingray SLO Special
had 1 Ray4HH
and had 1 Stingray classic(2004)

Only one I really did not care for was the Ray4HH, but that is just preference.
Your choice is hard, cuz you can’t really make a wrong choice. You can make wise choices, and unwise choices (like being uphold on some things, or not knowing the value of a used bass or something like that), but no wrong choices with EBMM or SBMM basses IMHO

Also, I have never played a short scale Stingray, but in general, SS are not my first choice, but I bet they are great, and if I tried one, it might change my mind, who knows.
That said, the SS from SBMM for the price, is very good. it is passive, but it has a great EBMM pick up, with a pick up boost in the volume switch.
The SS from EBMM for 4x the price, is not really worth it IMO unless you are a die hard, must have type of person, and thats fine if you are, but in blind tests, where the musician was blindfolded, then handed EBMM SS then SBMM SS then back and forth, with total of 4 basses, one of each color of SBMM and each color EBMM. The guy in the end was pretty much able to feel a slight quality difference, but not much. And they wouldn’t let him touch the tuners, because that could be a give away.
so if you want a SS Stingray, go SBMM all the way.
Or
get one of the 50 Tim C signature ones they are just putting out (If there are any left). but that would cost you 2 SBMM SS rays and 2 ray4’s and one Black Ash Ray34. So, yeah, no wrong choices there, but maybe a wise one pops out at ya.

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I am learning a lot just by reading all of the comments here. I didn’t realise there are such complexity behind the history/legacy of Musicman Stingray. Thank you for your time giving this comprehensive explanation @T_dub . It seems there are many things I need to consider.

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Really useful information, cheers. I’m quite tempted by a Ray4. One thing though - 90lb is only weight, not 90 pounds in UK money. There’s one thing about Sterling I can teach you :rofl:

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Thats only looking at Music Man and the few basses made at that company.

Leo Fender made the P bass as the first bass, then made the Jazz bass as the 2nd bass.

then he thought he was dying, so he sold Fender to CBS.
He had a 10 yea non compete, so right around the 10 year mark, Music Man was born with the Stingray, Leo’s 3rd bass design.

Then Leo sold Music Man to Ernie Ball
I don’t really the reason, but he did

and then opened G&L, in the original Fender Factory in Fullerton California where it still runs today.
They say on the website it is G&L Guitars by Leo, but it was opened with a co-owner who’s first initial was G, so thats where the G from G&L came from.

There was never really a NEW GAME CHANGER bass brought to the market by G&L, but in interviews, Leo said he did his best work ever at G&L, and it makes sense, they spend time perfecting things, and experimenting with things that gives you one of my new favorite basses, the G&L CFL L-1000.
Its like a stingray without the pick up cover, but with the MM pick up in the P bass position. it is really cool. Plus they have the Telecaster Bass (called ASAT by G&L) but it was not just that they were working with newer and improved technology, but the technology driving manufacturing and production was becoming so much more advanced as well.
Oh, the game changer on the L-1000 and many of the G&L bass might be the pick ups, Magnetic Field Density or something like that, but they are killer.

Leo did a lot, and most people don’t even realize he had a 2nd company with Music Man and made the stingray let alone have a 3rd company after Fender with G&L.

And all three are still producing excellent products today, and all three are HQ in California.
G&L is about 30 miles from me
Fender is about 45 miles from me
Music Man, well, thats a few hours, maybe 250 miles or something like that.

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Toby, when you refer to the Ray4, is this the model you’re talking about?

⁣Sterling by Music Man S.U.B. Sting Ray 4 TBS – Thomann Ireland?

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Yes, it just cost more there than here.
Here they are $299 USD.
At least they were, I wonder if they have gone up like everything else to cover the cost of COVID on everything.

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Yeah, still $299 USD here

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Got mine off eBay at around $650 aud !
Still a good buy

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Pretty sure it would be my favorite in their entire product line due to neck and weight. Well, except Bongos of course :slight_smile:

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@T_dub , would you buy this Ray 4 over Fender Squier bass at a similar price?

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That is personal preference.
As long as you are not talking about Squire Affinity. Those I would not buy.
The Classic Vibe, the Paranormal, etc. Those are excellent from what I hear.
They cost a little more then the Squire in the USA also, so they would cost about the same as the Ray4 AND a replacememnt pick up.

There are many on here that would tell you squire, and others that would say Ray4. I don’t think you can go wrong with either, it comes down to what you like best, and what your eyes tell you, and how the bass feels.
You can make any bass SOUND better with pick ups and preamps, as long as you like the look, and love the feel, then you are not making a bad choice.

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