Ray4 pickup height?

setting up my new ray4 and - as expected - the factory pickup is super hot. those of you with ray4’s can you let me know the distance you have set from the bottom of the strings to the top of the magnet/housing? just want to get a baseline.

also is it common for pickups not to adjust up & down well? 2 of the 3 screws make the pickup move but one just unscrews and nothing happens - that side of the pickup stays still. i assume this is more about the foam underneath being compressed and not expanding? i plan on putting in a new pickup at some point (soon?) anyway and will use new foam - i heard old mousepads are a good material for this.

If it’s on the bass side (where there are 2 screws) it could just be that it can’t go higher because the other screw is holding it down. I’ve run into that before.

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Could also just be stiff from sitting for a while or rubbing against something. You could try wiggling it with your fingers to break it loose (assuming it hasn’t been gooched by a previous owner). The factory typically likes those pickups at 6/32 but you could go to 1/4” or 8/32” if it’s still too hot


Okay regarding screws not moving it is possible, since basswood is pretty soft wood those screwholes may be damaged. I also have that problem but on control plate.

Regarding height, theres not much you can do to cool pup down, Ive kept it on lowest possible height and still had distorsions. What you can do about it is limit main volume to be around 75% max. And pluck with a lighter touch.

Best solution is putting in different pup as most of us did. You cant go wrong with Aguilar AG4M.

I used dishwasher sponge when I changed pups. Now my Ray is trademarked with Vileda.


Couple of things here…

Move them all a little at a time each so the pickup never is too far from level.
Very often the screws are on an angle or not exactly where they need to be causing the pickup to get stuck.
Being a wood guy I’m sure you can solve for this.
It’s ok to give a gentle helping hand on a stuck corner if one of the above is the issue.
The foam under most pickups (by the time you get your bass) is shot from going anywhere further up. I generally replace the foam outright on a new bass when I get it.
Guidance for humbuckers is 6/32” from the G string and bass side parallel to pickguard. Start here, you will most likely need to go lower. Those puppies are hot hot hot.


I recently learned to set mine up. I purchased an Ernie Ball kit with some gauges and whatnot and got to work. The thing sounds great compared to where it was. Zero fret buzz, nice low action, even got the intonation down (as good as I could get it with my tuners).

I had the same issue with the pick up not moving sometimes and I found that if I manually helped it along a bit it sort of came back to life and proceeded to adjust as needed.

Below are the specs the Sterling CS rep gave me for the set up. I used this and a few YouTube videos as guides.

Hope this helps.


Hey Pablo,

Tuning- Your instrument should always be at pitch before adjusting, to ensure accuracy.

Truss rod adjustment- String height at the 8th fret should measure .5mm or lower based on personal preference. This can be measured by fretting the 1st and 15th fret simultaneously, a capo might help. You can adjust this higher or lower by loosening or tightening the truss rod.

Saddle adjustment- String height measured from the bottom of each string to the top of each last fret should measure 2.5mm.

Pickups should measure as follows: E 3.0mm / G 2.5mm

I hope this helps, let us know if you have any questions!

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do you have a stock pick up, and if so, how much did you actually have to move the pick up to meet those measurements, and did it cool off the wicked heat those stock pick ups have?

I have not measured my. Aguilar AG4M, but it is defiantly at an angle with much closer to the G string then the E string, but I would guess just by looking, my pick up is higher then those settings.

I don’t have any problem with it the way it is, but again, its an Aguilar and I would have to try really hard to make it sound like shit.
Like so hard, just my shitty playing still makes it sound good, so I have to do something outside the box, beyond my terrible technique to screw the sound out of that pick up up. :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

My EBMM Stingray is a little further from the strings, probably right on the mark to those numbers cuz I have not messed with it, and there is a noticeable value difference between the two. I may have to lower my Aguilar so I don’t have to change amp volume all the time wen I go back and forth.

Actually, I usually just play the EBMM at full volume and the Ray4 at about 80%-85% volume to equalize them out.

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@T_dub, yep, everything stock. Not much, just a few millimeters in either direction.

When I first got the bass a former coworker who was a bass tech for Mudvayne and some other bands did a set up for me so maybe it was closer to where it needed to be because of that.

Once I decided to learn how to do it myself I used a few YouTube videos plus the specs from the Sterling person to dial it in even more.

I don’t know if it cooled them off because I don’t have a lot of experience to judge it against something more balanced, but I do know that once I dialed everything in the sound and feel of playing it definitely improved by a decent amount.

On mine it’s the opposite, the E side of the pickup is closer/higher than the G side.

Man, if that’s the case I definitely need some pickups like that! :joy: :joy:

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The Aguilar is an ultra awesome pickup, I love it.
I like it as much as the Music Man pick up in my stingray, maybe a little more, because of the personal touch of modifying your own bass.

However, I have used some really good sounding MM style pick ups that are a fraction of the cost of the Aguilar, and they are so good, I would put them in my own if it didn’t have an Aguilar, and if I were to get a 2nd Ray4, or even a Ray24ca, I would put this pick up in mine.
It is a Kent Armstrong. They go for around $45 or $50 shipped.

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I’d like to mod mine, but I want to do all black hardware, which is not easy to find in stock.

After all costs are tallied up to do it the way I’d like (two pickups, preamp, black hardware), it’s almost better to upgrade to a 34 in the stealth black model.

Do you have any recs for a 3 band pre pick up combo that would preserve that Stingray sound?

Apparently there a few combos out there, but it seems some might change the original voicing of the Stingray.

Update: I found Low End Lobster’s series on the different combos of pickups and preamps.

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I bought my Ray34 online from Chicago Music Exchange. I don’t know if they setup the basses before they ship them, so not sure if mine is at factory height or from their setup but I can get the measurements if you still need them.

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This part.

I’m doing another set up for my bass since the weather here has changed a good deal from early spring to much warmer and humid days, plus I also just got some new cobalt flat wounds put in.

I got everything pretty much dialed in but this part for the bass side to be parallel to the pick guard is confusing to me. I interpret this as basically dialing in the pick up on that side to the point that it is at the same height, or flush/parallel to the pick guard. In which case you’d no longer have a thumb rest.

I did this by the way, and it actually sounds pretty good. It helps a bit with that hotness and distortion, but I can’t imagine this is what they meant.

Can you help provide some insight here, @John_E, @T_dub, and the other folks here with some more experience?

Thanks for the help!

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i think you are misinterpreting that. if you hold the bass in playing position, and look straight down at the pickup, you want the top edge, the short side of the pickup to be parallel with the pick guard (and therefore, with the strings), but not flush to it.


Parellel to the pick guard does not meam same level as the pick guard. It means even across the pickup front to back with the pickguard.

I think they are not telling you a specific height as you really need to use your ear to make sure all strings are about even in volume.

I found a cool way to check this.
Treble up if passive, active EG flat.
Play the Pink Floyd Money riff and listen for same/similar volume across.


Thanks guys! That makes a ton of sense.

Now for part two of my conundrum.

After I did that and had some fun with it, I realized that I was definitely misinterpreting the instructions so I loosened everything up and started again.

I took a break to reach out for help here (thanks again), and now realize that my pick ups won’t go anywhere near that high with my current configuration.

My action is a bit higher this time around because I wanted to try it as my last set up was pretty low. I’d also heard that you can get a nicer, almost thicker bass sound with a higher set up so I figured I’d try it.

The issue now is that at 4/32nd’s or 3mm height on my E string, my pick ups fully loosened have a height from the cap to the bottom of the string of over a quarter inch, or 10/32nd’s.

Not sure what to do here. Should I pull out the pickups and add a layer of foam, or am I missing a step?

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i used a cut up mousepad on the bottom of the pickup cavity, and then the foam & spring that is already on the pickup. i was able to layer a few layers of mousepad and then put the pickup right on top to get my pickup firmly in place. i think really any kind of solid neoprene foam like material will work.

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Yes foam doesn’t generally come back up after being squished for so long. I always have an arsenal of new foam for when I but a new bass.


Where do you buy it?

Stew Mac.

I do the one time shipping / membership fee annually then get free shipping for a year. I buy enough little bits here and there that it’s worth it.

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Yeah, I agree with john and what you found out, to be Paralell to the pick guard you dont have to be flush with it.
I think with the case of stock Ray4 pickups, you can definately lower ygem a bit to overcome some of the hotness, and wherever it sounds best you can go with.

If you actuallt thought flush sounded best, that would work
Like you said, no thumbrest.
Plus you can lose a little bit of tge percussiveness you get from plucking over the pickup, even using the pick up as a finger ramp, like I do.

You can add a thumb rest to have a place gor your thumb to anchor, and / or add a finger ramp to get some percussiveness back, and even use the ramp to anchor your thumb.

You can do whatever you like best, as long as it sounds good TO YOU, and is comfortable to play, both gor your thumb and plucking fingers.

Its good you are experimenting, and better you are reporting your findings.

It would be cool if you can find your favorite pick up height, and offer that as anotherway for new Ray4 owners to get tge most out if tgeir new bass, OTHER THEN to recommend a new pick up right away.
We all know the potential the Ray4 has as an upgrade platform, but it will be great to get a good set up ti let new owners enjow the new purchase, without having to automatically drop in a $50 to $150 pick up.
Especially people intimidated by DIY projects, that would incurr a $40 and up charge from a music store, instrument repair shop and or luthier.

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