pickup—that mighty Music Man StingRay
pickup with the huge pole pieces just daring you to coax out a big, fat sound—a
two-band EQ, and no switches. Yes, it’s just
those three chrome-dome knobs and a jack
on that boomerang-shaped chrome plate.
Taking off the eight screws on the boomerang revealed one of the tidiest wiring jobs
I’ve run across. Wires were twisted together,
and the preamp was attached to the bottom
of the volume and tone pots. However, I was
surprised that the cavity wasn’t fully shielded
with a brass plate on bottom—or even with
black conductive paint.
So…What’s It Sound Like?
Playing fingerstyle riffs, I soon found that the
bass-and-treble EQ hit its stride with both
knobs at halfway, perhaps with a slight tweak
in either direction. There’s no center detent
to help you find your way—and no pointer
line, either. That means you can’t preset a
tone before you start playing—or even visually assess where you’ve set the EQ.
Nonetheless, I was able to dial in a range of
sounds that belie what you’d expect from a
single-pickup axe. Take the bass knob down
a bit, bump up the treble, and it sounds like
it has a bridge pickup. Go the other way with
some added bottom, and you get the sound
of a neck pickup. Maybe that’s why play-
ers call the StingRay’s pickup location the
“sweet spot.” Dialing the treble all the way
up got a little noisy, and dialing both tone
controls all the way down produced a quiet,
muffled tone. Stay away from the extreme
settings and you’ll be fine. Overall, attack
was both rounded and punchy when play-
ing fingerstyle. The bottom end was nicely
defined, yet fat. If you turn to slapping—
which I don’t—the bass has a well-controlled
snap to its top edge.
Finally, the foam mutes: Just barely touch the
strings with them, and they roll off a bit of
highs. Crank the mutes up closer and you can
create an old-school thump. Because of the
thumb screws, though, this isn’t something you
should try on the fly—it’s a little awkward reaching under each string to turn the tension knobs.
The Final Mojo
The Classic StingRay is a great bass that’s
nicely designed and carefully built. It can get
nearly any sound with definition and authori-
ty. If you’re considering a four-string StingRay,
the big choice is between the contemporary
model and the Classic. The Classic streets for
around $1800, while the contemporary model
is about $400 less. Feel might be one point,
with the Classic’s slightly rounder fretboard
and skinny frets. Another aspect of feel might
be the lack of body contours. Or maybe you
just like the idea playing a bass that’s a re-cre-
ation of the original’s roots. Regardless, the
Classic definitely deserves consideration.
you want a straightforward, versatile
bass, and you lean toward retro styling.
Ernie Ball Music Man
you want contemporary options
such as a three-band preamp, piezo
pickup, or dual pickups.
or use a mobile
device to read
this QR code
to see a video
of this bass in
PREMIER GUITAR JUNE 2010 163