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HansGruber

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Joined
Oct 25, 2019
Messages
1
It's time for a new bass. I recently played a friend's 2003 Ernie Ball MusicMan Stingray 5H and loved it!
Now I'm looking for a 4 string Stingray for myself.
Can you please help me understand the different models? I've been studying everything I can find, but still have many questions.
For example, there's Sterling SUB, Sterling, Sterling Classic, Sterling Ray 34, Sterling 4H, and 4HH. Then there's the (non Sterling), Stingray, Classic, Special, 4H, 4HH and more.
I thought the SUB basses were entry level, Sterlings as Intermediate, and straight StingRays were the top, but I've seen some Sterlings selling amongst the highest priced StingRays.
I know this is a vague question, but rather than try every model, I was hoping for a little guidance.
Thanks!
 
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tbonesullivan

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A 2003 Ernie Ball Music Man (EBMM) Stingray 5H would actually probably be closest to an EBMM Sterling 5H, in terms of sound and electronics.

"Sterling by Musicman" is a brand name of import Music Man style instruments, which most abbreviate to SBMM. Previously, there had been OLP import models, though I don't know how close the relationship was with EBMM.

Both EBMM and SBMM have had SUB models. The EBMM SUB models were stripped down versions that had black textured finishes and less appointments than the standard EBMM line. The SUB line was discontinued by EBMM quite some time ago, before SBMM even existed. Then the SUB models were brought back by SBMM with that same aesthetic.

So, when discussing SUB models, you have to make sure you are talking about an EBMM SUB or a SBMM SUB. I would count an EBMM SUB to be superior to any of the SBMM line.

Also, EBMM makes a bass model called the Sterling, which is like a Stingray, but with a more light weight body with different electronics, particularly the pickups, which are ceramic magnet based.

When the Stingray 5 first came out, it had Alnico magnet pickups, like the Stingray 4. However the body styling was different, and it had a three way blade switch. After a few years, the pickup in the Stingray 5 was changed to have Ceramic magnets, and it remained that way until 2007.

In the early 1990s, a new bass was made, which was essentially a 4 string version of the Stingray 5, with the same ceramic pickups and switching options. THAT is how the EBMM Sterling came about.

Then, in 2007, it was decided to switch the Stingray 5 basses back to Alnico magnet pickups, and at the same time, a Sterling 5 was released, which had the exact same electronics that the Stingray 5H had used until that point, combined with the more scaled down neck and body of the Sterling 4.

Things were stable for a while, but they never stay stable at an innovative company like EBMM. They don't do "reissues", but they then decided to make some "Classic" basses, like they "Should have been". Basically these would took modern innovations like the truss rod wheel and a neck without a skunk stripe, the 5 or 6 bolt neck plate, modern finishes, etc and combined them with the original look with a slab body, strings through body bridge with mutes, finished neck with smaller frets, and old school 2 band preamp with no center detents.

I think EBMM made classic versions of the Stingray 4 and 5, as well as the Sterling 4 and 5, but only the Stingray Classics remain, joined by the recreated prototype OLD SMOOTHIE, which also has been updated with modern features.

Then, SBMM came out with their versions of the Stingray 4 and 5 basses, which are based on the EBMM versions.

Yeah it's kinda complicated. I didn't mention the anniversary models, limited editions, PDN runs, BFR runs, etc.
 

Golem

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It's helpful to double down on the name "Sterling".

It was kinda unfortunate that the company EBMM
authorized to build import models happens to be
named "Sterling" as its company name. Reason
it's unfortunate is that the USA-built product line
made by Ernie Ball in California, includes a very
popular bass whose model name is "Sterling".

---------------------------------------------------
---------------------------------------------------

FWIW, Ernie Ball, of the Ernie Ball Musicman
company, is the father of Sterling Ball who is
the current head honcho of EBMM. So, this
proliferation of the name "Sterling" is not just
a flash in the pan. You'll get used to it :)

Also, the model name "S.U.B." has occurred
twice over time, first for a USA model, later
for an import. You'll get used to that as well.
 
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tbonesullivan

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Don't forget that there is also a Stingray GUITAR... which then and now really didn't share much with the bass. There also is the version from the 70s, with the low impedance pickups with 12 magnet pole pieces, and the current one with standard pickups.
 

brash47

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Joined
Mar 25, 2018
Messages
187
If you are looking for new, for the sound and features, I would go this route. It's about the best dollar for dollar pure stingray right now....my opinion of course.

Classic StingRay 4 | Basses | Ernie Ball Music Man

Old Smoothie | Basses | Ernie Ball Music Man

For something a little newer feel and sound, go this route.

StingRay Special | Basses | Ernie Ball Music Man

If you can find a used good condition stingray classic....which is what I did, I think that's an excellent place to start price wise though. The birdseye maple on the classics just looks amazing.



Sent from my SM-G970F using Tapatalk
 

Golem

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@ HansG

RE: OP

You say you want the sound of a 2003 SR5
but want it as a 4-string ? OK. Seems you
don't want an SR4 of any type. You want a
made in SLO California, EBMM Sterling 4H.
That is the 4-string version of a 2003 SR5.


All years of the Sterling 4H are suitable.

Back in 2003, the SR5 and SR4 were very
different from each other. There are many
SR5 players who had really no use or need
of the B-string, but strongly preferred the
sound of the SR5. Demand for a 4-string
bass that sounded like the SR5 resulted in
a sort of "alternative StingRay 4" that has
"SR5 DNA". Such a bass was introduced
and christened the "Sterling 4H" ... not to
be confused with any Asian import called
Sterling, becuz at the time that the EBMM
USA Sterling 4H was introduced the Asian
import Sterlings did not yet exist.

From that year of 2003, I have the perfect
example of the situation: I have an EBMM
SLO USA "Sterling S.U.B." model. At that
time even the "S.U.B." was by EBMM USA.
Any ambiguous or confusing names were
still in the far off unknown future.

The USA EBMM Sterling 4H is my fave MM.
I have several USA MM 4-string basses, of
which half of them are Sterlings. And also
I have two SR5s of that same DNA. I really
like that sound ... generally referred to as
the "Ceramic" sound, to set it apart from
the "Alnico" sound.

Becuz of some shuffling of features and
names, it is always safer to specify the
"Ceramic" or the "Alnico" families rather
than to speak of StingRays and Sterlings.
Reason is that the SR5 has belonged, at
different times, to BOTH families. But if
the sound you like is a 2003 SR5, that is
definitely in the Ceramic family. In that
family, the 4-string is the Sterling 4H.
 
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Double Agent

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 27, 2006
Messages
99
Location
Lakeland, FL
It's time for a new bass. I recently played a friend's 2003 Ernie Ball MusicMan Stingray 5H and loved it!
Now I'm looking for a 4 string Stingray for myself.
Can you please help me understand the different models? I've been studying everything I can find, but still have many questions.
For example, there's Sterling SUB, Sterling, Sterling Classic, Sterling Ray 34, Sterling 4H, and 4HH. Then there's the (non Sterling), Stingray, Classic, Special, 4H, 4HH and more.
I thought the SUB basses were entry level, Sterlings as Intermediate, and straight StingRays were the top, but I've seen some Sterlings selling amongst the highest priced StingRays.
I know this is a vague question, but rather than try every model, I was hoping for a little guidance.
Thanks!

If you are looking for the bass that is the closest 4-string counterpart to your Stingray 5, it would be an EBMM Sterling 4. The pre-2008 Stingray 5 shared an electronics package with the EBMM Sterling (ceramic pickup and same 3-band EQ). Additionally, the EBMM Sterling has a slimmer and narrower neck, like a Stingray 5 neck but made for a 4-string. The Stingray 4 on the other hand has a thicker and wider neck profile, which, while comfortable in its own way, will feel nothing like your Stingray 5. Also, the EBMM Sterling has 22 frets, like the SR5. Stingrays prior to 2018 had 21 frets, if that matters to you.

This is all presuming you want the 4-string equivalent of your SR5. If you’re looking for something different, then there are a ton of options to explore. Just remember that the “Sterling by Musicman” line is the import line of basses and guitars. They’re excellent for the money, but not up to the level of the USA made instruments, which are top shelf, as you’ve experienced with your SR5.
 
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