Ernie Ball Music Man 40th Anniversary “Old Smoothie” StingRay Bass
Picture this: the year is 1976. You’re sitting in a sunken lounge lined with shag pile carpeting listening to your brand new copy of Frampton Comes Alive or Songs In The Key Of Life, reading about the dissolution of the Viet Cong. Everybody has been talking about this raucous new wave of bands they’re calling ‘punks’; The Ramones have just put out their first 12”, some ugly English kids calling themselves The Sex Pistols have played two shows to less than fifty people (many of whom would go on to change the world themselves) and it all sounds like the second coming of rock and roll Jesus. You swap the newspaper for a catalogue from your local music store and nestled somewhere around the forth or fifth page is the brand new StingRay Bass. Little do you know the lasting effect just about every detail of that situation is to have on the next forty years!
Guild Starfire Bass Guitar
Sometimes in this job you have what I’ve come to refer to as a ‘Pulp Fiction’ moment. You get a call from the Editor to go and pick up a couple of bits and pieces for the next issue. You’re greeted with an imposing, black tolex case that sits quietly in the back seat all the way home. You lay it out on the table, flick open the latches and your face is bathed in the golden glow of something truly magical. This is exactly what happened to me with the Wine Red Guild Starfire Bass.
Yamaha TRBX204 Bass Guitar
Before getting into this review, it’s worth pointing out that in 20 years of playing in bands, working in music stores, writing for magazines and working with gear companies, this writer has never come across a bad anything from Yamaha. Their quality control and construction standards have never been anything less than gosh- darn impressive, whether you’re talking about an entry level acoustic guitar, or a top-of-the-line Billy Sheehan Attitude Bass. So you know that when it says Yamaha on the headstock it’s going to be reliable. So what’s this particular instrument, the TRBX204, all about?
Diamond Hailfire SM 15 Bass Guitar
It’s always a good day when a Diamond guitar visits for review, but this is the first Diamond bass to drift into my claws. The Hailfire SM 15 Bass is very similar in looks to the guitar version of the Hailfire we reviewed a little while ago (maybe you’re in a Diamond-playing ZZ Top tribute band and you want your guitar and bass to look the same?) but with all sorts of bassy touches.
MUSICMAN STRINGRAY 5 THROUGH NECK BASS
The Stingray is a not only a MusicMan classic but a classic of the bass community as a whole. Used by players such as Flea, Louis Johnson, John Deacon and Tony Levin, its sound has defined many albums and gigs with its punchy tone and playability making it a favourite amongst pros and weekend warriors alike. Whilst Neck Through is a newish innovation for the Stingray, it is an even newer idea for their five string model, (initially being offered on the four string versions) with this slim heeled fiver being unveiled earlier in the year to much interest from bass playing pundits.
MAYONES COMODOUS 6 STRING BASS
Poland’s Mayones makes extremely fine, high quality guitars with a very distinctive look and style, great tone woods and amazing playability. But their basses are equally distinctive and high quality. The Comodous 6 is a breathtaking instrument - quite literally, because everyone I showed it to had the same shocked reaction to its sheer size, odd shape and the striking nature of its top. Aahh but as anyone who’s played a Mayones guitar will know, you can’t judge one on looks: it all happens when you pick that first note.
STERLING BY MUSIC MAN SUB RAY5 BASS
The Music Man StingRay 5 bass guitar is yet another entry in the long line of classics from the company. Introduced in 1987, it was the first all-new Music Man bass to be designed and built by the Ernie Ball team in San Luis Obispo, and it blasted the doors wide-open for the 5-string flood that would follow. It was based on the company’s Silhouette guitar design but with certain features from the 4-string StingRay bass too. For those whose budgets don’t quite stretch to a Music Man StingRay 5, there’s the Sterling By Music Man Ray35, which we reviewed a little while ago. But in the interest of providing great Music Man-derived instruments at ever-more-affordable price points, there’s also a SUB version of the Ray 5.
STERLING BY MUSIC MAN RAY34 ELECTRIC BASS GUITAR
The Sterling By Music Man Ray34 is based on the classic Ernie Ball Music Man Stingray, the legendary bass used by thousands of players and hundreds of megastars over the last 35 years or so. The Stingray is one of the most easily identifiable basses out there, with its distinctive circular pickguard, hulking humbucker and split 3/1 machine head array, but like all USA-made Music Man basses, it carries a rather large price tag. Enter Sterling By Music Man. These Indonesian-made, US set-up instruments allow players to access much of the design and tone mojo of the fully American version at a much lower price. All instruments are set up and shipped from Orange County, California. The Ray34 was introduced back in 2011, but Sterling has taken a leaf from the Music Man book of user satisfaction, offering a few limited edition, 2013-only versions: the Ray34-TWB (Translucent White Blonde) model on review here and a left-handed version in the same Natural finish as the right-handed Ray34NT model. Other available finishes are Black and Honeyburst.