The Ernie Ball Music Man StingRay bass has come a long way since it was developed by the original Music Man team, which included one Mr. Leo Fender. It’s a classic instrument which has helped to propel the sounds of punk, rock, alternative, funk, R&B and country for decades now and it doesn’t seem to be letting up any time soon, with regular limited-edition variations on the theme. This particular StingRay is one of eight models in the lineup, which includes the Classic (with the original two-band EQ and various other original appointments), the StingRay Neck Through, and Old Smoothie, a recreation of StingRay prototype #26, designed for Sterling Ball during his time spent testing and developing the original prototypes back in the ‘70s. The model we’re reviewing today, however, is the standard model - the state of the StingRay art.
The body is ash and the neck is made of maple, with an option of maple, rosewood or Pau Ferro fretboard. Ebony is available only on the Stealth Black option. The fretboard radius is a flattish 11”, a modern update compared to the StingRay Classic’s curvy 7.5” radius. The scale length is 34”. The neck joins the body via Music Man’s famous six-bolt system, which promises perfect alignment with absolutely no shifting either up and down or side to side, in addition to providing excellent string energy transfer between the body and neck, which in turn enhances sustain and resonance.
The bridge is the standard string through body Music Man model, and the tuners are by Schaller and feature staggered string posts. The review model has the standard Music Man humbucking pickup with oversized pole pieces and Alnico magnets, but options include dual humbuckers or humbucker-plus-single models. The electronics feature a three-band active preamp with treble, middle and bass boost or cut (plus a volume control, of course). What really stands out about this particular bass - other than the fact that it’s a StingRay and therefore an instant classic – is its finish. The body is Firemist Gold, which really pops under bright lights, especially since it’s offset by black hardware right down to the pickup poles. It gives the bass a quite minimalist vibe and maybe even, dare I say it, a slight Dingwall-ish look.
This StingRay naturally has a lot of attack and a very musical midrange, which makes it a great rock or blues bass, but the high end is tamed just enough by the rosewood fingerboard. A lot of bassists prefer maple fingerboards for slap-and-pop styles but if you need a little more high end to really bring out the smack, just hit the EQ controls. In fact, any initial impressions that this bass may not be super-flexible due to only having one pickup are instantly brushed off as soon as you see what that EQ can do for your sound. You can dial in huge variations for various styles, and if you’re the kind of bassist who likes to run through heavy distortion you’ll find that the ability to sculpt your signal with three bands of EQ before it even hits your distortion box lets you really zero in on the perfect ratio of note content and grit.
This really is an exceptional bass which is aimed at the working musician, and there’s something about that Firemist Gold finish against the black hardware that makes it feel really significant. Even though it’s just another high-quality, immaculately-built standard StingRay, it gives the impression of something beyond.
Hits and Misses
The finish is stunning in person
Only one pickup