Reviewed: Ernie Ball Music Man StingRay Special

CMC Music | cmcmusic.com.au | Expect to Pay: From $3795

An update to the much loved StingRay – is that playing with fire? The guys at Music Man know how to knock out a quality instrument and have the impeccable track record to go with it, so I’m guessing the answer is no. From funk to rock and pop to country, the StingRay is an iconic instrument that has held down the low end on many a classic (and not so classic) album.

Firstly, the new Music Man finishes and colour combos are great. This particular example is Cruz Teal, which is in the Seafoam/Green/Surf realm and really pops out nicely at first glance (and many further reaffirming glances thereafter). The Special features an ash body, roasted maple neck, maple/rosewood/ebony fingerboard depending on body colour (this one has ebony), and stainless steel frets. In the electronics department, you’ll find either a single humbuckers or dual humbuckers.

 

As mentioned, the Cruz Teal looks great and sits nicely against the white scratch plate and darker ebony fretboard. I love the look and feel of roasted maple necks. The slightly darker tinge can bring out the grain and combined with Music Man’s satin oil and wax finish, it feels smooth and slick (but not sticky). Music Man have knocked off some weight with this redesign and it’s noticeable – in a good way. Lighter in weight, a tummy cut on the back of the bass, slight forearm contour and new five-bolt neck joint all add up to some fresh feels without going over the top.

 

 

For rock, punk and heavier styles, the StingRay can really punch through. The double buckers can go from round and warm to bright with lots of attack. Funk and groove players will no doubt already know the merits of this particular instrument (used by the likes of Flea, Louis Johnson, etc.) and it really fits the mould; lots of fingerstyle dynamics, you can dig in for some more honkiness and of course, slapping brings out the mid-range punch. Five-way pickup selector, three-band EQ – these add up to lots of tonal variation.

 

The changes are slight, but do add to the feel and general aesthetic. This means the iconic StingRay has just had a little update, not a full blown makeover, which will keep diehards happy and entice new Music Man users alike. The reduced weight (thanks to the hardware and body changes) increases the appeal, with the colour schemes adding some new flavours to the StingRay line. Many other specs (colours, pickup combo, woods) are available too if you really want to hone in on particulars. 

Hits and Misses

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Feel, range of tones

Updated looks and specs

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