Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Ernie Ball MusicMan Classic Stingray 5 Bass Review


It is no secret to my friends that I have a rocky relationship with 5-string basses, and I have been though oodles of Fenders, Stingrays, Sadowskys and Spectors over the years with no joy. But somehow another one has made its way into the man cave – a MusicMan Classic Stingray 5. This one is really nice and I am having better luck with this one than with any of its predecessors. Maybe it is my state of mind…

The Ernie Ball Stingray 5 has to be one of the best-selling 5-string basses on the planet since it went on sale in 1988. It seems like every country act I have ever seen has one of these basses holding down the bottom line. In 2010, Ernie Ball issued a new version of the Stingray 5, the Classic, which incorporated many of the features that were found on the popular 4-string Stingray Classic models.

The first thing I noticed when I first saw this bass was that it looks a lot more like a 4-string Stingray than a Stingray 5. The body shape is the same (with the classic slab contraction), and the pickguard and control plate cover (chrome-plated brass, BTW) look just like regular Stingray parts.

The body is made of ash, and has a super thick coat of Classic White poly finish. This color contrasts nicely with the tortoise-shell pickguard and chrome hardware. The bridge is set-up so it strings through the body, and there stainless steel saddles and mute pads that are adjustable for each string. These classic models use a 6-bolt neck joint, and it seems as if there is not quite as much access to the upper frets as there is on a regular Stingray 5, but I never use those frets anyway.

The neck is simply gorgeous, with a nice birdseye pattern in the maple. Flamed necks are also available, should you prefer that. Also they are available with maple or rosewood fretboards, and all of them have a smooth poly finish on the neck with a bit of vintage tint thrown in to the mix. The headstock has the traditional 4+1 tuner set-up (with Schaller BM tuners), and they use the old-school MusicMan logo and font.

The neck is the usual 34-inch scale and has 21 frets over a 7.5-inch radius. It is about 1 ¾ inches wide at the nut (not compensated, by the way), so this has a fairly narrow string spacing for a fiver. They stuck with the new-style trussrod adjustment wheel at the heel of the neck, so adjustments are as easy as pie.

The electronics package on this bass is simple, with a single alnico magnet humbucking pickup and a 2-band active equalizer. The battery is accessed through a vintage-style chrome cover that screws to the back of the body.

And the craftsmanship that went into assembling all of the wonderful parts is first rate. The finish is smooth and the fretwork and neck to body fit are superb. It plays wonderfully, and the relatively narrow nut (for a 5-string) means less of an adjustment for me. This bass sounds amazing and its tone sits very nicely with the kick drum.

Some folks will find nits to pick with it, such as the kind of useless mute system (which still looks really cool), and the fact that you cannot get a left-handed of fretless version of this bass. But, you really cannot please everybody.

It is possibly the ultimate rock bass, but with all of this good stuff, you are not going to get one very cheaply, and that may be a problem for the company. With a list price of $2820 and a street price of $1974 the MusicMan Classic Stingray 5 falls into a no-man’s land in between the hordes of $800-$1000 “entry-level” basses and the realm of $3500+ custom basses. But once you play one you will surely it is worth it and there will be no turning back. Try one and see…


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