Monday, October 21, 2013

2004 Musicman SUB 4 Bass Guitar Review


There are some super nice American-made basses out that are still ridiculously good bargains and today we are looking at one of these, a 2006 Musicman SUB 4.

Back in 2003, the Ernie Ball company wanted to provide a lower-cost alternative to their admittedly expensive guitars and basses; the Musicman SUB line of instruments came from this idea. These instruments were built in the same San Luis Obispo factory as their other wares, but with features that made them more affordable. This included cheaper body woods and hardware, as well as textured finishes that required less labor and no polishing to complete. You will notice that it does not say “Ernie Ball” anywhere on this bass...

The SUB 4 was their take on the Stingray 4 bass, their most popular model. This one has a non-contoured poplar body that is finished in black, which was their most common color. Many of the SUB instruments came with a lame faux diamond plate pickguard, but the later ones came with a black plastic guard. I replaced the diamond plate pickguard on this one as I could not stand the way it looked. By the way, they are the same pattern as the Stingray, so you can use any Ray pickguard on the SUB 4 basses.

The neck is maple (painted matte black) with a 11-inch radius rosewood fretboard and 22 high-profile, wide frets sunk into the fretboard. This is a 34-inch scale instrument, and the neck is 1 5/8-inches wide at the compensated plastic nut (early SUB basses did not get the compensated nut). Just like their Ernie Ball brethren, the neck on SUB basses is attached to the body with six bolts and they get the usual truss rod wheel for easy adjustments.

The hardware is a bit cheaper than what is found on the Ernie Ball basses. The chrome-plated open gear tuners are not Schaller units, and though the bridge is similar it seems a bit cheaper. They had to get the price down somehow, you know.

The electronics package is very Stingray-like, which is a good thing. These basses came with a single Musicman humbucker that had a volume control and a 2-band EQ. One cool thing about these basses was that they were offered in either active or passive configurations, which is not an option that the company has provided for the Stingray either before or since the SUB series was in production. This one is active, but I have played the passive basses and they have a pleasant sound that is not so aggressive.

And this is really a great bass, regardless of how much it cost (which wasn’t very much, really). The pickup is mighty, and it has that distinctive thick Stingray growl that is perfect for rock. Though the hardware is not quite as good as their higher-priced models, I never noticed any problems with sustain or tuner slippage.

The craftsmanship was what I expected to see coming out of San Luis Obispo – the neck pocket was tight and the frets were very well done, with nicely finished edges and a level fretboard. It weighed a touch under 10 pounds, and it balanced nicely on a strap. The non-contoured body bugged me a bit as I was used to contoured Stingrays by the time I got my grubby mitts on of one of these.

Overall this was a great playing bass, but I have enough nice playing basses so this one just did not make the cut.

The MusicMan SUB 4 basses were made from 2003 to 2006, and they were quite a bargain, with a list price of $1013.99 and a street price of $700 or so, if I remember correctly. On today’s used market they sell for about $300 or $400, which is a heck of a deal for a solid bass.



  1. I used to have this exact model bass and it was stolen. Today I started missing it and want to buy another one but I can't find one online!

  2. Hi I've one of these basses and did the same with the pick guard. Also it does say Ernie Ball. It's on the back of the headstock on the stamp which has the batch no of the bass and that it was made in San Luis Obispo. Gigged and used this bass for recording countless times never let me down. Cheers K

  3. I have this bass. The neck lost its paint and the pickguard was rusty so I changed it for a white pearl and I love how it looks now.

  4. I have 2 of them, one active and one passive. I use them in the recording studio all the time and there might go to basses. I started using Music Man stingray bass is the first year they became available back in the seventies. What most people don't realize is that the original Music Man stingray basis didn't have body contours either and not all of them had string through Bridges. These bases are the closest you're ever going to get to the sound of the original pre Ernie Ball Music Man bases and I highly recommend them.