Tuesday, December 17, 2013

2006 MusicMan SUB 5 Bass Review


Over the past few months we have been looking at a few of the Musicman SUB instruments that I have owned over the years, and here is another one, 2006 Musicman SUB 5 bass guitar.

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 may notice that it does not say “Ernie Ball” anywhere on this bass...

The SUB 5 was their take on the iconic Stingray 5 bass, which is one of the best-selling 5-strings of all time. This one has a non-contoured poplar body that is finished in textured Cinnamon, which was not a common color. It is a fascinatingly iridescent finish with bits of metal flake thrown in; in different lights it can look brown, gold or green. Many of the SUB instruments came with lame faux diamond plate pickguards, but the later ones came with a black plastic guard (like this one). Note that the SUB 5 got a pickguard that is shaped more like the Stingray 4 pickguard. I have never been a fan of the Stingray 5 guard, so I think this is an improvement.

The neck is maple (painted matte black) with a 11-inch radius rosewood fretboard and 21 high-profile, wide frets. This is a 34-inch scale instrument, and the neck is 1 3/4-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 thought he bridge is similar it seems a bit cheaper. They had to get the price down somehow, you know.

The electronics package is very Stingray 5-like, which is a good thing, especially if you are a country guy or gal. These basses came with a single Musicman humbucker that had a volume control and a 2-band EQ. I know they offered the 4-string basses in either active or passive configurations, and I heard rumors that the SUB 5 had the same option, but I never saw a passive one. Needless to say, this one was active.

And this was really a great bass, regardless of how much it cost (which wasn’t very much, really). The pickup was gnarly, and it had that distinctive thick Stingray growl that is perfect for rock. Though the hardware was not quite as good as Musicman’s 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 bee’s dick over 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.

This was a very nice playing bass, but I am just not a 5-string guy, so it did not stick around for very long.

The MusicMan SUB 5 basses were made from 2003 to 2006, and they were the cheapest American-made 5-strings on the market with a list price of a little over $1000 and a street price of around $700 or so. On today’s used market they sell for about $400 or $500, which is still a smoking deal for a solid bass.



  1. I have SUB5 and in 2006 paid $1800 AUD i gues i was ripped off but i must say i've had it 10 years and i've always thought it to be a superior bass compared to others i tried at the when i was looking

  2. I bought one off of a friend of a friend for 600$ it was in such poor condition. And with a bit of TLC n a new seymour duncan pickup its like fuckin new. And btw its a passive bass ;) so they do make passive SUB. And also american made.