The Company Line
Ernie Ball® was revolutionary when they came onto the scene, and over time, the design has been refined over and over. In 1985, Ernie Ball Music Man® started production out of their factory located in San Luis Obispo, California, which led to improved visibility marketing basses and guitars with largely player-endorsed signature models. At first, Music Man was reluctant jumping into the entry-level budget market, but in the late 1990s, demand for cheaper versions of Music Man instruments increased. In 2008, the SUB line economy basses were replaced by the Sterling by Music Man series, licensed by Praxis Musical Instruments, who built this new import budget brand. I happen to own one of the early Ray34 basses and still use it when I perform live, although Covid-19 has put a slight damper on gigging for the unforeseen future. Sterling by Music Man sent us one of their short-scale basses in the four-string configuration for review. Right now, Daphne Blue and Olympic White are the only two colors available.
High quality shipping standards aren’t always a priority with some companies who “chince” out in order to cut costs. This wasn’t the case when I received the bass packaged in a well-padded gig bag encased by a sturdy box filled to the brim with bubble wrap and foam padding. It’s nice to see a company who takes some pride in delivering customers a well-protected product. What impressed me right off the bat was the tuning. All four strings (I kid you not) stayed in tune throughout its coast-to-coast journey; that absolutely blew my mind! I am a sucker for colors that “pop,” and this hunk of wood (Daphne Blue) really caught my eye. It’s your typical Music Man design: sleek, simple, and sturdy. I consider myself “old school” in my design biases, because Leo Fender got it right back in the Fifties creating a rock-solid neck with few tone controls to fiddle around with. The controls are pretty basic and easy to navigate, with volume control, a three-way rotary knob, and a master tone. A cool feature is the volume boost to the signal. I got a lot of traction out of that little gem and truly enjoyed experimenting with it. Less is more and having a basic clean layout like this makes life so much easier.
Look & Feel
The first thing that immediately jumped out at me was how comfortable the 30” scale neck felt when wrapping my hands around it. For folks like myself (who have smaller sized hands), this is a dream come true scenario. The body is lightweight and not a strain on the shoulders when strapped on, which is a relief for those of us suffering from past neck or shoulder injuries. The neck which is made of hard maple was ultra-fast and easy to maneuver when making huge jumps up to the 12th fret and beyond. I was pleasantly surprised that there were no buzzing issues, and each note could be distinctively heard when engaged. The factory setup/action on this bass made playability a piece of cake; it wasn’t necessary to adjust the saddles or tweak the neck. The intonation was dead-on with no need for enhancements. I played this axe for hours on end, refusing to put it down. It was a pleasure to play when standing, or kicking back noodling around on grandma’s rocking chair.
The humbucking pickup, offering higher output neodymium magnets, produced a lot of punch when digging in fingerstyle. It allows the player to select the front coil, rear coil or both coils when using the three-way rotary control knob. No need to carry an extra 9-volt battery in your gig bag, because this puppy is passive. The neck position was full and round with hints of that all too familiar smooth Fender tone oozing through. The bridge position most definitely added that midrange treble grit when playing upper register runs, yet the bottom end was never lost. It felt best when both coils were utilized maintaining an equal balance of warmth and rawness. The volume boost is a handy option to have in your arsenal when trying to cut through a dense mix without the use of a foot pedal for equalization enhancements. I must confess, I was slightly hesitant slapping and popping with a maple neck, but to my surprise, the overall sound was crystal clear. The thumbed nuances that sometimes get lost in space when not using a rosewood fret board had a pleasant resonance Flea aka Michael Balzary would surely appreciate.
I am currently using the StingRay Short Scale to track at home under the quarantine. So far, so good; my clients have commented on how punchy the bass signal sounds within the sonic palette of their recordings, etc. I look forward to the day we can all stand in the same room again without social distancing ourselves in a live setting in front of an audience. Until we get that green light, I will continue using the StingRay Short Scale for teaching and recording purposes.
At the End of the Day
When one thinks of short-scale basses, players like Stanley Clarke and Jack Bruce come to mind as pioneers of sonic exploration. I can honestly say, in my thirty-plus years of playing, I’ve never had the opportunity to play a short-scale bass. But now the tables have turned and I am completely hooked. In fact, after road-testing this instrument, I called the Sterling by Music Man rep and asked if I could purchase the bass, in which they were more than happy to comply. I have been using the Sterling by Music Man basses for over ten years, now, and stand behind their product 100%, Bass players, if you’re looking for an axe that makes reaching for expansive intervals easier and playing chords without cramping, then the StingRay Short Scale is for you. I couldn’t find any cons when demoing this product and recommend it to any player looking for a lightweight hunk of wood that sounds stellar, is highly durable and doesn’t cost a fortune. The Sterling by Music Man StingRay Short Scale bass give more bang for your buck, and will not disappoint!
|Manufacture:||Sterling by Music Man|
|Warranty:||Limited one-year warranty|
|Fingerboard:||Rosewood (OWL), maple (DBL)|
|Knobs:||Metal dome/ring chrome|
|Control Cavity Cover:||N/A|
|Pickups:||Sterling by Musician Designed Neodymium Pickups|
|Controls:||1 push/push volume boost/1 tone|
|Body Finish:||Daphne Blue & Olympic White|
|Number of Frets:||22 Frets|
|Strings:||Ernie Ball 2852 Regular Slinky Short Scale Bass|
|Gauge:||.045 .065 .085 .105|
|Fingerboard Radius:||9.5” (24cm)|