I picked this bass up, preowned. I haven't managed to acertain it's age but I'm guessing it was built in the early to mid 2000s. It has been well looked after, with a few light scuff marks on the back and a couple of scuff/scratch marks, on the bottom side, not far from the jack socket. On the front is a tiny varnish crack, coming from the 3-way switch. The machine heads have lost some of their shine, from usage. But overall it looks very clean and in terrific condition.
This is my first Musicman bass, though I've owned a couple of their guitars. And looking back, I've worked out that this
is my 30th bass, over a period of 40 years. These range from beginners level to high end factory and handmade basses.
From the Musicman guitars I have owned, I have come to regard their instruments as some of the best in the world.
Designed for musicians, their instruments have evolved from their predecessors, to look individual and perform to a
truly professional standard.
This Sterling continues in that mould. It seems to have been designed to give lovers of MM's Stingray bass, a sleeker
and dare I say it, faster alternative. When I bought this bass, I chose it from a number of other, quality basses. All of which I'd have been happy to own. So what was it that made me take this bass home, instead of the others. I could say, the excellent price, the high regard I already held the manufacturer in, the simple, handsome looks, or even the powerful and varied tone of it's iconic pickup.
All of those could be a reason to take this bass home and I know they helped in my decision. But it was the feel of the bass, in my hands. Simply the most comfortable neck I have played, with a sleek solidity that just feels and plays right.
I don't know the species of hard wood used on this bass's body but it has a lovely grain that shows through the
translucent, dark red finish. The typical, egg-shaped, Musicman pick-guard, is a 3-ply, topped with matt-black. This goes rather well with the red body. The maple neck and fret-board, also stand out visually. I think I'm only the second owner of this bass and I don't think it got a huge amount of playing before. The neck looks and feels remarkably fresh, with no sign of fret wear. For those not used to it, the head, with a 3 tuner top and 1 tuner underneath, takes a little getting used to. Both in manipulation and looks. But overall I like the look of the smaller head, gained from this arrangement.
As with many MM basses, you get a single, large, humbucking pickup. However this one comes with a 3-way switch, that
gives you the options of Parallel Humbucking, Single Coil (with phantom coil) and Series Humbucking. At the moment, I
prefer them in this order: 1st-Single-Coil. 2nd-Parallel Humbucking. 3rd-Series Humbucking. All three are very useable though and do give a some variety in tone. However, it has to be said that IMO, 2 pickups will always give more breadth of tone. That said, I do love the simpicity of this sytem and the active volume, treble, middle and bass, rotary controls give you the scope to get some great sounds.
In general, I prefer passive basses, as every active bass I've played (which is a lot) has a certain amount of harmonic distortion. This is subtle and to many, is what constitutes a "modern" bass sound. You can hear it with this Musicman and I have to say that, when adjusted to my own taste, sounds quite beautiful. As my other 3 basses, at present, are all passive, this Sterling is a lovely difference. So, even though I'm a passive fan, this active bass has kind of, won me over.
The bridge is a very solid, professional bit of kit, giving you all the adjustment you need and still transmitting the
string vibration effeciently. It is stamped as Music Man's own. The tuners are also stamped with the MM logo, although they do seem very similar to my favourite tuners, Schaller.
As I'd expect from Music Man, this Sterling it shaped and put together excellently. It definitely works, as a whole. The body design looks cool and lays against your body, very comfortably. The tuners, bridge and controls are solid and work to make this design a success. But it is the neck, that I can say is as close to perfection, as I have played. To my (medium-sized) hands, this neck is a perfect fit. The smallish frets keep things smooth but importantly, very solid. I like to play cleanly, most of the time and don't appreciate fret buzz, unless I'm playing to get it. This Sterling's neck and fretboard accomodate my needs, very successfully.
This bass is superb, just as it is. But if I were to change one thing, it would be to add a single coil pickup, nearer the neck. As they have done, on some of the more recent Sterling models. I reckon Music Man knew what they were doing, when they designed the Sterling. It has a feel and sound of it's own. A second pickup may add some versatility but if you love the sounds it creates, why change a thing.
So overall then, a high quality bass, fit for musical situations. It's a lovely blend of modern and vintage. Very simple and all the better for that. Yet quite versatile too. It's probably my favourite MM bass. Although the "Big Al" would make a fabulous stablemate.