Haven't seen a ton of reviews on these basses so figured I'd chime in and maybe help out anyone on the fence about one of these. Disclaimer:
I own a USA Stingray 4H.
I’ve played a USA Stingray 5HH.
I’ve noodled around with USA Stingray 5H.
I’m not a tone Nazi, but I know what I like.
I’m not a pro. I’m the average Joe who works a 9-5 but is lucky enough to have time and people to play with in bands, gigs and recordings.
That’s the extent of my experience with EBMM basses.
That said, here’s my review on my Sterling By Musicman Ray 35, which I affectionately named IndoRay5. Price:
GC tag price was $699.
I bought it for $612 with the gig bag (which is not free BTW, cost $17) and a free pack of strings of my choice (Dads XL nickel 130-45).
That beats the current GC ‘clearance’ prices on select EBMM basses. The lowest price I’ve seen on those is $1004. Build\Fit\Finish\Aesthetics:
IMHO, it’s a sharp looking bass.
I bought the basic black, matching, lacquered headstock, black pg, rosewood fb. It’s the only one they had.
I’m not into overly fancy looks for my basses. I’d have been fine with any of the 3 finishes these come in (black, natural, honeyburst).
Weight is heavy. Almost as heavy as my G&L Tribute L2500, but it balances better, IMHO.
Tuners are generic. They seem to work fine. The bass stayed in tune for the most part during a 3 hour recording session the day I bought it and a 4 hour rehearsal the next day.
Knobs and switch are solid. The knobs are very smooth. Not loosey goosey like you sometimes find on GC basses that have been wanked on. The switch is solid.
Bridge looks just like the bridge on my USA SR4H, except with Sterling engraved on it and the 5th saddle. It’s solid.
All the frets are smooth. No jagged edges. They all seem level.
Fingerboard is suspect. The rosewood is nice and rich from the neck joint all the way down to the 5th fret. Then it gets faded. Never seen that on any bass I’ve owned before, USA, Indo, Chinese, Mexican, etc. Doesn’t affect sound or playability, but looks odd.
It has the Truss Wheel like the the USA Stingrays. That's a major plus! Playability:
I bought it Sat morning and played it for a recording session Sat afternoon and rehearsal on Sunday. WITHOUT tweaking setup, changing strings, etc. COMPLETELY STOCK the way it came off the rack.
It felt easy to play. My shoulder got tired after an hour, due to the weight, but my arms, wrists and hands were not fatigued at all from playing it. I didn’t have to dig in a whole lot either to get great sound out of it!
Intonation is a bit off, but not painfully off.
As far as I could tell, no dead spots. I didn’t check every string and every fret, but didn’t notice anything during either session.
B string is tight. Not Lakland tight. But good considering it’s a 34” scale. Again, I still have the stock strings on it (EB Slinky 130-45). Tone:
To my ears, through my rig (GK700RBII, GK NEO 112 (2) or Avatar B210 NEO), it sounds like a USA Stingray.
By itself, it seemed my USA SR4H has a bit more thump or low end to it playing both fingerstyle and slap (not much of a slapper), but in the context of a mix, both recorded and live, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference, especially the casual listener.
Only the most critical ear could tell the difference in a mix or even soloed. Probably still not tell (as proven by the recent SX vs P vs J tests). So for all intents and purposes, it sounds like a Stingray H…period.
The EQ has very versatile range and the pre is pretty quiet. I played it with a tad of highs rolled off.
It’s a pretty damn loud bass too! I played it through my Avatar B210 NEO, 4ohm. I had the gain at Noon, boost at 9:00, woofer at 7:00 and volume on the bass all the way up. I had to fiddle with the GK for a bit so I wouldn’t blow the windows out of our guitarist’s house where we rehearse.
I do NOT engage the Active button on the head for ANY of my basses.
I don't like it and feel it takes something more than just the 10db or whatever away from the tone of my basses. I just know that my basses always sound better with it OFF. I adjust Gain, Boost and Woofer volume appropriately. Conclusion:
IMHO, IME, for the money, the SBMM Ray35 stacks up easily and in some cases above other offshore five string basses in it’s category.
This line of basses was created for people like me who want the Stingray look, feel and tone but can no longer afford the USA Stingray price tag.
Do I still want a USA Stingray 5H, of course, even better if I could get one for $700, alnico model.
Do I want to sell my USA Stingray 4H to get a USA Stingray 5H? No. I like having a Stingray 4H.
Do I want to sell my 08 MIA Jazz to fund a USA Stingray 5H? No. I like having a passive Jazz.
So for right now, the SBMM Ray35 fills my want for a 'Stingray 5' without having to give up any of my other basses or sell a kidney.
If you’re in the market for a Stingray 5 or a five string in general, one of these should definitely get on your “Must Try” list! Pics: http://picasaweb.google.com/raphaels...majayHt5G0mAE#
As usual, IMHO, IME, YMMV, FWIW, yada, yada....
See OutToPlayJazz's review below (with better pics than mine) on the Ray34, four string version!