Cream of the Crap Award: SBMM SUB SB4

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by CID Vicious, Mar 5, 2014.


  1. CID Vicious

    CID Vicious

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2013
    Location:
    Bay Area, CA
    [​IMG]

    I've had this for a couple of weeks now. I was impressed enough in the store to kinda mess up my finances to get it at GC for the clearance price, $179 or $201 out the door. Plus, when I do impulse buying like that I like doing it at GC, because I can get my money back on the layaway and feel absolutely no guilt...

    My example is metallic red/rosewood. It's a very cool color, still red but almost like it's mixed with a bit of burnt orange.

    The finish is very decent. It looks perfect until you're right up on it. There are sanding marks you can see in the cutaways only where the primer coat wasn't flat (typical of silver or other metallic paint, I used to work in an auto body shop and we were extra meticulous when having to paint those colors). There's a bit of imperfection at the neck pocket on the treble side.

    The hardware is sturdy but kinda crudely finished. There's a little bit of imperfection you can see under the plating, but everything does its job perfectly well.

    I liked playing the bass in the store even though it was 'set up for archery', I simply plugged it into the SVT stack they had and went to town. I lucked out - I didn't realize it wasn't a Ray but a Sterling style until I saw the plate on the Rays. But none of them were clearance priced, so Sterling it was.

    I wasn't familiar with the differences - had to put mine next to a Ray to really see, but since I prefer the series wired pickup anyway, I lucked out.

    It's light and doesn't have neck dive. While it's described often as a 'thin' neck, it's nut width thin, yes, but pretty beefy in thickness. I have big hands and it's comfy. Conincidentally, Moses Graphite only currently offers the Sterling style neck for EBMM replacements...

    Set up it's much better as you might imagine, I still have the factory strings on - as I said, kinda had to rob Peter to Pay Paul getting this thing. As other's have mentioned, it makes you wanna slap all day long.

    The one truly bad thing I can say about it so far is that it's got the sharpest frets I've felt in awhile. My Chinese Bronze Warlock had a much higher quality of fret dress.

    However, my plan is to sand the clear off of the neck south of the nut a la the US spec EBMMs. I'll take care of it then, so...

    I've owned, beginning to now, Washburn cheapo low end modern, 90's MIM Jazz, MIJ SR Ibanez with EMGs, whatever that weirdo ugly Yamaha is that GC always stocks (borrowed but played extensively), Ibanez GSX200? (Mahogany body w/ humbucker), low end Dean Edge with a GFS vintage P pickup, a Westone Spectrum ST - and except for the latter, I like this far better. The GSX was closest, but the pickup tended towards mud. It has a ballsy thick sound, but not as useable as this is.

    Granted I'm a better bassist/converted guitard than I was with the earlier stuff, but I can't say I've liked anything in the price range as much as I like this gem. I've always liked the EBMM sound and can't fathom dropping the dough on a US model at the moment, though from the forum posts I might try and snag a cosmetically beat one if I edge up to over 500 bucks in budget.

    For those hoping for a 'true' Sterling clone, this might disappoint, as it has no three way switch. Frankly, I like the idea of it just being series all the time, so this isn't an issue to me. If I wanted to be in a cover band and/or didn't own the Spectrum with a split/P style Magnatone I might pine for the option, but it's probably not a very hard mod assuming the pickup is wired for coil tapping. I haven't checked.

    I use "The Cream Of The Crap", and this nails the value equation for me. Considering it's going to have a hand finished neck by the end of next week I can't see the justification for the non-pro, non-made-of-money to sacrifice needed 'real life' money to snag an EBMM over this. I've not bothered trying the SBMM non-SUB line, but have loved playing the US EBMMs.

    That goes double if you just want the EBMM package for occasional flavor on recordings. I liked the p style pickups I've used (except that awful Yamaha) but this just kinda nails what I do on the bass. Ballsy but clear.

    I don't doubt the SBMMs present a very decent package at ~$500 when their ~$250 offerings are this good - however, an Epiphone Thunderbird Pro-4 is calling my name. A neck thru Thunderbird Reverse. That slaps. $399. Kinda hard to beat fulfilling the T-bird fantasy I've had since high school and get my Murderface on.

    If you play aggressive styles I think giving the SB4/Sterling style basses a try is a must. Particularly if you like to slap, as I do. I'm a caveman slapper, but this has the perfect response for it, sounds friggin' huge, has perhaps the best cheapo active eq out there, and has a million dollar silhouette. While some are going to be pissed that they ponied up over a G for a 'real' one, and hey, if I had the dough, I would have too...others like me will see the value in this.

    If you've been looking for an affordable Music Man, game over. Metal bassists on a budget, look here.

    I think one of these + a Moses Graphite neck would = Poor Man's Modulus Flea, and/or a great touring bass - cheap enough to take to the Blues Brother's Roadhouse, with a neck that could stand back to back gigs in West and East Texas needing zero adjustment, aka the reason Flea went Modulus in the first place.

    And for those utterly convinced that the pickup won't be up to the task - you'd have to have lived with a 'real' one to tell at all, and no one in the audience will ever hear the difference - Guitar Fetish/GFS makes a Music Man replacement in ceramic for $29 and in alnico for $39. Priced right for a cheapskate Indonesian bass.

    All I can hope for is that the factory that made this is suicide-netting free...:D
     
  2. CID Vicious

    CID Vicious

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2013
    Location:
    Bay Area, CA
    For background, lest anyone suppose I'm a newb due to the low post count, I've been dabbling in bass since the 90's and my first (and to date only) big gig was playing bass in a Hendrix/Prog flavored band in front of a festival crowd of ~1500.

    Guitar wise I play a later model Gibson Melody Maker RI w/ Duncan Custom, OLP Tin Top customized with GFS pickups and hardware, have a huge pedalboard and was a veteran of the Harmony Central Effects Forum for almost a decade before I just got tired of dealing with hipster jagoffs in constant flame wars.

    I still don't think I've paid more than 500 bucks for a piece of gear and have been getting compliments from strangers, band members, and 'better' guitarist on my tone since high school. Thus my background.

    Thanks for playing, and for those curious, just go out and try it ;-)
     
  3. Maxdusty

    Maxdusty Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2012
    Location:
    Michigan USA
    CID, quick question- you mentioned your bass was sold at a clearance price - as in it was brand new and they were selling their stock of SB4s at that price? Or was it a used SB4 at that price? Just curious to see if they were cutting back on their stock of the SB4s and putting them on sale.

    Strange about the frets though, all the ones I've tried so far are actually pretty well set up and frets are pretty good- guess the quality varies from bass to bass with the budget lines.
    I have some Ray4s but saving a spot for an SB4 later on if the price is right- new or used as it sounds different enough to warrant a purchase.
    That being said, used Ray4s do show up from time to time but they are bought very quickly online! I have 3 Rays, one I bought new, the other two I was lucky to grab online on the GC website for $149 and $159 respectively. The last Ray I bought was actually money I had set aside for an SB4 but the price was too good to resist and a walnut finish at that so opted instead to buy it and look for an SB4 later on.

    Nice review btw.
     
  4. oddeotek

    oddeotek

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2010
    Location:
    Sammamish, WA
    I bought a black w/maple neck SBMM SUB SB4 at my Local GC that was marked as "used" for $169. I'm not really sure why it was marked that way since it still had the plastic covering the pick guard and the pickup. It looked every bit as new as the "new" one that was selling for $249. I prefer the smaller Sterling body shape and the resulting lighter weight, and I've never been a fan of the chrome Music Man control plate. Mine had a decent setup as it was but after installing some new Pressure Wound strings and adjusting the neck, intonation and string height at home, I was a very happy camper. The fretwork on mine is perfect although some of the $1800 Sterlings and Stingrays that were at the same store had horrible fret sprout.
    One of the bands that I gig with is a Car's tribute so I was actually thinking about buying a used Music Man to catch the Ben Orr vibe. I played a bunch of the "real" Stingrays and Sterlings and found them outrageously overpriced and way heavier than the SB4. After 4 shows with this bass, I am getting the sound that I want and the light weight and playability that I need on a 4 hour gig. I can't imagine why I would need to change the pickup, the preamp or the tuners, as some have talked about doing, since they are plenty gig worthy just as they come.
     
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  6. Maxdusty

    Maxdusty Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2012
    Location:
    Michigan USA
    I bought my second Ray4 - the white one used (pretty odd it was listed as used too, as it also had the plastic on the pickguard and looked brand new - I don't know why they priced it at $159, I looked long and hard for a crack, a flaw, a defect as the price was a little strange- still a little paranoid that one day the neck is going to snap in half and that being the reason why they were selling it for so cheap)
    Funny thing is after I bought this bass, I started to listen to a lot of Cars music. Wish Sterling would come up with metallic colors for the Sub Ray line, like Ben Orr's silver one. :bassist:
    Picture of my 3 Rays, room on the side for a future SB4...
     

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  7. Qlanq

    Qlanq

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2007
    Location:
    Swansea
    I went to my local store to try out an Epiphone Thunderbird and walked out with my black & maple Sub. Everything just felt right about it. Neck a bit chunkier than I'm used to (Jazz) but overall really pleased with mine. I took the pickguard off mine, looks really cool.
     
  8. Immigrant

    Immigrant

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2010
    Location:
    West of Stumptown, USA
    TL;DR:p

    Congrats on the new bass!
     
  9. StuartV

    StuartV Out of GAS!! Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2006
    Location:
    Bristow, VA
    I have an EBMM Sterling 5H. I generally prefer the Series tone for my playing, but I think the slap tone is noticeably better in Parallel mode.

    Just FYI.
     
  10. CID Vicious

    CID Vicious

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2013
    Location:
    Bay Area, CA
    Mine was marked Clearance, not Used, for 179.99/201OTD. When I picked it up from layaway, there was a new black/maple SB4 up on the rack at regular price. The rest of the SUB line was all Rays in four or five strings.

    I have a feeling that the reason why you don't see a lot of metallic finish models is that they're not as easy to paint as the solid color or stained finishes are, thus requiring more labor that they likely can't get away with charging extra for.

    One could easily be pretty crude in wetsanding the primer coat on a solid color in comparison to silver/metallic, which WILL show sanding marks in bright light (especially sunlight, which was the ultimate test for a color match etc at our shop).

    Not to mention you can single stage a solid color, while a metallic pretty much has to be two stage unless peel is acceptable. I remember the Re-Ranch guy back in the day acquiescing to a customer's request for a heavy silver metalflake, and though he was a Nitro only kinda guy, the flake job was urethane.

    The fret sprout is kinda surprising since the rest of the bass seems very well done. FYI I bought mine in Palmdale, CA (high altitude desert) and while I was out there adjusted the neck - then a day later drove to Venice (seaside low altitude) and the neck went from way loose as I bought it, to almost straight with a bit of relief, to way tight as it hit air with actual humidity.

    Since GC wants you to fork over dough for a setup, I'd imagine someone caught the fret sprout, looked at the neck, and said "screw it - discount it for our weekly 'screaming deal special'". Or caught the finish flaws, which wouldn't be caught by a bald eagle while it's hanging from a strap. My kind of deal :D. My Dean had gotten dropped out of a Ford Ranger on tour 3-4 times onto pavement, no case, dusted it off, slapped some Yenko stripes on it with a rattle can, Dremel-ed a hole for an $18 GFS P-Bass pickup on clearance, and it did the job on all of my demos - www.soundclick.com/mettayax, www.soundclick.com/radiosmack


    So if this thing is less than museum quality, so much the better :D. My Gibson MM looks like it's much older than it is, though I had some help on the buckle rash from a friend of mine. But I like guitars/basses with wear and character anyway - patina, whatever ya wanna call it.

    I was actually thinking of making a black leather pickguard for it, no stripes this time, but maybe a Z06 - 505hp badge :D

    [​IMG]
     
  11. CID Vicious

    CID Vicious

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2013
    Location:
    Bay Area, CA
    Oh, and the acoustic room, despite the humidifier etc, had some of the worst playing acoustics in any price range. I'd say it's possible the neck was in some acceptable level of adjustment, was shipped to the desert, dried out a bit on the rack, and the neck shrunk, making it as noted in the review 'set up for Archery'. Funnily enough the tech on site could have set it to rights in like five minutes, but hey, why look a gift $70/~30% discount in the mouth...
     

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