Big Al 5 SSS or Bongo 5 HH

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Musicman20, Sep 30, 2010.

  1. Im really struggling to decide between these beauties.

    Anyone played both and can compare how they 'sound'?

    Aesthetically, the Big Al is more my thing...but...
  2. I'm a 4 string guy with an eye on going 5. I'd lean Bongo, but the Big Al is awesome too.
  3. syciprider

    syciprider Inactive

    May 27, 2005
    Inland Empire
    The SSS sounds nothing like a Musicman just so you know. I have both models and to me the Bongo is the better sounding bass. Maybe I just prefer a blend over on or off pickup controls.
  4. I'm swaying towards Bongo. The sound just seems huge!
  5. P. Aaron

    P. Aaron Supporting Member

    I like the versatility of the S-S-S combination on the Big Al. But I still like the tone of a AM Standard Precision V more.
  6. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    Wow. Interesting how people's opinions differ. I'd say that the SSS doesn't sound like a Bongo, but it has Musicman written all over it. Gets a lot closer to the sound of my Stingray than the Bongo does.

    An HH Bongo 5 has been my main 5 string for a long time. Went back to 4s about a year ago and just got me a Big Al. I'm certain I've got a Big Al 5 in my future. Not sure if I just grew more accustomed to a more organic sound, but I'm completely in love with the AL. The Bongo has a very distinct character and as much as I've loved it all these years my Stingray and Big Al are making me fall a little out of love with it. I'm going to add the disclaimer here though that I'm a maple neck fan, and that's whats on 2 4 bangers.

    Bongo is a beast. It's powerful. The other basses seem a little more organic to me and open up differently when I dig in.

    I'd say to listen to as many clips of the 2 as you can and see which sounds best to you. There are distinct differences that are incredibly subjective as seen here. Nobody but you is going to know which you'll like better. Try to get your hands on a few too. Not an easy choice. Have fun. :)

    My choice right now would be the Big Al.
  7. bovinehost

    bovinehost Supporting Member

    Dec 5, 2002
    Endorsing Artist: Ernie Ball Music Man/Sterling By Music Man
    True! I think both of you guys (you and syciprider) are pretty smart about these basses and yet two very different takes on the same basses.

    This probably means something, something to do with opinions, maybe, and if I were smarter I'd have it figured out.

    A friend of mine played my Big Al SSS a few months back. He's pretty much a dedicated Fender guy but he said, "Ah hell, I guess I'm going to have to get one of those." He said it was just "Fender-y" enough. I know what he means although I wouldn't have come up with it being "Fender-y" - it just feels like a classic sort of design and has good, useful sounds that are easy to dial up.

    Obviously, the Big Al has the single coil in the bridge position versus the Bongo with the big 'bucker. It's a different sound, but the bridge on the BA still sounds like a snarly Music Man.

    If what you want is a bass that will slap people around and make them beg you to let them touch it, the Bongo does that in spades. It's got a big sound. It can BE subtle, but you have to speak nicely to it.

    The Big Al SSS has a more complex approach. It's not quite as tarty as the Bongo, but can hold its own if you dial it in just right.

    VERY different basses.

    I have a Big AL single H coming tomorrow....that should be fun.
  8. DanGouge


    May 25, 2000
    My experience with these two is limited to trying them out in various stores, nonetheless here's my take: The Big Al SSS, by virtue of its active/passive switching and the fact that it has three pickups spaced so far out covers more tonal ground than the Bongo. Now, if you like the tones that the Bongo does do, then stick with it, but the Big Al seems more versatile.
  9. GBassNorth


    Dec 23, 2006
    Over the last year I've gone back and forth on the exact issue - a SSS Big Al 5 or a HH Bongo 5. I've played both to death side by side a couple of times thru both tube and SS amps. My take, the Big Al has a bit more usable tones for the type of music I play (classic rock, pop, 80's, 90's, grunge, alternative, all finger style - no pic no slap).
    Both basses are beautifully built and set the bar for flexibility in tone. I just find the BA has a bit more of that familar Fender sound. I can dial in a dead ringer vintage P bass setting on the BA, tried hard but couldn't do it on the Bongo. I can get a great Jazz tone out of the BA had a harder time with the Bongo which wanted to keep it's very modern hifi tone. I could easily get Alembic type hifi out of either bass.

    Needless to say, I haven't purchased either one yet. Partially because I'm waiting for used BAs to hit the market at reasonable prices and partially because I've always been both a huge Stingray and P bass fan and the Bongo scratches my Stingray itch but the BA scratches my P bass itch.

    You cant go wrong with either, but if I had to choose today and money was not an issue I'd go with a really nice BA5.
  10. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    A year and a half since my last post on this. Got a lot of playing time in on the Big Al, and just got myself a new Bongo.

    My opinion for anyone struggling with this is to get both. :)

    There's no doubt to me that the Big Al is more versatile, and gets more traditional (Fender) sounding. The Bongo has a tone though like no other, looks and feels awesome IMO, and has with those trade offs it makes it a tough decision for anyone who's on the fence about the 2.

    The Bongo I just got is an HS. My 2 other Bongos were HHs. The HS really opens up sonic palette for me with my playing style and preferences. I can tame the HS and I can find some very sweet tones soloing the neck pickup. Never soloed the neck H, and for me it was often just overkill. I'd dial a little in to beef things up, but rarely if ever dialed in more of the neck than the bridge.

    I think the biggest thing to consider in making a decision with these 2 is if you're looking for traditional, or unique. Both are incredibly versatile and capable of lots... with a Bongo you'll stand out a bit more in the crowd (and mix), Big Al, you'll fit in anywhere.
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