Buyer Beware: Sterling Ray 35 and Music Man and the importance of play testing.

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by wheelzr, Jan 2, 2015.

Which bass track do you prefer?

Poll closed Jan 6, 2015.
  1. First one

    9 vote(s)
  2. Second one

    18 vote(s)
  3. Third one (EB MM)

    17 vote(s)
  4. Last One (Sterling ray35)

    1 vote(s)
  1. wheelzr


    Oct 14, 2009
    I recently was shopping for basses and tested out several basses and was told by nearly everyone from sales staff to people here saying that the $799 Sterling Ray was "same parts underneath as a Music Man, just made in Indonesia". The fit and finish On the Sterling was pretty good, and I was about to make a purchase.

    Since I primarily record tracks on garageband, I figured why not lay down a few tracks comparing a few bass sounds? So I did.

    In this track I play 4 basses in this order:

    ?????, ????????, Ernie Ball MM, Sterling Ray 35.

    All tracks were recorded line-in, all tone controls set to neutral, pickups always set to 50/50 blend or in series.

    Now, I'm not saying the Ray35 sounds bad, but it's not even close to what the comparison has been...the Yamaha TRBX and Fender Jazz (!!?) sound closer tonally to the MM. You'd have to replace the pickups to get a sound profile that even remotely resembles.

    At $800, I'd expect a better effort to sound like the guitar being touted as a "Music Man built in Indonesia." So before buying one of the Ray 35's, like any other bass purchase, take the time to try it out on equipment you are familiar with. Playing through an Ampeg SVT, everything sounds good.

    Also I'm leaving up a poll to see which bass sounds the best in the soundcloud sample.
  2. darrenmt


    Dec 15, 2004
    My vote(2nd/jazz bass?) was based on what i felt sat in the mix best + has a sexy growl. The 3rd was good too. I felt the last one sounded kinda thin... Not punchy or bassy. One thing to note is not all basses sound good eqed flat and only show character after some knob turning.
    hopsbb, bramhc and dewbass4 like this.
  3. DWBass

    DWBass The Funkfather

    Of them all, I preferred the sound of the EBMM the best. The Ray35 was missing something. Had no high end. Allegedly they are supposed to have the same preamps and pickups but now I'm not so sure.
    Doctor Hugocat likes this.
  4. wheelzr


    Oct 14, 2009
    Exactly, if they shared the same parts and schematics the difference in tone would be minimal...but it's not even close....a freaking Fender Jazz sounds more like the EBMM than the Ray does.
    Doctor Hugocat likes this.
  5. nostatic

    nostatic Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2004
    central coast
    Endorsing Artist: FEA Labs
    Wait, you mean a cheaper bass isn't as good as the more expensive one? That violates all TB logic. You must have mixed up the recordings :D
  6. wheelzr


    Oct 14, 2009

    I mean, in this case it's not even that it "doesn't sound as good" it's that it sounds ENTIRELY different as it's being described by people recommending the bass. I'm sure you could dial it in a little better with some EQ, but the flat response is always going to be the most important tone of the instrument.
  7. I have yet to play any bass that resembles a MM that actually sounds like its namesake. If there was a cheaper alternative out there that did, I'd be all over it. The Ray's capture the "vibe", but little least the examples I've played. It stinks because they are some beautifully made basses for the price.
  8. SRFSterling5


    Sep 24, 2011
    2 & 3 for me sounded the best. The last one had no fullness to it, like so one cut out the bottom. The MM actually sounded really good recorded. Maybe I should have kept my MM Sterling 5 a bit longer.
    Doctor Hugocat likes this.
  9. tubatodd


    Oct 31, 2004
    Birmingham, AL
  10. joelb79


    Mar 22, 2006
    Lansing, Michigan
    I'd bet money on the Sterling By MM being wired Series. Going between the Real EBMM and the Sterling, It sounds just like switching from series to parallel on my EBMM Sterling.
    blindrabbit likes this.
  11. The SBMM instruments have no parts that are US made. They have nothing to do with EBMM beyond being licensed by them. They are set up in the USA but not by Music Man. They are a licensed product and that is it. I have always felt that they are a bit deceitful with the marketing. They basically omit key information in an effort to let people believe something that's not true and then hide behind the "we never said that" thing. The electronics are supposed to be built to the US specs but it's almost presented in a way that maybe they are suggesting it IS the US electronics. They say "set up in CA" without ever letting anyone know where or who is setting it up which can lead people to believe it's the EBMM factory that is doing the setups when it's not.
  12. SanDiegoHarry

    SanDiegoHarry Inactive Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    It never fails that you do indeed get what you pay for.
  13. SanDiegoHarry

    SanDiegoHarry Inactive Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    A "Bit deceitful" is an understatement. I do not know what Mr. Ball is thinking by allowing this stunt to erode a fine name in the industry... but let's be honest - EBMMs of today aren't *quite* as nice as they were 10 years ago. The wood they use isn't as choice, that's for sure (yes, I have had multiple EBMMs. I know of what I speak).
    Doctor Hugocat and davedblyoo like this.
  14. guy n. cognito

    guy n. cognito Secret Agent Member

    Dec 28, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    There's a $700+ price difference between those two bass guitars. It is not surprising that you find the more expensive version to be of better quality......
  15. atracksler


    Oct 30, 2007
    My Ray 35 sound like the Bee's Knees.. I usually just run it flat, and with the selector pushed all the way back (Series?). I may just have an especially good one, maybe made by the guy that got promoted the next week.... who knows.... It does however sound awful through a VTBass, so it may just be the setup/preamp/nut behind the bass combo....
    jd56hawk likes this.
  16. I believe his point was that he was under the impression that the electronics were the same in both the US and Sterling line and was shocked to find that is not the case and that in fact that are not very similar.
  17. VincentGrim


    Aug 17, 2008
    Hmm, I'd like to know just how many people experience this difference. Seems like the general consensus on here and other forums, from people that own both, is that the Ray34-35 are pretty accurate representations of their older EBMM siblings...
    jd56hawk and blindrabbit like this.
  18. king_biscuit


    May 21, 2006

    I agree with all of this Harry. The best EBMMs were from the late 80s to the early mid-90s. They started going down a bit, IMO, when EB stopped putting real finishes on the necks -- no doubt a cost cutting measure.
  19. SamJ

    SamJ Founder - Fender MIA Club

    Apr 22, 2006
    SFO / HNL
    Just to be clear (and pardon me if this is obvious)... are all of these being played on the same "Freshness" of string and brand? I mean I completely agree there is massive tonal difference, but string freshness is probably the single biggest factor is how any bass sounds... followed by electronics/PU and then setup...

    But me personally, I've never bought the idea that an "Asian Import" version of ANYTHING is going to be as good... I simply haven't seen it in my years of play comparisons nor do I believe that there is any way to skirt one of the laws of economics which states "you get what you pay for" since you cannot sell something at a price that exceeds it's value for very long... (you can fool some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time)..

    there's a reason besides OSHA and higher wages that one costs $799 retail and the other $1699...
    Majorik likes this.
  20. lowfreqgeek


    Mar 15, 2010
    Tijeras, NM
    Sounds like you have the bass control cranked on the "Ernie Ball MM" (what model? Stingray???? Sterling????). Also sounds more like fingers on the "EBMM" track and a pick on the "Sterling 35" track. Yes, they do sound different, but I can easily make my 20 year old EBMM Stingray 5 sound like your "Sterling 35" track with EQ. I can just as easily make is sound like your "EBMM" track with EQ.

    I'm sure they are different, I just think the "EBMM" track sounds like it's been EQ'd very differently. No Music Man I've ever played sounds like that when it's truly flat. It can get there easily enough, but that sound is not native.
    Majorik and blindrabbit like this.