Fretless Stingrays

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Bassis78, Feb 26, 2021.

  1. Bassis78


    Dec 22, 2003
    Rochester, NY
    I have been on the hunt for a 4 string fretless Stingray for about a year now and either I miss them, they sell too quickly, too expensive, or a 5 string. I've been on here, Reverb, straight-up Google searches, and there's been very minimal available.

    Are these basses that sought after? Or are they not sought after? I mean, I look at myself wanting one, but I'm usually the odd guy who veers toward the not-so-popular stuff.

    I can't imagine that they are produced at the same quantity as the fretted Stingrays the numbers are 'limited.'

    Perhaps I'm just lame and not hip anymore (not that I really ever was!). But I don't know...
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 27, 2021
  2. ClassicJazz

    ClassicJazz Bottom Feeders Unite!! Supporting Member

    Sep 19, 2005
    Delray Beach, Florida
    While I love the Stingrays and Sterlings basses, not a big fan of their fretless basses. Those basses are awesome funk power houses, but in my opinion don't really lend themselves to a good fretless tone. I had a Sterling (prefer the thinner neck) fretless, ended up selling it because of the tone. Again in my opinion, but Jazz type basses sound better as a fretless.
  3. mikeswals

    mikeswals Supporting Member

    Nov 18, 2002
    Seattle / Tacoma
    I've been lucky enough to have owned a couple. There just didnt seem to be that many of them made, so yeah they're hard to find.
    SteveCS likes this.
  4. 2milehighspike

    2milehighspike Supporting Member

    Why would they sound different just because they’re fretless, I have a BFR Stingray Special Fretless and it sounds huge. I know everyone has different ears and all but to me that doesn’t make sense. I think the reason they are hard to find is that they weren’t made in large numbers and when one acquires one they don’t let them go because they are that good.
  5. Inara

    Inara Fierce Fun Fretless Female Supporting Member

    Jun 12, 2017
    Seattle, WA USA
    As for tone, can anyone say Pino?

    They do seem rare, which is sad. Pino's tone was a lot more influential on me than Jaco's, and I'd love to someday have an old fretless Ray.
    MonetBass, 600 Ohms, cemunk and 15 others like this.
  6. ClassicJazz

    ClassicJazz Bottom Feeders Unite!! Supporting Member

    Sep 19, 2005
    Delray Beach, Florida
    They definitely sound different, that is the whole idea of a fretless. You have string against wood, not metal. And you can be more expressive then a fretted. Most times you think of fretless you think the tone from guys like Jaco, Gary Willis, Steve Bailey, Mark Egan...etc. I was never able to get a good fretless tone out of my Sterling fretless, especially compared other fretless basses I had...and have. Mainly Jazz type basses, Fender, Sadowsky... My current fretless is a Japanese Crews Maniac Sound 5 string that is a monster in regards to tone.

    Again, not knocking the Musicman basses. I have played them for many years. Also, when I bought my Sterling fretless from Bass Central, they told me they are hard to find basically because they don't make many compared to fretted models.
  7. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    I was in a similar position back in 2017, and eventually just had to jump the minute I found one by throwing down a holding deposit without even thinking about it. Thankfully it turned out to be a rather good one, and quickly became my #1.
    foal30 and JRA like this.
  8. jdaunt

    jdaunt Supporting Member

    Jun 30, 2016
    Grand Blanc, MI
    They stopped making fretless a few years ago, and before that they were pretty limited in quantity. The cheapest one i’ve seen lately (have also been hunting one) has been the BFR one from 2019 at $2,500. Used prices are high on them because they aren’t made anymore. I ended up just buying a Fender Tony Franklin instead and loving it so far, so should end my SR searching, for a bit.
    eastcoasteddie, Joshua and Bushmaster like this.
  9. skortch


    Apr 28, 2007
    Interesting. When I think of favorite fretless bass tones two that come to mind quickly are Tony Levin and Pino in the 70s and 80s. Pretty sure MM Stingrays both.
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2021
    eastcoasteddie, Joshua, bebi and 4 others like this.
  10. sawzalot

    sawzalot Supporting Member

    Oct 18, 2007
    Secret weapon is the EBMM USA Sterling, which is a KILLER fretless. Keep your eye out for those too. Might be easier to find and probably less expensive.
  11. LowEndLobster

    LowEndLobster Bass reviewer and youtube dude guy. Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 29, 2003
    Northern MA
    You can get a fretless neck from Status graphite for about 500 usd shipped. I just got one for a ... Project. Might be easier than hunting down a factory fretless (and you'll have an extra neck!)
    amper, woodyng2, JRA and 5 others like this.
  12. I owned a fretless USA SUB 5. Basically a fretless 2 band stingray with slab body.

    It was a nice bass. But it's tone, the 2 band single pickup tone of a ray, to me at least, wasn't conducive to showing off fretless MWAH tone. I've always preferred a more middy tone with a fretless, but still with definition. The treble center frequency of a stingray 2 band isn't great on a fretless imho (it should be lower frequency on a fretless), and the mid goes from "slightly" forward if you don't mind losing a ton of level by turning down both bass most of the way and treble controls down a little lower than half way (bass is boost, treble is cut/boost)... but even then the pickup of a ray hides some of the harmonics and mids that are so great for fretless.

    That was why I sold mine, that and the weight and discomfort of a slab body, but mostly the tone.

    Fretted are amazing, although same issue but it works for fretted. Fretless? to my ears? not so much.

    Precision is amazing for fretless, and of course jazz pickup configuration, or doublej near the bridge works great too. The ray pickup is too far from the bridge, and too far from the neck, to be either, and those are the best fretless tones imho.

    So I don't get the love either. HOWEVER, a 3 band would have helped a lot, and the pickup switching settings for series/parallel/single might have helped some too. But it's really the pickup location for me that fails for fretless.
  13. If you’re looking for a fretless stingray at a good price search for a Sterling by musicman ray34CAFL. I had one for a while and loved the sound and quality at the price. Mainly just sold it because I’m primarily a 5 string guy. I’ve owned 4 musicman basses and to me the Ray 34 and 35 basses are pretty much exactly like a 90s mia Musicman. The main differences are finishes and little things like they don’t have a compensated nut like the newer high end musicmans. 5C1E4663-F658-4348-8CED-5F61102A8387.jpeg
    getrhythm, Bushmaster and sludgetail like this.
  14. sludgetail


    Feb 26, 2018
    Orange, CA
    Also don’t forget about the great Piezo models, had a piezo in the bridge and an extra knob on there — not sure if these were only on the USA Sterlings, or on Rays too, but they sounded bitchin when I heard em live. Some nice demos of em on YouTube too. Good luck in your search, I’ve sent requests in to EBMM for more non BFR fretless models please do the same both via email and on Instagram, hopefully they get back to some regular production models soon. Have a great wknd brotha
    Bushmaster likes this.
  15. drumvsbass


    Aug 20, 2011
    Although I have never outrightly owned one, I have played 5 stingray fretlesses (2x4's, 3x5's) all were fantastic. All that clank on a fretted becomes super growl on the top. It would be a safer bet than anything Fender had until recently (Tony Franklin) and less expensive than anything super boutique.
    Bushmaster likes this.
  16. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    I like fretless sting rays. Like them better than fretless J basses but not as much as Ps.
    I'd like fretless stingrays more if they came as passive basses too.
    Bushmaster likes this.
  17. TheLowDown33

    TheLowDown33 Supporting Member

    Jul 4, 2009
    Contrary to many in this thread, I actually find stingrays (and even more so, sterling) to be one of the best fretless platforms. I have a USA sterling 4H and the mwah is almost too present! The 3 band EQ helps, and the 3 way switch is very nice because you can run it in single coil to bring the Jaco, or run it in series and get a nice round tone.
  18. burgerdj


    Dec 4, 2006
    They gotta build what sells, so I don’t hold anything against them. But I really wish they built more Sterling basses, particularly the occasional fretless 5. I’m very happy with my fretless 4 (Warwick), but I bought it because I couldn’t find the Music Man!
  19. Pirate Captain

    Pirate Captain Elitist Jazz Snob ********

    Dec 22, 2016
    Upstate, NY USA
    was just about to say this
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  20. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    I was on the same hunt for over a year. I even posted a thread a lot like this.

    I wound up "settling" for a G&L L2000 fretless. And I'm so glad I did! Nothing against the Ray. Pino's fretless Ray tone is exactly what started me in my journey.

    But the L2000 is a versatile machine! It will get right up to the Ray tone. But then it will do so much more. Do yourself a favor a try one if you can.
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2021
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