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Getting the right sound out of a MM Sterling.

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Odinbass, Mar 6, 2008.

  1. Odinbass


    Dec 6, 2006
    Cleveland, OH
    Right now I am using a Musicman Sterling with a Nordstrand MM4 pickup installed. I run straight into an Ampeg BA115HPT combo amp.

    The Sterling feels and plays great but I'm having a hard time getting the right sound out of it.

    I'm looking for a nice big bottom end with tight mid-punch. I also want high end clarity that allows upper register fills to really pop out. I've run into some issues in attaining this sound:

    The Sterling doesn't have a naturally big bottom. If I crank the bass EQ and cut some of the highs/mids it becomes bigger but at the expense of muddying the entire sound. In addition, if I really push these lowest notes hard, the sound becomes kind of farty. Perhaps this could be called the Musicman 'growl' but I want room filling bass when I ring out a drop D. Y'know?

    Also - despite being known for midrange punch, I've found that my mid-register notes actually have the least amount of punch. They are particularly weak when played in the lower frets. This might be a neck issue, but the fact remains that this range of notes is lacking force. The lowest notes are the ones with the mid-punch and the middle notes just have nothing.

    Overall it's just not cutting through like these basses are supposed to. By itself, it has a very aggressive tone which you'd expect to slice through the mix. However I'm getting the sense that with all the treble growl it puts out, it is hitting along the same frequencies as the guitars in my band but isn't loud enough to compete with a Mesa half-stack... thus getting lost.

    I think my guitarist pinned down the situation best when he said: "I couldn't really hear you at all but then if you stopped playing I noticed."

    Thats basically the pheonomeon I'm experiencing. My bass is there, adding to the sound, but is blending a bit too well.

    I believe in the reputation Musicman basses have, they are good instruments. Therefore, I feel like my weak link here is my amp. I mean its a $700 combo amp. For tweaking I have only a simple 3-band EQ and the lame 'style selector' switch. Plus - I'm cranking an aggressive active-pickup bass through 220w and a single 15" speaker. I'm no expert but it sounds like the amp could be the culprit.

    I really like the look of this bass and have obviously invested some $ in it. I'd like it to work out for me. Any suggestions would be welcome!
  2. PunkerTrav


    Jul 18, 2001
    Canada & USA
    220W and a single 15 just won't cut it against a tube guitar stack.

    Try borrowing/renting a bigger fig for a rehearsal. A few of your issues would probably clear up.
  3. honeyboy


    Oct 31, 2004
    I have a different amp set-up but here's what I do. When using a Behringer 3000T (300w) through a 15 inch 600watt Carvin speaker I slightly boost the bass knob on my Sterling-this thickens the sound nicely. I may boost the mids on the bass slightly as well. slightly means just past the detente position. I may lower the high knob just below the detente position. On the amp head I boost the low mid position from noon (flat) to about 1:00 or 1:30. I may boost the lows knob a bit but usually leave it flat.Sometimes I boost the mids knob as well, just past the flat positions for more punch and prescence. I find a little goes a long way on both the bass and the amp. This allows it to cut through without being to muddy, as you described.
    My Sterling is very sensitive to too much EQing and as I said earlier, a little goes a long way.
  4. new amp. All of a sudden you'll be like so this is what a sterling sounds like!
  5. jlepre


    Nov 12, 2007
    Parsippany, NJ
    4x10 my friend:smug:
  6. mynan


    Nov 7, 2007
    Grand Haven, MI
    Anyone else have any experience with the Nordstrand pickup in a MM? What the OP says about how a Sterling should sound is correct with the stock pickup, but not necessarily with an aftermarket.
  7. Baird6869

    Baird6869 RIP Gord Downey. A True Canadian Icon.

    I am in the same boat. I have a new SR and a Sterling. The Stering sonds better when I practice at a low volume than the SR, but at a full volume practice last night, it didn't cut as well as my SR.

    I may just need to play around a bit more with the Sterling, but I thought they would sound much closer.
  8. Sparkdog

    Sparkdog Supporting Member

    Sep 18, 2006
    Burbank, CA
    The previous poster nailed it...a single 15 is just not going to have the range and ability to move enough air to compete with loud guitar.

    A good 4x10 cab would be a lot louder and punchier.

    But the other thing that caught my attention is the pickup you have in that Sterling. I know Nordstrand makes great pickups, but I have no idea how that one would compare to the stock MM humbucker.

    PUNCH is what the Sterling MM pickup is all about. I had a Sterling HS (still miss that beauty) and it was so punchy on the back pickup I would have to turn the mids down because it was physically painful to stand in front of the cab!

    I think your rig is definitely a factor here, and the pickup could possibly be a factor as well.
  9. mikeluch

    mikeluch Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 30, 2004
    Ocala, FL
    I agree with Sparkdog since I own his Sterling:) I was at practice last week and the guys were commenting on how much punch the thing had. If I want to stand out this is the one to do it!!
  10. vcs700s


    Nov 17, 2006
    Stephenson, VA
    I have a Sterling and I have no problems with low end or mids at all.

    Of course I have the stock p.u. which by and large is one of the reasons I bought the bass. The MM pickups are great!

    I play through Eden 10" cabs and it sounds awesome.

    Your problem may be a combination of an aftermarket p.u. and the wrong amp.
  11. epoxo57

    epoxo57 Supporting Member

    Feb 17, 2005
    Perrysburg, Ohio
    yep, I got one of those Nordies in my Sterling and really like it compared to the stock which sounded too aggressive and brittle to me. I would agree, set flat on the bass, the bass is soft compared to my passive Warwick Corvette. To my ears, its makes it sound more like its big brother, especially in parallel mode. I agree about getting "the sound" 100% of the time. Solo, yea, its got grind, but I think it sits well in the mix based on listening live to other bands. With that in mind, I have heard where the grind really comes out of sitting nicely if plucked hard or, like I do, bang the strings with fingers like a pseudo-Levin "fingers" move with those sticks. For amps, I recommend a GK--they bode well with MM's and are louder than Ampegs. I'll put my little Backline 112 combo up against my old SVT III any day!
  12. whitedk57


    May 5, 2005
    Franklin, NC
    I also have the Nordy in my Sterling. Unfortunately, I don't have any loud "playing with the band" experiences to share - kinda lacking in the band situation right now.

    Like the poster just before me, I prefer the sound of the Nordys to those of the stock pups - sounds more like the Stingray (which I craved, but with the smaller neck and less weight).
  13. 73jbass

    73jbass Supporting Member

    Apr 17, 2004
    The Nordie pu has alnico magnets,whereas the stock mm pup has ceramic. I've owned MM basses with the basslines alnico and they sounded fantastic.The ones I currently own are stock,and sound great too. Your problem isn't the bass or pickups,you need a different rig. I play my MM basses through a Thunderfunk head,and an Avatar neo 410,and get the greatest tone on the planet.I always get compliments on my tone.A good clean sounding head,300watt minimum,and a quality 410 cab will get you in the right direction.
  14. debassr


    Jan 23, 2008
    I leave the EQ flat across the board on my Sterling and make adjustments on my BA115 Ampeg combo. I think I'm getting the type of tone you're talking about.

    In certain temporary situations I'll cut the treb under the flat setting on the bass itself but other than that - it's flat.

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