Interesting discovery with the SBMM Ray24 and SUB

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by LowEndLobster, Nov 12, 2020.

  1. LowEndLobster

    LowEndLobster Bass reviewer and youtube girl Supporting Member

    Oct 29, 2003
    Northern MA
    Hey all,

    Some of you may know that the SUB is one of my favorite modding platforms. I've done many videos (and many more coming) on various SUB mod projects over the past 8+ months, swapping in and out various pickup and preamp combos and owning multiple examples. One thing that has never been abundantly clear is- what's the difference between the Ray4 (SUB) and Ray24. Various vendor website as well as the official SBMM have conflicting and vague (as well as inaccurate!) descriptions of the Ray24 and its components.

    The official SBMM website lists the pickup for the Ray24 as the H-1 Ceramic humbucker (same listed as SUB), a 2 band preamp "designed to provide the warm 70's sound", "mahogany" slab body, improved bridge, narrower nut (from a standard ray), and that's about it.


    Well, I finally got one in the other day and decided to open 'er up and see what the deal is.

    Let's start with the preamp- It's the exact same as the SUB. Exact same.


    I find that kind of deceiving to state that this preamp was "designed to provide the warm 70's sound" for the Ray24, yet say nothing more than 9v 2 band preamp for the Ray4/SUB when they're exactly the same. That's not to say the preamp wasn't designed for this sound, but to leave it out of the less premium product and then include that statement for the Ray24 makes it seem as if they're potentially different preamps.

    Onto the pickup, they are very much not the same pickup, even though the website has them both listed as H-1 Humbucker. The Ray4 is using a ceramic humbucker with a single wire that has two layers (I forget what that's called), the outside being the ground and inside (shielded of course) being the hot. The Ray24 on the other hand appears to have alnico magnets (lighter gray vs black, pretty sure this is alnico), and copper shielding present. The wiring of the Ray24 pickup is also the more "traditional" Stingray wiring, giving you the ability to setup a series/parallel/single switch, whereas the SUB pickup does not have that flexibility.

    (left is SUB, right is ray24)


    In regards to the body material, the grain through the finish doesn't look like mahogany. This might be some of that "eastern mahogany", common on cheaper instruments, but this doesn't appear to have the same type of grain as what we'd consider "mahogany".

    The neck is exactly the same for the Ray4/SUB and Ray24, the 24 just has a vintage tint to it. They're otherwise identical in both dimension and wood quality. Tuners are the same, control plate, pots, and push on knobs are the same.

    The bridge is the other big differentiating factor, and is a nice upgrade from the cheaper SUB bridge. That being said, there wasn't much wrong with the regular SUB bridge in terms of functionality, and could be easily modded with a dremel and $35 mute kit to look like a classic bridge (or swapped out for an aftermarket bridge) if you're looking for something different.

    The regular price of a Ray4/SUB is $299 USD, and the Ray24 $499 USD. The $200 difference yields a difference in body material (whether it's an upgrade or not is anyone's guess), an upgraded pickup, different finish (I've had no qualms or issues with SUB finishes both matte and gloss), tinted neck, and upgraded bridge. Is it worth it? That's not for me to decide, everyone's different and $200 means something different to everyone. Personally, I'd go for an SUB and mod it, but I'm glad I have the opportunity to investigate this further and clear up any questions regarding the differences between these two instruments.

    I'll be doing a full review video on the Ray24, as well as a comparison between a Ray4/SUB w/ an Aguilar pickup and stock preamp, stock/stock, as well as other SUB and EBMM Stingray content looking at the differences between these. Hope this helped clear some things up about the differences between these two models! Lobster OUT!
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2020
  2. P Cheen

    P Cheen Alembics and parametric mid knobs scare me.

    Apr 4, 2015
    Southern Oregon
    This is very interesting and eye-opening. I apologize if the Ray24 is a bit underwhelming, considering I probably hyped that up too much for you on the YouTube and Instagram comment sections.

    It does make me feel I was cheated, as I also got a Ray24 about a month ago and it is now my go-to bass at the moment. Not to say that the Ray4 or the Ray24 are bad, but because of their $200 difference. I’m not mad though, every time I visit my local GC I tend to gravitate towards and enjoy noodling on their selection of Ray4/5 or Ray24/25’s.

    I actually very much enjoy my Ray24, and this I can say with confidence long after the “honeymoon” period is done. I quite like the 2-band preamp, but I have a beginner-level experience with active systems so what do I know. I did briefly own a Ray34PB, and I didn’t find a night-and-day difference between that and the Ray24, especially with the feel of the neck and the fretwork.

    I’m looking forward to your videos relating to the Ray24! I did purchase a Nordstrand MM4.2 pickup for it, but it does seem like the stock pickups are already alnico so...
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  3. Lesfunk

    Lesfunk Bootlegger guitars : S.I.T. Strings Supporting Member

    Apr 5, 2007
    Florida USA
    My suspicion is that they may have simply taken the pickup and bridge from the Ray 34.
    The body might be Nato which is often passed off as mahogany on low end instruments.
    the body wood, lack of contours and tint finish on the neck are not enough to swing the vote for me.
    At this time I’m glad that I went with a SUB and modded to my tastes for the same price.
    Thanks Lobster!
    Jeffrey Watts, 60bass, Artman and 4 others like this.
  4. P Cheen

    P Cheen Alembics and parametric mid knobs scare me.

    Apr 4, 2015
    Southern Oregon
    I suspect the same about the bridge being the same as the one on the Ray34, but the pickups on the Ray34 actually have a physical difference on the casing so I can’t say for certain it is the same on the Ray24. The pickup on the Ray34 has a thumb-rest or a ramp of sorts, meanwhile the one on the Ray24 is shaped the same as on the Ray4/SUB. It has 2 “ears” or notches on the bass side.

    The nato/nyatoh might well be plausible, but I’m simply not observant enough with wood grains to identify. I can, however, provide a shot of the grain on my Ray24. I can say for certain that it is heavy. As for the slab body, it’s one of the Ray24’s proudest aspects (LOL) - because...vintage spec. :roflmao:
    eriky4003, LowEndLobster and Lesfunk like this.
  5. Lesfunk

    Lesfunk Bootlegger guitars : S.I.T. Strings Supporting Member

    Apr 5, 2007
    Florida USA
    Hmmmmmm.... the plot thickens!

    still.... it could be the same pickup as the Ray 34. The covers may be the only difference.
    That seems like it would be easier and cheaper to switch covers than to source an entirely new pickup for a bass at that price point...
    I’m just late night speculating here so forgive me
    MAXSPINRUN and LowEndLobster like this.
  6. Yahboy


    May 21, 2008
    I been mention the same preamp are using on both Sub Ray4 and Ray24ca at Talkbass Ray4Ray5 club before. But, when i bump that Ray24ca Bass knob , she has lessssss SubRay4 kind like distorted problem.

    I also recall that someone report that Ray24ca pup are wire in series stock which sound muddy and lifeless.
    zapped777 likes this.
  7. P Cheen

    P Cheen Alembics and parametric mid knobs scare me.

    Apr 4, 2015
    Southern Oregon
    That’s very true. And based on Lobster’s photos of the pickups, the Ray24’s looks to be made well, with copper shielding and all.

    I tried my best to capture the grain on my Ray24:



    Instead of the Nordstrand pickup, I should’ve just gotten a better preamp instead!
    zapped777, shojii, JoePDX and 4 others like this.
  8. Lesfunk

    Lesfunk Bootlegger guitars : S.I.T. Strings Supporting Member

    Apr 5, 2007
    Florida USA
    Yeah, who knows? It doesn’t look very much like mahogany to me either but I’ve been known to be wrong...

    I was thinking the same thing regarding your nordstrand
    Look at it this way
    What a great excuse to get a new preamp! Yay
  9. Great comparison!

    In terms of stock instrument (before modding) how different do they sound to each other when plugged into the same amp, given the different magnet?

    How does the Ray slab feel compared to the slab of a Tele/51 Fender P body, for those who know them both in terms of playing and ergonomics? I don't have much experience with slab bodied apart from my 51 which has started to feel... "a bit slab" lately. But shape and thickness play a role too, I guess.

    I have often been thinking: why have MM called their "sub/tribute" line the same as the famous US Stingray alternative with selector on the market for some decades now? Are they still being produced new?
    Giffro likes this.
  10. Further to my previous post: how do those Sterling BY MusicMan (again... not the MM Sterlings... see my point?) compare to similar offerings such as Squier Classic Vibe and G&L Tribute?
    I know that electronics and circuitry come cheap to mass produce nowadays on micro boards, but I was wondering if those added features actually are a weak point/detraction rather than a plus on cheaper instruments, instead of featuring a few solderings and a cap by intentional design.
    I remember that on cheaper instruments from the 90s they tended to be so, the active HH Squier that you (@LowEndLobster ) reviewed IIRC didn't leave you particularly impressed with the electronics... But that's a different brand and model. I think things have also come a long way in terms of quality/cost for those features in the last decades, so I'd rather not jump to conclusions. It's just that I did start in the 90s with 5 strings, at least 5 knobs on my basses and such, but have been mainly gravitating towards passive Fenders for more than 10 years, so I'm not that up to date.
    JoePDX, LowEndLobster and Giffro like this.
  11. Giffro

    Giffro Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2017
    South Australia
    Once again the naming convention by MM makes things Indonesian made Sterling By Music Man S.U.B. Ray4 being a classic example of confusing naming.
    Sterling By MM SUB RAY4 and Rumble 500C 115Cab.JPG
  12. Smooth_bass88

    Smooth_bass88 vaxx!

    Oct 31, 2006
    Western Hemisphere
    If it were me I'd play it safe and just buy a US StingRay.
  13. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    The short answer is that Stingrays have preamps. All of them (except some of the old US made SUBs, which are different than today's imported SUBs). The 2-band boost only is the original Leo Fender design, the 3-band cut/boost was designed after Ernie Ball took over the brand. Having a passive Stingray sort of mises the point.

    A better question is whether the Sterling imported pres sound different (worse) then the US made preamps.
    Artman and MAXSPINRUN like this.
  14. LowEndLobster

    LowEndLobster Bass reviewer and youtube girl Supporting Member

    Oct 29, 2003
    Northern MA
    Way ahead of you buddy ;P.
    Jeffrey Watts likes this.
  15. eastcoasteddie

    eastcoasteddie Guest

    Mar 24, 2006
    Both pickups indeed have Ceramic magnets, as evident by the two long bars running under the pole pieces.
    this is a Kiesel/Carvin HB (MM style) with true AlNiCo magnets:
    I love the way Kiesel runs the pole-piece shielding’s downright sexy. The AlNiCo magnets are the pole pieces themselves whereas the Ceramic magnets are the bars under the iron pole pieces.

    they could be the same pickup, just wired differently. The SUB with the two wires is the traditional Stingray way, where it is wired in parallel under the cover (though I think someone on here said once that the SUB is actually wired in Series...must use an ohm meter to check). But I can see from the photo that the Ray24 pickup IS wired in series. If you take the Red and White pair to ground you will cancel that coil and have SC mode (hint...). Parallel wiring would have Black/Red together as Hot, and White/Green together on ground.
  16. MaxSpinrun

    MaxSpinrun Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 10, 2012
    Knoxville, Tn
    I did both. Got the Nordy pup and put in a John East MM pre. The pre is worth the price! 3 band with sweepable mids. 81D1B50A-32C1-42BF-BEE8-52FA04E266D4.jpeg F0919EB4-04F2-4C9A-84F4-146752FB613B.jpeg
  17. MaxSpinrun

    MaxSpinrun Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 10, 2012
    Knoxville, Tn
    Here is what the Nordstrand MM DUAL Coil pup looks like. A037AABF-6AE7-4CF5-9D77-1E988E829E4B.jpeg
  18. Murivan

    Murivan Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2020
    Huntington (WV, USA)
    Correct me if I am wrong but AlNiCo and Ceramic are two different materials, not necessarily correlated with the pickup design (bar vs poles). You can have a bar made of AlNiCo (as that colour in Lobster pickup "seems" to suggest) and a bar made of Ceramic.
    It's uncommon to use an AlNiCo bar, so maybe just 2 different "qualities" for those 2 pickups?
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2020
  19. eastcoasteddie

    eastcoasteddie Guest

    Mar 24, 2006
    I have never heard of, and have never seen an AlNiCo bar magnet (in pickup design), not to say that they don’t exist...but I highly doubt an inexpensive pickup made over-seas would have one...Ceramic magnets are much cheaper, more plentiful, and easier to utilize in manufacturing, than AlNiCo - perfect recipe for a bass such as the SBMM SUB or the like.
    But traditional pickup design yields AlNiCo pole pieces and/or Ceramic Bar magnets.

    [I have no idea how Neodymium pickups are designed, with Neo pole pieces or a Neo bar magnet...or something else...]
    Jeffrey Watts and SteveCS like this.
  20. LowEndLobster

    LowEndLobster Bass reviewer and youtube girl Supporting Member

    Oct 29, 2003
    Northern MA
    Indeed! I'm not certain of the materials in the Ray24 pickup, but the bars are very clearly different from that in the Ray4/SUB. Light gray with a "sandy" visual texture as opposed to flat black. That being said, I see the examples you guys have posted from Keisel and Nordy (I should have taken pics of the Aggie and SD that I installed, I forget what the underside looks like), and see the difference in construction... The plot thickens! Also, thanks for letting me know that these are wired in series! After I do my review, I'm going to make a video where we rewire it in parallel and compare the results! I'm also going to dremel open one of the SUB pickups today to get a better look!