1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  

Musicman - Are there Distiguishable Eras of Production?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by DavidBassista, Dec 13, 2017.

  1. DavidBassista


    May 21, 2014
    People often classify Fender basses/guitars by various eras of production and use this to draw general conclusion about the desirability, quality or price of the instrument. Examples would be Pre-CBS, Late 60s/Early 70s, 70s boat anchors, 80's Fullerton, 2000 AVRIs, etc etc.

    I was wondering the same thing about Muiscman, especially the Stingray bass which has been around since the 70s. Also the Stingray 5 turned 30 this year.

    Question: It seem like this is much less the case with Musicman. Other than Leo Fender era Stingrays being desirable due to their vintage, are there notable differences in production years for Musicman/Stingrays? Does an 80s or 90s era have more cache, better production/more "handmadeness" than a contemporary example or are they all pretty homogeneous and uniform? There is no custom shop version of any of these basses lauding and hearkening back to some golden era of production like we see with Fender. Are these truly utilitarian, egalitarian, and standardized instruments across the years of production?
  2. JLW


    Dec 5, 2006
    San Francisco, CA
    The new ones are of similar build quality to the old ones, but they have better features. Things like truss rod wheels, compensated nuts, six-bolt neck joints, higher quality finishes, etc.

    But the new ones don't have the mojo of the old ones (mojo is one of those things that I personally think is a load of garbage, but a lot of people care about it so I thought I'd mention it).
    James Collins likes this.
  3. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    The biggest dividing line is Pre-Ernie Ball and Ernie Ball produced Music Man Basses. Certain features like adjustable mutes and string through bridges were on the Pre basses, while trussrod wheels and three band eq were featured on Ernie Ball Era basses. Also, the Stingray 5 is an Ernie Ball There is a lot, but other folks can share that information.
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2017
  4. I like the glossed necks on the models made prior to 1993 and I do prefer models with the mute bridge which ended sometime around 95/96. I also lean towards the classic models because of these features; just always liked gloss necks and prefer A mute option.
    Freekmagnet likes this.
  5. eastcoasteddie

    eastcoasteddie Supporting Member

    In my opinion, there is pre-EB, EB 90’s (my favorite era), and EB post-2000...
    mindwell likes this.
  6. Ampslut


    May 15, 2017
    The great thing about MusicMan is that there isn't a period when the build quality was lacking. They have always been top quality.
  7. Wood and Wire

    Wood and Wire

    Jul 15, 2017
    I have my favourites (and I also think Pre-EB instruments are vastly over valued).

    It breaks down like this :

    Pre-Ernie Ball - no body contours, string-through body, metal battery cover, 2 band EQ, bridge mutes, 3 bolt neck, bullet truss rod, original logo on headstock, gloss finish on neck with skunk stripe.

    Ernie Ball to 1987 - contoured body, top loading bridge, metal battery cover, 2 band EQ, bridge mutes, 4 bolt neck, bullet truss rod, original logo on headstock, gloss finish on neck with skunk stripe (very nicely figured Maple during this period - also, Poplar & Alder used for non-translucent finished instruments).

    Late 1987 - 3 band EQ option (and Stingray 5 introduced).

    1988 - Original logo removed from headstock (and the word "Bass" removed from name).

    1990 - Bullet truss rod removed from headstock, and replaced by truss wheel at base of neck (necessitating notched scratch plate), 6 bolt neck, Skunk stripe removed from back of neck.

    1992 - "Flea" bridge is introduced.

    1993 - Mute kit removed from bridge (though still possible to fit original mutes), gloss lacquer neck replaced by satin finish (some amazing Birdseye Maple necks during this period).

    1996 - Metal plate battery cover replaced by plastic battery box, original bridge completely replaced by small "Down-Sized" bridge (making refitting mutes impossible).

    1998 - Neck plate has the original Music Man logo (big M pinstriped trouser guys) removed, and replaced by Ernie Ball logo, and Music Man rectangle.

    2006 - Compensated nut replaces original.

    You honestly can't go wrong.

    The Pre-Ernie Ball instruments will hold their value, but they're heavy, and string through the body (which is less of an issue nowadays, but it could limit your string choices), depending on the vintage, there can be inconsistencies, and variability with the pre-amp, and neck stability.

    The early / mid 90's basses had some incredible figured maple necks, but didn't have the original logo, or skunk stripe.

    The current crop have a compensated nut, truss rod wheel, and 2 or 3 band EQ options etc, but less interestingly figured wood.

    The "Classic" range have all the benefits of modern, consistent build quality, beautifully figured wood, and the styling (including the mutes) of the Pre-Ernie Ball instruments, but they also have some of the quirks of the Pre-EB's too (heavy, slab body, string through body).

    It boils down to whether you want the advantages of progress, or the cache of vintage.

    Whether you value aesthetic over convenience.

    Gloss necks, or unfinished.

    Built in mutes, or taping on a piece of cloth.

    A hard-wearing battery plate, or a screwdriver free battery box.

    Etc. etc. etc.
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2017
  8. DavidBassista


    May 21, 2014
    Thanks for that summery. Sound's like most of the changes through the years have been rather minor and incremental, and there aren't any eras where production sucked etc. I was looking on their website the other day and they have several mentions about new robots that are in their production line, so it seems as if they are moving to a more automated process, but I guess that doesn't really effect the end result.

    Was there a time when they switched from ceramic to alnico pickups? I have an 98 and I think it has ceramic. Not really sure what the difference is.
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2017
  9. DavidBassista


    May 21, 2014
    Cool website.

    Question: Did the 70s era Stingrays ever have tort guards, and if they did, are they celluloid tortoiseshell guards like the 60s and early 70s Fenders?
  10. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    Happy to stand corrected but I thought that the StingRay had always been Alnico with ceramic used on the triple-coil Sterling bass.
  11. No tort before the 90s I think.

    While they have been pretty good basses without Bad eras they did have some bad eras of paint batches,I’ve had some and seen others. Seems to be early 2000s where they had blistering and cracking issues, I’ve owned 4 like this and seen A few others in person and more online.
  12. mouthmw


    Jul 19, 2009
    4 stringers have always been alnico. Fivers were ceramic at one point, and were switched to alnico, probably to distinguish them more from the Sterling model basses which were always ceramic.
  13. Skybone


    Jun 20, 2016
    Not forgetting the "3 Bolt", "4 Bolt" & "6 Bolt" neck joints.
  14. And 5 bolts on the Sterling!
  15. Skybone


    Jun 20, 2016
    Only had 2 StingRay's (4 & 6 Bolt), so don't know about the Sterling's.
  16. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    Yes - I was just thinking 4s.
    mouthmw likes this.
  17. Geri O

    Geri O Supporting Member

    Sep 6, 2013
    Florence, MS
    That switch to ceramic pups involved the SR5s and Sterlings. I don’t know about the Sterling time line, but ceramic pups were used in the SR5s from 1993 to 2008.

    I don’t have a big preference for one over the other, but I love the ceramics in my 1998, 2002, 2004, and my current 1999 SR5s.
  18. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    An interesting synopsis. From what you say my 'sold as 93' is more likely 92. Even though the serial number sits in the 93 range, there is a 92 stamp on the preamp and now your summary puts it firmly 92 - gloss birdeye neck, mute bridge, 'new logo etc. Honestly I don't really care but it seems there are, as always, instruments that fit in transition periods that don't fit the strict definitions.
    DSC_0008_11.JPG DSC_0013_2.JPG DSC_0006_15.JPG
  19. bigswifty1


    Dec 8, 2011
    Very interesting and thanks for that write-up. Someone will correct my hazy memory please - can someone fill me in on the pre-EB era where I think the 4-bolts were made by Charvel or someone?



Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.