MusicMan Basses - Three Options; Please rank

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by jaywa, Jul 29, 2009.

  1. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    Present and past MusicMan bass owners - I am considering three used bass options. I have never owned a MusicMan before (lifetime P-Bass guy). Please advise in what order you would consider these to be the most appealing:

    1) 1989 MusicMan Sterling - this one is in my local store currently and is the only one of the 3 that I've played. I really, really like the sound of this one, also the feel of the neck. However it has the maple board and I'm really looking for a rosewood since I already have maple with my P. And, I don't see a lot of guys playing Sterlings compared to StingRays so am wondering what's up with that.

    2) 1987 StingRay, 2-Band EQ - I don't see many 2-banders around and the price seems reasonably fair for something of this age in very good condition. However is a natural finish which is not really something I go for.

    3) 1991 StingRay, 3-Band EQ - Has the finish I really want (vintage Sunburst), but is a 3-band EQ which I have heard some say doesn't sound as good as the 2-banders.

    All of these basses are in good to near mint condition, the 89 Sterling being the least "mint" of the bunch. Asking prices for the three are ranging from $850 to $1,300.

    Thoughts? Thanks in advance.
  2. Quadzilla

    Quadzilla Supporting Member

    '87 two band for sure. The 3 band MM's don't sound the same. Significant difference for sure. 2 band is where it's at man!
  3. i think coming from a P-bass, you'll appreciate the bottom on the 2 bander. it's just different than the 3 banders...
  4. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    Can you clarify a bit? Do you mean the bottom on a 2-Band Ray is closest to the traditional P sound? Or something different?
  5. G2K

    G2K Guest

    Jul 21, 2008
    Simcoe County, ON. CA.
    Not that this should matter, the Sterling came out in 1993. I have one much newer and love it. Single H with the 3 way switch. They have ceramic pick ups and coupled with a maple board is quite bright. The neck also has a 1.500" nut width. I use flats and really dig the sound. Now recently I messed around with a P and also a Stringray 3 and 2 band. I will add another instrument to the mix in the near future if it isn't the P, it will be the 2 band SR.
    Good Luck
  6. K Marshall

    K Marshall Supporting Member

    Jun 10, 2003
    The neck profile on the Sterling is thinner than on the Stingrays. The body of the Sterling is also smaller. If you like the Sterling you may want to see if you can get your hands on a Stingray before buying just to make sure you're going to be okay with the beefier neck and the larger body. But since you're a P bass guy, you should like the Stingray neck, because they are a lot alike...

    IME, all Music Man basses are top notch, as far as quality goes. If you like the finish on #3, that is the one I would suggest.

    People who have the 2-band are going to say they are the way to go, and people who have the 3-band will say they are the way to go...although many Music Man players agree that the 2-band is best regardless. I've never spent any time with a 2-band Ray, so I can't honestly say if it is better or not. I would think that you could get the same tones out of the 3-band as you could out of the 2-band. It comes down to personal preference though.

    The only issue I have with a Stingray is it's a bit on the heavy side.

    So, if you can't get them all, I vote for #3. I'm going to guess that it is the cheapest of the 3 as well.
  7. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    Are you sure on that? They looked up the serial number for me at the music store and based on the Website they were looking at, the Sterling they had on consignment was made in 1989.

    EDIT: I looked this up on and indeed it says Sterlings only date back to 1993 with the first serial ## being in the 37000s. The serial number on the one in the store was a 28000 or 29000 IIRC. Wonder what's up with that?

    Also just for clarification, all three models I listed in the OP are the single humbucker configuration. At first I was gung-ho on the newer HH StingRays, but after A/Bing that against the single H Sterling at my music store I've cooled on the HH quite a bit.
  8. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    Yeah I've been thinking about that a lot. Ideally I would be "upgrading" (i.e., lighter weight) from my P, so that would tend to favor the Sterling... however considering my P is a 78 and therefore probably on the heavier side anyway, even a StingRay may be an improvement on the weight thing.

    The other thing on this particular Sterling I'm not real sold on is the finish. It's red, with a black PG and the maple board. It's OK I guess but not a combo that really jumps out and grabs me.
  9. Rano Bass

    Rano Bass

    Sep 9, 2006
    Tijuana Mex.
    Since you're used to P basses i think you'll be happy with the 2 band Stingray.
    The 3 band is not that different but it's easier to get a good sound with a 2 band Ray IMO.
  10. mikeswals

    mikeswals Supporting Member

    Nov 18, 2002
    Seattle / Tacoma
    2 band only for me.
  11. K Marshall

    K Marshall Supporting Member

    Jun 10, 2003
    I'm not big on red either. Chances are if you get the Sterling and you don't like the finish now, you'll only grow to like the finish even less as time passes and the newness of it wears off...
  12. I went from my 1977 Stingray to an early Ernie Ball SR5 three band. While there were obviously some differences, I actually liked the slightly tighter voicing of the three band Ernie Ball era instrument.

    That being said, they both sounded like MM Stingrays to me, and the differences were subtle to my ear, unless you really cranked the tone controls (which is a BAD idea on MM basses regardless of preamp type).

    IMO... they both sound great, and to my ear, at least at moderate EQ levels, sound more similar than different.