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Musicman Sterling or Bongo ? Please Help!

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by friction7, Sep 25, 2005.

  1. friction7


    Aug 26, 2005
    Malden, MA
    Hi everyone I've been reading TB for a month or two now,but this is my first post.

    I'm currently looking to upgrade from my OLP Stingray. For a while I was thinking of an Am Fender Jazz Deluxe, but the Musicman Sterling and Bongos caught my eye lately. I really enjoy that punchy growl that they get. Yesterday I went to Guitar Center to check out the much raved about bongo bass. It seems all there musicman basses were on clearance, bongos and sterlings were about $800!! They had a black bongo, a lava red bongo, and a red sterling. My problem was I can't decide between them. I picked up the sterling and really liked it. The neck was so smooth and thin, the bass was so light, it just seemed to play so nice. The sound it had was great, a real punchy bass. It appears it had a good setup and the pickups were raised pretty high to the strings which was helping it with the throaty growl sound. After that I tried the two bongos both of which weren't setup that good I think. The orange one had pretty high action though and felt like the strings had more tension then the black bongo. The black one felt better with lower action, but the sound on both of them just wasn't as puncy or growly as the sterling. I also didn't like the neck as much compared to the sterling, and the painted finish on the back of it. But that is something I could get use to I guess, my main concern is sound. Reading about how the bongo can get almost any tone, that of the ray and the jazz bass, really grabbed my attention. I then had the humbucker raised on the black bongo. It def made it sound better, and more of that growl that the sterling had. I also noticed that the sterling had each metal pole pickup on the humbuck set to different heights, where as the bongos were all set flat. Can the bongo's individual poles be set to different heights? If that's the case, that could be another reason that can throw the comparison off.

    So now I'm stuck trying to decide on which bass, and I want to get it soon because of the awesome sales price. The two bongos weren't setup as well as the sterling I believe. I want to buy the sterling and liked it the best when comparing due to feel and sound, but with reading all the positive bongo response and great reviews and how its better then the sterling, I'm stuck between the two. I'm thinking the bongos didn't get a fair chance in comparison because of the poor setup, and when I adjusted the pickup height I started liking it a lot more. Is it true that the bongo can get the same sound the sterling can then some? Do you think the sterling sound is pretty versatile too? Can it get close to the jbass sound? Does the feel of the neck play a big role in deciding basses for you guys or would you sacrifice that a little for sound? Would they setup both basses the same for better comparison for a clearance item, especially since it's Guitar Center.?

    After reading about it so much I wanted to get a bongo, but that sterling just sounded nicer, but that could be do to setup. So if you guys give me reassuring advice that the bongo is all the sterling sound and more, I would buy the bongo if it had better sound even though the sterling neck and body feels nicer. One more question, I liked the lava red bongo color a lot more then their black one, but the black one sounded nicer, strings pressed smoother, and had a lot less tension on the strings. Could all this be due to setup, or is it inherent differences in the manufacturing? I don't want the color to stop me, but I would go for the red if a setup would fix it. Sorry for ranting and such a long post. Looking forward to hear your options so I can make a decision. Thanks a lot!
  2. out of those 2, Bongo...
  3. Mental Octopus

    Mental Octopus

    May 24, 2003
    if it's versatility you're looking for...get a bongo.
  4. Greg Johnsen

    Greg Johnsen

    May 1, 2005
    Hickory NC
    go with the sterling. If you like the way it feels better, then go with it, because tone isn't just from the pups, it's also from your fingers, you can make any bass versitile if your skill will allow it.

  5. friction7


    Aug 26, 2005
    Malden, MA
    Yea I want some versatility but can the bongo get that beuatiful sound I was hearing from the sterling with the proper setup?

    Thanks for the responses so far. Do any of you guys have suggestions to some of my questions though. Ex:

    Can the bongo's individual poles on the humbuck be set to different heights like the sterlings?

    Is it true that the bongo can get the same sound the sterling can then some?

    Do you think the sterling sound is pretty versatile too? Can it get close to the jbass sound? how about j on the bongo?

    Does the feel of the neck play a big role in deciding basses for you guys or would you sacrifice that a little for what sounds better?

    Thank you very much again!
  6. Soulfinger


    Sep 20, 2004
    Houston, TX
    Just because the Bongo has been getting a lot of press lately, don't let that take away from what a Sterling can do. Also, even if a Bongo is set up correctly, it will not sound like a Sterling. The sterling has a lot of variety in it, thanks to it's coil-tapping ability.

    I am fortunate to have both Bongo and Sterling, and they both do their own things. In terms of shear impact, my Sterling can crush my Bongo like a bug.

    I say, if the Sterling is a good one and it speaks to you, go for it--especially at those prices. I paid a lot more for mine, and it was worth every penny. And, if it doesn't work out, you can flip it for about what you paid for it.
  7. loendmaestro


    Jan 15, 2004
    Vienna VA
    Sterlings sometimes get a bad rap for some reason. That's the only Music Man/Ernie Ball product that I'd ever want...
  8. if your willing to pay full price Sterlings also now come in HH and H single coil setups.
  9. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Both Sterlings and Bongos are fine basses, and you will be able to do anything you need with either of them. So buy the one you like the looks of the most.
  10. $800 for a sterling? ....what a deal.
  11. fookgub


    Jun 5, 2005
    Houston, TX
    As far as I know, the Bongo's polepieces are not adjustable (but I didn't think the Sterling's were, either). I believe the Bongo pickups are radiused to match the fingerboard radius.

    I can't really answer any of your other questions. I like the Bongo better, but it's all just a matter of opinion. EBMM wouldn't make Sterlings if everyone wanted Bongos only. It sounds like you like the tone and feel of the Sterling better. That should give you a hint right there. But if you want to make sure you get the very best bass for yourself, I guess you'll just have to buy both ;)
  12. Alvaro Martín Gómez A.

    Alvaro Martín Gómez A. TalkBass' resident Bongo + cowbell player

    I have a Bongo and also played a Sterling. Both are awesome basses, but the initial reason why I chose a Bongo is because it's the only EBMM model with 24 frets. Besides, I really like its looks, which, as maybe you already know, is a big point of controversy here at TalkBass. That's why to me it's still strange to see that where I live, everybody is frankly stunned when see my Bongo for the first time (maybe the underdevelopment has to do with it?). Only two guys have told me that they don't like its appearance, but not because the toilet seat thing. Just because they're fans of a classic look.

    While the Sterling is a versatile bass, I think the Bongo is even more versatile (well, maybe the new two-pups Sterlings will match Bongos in versatility). I have the two humbuckers with piezos configuration and I'm still amazed of the different tones I can get from my bass. Besides, this is my first piezo-equipped bass and now I think how could I live without the piezo sound for such a long time. It's nothing special for regular fingerstyle basslines, but the slap sound gets a really nice and special growl with the piezos, not to mention they're excellent for playing solo pieces.

    Hope this helps.