NBD: Sterling Stingray Ray4 SUB.

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by jnottoli, Sep 9, 2021.

  1. jnottoli


    Jul 22, 2004
    I have a new toy - maybe literally. I'll explain.

    It's a new Sterling Stingray Ray4 SUB.

    And I blame @LowEndLobster! :D

    He has been a awesome source of info for all things imported Stingrays.

    For every kind of Ray mod known to man (or crustacean), see his Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClpTFnWcfIg4pcgFZ8dRTyg .

    He modded 12 of these and did a side-by-side comparison of all of them - I think he compared eight different mods.

    Who am I?: (I didn't completely fill out my profile):smug:

    - "MiddleAgedMan", playing for 20+ years
    - Amateur, touring and paid gigging musician
    - Rock/pop/jazz - anything (though I'm not good at metal)
    - 4 & 5 string fretted & fretless basses - J-bass & Jack Read custom among them
    - Have always loved the Stingray sound & wanted one in my stable
    - I've been out of the game for awhile, so I can's justify a Classic MM Stingray from the 70s or 80s, or a more modern EBMM. I can't write them off anymore on taxes.

    The bass:

    I got it "used, good condition" from Guitar Center. $209 (USD). Taxed & shipped to my house for $245 (Ohio to Georgia). New is around $300 - no taxes or any applicable shipping. If you buy new stuff, GC ships for free.

    It should have been more $ (but don't tell GC)! It has a tiny nick at the top edge of the headstock (where all basses do!), but is otherwise absolutely MINT. The plastic is still on the PU and pick guard. No fingerprints on it! No case, but they packed the heck out of it!

    It has J bass-ish nut spacing - 38mm (I think). It has a classic burst (more subtle), not bright like on the Website. Here's all the specs: StingRay Ray4 - Sterling by Music Man
    It's satin finish, including the Maple neck (I like gloss on my Maple, but oh well.) Body is Basswood. My specimen is light - I think it weighs 9pounds or so on my analog bathroom scale.

    I got a Road Runner RR5TEB-ESP Highway Premium Electric Bass Gig Bag from Guitar Center for it (good enough I say): https://www.guitarcenter.com/Road-Runner/RR5TEB-ESP-Highway-Premium-Electric-Bass-Gig-Bag-Espresso-1500000338794.gc?rNtt=bass%20gig%20bag&index=8 ($99, at my local GC). Reunion Blues and many other fine cases cost as much as the bass! I can't swing that for this.

    Gotta give kudos on GC for this project - they really treated me right.


    I barely played this so far, but will tune it better & play it more. I'm in it for the body & the neck. The electronics are junk, the hardware - meh. I know that. I've played other import Rays and they would all play well after a new set of strings and a setup. I'll do that. But, they can play!

    I'm going to gut it and put in a Nordstrand MM4.2 PUp - Alnico V. I will check that out for a while, but may (very strongly may) put in a John East MM 3-band, 3 knob pre.

    Beginners may want to consider this or something from the imported SBMM series for their first bass. Lobster has a $50 pickup mod in his series - consider that. And, the pre it has is supposed to be pretty good. The more premium Ray24 has the same one. Buy a used bass, add a $50 PUp, new strings and a good setup & you'll have a really good package!

    Stingray Lovers like me may want to consider something like I'm doing as a good mod platform to get a good Ray for $500 or so, all in. Be sure to visit @LowEndLobster and his YouTube channel for some great ideas.

    So, there you have it.

    - JNottoli

    Attached Files:

    tindrum, MAXSPINRUN, MadJack and 10 others like this.
  2. LowEndLobster

    LowEndLobster Bass reviewer and youtube dude guy. Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 29, 2003
    Northern MA
    Congrats and thanks for the shout out :). Happy modding!
    MAXSPINRUN, Raman and murphy like this.
  3. jnottoli


    Jul 22, 2004
    It's all your fault. But that's a good thing! My GAS attack could have been SO much worse! :D
    LowEndLobster likes this.
  4. Nice score on a fun and good sounding bass to play. Though I already have a EBMM Stingray 5, I got a Sterling Sub 5 about 3 years ago for practice, backup and questionable weather gigs. Using an MXR M-80 really helps improve the sound.
  5. Hey Lobster, what Sterling Ray would you say gets closest to a USA Sterling? I've been waiting for them to revamp that guitar forever lol.
  6. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    I just bought a Sterling Ray 5HH SUB in the same lovely olive green that Lobster demoed on his channel. He did a great review and was spot about the the pre and string spacing and they the only downfalls really on this bass.
    The pre doesn’t really bother me the way I dial in my sound and I can get used to the string spacing. It’s just a backup and occasional gig bass. I’m thinking of changing out the pups and pre but in no hurry. The SUB line is allot of bass for the buck.
  7. LowEndLobster

    LowEndLobster Bass reviewer and youtube dude guy. Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 29, 2003
    Northern MA
    I'd say the discontinued SB14 is what you're after :)
  8. jnottoli


    Jul 22, 2004
    New, New Bass Day!


    Stingray Modders....

    I up & did it.

    What happened?


    - One afore-mentioned SBMM “used not very much” bass (reviewed in the original entry)

    - Nordstrand MM4.2 pickup

    - John East MMSR 3 knob 3 band preamp

    - D’Adarrio XL nickel strings - Med/Med light, however they define them

    - Parallel/series via a DPDT on-on switch


    The process:

    I did a setup with new strings and the bass played much better. Strings were US $20 @guitar Center.

    I gutted it like a fish. I copper foil grounded the cavity & cavity plate. The black grounding paint they took five seconds to slap in there shows NO electric continuity - worthless. Stew Mac has the real paint, but then I’d have to buy it, get it, use a small amount & leave the rest to dry up in the can. I had the copper foil.

    I drilled the plate for the switch - slooooowly, with a hand drill. The plate was painter taped to a scrap piece of wood & placed in a vice. Leather gloves & full eye protection. Go slooooow!

    I had to Dremel the pick guard PUp hole to accommodate the Nordstrand PUp. Again, low setting. Work slowly.

    I finally made sense of the Nordstrand wiring diagram they circulate, which I think is labelled in a confusing manner, but then I’m no rocket surgeon (as you will soon see below).

    The preamp is pre-harnessed, put the pots though the plate & done. Pickup wires go into two lugs, solder the ground wire, solder the cut battery leads if you don’t want to pull out entire battery box.

    The hardest part was soldering wiring onto the tiny legs of the on-on switch. I was never a great solderer, but it’s worse now that I’m middle-aged & can neither see near, nor far!

    I don’t have a magnifying stand, the proper tools or space, so I screwed up the switch and and melted one of the legs. “Just stop right now!” I said to myself (actually it was probably some other choice words instead).

    I cut my losses. I picked it all up & took it to Guitar Center. I had another switch. The tech got it back to me in two days, easy-peasy.

    The sound:

    In a word “Yes!”.

    In more words: I’ve got a awesome classic Stingray for slightly over US $500, all in.

    It took me a bit to really learn the pre, and I’m still getting used to it. The treble & bass controls are very, very nearly 1976/1978 Stingray. John East (the Solid State Logic man) dissected the design & sound of his(?) classic MM pre and created this. Some more modern IC design & intentional quirks & here it is.

    Side note: John’s the nicest guy and will promptly respond to your inquiries, as they say over there. Another great experience.

    The mid is the x-factor to play with. Said to be introduced around 1987 (source: Webmaster of Music Man Bass Global - Home. Musicmanbass Global), the original 4 knob setup had a tone center of 500hz. East’s is sweepable from 400hz-1k, or up an octave from 800hz-2k, via two little dip switches on the pre’s circuit board. I left mine alone. Mid control can be dialed completely OUT of the sound.

    The parallel/series switch is interesting & gives me more possibilities, but I will usually leave it in parallel, of course.

    OK, yeah, get funky. Slap. Do that Stingray stuff & it sounds killer. The bass itself isn’t exactly like the ’76 three bolt, skunk stripe, maple board, ash joy that I played so long ago and have dreamt of ever since, but the package is oh, so close!

    I will note that @LowEndLobster reviewed these components in his excellent YouTube Stingray series (see the original entry), but not the Nordy AND the East TOGETHER. So, Lobster, you have some more work to do! ;)

    A couple of glitches:

    1) The pickup rocks around a bit although there is about an inch of neoprene padding under there, and I can hear it if I tap on the cover with my fingernail (completely muting the strings). Don’t know if those things are normal for MMs.

    2) If I get CRISPY with the EQ: 100% treble and pull the bright knob (hypes 5k a bit), I get a 60hz buzz - what’s with THAT? Shielded, hum-bucked, grounded, good pre. If it still bothers me, I may take off the cover & poke at the grounding. But, I’d never get it that crispy in the real world.


    So, this is the end of the technical stuff, and the beginning of the fun playing stuff!

    Now, everyone go out & make classic Stingrays!

    - jnottoli
  9. LowEndLobster

    LowEndLobster Bass reviewer and youtube dude guy. Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 29, 2003
    Northern MA
    Well done! In regards to the noise you hear with the bright and full treble boost, have you tried running some tape along the bottom of the poles on the pickup, and then some tape around the foam to connect the tape with the pickup cavity tape, and then run a wire from the pickup cavity shield to the control cavity field. That might do the trick!
    MAXSPINRUN and tindrum like this.
  10. jnottoli


    Jul 22, 2004
    Lobster -

    By that you mean the copper foil/tape? Since the PU area is open, there is no shielding there. Also, in the control cavity, the plate touches lapping copper edges, but won't do much if the pots don't have grounded metal touching the plate - they aren't traditional Switchcrafts, etc. They are "weird" surface mounted pots, so I don't know. East uses them for a reason, I guess and I hope they never need replacing!

    I don't like the construction of traditional "wax potted" pickups with covers and exposed pole pieces (top and/or bottom), like Nordy and others. MM pole pieces on the top look cool though. I like completely epoxied, bombproof ones like Bartolinis & others. I've never worried about those types, ever. Sweat, beer, water, monsoons - will never affect them! (I have played in a literal Indian monsoon - just one of my unknown claims to fame. :roflmao: The sealed EMG pickups were fine, btw.)

    The buzzing never happens at realistic EQ levels - it seems that my "treble abuse" tests cross a threshold & it buzzes.

    I will consider your comments if and when I'm annoyed enough to fix it. As many have found out, I have trouble leaving well enough alone. Should be able to solder that little bit.

    I also tried different cables - some male connectors may be a mm wider or something and work better with the female jack. I am under the illusion/delusion that this might be helping. Which is why I haven't taken anything apart yet. I just got it back together.

    LowEndLobster likes this.
  11. stuntbass77


    Nov 6, 2007
    As a SB14 owner I can tell you they are well worth it ! Plays like butter and I even like the pickup. The preamp is not bad and would be the only thing I would even consider replacing and I’m not planning on it. Gives me all the MM tone I’ll ever need. The bridge is basically the same as the original sterling. Will it feel just like a EBMM sterling, no but I actually like the slightly thinner feeling neck. In a mix nobody would ever know the difference and since a jazz is my main player this makes sense and stay with the import model. Never played a SUB series but also owned a Ray34 and only sold it as the tone wasn’t for me. I like to use the series and single coil only a lot so the sterling is a better fit sonically. Man the Ray34 is so worth the money as well !! They really did a good job with the imports and I think it got Fender’s attention and that’s a good thing. Fender has upped their game with is really nice.
    tindrum likes this.
  12. stuntbass77


    Nov 6, 2007
    A copper foil job made my EMG geezers even more quiet. I find even shielded pickups sometimes need to have the cavities around them as well as the preamp cavity shielded. I prefer copper foil. The paint and stuff sounds easy but I believe nothing beats copper foil when it’s done right and it doesn’t take thick foil either. I can be a pain but it’s something you only have to do once and one will always appreciate it later.
    tindrum likes this.
  13. Lembia


    Nov 24, 2014
    "$50 pickup mod"? I couldn't get anything on a search. LEL utube and this site. Do you recall? Thx.
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2022
  14. I ended up getting it taken care of ;)

  15. LowEndLobster

    LowEndLobster Bass reviewer and youtube dude guy. Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 29, 2003
    Northern MA
    Hubba hubba! Congrats!
  16. Appreciate it my crustacean brother! I watched your Stingray vs Stingray Special vid a couple of times before making the final decision. It's the most beautiful bass guitar I've ever played, much less owned. 2019 swamp ash in burnt apple red makes me a very happy bass player :) thanks for the congrats!
  17. Lowendchamp

    Lowendchamp Supporting Member

    Jun 27, 2021
    Shelton WA
    I'm no expert by any means, but the SBMM SS Stingray sounds almost identical to the USA version. Just depends on if you like short scale or not. Of coarse the USA version feels better with better materials and build quality but the sound isn't really different from the SBMM version. Really made me think the Stingray was meant to be a short scale! Loving my Sterling, but eventually will buy the USA version too!
    FLStudiobassist likes this.
  18. Played a few high end Sterlings before I bought my USA SS 4H, while the feel is superior on the USA model I wouldn’t say the sound is a million times better. If it’s of importance to you Having an 8lb bass, in swamp ash and roasted maple, with an amazing palate of tones, that is also a Stingray, unfortunately a USA Stingray is the only one that ticks all the boxes.

    I really wanted “the ultimate bass guitar” and was just overjoyed it was a Ray. Nothing wrong with a high end SBMM they’re WAY better than the SUBs of yesteryear. That being said, I owned an EBMM USA Sterling for many years, and imho the Stingray is meant to be 34” scale. Gone are the problems of my old weak G string.

    I’m surprised I didn’t end up with a high end SBMM Ray myself, but the weight and the feel of the USA SS was just to ridiculously nice for me to pass up on.

    All I’m saying is don’t let SBMM Rays distract you; there’s absolutely nothing like the perfect EBMM USA SS with the woods, hardware, and electronics they use not to mention the craftsmanship coming out of their California factory.
    Lowendchamp likes this.
  19. MaxSpinrun

    MaxSpinrun Supporting Member

    Apr 10, 2012
    Knoxville, Tn
    I have the same model and did the mods you mentioned. Mine worked flawlessly! 0FCED69A-EED3-45B2-A294-E9F88236A02B.jpeg D46B0DFD-7814-48C9-87B3-BFED242969CF.jpeg
    jnottoli likes this.
  20. Dope SUB Ray man, definitely wouldn't mind having one around as a back up bass. Is it possible to find a lightweight one?
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