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Please school me on Music Man, Sterling and their ever-changing model names

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Naigewron, Jan 20, 2021.


  1. Naigewron

    Naigewron

    Jan 5, 2018
    Norway
    Ok, so I'm on the lookout for a Stingray fiver. I'm not going to be able to fork out the cash for a full-blown Music Man, so I'll probably be looking at a Sterling of some sort.

    But the Music Man and Sterling brands and models have had so many iterations that I'm thoroughly confused about who made what, where it's made, where each model falls on the "quality spectrum" and what I could expect to be paying for them on the used market.

    Here are all the models I've come across, and where I think it falls on the spectrum. Please correct me, add more information, list other models that I've missed, etc.

    The reuse of names is just horrible, not to mention that "Sterling" is sometimes a model, sometimes a brand... Euch.

    Music Man Stingray 5:
    US made, top-of-the-line Music Man Stingray

    Music Man Sterling 5:
    Seems to be a Music Man Sterling trying to capture the vibe of older Stingray models, but has a 3-band EQ.

    Music Man Stingray Special:
    ???

    Music Man Stingray Classic:
    2-band preamp and classic styling. Seems to be discontinued, possibly replaced by the "Music Man Sterling"?

    Music Man SUB5:
    US-made, but with "cheaper" components to be more budget-friendly. Discontinued at least ten years ago.

    Sterling Stingray5:
    I keep seeing pictures of headstocks that say "Sterling Stingray 5", but I don't know what this actually is. Possibly a predecessor of the Ray35? Seems to be discontinued.

    Sterling Ray35:
    The current top-of-the-line Sterling. Seems to have gone through a few iterations, but the main difference seems to be that the current models have roasted maple necks

    Sterling Ray35 CA:
    A Ray35 with classic styling and 2-band EQ. Seems to be discontinued, possibly replaced by the Ray25?

    Sterling Ray25:
    Sterling's version of a classic Stingray. 2-band EQ, classic stylings. The internet seems to be divided on whether or not this is basically Ray5 quality, or closer to the Ray35. I guess this is Sterling's version of the "Music Man Sterling"?

    Sterling SUB Ray5:
    Entry level model. Cheaper components, etc.

    I'm sure I'm missing a few here, feel free to expand. Sellers on Reverb and eBay seem to be equally confused, so there are many listings that are obviously mislabelled, sometimes with model names that don't even seem to exist.
     
  2. Naigewron

    Naigewron

    Jan 5, 2018
    Norway
    Forgot to mention OLP, who made budget licensed Stingray basses for a while. I guess they fall somewhere between the Ray5 and Ray35 in terms of price (and quality?)
     
  3. lug

    lug Supporting Member

    Feb 11, 2005
    League City, Tx
    Solving the Musicman naming convention requires the application of the Unified Field Theory. Though we've gotten close to solving the UFT, we aren't quite there yet. Once scientists solve that, the Musicman naming conventions will be a piece of cake.
     
  4. DirtDog

    DirtDog

    Jun 7, 2002
    The Deep North
    I can’t find the post now, but someone recently deconstructed these naming conventions in another thread. Don’t think he used UFT as a method, though. I believe it was a little known variant of the Rosetta Stone called the Sterling Stratification.
     
  5. I don't know if these are the ones you mean, but the entry series Ray5 no longer say 'SUB' in giant letters, but do say "Sterling by Music Man SUB Series StingRay5".

    As far as I know, they're improved over the old SUB headstock range, but probably not in huge ways. Nice playing basses, from my experience, but not spent much time with one plugged in.

    4.jpg
     
  6. Naigewron

    Naigewron

    Jan 5, 2018
    Norway
    That probably explains it then, yes. So not only are the naming conventions out of whack, they also keep screwing with any method of identifying these basses. Good lord.
     
  7. mmbongo

    mmbongo Regular Human Bartender Supporting Member

    Aug 5, 2009
    Carolinas
    Well one tip I can give you is to look at the bridge. If it looks like this one with that big nasty looking plate with two screws in the front, it will be the cheapest most entry level bass in the line.

    stingbridge.JPG
     
    Naigewron likes this.
  8. StayLow

    StayLow

    Mar 14, 2008
    It helps a little to call the brand by its actual name - Sterling By Music Man, or SBMM - not Sterling.

    Like OLP, SBMM is also "budget licensed Stingray basses".

    "Confused" sellers are probably, with few exceptions of genuine ignorance, deliberately obfuscating in hopes of selling an SBMM as an EBMM (Ernie Ball Music Man).

    If you don't know what something is, don't buy it. Used should typically go for around 60% or less of new, no matter what it is.

    The biggest legit confusion is around the "SUB" models, but even then the brand's on the headstock so they're still obviously different.

    I was totally onboard with the idea the naming was ill-considered, but given the frequent new threads asking these same questions thereby drawing attention to the brands, I'm starting to believe it's marketing genius.

    There are related "club" threads where you're more likely to get faster and more comprehensive answers.
     
    Peter Torning and Wood and Wire like this.
  9. mmbongo

    mmbongo Regular Human Bartender Supporting Member

    Aug 5, 2009
    Carolinas
  10. UNICORN BASS

    UNICORN BASS

    Feb 10, 2016
    Michigan USA
    I swear i once had a UFT, i just can't seem to find it any more. I lost my joy also, and i want to get it back. Alright I'll go away now.
     
    Naigewron likes this.
  11. Wood and Wire

    Wood and Wire

    Jul 15, 2017
    That's why I make a point of abbreviating it as SbMM.

    I think you're probably right, about it being a marketing masterstroke.
     
    StayLow likes this.
  12. Dragan

    Dragan

    Oct 5, 2009
     
  13. Staccato

    Staccato Low End Advocate Supporting Member

    Aug 14, 2009
    Alabama
    Sterling model by EBMM, and Sterling by Music Man are (made by) two different companies.

    You're going to confuse somebody!
     
    N4860 and BazzaBass like this.
  14. Odinbass

    Odinbass

    Dec 6, 2006
    Cleveland, OH
    ERNIE BALL MUSIC MAN BASSES

    Ernie Ball Music Man Stingray (4 or 5)
    -USA Made. The Original. 3 band EQ.

    Ernie Ball Music Man Stingray Special (4 or 5)
    -USA Made. New model from 2018. Revoiced EQ. Lighter weight. Roasted neck usually.

    Ernie Ball Stingray Classic (4 or 5)
    -USA Made. 2 band EQ. I think they have string mutes. Throwback to 70s.

    Ernie Ball Music Man Sterling (4 or 5)
    -USA Made. Smaller, slimmer, different preamp/pickup. It's own model. Yes it is made by EBMM.
    -My favorite

    Ernie Ball Music Man Sterling Classic (4 or 5)
    -USA Made. Same spin as Stingray classic but in a Sterling model.


    Later I can get into the off brands but I'm out of time. Maybe someone else can....

    My quick take:

    Sterling by Music Man - Current cheaper line

    SUB Series - Previous cheaper line.

    OLP - Old knockoff brand. Super cheap.
     
  15. Naigewron

    Naigewron

    Jan 5, 2018
    Norway
    I know that much, which is why I lamented the fact that Sterling is both a brand and a model.

    Thanks for everyone's replies so far.
     
    PsyDocHill and Staccato like this.
  16. Staccato

    Staccato Low End Advocate Supporting Member

    Aug 14, 2009
    Alabama
    The Sterling Ray35 in your list is undervalued at those prices. And, those settings at the flick of the switch are worthy of much thread discussion. I hope that model will be your choice!

    My Ray 34 version arrived at Christmas with its roasted maple neck and fretboard.
     
    picnic01 and Naigewron like this.
  17. I have played quite a few of these models and agree the Ray35 is the best value generally. I do like the specials a lot but for the price you can't bet the Ray35. Lots of good used deals on them- if you are patient you could get one for 500 USD or so
     
  18. ped

    ped User Commercial User

    Aug 30, 2006
    York, England
    And then there’s the cutlass(es)
     
    ComeHomeShane likes this.
  19. I had one of these. What I saw different was the finish and pickguard plus the option for a passive model.

    The wooden parts, hardware, and electronics were the same as the more expensive versions. I think the body has less contouring too.
     
  20. JakobT

    JakobT

    Jan 9, 2014
    Oslo, Norway
    I’ve posted this graphic a few times in different threads already, but it obviously bears repeating, as this question seems to come up regularly.

    It isn’t as complicated as a lot of people seem to think.

    Musicman_models.png
     
    KaraQ, Bigleben, B-Mac and 10 others like this.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

     
    Apr 14, 2021

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