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Sterling or Bongo

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by A Minor, Apr 12, 2006.

  1. I'm considering buying myself a birthday present(May 17th so I have a fair amount of time to decide) and I REALLY want to get a MusicMan bass guitar. It's between the Sterling or the Bongo, I haven't played either but I've heard plenty of the sterling and I love it. I was hoping that the great bass players on this website who own one or both of them could tell me the things that they like and dislike about them. I'll actually make up my own mind about which one I get when I stop being lazy and go to guitar center myself, but every little bit helps. Thanks in advance!

    p.s. I know there are always a lot of threads on MusicMan basses but hey, i guess that means they're great!
  2. Smallequestrian

    Smallequestrian Rock and/or Roll

    Jul 6, 2004
    New Jersey
    I have both currently, prefer the Bongo. Nothing wrong with the Sterling, I just prefer the ergonomics and the way the Bongo plays. As long as you are cool with the looks, its hard to go wrong either way.
  3. Figjam


    Aug 5, 2003
    Boston, MA
    I own a Sterling, and have played a bongo. I prefer the sterling. The neck feels better to me, as well as the finish on it. Im not as large of a fan of the painted neck on the bongo, although nothing is wrong with it.
  4. r05c03


    Jul 21, 2005
    Lafayette, IN
    I played both over and over again before I choose between the two (stingrays were out right away, for lacking depth in tone, too my ear, anyway). I went with bongo for playability and its variety and depth of tone compared to the sterlings. That my 2p
  5. BartmanPDX

    BartmanPDX Supporting Member

    If I were in the market (which I'm not, because I already have a Bongo 5HH), I'd get a single humbucker Bongo. As much as I love 'rays and Sterlings, the single H Bongo is what I've got GAS for.
  6. Alvaro Martín Gómez A.

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

    The first reason why I chose a Bongo instead of a StingRay or a Sterling was that the Bongo is the only MM bass with a 24 fret neck. Right now I can tell you that I'm extremely happy with that instrument (actually two - fretted and fretless). A friend has a Sterling and it's a great bass also, but I'm definitely a Bongo guy. I can tell for sure that I will never think of selling them. The Bongo is a dream come true for me. BTW, both of my Bongos are equipped with a piezo bridge and I really love it. I highly recommend a piezo equipped Bongo. Here you can find a video clip I recently posted playing my fretted Bongo. Also, I recorded several audio clips with different EQs and playing styles just after I got it. Let me know if you're interested. :)
  7. Thanks everybody. Alvaro I checked out your video's on youtube about tapping and you are cooler than cool, you're ice cold. But enough about your coolness, I have a question about the piezo bridge, I've heard a little about them and am I right in assuming that they help change the tone acoustically as well as electrically? Also would I have to get it so it comes with a piezo bridge or would I be able to add that on afterwards. Also is the Bongo the only piezo capable MusicMan or could the same thing be done with the Sterling?
  8. throw_this_away


    Mar 30, 2006
    I have played both and far prefer the sterling
  9. Alvaro Martín Gómez A.

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

    Thank you for your nice comments, man. The Sterling also has the piezo bridge option, but as far as I understand, you can't add it later. Even more, I think that piezos aren't available for lefty basses.

    To me, the piezo bridge helps to make little string details even more audible, so it adds sort of "acoustic" qualities to the tone. Not such a big thing for regular fingerstyle playing to my ears, but slap sounds even more aggressive and solo tapping pieces get a beautiful color (putting aside the player, of course).
  10. HeavyDuty

    HeavyDuty Supporting Curmudgeon Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 26, 2000
    Suburban Chicago, IL
    I have both a Sterling and a Bongo 5H. I wouldn't want to choose between them; they're both great. However, I have to say I think the Bongo is tonally a bit more versatile. To me, the ergonomics are a wash between them - they both fit me well.
  11. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    I'm here now to totally confuse you. :)

    I had a Sterling and absolutely loved everything about it, EXCEPT - I sometimes thought it was a tiny little bit thin sounding. I was used to a bubinga Warwick before the Sterling and there was a pretty clear difference in bottom end. The Warwick was ALL bottom end.

    I got myself a Bongo and never touched the Sterling again. Sold it in fact, and bought another Bongo. Now that the Sterling is gone for a while I have some regrets. There's a certain rubbery funky sound (only way I can describe it) that I still believe no bass but a Stingray or Sterling can put out, and while some people say a Bongo is a Stingray on Steroids - I've yet to nail that rubbery Stingray sound. IME there's a slapping trade off too, but I prefer the Bongo. Trade off is I actually liked the sound and feel of the Sterling being slapped as opposed to the Bongo (just a preference - I like the old school Flea sound) - but the Bongo absolutely rips through the mix when slapped. Seems like it takes less effort and you get more sound - and lots more depth. Did I mention that first time I played the Bongo with my band I felt I added thunder to the mix? My hair practically stood on end.

    Sooo.... what would I do? If it had to be one or the other, I'd say Bongo. But now the new Sterlings come into the mix :). The ones with the extra pickups. Hmmmm... never used one with a band - but if they add what I think I was lacking I'd have a rough choice on my hands.

    I'm buying a Stingray like Figjam's new one that I'm jealous of as soon as my finances allow. Congratulations by the way - saw the pics and it's awesome. For me the only real way to go is with both. Bongo first. I'm done here. Hope I helped.
  12. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    Ooops! Almost forgot. The Piezo...

    It's a subtle difference. For the first few months I wondered why I got it. In a loud band setting you can't tell if it's dialed in or not. In recordings it's worthwhile though if you like the piano like sound. It definitely added something. I started messing around using ONLY the piezo lately and it's interesting - can get a real dubby, and even an almost upright sound. When I buy my Stingray I don't plan on getting a piezo.

    I doubt you'll miss it if you don't have it. My suggestion is let money be the guide. If money's tight skip it, if money isn't an issue - then the extra bells and whistles are always fun to have.
  13. Hm Bongos.
  14. I've gotta say Sterling on the basis that I have one and love it. I played a Bongo once and while I love the looks (best thing to come out of BMW's design team for a while ;)), I just couldn't get used to the feel of the neck and was strangely uninspired by the tonal variety. However, some of this could be probably accounted for by me not having a clue about the controls and the amp being a bit too quiet. Either way, the feel was a bit of a stumbling block for me. The Sterling just blows me away, It's got so much punch to it. My 30W bedroom amp doesn't like the open E string much...
  15. Mike


    Sep 7, 2000
    i'm a sterling guy all the way. the #1 MM for me. bongos are nice, i have played a few, but their non traditional look and wider neck don't appeal to me.
  16. BassBuzzRS


    Oct 18, 2005
    As a side note, I have been getting used to the looks of the bongo. I must say that the engineers probably designed the bongo to be played horizontally, and this way it looks better, like a speed machine... Pictures should be with the bass in horizontal, instead of vertical stand pictures. :help:
  17. People are saying that the Bongo has a wider neck which i wouldn't have a problem with since I have big hands, but is the neck wide and slim still or is it wide and thick?
  18. Worshiper


    Aug 13, 2004
    New York
    here's my 2 cents...

    first of all...What everyone is referig to about width is that the sterling is thinner at the nut ( as in length across the fret board) than the bongo, but the bongo is not thick by any means nessesary. I actually prefer the neck of the bongo because I have thick fingers so I can move a bit faster. If you have bigs hands you may feel more comfortable on the bongo as well. They both have some of the best necks I have ever played though, so you can't go wrong either way in terms of playability at the neck.

    As for the electronics, I have to agree with Joe. I own a bongo and I really couldn't be happier (I'm saving for a sterling now). The bongo is the most versitile thing I have ever played and you can get a sound very close to the sterling using the bongo controls. However, like Joe said, there is a certian sound that is just missing on the bongo, almost like a warm kinda hum. This has nothing to do with the piezo, I think it's more related to body shape and size. That's why I want a sterlign myself.

    But if you have to choose between one or the other, I vote bongo, unless you can't take the shape, then go sterling. I thing a bongo is a better value for the money, but some people either hate the shape of it or can't play a so radical shape for whatever reason (military, etc.)

    You need to run to GC and decide for yourself though. Let us know how you mad eout.
  19. ras1983


    Dec 28, 2004
    Sydney, Australia
    before i bought my stealth bongo, i obviously tried all the EBMM products. i found that the sterling lacked a lot of bottom end compared to the stingray and bongo. the stingray had a great tone, but i wanted a bass with two pups and the newer EBMM's aren't available here yet.

    so i went with the stealth bongo 5.

    its an awesome bass, buts its not perfect. for one, the sustain on the B string is shorter than i would have liked, with notes decaying quite quickly. the pups don't sound special when soloed (although the bridge pup sounds better soloed than the neck pup). but blended they are teh bee's knees.

    the preamp is HOT!!! i can't stress this enough, the preamp produces a MASSIVE SOUND. i am of the belief that the bottom end will clip any pre-amp on the market, it really is something else. i can't stress this enough, and i want to back up joe nerve's observation that the low end is like thunder. you have to hear it to believe it. other plusses include:

    great playability, the most versatile pre-amp on a mass produced bass, very wide variety of tones, the tone is to die for. did i mention that this thing has TREMENDOUS bottom end?

    i love my bongo. ***goes and hugs bongo***
  20. bovinehost


    Dec 5, 2002
    Endorsing Artist: Ernie Ball Music Man/Sterling By Music Man
    Just one quick suggestion - might be the string.


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