First introduced in 1976, the StingRay has become one of the most iconic bass guitars in history. Bassists from Louis Johnson, Tony Levin, John Deacon, Lenny Kravitz, Carol Kaye, Tim Commerford, and more have relied on the StingRay for a consistent, roadworthy performance night after night. For 2018, the StingRay has been reimagined with new features and appointments that provide a new level of playing comfort while retaining that revered iconic StingRay sound. To understand what makes the new StingRay basses so special, let’s first understand their legacy.
History of the StingRay Bass
Music Man, originally conceived by Leo Fender, Tom Walker and Forest White in 1974, were responsible for some of the most iconic bass and amplifier designs of the 1970s. During Music Man’s formidable early years, Leo Fender was back at the bench developing his newest instrument to present to the world. The StingRay, a new one humbucking 2 band active EQ concept was in its infancy soon to become one of the world’s most celebrated bass designs. Sterling Ball, a young musician and family friend was called upon to beta test Leo’s newest creation. Sterling, eager and hungry to help pulled no punches and spoke frankly about the new design. Leo respected this sentiment and sincerely enjoyed their collaboration. Sterling a gifted player in his own right, beta tested the new StingRay bass and was heavily influential in developing the sound that defined an era. After only a few short years the original Music Man partnership dissolved leaving Sterling the opportunity to purchase the name and remaining assets. With the approval of his father Ernie Ball, a new chapter for Ernie Ball Music Man had begun.
Sterling quickly assembled a team of skilled craftsmen and along with newly hired design genius Dudley Gimpel, the Ernie Ball Music Man family set out to design a Stingray bass with the focus on expert craftsmanship, effortless playability and flawless attention to detail so few basses possessed during this period.
What’s New for 2018
Featured revisions for the new StingRay Special include an enhanced contour that is rounded for more comfort in any playing position, a sculpted neck joint for uninhibited upper fret access to all 22 stainless steel frets, and lightweight aluminum hardware providing a lighter, more balanced instrument. The new and improved StingRay Special electronics feature powerful neodymium magnets for higher output and a new 18-volt 3-Band preamp for extra clean headroom without clipping. Solid roadworthy construction, elegant oval pickguard, 3+1 tuning key configuration (SR4) / 4+1 tuning key configuration (SR5), and the ever-popular Music Man humbucker, all together produce a look, feel and sound that is remarkably unmistakable.
Neodymium Pickups: Great sound, less fuss
To get their unique sound, StingRay basses come stocked with Neodymium magnets that are stronger than Alnico or ceramic magnets of comparable size and weight. The increased strength of the magnetic field makes them more sensitive to your playing style and results in a higher output. Since the higher output requires less gain, you get lower noise coming out of the pickup that would be noticeable in similar pickup designs by other manufacturers. The material in the core of a pickup coil has much to do with the sound it produces. The StingRay pickups have Alnico magnets, which are also very strong due to the large size. The Steel pole pieces used in the Neodymium pickup increase the inductance of the coil compared to the Alnico pole pieces and have a fatter tone.
The appearance of the wood is very important, and Ash shows a lot of contrasting grain that is pleasing to the eyes. In addition to the look, the sound of Ash is a very solid low end and airy high end tone, compared to other species of woods with similar weight. Its weight varies from very light to very heavy, but by selecting lightweight Ash it can produce a bass that is very comfortable to wear and play.
To make it more comfortable and playable, Music Man focused on the contouring to make the musician happy. The arm contour is less like a one directional ramp and instead more spherical to allow for a comfortable place to rest your forearm at any angle. The 5-bolt neck joint combined with the neck joint contour improves fret access with an ergonomic carve that matches the shape of the players palm when in the upper registers. This helps create more neck mounting stability than earlier 3 or 4 bolt designs. The body has a matching carved heel, which gives better access to high frets and a smooth transition from the neck to body surfaces.
Neck And Fingerboard
While thumping away, you’ll notice the neck is built from Roasted Maple, which is processed using a tightly controlled heating and cooling cycle. First, the moisture is removed from the wood, and the material becomes lighter, stiffer and more stable. In conjunction, the color becomes a deeper golden brown, and the grain has more dramatic figure. An added benefit to this process is that the wood cells are opened and the resins within the wood dried, producing a better sounding material. Available fretboards to go on these maple necks are roasted maple, rosewood, and ebony, each adding their own characteristic to the overall tone of your instrument. On top of everything else, you also get stainless steel frets are harder and corrosion resistant which means you never have a need to replace the frets. This material resists wear far beyond traditional Nickel Silver and has a smoother feel.
During the 1970’s as the musical landscape progressed, the use of pedal effects and heavily distorted amplification became more popular with players worldwide. With this in mind, bassists needed to expand their sonic capabilities as well. Enter the active preamp. An active preamp allows the player the ability to boost or cut frequencies giving more freedom and ability to custom design your sound. Utilizing the StingRay’s 3-band EQ, players were now able to produce a variety of vintage and modern tones all with one bass.
The StingRay Special bass is perfect for players of all levels. With it’s lighter weight, sculpted heel joint, roasted neck and stainless steel frets, along with new upgraded electronics and comfortable contoured body shape allows this bass to bring out the best of any player. Whether you’ve been a life-long StingRay bass player or you’re considering picking up your first instrument, get your Ernie Ball Music Man Stingray Special Bass today at the guaranteed lowest price from Sam Ash with our 45-day return and 60-day price protection policy as well as special extended term no-interest financing!