Published by Phillips, July 2017

In the realm of the electric bass, we all know a few choice models prevail. Fender's Precision and Jazz, and MusicMan's Stingray still rule the roost, and for many purchasing a professional level bass, those are the main options considered. However, for a number of years now MusicMan USA have been producing a slimmed down version of the hugely popular Stingray, known – confusingly – as the Sterling.



I say “confusingly” because “Sterling” (the name of Ernie Ball's son) is also the brand name of their raft of mid-range instruments made under license in the far East. I wouldn't be surprised if this needless overlap in nomenclature has hindered the average player's awareness of the MusicMan Sterling Bass (...not to be incredibly easily confused with the Sterling by MusicMan basses...) as a prestige USA built instrument, which is unfortunate because it certainly deserves a place at the table of the current Big Three.


[As an aside, MusicMan have recently performed the same trick by naming a new 6 string guitar model from their Modern Classics series a “Stingray” which is definitely not going to confuse anybody, and – rather more alarmingly – the brand new limited edition Steve Lukather signature guitar is called the Luke III Tumescent. “Tumescent”. No explanation has been given for this bizzare name, which leads me to believe perhaps they haven't googled it... Anyway, to return to the review of this bass.]


As questionable as MusicMan's naming decisions may be, there is no doubting they make fantastic guitars and basses. This bass in particular is a Ball Family Reserve (very small numbers produced, highest quality everything) and as such is beautifully made, finished and sounds superb.



Sterling basses as standard have ceramic humbuckers as opposed to the alnico pickups in Stingrays, and have a slightly more aggressive tone overall, with a prominent mid-range. This BFR example adds an extra layer of sheen on the already excellent standard Sterling, with a Quilted Maple top, figured neck with some birdseye in, and a matching headstock.


Playing wise, its neck is amazing. Slim but not unsubstantial, it's one of the easiest basses I've ever played. The body is light and very easy to manage, only slightly smaller than the Stingray but it makes a big difference. No wrestling required! The powerful 3 band EQ has a huge range to it, allowing you to make pretty much any tone you're after. Furthermore, you can switch between Parallel/Series humbucker wiring (both sounding bright and aggressive but with their own character), and the middle position acts as a coil tap which is naturally a touch quieter, with a rounder tone more akin to a Jazz bass.



The sustain is one of the best things about this bass, so if you're a player that appeals to, make sure you try this bass out. Even if you're after a motown thud (I'm a sucker for that) then this bass actually works really well with a mute under the bridge, with great definition and warm tone.


Overall it's a superbly built bass with extra-luxurious BFR touches throughout. The only thing you'll have to worry about is finding which tone you want to use – as it can do pretty much anything! A highly comfortable hi-performance professional bass. Don't worry about the names, just go give this bass a try!