PLATINUM AWARD WINNER
While set neck basses have their place in history, generally the most popular models for bass players are either bolt-on neck instruments (like the Fender Precision and Jazz Bass and the Music Man StingRay) or neck-through-body designs (like the Rickenbacker 4001, Gibson Thunderbird and various Alembic and Spector models).
Each version has its advantages, but now Ernie Ball Music Man has widened the spectrum even further with the introduction of the StingRay Neck Through model.
Identical in almost every way to the beloved bolt-on versions of the StingRay bass other than its neck-through-body construction, the StingRay Neck Through provides different tonal and dynamic personality.
FEATURES: Music Man offers the StingRay Neck Through in a wide variety of configurations. Players can choose 21-fret four-string or 22-fret five-string models with single humbucking, dual humbucking or single-coil (neck) and humbucking pickup configurations, and the four-string/single-humbucking version is available either with the classic two-band (treble, bass) active EQ controls or with the three-band active EQ (treble, middle, bass) featured on all of the other versions. Our evaluation example was a four-string model with three-band EQ.
From the front, the StingRay 4 Neck Through looks identical to the bolt-on version of the StingRay 4. The telltale difference is only notable when looking at the back, which reveals the lack of a heel, replaced by a smooth transition where the body meets the neck. High gloss polyester finish also covers the entire back of the neck as well as the body (in contrast to the gunstock oil and hand-rubbed special wax blend used to finish the standard StingRay’s maple neck). Also, the StingRay Neck Through is only available with a rosewood fingerboard (no maple or fretless fingerboard options).
Construction consists of a three-piece maple neck through design with ash body “wings.” The neck has a 34-inch scale, 11-inch radius, flat C-shaped profile and 1 5/8-inch nut width. The nut features Music Man’s patented compensated design, and the truss rod is adjusted via an easily accessible wheel located above the highest fret. In addition to three-band EQ, the StingRay features a volume control for the active preamp circuit. All of the hardware is chrome plated, including the hardened steel bridge plate (with stainless steel saddles), control knobs and Schaller BM tuners with tapered posts.
PERFORMANCE: Perhaps the best way to describe the difference between the StingRay Neck Through and the standard StingRay is that the neck-through version sounds bigger. The low end has more body, the treble has more presence and its sustain is virtually endless. The attack may not be as prominent—instead notes have more roundness and warmth—but it still can sound very aggressive. Our example came from the factory with new Ernie Ball Slinky Flatwound strings, but the bass delivered very satisfying growl with plenty of high-frequency bite. The three-band EQ controls can dial in an incredible range of tones and provide perfect string-to-string balance with almost any bass amp or speaker configuration.
While the StingRay Neck Through’s versatile tones are absolutely killer, what really seals the deal is how solid it feels and how incredible it plays, particularly at the uppermost frets. The rock-solid, flex-free neck is by far the most comfortable and fast bass neck I’ve ever played, facilitating precise fretting and runs that often feel uncomfortable to play on classic bolt-on instruments. The frets are wide and just high enough to provide a solid anchor without getting in the way when performing slides, hammer-ons or pull-offs. The Ernie Ball flatwound strings added to the playing comfort, of course, but when flatwounds sound this punchy, bright and round, there’s little need to use roundwounds.
LIST PRICE: Four-string SR4 3EQ, $2,820; five-string SR5 3EQ, $3,070
MANUFACTURER: Ernie Ball Music Man, music-man.com
Three-piece maple neck-through-body construction provides wider frequency response and eliminates the cumbersome neck heel to facilitate playing the entire fretboard.
The active preamp system with three-band EQ delivers a wide range of tones ideal for any style of music and balancing string-to-string response with any amp.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The bolt-on version of the Music Man StingRay remains an attractive classic, but the new Neck Through model expands its tonal versatility while providing a more solid feel and enhanced playability.