Ernie Ball Music Man 40th Anniversary “Old Smoothie” StingRay Bass

CMC Music Australia | | RRP: $4895

Picture this: the year is 1976. You’re sitting in a sunken lounge lined with shag pile carpeting listening to your brand new copy of Frampton Comes Alive or Songs In The Key Of Life, reading about the dissolution of the Viet Cong. Everybody has been talking about this raucous new wave of bands they’re calling ‘punks’; The Ramones have just put out their first 12”, some ugly English kids calling themselves The Sex Pistols have played two shows to less than fifty people (many of whom would go on to change the world themselves) and it all sounds like the second coming of rock and roll Jesus. You swap the newspaper for a catalogue from your local music store and nestled somewhere around the forth or fifth page 
is the brand new StingRay Bass. Little do you know the lasting effect just about every detail of that situation is to have on the next forty years!

Entering production just two years into 
the Ball family’s history, the sleek, modern design and notorious mid-range focus
 have split audiences into two camps and delineated the vintage and modern eras of guitar history. You’re either a StingRay type, or you’re not, with countless players relying heavily on the bright, beady jab to add sought-after clarity to their playing and to help their lines sail through the low-end. With this anniversary edition, all the familiar sights are on show; hardened steel tail- piece, active circuitry and that trademark ovoid, three-ply scratch plate. The neck is silky, blonde maple with walnut skunk stripe down the back whose generous 7.5” radius is one of the smoothest rides I’ve had in a while.


As anyone who’s ever throttled one of 
these things knows the pick-up is the real silver bullet here. The ten pole piece design developed by the Music Man team years ago sees five elongated alnico magnet pairings sit beside each string, as opposed to directly behind it, meaning that they cooperate to pick up more of what you’re putting down. As a result there is more power behind the whole frequency spectrum and more colour for you to play with. For many, this is the hinge. Not everyone knows what to do with that much poke in the ribs and often accuse the StingRay of being nasal and awkward. On the contrary, played with a bit of finesse and sensitivity, there is so much character to work with that sits comfortably in a mix without getting lost and, particularly in this edition, is able to splash around in your dirt pedals without getting too muddy.


Few instruments are so divisive yet so definitive as Ernie Ball Music Man’s iconic StingRay, however if you are in the mood for that So-Cal sound then there’s absolutely no substitute. 


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Hits and Misses


Classic style

Same-old StingRay bite


Might not be for everyone