Every musician wants a high-end pro-level instrument.
But those aren’t exactly cheap. Far from it.
Luckily, there are more and more cheaper alternatives hitting the market.
Stripped down versions of popular high-end models.
When it comes to bass guitars, Ernie Ball Music Man’s subsidiary Sterling has some great instruments to offer.
On top of that list is their StingRay Ray34, a stripped-down and cheaper version of Music Man’s famous StingRay basses.
Let’s take a closer look in this review and find out how it stacks up against its much more expensive cousin.
Table of Contents
Sterling Ray34 Review: Overview And Features
The Sterling Ray34 might be a stripped-down version of the Music Man, but it keeps all of the important traits and is one all-around awesome instrument.
Sure, it’s still on the expensive side, but you get incredible value for the money. It costs far less than the Music Man, while keeping everything that makes than instrument special.
It is easily the best bass guitar under $1000 on the market.
If you’re an advanced bassist looking for awesome bass, but you don’t quite have the budget for a professional level instrument, this is the perfect compromise.
It can easily cover any genre and you can even plug it directly into a mixer and still get a great tone since it has a quality active preamp.
We just couldn’t find any flaws, at least not at this price level.
- Three different finishes and tonewood options available
- Roasted maple neck
- Roasted maple or rosewood fingerboard, depending on the version
- Full 34-inch scale length
- 9.5-inch fretboard radius
- On-board active preamp
- Comes with two H-1 Alnico humbucker pickups (there is also a version with only one pickup)
- Volume control, 3-band EQ
Design And Construction
The first thing you notice is the classic StingRay bass body. It’s based on the classic Strat shape, but with its own special features.
The instrument comes in three different tonewood and finish options. You have swamp ash in a natural finish, mahogany in a black finish, and nyatoh with a vintage sunburst finish.
All three versions have a roasted maple neck. The black version, which has a mahogany body, comes with a rosewood fingerboard, while two other versions have a roasted maple fingerboard.
Pickups And Hardware
All three versions have 4-strings, a standard 4-saddle bridge, open-gear tuning machines, a standard scale length of 34 inches, and a fingerboard radius of 9.5 inches.
What’s really interesting with this bass is that it comes with a “3 + 1” headstock. This gives more room for larger tuning machines.
Looking at its electronics, the StingRay Ray34 has two humbucking pickups, the company’s H-1 Alnico.
Things are made much more interesting with an onboard active preamp and a 3-band EQ. Of course, there’s a regular output volume control along with this.
This allows for some versatile tone-shaping options. The tone you get from this bass guitar is pretty beefy, with a fairly strong output signal, making it a very potent instrument.
Advantages And Disadvantages
- “Beefy” tone with strong output
- Quality humbucker pickups
- Fairly versatile, can come in handy for many different genres
- Amazing aesthetically-pleasing finish options
- Really comfortable to play
- Outperforms its price tag
- Really simple, easy to set up
- Very reliable, stays in tune
- Price is too high to be a budget instrument, but it’s an incredible value
Sterling Ray34 Vs Fender American Performer Precision Bass
Sterling’s StingRay Ray34 is not the only option to look at if you’re an experienced player trying to save some money.
It’s an awesome bass, but not for everyone. The humbuckers won’t appeal to bassists who love single-coil pickups and their more twangy tone.
That brings us to Fender’s American Performer Precision Bass. It is a bit more expensive, but still quite a bit cheaper compared than most other pro-level bass guitars out there.
This is a classic Fender Precision Bass with a few of its own interesting features. First off, the body is very comfortable, featuring Fender’s well-known contours.
This is combined with some awesome finish options: Satin Lake Placid Blue, Arctic White, and a vintage-inspired 3-tone Sunburst.
The differences between the finishing options are more than just aesthetic in nature. The version with the blue finish comes with a maple neck and a maple fretboard. The other two options have a rosewood fretboard.
Other than that, the three options are the same. All bring some of the classic Fender bass features that many bass players adore.
The main trait that we’re talking about is the P/J pickup combination. The bridge pickup is a standard Yosemite Jazz Bass single-coil, while the middle position is occupied by a Yosemite P Bass split single-coil.
Both of these can give some really bright tones, which are especially useful for those who love to slap.
The Fender American Performer Precision Bass comes with two individual volume controls, each adjusting the level of an individual pickup, as well as a master tone knob.
Although it comes down to personal preferences, we prefer this dual-volume setting, rather than a single balance knob or a pickup switch (which is not that common).
What’s also worth mentioning is that this is a regular full-sized bass with a scale length of 34 inches and a 9.5-inch fretboard radius. Overall, it’s an all-around awesome bass and more versatile than the Sterling Ray34.
You can read about it in our full Fender American Performer Precision Bass review.
Sterling StingRay Ray34: Conclusion And Rating
Music Man built its reputation by making some of the best guitars and basses on the market. But they’re expensive.
Sterling is not as well known, but they manage to create instruments that are almost as good as the ones made by the parent company, but at a much lower price level.
The Sterling StingRay Ray34 is the perfect example of this.
It is a stripped-down version of the Ernie Ball Music Man Stingray basses that still retains everything that makes the more expensive instrument special.
That makes it an incredible deal. The only real drawback are the humbucking pickups, but they are only a drawback is you want the twangier tone of single coils.
If you’re looking for the humbucker sound and you’ve got the budget for the Ray34, it is a no brainer. Get it today.
This is easily the best deal on the market for a humbucking bass. That’s why we it a Musicaroo rating of 4.8 out of 5, with just a slight point deduction for being less versatile than a P/J bass.