Sterling by Music Man RAY34-BK Bass Guitar Review (4 String)

When I was hunting for a new bass guitar, I couldn’t find anything that felt quite right in my hands. I would head to the local guitar shop almost daily hoping they would have something that I hadn’t tried yet, but it wasn’t until a few weeks into my search that I found something amazing: the RAY34-BK Sterling by Music Man 4-string bass, a more affordable version of the Music Man Sterling bass that's marketed as somewhat of a beginner guitar.

Things to consider before buying a bass guitar

Whether you’re a new bass player or have been in the music scene for years, finding a bass that fits your style of playing can be quite difficult. Instruments of any type are some of the only items that you actually need to play and try out extensively before buying, and basses certainly fall into that category. Fret size and the quality of the wood used in the construction of the guitar play major roles on feel and tone, and must always be paid attention to.

The Sterling by Music Man RAY34-BK Bass

This beautiful black-finish bass guitar features a body made entirely out of ash, a neck made out of high-quality maple wood, and a rosewood or maple fretboard depending on the edition you end up settling on. The design and curves of this bass are quite breathtaking, with the strings fanning out from the narrow nut to the instantly recognizable Music Man circular bridge. This is definitely a bass that can be shown off to friends but still manage to take a beating on the road.

  • Great woodworking
  • Infinitely adjustable tone
  • Great string-to-string spacing
  • Can be heavy for long on-stage sets
  • Bridge pickup is fairly cheap; will probably need replacement quickly

Features & Benefits

Tone Quality

Sterling by Music Man RAY34-BK Bass

The Ray series has always been known for its punchy tones, and the RAY34 certainly follows that path. The combination of the maple neck and ash body give the midrange tones a nice resonating boom, and the high end is crisp and clean. Furthermore, the RAY34 has individual control knobs for high end, midrange, and bass frequencies, allowing for even more control over tonal quality. This means that the bass is quite flexible in playing style, as you can simply adjust the EQ to bring out the tones that you want. If you’re playing slap bass and want the high end of the slaps to pop out, simply turn up the highs and scoop out some midrange — or if you want meaty eighth note rhythmic basslines, ratchet up that low end.

Price Point

The aforementioned three-knob EQ gives this bass an edge over its more basic competitors, and its quality woodworking on the fretboard speaks volumes about the care of the Music Man creators to obtain good wood and put it together well. The RAY34 gives the tonality and heft of the original Stingray for a significantly lower price, which means you can easily justify the price as a hobbyist.

Robustness

The RAY34 is extremely sturdy, meaning it can get slung around on tour or in the back of your van without much worry. One of the biggest areas of worry with any guitar or bass is the neck-body joint, where stage nightmares of the neck snapping off the body always pop up. The RAY34 has an extremely well-built joint, with six individual bolts keeping the body tightly secured to the neck in a pocket that has very little wiggle room. The types of wood and finish used on the guitar mean that chipping and wear take significantly longer to get to a noticeable level than with more cheaply made basses.

Rating

Design

5

Performance

5

Construction

5

Value for the Money

4.5

User Satisfaction

5

Alternatives

Schecter Stiletto Custom-4 Electric Bass

Schecter Stiletto Custom-4 Electric Bass

The Stiletto is a stylish four-stringed bass that bears certain similarity to the RAY34 but manages to pull off a different feel. With a neck made out of maple and walnut rather than maple and rosewood, the guitar feels different especially on the fretting hand. The action on this bass is great right out of the box, and the playability in many situations is just fantastic. The price is somewhat lower than the RAY34, but the quality of the fretboard itself seems to be slightly lacking (at least in the models I tried).

Compared to the RAY34:
  • Fretboard not quite as nice
  • Higher quality EMG 35Hz pickups
  • Cheaper price point
  • Definitely give the Stiletto a try if you’re looking for similar basses for around the same price.

Fender Squier - Vintage Modified Jazz Bass

If you’re looking for a more traditional type of bass, then you can never go wrong with the well-known Fender brand. This bass gives the traditional tones of a jazz bass, and this tonic quality is primarily driven by two Fender-made single coil pickups. While the Squier namesake isn’t very well-regarded in Fender circles, this bass has quite a bit going for it. The low end is impeccable, and moving around the fretboard is easier than the other basses on this list. It definitely fits the bill of a classic jazz bass.

Compared to the RAY34:
  • Superb low-end presence
  • Not as tonally versatile, but delivers its tone amazingly
  • Light and easy to play for long jazz gigs
  • If you’re looking for a more traditional bass, then try out the Fender Squier next time you’re at the local guitar shop.

Yamaha TRBX174EW

The Yamaha TRBX series is an extremely popular, budget series of great bass guitars. The 174EW has a unique mango wood top and a mahogany body, giving it a look that not many other bass guitars have. Two different single-coil pickups give the bass a similar amount of versatility to the RAY34, though it does not have the same precise EQ that the RAY has. The craftsmanship is exquisite (as with most Yamaha basses), and this bass truly does feel nice.

Compared to the RAY34:
  • Great tones from the two pickups
  • More affordable
  • 24-fret fretboard

Yamaha has a very distinct feel that you may or may not like, but need to try. Definitely try this or any other bass in the TRBX series out if you get the chance.

Final Thoughts

The RAY34-BK Sterling by Music Man is an amazing 4-string bass that’s both affordable and versatile. It offers a great step up from beginner basses to something more sonically pleasing. We have also a selection of bass guitars or acoustic guitar in our guitar guide. Check them out to find how to get most out of these guitars.

Stephanie Su
 

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