The Musicman Stingray was introduced to the world in 1976 and was designed by Leo Fender to cater for the new sound that was happening in America with a new breed of bass players such as Louis ‘Thunder-Thumbs’ Johnson.
The Musicman Stingray was a highly innovative instrument as it employed a “soap bar” alnico humbucking pickup with the worlds first active pre-amp powered by a 9-volt battery. The early versions had 2-band EQ i.e., bass and treble controls, strings through body and high mass mutable bridge. Bodies were un contoured aka slab and normally made of premium ash, separate chromed control plate, and its distinctive “3+1” headstock on which three tuning machines are situated on the top and one on the bottom made it an instantly recognizable instrument. The most sought after Stingray basses are the instruments produced between 1976 and 1980.The strings through body feature was dropped in 1980 which makes these instruments slightly less desirable.
In 1978 Musicman introduced the Sabre bass which was a two pick up model with smaller contoured body, slimmer jazz style neck and top loaded high mass bridge with mutes. Early example had toggle switches to switch in preamp functions. In 1983, the toggle switch changed to a slide switch for different pickup selection.
In 1984, Ernie ball took over Musicman and continued production of both the Stingray and Sabre basses with only slight modifications to both models. Models which date before 1984 are known as Pre Ernie ball and are the most collectable.
In 1987 Musicman introduced the 3 band Eq as an option, bass, mid and treble and the Stingray 5 string bass. The 3-band equalization system made it possible to boost midrange frequencies as well as the low and highs. The Sabre was discontinued in 1991, however a small run of Classic Sabre were introduced in 2013 but sadly these seem to have been discontinued in 2015. The most sort after Musicman Sabre basses were produced between 1978 and 1984.
In 2003 Musicman introduced the Stingray Sports utility bass or S.U.B. as it is known. These were full on USA made basses with a textured finish and the neck finished in black.The slab bodies were made from popular and the electronics were active for all UK models as Strings and Things only brought in active models. The idea of the S.U.B basses was to bring a lower price point for a USA made bass, They also made a 5 string version. In 2004 Musicman introduced the S.U.B Sterling. Sadly in 2006 Musicman found they they were losing money on the American S.U.B range as the retail price was too low so they decided to discontinue these basses. These are great instruments and I still currently own American S.U.B basses which I may list in the future.
In 1993 Musicman introduced the Sterling Bass which has a neck profile of a Fender Jazz bass and a contoured downsized body, 3 band EQ with selector switch. The controls are mounted on the body losing the chrome control plate. They also over the years have added many options but my preference is for the one pickup Sterling as originally designed.
In 2010 Musicman Introduced the the Classic Stingray bass which incorporates all the best features of the Pre Ernie Ball era basses and the improvements that were made in the Post Ernie Ball era. So the Classic Stingray necks use high grade birds eye or flame maple for the necks. They have the Pre Enrie Ball two band EQ, Strings through body and bridge with string mutes, Slab body, All necks are tinted to look aged and the necks are of a more D profile than the originals. The classic have the modern truss rod system with six bolt neck. These in my opinion are the best current production basses from a large producer anywhere in the world as the finish and attention to detail are second to none.