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Sterling by Music Man RAY35-NT Review – A Modern 5-String Bass with a Prestigious Pedigree

4.7 out of 5 stars

Sterling by Music Man instruments are developed by the same engineers who design the premium American Ernie Ball range. So, despite being manufactured in Asia, they share more than a name with their American counterparts. The RAY35-NT is a modern 5-string bass with classic Stingray style. If you're in the market for a bass guitar with some serious credentials, this could be the one…

Body & Neck

That classic Stingray style grabs your attention from the first moment you see this bass. It's not one you walk past in the store without a second look. Here we are looking at the natural version but it also comes in a deep glossy black version. In both variations, the headstock matches the body color, which is a nice touch.

The body is made from swamp ash, which is a popular choice for many manufacturers. One of the reasons swamp ash is sought after by bassists is that it tends to be incredibly clear in the mid-range and accentuate the high-range. This, along with its natural resonance, creates a really punchy, articulate, well-balanced tone that is a perfect starting point for customization. It's softer wood than many, but it won't fall apart with a few dings – this one will stand the test of time.

The 6-bolt neck and fretboard are maple (the black version comes with a rosewood fretboard) with a 12” radius that delivers a smooth playing experience. The neck feels particularly stable compared to most bolt-on necks, which results in a superior tone transfer. Both models come with a 34″ scale length and 21 frets.


The hardware on this bass is definitely built to last – everything is heavy duty. There’s just one humbucking pickup, designed by Music Man, driving this bass. This ‘bucker has alnico pole pieces which generate a naturally warm tone… but don't let that fool you – this bass will growl when it has to!

The pickup is complimented by a 3-band preamp designed by Music Man (nothing is outsourced, and we love that!). There’s also a 3-way switch to choose between series and parallel combinations.

The Music Man bridge features stainless steel saddles that are extra thick for added stability and precise adjustments. The precision of the saddles means very little or no sideways movement on the strings even when you really dig in. Open-gear heavy-duty tuning machines add to this stability.

As we have mentioned, the quality of the hardware is immediately apparent and there are few doubts that this bass will stand the test of time.


The combination of the swamp ash body and the humbucking pickup creates a naturally warm, resonant sound. The 3-band preamp really cranks up the variation, letting you capture the most subtle nuances that Music Man is known for. 

Mid-frequencies are quite subtle to start, building to really expansive highs. There is incredible clarity across the board and you can tell you are playing a quality instrument. The bottom end is nice and percussive – you can feel it, and that's what bass is all about.

The 3-way switch lets you choose between both coils in series; in series with filter; and both coils parallel. Music Man got it right with the tone. Everything from the body to the hardware was chosen carefully to complement each other. It's warm, punch, ridiculously articulate and very versatile.


We like this bass – that's clear to see! It's well made, with quality hardware and it sounds awesome. Even though looks are secondary to sound (at least they should be!), this bass makes a great first impression, and this is followed up with a clarity of tone and versatility that rivals any bass in the same price range. Although it's by no means a cheap bass, this is still a bargain way to get the signature Music Man style and sound on a 5-string.

For more info about the Sterling by Music Man RAY35-NT, click here.
For more of the best 5-string bass guitars, click here.

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