How To Choose The Best Amp For A Music Man Stingray

Once you find your dream bass, in this case an EBMM Stingray, the next big quest is to find the ‘perfect’ amp or amp/cab to pair it with. Like the P-Bass + Ampeg combination – a match made in (bass) heaven – is there a ‘better-half’ for the SR?

The SWR tone is game for a bass like the Stringray that can provide clean, sharp and solid-state punch.

Historically, Gallien-Kruger has been the workhorse choice to complement the Ray. Or, for those who could afford it, a nice boutique beast like a Thunderfunk. 

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What type of amp for the Stingray?

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Just as you can never fully dial out the Stingray character from your bass, you can never truly overrule the amp’s tonal color with EQ.

The hi-fi glass of premium tweeter horns, the grit of a SS/tube Mesa or the clean, unfiltered lows of an SWR, every amp/brand has a distinct identity. 

Can you imagine the effort it would take to make an SWR sound vintage and deep or get the modern ‘focused lows’ from an Acoustic 360?

The last thing you want to do is pair a Stingray with a muddy sounding Ampeg or a Mesa BB750.

Don’t get me wrong, the BB750 (tube/SS amp) does a great job at emulating all-tube sounds. It has fat/warm lows but more relaxed upper mids and it can get really, really dirty if that’s your thing.

One of the most iconic Stingray tone can be heard in Queen’s Another One Bites the Dust where Deacon is playing an SR4 through a tube amp.

But for most people, compromising the pristine clarity and razor sharpness of the Music Man Stingray tone palette is nothing short of sacrilege. To complement the hi-fi character, you need something modern like an SWR, Markbass, or Gallien Krueger. 

Any amp that is voiced to downplay the highs, like Fender’s Rumble series, will end up underwhelming the brightness of a ‘Ray.

Since EBMM basses, including the SR, have lots of tone, they pair well with flat EQ amps that can supply enough power. For this reason, a solid state amp is generally a better idea. Also, anything below 50w isn’t going to cut it.

That said, if you like to deal in the blunt lo-fi tones with thick low end and rough (think break-up) tones, you may also venture into valve amps or hybrids from Mesa, Aguilar, Ampeg, etc.

We have rounded up some of the best, tried and tested amp choices for a Music Man Stingray, to cover as wide a tone palette as possible.

Gallien-Krueger (GK) amp for the Stingray

For many bassists, nothing sounds better than a Stringray with a Gallien-Krueger amp. Some own several Stingrays and GK rigs as they love every sound they get out of this combination.

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This pairing was extremely common a decade or two ago when GK’s RB series was dominating the market. 

A solid-state head like the GK 800RB is a good example for pairing with a Stingray. Relatively affordable, it offers 300w of clean headroom with a highly flexible EQ.

Playing a Stringray through a GK 1001rbii (and a GK RBX 410 for example) also produces a killer tone.

The GK heads and cabs are generally lighter than most other major brands (especially the SVT stuff).

The tube hybrids, like the MB Fusion Series, offer a good 500w (e.g. the MB212-ii combo) and 800w option than can be matched with a wide range of GK and non-GK cabs.

The 700RB, 800RB, 1001RB are some of the best amp heads to match with a Stingray. They can be associated with a reasonable cabinet like an RB410 or even a Hartke 410.

For more punchy, articulate, rails grind, try the premium horn tweeter and neodymium speakers of the Neo 212 or 410 (high-power) for a Stingray HH.

Markbass amp for the Music Man Stingray

Markbass falls on the warmer side of the sonic landscape and pairs well with the brightness of the Rays. Some of the Markbass amps are essentially reissues of the old Music Man amps and look and sound like them.

Markbass amps work particularly well with 3-band Stingrays – more fine tuning of the amp’s mids is generally required with a 2-band SR.

The Micromark 801 is a good choice for rehearsals and woodshedding. The LMII and LMIII manage to reproduce a fairly transparent tone. 

The Markbass Ninja (e.g. with Ninja 2×12 cab) combined with the Stingray yields a great range of tones from slap-happy stuff to vintage style Bernard Edwards (Chic) tone. Set your bass tone close to max and treble just under half, amp flat with maybe a bit of boost to VLE (i.e. bass boost and mids/treble reduction).

If you want to go the tube route, check out the LM800T and Markbass TA503. The VPL and VPF knobs on the LM800T are great for dialing in some ultra-functional tones on the fly, and you can add a compressor in the mix to get great slap tones. 

The TA503 is a tube amp with digital power – 500w of sheer grunt and grit that brings the best out of the EBMM bite. It can do everything an R500 does and more.

A Markbass CMD121P + NY121P rig sounds great with a Stingray, e.g. with the VLE at 11:00 and the bass set to 100% bass & 0-25% treble. Use d’Addario flat strings. 

Other Stingray/Markbass veterans recommend using Ernie Ball Slinkies (100-45) or EB Cobalt Slinky flats. 

Mesa amp for the Stingray

It is really hard to think how you can go wrong with an EBMM and a Mesa. They are both great at what they do, the only question is which models pair the best. In the case of a Stingray, the PFS500 and Mesa Boogie 400 are choices you can’t go wrong with. 

The only issue to contend with your choice is the weight. Some of the amp/cab combos can take a toll on your back and may be better-suited for studios.

SEE ALSO:   Ampeg Portaflex vs Fender Rumble: Battle Of The Titans

Regardless, pairing a Mesa Boogie 400 with an efficient cab like a Barefaced 215 will bring out a solid tone from the Stingray.

The Mesa M9 also pairs well with a 410 cab to enhance the growl of Stingrays. The M9 has rich lows and lots of upper mid presence. It also has the modern glass and does the SS/tube really well. 

The tube in the M9 (and M6) don’t seem to have as much of an impact on the tone as in other models, which can be a good thing in the case of a Stingray.

SWR amp for the Stingray

SWR is famous for its uber-transparent and hi-fi tonality and even though they are no longer manufactured, their sound is highly sought after in the used market because very few other manufacturers voice a preamp as they did. 

SWR is now a part of Fender’s portfolio and the old series has been overhauled and re-launched (or modernized) as the WorkingPro series. 

The SWR WP700 and 750x are both great choices for Stingrays that have great mid presence and focus. Many bassists have been playing Stingray 5s with SWR amps for years and are very happy with their tone, and appreciate the parametric pots for good frequency control. 

3-band Stingrays also pair really well with the SWR Goliath SR cabs.

Genz Benz amp for the MM Stringray

Like GK, Genz Benz rigs pair well with Stingrays and bring out its tonal character. The Genz Benz Streamliner 900, for example, is a great match for the Stingray e.g. with the Genz Benz NX212T cab. A mint Streamliner 2 can usually be found on Reverb for $500-$700.

Stingrays 4 and 5 (including Classic) are also known to sound great through a Genz Benz GBE 1200 e.g. with a Tecamp L215.

Like GK, Genz Benz pairs really well with an SR4 or SR5, bringing out the bass’s tonal qualities. The Genz Benz Shuttle is the ultimate choice for a low-weight class D amp head with rich lows.

The Genz Benz Streamliner has a more open sound and is a touch warmer with a lot more presence in the highs. Pairing it with a Stingray and say a Genz Benz NX212T cab can give great results. You can find a mint Streamliner or Shuttle 9.2 on Reverb for $500-$700.

The Shuttlemax 9.2 also comes close to the Streamliner for a Stringray, though perhaps not quite as good.

Thunderfunk amp for the Stingray

Thunderfunk was all the rage in the 90s when they hit the market. They still square up to any modern class D amp head that is high on performance and tone. If you can find a used Thunderfunk TFB-550B to pair with your Stingray, you can get more for a lot less.

The TFB400 is also a great option that usually goes for $500-$600 in the used market.

Ashdown amps for the Stingray

An Ashdown AMB500 EVOII + AMB 210H Pro Neo (or a good Bergantino cab) is a good match for the SR. The EvoII is a great light-weight option for low-end warmth and an even bass response. It has an impressively musical EQ section with valve drive, and a subharmonizer that responds equally well to low and high notes.

SEE ALSO:   Best Bass Cabs For Low Tuning: Taming The Low Range

Alternatively, you can opt for an Ashdown MK500 if you want a bright and hi-fi tone. As for the MK series, MK = Mark King, ‘nuff said.

Ampeg / SVT amp for the Stingray

As mentioned earlier, the all-tube heads may not be the best choice for modern tones: while they pair well with the bite of a Classic Stingray, they mash a lot of the highs.  

That said, Ampegs are very reliable and offer some hybrids that can complement the SR. The Stingray + Ampeg combo can produce some high-on-oomph rock tones. 

Your best options include a PF500 (e.g. with a PF-410HLF​​​​​​​) or PF800, or one of the hybrids like SVT 7-Pro. 

Crank the amp volume and treble, add a bass pick (plectrum) to the equation, and you’ve got something that is just outright rock-ready dirt. Just be aware that the fan noise (from the cooling unit) of the SVT can be a big issue in a quiet studio.

Other good amp options for the Stingray

  • Hartke amps can pair well with 2-band Stingrays
  • The Aguilar DB series is very mid friendly with an attenuated low end that sounds great when paired with a ‘Ray.  E.g. the Aguilar TH500 + Aguilar DB410. 
  • The Eden 1205 + Eden 410XLT: high power handling capacity (though quite heavy). The tone is colored but pairs rather well with the SR because it is loud, cuts through the mix and can be pushed really hard.

Other amp considerations for the Music Man Stingray

The Stingray is a dynamic high-end bass that is not forgiving if your technique is poor. You can’t dig in too hard with a plectrum or fingers without it reflecting in the clank you generate.

The master volume on the bass control panel is sensitive (in a good way).

Even minor adjustments to volume or hand placement (i.e. close to the neck or close to the bridge) will make substantial changes to how the bass responds.

The types of strings used will have a significant influence on the cutting power and clarity of a Stingray as well.

With the above qualities in mind, opt for a rig that gives you a lot of control in the high frequency spectrum. It is always better to have more treble than you need as long as you have an option to control/tweak it with accuracy.

For instance – you can slap on some flats, roll off the treble and play by the neck with fingers to bring out the warm and darker sounds (much like a P-bass).

Or, you can slap on some bright EB Slinkys, let the tweeter loose, dig in with a plectrum and let the bass crackle away.

If this is a bedroom or rehearsal amp then anything between $200-300 is adequate. If you are looking to gig with it, then $600-1000 is a good range.

However, if you truly want the full experience you will need to invest in a distinguished solid-state amp head and cabinet for the oomph and juice that valve heads and low power combo amps are incapable of providing.

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Photo credits:
Featured image: courtesy of EBMM and Gallien-Krueger
(2) “Music Man StingRay fretless bass ” (CC BY 2.0) by kohrogi34