The J-Bass and the StingRay are two of the most popular bass guitar models available today, but which is the right one for you? In this article I’ll be comparing these two basses head-to-head so you can decide!
The Jazz bass has two passive single coil pickups whereas the StingRay bass has either one or two active humbucker pickups. The Jazz bass sounds warmer and more mellow whereas the StingRay sounds clearer and sharper and cuts through the mix more.
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Pickups and Tone
The most important difference between these two basses that we need to address is the tone. These two models have different tones because they have very different pickups.
The Jazz bass famously has two passive single coil pickups in the bridge and middle position. The StingRay on the other hand has a single active humbucker pickup in the bridge position. There are also some dual-humbucker versions of the StingRay as well.
The pickups in the StingRay make it sound clearer and sharper allowing it to cut through the mix more. The J-bass pickups sound a bit more mellow and natural. For slap bass the tone of the J-bass is generally preferred.
However, it’s all personal preference. Check out this YouTube video where you can listen to the StingRay and J-Bass being played back-to-back. The video features a dual-humbucker StingRay so you can hear all the possible tones.
Being an active bass, the StingRay has active EQ controls. Most models have a volume control and 3-band EQ (bass, mids and treble, however some just have a 2-band EQ (bass and treble). You’ll also have a 5-way pickup selector on the dual-humbucker version. With both the single and dual humbucker versions you can coil split the pickups.
On the traditional J-bass the controls are more simplistic but still quite versatile. You get a single master tone control and a volume control for each pickup. This allows you to blend the two pickups together, or activate them in isolation. On some versions of the J-bass e.g. Player Plus and American Ultra, you get an active 3-band EQ instead.
Other Key Differences
There are many different versions of the StingRay by Music Man and plenty of versions of the J-Bass by Squier and Fender. Hence, you can get different neck profiles, finishes, pickups, bridge designs etc. with either bass.
However, there are a few other differences that generally remain the same no matter which version you’re comparing:
- Most J-basses have alder bodies whereas StingRay’s typically use ash
- The neck on a J-bass is usually slimmer and the fretboard width is narrower
- The J-bass has 20 frets whereas the StingRay has either 22 or 21
- StingRay basses have a larger fingerboard radius compared to J-basses. This means the StingRay’s fingerboard feels flatter which some players find is easier to bend the strings.
- The StingRay is typically around 1 lbs lighter than the J-bass
As I mentioned previously, there are multiple versions of the StingRay and J-Bass which all have slightly different features. However, there are some similarities between all versions of these basses.
- 34″ scale length
- Bolt-on neck
- Maple necks
- C-neck profiles on most versions
- 4 and 5 string models available
- 0.045 gauge strings used as standard
Comparing the Specifications
|Specification||Fender J-Bass||Ernie Ball StingRay|
|Body Finish||Gloss Polyurethane||Gloss Polyester|
|Fingerboard Wood||Maple/ Rosewood||Maple/ Rosewood/ Ebony|
|Nut Material||Bone||Synthetic Bone|
|Construction||Bolt-On Neck||Bolt-On Neck|
|Pickups||Two Single-Coils||One Humbucker (Bridge)|
|Controls||2 x Vol, 1 x Tone||Vol, 3-Band EQ (Active), Coil Split|
|Bridge||4-Saddle String-Through||4-Saddle Top-Loaded|
|Average Weight||9 lbs||8 lbs|
If you’re not sure exactly which models in the range are comparable, here’s a list of all the currently available versions of both basses and the average price at the time of writing.
- Sterling by Music Man StingRay Ray4 and Ray5 ($250-$450)
- Sterling by Music Man StingRay Classic Ray24 and Ray25 ($450-$600)
- Sterling by Music Man Stingray Ray34 and Ray35 ($950-$1200)
- Ernie Ball Music Man StingRay Special ($2200-$2600)
- Squier Affinity Jazz Bass ($300)
- Squier Classic Vibe Jazz Bass ($490)
- Squier Contemporary Jazz Bass ($530)
- Fender Player Jazz Bass ($850-$875)
- Fender Vintera Jazz Bass ($1100)
- Fender Player Plus Jazz Bass ($1150)
- Fender American Performer Jazz Bass ($1500)
- Fender American Professional II Jazz Bass ($1750-$1850)
- Fender American Original Jazz Bass ($2100)
- Fender American Ultra Jazz Bass ($2100)
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