Ernie Ball SR-5 Piezo Fretless Reviews
The StringRay 5 is already well reviewed so I will stick to the two special features here: The lined FL neck and the piezo bridge.
I got it online from Tommy's Guitar Shop in Everett, Washington. I passed up a number of 'near mint' examples from various shops cuz they were over $1500. This one has a few chips in the finish and I hadda sand the fingerboard .... 15 yrs with RW strings ! Anywayz, it was hundreds less dollars.
Transparent orange over swamp ash.
The tone and playability are fantastic. The playability is not as fluid as my 4-string version, but I prefer the tone of this 5-string. Perhaps it's the greater mass of the wider neck ? The electronics are also different, cuz my piezo FL *4*-string is a StingRay-4. This SR-5 is pre-2008, so it's electronics are like a Sterling, quite different from a StingRay 4.
I also have a fretless Sterling 4 WITHOUT piezos, and when this SR-5 is dialed to play only it's magnetic PU, its Sterling-like tone is evident - brighter than my StingRay FL-4. When the SR-5 is dialed to play only the piezo, it's still different than my SR-4 piezo. It might be the strings, but in each bass the piezo and the mag PU share the onboard EQ ... but the Sterling/SR-5 EQ differs from the SR-4 EQ, even with all controls at center detent.
THE GREAT TONE:
Mag PU SR-5 tone is well known.
The piezo tone is smooth and even, allowing plenty of bass boost before any boominess comes on. The FL sound of string-on-wood is super evident. I do NOT refer here to the 'FL mwah'. I refer here to the crispy, slightly 'papery' sound of vibrating string pressed against wood instead of metal. I have D'Adarrio 1/2-rounds on it and I get a deep, humming-thrubbing voice as the bass EQ is boosted. At closer to neutral EQ it's a very 'organic', woody voice.
Blending the mag with the piezo PUs is pure voodoo ... the whole is greater than the sum of the constituant parts. And why not ?
When it comes to harmonic content, PU position is the big influence. A piezo bridge listens to the WHOLE string equally, with all the harmonics received in 'natural balance'. A mag PU will emphasise the harmonics most evident nearest its location. The intermingling of the whole set [of harmonics] with the 'editted' set yields amazing results.
One more thing here about PU balance: A piezo StingRay [or Sterling] is the only dual-PU Ray or Sterling that allows player control of the PU balance. The magnetic-only dual-PU Rays, and Sterlings, use a blade switch to choose the PU coil combinations, and there is no independent volume control for the multiple PU's on those models. Having two very different PU voices WITH full blend control is beyond fantastic.
It took so long to find one at an affordable price.
It's built like a MusicMan. Nuffsedd.
Specific to the piezo FL:
Each piezo saddle has a corresponding gain trim pot under a cover on the backside. The previous owner apparently set these perfectly. It's very even across the string set. The FB is pau ferro, but 15 yrs of RW strings made some slight ruts. It was not yet causing any problems. OTOH, I can't know if the board had already been sanded down earlier in its life. I chose to start fresh and sand down with a sanding block.
The nut slots are definitely deeper than factory, very deep, and just perfect. I left them alone. After sanding was done, it played perfectly, but a liability of the plastic ghost lines became apparent. A few notes on the 'D' and 'G' strings had a high-pitched whiney buzz unless I fingered directly ON the white line. I prefer to play BEHIND the line. The white plastic material was rising up VERY slightly in a few spots. I could just barely feel it with a fingertip. Using a razor knife to shave the slightest tiny sliver of plastic from the line, just below those two strings [not fully across the neck], resulted in a complete fix. So be aware that the plastic lines can need some slight maintenance after 15 yrs !
Even with the caveat concerning the plastic lines, I'm rating it '9', but the scale on this review form only goes up to '5'. I'd rate it an '11' if EBMM would offer dual mag PUs on a piezo Ray or Sterling .... but they do not offer that. BTW, given a free choice, I'd get one without lines.Golem
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