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Review: Ernie Ball MusicMan Classic Sabre

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Shawn Scruggs
Bass Frontiers Staff Contributor

photo 1At some point we have all either owned of played a StingRay or a Sterling bass. I personally swear by a Classic StingRay 5! The New newest member to the Ernie Ball family actually isn’t a new bass at all. The Sabre was actually originally produced from 1978 to 1991 but was kind of a rare bird. I myself have never put my hands on an original so this review is strictly based on the newer updated reissue.

I initially laid my eyes on the newly reissued Sabre this year at NAMM and instantly fell in love with its really vibey tone. It sounds like a StingRay but it doesn’t, it has the presence and vibe of a StingRay but it has the balls, smaller body and more of the EQ of a Sterling. I played this new updated Sabre a ton and still am! It may very well be the best 4 string Ernie Ball I have ever picked up. Over the time period I have been demoing the Sabre I found myself pondering a few questions about the bass so rather than guess the answers I decided to go straight to the source and simply spoke with Tomas over at Ernie Ball. My specific model has a flame maple neck and finger board and is their 3 tone Vintage Burst finish.

1. Old vs. New Sabre what changes were made?

The new Sabre is basically a reissue of the early Ernie Ball Music Man Sabre. This includes the 5 way switch pickup selector in place of the 3 mini toggles the original had, the steel bridge plate rather than the cast bridge used on earlier Sabres, and the 16 pole neck pickup. In addition, they have been upgraded to the 6 bolt neck plate, the current Music Man style truss rod with adjustment at the body end. The order of pickup selector switch positions has been changed, and added the patented Music Man Silent Circuit to cancel hum in the positions where the neck pickup is tapped.

2. Maple neck and finger board…1 or 2 pieces?

The Maple blank is split and re-joined after installation of the truss rod. In many cases it is difficult to detect the glue joint, and a perfect match is guaranteed. I honestly could not tell if the neck and finger board are 1 or 2 pieces of wood…that’s how well the flame is matched and how much time and craftsmanship goes into these basses…they look custom built!

3. Eq wise…what are the boost and cut frequencies and how much dB of boost and cut? (See the graph image I’ve included here.)

ClassicSabre_Freq.Resp_EQ-BassPreamp

4. 5 way switch… what coils are activated in each position?

Position 1 is both coils of the bridge pickup in parallel.
Position 2 is both coils of the bridge pickup in parallel plus the rear coil of the neck pickup.
Position 3 is all 4 coils in parallel.
Position 4 is the rear coil of the neck pickup.
Position 5 is both coils of the neck pickup in parallel

5. Why the black covers?

Music Man went to this look when they changed to the 16 pole neck pickup. The bridge pickup still has the 8 magnets, so the black covers give a uniform look.

6. Pickups: Why and what are the advantages of 16 poles in the front and 8 poles in the back pickup?

The original design had 8 large magnets in the neck pickup and this caused string vibration problems. The smaller magnets do not have this issue. The bridge pickup is still the 8 large Alnico magnets, and is actually hotter than the StingRay pickup.

OK…that’s kinda specific but I want to do this review the most accurate and informative way possible and these are things I’ve wondered while using the bass almost everyday! I honestly love the way this bass covers a lot of ground, being that, you can get a lot of tones out of it and the EQ is very flexible. The neat thing to me is that it has a lot of features you would find on basses way more expensive and it works in any situation! If you want old and thumpy, no problem. If you want modern slap tones and presence for days…boom…Done! Like the Classic Series StingRay it does have the adjustable bridge mutes for an old school vibe and tone should you want it. The finish is beautiful and is super classy looking! You simply can not go wrong in any situation with their 3 tone Vintage Burst. Its like a vintage sunburst…but deeper and richer! The body is Ash so it has a little weight to it, but not too much and just adds to the tone and tips the scales at around 10lbs. Mine came with a set of their new Cobalt strings already on it and if you read my review on them a few months ago you would understand why this is a definite bonus. Perfect action and string width it’s simple to use and very little to nothing else you could ask for. I am not surprised one bit to see this bass back in the line up for Ernie Ball. Even though this bass is known to have a cult like following amongst bassists, I am almost positive this bass wouldn’t have made a come back if it wasn’t requested several times. So, there you have it…its like the old bass but better. Try one the first time you get a chance, I am positive you will want to give a Sabre a home rite next to your formaer favorite bass!

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