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 [AT 11 MAY 2011] 

NECKPLATE EVOLUTION 

(INCLUDING SERIAL NUMBER DESCRIPTION AND LOCATION) 
 
A rough outline subject to amendment.
 
 
  INDEX
 
Pre-EB BASSES (1976 to 1984):
Sting Ray, Sabre, Cutlass 1, Cutlass 11.
 
EB BASSES (1984 - current):
Sting Ray (including 20th Anniversary and 2001 NAMM Basses),
SR5, Sterling (including Black Onyx Bass), Sabre,
Silhouette, SUB 4, SUB 5, Bongo 4, Bongo 5.
 
 
 
 

Pre-EB BASSES (1976 - 1984)

 

 

STING RAY (1976 - 1984)

 

 

1976 to circa late 1978


 3 bolt neckplate with serial number.
Pic from a 1977 Bass.
 
From 1976 to late 1978, Sting Ray Basses have a 3 bolt neckplate displaying a six digit serial number normally prefixed with the letter "B". However, see the rare example below where an "8" appears rather than a "B" (thought to be a mis-stamping).

Note the "Micro-Tilt" adjustment hole. Micro-tilt was a feature of the 3 bolt necks: a mechanical shim to adjust the angle of the neck allowing sufficient up-down string saddle height adjustment. The micro-tilt adjustment is deleted with the introduction of 4 bolt necks (see below).


A very rare 1977 neck plate where the serial
is prefixed with an "8"rather than
the normal "B" prefix.


Circa late1978 to 1981
 
 3 bolt neckplate with serial number deleted.
Pic from a 1979 Bass.
 
During late 1978 (December?) the serial number was deleted from the 3 bolt plate and relocated to the bridge. However, the Micro-Tilt adjustment was retained. Although a 4 bolt plate was introduced circa late 1979 (directly below), the 3 bolt un-serialed plate continued into 1981. Consequently, this and the 4 bolt plate both run concurrently during 1980 and 1981. There after, the 4 bolt plate was used exclusively.
 
For the remainder of the Pre-EB period, serial numbers are located on the bridge.
 
 
Circa late 1979 to end of the Pre-EB period (1984)
 
4 bolt neck plate. Pic from a 1982
Bass. Note the inclusion of
"MADE IN U.S.A."
 
The 4 bolt was introduced in circa late 1979. As the 3 bolt plate was not deleted immediately, both appeared concurrently during 1980 and 1981. From 1982, the 4 bolt plate appeared exclusively to the end of the Pre-EB period in 1984.

Note that the 3 bolt micro-tilt adjustment is deleted on the 4 bolt neck.
 
The words "MADE IN U.S.A." were deleted from 4 bolt plates when Ernie Ball commenced production in 1984. However, some stocks of the Pre-EB 4 bolt plate were used on very early EB Basses. 
 
 
SABRE (Late 1978 - 1984)
 
 
Late 1978 to circa 1981
 
A 3 bolt plate from 1979 Sabre
serial number C002376.
 
Same plate as used for the Pre-EB Sting Rays from late 1978 to 1981. The serial number is located on the bridge and appears to have never been located on the plate. As with the Pre-EB Sting Ray, although a 4 bolt plate was introduced in circa late 1979, the 3 bolt Sabre extend into 1981.
 
 
Circa late 1979 to end of the Pre-EB period (1984)
 
A 4 bolt plate from 1983 Sabre
serial number C006222.
 
The 4 bolt was introduced in circa late 1979. Although it ran concurrently with the un-serialed 3 bolt plate during 1980 and 1981, it appeared exclusively from 1982 to the end of the Pre-EB period in 1984.
 
The words "MADE IN U.S.A." were deleted from 4 bolt plates when Ernie Ball commenced production in 1984. However, some stocks of the Pre-EB 4 bolt plate were used on very early EB Basses. 
 

CUTLASS 1 BASS
 [Sting Ray with graphite neck] (1983 - 1984)
And
CUTLASS 11 BASS [Sabre with graphite neck] (1983 - 1984)
 
It appears that the graphite neck was introduced late 1982 (per Oct 1982 catalogue) but not named "Cutlass" Bass until 1983. Although necks are dated from 1983 to 1984, some bodies used can be dated much earlier (e.g. 1979). Consequently, Cutlass Basses can have either 3 bolt or 4 bolt neck plates. However, most feature a 4 bolt neck with a top-load bridge.

A 3 bolt plate used on a circa 1983 Cutlass 1 Bass.
Also note that this example has the strings
running through the body. Most Cutlass
1 Basses feature a 4 bolt neck with a
top-load bridge.

A 4 bolt plate from a Cutlass 1 Bass.
Serial number B023101.
 
Plates used are the same as for the normal Sting Ray and Sabre Basses. Consequently, in relation to the 4 bolt plates, "MADE IN USA" appears at the bottom.

It is believed approx 600 Cutlass 1 and 300 Cutlass 11 Basses were made.
 
 

EB BASSES (1984 - Current)

 

 STING RAY (1984 - Current)
 
Ernie Ball aquired Music Man in March 1984 and commenced instrument production in the same year. Although EB continued manufacturing the Sting Ray and Sabre Basses along with their respective bullet truss rods, the Cutlass Basses were discontinued.
 
1984 to circa 1991

 

Note the deletion of "MADE IN USA"

 

Although "MADE IN USA" was deleted from the Ernie Ball 4 bolt plates, some very early Sting Ray Basses still have this feature. It's presumed that old Pre-EB plates have been utilized.
 
The 4 bolt neck is associated with a bullet truss rod which is adjustable at the head stock. Although the 6 bolt neck was introduced in the 2nd half of 1990 (with it's associated truss capstan wheel adjusted at the neck heel), examples of 4 bolt neck extend into 1991. Note that the 6 bolt Bass neck was first featured on the SR5 with it's introduction in 1987. It took a further 3 year before being featured on the SR4.
 
As well as using old stock Pre-EB bridges, Ernie Ball also manufactured their own bridges which are almost identical. These latter bridges feature unprefixed 5 digit serials.
 
Consequently, from 1984 to 1988, serials consist of:
 
*6 digits prefixed with a "B" (featured on old Pre-EB bridges now being used) and,
*5 digit unprefixed serials (featured on the new EB bridge).
 
Circa 1988, the new EB bridge was used exclusively and the old Pre-EB "B" serials ceased to exist. 
 
In all cases, serials are located on the bridge.

2nd half of 1990 to 1998

 

6 bolt neck plate introduced 2nd half of 1990.

 

The 6 bolt neck features a capstan wheel truss adjustment at the neck heel. The capstan wheel was not a feature of 4 bolt necks. Nor was the bullet truss rod a feature of the 6 bolt neck.
 
Although the 6 bolt was introduced in the 2nd half of 1990, examples of the 4 bolt neck (and it's associated bullet truss rod) extend into 1991. Note that the 6 bolt Bass neck was first featured much earlier on the SR5 with it's release in 1987. 
 

In 1996, during the currency of the 6 bolt plate, prefixed 5 digit serial numbers were introduced. Serials with the prefix "A" were featuted on the 20th Anniversary Bass.

 

For standard Basses, "B" and "D" prefixes followed. Left handed Basses (introduced in 1996) are prefixed with an "L".

 

To confuse matters, the "B" prefix resulted in serial numbers which, at first glance, appear like the old Pre-EB serials. The difference is the absence of one digit.

 

All "A", "B" and "D" and "L" serials remain located on the bridge.

All Sting Ray 4 serial numbers, to this point in time, are shared with serials for the Sterling Bass (from 1993 to the end of 1997) and the Sabre Bass (from 1985 to 1991). However, serials are not duplicated for each model type.

 

1998 - Current

 

The 6 bolt plate now with a new logo redesign
and serial number inclusion.

 

The serial moves from the bridge to the neck plate and is prefixed with an "E" (and "L" for left handed Basses). A new plate logo is included and is the same as for the 6 bolt plate introduced on the SR5 at the same time (see below).

Note that some Basses, with the "D" serial on the bridge (along with the older plate), extend into 1998.
 
Neck plate from a left-handed Bass. Although prefixed
with an "L", some left-handed Basses have
been observed with the normal
"E" prefixed serial.
 
A 2004 SR4 Limited Edition 'Envy Green'. Limited Edition
refers to the colour finish. "Scottbass".
 
Sting Ray 4 "E" and "L" (left handed) serials (from 1998 to current date) are shared with the SR5 "E" and "L" serials (from 1998 to current date). However, they are not duplicated. A serial allocated to a Sting Ray 4 will not be duplicated on a SR5.

20th ANNIVERSARY BASS (1996 Only)


20th Anniversary plate recessed into the body. 

Same as for the older SR4 plate used before the new 1998 plate. Note that the plate is recessed into the body.

The serial is located on the bridge and is prefixed with an "A".
 
100th NAMM ANNIVERSARY BASS (2001 Only)


The 100th Anniversary NAMM neck plate is exactly the same as the
older 6 bolt plate found on Sting Rays from 1990-1998 (above).

The serial is located on the bridge and not the neck plate (as one would expect). Serials are similar to the Pre-EB serials consisting of 6 digits prefixed with a "B".

SR5 (1987 - Current)
 
1987 to circa 1990
 
1989 SR5 neck plate. "FireAarow".
 
SR5 plates from 1987 to circa 1990 have no markings. The 6 bolt neck was a feature of the SR5 with it's release in 1987. SR5's have never featured a 4 bolt neck.

The 6 bolt neck (and plate) was not a feature of the SR4 until three years latter (2nd half 1990).
 
Serials are located on the bridge and consist of an unprefixed 5 digit number commencing with a "5" (eg 50101).
 
Circa 1990 to 1998
 
Same as for the early 6 bolt neck plates
featured on the SR4.
 
Same as for the SR4. It's assumed that the 6 bolt plate for the SR5 became stamped at the same time as the as the 6 bolt neck (and it's stamped plate) was added to the SR4 in the 2nd half of 1990.

Serials remain located on the bridge and consist of an unprefixed 5 digit number commencing with a "5" (as noted above). However, with the introduction of the left handed Basses in 1996 the serial was prefixed with an "L" (and also located on the bridge).
 
1998 - Current
 
Same as for the latter 6 bolt neck plates
featured on the SR4 in 1998.
 
A new plate logo was featured in 1998 and is the same as for the SR4 in that year. The serial was also moved from the bridge to the plate and pre-fixed with an "E". The pre-existing "L" prefixed serials for left handed Basses also moved to the bridge. 

A 2004 SR5 Limited Edition 'Radiance Red'. Limited
Edition refers to the colour finish. "BASSART".
 
SR5 "E" serials (from 1998 to current date) are shared with the Sting Ray 4 "E" serials (from 1998 to current date). However, they are not duplicated. A serial allocated to a SR5 will not be duplicated on a Sting Ray 4.

20th Anniversary 2007 only



A 20th Anniversary neck plate. Note that the plate is
5 bolt and recessed into the body rather than the 6
bolt un-recessed plate normally found on the SR5.
Note also that the serial mumber is prefixed
with an "F" rather than the normal
"E" prefix."Bovinehost".


STERLING (1993 - Current)

Circa early 1993

 
 
Serial 37125. From an early Sterling
made as a pre-series model for
the European market. Note
that the plate has no
markings.
 
1993 to 1998
 
1995 Sterling neck plate. "Helmut".
 
The stamped logo design is the same as for the 6 bolt Sting Ray and SR5 plates up to 1998 (above). Note that the Sterling is a 5 bolt neck.
 
During this period, serials are located on the bridge. As with the Sting Ray, serial are unprefixed up to 1996 but become prefixed with "B" and the "D" from 1996 and 1997.

All  Sterling serial numbers, to this point in time, are shared with serials for the Sting Ray 4 (from 1993 to the end of 1997). However, serials are not duplicated for each model type.

1998 - Current
 
New neck plate logo with serial number. "DavTran".
 
In keeping with other models, a new logo design was added to the plate in 1998. Note also that the serial moves from the bridge and is included on the plate. The serial number is prefixed with an "F" (not an "E" as was the case for the SR4 and SR5 in 1998). Left handed Basses are prefixed with an "L".

2006


Neck plate from a 2006 Limited Edition black with gold
hardware Sterling. "Permanent Waves".

Recessed Neckplates 1993 - circa 2000




1996 Sterling neckplate. "Xavier".

Up until circa 2000, all sterling neckplates were recessed and flush with the body surface.
 
STERLING BLACK ONYX (2002 Only)
 
2002 Black Onyx. Note the inclusion of
'Custom Made'. "DavTran".
 
 
SABRE (1984 - 1991)

1984 to 1991


A 4 bolt neck plate from
a 1987 Sabre.


Same as for the 4 bolt EB Sting Ray. Note the deletion of "MADE IN USA". Also note that some early Sabres used old Pre-EB 4 bold plates which do feature the "MADE IN USA".

2nd half of 1990 to 1991
 
A 6 bolt neck plate from a 1991 Sabre. Same as for the
6 bolt SR4 and SR5 prior to 1998. Serial
number 32979. "Markku".
 
The 4 bolt neck (and plate) was featured during the entire Sabre period. However, as with the Sting Ray, the 6 bolt neck and plate was introduced in the 2nd half of 1990. From that time, both 4 bolt and 6 bolt necks and plates are featured concurrently. Production of the Sabre ceased in 1991.
 
After EB aquired Music Man in 1984, a few Pre-EB Sabre bridges were used on very EB Sabres. Consequently, these early Basses have the old Pre-EB Sabre serial prefixed with a "C" and appear to be rare.
 
In the main (as with the early EB Sting Ray), both Pre-EB Sting Ray bridges and similar design EB bridges were used. Consequently, serials are either 6 digit prefixed with a "B" (Pre-EB bridge) or 5 digit unprefixed serials (EB bridge). From 1988, the 5 digit unprefixed serial appears exclusively.
 
All serials are located on the bridge.

All Sabre serial numbers, to this point in time, are shared with serials for the Sting Ray 4 (from 1985 to 1991). However, serials are not duplicated for each model type.
 
SILHOUETTE (1992 - Current)
 
1999 Silhouette Bass. "NorM".
 
A 5 bolt neck similar in design to the Sterling. Note the the serial is prefixed with a G.

SUB 4 (2003 - Current)


2003 SUB 4 neck plate.

Similar in design to the Sting Ray 6 bolt neck plates prior to 1998.

SUB 5 (2003 - Current)


2004 SUB 5 neck plate.

Although partially hidden by the white sticker, the SUB 5 neck plate is similar in design to both the SUB 4 (above) and the Sting Ray 6 bolt neck plates prior to 1998.

BONGO 4 (2003 - Current)


2003 Bongo 4 neck plate "Flywheel".

Similar in design to the Sterling Bass neck plates from 1998 onwards.

BONGO 5 (2003 - Current)


2003 Bongo 5 neck plate.

Similar in design to both the Bongo 4 (above) and Sterling Bass neck plates from 1998 onwards.


2004 Bongo 5 Limited Edition neck plate.  Limited Edition
refers to the colour finish."Bovinehost".

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