What began as a flight of fancy between Sterling Ball and BMW Designworks has grown over the last 15 years and has remained the king of outside-the-box design for electric basses. Since its release in 2003, the Bongo has ruffled feathers with its radical aesthetic design, lightweight and ergonomic basswood body, the first and only 24-fret neck for a Music Man bass, and powerful 18V preamp. The Bongo is a formidable bass for hardcore low-end lovers.
In the beginning the Ernie Ball Music Man Bongo Bass came out to the consternation of many. The industry and press asked, “What is this strange toilet-seat-looking UFO bass? Is this some kind of lost Alembic design?” yet despite its quirks the Bongo has always been a tonal monster and extremely versatile expression tool.
In the original configuration the Bongo came as a 4-string single bridge-position humbucker with neodymium magnets, completely proprietary designed tuning keys, and an onboard 18V preamp with 3-band EQ.
Check this out if you’re a player who wants: A bass designed to house as many features as possible, while still remaining streamlined.
The Bongo 4 is also available with 2 pickup configurations: Humbucker w/Single Coil, and Dual Humbucker. All Bongo basses with 2 pickups feature a 4-band EQ instead of the standard 3-band, and pickups are switchable via blend knob.
The Bongo 5
Not long after the debut of The Bongo we realized that the section of bass players who prefer extended range would love a bass that also gave them greater freedom to use 5 strings. All this without the sacrifice of adding extra scale length to the existing neck design. Like its 4 string brethren, the Bongo 5 features an 18v preamp for expanded headroom, allowing active-electronics players the benefit of having greater attack, or express a greater level of dynamics than is typical of 9V preamp basses.
The Bongo 5 also comes in 3 distinct pickup offerings, H, HS, and HH. All single humbucker models are equipped with a 3-band EQ, while the dual humbucker models have a 4-band and pickup blend.
The Bongo 6
After the release of the Bongo 5 the folks at EBMM kept getting questions about a 6-string bass. It took some time and some deliberation, but eventually the Bongo 6 made its way to the hands of players all over the world. Now we had taken the extended range of the bass guitar to the limits of what was capable, without the hassle and price tag of going to a custom electric bass luthier.
The Bongo 6 is also unique in that it is the only member of the Bongo instrument family to solely come in two pickup configurations, and therefore the only Bongo to come standard with a 4-band EQ.
Check out the interview Ernie Ball has done with John Myung where he expertly demos his Bongo 6 and pontificates on the finer points of musicianship: