I really like these newish EMG Alnico pickups, they really retain that Fender pickup character but with the punch and projection of an EMG - it's like a great P tone that really translates easily to a big room. Soundmen rave about the nice clear tone I get.
But one thing bugged me - which is better, the classic preamp or the X series? I have a PA in one bass and PAX in the other, so I thought I'd try swapping them to see the difference.
On the right is my 2009 Highway One, EMG pickup, Gotoh 201 bridge, East BTB-01 2-band set flat for this test. Running off a 9V lithium battery hidden under the pickguard. Strings are Fender flats, Stainless Steel, .45-.105, well broken in. This bass that I call "Trusty Old Black" or "TOB" was my road warrior for two years and my test bed for creating the bass on the left:
On the left is a bass I call "The James Bond Bass" or "007" for short. It's a 2011 AM Special neck on a Warmoth alder body, custom finished with an extra thin Nitrocellulous lacquer. Rear routed to fit a Mike Pope Flexcore preamp, which I left bypassed for this test, and with a custom EMG bridge pickup, reverse-P in an 35-series housing with Ceramic and Steel magnets, also disabled for this test - I run this bass a lot in this mode, Pope bypassed, P pup soloed. Also has a Gotoh 201, it's a great bridge, really tightened up the lowest notes on the Highway One so I put one on this bass. This bass runs 18V via two alkaline batteries in a battery box on the back although I believe the Pope only feeds 9V to the pickup itself. Strings are LaBella Deep Talkin' flats, about 6 months old, same age as the bass itself. Also nicely broken in. .45-.105
Swapping the pickups was easy thanks to EMG's plug and play system. I measured the height of each half of the pickup to the nearest MM before unscrewing them, and set them to the same height when reassembling. The only bummer was that I had to take the strings off for the tests, which I prefer not to do especially for flats which I tend to keep on for a while.
Now on to the audio. The amp is my practice amp, an old Peavey KB 300 keyboard amp, set flat. It's heavy as hell and I got it for free, but it's pretty clean and uncolored. I did not touch the volume, you'll notice that TOB is louder than 007 with either pickup, I just left them that way for consistency. Recorder was my Zoom H4N, set about 5' away from the amp and at hip height to catch the tweeter's beam directly, so the high end is a little more prominent than it is live. Plus I would normally roll off the tone a little but in this case I left them wide open. Sound clips:
007 with PA http://snd.sc/14Fi5lL
007 with PAX http://snd.sc/14jwO6D
TOB with PA http://snd.sc/14FiLI3
TOB with PAX http://snd.sc/14jx0mp