Alright, so here are my impressions:
The Jazzman has the same basic tone… no crazy changes, except the midrange is more relaxed and refined sounding. The Alnico MM4.4 has a warmer, thicker bottom. The ceramic magnets from the MEC MM pickup really “gank” up the midrange, on what is an already very midrangey wood tone combination. The Alnico MM4.4 really warmed things up and gave the bass a more warm, vintage sound. Same with the Nordstrand NJ4SV neck pickup. Great pickup combo. Everything set flat – the bass still sounds all “Warwick” but without the nasal midrange “gank”, and has a warmer, fatter tone.
The Nordstrand 3B-4a Preamp is now confirmed my favorite pre of all time… Set flat, going from active to passive – the tone is pretty transparent. There is a slight “raw” character to the passive tone that the active circuitry buffers out (but this is true for all preamps). The beauty of the Nordstrand 3B-4a preamp are the chosen frequency center points – especially the boost / cut midrange at 400hz/1K… just genius. When you engage using the preamp, its just a thing of beauty... everything works as you want it to. It's like Carey choose not only all the perfect center freq points, but also the curve & amount of db boost/cut. None of the EQ options ever get “out of control” – i.e. the bass boost is very linear (no jumping from 1 to 10 with a small turn). Very usable – everywhere.
Pickups: overall warmer and fatter sounding.
Preamp: one word – genius
In conclusion – I can honestly say that I have way too many tones to play with on this bass… which could be a good or bad thing depending on the player. Right now I can get lost in just doing slight pickup panning, using the 3-way coil cutting & using the 400hz / 1k midrange control. This has become by far the most versatile bass I own. I can get some fat P-Bass type tone… to ultra burpy Jaco tones… to middle of the road Jazzy tones, all the while having a vintage vibe blanketed over the Warwick growl. With notes just jumping off that Wenge board, and all the onboard controls I have – I can honestly say this may be too much