Quick Comparison - 2012 "custom shop" stock MIA Standard P Pickup and SPB-2 Pickup
I found that a short clip of a pickup in identical situations helps tremendously when looking at the strengths and weaknesses of a pickup. I'm going to add in the SPB-3 and Bill Lawrence P-46 at some point soon, but for right now, I'm just doing the stock pickup and my current favorite aftermarket.
SPB-2 Hot for P-Bass Pickup
Stock "custom shop" pickup, 2012 Am. Std. P bass
I'm actually surprised they ended up sounding as different as they do - I did this same exercise when I put Model Js in my jazz bass, and the differences when I did that comparison were quite a bit more subtle, even though a lot of people say that Model Js are a big departure from the "standard" J tone.
According to the sticker that was on the bass when I bought it, the stock pickup is a "custom shop" pickup, whatever that means. It probably is a little different from what was stock on the American Standards before 2012, but I doubt the difference is huge. I could be wrong, though.
Anyway, I recorded these direct through an Apogee Jam into GarageBand on my MacBook. No effects of any kind, just a slight attempt to normalize the volume, though one clip might be a touch louder.
The bass is a 2012 MIA Standard P, the strings are broken in (but not dead) DR Low Rider SS in gauges .40 .60 .80 .100. Tone and volume up full, nothing fancy.
I haven't decided yet which of the pickups I have is going to stay in the instrument. The SPB2 has a nice middy profile, and the slightly rolled-off treble sounds really good when I add a little grit from a pedal or overdriving my amp. The stock pickup is certainly more open sounding and seems to have both more lows and highs, at least relative to the mids. I didn't expect that - I figured the SPB-2 would have more low-end, but the mids are just so much stronger.
The stock pickup has a more versatile sound, but it is a tad hollow, and doesn't make it's presence felt in the (live) mix quite as well, but I might be able to address that with some EQ. The stock pickup is poorly grounded, though - the pole pieces in particular are a problem - touching them while playing, even if I'm touching the strings, results in audible hum and I get "pops" when I play over the pickup and my finger comes to rest touching one of the poles. On the SPB-2, this is much less noticeable, possibly due to the treble roll-off, but also partly because the poles are recessed a bit rather than sticking up out of the covers.
The pole piece issue my have affected the clips very, very slightly as it forced me to move my hand a touch farther toward the bridge to record the clip with the stock pickup cleanly.
Anyway, this is fun and I thought it might be useful to others. This would have been a better comparison if I had a stock MIA Standard pickup from before 2012 - I'd love to know if there really is any difference between the old pickup and the new "custom shop" pickup. The one I have has a metal baseplate (the ground wire from the pickup goes to the plate, and the plate itself is grounded) as well as cloth-covered wires, things that were not part of the pickup I took out of a MIM P-bass a few years ago, but I've never seen the pickups out of any other MIA P basses.
Next time I'll do more pickups and re-record everything - it's pointless to do these comparisons unless the other variables are fixed, in my opinion, and by the time I do this again I my strings might be a bit more "dead", which would skew the results.
the new pickup (and the duncan) is made more like the classics, with fiber plates and the wire wound directly onto the magnets; the older american standard pickups were more cheaply made of one piece of molded plastic, which put a layer of plastic between the magnets and the wire; this has to have some effect on the tone, due to the increased gap distance.
to me it was always the one place where the otherwise excellent american standard line (basses and guitars) fell down a little; having fixed that, fender has a true home run product line!
not surprising about the duncan "hot", the excess wire kinda narrows the frequency a bit. (that's why i'm not a big fan, midrange is already too easy to get out of a P pickup.)
also, the noise when touching the pickup poles is normal; being series-wired, one coil is "lifted" away from ground by the resistance of the other, making the poles a little noisy if touched.
the common fix is a little lacquer on the polepieces.
I'm definitely going to have to try that suggestion with the pole pieces if I keep the stock pickup in there - those pops are really annoying me now that I switched the pickup back. :rolleyes:
I still think that Seymour Duncan's (antiquity II or SPB-1 - in different styles) sound a lot better than stock pickups, new or old model.
I originally loved the SPB-2. Tremendous punch, reacted great with a bit of over drive either from the amp or my VT Bass pedal, but as was stated above, it's a bit narrow. The deepest lows went away, as well as quite a bit of high end. I didn't think I'd miss it - until it was gone :rolleyes:
Anyway, the SPB-1 is next on the list to try. Also thinking about the Nordstrand NP4. Probably only going to do one or the other - I can't easily distinguish the differences between most pickups that are all trying to sound "vintage style", honestly. This pickup switching is a lot of fun, but it's starting to get a bit too expensive for me :D
I'm looking at some of the boutique vintage-styled pickups now - I've got the Nordstrand NP4, the Fralin, the SD Antiquity, and SPB-1 on my list. I know you said you dig the Fralin; have you tried any of the other vintage-style replacements? Based on what I've heard, I'm not sure I'd be able to tell the difference between most of them blindfolded, and I'm half tempted to base my purchasing decision on what's inexpensive and in stock at one of my favorite stores. I don't think I'll be buying multiple pickups again and comparing this time :D
No, I haven't tried any of the other vintage-voiced options. The Fralin has a slightly raw, gritty texture I just love, and might be a little different from the others. It's certainly different from the buttery smooth Duncan. At this point, my only "P-bass" is a G&L SB-2, and the MFD split coil is just monstrous.
i lurv my stock-wind fralin P!
sounds "bigger", with "more", but it's not overwound or otherwise hyped, it's just a great-sounding P pickup.
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