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Help! Fender jazz - preamp and pick ups advice

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by Wonky donkey, Jan 13, 2014.

  1. Wonky donkey

    Wonky donkey

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    Hi,
    I have a fender jazz bass, it's an American standard, maybe 2005'ish... Passive.

    I have lusted after warwicks and music man bass sounds but cannot part with my jazz bass. Just a volume knob for each pickup and a single tone pot.....

    I was about to trade in the jazz on a Warwick but couldn't part with it, so I figured I'd spend the cash on upgrading the electrics/ pick ups in my jazz...

    I have no idea where to start with regard to which gear to purchase ?
    I love the sounds my jazz bass makes but I would like a little more out out and punch ?

    I've heard great sounding nordstrand pickups in other bases but also looked at emg's and semour Duncan's....
    I'm struggling with the preamp side of things as I don't know what equipment i need, what will fit inside my jazz bass cavity or if i need the get the router out ?

    If anyone can make any recommendations of what they have them selves or know will fit, please let me know.

    Thanks :bassist:
  2. Lo-E

    Lo-E

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    I would suggest leaving the pickups alone and trying a drop-in preamp like the Audere, for instance. You may find that your pickups are fine with the addition of a preamp, and if you wire it with a bypass, you can go back to the sound you already like at the flip of a switch. It seems to me that this solution would involve the least invasive way for you to try out active elctronics.
  3. Jim C

    Jim C Supporting Member

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    You could also use an outboard, pedal style preamp so as not to have to hack up the bass.
    Used units like Sadowsky are blue chip stocks that can usually be bought and sold at the same price.
    I've asked this before and the 10' or so of cord between the bass and pedal appear to not alter the sound according to folks on this board.
  4. Troph

    Troph Supporting Member

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    The OP stated that he wanted more "output" or "punch"... and IIRC, the Audere won't add any more output and is more of a "transparent EQ" type preamp.
  5. oldcatfish

    oldcatfish

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    This would be my choice. Or just buy a second bass....Squier active deluxe jazz, SBMM Sub ray 4, etc. That way you can have both passive or active tones.
    I have a Sub Ray 4 and it definitely cops the classic stingray tone.
  6. Wonky donkey

    Wonky donkey

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    Thanks for the replies, I'm a one bass kinda guy......:)
    Hence me not wanting to trade this one on the Warwick i had my eye on...... The Warwick had the output, sweet tone and playability , but it just didn't have the feel of my jazz......i guess they were just two completely different beasts?

    So, I wondered, what is the preamp that comes in the newer model fender jazz bass's? What do they give over my passive bass?
    Could I simply transplant the gear from another active jazz into mine?

    If so, can anyone recomend anything in particular?
    I took a look at the audere units, they look good, but what will it do? Will it just give me more diverse control totally over the signal that i already have from the bass?

    Or will it give me a new, boosted signal over which I have greater control totally?
  7. Lo-E

    Lo-E

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    Well, Troph made a good point when he corrected me: the Audere doesn't actually add much in the way of gain. I listed it as an example because it was the first 'drop-in' replacement preamp I could think of off the top of my head.

    Fender's active Jazz has an okay preamp - not bad, but you could do better.

    An onboard preamp will do any or all of several things, depending upon the make and model:
    Boost the gain
    Add active EQ - either boost only or boost/cut
    Lower output impedance (this will reduce losses when using long cables and will result in a more "full range" or "hi-fi" kind of sound, generally)

    As I mentioned earlier, wiring it so it is bypassable aslo gives you the option of getting back to the tone you have now with the flip of a switch.

    For adding punch and a little growl to get you closer to the tones you might get from a Warwick, you might like the Aguilar or Sadowsky preamps. There are TONS of "which preamp for my Jazz" threads on TB. An awful lot of reading, but there's a lot of really good information in them, too.
  8. Eublet

    Eublet

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    Most of the jazz basses Fender sales have no preamps in them. Think about that for a second or two. There is a reason. They do have a few with preamps in a couple models, such as the Deluxe model, and most jazz bass players say those don't really sound like a jazz bass. That is likely because of the preamp and noiseless pickups combined, but still, you are probably getting my point.

    The only thing you really "get" with a preamp in your bass is the ability to boost and/or cut frequencies specific to whatever preamp you have in your instrument. Even if you set the EQ flat, most preamps have their own signature EQ curve applied to the tone when they are installed and turned on. Some preamps boost the signal to make it hotter, which IMHO is not typically something you really "need" necessarily.

    So really, don't think of adding a preamp as being an "upgrade" in and of itself. If a preamps voicing makes a bass sound better to you, then it is an upgrade for you. It might be a downgrade for someone else. Does that make sense?

    Also, there is nothing special about having a preamp in your in bass versus having an external preamp. It can be a convenience factor either way however. For example, all my jazz basses are passive. That's the way I like them. I've dropped preamps into MANY jazz basses over the years, and learned that I quickly grow tired of them. However, with a passive jazz bass, I can plug into a Sadowsky preamp and get that tone, or an Aguilar Tone Hammer and get that tone, or a VT Bass, or whatever. A passive jazz or precision is really a thing of beauty, and it is very flexible without any preamp at all.

    Long cable runs with a passive bass are not an issue at all if you just use the right DI. So that is a moot issue also. Using a really long instrument cable to your amplifier with a passive bass does introduce additional loading on the pickups which can darken the tone. However, that can be a very good thing for many, and is often desirable. Put a preamp in your bass, and that takes that option away from you. If that's what you want though, then go for it.

    Another thing here is that with many preamps, you lose your vintage tone control, or you have to mod the preamp and/or bass to keep it. For many folks, that VTC on a passive bass is paramount for getting all those warm vintage tones happening, and cutting treble on an active preamp is not the same thing. The one thing I've missed in most every preamp I've put in a passive bass is the VTC. Some preamps allow you to keep a VTC, such as the Sadowsky, but you have to have a side body output jack for it to work. However the Sadowsky greatly changes the tone of the bass immediately when it's turned on, so using the VTC in conjunction with it is NOT the same thing.

    It's probably obvious by now that I prefer to leave vintage style instruments like a P or J bass completely passive. That's just me. I can plug into any outboard preamp, and have the same controls in my bass to get the pickup balance and VTC combination I like, plus take advantage of the outboard preamp's voicing to get what I want. No worries, no fuss, no getting tired of the bass itself because it's stuck with one preamp in it.

    If you know you want just one preamp's voicing, then go for it.

    Hope that helps!
  9. Troph

    Troph Supporting Member

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    To add to the above, another reason you might not want to add a preamp is simply battery convenience. Unlike the Deluxe and Active models specifically routed with a battery compartment, the standard jazz bass does not have a battery compartment that's easy to access, and there isn't much room to tuck one into the control plate cavity either (which is the only real option unless you're handy with a wood router and comfortable working on a poly finish).

    I personally dislike having to unscrew a front-fascia item to replace batteries. Granted, it's only a few screws, but it adds to the wear/tear on the wood screws holding the plate to the body (which can strip relatively easily), and you have to shuffle the wiring around every time you lift the control plate out. It can be done for sure, but I just don't like it that much.

    However, once you've been bitten by the mod bug, you probably won't stop until you've tried several experiments anyway and seen for yourself what's involved, and what the results are like. So, why not? Replace those pickups, add a preamp, and have at it! (Personally I'm a fan of DiMarzio Ultra Jazz pickups. Definitely check them out.) :)

    Don't forget that there are lots of outboard items that can add variety and punch, too. (Amp/preamp being the biggest factor, IMO.)
  10. Rusty the Scoob

    Rusty the Scoob

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    I just put EMG JV pickups and an Aguilar OBP-3 into a Fender/Warmoth J and it's fantastic. Tonally it's still very much an excellent classic J-bass tone when set neutral, but the EQ allows you to tweak the tone to be a lot more versatile as well and it's very musical. It would require body mods to an AM standard though, my Warmoth body came with a side jack and 18V battery box already.

    I'm not really a one-bass guy anymore though, so I really wanted my J to be a classic J first and foremost. If I want some other tone I play something else. But if what you want is a super-J with excellent classic tone plus versatility, it's a great way to go. So far I actually prefer it to the electronics in my Sadowsky J, versatility-wise.
  11. Wonky donkey

    Wonky donkey

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    Thanks for the advice guys, very helpful.....

    I hear what your saying about standard passive sound, and agree....

    Would I get a huge difference in quality of sound through any of the pick ups available ?
  12. Eublet

    Eublet

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    Changing your pickups can also greatly alter the sound of the instrument. There are many different variances out there. Like sampling wine, to some people the differences are minimal, and for others there can be all kinds of flavors and undertones to be enjoyed or hated. Pickups swapping is a journey itself, some would say on a road that you can never get off of if you aren't careful.
  13. Troph

    Troph Supporting Member

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    Pickups are a great first mod to carry out. Not too much soldering, and the results can be very good. It's also a fairly easy mod to reverse. Just hang on to the old parts and keep them somewhere. If you sell the bass, you always want to have the original parts in case someone wants to return it to stock.

    Tons of jazz pickups have been reviewed. I think there is a sticky thread in this forum with a ton of reviews. I personally like DiMarzios, as they offer hum-canceling and generally beefier output than stock Fenders, while maintaining the jazz bass sound. They're also inexpensive, which is a bonus.

    But there are tons of opinions on the subject. :)
  14. Technotitclan

    Technotitclan Lurking TB from work Supporting Member

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    There's a lot of great info here for you. For a preamp the only thing it really does for you is give you an EQ to toy with that's built into your bass. Most of them color your sound a little but most of those only do it buy just enough for you to know it did. No preamp is going really change it enough to make it sound like another instrument. As stated above a preamp cannot replicate the sound of a tone knob. I have a bass with a preamp in it and i miss having a tone knob more often than i use the 3 band eq it has.

    Pickups will make a massive difference and what ones you get determine the sound you'll get. If your looking to get a Warwick tone then a set of active EMG's or Seymour Duncan's I'm told those are close to the MEC's Warwick uses. My concern about getting your jazz to sound like a Warwick is the locations of your pickups. Warwick places both pickups closer to the bridge then fender does. I wanted to get a Warwick sound like you and was able to pull it off with my Ibanez and some Dimarzio's, however, the pups on Ibby's are closer to Warwicks specs than fenders. Its posible you could pull it off, I'm just not that confident. How strong your signal is really doesn't impact the tone as much as it impacts the gain on your amp. If you have an amp that you like the sound of the gain jacked up to give you some crunch or distortion than really high output will help with that. If you like a clean sound then a normal or a slightly boosted signal will be best. My Bartolini preamp has an output selector on it so i can go from a normal signal to super high if i want. I'm always using its lowest setting.

    Honestly I would recommend getting a second bass similar to your jazz but one that's really cheap and mod that. If you find a configuration you love and want on your main player you can switch it over, or you'll have two different basses with two different sounds.
  15. Wonky donkey

    Wonky donkey

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    Thanks for the info, am i right in thinking that what your saying is to run active pickups but without an on board preamp in my bass?
    I've looked at the emgx kits online, they contain pickups, new tone vol pots and plug/ play circuitry including battery clip for 9v.....
    Have I got this right, active pickups, but no preamp?

    Kick me in the head if I'm wrong.
  16. Technotitclan

    Technotitclan Lurking TB from work Supporting Member

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    Yes and no. The EMG set your talking about are pickups that are active but I'm pretty sure its also an active preamp as well but is a much simpler preamp than others. That could work out for you.

    With the exception of EMG nearly all pickups are actually passive. its the preamp/eq you attach it to in the bass that makes it active or passive. Pickups are pretty much just a coil of wire and a magnet, therefore making them passive on their own. It becomes active if you add a powdered system to the bass. Example: my Ibanez SR500 now has DiMarzio Model J's in it. Those are passive since they are not self powered. However, I have also added a 3 band Bartolini on-board EQ to it. The EQ gives be a cut and boost for low, mid and high and is powered by a 9v in order to provide boost to the frequency controls and the signal. The presence of the Bartolini means my bass is now considered active.

    EMG's however, are actually active pickups. They have a circuit built into each pickup that will utilize a 9v battery to boost the signal. In this case you can hook EMG's into normal passive controls, like your stock tone knob on your jazz, and its still an active system.

    I've probably given you way more info than you need. If your looking for a different tone from your bass and your sure you want a higher output AND your willing to change the battery every 3-6 months then I'd say that EMG system may be a good start, especially since they are an easy install kit. You haven't indicated your electronics/soldering skills so idk if ease of install is a concern or not.

    If changing a battery periodically doesn't appeal to you but your looking for a different tone then any other pup replacement will work fine. If you really want that higher output there are also passive pickups that have a higher output than stock. Most DiMarzio's have a much higher output than stock and they offer a few different J style pups with different sounds. I went with the Model J because they have stronger lows and mids. Mine are one of the lowest output DiMarzio models available and they were still too strong for the stock preamp in my Ibby and caused distortion in it.

    Another note about active and use of the battery. for some people its not a big deal for others its a deal breaker. Like I said my Ibby uses a 9v for the preamp but I hate changing the battery. I wired in a passive switch on my bass so that when the battery dies I can switch it to passive. I don't use my Bartolini eq much at all and for the last month my battery has been dead and I've just had it in passive mode. Oh, I forgot to mention, in an active bass, when the battery is dead, the bass is dead. It will have no output signal if the battery dies and on some when the battery starts getting low the quality of the sound suffers. Mine starts getting scratchy sounding when the batt is getting low, then no signal at all when it finally runs out.
  17. Troph

    Troph Supporting Member

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    I certainly don't think this was the consensus advice. :) IMHO, if you are going to go to the trouble of putting a battery in your bass, you should add a preamp. There is a reason why there aren't many examples out there of basses with active pups but no preamp.

    But, your goals are a bit nebulous (not unusual when you're just starting to explore). That's why I'd recommend starting with a simpler mod without a battery, like simply replacing your passive pickups. There are lots of sound comparisons of passive jazz pickups out there, which makes the process of selection much easier today than it used to be. You can get really excellent results with a good set of passive pickups and a good outboard preamp pedal and/or bass amp.

    If you're still not satisfied after the pickup mod, you can explore adding active electronics, which is really a whole different level of modding (and more complicated, unless you buy a drop-in control plate replacement). There are many advantages to having an onboard preamp (such as "active" blending/mixing of pups to avoid tone loss due to resistive loading of standard volume pots), even if you don't want one that colors your sound much. Active pups also have some inherent advantages too, but they are a bit less common than the "passive pickup, active preamp" configuration.
  18. VanillaThundah

    VanillaThundah

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    Dimarzio Model J's wired in series and an Audere Jazz Preamp!
  19. CrashClint

    CrashClint I Play Bass therefore I Am Supporting Member

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    I'm more partial toward the J-Retro but either makes a J-Bass sound amazing.
  20. Eublet

    Eublet

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    I've put the J-retro in two jazz basses. Wasn't a fan necessarily but it wasn't bad either. It's just kind of modern sounding. Deep lows, sizzly highs, relaxed in the mids. Not really my thing. I've put Audere preamps (2 and 3 band) in a few Jazz basses also. Much more to my liking. They don't alter your tone at all when set flat. It's basically your same jazz bass with an onboard EQ which I like.

    Changing pickups, as was mentioned, can totally alter the character and feel of your bass though versus a preamp. IMHO, finding the right pickup is the most rewarding thing you can do, but it can also be the most time consuming and expensive simply because there are so many options out there.

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