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Long term report on East P-Retro?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by BFunk, Oct 20, 2012.

  1. BFunk

    BFunk Gold Supporting Member

    I have seen several reviews here and on youtube about the John East P-Retro preamp for precision basses. Most reviews are very positive. On the other hand, I also see that many people on TB who installed one of these pre-amps put them up for sale a few months later. If this is true, there must be something about the pre that turns players off after a while. If you have owned the P-Retro in the past or currently use one, I would like your comments on why you decided to sell it or keep it. Thanks.
  2. Only had mine in about a month. Put the .047 cap in (came with it) instead of the original .100. More mids.

    I will definitely NOT be selling mine. Every single pickup bass I own from here on out will have one of these. Even in passive mode, the tone just sounds better. It gives my AVRI 57 an added depth and warmth that just builds on the awesomeness it already has. And the active mode is wonderful and very flexible too. Even the more extreme settings are musical and useful and never brings the bass into "hi-fi" territory (except in the extreme "scoop" setting with the "bright" switch on). Even then, at all active settings the bass sounds like a vintage P-Bass just with different EQ. The character of the bass always stays true to what it is.

    If you are looking to ditch EQ pedals or other gear that changes the sound of your P-Bass in lieu of putting it all onboard, then this is the way to go. If you are looking to make your P-Bass an active, compressed, Shaped-sounding hi-fi bass that it is not (without changing out the pickups), you may want to look elsewhere. This preamp has no baked-in sound. It is simply wonderful and It has put my P-Bass up to the front of my stable as the go-to.
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  4. dave_bass5

    dave_bass5 Supporting Member

    May 28, 2004
    London, UK.
    I've got one in my gigging bass. I've only had it about 3 weeks and have done one gig with it so far.
    It's a fantastic addition and has allowed me to stop using my Paradriver (I hate cables so the less the better) and I can get almost any tone I want or need, but always keeping the bass sounding like a P bass.

    Saying that, I'm not sure ill keep it. I just think a P bass should be a two knob affair. Having all this tone on tap is nice but sort of takes a way the simple operation the P bass is known for. I find I fiddle more during the gig, always tweaking etc.
    I guess it's a distraction rather than a problem.

    I may change my mind. I don't actually plan on selling it, and hope I don't, but I'd say its not out of the question in the future.
  5. GBassNorth


    Dec 23, 2006
    I haven't tried the East P bass preamp yet but I do have an East deluxe in my MIA Jazz 5 that's been in the stable since 2005 and isn't going anywhere. I also dropped a spare one I had into a P/J pickup configuration in my Squier Jaguar SS and it brought that bass alive, but I still think the bridge jazz PU is weak so I'll drop a new humbucker in it's place. I also have a custom preamp in my main player that John East built to my specs that powers a P/MM configuration and sounds fantastic. I've had that bass since 2009 and it's staying with me as well.
    As you can tell, I'm an East fan, I just wish the exchange rate would improve so his preamps would be a little cheaper.
  6. Shegmaface


    Jun 25, 2010
    Why does the John east preamp have to be so much louder then passive mode. I have to turn my volume down on my bass so my compressor doesn't distort. Jeez Louise.
  7. dave_bass5

    dave_bass5 Supporting Member

    May 28, 2004
    London, UK.
    Id say it was designed to be used only in passive mode if the battery went. With the rear knob at the centre position its not making any tonal changes so should give the same tone as when in passive mode, so no real need for passive mode.

    At least, thats how i see it. I do agree though, it would have been nice to have a trim pot somewhere to balance the levels out.
  8. Hmmm... I could tell just barely a level difference. Almost imperceptible. And I like flat as a starting point with no tone baked in. It is simply a very effective EQ. Love it!
  9. smeet

    smeet Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2006
    Woodland Hills, CA
    I thought the P-Retro was a great-sounding addition to my MIA P5. I got rid of the bass because I'm just not a P player. I also had a U-Retro Deluxe which is very nice but just didn't suit me, a bit too scooped and modern sounding.

    The only thing I didn't like about the P-Retro is the rechargable built-in battery. While I like the idea, I found it impractical. You can only recharge it with the supplied cable, the recharging takes a while, and the charge doesn't last very long.
  10. Update. I played an original rock gig tonight entirely on my P. the preamp seems to make subtle changes in a mix. I found myself dialing in midrange or pulling the bass boost for tunes where I play a lot higher to fill it out. It does just that-EQ the bass and help it cut a little more.

    But...every single time I would switch it back to passive I preferred it that way. The note dynamics, the attack, the warmth, and everything is just there going passive. The active is not a different tone. It is always very true to the bass. But it just sounds "active" in comparison in a mix. Like, compressed maybe. More modern. Without scooping, etc., as the tone never really changes. It is all good solo. But you feel the nuances and warmth differences live.

    I love the preamp an it's function and sound. But I'm starting to think I should return my 57AVRI to stock and let it do its thing (which it does really well) and save this for my super-P custom project coming up. Still pondering. I guess it is hard to improve upon that which started out perfect.
  11. dave_bass5

    dave_bass5 Supporting Member

    May 28, 2004
    London, UK.
    To be honest i think thats what im going to do with mine. Ill give it until the Christmas break and probably take it out.
    Its a great pre amp but im used to using a BDDI. This gives me a tone i love, and i cant get that with the preamp alone, but dont see the point of having a pre amp and a BDDI.
  12. Another thing I noticed. Both active and passive there is grounding buzz. it stops when I touch metal on my bass, so I know it is grounded. It did not do that when it was stock. Just a minor issue. Anyone else notice this? It may be the thing that makes me return mine to stock because I can't stand him and buzz.
  13. dave_bass5

    dave_bass5 Supporting Member

    May 28, 2004
    London, UK.
    I dont have any issues like that (which surprised me) but i do have a loud buzz/hum when i touch the pole pices, with anything, not just my fingers.
    I hear this in both passive and active modes, this is both using a cable or a radio system at gigs and home.
    I know for a fact it wasn't there before the upgrade as im always touching the pole pieces by mistake, i would have heard it.

    This really isnt an issue for me though, im learning not to touch them so im happy to live with it.
    Saying that im still going ahead and taking it out as per my post above, i just dont need it.
  14. dave_bass5

    dave_bass5 Supporting Member

    May 28, 2004
    London, UK.
    Well i just sold mine. After two gigs with it off for most of the night i felt i didnt really needed.
    Amazing for what it is and does, but just not needed for what i play. Shame really.
  15. I Thought I'd resurrect this thread. I just uninstalled the preamp from my P-Bass. I am still in love with the P-Bass in general. Mine is a 2010 '57AVRI strung with flats. The preamp dials in great tones even at the extremes but retains the classic P tone. On gigs every time I kicked it back to passive it was perfect.

    I am about to order a custom P/J which will be ash/ebony, loaded with modern pickups and strung up with rounds for edgier more modern, versatile music. I will put the preamp in that.

    On a side note, not only is this preamp extremely good sounding and easy to use, but John east is wonderful. We have corresponded about custom work, and he has answered all my questions. I had some parts missing in my Preamp package (the knob springs) and asked where I could get some more different value caps to experiment with. He promptly sent me all those things free of charge!

    IMO, a passive P and a Passive Jazz-type bass is good enough left alone if it is well-made and has good pickups, a good setup and good strings on it. This particular preamp makes it even more flexible and makes tweaking easier, putting a lot of control right on the instrument. It just was unnecessary on my already perfect vintage sounding instrument. But I think it'll be just the ticket for a modern one.
  16. BFunk

    BFunk Gold Supporting Member

    Thanks for all the replies. I just updated my 2012 Fender P5 with Nordstrand P, and Nordstrand Big Split in the 70's bridge position. (This was the other option I was considering.) I also had a 3-way switch installed to select the pickups. The controls are V/V/T. The results are outstanding. The pickups work very well together.
  17. smeet

    smeet Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2006
    Woodland Hills, CA
    I was thinking about doing that exact same pickup swap in my 2012 P5 (well, probably 60's position for the Big Split). Just talking about the soloed P pickup, how big a difference was the Fender P to the Nordstrand P?
  18. Let us know how you like the nordys. I am undecided between that exact same setup or the big pole Delanos. Is it more modern or more vintage sounding? And you are using the preamp in this bass?

    And John tells me you can do 2 pickups through a pan pot before the preamp and it works well. That us my plan.
  19. dave_bass5

    dave_bass5 Supporting Member

    May 28, 2004
    London, UK.
    I did a similar thing with my old Lakland DJ5. I didn't really like the tone so I got a Nordy P5 and a hum cancelling jazz pup installed. Unfortunately I still didn't like the tone but I think that was down to the wood of the bass, not the pups.
  20. BFunk

    BFunk Gold Supporting Member

    I have been running the Nordie P5 for a couple of weeks and even got to use them playing with my band. I think they sound very different from the stock Fenders. The stock pickups have a pronounced low-mid and upper mid bump. Very peaky especially around 4k. It definitely cuts through the mix well and should work well with a variety of amps/cabs. The Nordy P's are definitely smoother with more highs and lows. The low-mid bump is there, but is not as peaky. Overall the low mids are fuller and clearer on the Nordy. There is very little upper mid gank, especially as compared to the Fenders. Overall the tone is warmer than the Fender. Still, the P pickup does not do the big bottom of the Big Split, nor does it have the high end sizzle. This is why the combination works so well. The Big Split really brings out the attack very nicely. This is the area where I was favoring the MusicMan StingRay Classic. The StingRay has a very pronounced, almost compressed attack sound, very tight and well defined. When I combine the Nordies, I get all of that and much more. The top end from the Big Split is clearer and fuller without the harshness or nasal quality of the StingRay. The overall sound of both pickups is very harmonically rich and clear. The tone is somewhere between a jazz and a stingray. I have only had the BS on this bass for a few days and have not played it with the band yet. I am pretty confident that the tone of the BS will carry well in the mix. The BS is not really like a jazz pickup. Jazz pickups have a very nasal mid to me that I don't really care for. The BS has the bottom and top of a really good jazz pickup with fuller mids. It is an aggressive sound but not peaky or harsh.

    As I noted in other posts, the Nordies are very sensitive to pickup height adjustments, plucking position, and plucking strength. This is the hallmark of quality pickups and these are definitely quality.

    As for the 60's vs. 70's position, I think you should not think of this pickup like a jazz pickup. I don't think you will get the burpy sound like a true 70's jazz bridge pickup. They are definitely not dark and round like a 60's jazz. Also, the apeture of the BS is 50% wider than a typical jazz. I chose the 70's because I thought it would mix with the P better. I was less concerned about solo'ing the BS. It turns out that It works very well in both modes. Combining the pickups works as I described earlier. The soloed BS is really rich. It can be big and bold or pinched sounding depending on where I pluck. There are definitely a couple of sweet spots though. This pickup works great for chords and playing in the upper registers. (Something I don't think P's do well.)

    As for the controls: The 3 way switch is awesome!! I had a Les Paul style switch installed a few inches south of the P pickup. I get three great sounds in an instant. Awesome for live work. I also have V/V/T with a side jack. As usual, adjusting volumes to blend the pickups is not that great. There is maybe one or two additional sounds I get by adjusting the volume knobs. It takes some tweaking to get it dialed in right. This might be useful when in a studio. I find that I am leaving both volumes and tone all the way up. I like a bright, clear tone.

    One other comment, I use a Xotic Bass Rc Booster for an outboard preamp when I want more of an active sound. It works very well to create a tight, slightly compressed attack, more shimmer to the top-end and a tighter bottom end.

    Rig: 2012 Fender P5 (Circle K strings) ->(Xotic RC)-> Cali 76 w/ Transformer/buffer -> Genz-Benz ShuttleMax 9.2->Fearless 15/6/1
    Music: indie rock
  21. That is very descriptive. So I gather you are NOT using the preamp on this bass.

    On my jazz I blend volumes a lot depending on the style/song, but you got me thinking about the switch instead. Preamp or not, I may just go through a switch before the master volume and tone.

    And still leaning towards the Delano's... I was thinking him bucking (split cool) jazz type pup in the bridge position but now you got me thinking about a Nordy type bridge pup. I have never used one in conjunction with a P, which I will definitely have on the neck position.

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