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Mod'ing a 77 Jazz with a preamp....sacrilege?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by pmad_bass, Jan 16, 2013.

  1. pmad_bass

    pmad_bass Supporting Member

    Oct 24, 2004
    Hi all. Was just wanting to get some opinions. I'm thinking about getting an East Retro-J pre-amp installed on my 77 Jazz. My thought is that I'd get some nice tone options and that the mod wouldn't be as severe as something like a pick up replacement, which I hadn't and likely wouldn't consider. Would something like this be considered sacrilege? I'd always be able to swap out the mod and put back the original, it it were to be presumed to devalue the instrument in any way re: resale vale....(as if I'd ever sell it). :) Having never done something like this, I wondering/guessing that the initial tone/sound of the bass would be retained when in passive mode and enhanced when in active mode.


  2. My first reaction is, go for it. It's your bass and if you intend to play it you should be happy with the sound of it as well as the feel of it.

    I am pro active electronics and I could see the appeal of a vintage instrument with a modern controllable sound.

    I have EMG BQ-A & pickups in my American Jazz, and as of yesterday Bass Mods active Pre with passive Duncan Quarter Pounders in my Vintage Modified Jazz 5. I absolutely love what the active pre's did to both instruments.

    Also, you are correct, it is completely reversible. If your careful you could even make it appear nothing was ever swapped/original.
  3. PazzoBasso


    Jan 21, 2011
    I support mods to any instrument (including vintage ones) if the result is a better bass...

    The onboard East pre would likely yield more tone options than what I'm about to suggest, but an outboard Sadowsky preamp di can add some modern sparkle without any mods, it's completely bypass-able to retain your existing sound(s) & you can use it with any other bass as well...

    Note: the Sadowsky is not a "night & day" change, but I like it quite a bit & almost always kick it on for my passive basses - you also get a mute switch...
  4. Cadfael


    Jan 4, 2013
    Germany, EU
    Is it an original 1977 Fender Jazz Bass?

    Instead of modifying it, you might burn hunderts of 1$ notes on main street!
    You will surely get more interested peope - and the effect is the same ...

    I once modded a 1978 Jazz Bass. But this was in 1987 when no one knew that these basses would become "famous".

    I studied about 200 Fender basses for my wiring compendium and I also wrote a "Fender identifying dictionary" (in German). Your bass has a blue 22nF capacitor? Changing it to an orange drop would already cost you MUCH more than only the price of the orange drop ...

    The were many "sub optimal" Fender basses in the late 1970s. But if you have a good one, leave it as it is!
    Think about what many Hollywood stars made of themselfes, trying to stay young or get "more perfect". Most of them look like zombies, unnatural and strange.

    If you have a good JB, let it get old and older in diginty!

    My "Rockinger Cadicaster (Telecaster copy)" is "only" 28 y.o. But it grew older with me the last 28 years. It's no beauty but as "old working horse". When I see me with my Cadicaster on 25 y.o. photos - the guitar aged less than me!

    Let you JB be a Gloria Gaynor and proudly say: "I am wo I am!"
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  6. pmad_bass

    pmad_bass Supporting Member

    Oct 24, 2004
    It is an original 77 Fender Jazz Bass. In really great but not quite mint condition.
  7. pmad_bass

    pmad_bass Supporting Member

    Oct 24, 2004
    The mod would almost be visually undetectable, if it weren't for the two toggles that come with the preamp and the knob styling. Unfortunately, standard Fender knobs won't fit as the shafts are different. If I do the mod, I would be having a third toggle factory installed so that I could choose between series and parallel.
  8. kesslari

    kesslari Groovin' with the Big Dogs

    Dec 21, 2007
    Santa Cruz Mtns, California
    Lark in the Morning Instructional Videos; Audix Microphones
    It's a totally reversible mod - do it.
    Essentially, if Marcus Miller hadn't put a preamp in a 70's Jazz Bass there would be no "Marcus Miller Bass"
  9. I wasn't familiar with the J Retro. Looks like a great mod withoud having to cut up the bass. I'd say do it, but hang onto the original stuff!
  10. king_biscuit

    king_biscuit Supporting Member

    May 21, 2006
    You need to make sure a 9 volt will fit in the cavity (sideways) first. Other than that, I would try a nice pedal eq before doing any mods. The Sadowsky and Aguilar both look nice.
  11. It looks like it comes complete with the control plate. Looks like a great preamp!
  12. This is a true drop in. It doesn't use a 9 volt, but something smaller to fit in the existing cavity. Great design.
  13. king_biscuit

    king_biscuit Supporting Member

    May 21, 2006
  14. pmad_bass

    pmad_bass Supporting Member

    Oct 24, 2004
  15. king_biscuit

    king_biscuit Supporting Member

    May 21, 2006
    Right, it requires a nine volt battery mounted sideways. Some of the 70s Jazz basses are not routed wide enough in the control cavity to mount a battery that way. I definitely wouldn't start removing wood either!
  16. Retroblaster

    Retroblaster Supporting Member

    Aug 29, 2009
    Bottom line, it's still your axe. And you can do whatever you want I pulled my PU's and control plate and put EMG PU's and a EMG BTC in a "78" Jazz Bass that was 5 yrs ago never going to sell the bass or put the original parts in it again!!!!!!
  17. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I'm of two minds about it. I see the reason for wanting to mod it, since I had a 76 Precision I modded to hell and back, but man, I totally gutted its resale value. Yours wouldn't be as bad because it's reversible, but keep everything you take off in a safe place or you'll lose a few hundy on it if you ever want to sell it.
  18. Cadfael


    Jan 4, 2013
    Germany, EU
    Yes and no ...

    It makes a difference if the original soldering from 1977 still is intact or if someone has soldered on the pots later! This also (and specially) includes the PUs! A 100% intact wiring shows that there have been no manipulations. If there were "post-solderings" you always have to tell a good story why this happened ...

    No question that you can do with your bass what ever you want!!!
    It's yours and you can equip it however you want! But you should know what the consequences are ...

    In Germany it would no problem to step into a music shop and ask if you get a brand new Fender American Std. Jazz Bass with some extras for free, if you give them your 1977 Jazz Bass.
  19. pmad_bass

    pmad_bass Supporting Member

    Oct 24, 2004
    Yeah....if I do do it, I will be sure to keep the original parts. I too am of the two minds school. On one hand, if I don't do it, the bass remains as it has been. On the other hand, if I were to be buying a vintage instrument, the face that it had been modded and then restored to original condition wouldn't deter me from buying the instrument. I don't even think that I'd think it a reason to try to talk someone down in price.

    While buying an off board preamp (like the Basswitch, etc) does interest me...and is something that I may opt to do later down the line anyway, I'm one of those that really only make tone changes (while playing the instrument) via any options that are currently present on the instrument , as opposed to adjusting my amp etc. The option of going with an external pre-amp is appealing, mostly in that I'd be able to use it with other basses.

    One concern I have may seem counter intuitive to mod'ing the instrument under the auspices of getting more tonal options and that is; would the mod drastically affect the current/passive tone? I have to think that most of the heart and soul of the instrument's tonal characteristics come from the instrument....possibly the pickups (to some extent)....as opposed to a pre-amp, which might give a good sounding bass more balls/tonal options. The Retro-J does have a passive switch, so the pre amp is bypass-able. Just hoping, that if I do the mod, that when in passive mode; the bass will retain its current tonal characteristics. Maybe that is naïve. Inversely, I have to think that such a mod might give more tonal options but wouldn’t (in and of itself) make a crappy bass sound great.
  20. narud

    narud Supporting Member

    Mar 15, 2001
    santa maria,california
    like with any onboard pre in a jazz bazz, with the preamp engaged and flat, it will be a little wider sounding with less 2-4k grind and more upper high end presence. active sounding if you will. with it in passive mode, itll be a little boxier sounding than a passive set up. having owned a j-retro, it can sound really natural with the right set of pickups.
  21. Funkinthetrunk

    Funkinthetrunk Registered User Supporting Member

    Your bass, your rules. Remember...it's just a bass. Not Jesus' cup.

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