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Upgrading a MIM jazz bass

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by vade700, Jan 22, 2013.


  1. vade700

    vade700

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2012
    Hello! I know this has been asked but I really would like more information before I make a decision. I want to purchase a made in Mexico fender jazz (hopefully all black with a maple neck) I want to know what are some areas you can really improve, and which would be the most important? From what I've read the pickups aren't too good. So what are the options? I'd like to spend about 200 dollars on pickups give or take but what else would need to be improved?
     

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  2. MetalcoreBP

    MetalcoreBP

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2012
    Location:
    Akron, OH
    I'd like some answers on this as well. I have a jazz bass that I'd like to upgrade in the future.
     
  3. Mushroo

    Mushroo

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2007
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Welcome to Talkbass!

    Many people will tell you a Fender Jazz Bass is absolutely perfect the way it is, and there's no need to change anything (other than to install a set of your favorite strings and do a good setup).

    Another school of thought is that you should simply put that extra $200 into your budget for the bass and get the best instrument you can currently afford, which hopefully will not need replacement pickups or other parts (because it is a good quality instrument). If you shop used then you can get a LOT more bang for your buck (check TB classifieds ;)).

    Yet another school of thought is to spend that extra $200 on lessons with a good teacher, because knowing what you're doing is the #1 most important factor in sounding good. After you've been playing for a while on your starter instrument (and Fender Jazz Bass is a fine starter instrument by any measure) then you will have a better idea for future gear purchases.

    I happen to agree with all three of the above statements to some extent, but if your heart is set on replacing the pickups on an instrument you haven't yet heard, played, or purchased, you'll find this thread invaluable: http://www.talkbass.com/forum/f38/j-pickups-discussion-comparisons-91384/
     
  4. Scott in Dallas

    Scott in Dallas

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2005
    Location:
    Dallas, north Texas
    Disclosures:
    Builder and Owner: DJ Ash Guitars
    Find the bass you want, try it, and let your ears tell you if the pickups aren't very good. I have an SX jazz that I spent 109 dollars on, and the factory pickups sound really really good.
     
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  6. Batmensch

    Batmensch

    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2010
    Location:
    Chester, Pa.,USA
    I would wait until you get the bass in your hands before you go planning ANY kind of mods. And when you do get it, first get it properly setup including truss rod, action, intonation, and pickup height adjustments. You may find you won't need any more than that.
     
  7. audioglenn

    audioglenn Gold Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2012
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    +1 I agree. Definitely play the bass you get for a while before you do anything.
     
  8. Troph

    Troph

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2011
    Location:
    Kirkland, WA
    It all depends on your goals. If you are a brand new player and have limited funds, and you are trying to become more skilled as quickly as possible, then I agree with others: don't waste time messing with electronics changes early-on. Spend your money elsewhere, like getting an instrument with good neck action and fretwork, which your comparatively weaker fretting fingers will appreciate.

    But let's say you're past that. Perhaps you have some money burning a hole in your picket, or you just want a hobby to occupy your time and impress your girlfriend. (Nothing impresses girls faster than a bass player holding a soldering iron.)

    So the first thing you need to know is what kind of tone you're going for. Tone is very subjective and your expectations and understanding of it will change the more you play. Before you select your mods, you should be able to describe what kind of tone you're trying to get, and how your current instrument is missing the mark.

    There are many varieties of J pickups, and everyone has an opinion. Unless you have a big budget, I would avoid the boutique brands, because you can find cheaper alternatives which sound really, really good and apply the $80 you saved towards shielding and better pots.

    Good vintage tone J pickups include the "Golden Age" single coil set sold by StewMac, or the Seymour Duncan STK-J1 stacked coil. For more modern tone, Seymour Duncan SJB-3 single coils are popular, and DiMarzio has several good stacked coil options like the Model J and the UltraJazz. All of these can be found for around $100 per set. There are many threads on this subject, and there are lots of good options available.

    My personal opinion is that, if you are going to swap pickups, you might as well replace all of the crappy electronics at the same time. You will need to be handy with a soldering iron.

    For example, you can get just about everything you really need from stewmac.com for less than $150 total, including:
    - complete rewiring kit with new CTS pots, jack, wire, and cap
    - pair of "Golden Age" vintage-wound single-coil alnico-5 pickups
    - shielding material (usually copper tape, or conductive paint)


    One issue to consider is that nearly all early Mexican Jazz basses (prior to 2002 or so) have two pickups of equal length, which happen to be the same size as the neck pickup on the American Jazz bass. But American Jazz basses, and all newer Mexican Jazz basses, have a bridge pickup that is slightly longer than the neck pickup.

    This complicates pickup selection for older Mexican Jazz basses in two ways. First, many Jazz pickups are sold in pairs, and the bridge pup will not fit in the narrower cavity. You can either modify your pickup cavity to accommodate the wider bridge pickup (not my favorite approach), or avoid pickup sets and instead order two neck pickups individually. Second, if you order two identical neck size single-coil pickups, you will not get the hum cancelling feature offered by reverse-wound/reverse-polarity bridge pickups. Occasionally you can order a RW/RP neck size pickup individually, but it's fairly rare for the cheaper models. Otherwise you can either live with the hum, or stick to stacked coil humbucker style pickups.
     
  9. danomite64

    danomite64 Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2004
    Location:
    Tampa, Florida
    I don't know about the Ultras, but the Model J's are definitely NOT stacked coil pickups. As for the stock MIM set, the ones on my Jazz sound pretty darn good.
     
  10. bassplayer8953

    bassplayer8953

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2009
    Location:
    Chicago SW 'burbs
    Agree about the stock MIM J pickups. A bit of tweaking on the amp an you're good to go...
     
  11. Troph

    Troph

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2011
    Location:
    Kirkland, WA
    Sorry, you're right... both of those DiMarzios use side-by-side coils, not stacked coils. I meant to say that both are humbuckers, which was relevant to the part below about the pickup sizing. Sorry for the confusion. :meh:

    As for the stock MiM jazz pickups, I guess YMMV. I had one MiM Jazz bass from circa 1999 and its pickups were very bland, not to mention the pots were absolute crap, and it was noisy as hell. When I opened it up, I could see why... [shudder]. A complete electronics swap was the only thing I could think about after that.

    On the other hand, I like the tone of the "Duncan Designed" set on my Squier VM Jazz. I haven't bothered to mess with it other than to put directional knobs on it. It's not very noisy either.

    Adding Model J's to my 2004 MiM fretless jazz really brought it to life. Love the pairing. I still need to shield it, however.
     
  12. wcoffey81

    wcoffey81

    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2012
    Location:
    S/E Michigan
    don't forget we also have at least one resident TB member who builds custom pickups. a little conversation between the two of you could lead to pickups with the exact sound you are looking for.
     
  13. Groovy_Gravy

    Groovy_Gravy

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2012
    Wilde pickups made by bill lawrence.. i have a PJ set and they are the best ive ever used.

    http://wildepickups.com/Bass_Pickups.html
     
  14. maturanesa

    maturanesa

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2010
    Location:
    Buenos Aires, Argentina
    i think with any pup replacement and a better bridge its done... maybe DiMarzios and a Gotoh bridge is the less expensive choice...
     
  15. bassburton

    bassburton

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2007
    Location:
    Durango, Durango, Mexico.
    I second the Gotoh Bridge. I got one... And more than anything, it made my Jazz's tone a lot more solid; the notches under the height screws make it a lot more stable than the stock bridge. You can't go wrong. It's a drop-in replacement, too. Took me 10 minutes to install.
     
  16. Nedmundo

    Nedmundo Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2005
    Location:
    Philadelphia
    I agree. DiMarzio Area J's for hum-free classic tone at a reasonable price, and a Gotoh 201 bridge. I have the Area J's in a G&L JB, and they're excellent -- much better than the MIM stock p'ups IMO. I've used the Gotoh bridge on two MIM Fender projects, including a 2010 J, and I think it's a worthwhile upgrade.
     

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