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55-01 new pups - Bart MK5 or Nordstrand?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by Whump, Sep 20, 2013.

  1. Bartolini MK5CBC

    35 vote(s)
  2. Nordstrand Big Singles

    15 vote(s)
  3. Nordstrand Big Splits

    16 vote(s)
  4. Nordstrand Dual Coils

    12 vote(s)
  1. Whump


    Sep 19, 2010
    Portland, OR
    Hi all,

    I'm about to make a move on new pickups for my Lakland 55-01. I have already replaced the preamp with a Demeter BEQP-1 which sounds clean and full, and clearly shows the deficiencies in the stock MK-1s. Incidentally mine has the Tyler mod, with switchable EQ center points on all three bands.

    The heart of the post: All you 55-01 modders out there, which was your personal favorite between Bartolini MK5CBCs, Nordstrand Big Singles, Big Splits, and DC5s?

    I'm not sure which ones will best match with the Demeter. Tonewise I do enjoy the Bartolini organic, full, natural sound. I also dig some of the things I'm hearing on youtube clips with Nordstrands, that modern warm sound with a bright top. The DC5s seem amazing for their chameleon ability, though I wonder if the giant single coil thing would be more appropriate and also cost-effective (them DC5s ain't cheap! Though ultimately money is no object, tone is utmost.)

    The styles I'm playing are mostly funk/r&b/soul and blues, with some jazz sometimes. I would like to be able to extract an aggressive rock sound as well. I'm thinking the Nords would have a more aggressive sound when pushed, while the Barts would tend to want to stay clean?

    It seems difficult to find good sound clips for direct comparison on the web. Sure wish the old Basstasters site was still being updated! Here's a couple of youtubes that I've found that seem pertinent though:

    Big Singles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2YziXggTfWM
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sjCJ9gavUP4 (love the Carey Nordstrand comments in this one!)

    DC5s: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1AmDZ93UMKg (love the variety of good sounds after he upgrades)

    I really like the warm yet clear sound of the Big Singles. I notice that even among the different basses I still hear that characteristic coming through. The only thing that concerns me is single coil hum if I solo a pickup, but I notice that I have hard time finding builders using Big Splits, they seem to mostly use Big Singles and DC5s. Is there a reason the Splits aren't use more? Or am I just not finding them, perhaps.

    So, I think from the DC5 video I have a pretty idea of how those might behave compared to Big Singles. Also from what I gather, the Big Splits are 90% of the Singles' tone, but silent when soloed. The mystery for me personally is the Bart MK5s. I'm gathering that these should be in the same personality realm as the MK-1s, but without the harsh highs, and with much improved midrange presence and a tighter bottom end? (the MK-1s are sooo loose in the booty! Such a hyped sound overall to my ears.) Would the Barts be more of a meat-and-potatoes classic supportive tone, as compared to the rather modern-sounding Nords? Or are they closer to each other than that?

    Mostly looking for poll votes but as always any replies are appreciated. Apologize for my lengthiness, but I seem to suck at terse posts. Cheers all! :bassist:
  2. DWBass

    DWBass The Funkfather

    Off the poll, I chose the MK5's as that is what I put in mine. Having said that, I've found there is nothing wrong with the MK1's. Replace the preamp (preferably a US Bart 5.2AP) and that will make a world of difference. I also tried the Nordie Big Splits. I did not like them matched to the Bart preamp. In addition, the output was so high I had to turn the gain trim all the way down on the Bart pre. I ended up putting the MK1's back in. Sounds great now. The MK5's weren't bad, just a little more subdued for my taste.
  3. mmbongo

    mmbongo Chicken Pot Pie. My three favorite things!! Supporting Member

    From that list, I voted for MK5's. I have them in my 5501 now. I had Big Splits first but they were way too bright and not middy/bottomy enough. Those would be phenomenal if you want a huge Jazz bass sound, but I want more of a MusicMan type of midrange focused sound...or as close to Geddy's Wal sound as possible and as far away from Geddy's Jazz sound as I can get, which the Big Splits nail...but that's not what I wanted.

    That being said, I've got a set of SGD Neo's on order right now to replace the MK5's which have a cleaner, fuller midrange.
  4. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    I voted big splits, for the same reason mmbongo explained. I like a bright bass tone, you can always EQ more low end and bump your mids. Its hard to overcome a dark sounding pickup with EQ.

    I have a set of Reed James NEO MK sized pickups in a custom build. They are absolutely outstanding pickups. I have a hard time recommending SGD's until if/when he gets caught up.
  5. diglo

    diglo Supporting Member

    May 21, 2007
    Get up! Get Get Get Down!
    I'm like DWBass about keeping stock pups and upgrade pre. I had the same bass with a setup like that. It smoked with just a Bart pre upgrade. I didn't keep long because I prefer 34" over 35".
  6. diglo

    diglo Supporting Member

    May 21, 2007
    Get up! Get Get Get Down!
    Also, I've played a jazz bass with Demeter pre and Bart Pups. Sound real good to me, fat & warm....might not be as aggressive as you want. Dislike....it didn't have active/passive option with the pre.
  7. Hapa


    Apr 21, 2011
    Tustin, CA
    Nordstrand big singles...
    Big splits if you want noiseless when pickups solo'd. DC's are great but I recall switching out the DC's for either for BSingles or BSplits more than once. Bartolini what ones? I don't know there codes as well. If you want a passive option I think you are out of luck with the barts.
  8. pablomigraine

    pablomigraine Commercial User

    Feb 9, 2005
    New York
    VP & Managing Director - Willcox Basses
    Speaking as a Lakland endorser, and as someone who has done the Mod with both the Nordy Duals and the Barts....

    It's a matter of taste. To my ear, the Barts have more texture and more midrange information so to speak without actually being more midrange-y than the Nordys. A good example would be the difference between a Bergantino NV610 and one of the newer (far superior IMHO) Ampeg 810e's... it's not more midrang-y nor is the Ampeg scooped, there's just more there to hear.

    The Nordy's have more "force" and have a more articulate top end.

    I stayed with the Barts and voted same.
  9. DWBass

    DWBass The Funkfather

  10. mikecd1

    mikecd1 Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2009
    CT, New England
    Although I voted for the MK5's as others have who put them in their 5501, shortly after I did that another Talkbasser put Lakland / Hanson replacements in theirs. I think there might even be a clip of them somewhere on TB. There are various threads about pickup replacement and although I've not used the Demeter preamp, its seems like it is extremely versatile. There is also a pic out there of the Lakland version which looks like the Chisonics in the decade only longer to accomodate. I think they are available both single coil and humbucking. Another advantage to the Bartolinis I thought was the various wiring possibilities. I love using the two middle coils. MMBONGO turned me on to the wiring sheet and it has great combinations. You can split each pickup individually with two switches or the single / outer coil options which I did that is just one switch. Good luck and let us know what you decide!
  11. kevinmoore73

    kevinmoore73 Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2007
    Cleveland, OH
  12. sawzalot

    sawzalot Supporting Member

    Oct 18, 2007
    I switched out a bart NTMB 5.2 pre for a Aguilar OBP-3, which I really like. I also tried Nordy Big Singles in there, but I found that the magnetic pull from those pups made my low B all warbly and I couldn't get as low an action as I could with the original MK-1's, which have blade pole pieces and a lot less magnetic pull. I did like the overall sound of the Nordy's, but I couldn't deal with the impact they had on the sound and action so I put back in the MK-1's, which remain in there now and I'm quite happy with the sound of the bass.
  13. Session1969

    Session1969 Supporting Member

    Dec 2, 2010
    From my research, Big Splits are better for passive. My 55-01 had a Bart NTMB and sounded very good with the stock Barts. I'd search for testimonials on a good match for Demeter preamps in case there's something out there better than what you've listed as options. W/o experience having a Demeter preamp, I'd say Barts.
  14. PDGood

    PDGood Supporting Member

    Sep 19, 2010
    Nashville, TN
    Here are some more sound clips for reference:


    This link should show the differences between the MK1 and MK4. I'd presume that the MK5 is the same as the MK4 but made for a 5 string). The MK4 is significantly louder and has a big rich bottom end but is very thin up top. The MK1 is more "transparent" sounding for lack of a better word, but is more balanced top to bottom.

    I'm trying to find a Nordstrand equipped Ibanez to add to the comparison, but haven't been able to locate an owner with one in this area yet.
  15. bgartist


    Feb 4, 2004
    Chicago, IL
    I read in the former Roscoe forum that Nordstrands are not a good match with the Demeter pre. Its good for opening up dark sounding pickups but can make brighter pickups sound "tinny". I think that quote was from Carey Nordstrom himself. I happen to own a Roscoe with Barts and the Demeter pre and it sounds amazing. I also have a Pedulla with Bart Classic series (same pickups, different size shell) that sounds great also.
  16. Whump


    Sep 19, 2010
    Portland, OR
    the People have spoken, and the Barts have emerged as the crowd individual favorite. Interestingly the Nords still pull slightly more than 50% of the votes when their shares are aggregated.

    Well, I'm going with the Barts. Thanks all for the informed responses, you've helped very much with my decision. :bassist: Major reasonings are 1) coil tapping options, 2) noiselessness, 3) pair dark pickpus with a bright preamp, rather than bright+bright, 4) pursue a supportive and full bass tone over a bright soloist's tone, for the gigs I'm playing.

    This is intended as my meat-and-potatoes P/J chameleon workhorse bass. The coil tapping will give my more colors to play with than the Big Singles, making it more versatile with different styles and bands. My Warwick Thumb 5 NT stays in the fleet and is finally allowed to be itself instead of trying to cover the working bassist duties (we all know that sound is great but not right for everything). For a bright sparkly solo instrument, I have an Ibanez SR1300PM that will be the next candidate for electronics shenanigans, so maybe I'll go that way with that bass (I imagine the mahogany core sounding nice with the Nordstrand character.. anybody heard their P/J sets?).

    Now that I'm sitting here with my shopping cart loaded, I do have another question regarding the coil switching installation - I would like to go with the option of a single switch that selects outer single coils / inner single coils / dual humbucking, series mode. I may also try the option of dual series/parallel/single coil switches, but I'm not sure how interested I am in parallel mode.

    This matches the second option on this document, correct? http://www.bestbassgear.com/wiring-diagrams/bartolini-switch-wiring-dual-coil.pdf

    Are these the right switches? http://www.bestbassgear.com/pots.htm#switches (the 3-position on-on-on). I do notice the Bartolini document specifies an on-off-on for the option in question. Also, if I buy two of these now, will they also work if down the road I experiment with dual switches for series/parallel/single-coil instead?
  17. mmbongo

    mmbongo Chicken Pot Pie. My three favorite things!! Supporting Member

  18. B String

    B String Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2002
    Los Angeles
    The Demeter preamp is rather voiced as well as having its little idosyncracies. It's amazing in my Tyler with the Barts, but even that is a very specific sound.
    I just checked out the Big Splits with the Nordy three band pre. I have to say it would turn your Lakland into an aggressive tone machine. The Nordies did NOT play well with the Demeter. In this case I think its more the Demeter.
    The Aguilar also works very well with the Nordy pickups.
  19. Whump


    Sep 19, 2010
    Portland, OR
    Thanks, you can hear the difference pretty well in these clips!

  20. Whump


    Sep 19, 2010
    Portland, OR
    For any who are interested, I have had the Bart MK-5 set installed for about a year now. I have two switches - a three position for each pickup to select outer single coil / parallel / series coil configurations. With the Tyler mod Demeter preamp, I have a total of five switches, counting the three EQ frequency center selectors.

    It was absolutely a substaaantial upgrade over the MK-1 package. The MK-1 preamp is a cheap piece of garbage, this is a given, but some people actually seem to prefer the MK-1 pickups over the MK-5 set. I am not one of them. They are a different type of pickup - split single coils vs side-by-side dual coils - and are not necessarily fair to compare directly, but I will say that immediately upon playing the first note with the MK-5s installed, I felt like I now had a professional-sounding bass. The MK-1s are probably ok for a lot of rock stuff and other aggressive sounds, but I always thought they had a wide, undefined, mushy low end. Definitely not a 'tight' sound, to my ears much more of a 'beginner' tone. I hear this in Youtube clips as well, they to me just sound cheap.

    The MK-5 set is much more refined, tight, and clear. There is a lot of that Bartolini neutrality going on, but they also lean toward a modern sound, especially in the top end. They seem to mate pretty well with the Demeter, and the EQ selectors go a long way here to hone in on target frequencies to adjust. Between the pickup pan knob, the independent coil tap switches, and the six possible EQ points, I have a LOT to work with regarding tones that can be extracted from this setup. It is sometimes too much, in all honesty. But for every time I wish I had a passive Vol-Vol-Tone bass for that grab-and-go tone, there is another time where the extreme flexibility has made the gig, whether playing through a crappy backline rig, or having a preamp failure on an amp and going Line In straight from the bass, etc. The frequency selectors also help a ton when carving tones out of the various coil configurations - for example, series mode on the bridge pickup might want a cut at one mid frequency, while parallel mode on the bridge pickup finds its magic with a boost from the other mid frequency. It really is a lot to play around with.

    For reference, my approach to dialing this bass is to go EQ flat and then pick a side, bridge or neck. I tend to avoid the full-center blend position. From there I set the coil taps for overall personality and then dial a sweet spot on the blend. EQ according to what is deficient/overbearing, and voila. One trick I have found with this setup is that I can change the blend curve by using the fact that series mode is louder than the other two. What I mean is, say I start with blend at 100% neck, both pickups single coil. Now if I blend toward the bridge, approaching center, the bridge pickup comes into play while the neck pickup is simultaneously moving out of play, until center position where they are equally in play. The bridge pickup 'approaches' at a certain fixed rate. But if I kick the bridge pickup into series, leaving the neck in single coil, and then start to blend - the bridge pickup comes 'in' much faster. Which means I can get more bridge pickup involved before I as much of the neck pickup gets 'out'. Thus, new *effective* blend combinations are made available. The loss of ability to get arbitrary blend combinations is a drawback to using blend knobs in the first place, so this approach helps to approximate some of that lost ability.

    In terms of how the pickups sound - the bridge pickup is my favorite of the two. I don't always play bridge-pickup tones, but when I do go there I find all three coil configurations to be useful. Single coil mode is nice (outer coil, nearest to the bridge) and sounds much like you would expect. It is not as ballsy and in-your-face as a dedicated single coil, but is still strongly suggestive of that sound and then you can get the rest of the way with the EQ. Parallel mode sounds similar but more modern, hollowed a bit in the mids but better controlled overall. Series mode is not as sweet as the other two, but much more rude and punchy, also of course much louder.

    I do find the neck pickup to be somewhat stuffy at times. It can be a bit honky-sounding and sometimes I find its midrange characteristic to be kind of nasty. I get a lot of midrange which would be fine except that I feel it lacks somewhat in natural low end. It is a good sound by itself but doesn't always push under a band without some love from the EQ. I am a big fan of natural sounds, as in the preamp should just be there to help, the instrument should sound good intrinsically. I am not convinced I love the sound of this pickup. There are a few thoughts that I have about this - I would like to try using the inner coils instead, this might be a sweeter spot. Since this involves no new parts and instead just a wiring reconfiguration, I will definitely try this. Another thought is that I may tweak my pickup height and see if I can get more of the fundamental tone to come through. (yes, the first harmonic actually.) I also am continuing to experiment with strings. Curt Mangan steels have been doing the trick for me for a while but I may try the DRs that I used to use. If none of these works... I will probably try a Nordstrand Fat Stack in the neck position, or a whole set if I can't acquire a neck pickup alone. I think the single large-aperture coil will get the bridge position sound across more convincingly than the comparatively narrow coils on the Barts. When I am in single coil mode, I am only employing half of this large pickup's surface. The Fat Stacks are a stacked coil instead of a side-by-side, so they present a single wide coil to the string. I would still have a hum-cancel ability on this pickup (I would use the existing neck coil tap hole to put in the Fat Stack switch) and two personalities to choose from. I would think this would be a warmer, more organic sound than the dual-coil MK5.

    One thing I have heard about the 55-01 model in general is that Lakland did not put the same level of research/design into the pickup placement as on the flagship basses from which the 55-02s inherit their layout (I am thinking of the 55-94). It was intended as a cheaper bass from the start, while the 55-02 is a cheaper implementation of a much more expensive and well-designed bass. This may be part of why I don't like the neck pickup as much, the rout may just be in a non-optimal position for its voice.

    Overall however, regardless of quibbles about the neck pickup, this was a massive massive upgrade over the stock electronics. I am still curious to try Nordstrands though my interest has shifted away from the models in this thread's poll and toward the Fat Stacks. However, keeping this bass as it is now is a perfectly viable option. After all, it is a musical instrument first and foremost, and it's a pretty damn nice ride especially given that I have around $1100 in it in total. That's not half bad for a 35" ash/maple 5-string with high-end (rare, even..that Demeter isn't easy to find) electronics. This is of course not to say that I won't someday strip the finish and go natural instead of black, but at the end of the day it is a pretty nice bass and it gets the job done and the player paid.
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2014
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