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'71 Jazz sounds very plain somewhat hollow

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by dagrev, Mar 28, 2013.

  1. dagrev

    dagrev Supporting Member

    Jun 21, 2006
    I've got a near mint '71 jazz (bridge PU is closer to the bridge), with rosewood, but it just sounds so plain and has no life. I've even used TI flats that have a lot of mids and it still has no personality. I tried some nickle plated Rotos and they seem to add the most personality thus far.

    The bass is all stock and I really can't see changing the PUs or bridge on this pristine bass or altering it in any way. I know in the mid to late 70's I would pull out the sucky PUs, but I'm not really liking that idea here. But I know the Fender 62's would sound good. Rolling back the neck PU some really doesn't sound pleasing.

    I guess I'm left with strings so possibly this needs to go in that section, but I thought maybe I'm missing something else as an option.

    Playing through an Ampeg PRO3 and either a Fender 1x15 or Ampeg 1x12. I get full sounding punch out of everything else but this Jazz.

    Just searching for something I may have missed. Possibly I'm just let with adding a lot of minds with the EQ.

    Anyone else have a lifeless Jazz with thoughts to offer?
  2. 6jase5

    6jase5 Mammogram is down but I'm working manually

    Dec 17, 2007
    San Diego/LA
    Sounds like an old lemon....I'll give you $200 and take it off your hands. :D I'm not experienced with vintage basses but I do wonder if potentially it needs a going through to be sure that it's up to full health. Other than that, I'm sure you'll get some great ideas.

    I would hate to see it modified to be honest, but if it's a bass you'll never play, I'd hate to see that as well. Decisions.
  3. giacomini


    Dec 14, 2008
    Florianopolis - Brazil
    Endorsing: Copetti Guitars
    hmmm, out of phase pickups maybe?

    I'd get the electronics checked, just to make sure there's no swapped wires, a bad potentiometer or something like that...

    Do the pickups sound better soloed?
  4. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    Does it sound dull and lifeless acoustically? If the aspects that are lacking amplified are lacking unamplified, then that bass isn't going to sound right to you no matter what strings, pickups, or bridge you put on it. The electronics only translate how the strings vibrate, and if the wood doesn't let let strings vibrate they way way you want to hear them move on.

    If it sounds alive and full unamped, my personal reaction would be to sell it to someone who values whatever appeal a Jazz of that era has, and buy a bass that sounds right. For me, sound is the first consideration in that if it doesn't sound right, nothing else matters. There are so many choices out there that I see no reason to deal with a sound I don't like just because this bass looks good, is old, is valuable, etc.

    I tried, and wasted a lot of time and money in the process, to turn sows' ears into silk purses, both for my instruments, and for customers who thought pickups would solve everything.

  5. tdizzle


    Aug 3, 2009
    Detroit, MI
    Beware the mint vintage bass. They say there is a reason for why they go unplayed. If you are looking for a vintage player, then consider a bass that has some play on it. I agree that if it sounds dull unplugged, then it will probably sound dull amplified, no matter what.
  6. zortation


    Dec 26, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    Setup is one possibility. Pickups change as they age and they lose some of that sharpness. This usually results in a very desirable tone...how's the pickup height?
  7. mp40smg


    Aug 11, 2010
    Worcester, Ma.
    As long as you get stock sized pick ups. Swapping it back and forth is not that big of a deal putting it back.

    If you like the look and feel of the bass, swapping PU is an easy. cheap and very undo-able way to go.
  8. emblymouse

    emblymouse exempt Supporting Member

    Jan 22, 2006
    Lakland Artist Endorser
    My thoughts exactly. If it is really all original take advantage of that and sell it.
  9. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Hmmm, curious why you bought it, if it doesn't sound good?

    Is this your only jazz bass? Maybe you just don't like the J sound, and need a P bass. ;)

    But I think the suggestion to check the phase of the pickups is a good one. If they're out of phase, that could be described as a "hollow" sound. Also, my experience with J bass is that they sound lifeless with both pickups on full, and the good sounds are found by favoring one or the other pickup. If you are new to jazz bass then definitly experiment with the tonal options of mixing the two pickups in different combinations.
  10. zfunkman


    Dec 18, 2012
    You've got a vintage bass. Its old. In no way were old basses better than new ones. I mean look at all the incredible bass players out there who don't play "vintage" instruments; there are a lot more than those who do. After playing a Modulus Q5for 15 years I decided I'd like an old Jazz Bass; I looked at and played some vintage J basses; they were freakin' way overpriced so I played some new ones that played and sounded better than the vintage and a third of the price so I got an 09 MIA Jazz. That said . . . vintage instruments are way overated. They're more a novelty and the only magic an instrument has is what you put into it.

    CHANGE THE PICKUPS! Keep the old ones; its pretty easy to put them back in to "make vintage" again. Get yourself some Lindy Fralin J Bass pickups; it will cost about $175.
  11. zfunkman


    Dec 18, 2012
    +1! and you can get a MIA Fender J Bass for about $1200 new.
  12. The "hollow" sound is usually due to the P-ups being wired out of phase...perhaps someone had other P-ups in it for a time, and put the stock ones back in -miswired- before selling it to you...
    As it's a Jazz, it won't take much to pull the plate and visually check the wiring to make sure everything's up to snuff, and if you've a VOM handy, get a reading as well, it may be something as simple as a cold solder joint...
  13. bassarama

    bassarama Supporting Member

    Sep 14, 2006
    I have owned about 20 Jazz Basses from 1966 to 1978.
    CBS models to be exact.
    ONLY 2 had BOTH pickups that worked as originally intended.

    I have NEVER had ONE PICKUP PROBLEM with the 15 or so PRE CBS Jazz basses that I have owned.
    NOT ONE.......

    MOST Jazz Basses from that era have a DEFINITE pickup problem. Usually the bridge pickup is either weak or dead.Too, the bridge pickup sometimes, likewise.
    The last 73 Jazz I bought was near mint BUT both pickups were weak. A friend purchased a 71 Jazz DEAD MINT from a highly reputed vintage dealer for BIG BUCKS and it was delivered with a weak bridge pickup.
    Thus the majority of Jazzes I see (particularly in 1971-73) for some reason have installed:
    1. EMG
    2. Di Marzio
    3. Rewound pickups.



    P.S. take the bass to a repair shop and have them measure the strength of the pickups. that is an easy starting point IMHO.

    In FAVOR of Vintage Jazz basses.

    YES, they can be expensive.
    BUT personally BY FAR the fattest and best OVERALL tone I have heard in a Jazz Bass, has been from (3) different 65 Jazzes and the KILLER of ALL--a 1962 Olympic White 62 Jazz at Hollywood Guitar Center several years back--it KO'd everything in the store including other vintage J and P basses and the high end stuff--including a FODERA Victor Wooten. That is not solely my opinion BUT a mutual opinion of other patrons and sales personnel who witnessed the A-B testing.

    In favor of New basses.

    TWO of the absolute BEST modern USA Jazz basses I've ever encountered was a 1999 Lake Placid Blue Jazz with maple board, and a 1983 Gold Jazz-Collector Series. For the money I would be happy and not MISS the Vintage per se...BUT if affordable BOTH Vintage and New work just fine
    once ya get down to the playin....;)
  14. dagrev

    dagrev Supporting Member

    Jun 21, 2006
    Thanks for the great suggestions.

    my apologies for not being more interactive since asking this question, but my dad (who has more wrong with him than politicians had dumb ideas) had to be rushed to the hospital. With all that going on with him I just haven't had time to reply.

    I think having the PUs checked is a good place to start. They seem to have enough volume, but possibly they are still lacking something noticeable when checked out.

    Now finding someone who knows what to look for other than hooking up a meter!
  15. dagrev

    dagrev Supporting Member

    Jun 21, 2006
    I bought the bass from a listing here, so there's no way to try before you buy. This I don't like, but I was willing to take a chance.

    I am more of a Pbass guy, without question, but love how most Jazzes sound when I hear them played live or recorded. (And I love the tone of the Geddy Lee I have. An underrated instrument in my opinion. And I realize the '71 isn't going to sound like that.)

    I've put some Rotos on and lowered the neck PU a little to get more bite and some mids. I'll see mid-week at rehearsal if this helps.

    Anyone know what the PU reading from that era should be on a meter?
  16. Measure the pots and tone capacitor while you've got the plate open...caps can drift and go out of spec, having an adverse effect on tone...
    That and/or mis-wiring is your most likely culprit.
  17. Stone Soup

    Stone Soup

    Dec 3, 2012
    This might sound a little strange, but make sure the neck and the bridge screws are tight. Just snug them up some. It might surprise you.
  18. Ive never heard there's a reason why it's mint. It's because no-one liked it!

    That's one explanation - my poly 76P has had plenty of use and is nearly mint. I blame the poly finish!

  19. You have just found the problem. :p

    Been there. Just play it--you'll figure it out. Hint: don't run the volumes all the way open. They are really tone controls. You'll see. It's just a different animal.
  20. dagrev

    dagrev Supporting Member

    Jun 21, 2006
    The reason this one was mint was is just never ended up with a bass player who played. It was a special order in black by a guy who worked at a music store. The music thing never took off with him and it sat under his bed for years and just stored away. An older friend bought it from him and only basement jammed occasionally with friends. He had it the last 11 years. (I've had it over a year.) Everything is like new--covers case and even the original strap.

    I love playing it. It's light and very comfortable. I'd just like it to sound better. It's not awful, it just lacks personality you might say.

    I would like to know what the readings should be for the PUs.

    I appreciate all the great advice.

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