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'78 Musicmaster - New Pickup Day!

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by rllefebv, Feb 27, 2016.

  1. rllefebv


    Oct 17, 2000
    Newberg, Oregon
    I don't really do NBD threads, but a new Sentell pickup really changed the character of this bass so much that it feels almost NEW!!

    To start off... I am having some continuing left shoulder issues, and over the past few months I have been playing short scales almost exclusively. I received this lovely '78 Musicmaster a few months ago in a trade. It is the third Musicmaster I have owned through the years, the first having been stolen thirty years ago, and the second foolishly traded away a half dozen years ago... This bass is in great shape and plays wonderfully!


    Like most every Musicmaster that I've seen or played, this one suffered from a murky, undefined low end. You might be aware that these basses actually use a Musicmaster Guitar pickup, which in and of itself isn't bad... IMO, it's the the way that the electronics are wired that rob these guys of their tone... That second cap in the tone circuit really wants to bleed all the clarity.


    I've suggested many times that the stock pickups are really quite nice, and one way to get hear this is to wire the pickup directly to the output to really hear the full potential of the pickup (Bronco owners, take note before swapping pickups)... With my last Musicmaster, I merely swapped out the pots and caps and it was great. When I did that with this current bass, I still got a lot of "cotton", most prominently on the E and G strings... Playing along with CDs in the music room, it was tolerable, but when I used it on a few rehearsals and a gig, I struggled to get a usable tone in the mix. I also noticed reduced magnetic pull over the ends. Pulling off the pickup cover revealed:


    Both the outside pole pieces were recessed into the flatwork and had a pretty thick coating of potting material over them. I've seen other MM pickups like this (there's one on the 'bay right now), but rather than dive too deeply into the stock pickup, I decided to look into other options. My first thought was to wind my own replacement. I've done a pair of single-coils in the past that worked out well, but life is a bit crazy right now so I scrapped that idea. I know that there are a few (very few) pickup makers who wind for Musicmasters, so I decided to look further. I am familiar with Aero and wanted to see what else was out there. Over in the Vista Musicmaster owner's thread, I ran across the name Sentell, and looked into his work. I really liked that he winds for some of the more "out there" basses and has several Musicmaster specific flavors. After a little research and a PM or two, I decided to go with a B17 stacked humbucker.

    The first, OBVIOUS difference between the Sentell and the stock pickup is the vertical size...


    The Sentell is a full 1", or about .4" taller that the stock pickup. That was the only kink in the whole replacement, (and I highly doubt that I would have had a similar issue with any of the other three Musicmaster pickup models that were available on the site). I've never had a reason to measure the depth of the route in either of my previous Musicmasters, so perhaps my current one was just shallow. In fact, the Sentell would not fit in the cavity with the pickguard on... My cavity depth measured about .662"...


    The fact that the only thing lacking on this wonderful little bass was the stock pickup strengthened my resolve! I've never been afraid to remove a little wood, so after clearance drilling to depth, I taped the body up and got ready to route!!


    A few passes with the small router and it was easily deep enough...


    After re-assembly with an old wiring harness I had in the drawer (I am keeping the stock wiring stored away intact) I strung it up and excitedly plugged in... Immediately apparent was an increase in volume, with great string-to-string balance. The bass spoke with instant authority. While it didn't have the same upper-mid bite that I recall with the direct-wired stock pickups of my past Musicmasters (even the stock pickup in this bass sounded good on the A and D strings) the Sentell had a much clearer low end... MUCH clearer! Great tone all around...

    I used the bass during a rather loud Blues rehearsal this week and it melded into the mix without hesitation. Whereas before, with this same group, the Musicmaster's stock pickup struggled down low, with the Sentell it filled out nicely. After the second or third tune, I was able to forget about the bass itself and just enjoy grooving!

    If you're looking for an excellent replacement pickup for your Musicmaster, Bronco, Mustang, Univox, etc., put Sentell on your short list :D

  2. Very nice write-up. You failed to provide a sound clip though, and now the audio police will be on your tail.

    I am particularly impressed that you choose to use a Vernier caliper in an era where $10 Chinese electronic calipers abound. I am not alone (sniff).
    lowplaces likes this.
  3. rllefebv


    Oct 17, 2000
    Newberg, Oregon
    Those calipers have been in my tool chest for over 25 years, and before that, in my father's since forever... They helped raise two generations in my family and still work exactly as designed!

    I plan on using a pair of the cheap electronic ones as makeshift DROs on my mini lathe... If I botch them up, no great loss :D

    lowplaces likes this.
  4. Looks great! I'd love to get a musicmaster someday, perhaps to go along with my bronco.

    Those sentell pickups look pretty interesting. I'll have to look into those.
    lowplaces likes this.
  5. DavidEdenAria


    Dec 13, 2013
    On a Hill
    How is the Sentell PU working out these days?

    Im getting set to install an old Lawrence L-250 single blade PU at 9.1k in my 72 MM bass.

    Can't decide whether to go with a 500k volume pot?
  6. Haroldo

    Haroldo Supporting Member

    Aug 31, 2005
    North Shore, MA
    Coincidentally I did something very similar with my ol' beat up '78 Musicman, tho' in this instance it was the Sentell single coil - no surgery for this boy. I've been quite happy with the results.

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