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A “Smoother” Musicman pickup.

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by berklee46, Nov 1, 2018.

  1. berklee46

    berklee46 Supporting Member

    Dec 19, 2000
    I know the MM pickup threads have been going on forever and I’ve read most, but I’m still interested in some helpful input.

    I’m interested in trying a MM pickup that’s smoother than the traditional Musicman tone in my Sadowsky MM bass. I guess I’m looking for a non-scooped tone with more pronounced upper mids rather than the high-end “snap” commonly associated with a Musicman. Yes, it’s more boring and less aggressive, but a more even tone across all strings is what I’d like to try out. I want the notes on the G string as full as the others, almost how a synth bass retains that thickness for those notes. My Peavey Palaedium - Jeff Berlin model - has the midrange forward tone I like, so something along those lines would be a good start.

    Right now I’m using a Nordstrand Bigman, which is a killer pickup - thicker than the 4.2, but still not quite there.

    The Nordstrand Dual Blade Neo seems close but it’s no longer made and didn’t come in a MM housing.

    Thanks for any suggestions.
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2018
    59jazz likes this.
  2. birminghambass

    birminghambass Supporting Member

    Sep 18, 2002
    Birmingham, AL
  3. sikamikanico


    Mar 17, 2004
    It might work to just have it wired in series, or try a loading cap like G&L does on L1/2k series basses. Either approach shifts the resonant peak down to tame that sound. The cap approach might work better if you're particular to what frequency you might want to fine-tune it.

    Alternatively, you probably want to find a MM shaped pickup with soapbar guts. I think a big part of that sound is the aperture (coil spacing) and associated comb filtering... I'm sure Nordstrand could make you a soapbar-in-an-MM-cover, maybe even re-create the dual blade. Or maybe just try the blade MM they offer, maybe that would work?
    Haroldo and RobbieK like this.
  4. +1 for trying the pickup in series mode. Or perhaps try a passive tone control. You might have to stack up two of the active controls to make space.

    What preamp is on the bass? If it's the 2 band sadowsky fet pre, this will have quite a mid scoop with the pots centred, so the treble can be pretty strident. If the pre is the 90s musicman circuit, it will have a cap in the input that creates a bit of a treble peak around 3khz, (depending on the pickup characteristics). You may want to play with this.

    Does the bass have active - passive switching? If not, then check the value of the vol pot. If it's 25k say, then it means the pickup is wired directly to the preamp input. (and the vol is on the preamp output). By changing to a 250k wired before the pre, you will warn up the bass's tone.
    birminghambass likes this.
  5. berklee46

    berklee46 Supporting Member

    Dec 19, 2000
    I’ve done the series wiring and it’s obviously less scooped than parallel, but the pickup is WAY too hot to run in series, even bypassing the preamp and going passive. Even Nordstrand doesn’t recommend series for these.

    Nordstrand said they may have the parts to recreate the Dual Blade, but don’t believe they can fit it into a MM housing.

    Last edited: Nov 3, 2018
  6. berklee46

    berklee46 Supporting Member

    Dec 19, 2000
    The preamp is a Sadowsky 2-band with the passive tone control, and the volume pot is 250k. Keeping everything flat does eliminates some of the zing but obviously doesn’t thicken up the high mids. It’s a bright pickup, which isn’t a bad thing since it does what it does very well, I’d just prefer a bit more mid and upper-mid heft and less snap.

    Last edited: Nov 3, 2018
  7. 4StringTheorist

    4StringTheorist Supporting Member

    I wonder if you can get an "Old Smoothie" pickup? The polepieces are between the strings rather than right under the strings, for a less spiky attack.

    Kerem Koseoglu likes this.
  8. sikamikanico


    Mar 17, 2004
    I can see that, especially with a Bigman... I'd try a small loading cap then, maybe 1000-2200 pF. This will approximate the series sound without the volume increase.
  9. berklee46

    berklee46 Supporting Member

    Dec 19, 2000
    Great, thank you.
  10. Toptube

    Toptube Supporting Member

    Feb 9, 2009
    If you aren't there with a Bigman then I dunno. Nordstrand's have a lot of midrange. And the big singles (the bigman is two.big singles) have a big, toothy upper mid.

    I would say try diff strings and wire a switch for series, parallel, and each single pickup.

    Their BigRig pickups are really even, detailed, and full. You might see if they can put two of those into a MM casing. I put Alnico 3 BigRigs into a bass which was a bit pingy with stainless frets. And I love these pickups.
  11. berklee46

    berklee46 Supporting Member

    Dec 19, 2000
    Thanks. The Bigman is pretty darn close and is the best pickup I’ve had in this. (The only real downside is how overpowering it is when wired in series.)
    I can dial back the snappy highs, but I’m just looking to replace them with a little more heft rather than just mellow them out.

    I’ll look into the BigRig idea, and also may try the Bart quad coils to see what they’re like. Again, this isn’t a case of being unhappy, it’s more curiosity for what’s out there.

    Thanks again for all the suggestions you guys have given.
  12. Toptube

    Toptube Supporting Member

    Feb 9, 2009
    If you want heft, try a bigblademan or a dual zenblade.

    I had some bigblades for a bit and their low end heft and midrange roundness reminded me of the lollar thunderbird pickups I have in my Jaguar. Bigblades do have some icing on top. The zenblade is supposed to be smoother up top. But still hefty.

    Carey Nordstrand has a demo of the bigblademan in a bass he built for Justin Chancellor of Tool.

    Last edited: Nov 4, 2018
    Killed_by_Death likes this.
  13. somebrains

    somebrains Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2017
    I have a pair of Bigmans I tend to play passive.
    I don't think I'd call them smooth, every note jumps off the fretboard.
    Parallel tends to have more note integrity than series, but series has it's uses.

    Big Rigs are cool, but instead of doubled 51P pickupsf I'd go for a Lane Poor.
    That's along the lines of a P like mid forward MM pickup that still has that MM pop.
  14. +1 for the old smoothie. I have personally tried this bass, and it's definitely less aggressive than your average StingRay. However, the particular bass that I tried had one of the weakest G strings I have ever encountered, with dead spots too.

    I also tried the new StingRay Special, and the bridge humbucker was also less aggressive than your average StingRay. It was like a super-Jaco pickup with the distinct MusicMan flavor. It's worth a shot, if possible.
  15. In that case, I'd recommend trying another preamp. AFAIK, the sadowsky pre (and fwiw the Agi obp1) have (scaled) fender tonestacks for treble and bass. I've messed around with this circuit for many years, and when the treble and bass controls are centred, you have a pretty deep mid cut. Depending on the cap values in the tone stack, that's usually around 500-800hz. I'd try a 2-band pre like the emg stuff, or the agi obp2, or many others that have a flat response.
    ex-tension likes this.
  16. somebrains

    somebrains Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2017
    SD 3-band worked well for me, 2-band is in one of my Ps right now.

    I've thought about grabbing a -$100 SUB and opening it up to a 5-string MM to do the Old Smoothie thing to it.

    They pop up from time to time in my area for $50-$100 and I have smb-5a's.
  17. rashrader


    Mar 4, 2004
    Baltimore, MD
    Yes. I had a Bart MM in my old Lakland and I could agree more.... It sounded awesome.
  18. rojo412

    rojo412 Sit down, Danny... Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2000
    Cleveland, OH.
    If you haven't tried the Big Blade Man, I'd suggest that highly. It takes the Big Man and smooths it out. It's probably my favorite pickup ever, honestly.
    Here's some sound clips of the passive Big Man vs Big Blade Man, then the BBM into a 2B preamp. I switch between parallel, series, and SC. If you hear hum, it's in single coil.

    Attached Files:

  19. J.Wolf

    J.Wolf Gear Reviewer - Bass Musician Magazine Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2003
    Asheville, NC
    I always thought Nordstrands MM pickup (non big man, non big blademan) was a really great take on the MM tone. Smoother than the EB pickup and more detailed, to my ears.
  20. somebrains

    somebrains Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2017
    I have a BBM and their MM clone preamp that bounces around a couple 4's.

    The pair of BMs is staying in my $$4 bc I simply like having a pair of Big Singles around. I play that bass passive bc I haven't found a preamp I really like with it. I don't think the BMs need any additional voicing, and I can EQ from a head/preamp/pedal.

    Neither of them I'd call authentic MM, just a new thing on their own I like exploring.

    If I was going for authentic MM I've tried SD Alnico.
    Cheap and cheerful.

    If I was spending more than a Nordstrand MM and the MM preamp or Pope's MM clone if it comes up at a decent price. MM sound needs that preamp interaction, regardless of MM era you are shooting for.

    I think when you want to reshape the MM sound then that's where Aguilar MMs on OBP3, Bart MMs with a variety of preamps, Lane Poor, even EMG with a non-EMG preamp start opening up new avenues.

    I'd be interwsted in hearing if EMG MMs + Pope can get a Wooten esque thing.

    Attached Files:

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