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Adding a Pre to a Cheap-o?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by stepswork4me, Aug 11, 2012.

  1. I just got one of those cheap-o maestro traben 5'er copies and am seriously considering adding a preamp. I was told that the pups are Wilkinson. They are soapbar passives. This will be new territory for me. I'm wondering if anyone can make any recommendations? As usual, cheap is good. This bass is just a back up.

  2. Go outboard, instead. You don't have to futz around with the innards of an otherwise perfectly working instrument, and you can use an outboard pre for multiple instruments. Additionally, depending on the outboard pre, you can dial in preferred settings for multiple instruments, too. I swear by my VT Bass Deluxe, and there are other Tech 21 products with multiple user-adjustable presets that might be to your liking, as well as plenty of other options, like the MXR Bass DI+, and the Radial Tonebone. Of the aforementioned, the MXR would be the least expensive, new. Multi-FX units might also help, in this area, since many of them model amp sounds.
  3. Thanks, but I really wanna take this bass active. It will be helpful with my eq'ing and is my preferred sound.
  4. LOL, active preamps are what my prior post was about. To buy a preamp, and then have a tech install it (if you are not capable), is probably more expensive, and less efficient. The active sound comes from the preamp, and thus, it does not matter if the pre is on-board, or not. Suppose your bass has a tiny control cavity; then what? Where are you gonna put the battery? What if the cheap preamp that you want has a single PCB that is dependent on the knob-holes being placed just so, and might mean having to physically modify your instrument in a way that cannot be returned to stock? What if you don't have enough knob-holes? Installing a pre on a cheapo can raise many more issues (including price) than going outboard, and, should you tire of the instrument, you can retain an outboard pre, for the next one. It's easier to demo various outboard pre's, at a store, with your bass, and amp (or an amp that sounds like yours), and make a better informed choice. In the end, if you still want to perform bass surgery, then so be it. Just beware of the money pit that you may be creating.
  5. Thanks again. I'm going for the surgery. Anybody else?
  6. I'm sure some of you folks have added a pre to a passive bass.... maybe, everyone agrees that getting an outboard motor is better?
  7. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    EMG BTC or Duncan Blackouts concentric. Both are inexpensive replacements for a single tone pot. Both are from reputable companies, and both are an easy retrofit. I have the BTC, and like it a lot!
  8. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism Supporting Member

    I will warn you that if you add a pre to passive pickups you best do a good shielding job otherwise you will get crazy hiss and pick up all kinds of line noise.

    It is not a new idea, EBMM StingRay's are passive pickups with active pre-amps, so if you want to do it you definitely can.

    I have on suggestions on pre-amps, I have never been too inclined to change them, the Aguilar OBP-3 comes up a lot, maybe a Glockenlang.
  9. Nothing wrong with adding a pre to a stock passive bass, but you have to be sure of what you are working with. I can give a second thumbs-up on the EMG BTC control, having added one to a MIG Warwick Streamer Standard, a decade ago. The control cavity was well-shielded, and large; the way that Warwick does it, and needed no tool to access. Such an instrument just begs for this sort of mod, and I still went conservative on it. Sold the bass after 2 years as my main player, for more than what I had into it. I'm not sure that the OP is working with an instrument of sufficient quality/reputation/resale value/ease of battery access (tool-free is a requisite for me, but YMMV), which is why I strongly recommended going outboard. I hate being the "I told you so" guy, but have my suspicions, here.

    steps, try talking with a few luthiers in your area, as well. If cheap is good, then you will probably find folks agreeing with my initial advice, in terms of the most bang for the buck, lowest cost, and least hassle.
  10. curbowkid

    curbowkid Guest

    Jun 27, 2011
    Brooklyn, New York
    Some people buy ibanez mikros and soup them up and they sound amazing afterwards. So I say go for it. Slap in a pre, maybe even toss in some new pickups.
  11. I'm good with tools and electrical work... I've been doin' that kind of stuff for a living most of my life. The bass is a cheap-o and will have NO resale at all. Hell, I was out money from the get go, as I traded a custom one off gone bad for it. I know I can find an onboard pre for under $50 and the installation won't cost a dime. I prefer the onboard for several reasons. One being that I'll have no use for the outboard with my main bass. It's active/passive with Nordys and a Nordy pre.... This little guy is just a back up/dive bass.
  12. beggar98


    Jan 23, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    I upgraded the pre in my'96 Warwick 'vette with an Aguilar 2-band. Really opened up the sound, and I'm pretty sure the stock pups in that are passive. Maybe a little more expensive, but worth it IMO.
  13. I've got an Aguilar 2... I just don't have a way of testing it's functionality without installing it.
  14. If you want to go active on a cheap-o, might as well put some EMG's in there. They're as expensive as most preamps, maybe a bit more, but you get no noise, a buffered signal that won't degrade with a long cable (As with all active systems) plus you don't have to solder (It has Quik-Connects) or shield the bass as they're active pickups. I don't know, it's what I would do. Plus, EMG's preamps are just as easy to put in, and they're passive so the battery is only for the pickups, and they last a long time.
  15. Any EMG's that measure 39mm x 104mm and have 4 screws?
  16. Well, I wouldn't know exactly, but I guess Traben uses normal size soapbars, which EMG makes, and which I guess your copy, if it's a Traben copy, should have. You should Email EMG and ask them the measurements.
  17. beggar98


    Jan 23, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    I think most EMG soap bars are two-screw.
  18. arginator


    Feb 28, 2009
    Upstate NY
    If you're looking for a good cheap preamp, check out the Bass Mods preamp on eBay. I've never used one, but if you search here you'll find some good reviews. Maybe not as good as some of the other pre's mentioned here, but a lot cheaper.
  19. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    That's incorrect. All preamps that offer boost require a power source (battery). A passive "preamp" is cut-only (with the exception of some of those amazing Villex thingies...). The EMG preamps are no exception.

    EMG makes both active (require a battery) and passive (do not require a battery) pickups. But all of their preamps require a battery. Their quick-connect wiring allows their active pickups and their active preamp to share one power source, though, if you want to go that route. You can do the preamp now, and add the pickups later, if you want, but I thought the whole point of this thread was "active as cheap as possible", which is why I suggested the BTC/Duncan.

    At any rate, whatever you choose, have fun, and update this thread!
  20. I really do want to go active cheaply. I'll check out the Duncan, BTC, and Bassmods. Thanks guys.

    I'm guesiing that the only way to see if the Aguilar I have works, is to wire it up?

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