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Advice on Active Pickups for Ibanez Fretless

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by evilgoat, Mar 17, 2006.


  1. evilgoat

    evilgoat

    Feb 21, 2002
    I hope no one gets angry at generality of this post, but I do not know enough about this stuff to even properly research it here on talkbass.

    I have an Ibanez Roadster fretless bass, and the pickups are shot. There are active pickups in them now. I need to replace them, but i have no idea what i should replace them with. These pickups haven't worked for almost 6 months now and I've come to this board to research for hours at a time 3 or 4 different times, but eventually get discouraged because i just don't know anything about what i need. (I didn't even know it was the pickups themselves that could be active... all i know it that i put a 9 volt in the back of the bass)

    Anyway, I need to replace these pickups. At this point i don't care about "best" or anything. I just need something decent. And I also don't have much money. I need both a j and a p-pickup. I'm really hoping i can get these for under $100, or even cheaper if possible.

    Hopefully, that is enough info? Please just suggest anything that I can use in that type of bass that will be cheap and decent.

    Thanks for any advice you guys can give me, and I will try to study up and understand the instrument better.
     
  2. greenboy

    greenboy

    Dec 18, 2000
    remote mountain cabin Montana
    greenboy designs: fEARful, bassic, dually, crazy88 etc
    How do ytou know it's the pickups and not a broken wire lead to or from the preamp or a failed component on the preamp board?
     
  3. evilgoat

    evilgoat

    Feb 21, 2002
    I brought it to a guitar repair shop. They said that they were shot. They wanted to replace them, but I wanted to look into what kind of pickups were decent instead of trusting them.
     
  4. BillyB_from_LZ

    BillyB_from_LZ Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2000
    Chicago
    It seems highly suspect that two pickups would die at once. A pickup replacement isn't a typical repair...a typical upgrade, but not a repair.

    Anyway...if the pickups are passive (feeding an preamp board...usually the case with an "active" bass), the preamp could be bypassed to see if the pickups work.

    Do you have an ohmeter that you could use to check the resistance of each pickup?

    Can you take a picture of the wiring compartment and post it?

    Where are you located?
     
  5. evilgoat

    evilgoat

    Feb 21, 2002
    This is embarrassing, but I forgot I even posted a topic on here. The email that this account is associated with is my junk email, so i just noticed that there was a reply to this thread today. I'm sorry, it will not happen again.

    I forgot to mention that when i turn the volume way up on my amp, the E and the A string come in, but the D and G don't come in at all. I'm thinking that the J may have been shot already (and i was too ignorant to even realize) and that the top half of the P kind of works, but not the bottom half? (if that's even possible)

    I'm not sure if there is a preamp board because I don't know what it looks like. I don't have a camera to take pictures. Would a repair shop really not know if the pickups were dead?

    If my roomate has a camera i will try to take a picture and post it, but the fact that the E and the A work, but not the D and the G.. does that tell you anything? Assuming I do need new pickups, any suggestions on something cheap but decent?

    I promise not to forget to follow up on this again.
     
  6. BillyB_from_LZ

    BillyB_from_LZ Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2000
    Chicago
    Hey, no problem!

    If the bass requires a battery, then you have a preamp (unless you have EMG pickups). If it doesn't require one, you have a passive bass.

    It is entirely possible for half of a P Bass pickup to die as each one is a coil of very, very fine wire. The halves of a P Bass pickup are connected in series which means if one coil fails, the pickup won't work (identical in effect to the problem with old-style Christmas tree lights...they won't work if only one bulb in the string is burned out).

    With regard to the repair shop...things get misdiagnosed all the time (be it health problems, car problems, instrument or amp problems, etc.). Saying that "all" the pickups are dead sounds a little suspicious... If they said "the bridge pickup is dead" or "half of the P pickup is dead which means the whole thing is junk", then that makes more sense... It's your money and you shouldn't have to pay for the replacement of parts that don't need replacing.

    I'm not saying that what they recommended isn't the real fix, but it pays to be cautious.
     
  7. evilgoat

    evilgoat

    Feb 21, 2002
    found someone who had a camera, so i can upload the pictures. hopefully this can help somewhat.


    bass 002 smaller.JPG

    bass 001 smaller.JPG
     
  8. evilgoat

    evilgoat

    Feb 21, 2002
    have another picture but they only allowed me to attach two.

    bass 003 smaller.JPG
     
  9. BillyB_from_LZ

    BillyB_from_LZ Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2000
    Chicago
    Well, it's a passive bass (and very cool looking by the way).

    With all four controls (two volume, two tone) all the way up, and switching the pickup selector in all positions, do you get anything...or just the E and A strings?
     
  10. evilgoat

    evilgoat

    Feb 21, 2002
    Thanks.

    With all the knobs all the way up, and the volume all the way up on the amp I can get sound out of the E and the A, and a little bit out of the D (but a huge drop off, almost inaudible) and nothing out of the G.

    It's definitely passive? I do have to put a 9 volt in there (it's not in the picture). All the wires are connected securely. At one point I unskewed the pickups from the top to check the connections there and they were secure also.
     
  11. evilgoat

    evilgoat

    Feb 21, 2002
    *unscrewed*

    So, what are the possibilities here? Greenboy mentioned that it could be a broken wire lead to or from the preamp or a failed component on the preamp board. I don't see any broken wires. If it was a failed component of the preamp board i wouldn't know (but then again.. why would the E and A come in and not the other 2 strings if that was the case?)

    Now that I think about it, one of the knobs never seemed to do anything. I don't think i knew there were separate volumes for the two pickups, and the bridge pickup probably never worked.

    So that would make it more likely that the p (or hald of it anyway went bad).

    I'm just trying to think through the possibilities logically, and it still seems that that is the most likely scenario. So my revised questions are:

    1. Is that really the most likely scenario? and,

    2. If so, I still need suggestions for cheap, yet decent pickups.
     
  12. BillyB_from_LZ

    BillyB_from_LZ Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2000
    Chicago
    Without having the bass in front of me, it's really hard to guess....

    Since you get sound out of the instrument, I wouldn't think that there is a problem with the preamp (unless each pickup hits the circuit board separately). I believe most active basses are essentially passive until after the blend/volume controls when the pickups connect to the input section of the EQ/preamp.

    Unless the halves of the P Bass pup are connected in parallel, it doesn't make sense that only half would work... As I wrote earlier, if the coils are in series and one opens, the pickup wouldn't work. If they're connected in parallel and one opens, then the functioning coil would still give you signal.

    I'm still trying to understand the photo of the control compartment. To me, it looks like the following...

    1. The P pickup enters via a thick white wire at the left top and heads for its volume control (the one on the left). The center conductor of the white wire connects to the bottom (right, if you turn so that the tabs are on top) tab of the volume control. The center tab of the volume control connects to the thick black wire which goes to the tone control in the upper middle of the compartment (the one with the green capacitor connected to it. The other thick black wire comming from the volume control looks like it goes to the pickup selector (upper right hand corner).

    I don't know where the thin gray and black wires coming from the upper left are going (the gray looks like it's grounded to the back of the tone control, but what about the thin black lead?).

    2. The J pickup enters via a thick white wire at the left top and heads for its volume control (bottom middle). The center conductor of the white wire connects to the right tab of the volume control. The center tab of the volume control connects to the thick black wire which goes to the tone control in the bottom right side of the compartment (the one with the green capacitor connected to it. The other thick black wire comming from the volume control looks like it goes to the pickup selector (upper right hand corner).

    The yellow colored lead looks like it goes to the back of the P's tone control, not sure about the black.

    A thick black lead goes from the pickup selector switch to the output jack.

    The thick black leads and white lead look to be shielded cables with an inner conductor (white colored insulation) and a braided shield around the outside. The shields should connect to the backs of the controls.

    This brings up a question...what (if anything) is under the foam? The wiring seems to form a harness for a passive bass...is there a circuit board? I don't know where it would connect based on what I see.

    I'm wondering if the pickups are original...I'm beginning to doubt it and wonder if the previous owned rewired the bass and did a lousy job...the hodge-podge grounding scheme really makes me wonder.

    Any more help that you can give (like where all those little wires go) would be greatly appreciated.
     
  13. evilgoat

    evilgoat

    Feb 21, 2002
    I took some better pictures that show the wiring clearer and i took the foam out. I think i can answer most of your questions. (for the volume and tone controls, i'm calling them left, right, top, and bottom)

    1. The thin gray wire coming from the upper left is going to the top control. The thin black wire (along with the thin black wire from the middle) go to the 9-volt battery connection. I left that out of the pcture so that it doesn't block any of the wires in the compartment.

    2. The pickup selector (the box thingy on the top right) has three thick black wires coming out of it. The one on the right goes to the left control (connected to the top of it?). The one in the middle goes to the output jack. The one on the right goes to the bottom control (connected to the center tab?)

    Circuit Board? don't know anything about that. What you see in these pictures is all that i know.

    Since there is a 9-volt, does that mean there is an onboard preamp? If so, where would it be? What would it look like?

    It's possible that the original owner changed the pickups. I really don't know. I tried searching for pictures of this bass online and i really can't tell what pickups they originally come with.

    Hope this helps some more.


    left side.jpg

    right side.jpg
     
  14. bannedwit

    bannedwit

    May 9, 2005
    Buffalo, NY
    I would guess that if you are having all these issues maybe look into getting Basslines by Semore Duncan... They have some that are made for fretless basses and arent too expensive either...

    You must decide on if you want an active or passive maybe? Not sure if basslines have both for fretless.

    But yeah there are other pickupswhich are sometimes made expecially for the fretless folks.
     
  15. BillyB_from_LZ

    BillyB_from_LZ Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2000
    Chicago
    Perhaps the pickups are active themselves (like an EMG (not Hz or Select)). It's odd that the battery clip isn't wired so that unplugging your bass disconnects the battery.

    If the pickups are active, I wonder why the bridge pickup doesn't have a connection to the battery clip too. Maybe it should and that's why the bridge pickup doesn't work.

    Since I can't physically look at the bass, I think the best plan is to get new pickups for it. You would do well to buy some Duncans or DiMarzios or similar.

    If you want to keep the cost down, stay passive...
     
  16. evilgoat

    evilgoat

    Feb 21, 2002
    Thanks for the advice. I bet teh previous owner did mess with the wiring and something was set up wrong. I will check one more thing with the wires that go to the battery tonight, but it's a longshot. Those black wires that go to the battery along with the black and red wires that come out of the 9-volt connector are soldered in one big mess. People keep telling me that that makes no sense and it shouldn't be like that.

    Anyway, I have seen Duncans and Dimarzios mentioned many times on these boards, but do you know of any specific models of these pickups? There are so many. I have no problem going passive, especially since, i guess i don't even really have an onboard preamp, and it's just my pickups themselves that are active.
     
  17. evilgoat

    evilgoat

    Feb 21, 2002
    My last ditch effort actually worked. The red and the black wires coming from the 9-volt connector were soldered to the two black wires coming from the pickups in one big mess. Why? I don't know. But I took them all apart, soldered the red 9-volt wire to the two pickup wires and tested the black 9-volt in all different spots. I finally got everything to (magically) work by connecting it to the leftmost control.

    By drastically changing the connection like that it makes it even more mysterious how at one time the bass worked with those wires connected like that.

    Anyway, what's important is that the bass works, and thank you for all the help.
     
  18. BillyB_from_LZ

    BillyB_from_LZ Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2000
    Chicago
    Great news!

    How's it sound?

    The only suggestion that I have is that you replace the existing jack with a switching jack (a stereo phone jack). The only wiring difference is that the "ring" part of the jack connects to the negative battery terminal and the stuff that you had connected to the negative battery terminal gets connected to ground.

    That way when you plug in your cable (mono 1/4 in. plug) the battery is connected (via the ground path) and the pickups work. When you unplug the cable, the battery is disconnected and it doesn't wear out prematurely.

    Lots of wiring diagrams available in the usual places.