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Are pickup upgrades really worth it?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by bassbully, Mar 30, 2013.

  1. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    I had a long post going and messed it up so here it is short and sweet. Do you feel most Pickup upgrades are really worth it? Do you hear your moneys worth? I changed out my 87' Squier MIK E series pups with tiny wire with magnets on the bottom for a sweet set of SD Antiquity II P pups. The Duncan's sound fuller, a tad tighter but it is not allot of diff for $110.00 set of pups over the old stock ones. I have had this happen in the past also.

    On the other hand one bass I owned an old MIM P I put a set of Fender 62 RI in and it came alive over the stock pups.

    I am mostly talking passive basses and I use P basses but wonder how some of you out there feel. Is there a big enough difference to buy a Fralin,Fender,Lollar,Bart etc over stock? Or is it a gamble a kind of expensive one at times.
  2. mystic38


    Dec 4, 2012
    Mystic CT
    If new pickups cause you to keep the bass rather than spending $800 on a MIA bass, then yes, of course its worth it, But if you sell your modded bass you lose your shirt.
  3. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    Agree on lose your shirt. I won't sell off the pups I replaced ever again. Most on my basses keep the stock pups since they sound good and are in special basses but in this case it was a Squier I paid $100 for. This Squier just feels so good and is built well an E series and the pups were just crappy looking in build with bottom mounted magnets and tiny thin wire like I have never seen. They did sound good thou. The Duncan's are a more focused pup with tighter tone but it's not like a huge improvement.
  4. MegaSwing

    MegaSwing Your Obedient Bassist® Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 26, 2002
    Baltimore, MD USA
    It almost always makes a difference, because pickup types are not created equal. However, until you get some experience and truly know your preferences, it can be a little, let's say, inexact as far as the difference you get compared to the one you want.

    The upside is you can always resell them, because you can bet that somebody wants them.
  5. darkstorm


    Oct 13, 2009
    Pup replacement is the overall best way to improve an otherwise nice bass's sound. So yes upgrade pup for better sound is allways a good move if you otherwise like the bass.
  6. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    Ok I agree I guess what I'm wondering is did I get enough of a difference for my money or would the stock of been just as good?
    Do you have issues like this where you get hyped up on a pup only to find it really made just a small difference in the tone from stock but cost you more money?
  7. I've upgraded two basses. It's all a matter of perspective.

    Are the new pickups $110 better sounding? Maybe not. Are they $110 better sounding than NO pickups at all? Definitely. That's the proper way to look at it.;)
  8. audioglenn


    Jul 14, 2012
    Pickup replacement is what I'm doing right now on a bunch of used Squiers I bought. So far, I have yet to be disappointed and I've done it on about five of them. I think the electronics are one of the first things to get compromised in order to make a bass hit a lower price point.
    I agree with the previous statement made that sometimes a pickup change can breathe new life into an otherwise dead instrument.
  9. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    :D Thanks..Don't get me wrong the build and quality with the Duncan's way better over the stock pup. I have not played it in a band or live setting so I might be surprised when I do.
    I had an older Squier P bass special that sounded great and I got a wild hair to gut out the tiny crappy wire and pots and added Basslines P and J pups to it. I never liked that bass again and all the money I put into it was waste IMO. I kept that bass trying to tell myself it was good but it was not the same as it was stock. Like a dope I had sold off the pups before I finally gave up and sold it off. Lesson learned keep originals pups always!
  10. Doner Designs

    Doner Designs Steve Doner Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2012
    Metro Chicago Area
    Doner Designs is an alias for Steve Doner
    Whoever said 20% of the dollars gets you 80% of the tone was probably not too far off.

    I actually blow more money on strings than on pickups and really think that string choice makes a bigger difference than pickups.

    My pickup investments are usually directed at adding a third PU or a change in type - for example its worth money to me to get hum canceling J pickups vs singles which come stock on most J basses.

    Going from a $100 bass to a $500 bass makes a bigger difference than going from $500 to $1000. Same with pickups I think.
  11. topcat2069


    Dec 2, 2007
    Palm Springs
    Just a thought.... pickup height can make a huge difference... so before you make your final judgments.. make sure all things are adjusted to be equal as far as the out put goes........
  12. Gintaras


    Dec 11, 2004
    Kent Island, Md.
    I have an MTD Grendel 4 which I thought was great as is. My Luthier recommended a set of Joe Barden J pups. They were over $300 installed and worth every penny. I tend to upgrade everything and this was by far the most worthwhile.

    Agree with previous post that strings is my biggest investment after purchase.
  13. Stinsok

    Stinsok Supporting Member

    Dec 16, 2002
    Central Alabama
    In the case of my modest Peavey Millennium, no. I swapped the pickups for Fender American and didn't gain a single thing.
  14. bonga_rascal


    Sep 9, 2010
    Let me tell you my story. I have a cheap bass. I put EMG's and an Aggie OBP-3 in it. It's transformed the bass into a monster!! Love the sound now!!
  15. bassfreakah


    Mar 26, 2011
    Endorsing Artist Ernie ball strings
    try the bill p-46 a very cheap way to upgrade any p or j for that matter.
  16. Indiana Mike

    Indiana Mike

    Nov 18, 2005
    That's why I shop for used pickups .

    Less $$$

    Takes patience .

    I just swapped pups in my '06 fender classic '60's jazz with SD quarter founders.

    I was worth the $57 I spent.

    The stock pups just didn't get it for me and honestly the D&G always sounded weak no matter how I set the bass up . I even paid for a pro set up and it didn't fix it .

    I really like it now and although some say they are scooped ,,,and they are with both volumes full up, if I back off the neck about a 1/100 of a turn ( about an 1/8 inch turn) it instantly has full range to my ears .

    On the other hand I've had other basses and had zero satisfaction when changing pups .
  17. Cadfael


    Jan 4, 2013
    Germany, EU
    My first instrument was a Japanese Kasuga Les Paul Custom from the early 1970s.
    The pickups were really poor and the DiMarzios really made sense - but on the other hand the Kazuga stayed a cheap made LP ...
    I still have the PUs - but now in my Rockinger "Cadicaster" Tele ...

    A lot has changed during the last 35 years - especially the quality of low-mid budget instruments (not "ultra low budget"). What changes less rapid it the tradition of mankind ...
    We still believe a lot of things which were right 35 years ago (tube sound is best, asian pickups sound bad +++).

    Many women think that they look better with new shoes ...
    They don't! Most men aren't even interested in shoes. But these women may feel better and by this appear better ...

    There are thousands of exellent guitar and bass players in Africa who are happy to have had the money for a cheap instrument. Better pickups are out of reach - but they sound excellent because sound comes from your fingers and your brain.

    I think most of us wouldn't hear the difference between the original and a custom PU with closed eyes and both PUs setup best ...
  18. CPplaysBASS


    Mar 17, 2007
    It's definitely worth changing pickups for specific reasons. From reading other threads, I get the impression that a lot of Squier owners in particular decide to change the pickups almost as an automatic response.

    The pickups in my VM Jazz are growly with strong mids and treble. They're great. My '09 MIA p-bass pickup ... perfection.

    However, I have a '10 MIA which is now a PJ, and an '11 MIM Jazz. Both play beautifully with amazing necks and I bought used on great deals. Stock pickups on both were very dark and muffled though. I knew the tone I wanted was not possible with any amount of amp tweaking, so I did research and got the pickups I needed to want to keep the basses long-term (stronger mids). Those basses are with me for life now.

    I'm guessing if I tried 10 different Squiers, I'd be happy with the pickups in most of them. It would probably be the same ratio with Fender MIAs and MIMs.

    If I was buying new however, and thought I'd be changing the pickups right away, I'd rather just add that cost to my budget and look for a different bass personally (or visit a different store ... Two basses, same make, model and year can sometimes sound noticeably different due to the inconsistencies and variations with the pickups).
  19. My view is that if the bass plays well, looks nice and seems to sound decent unplugged but you don't care for the plugged-in tone it may be worth it. But if it sounds dead and lifeless unplugged, don't expect miracles.
  20. mystic38


    Dec 4, 2012
    Mystic CT
    I just picked up a 1998 MIM jazz.

    Cosmetically its is in near perfect shape, though filthy.. and had sat unplayed for about a decade and its easy to tell why....Frankly i cannot understand how they sold a single one of them.. The pickups are atrocious...so in this case, yup the pups will be worth it.:D

    So.. its a project bass..basically to see what i can screw out of a MIM.. I plan to :
    1. route the bridge pup cavity,
    2. complete shielding job, with star ground
    3. Install Noiseless N3 pickups
    4. mebbe convert from Vol/Vol/Tone to Vol/Blend/Tone with Push-Pull series/parallel.

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