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Best way to do a pickup test?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by dean owens, Mar 27, 2009.

  1. dean owens

    dean owens

    Sep 23, 2008
    pittsboro, nc
    well, i've developed quite a little stash of emg's that i want to try out in my spector (2x 40p5, 40j, 40dc and soon to be 40cs). i'd like to record the results so i can go back and listen to them and share them. before i go through all the trouble, i'd like to know what you guys think is the best way to do this. the bass is equipped with an emg bqc control. i was thinking i would just go straight to my computer. one setting "flat" and the other with some eq tweeking. here are the things i'm wondering about.

    - should i go straight in or should i put my gk mb2-500 between the bass and computer?

    - i was just going to leave the mid "flat" and boost the bass and treble as much as the computer would allow (unless it sounds bad). is there some other setting(s) i should do with the preamp to give people an idea of what the setup can do?

    - i'm wondering if it'll be fair. i will have to loosen and tighten the strings every time i switch out a pup. by the time i'm finished this will be quite a lot of untuning/tuning. will this affect (or is it effect?) the tone of the strings to the point that the later pups being tested won't have a chance of sounding good?

    i plan on doing every combo possible.
    40J /40DC
    40J /40CS
    40J /40J
    40J /40P5
    any that i'm missing? any that i just shouldn't even worry about?

    any ideas you guys have would be really great.
  2. I think you'll find that many of the pickups will sound similar. There might be a difference in output, but that can be compensated at the preamp. J pickups won't sound like P pickups - but otherwise, the tonal differences could be subtle. I point to "blind comparisons" done by people on this board in the past - recording 4 different basses, and then people guessing which were which. Remarkably, they all sounded similar (though not the same).

    That's not to say all pickups sound the same! I have upgraded my pickups in some of my basses, and there was a difference in tone, but also a difference in output. The problem with recording the bass is you usually normalize the input signal, so the recorded volume won't differ between pickup tests.

    You might want to just record 3 different configurations and see if the audible differences are enough for you to continue.

    I'd use your amp as a preamp, and then to the computer.
  3. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Banned Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products
    I have experience with the 40-P5, 40-J, and 40-DC. They don't sound similar at all. The 40-P5/40-J was the standard pickup configuration on my basses for about 5 years.

    As you would expect the J/J sounds like a Jazz bass with EMG's. The P5 is wired in parallel, so it has a brighter tone than a real P, but pretty much sounds just like an EMG-P. Nice and round at the neck, and in the bridge location has a smoother tone than the J. The J is not as loud as the P5.

    When the DC came out I tried those too. I didn't like it much at the bridge, too edgy. It's much louder than the P5. At the neck the DC is still edgy. It lacks the roundness of the P or J. I had a DC/DC setup for a while, but it didn't last long.

    I also had a three pickup setup, P5/DC/J. That was my favorite. I tried that because I liked the DC on my fretless in the MM position, and I liked the J better at the bridge.

    Some of my tests was before the quick connectors came on the pickups. Now it's a lot easier to try swapping them.
  4. dean owens

    dean owens

    Sep 23, 2008
    pittsboro, nc
    yeah, these all have the quick connects or i wouldn't even try this. i wanted to record the samples for a few reasons. first i know that my ears could get fatigued and i won't hear all the differences. being able to go back to them and have a listen will be helpful to me. also, i can't find any really good sound samples of these pups. i figure if i'd like to hear them and can't find them there are probably others that would like to hear some clips of them. there is the guy (who i believe is a member here) who did youtube clips and played different styles. they were helpful... but they seemed a bit distorted at times.

    one other question... is there any particular bass line i should play? i was thinking of doing the bass line i did to record my HZ's. it can be heard here. i can't do slap (at least not well). and i'm a finger player. should i use a pick just enough for people to get the tone?

    btw, i'm still waiting on some of these to show up in the mail so it'll be a few weeks before i'm going to be able to say i'm done with this.

    thanks guys.
  5. I'd strongly suggest setting your eq (relatively flat to get the best idea of what the pickup can do by itself), and not adjusting it from pickup to pickup.

    I'd play a line that you're comfortable with, using as many strings as you normally would play on, at a fret position you normally play around (no sense in doing a run at the 15th fret, if you're a 1-5 kind of guy - or vice versa).

    I'd not use a pick unless that's what you normally use to play with.
  6. RMSSS


    Mar 25, 2009
    Here's a couple cents of ideas:

    I would record samples for each pup in each position (neck/bridge) as well as an exactly both position for sure. This would be the most kind-of repeatable/comparable result.
    But then again, I'd like to know the setup with the best capability.

    When players get on with any new setup, we always find some 'sweetest' settings, don't we? Unfortunately for me, it takes days or weeks to determine my favorite on a given axe.

    Anyway, I would do my best to find the 'best' settings for each combination, and record it. That way, the test also shows a kind of 'best case', which is what we want to use on a daily basis, right? It's subjective to the player, but it sounds like there's only yourself to please. Though, I guess asking 3 players or something to do the same might be a fun variable.

    I'm not sure if you've laid it out yet and seen, but with so many combinations (variables) to compare when finished, there is a very big matrix of A-B comparisons to work through. Getting all the samples could be considered a smaller part of the process! The matrix is multiplied every time a variable is added. There are methods to reduce it, but that's almost another topic. This may be 'going to far', but you may get an idea or two from this link to "Design of Experiments" and associated links at the bottom of the wiki. You asked for "the best way" after all. ha. : )


    Have fun,

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