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Can P-pickups be mixed brand-to-brand?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by Flux Jetson, Jan 11, 2013.

  1. Is there any reason a person can't mix Precision Bass pickups .. y'know a treble coil-set from one maker or type, and a bass coil-set from an other maker or type? I mean as long as you stay all passive or all active?

    And can you put a tone control on each coil-set? One tone control for the bass pickup and one tone control for the treble pickup?

    Seems like dumb questions but ya never know sometimes, I figure the worst that can happen is I'll get called a dumass. And that happens alot anyway so it's no big. :) Haahaa!
  2. And what the heck, may as well go all the way here ....

    Can active and passive coil sets be mixed?
  3. llldino


    Dec 16, 2012
    Sure why not. They're all just copper wires right? You might run into problems if you use two different brands because the impedance may be different for each pickup. Not sure what effects this could have on sound. I would just stick to one brand personally.

    As for the tone control, I believe this can be possible. Don't ask how though, I don't have a clue. You would need to wire the tone controls before the volume, not even sure how this could be accomplished.
  4. Stealth


    Feb 5, 2008
    Zagreb, Croatia
    You can, but depending on the pickups you pick there might be some slight impedance mismatch, especially if you get one pickup as the "tame" variant and the other as a "hot-wound" variant. But that's just factoring in impedance mismatch, the pickups themselves may sound too similar or too apart to be useful together.

    Then again, I don't know of any manufacturer who outright makes a matched set of tetris-block-Precision pickups for the neck and bridge position, so you're on your own to experiment. I do recall some very successful P-P combinations from here on Talkbass, but not who made them. Also, remember they can be mounted obverse and reverse (with respect to whether the EA or the DG is the neck-most coil for each pickup), so trying that out can also yield interesting results.

    You can, with five possible outcomes depending on what you do:
    • have the pickups in parallel, separate tone controls and nothing more - if both pickups are on and in parallel, either tone control will affect both pickups
    • have the pickups in parallel, but before the joining point, add a series resistor with a value from 94 to 220 kΩ - this isolates the tone controls, but will lower the output some
    • have the pickups in series with individual volumes and tones (it's a bit of a special wiring) - the pickups will be sufficiently isolated from each other and tone controls shouldn't interact
    • use stereo output (one output per pickup-volume-tone) and there won't be any interference between the tone controls unless you passively join them outside the bass, which kind of defeats the point of stereo wiring
    • have the pickups in parallel, but actively join them using a dual-channel buffer with optional selector switch, or an active blend (a dual-channel buffer followed by a blend pot, natch)

    Only if you buffer the passive coil or use separate outputs. The impedance mismatch will be too much, they will be impossible to blend, they will load each other badly, the end result will be a big, horrible tonal mess. Not necessarily black-hole inducing, but bad.
  5. (Addressing the repeated theme of "the impedances probably have to be close")

    Why would you need the impedances to match (or even be close)?

    If they're in series they become ~one~ pickup with a summed resistance.

    If you run them in parallel it's not any different than running a bridge pickup and a neck pickup in parallel and they almost NEVER ~match~ anyway.

  6. Stealth


    Feb 5, 2008
    Zagreb, Croatia
    Mismatched impedances cause the pickups to unevenly load each other creating dips and notches in the frequency response, which may not always cause trouble, but they can cause the tone to go dull and lifeless if the difference is extreme. Again, with P pickups that's not much of an issue since they tend to be in the 10 kΩ ballpark.
  7. This is already in the works. I plan on using a large ~bathtub~ cavity so I can flip-flop pickup relative positions. I'm not concerned with a pickguard just now, this is to be a "primer grey hotrod" so to speak.

    (below -- Regarding discrete tone controls for each pickup ~block~)...
    I should have been more clear. I already embrace this methodology on my Squier Jazz ..


    ... there is no other way to wire a bass as far as I'm concerned. Recently I have seen excellent success by processing the two pickups on that 2-channel J separately then mixing them together post-FX. This really works well. REALLY well. And I like it way better than sending each pickup to it's own amp ... that's nearly cliche. My guess is that every bass I own from now on will be configured with per-pickup outputs (I don't really think of it as "stereo", it's more like 2-channel. Stereo sortof implies sound placement of each signal within a field. This is more like separate channels that are mixed into a mono signal post-processing and amplified with a single amp channel if desired).

    I was planning to do this with P-pickups should I decide to try them. I'm still thinking through my options, this thread is part of that process.

    I'm also considering a wiring/switching ~matrix~ so that I can (let's say) combine the bass pickup in the bridge position with perhaps the treble pickup in the neck position. Treating each ~block~ as a separate entity in as many ways possible. So if I have two sets of P-pickups treat them as four individual pickups as far as wiring, switching, and routing is concerned. I know it would be impractical to have every single possible combination available, but if I leave the bass stripped down enough (like a race car) then switching things around will be fairly less difficult.

    None of these combinations may work worth a dang, but I'd rather have a hundred failures that lead to a single success. If it ends up that the "most used" configurations that are seen on every bass made are .. in fact .. the best ones, then so be it. But how will I ever know that if I don't try?

    Right? :)
  8. Stealth


    Feb 5, 2008
    Zagreb, Croatia
    I recall that bass of yours - I knew you'd go for separate outputs again. :p And you're right, it's not stereo in the sense of positioning, but since that's what those connectors and that modus operandi is usually called, I'm too lazy to type "dual-channel output". :D

    Yes, you can add up a lot of Precision pickups and select individual coils, there's no electrical harm in it, the only thing you'll have to mind is that your EA pickup halves have to have one electrical and magnetic polarity, while the DGs will have to have the opposite, so you will always retain hum-canceling - if that's something you're after, of course.

    Here's one very simple way of messing with pickups for someone who wanted a P and reverse P in the same bass. You could as easily extend it to use a bank of DPDT switches or a rotary depending on just how many pickups you have. This below is just the tip of the iceberg. The only problem I see is that with far-offset coils you'll have a very disparate sound between the lower and higher strings - but, of course, that may be just what you need for tapping or such. ;)

  9. Boot Soul

    Boot Soul

    Feb 10, 2009
    The P pickup on my Yamaha BB3000S has two different "half-pickups". One is wound more times with a thinner gauge of wire than the other. I can't remember which side is which now, but this arrangement seems to work, tonally speaking. Response across all strings, with this pickup solo'd, is quite even. Great basses, these old BBs.

    89d589b1.jpg 9a1eccfb.jpg
  10. Stealth, you and are from the same Oddball University of Universal Oddballs. It's great to see someone else obssessed with attention to detail and creating visual references. I ~think~ in almost nothing but images, every thought I have involves imagery. So thank you very much for posting that diagram! It makes things seasier to .. uh .. visualize :)

    And another thanks, I had not considered the tonal difference of the two string pairs if the treble pickup is placed too far from the bass pickup. Which is ironic because that tonal disparity is a huge issue with me. Having "two basses" (high pair-disparity) is fine for some situations, but it is also rather easy to accomplish. On the other hand, creating a nice tonal balance between the two pairs is much more difficult to do. The ideal situation would be some way to design the setup so that you have onboard choices between tonal balance and tonal imbalance. Switches, pots, something/whatevers, that would provide fast choices of how far or how closely the two pairs sound.

    When I say "setup" I probably mean "configuration". That would mean EVERYTHING, pickups chosen for installation, pickup placement, wiring, wire-routing, pot values, cap values, etc..

    My main focus at this point in time is to get the bass itself worked out. I have totally mastered the off-bass setup and now have a completely flexible preamp and amp system that allows me complete freedom and easy useage (that http://www.talkbass.com/forum/f36/experimental-fully-modular-bass-rig-902681/ .. aka "The X-Thread" or as it has been dubbed ... "The X-Rig"). My focus is now placed on (ahem) "The X-Bass".

    Once I get the details and configurations worked out, the hairball mess of it all will be reduced to it's elements and installed in the actual ~bass~ that I am aiming to construct.

    Hmmm ... it may be time to start a completely new thread, one that is separate from the X-Rig itself (that X-Rig thread is pretty enormous and difficult to locate various subjects. I wish the mods could allow me to edit the first page of it so I can add indexing links to various subtopics within it's depths).

    Anyhow .... I'm rambling again. (who .... me? ramble? naaaawww! can't happen!)

    Back to Earth here, thanks for the data, noted and added to my notes.

    On this here .....
    .... I may want to at least attempt throwing things out of relative phase, just to see if it offers anything that appeals to me. Series/Parallel notions may enter testing as well.

    So ... I'm on the fence. The little ball bearing ricocheting around in my head like a PONG game set on "master level" is the choice between going with (perhaps) 3 J-Bass pickups (piles and piles of options in the J-bass pickup format, there's tons of J-bass-type pickups out there, many choices!) --- OR --- do I go off the deep end and set the bass body up to deal with the Precision Bass "tetris block" pickups? (most likely a J-pickup in the bridge position and two pairs of P-bass pickups ~northward~). Something like this maybe ....


    There are easily three or four potentially useable pickup combinations here (without even including the J-bass pickup in the bridge position!). I think moving the entire gang of P-pickups more towards the neck would be a little better though.

    So ... the P-pickup choice easliy redoubles the potential, but it also redoubles potential complexity and the amount of potential bench time vs playing time.

    The little red-guy on my shoulder is SCREAMING .. "DOOD Just do it mangs! Go P-bass!!! Go P - Go P - Go P" (uh, I gotta go pee now heheh!). But the little white dood is saying "Flux, be sensible, go with the Jazz Bass pick format. It will reduce the amount of dilly-dallying and you KNOW how you are about dilly-dallying! We both know what's best here! Be sensible and go with the Jazz Bass pickup format, use 3 of them and you'll be more than satisfied".


    My brain is on fire.

    Something tells me that the P-Bass format is how this will end.

    Thanks Stealth. You're definitely on my list of people of personal technical council. It's a short list! (In no particular order)...

    Howard Cano.
    SGD Lutherie.
    Doner Designs.
    Uncle Fluffy.

    As well as a view lesser involved members.


  11. Pretty cool bass Boot Soul! I've always been a Yamaha fan, with just about everything they do (motorcycles, music, and so on). The exception being the DX-7, never been a fan of that thing.

    Beautiful bass though! I sortof prefer natural looking finishes, and that pickup arrangement sounds like it's pretty cool. Wish I could hear it!
  12. BlueTalon

    BlueTalon Happy Cynic

    Mar 20, 2011
    Eastern Washington
    Endorsing Artist: Turnstyle Switch
    Heyo, don't get too settled here! Remember your post from the 3 pickup bass thread, after you saw my Rick for the first time?

    Here is where you have to be careful. ARE YOU LISTENING? I'm going to quote myself, and then reiterate my point.
    So far in this thread, you have been concerned about impedances, effects in parallel, and combinations of active and passive. Not once has anyone mentioned anything about the humbucking properties of your regular old P-pickup, about how the halves of the pickup are oppositely wound to get that humbucking effect, AND WHY YOU CAN'T GO ARBITRARILY MATCHING UP HALVES WILLY-NILLY!!!

    I'm going to say this again. I STRONGLY recommend you get two or three P-pickups where each half is a humbucker independent of the other half. I also STRONGLY recommend that you start off with two or three of the same model from the same manufacturer. Doing anything else is begging for a troubleshooting nightmare. (Plus it will look crazy cool.)

    Do one or two things at a time. Prove your concepts about pickup locations and controls. Don't make your pickups be an additional variable during that process, when they don't have to be. Once you get all that mostly figured out, THEN start playing around with different brands and models of pickups. Your life will be a whole lot easier.
  13. Stealth


    Feb 5, 2008
    Zagreb, Croatia
    It's a valid point, but all that can be solved by flipping magnets (or remagnetizing for pickups where magnets are inseparable) or swapping pickup leads. RWRP is the easiest thing to solve because there are only four states a pickup coil can have - north-up clockwise, south-up clockwise, north-up CCW and south-up CCW. And once a pickup works well internally with itself (i.e. bucks hum), it just boils down to the external wiring, towards the controls and the other pickup.

    That said, you're right that having each pickup half act as a humbucker would turn solving an RWRP riddle, so to speak, into just a wiring issue.
  14. What the .... wow. Uh .. what's up with the 'tude. dude? Geez, I'm not a COMPLETE dumass .. ARE YOU LISTENING? :p

    It hasn't been mentioned because it's a given. Kinda like "don't touch the stove because it's hot". And besides, you CAN go matching pickups WILLY NILLY. There's a lot of single coil pickups out there that work just fine (such as the bazillions of J basses, Telecaster and Stratocaster guitars). Please keep in mind that the entire point behind an EXPERIMENTAL BASS is to EXPERIMENT ... go outside of "the rules". ARE YOU LISTENING? (you know I'm not going to live that down for a while! Haahaa! :D)

    Why? I mean if I do that, how is it testing anything untested? Geez dude, it's just a matter of installing a pickup in a TEST BASS that is made to easily install and remove pickups FOR TESTING PURPOSES. If it doesn't work it doesn't work, the world won't stop turning, the Four Horsemen won't be summoned, my hair won't catch fire. I'll just try another combination. A single coil P-bass pickup is just another single coil pickup. If I wanted predictable results I wouldn't bother with doing these things at all, so starting off with a few sets of working pairs is hardly experimentation, now is it! You've lost sight of the reason I started this particular thread, it was to find out if there was some unseen reason why a person cannot mix brands or types in the Precision bass pickup world for the sake of experimentation. Mixing brands and types IS THE WHOLE POINT.

    Well thanks for the sugggestions. If they were aimed at me I think you've missed something about how I do things. I would NEVER just jump in with a bunch of changes without first establishing control observations first. And I'd NEVER change more than one thing at a time.

    Thanks for the concern. But I think you may have an impression of me that is less than accurate. I owned and operated a repair center for industrial equipment for almost twenty years. I have test procedures pretty well understood. I really appreciate your concerns, and I hope that newcomers to this set of posts will gain some insight and wisdom from your suggestions. But if you're specifically aiming your comments at me, you've overestimated my lack of concern for gathering worthwhile test results.

    I'll not be too concerned about hum in the first phases of the tests. I'll be far more concerned about the tone the combinations produce. We start there, then weed out the troublemakers and problems afterwards. Your suggestions reduce the number of candidates down to a small handful of the P pickups out there. Kinda defeats the purpose of the experiments.

    If you are under the impression that I'm just going to spend buckets of money on tons of different pickups to WILLY NILLY toss them in the bass, you're again making a lot of assumptions. I just wanted to know if I could mix brands and types. Everyone but you has said "yes".

    Again, thanks for your VERY STRONG CONCERNS! (ARE YOU LISTENING?) (heheh). But talking ~down~ to me really isn't required to get a point across. I'm quite open to offers of help, all you need do is explain your ideas and I'll listen. No need to yell, no need to act like I'm a complete idiot that will WILLY NILLY drive over a cliff.

    You having a bad day or something? This seems out of character for you. Perhaps I've misunderstood your tack here (then again, perhaps not).

    Thanks again, I think I got your point mixed within the ..uh.. other stuff. I'll be very careful (sure wouldn't want to make a mistake and have to try something else! :rolleyes:). ~heheh~ ... :D

    Be well. FJ.
  15. Agreed, but the use of a bat was not required to get the point across. :D

    I didn't concern myself with mentioning it as I figured it was all too obvious. But I suppose I should just take the advice as well intended concern. In the end, I'm certain that was all he meant. :)

    On the other hand, using only humbucking would P pickups narrows down the choices as well as the tonal spread. I personally have a preference for single coil pickups, myself. But I am open to the idea that I have no idea what using humbucking P bass pickups in my X-Bass will produce as far as tonal properties are concerned. For all I know (given the very different arrangement of the X-Bass) it may sound just totally wicked good!
  16. BlueTalon

    BlueTalon Happy Cynic

    Mar 20, 2011
    Eastern Washington
    Endorsing Artist: Turnstyle Switch
    Well... where do I begin? Let's start with I'm sorry for how I came across in my last post. I was aiming for humor, not condescension. I guess I failed miserably. Note to self, don't post while sleep deprived at 3:00am. I actually tried to respond earlier, but my computer barfed or something -- probably just as well, 'cause I wrote that one at 3:00am too.

    Then I felt like crap for a few days. I think it's the heat. (Seriously.)

    Anyway, it's early in the evening, and I feel pretty decent, so here we go...

    Forgive me for not giving you credit for knowing enough not to "jump in with a bunch of changes without first establishing control observations first" or "change more than one thing at a time" in this particular instance. Apparently my impression of you was far less than accurate.

    In my own defense, I never got the part about you establishing a control anything with a multiple-P-pickup bass in this thread. The only thing I see being discussed is how many different kinds of pickups you can throw together, whee! (OK, that was sarcasm.)

    If you discussed control parameters for multiple-P-pickups in another thread, I must have missed it. It would have been worth referencing or linking.

    One fundamental misunderstanding I had was in assuming you included hum/noise in your consideration of tone. If you don't care, you don't care. Personally, I can't separate tone from the hum/noise that accompanies it. If I'm getting hum, it means the tone is crappy and I need to do something about it.

    You said: You've lost sight of the reason I started this particular thread, it was to find out if there was some unseen reason why a person cannot mix brands or types in the Precision bass pickup world for the sake of experimentation. Mixing brands and types IS THE WHOLE POINT.

    Allow me to point out that my observation about hum-canceling vs non-hum-canceling, assuming you had cared about hum, is precisely such "an unseen reason". I recommended starting with the same brand of pickups, and still do recommend that. I failed to explain that I was talking about only a starting point, not the entire experimentation process. After you start, by all means, swap out pickups and pickup halves "willy nilly"! I know you aren't going to do it willy nilly, and I truly will be interested in the results.

    But, it is my considered opinion that if you start with something other than all humbucking halves, you will likely run into immediate problems that may have multiple potential causes. That is what I am cautioning against. In other words, I believe that represents one of your control parameters, or at least it should.

    It wouldn't be the first time I was a lone voice, and it probably won't be the last. I know that choosing not to start the experiment with humbucking halves won't usher in the Apocalypse, and hum won't summon the Four Horsemen. But if your hair catches on fire, I reeeally hope someone gets it on video and puts it on youtube. :D
  17. BlueTalon

    BlueTalon Happy Cynic

    Mar 20, 2011
    Eastern Washington
    Endorsing Artist: Turnstyle Switch
    I was reading through this thread again, and this caught my attention.

    Considering that all P pickups are inherently humbucking, and most of them are made up of two oppositely-wound single-coil halves, wouldn't that mean all of those are matched sets? Or am I not understanding the point you are making?

    It seems to me that every manufacturer must make matched sets. Or at least, the person assembling these pickups has to get one coil each from two different bins, and not two from the same bin.
  18. Stealth


    Feb 5, 2008
    Zagreb, Croatia
    They do if we're talking about matched EA and DG coils that make a Precision pickup as a unit, otherwise the P-pickup wouldn't work as well as it should.

    However they don't make matched sets of pickups insofar that you usually can't find a "neck" and "bridge" set of two tetris-block pickups like you can with Jazz or Ric pickups. Any pickup set that consists of two units, i.e. two physical pickups not intended to be mounted adjacent to each other like on a P-bass, commonly has the bridge pickup overwound to compensate for the fact the pickup's closer to the bridge. This compensation is because the bridge pickup picks up more higher overtones (is more trebly) and the string vibrates less close to the bridge than above the neck pickup, necessitating a bigger coil.
  19. BlueTalon

    BlueTalon Happy Cynic

    Mar 20, 2011
    Eastern Washington
    Endorsing Artist: Turnstyle Switch
    Gotcha. I know about the differences in bridge and neck pickups, it just didn't click for me that that's what you were referring to.

    It's kinda hard for me to tell when we're talking about P-pickup single coil halves as "pickups" or when we're talking about the entire P-pickup with both halves together as "pickups".
  20. Stealth


    Feb 5, 2008
    Zagreb, Croatia
    When referring to the entire tetris-block assembly (both halves), I call that a pickup. When referring to one half of the assembly (i.e. the part going underneath the EA or DG strings) I call that a coil or a pickup half. :smug:
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