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Did 70's Precision basses have a different pickup?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by KOLAD, Mar 2, 2014.

  1. KOLAD


    Feb 14, 2014
    New England
    I've always wondered what the difference was from a 60's P-Bass pickup and a 70's P-Bass pickup.
    Forever have I tried to get that 70's P-Bass pickup sound, and I wanted to know your opinions of whether they used different specs for the Fender P-Bass pickup in the 70's, or if it was the same thing as they were producing in the 60's and I'm crazy.
    To me the 70's P-Basses have always had a "nastier" type of midrange kind of sound. Most of my favorite rock P-Bass sounds have been guys using 70's P-Basses stock. Think of the P-bass sounds of guys like Roger Waters/Pink Floyd, JJ Burnel/The Stranglers, Paul Simonon/The Clash, Denny Laine/Wings (when Paul played piano) - that P-Bass sound.

    Anybody know what was different about the P-Bass pickup produced during the 1970's?
  2. seinzumtode


    Sep 14, 2011
    The pickups built in '60-'64 were wrapped by hand with heavy formvar wire, wide sand cast AlNiCo 3/4 polepieces, and around 11k winds. All that the changed in '65 when CBS took over the reigns when they decided that they need to cut costs by using machines and plain enamel wire. They also made the polepeices smaller and cut the number of winds to 9.5k to 10k winds.
  3. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    You hit the nail right on the head. A nastier midrangey kind of sound with not as much bottom end. It's why I never got along with 70's Fenders and modded my 76 Precision to hell and back, but to each their own.
  4. SneakyT


    Dec 5, 2005
    People always blame this on CBS and its just not the case. Production pickups as early as '63 had some examples of plain enamel. Moreover the plain enamel switch was complete before CBS even owned the company. It was i'm sure a cost savings measure but people have it in their heads that CBS came in with this big accountant mentality and destroyed the company and that is nonsense. If that were the case bound necks would have been cut as they are way more labor intensive and the were the norm on all high end instruments of the CBS era (Jazzmaster, Jazz bass, Bass VI, Jaguar, Electric 12).

    Any perceived negative change that happened in the mid sixties was blamed on CBS. The main thing they did wrong was to not do a better job of controlling public opinion during the early transition years as almost the entire staff including quality control stayed the same until well into late sixties by the accounts of most former employees.

    BTW i like both heavy formvar and plain enamel pickups. They are different but both are cool.
  5. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion

    Aug 25, 2010
    The Great Midwest
    Thank you great post I also get tired of the CBS blah blah people think the entire company was changed overnight
  6. KOLAD


    Feb 14, 2014
    New England
    So what we're saying here is that YES - there is a difference in the 70's P-Bass pickups?
  7. Cadfael


    Jan 4, 2013
    Germany, EU
    I did a lot of investigation about Leo Fender's way of production ...

    I totally agree to SneakyT ...
    We have so many 'strange' Fender guitars during the Leo Fender era because saving money (and time) had always been a part of Leo Fenders philosophy.

    CBS also did some 'strange things' - but don't blame it all on CBS ...
  8. Isotonic

    Isotonic Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2011
    Round Rock TX
    Best thread yet.
  9. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    The 70s pickup was a half-inch closer to the bridge.

    Oh wait....
  10. Jim C

    Jim C Spector#496:More curves than Sophia + better sound Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2008
    Well said Sneaky T.
    There are some that say the 65 Strat that was made for maybe 6 months with the jumbo frets was the best one they made until the modern instruments came out.
    I have had both 60's and 70' basses that were amazing as well as not so good.
    I have found that for the most part, the 60's had more stable necks and more consistent pups which makes no sense since many were hand wound with not as much QC.

    It gets down to personal minutia as even the Squires could be on a platinum record.
    I think the amps are much more important assuming the instrument can play in tune with reasonable action.
    Of course it's really about the player as a pro can make any brand of tool get the job done.
    There's a local guy that uses a Squier with Chinese pups as his vintage Strat and Flying V are to valuable to leave the house. With a decent amp, you'd be hard pressed to hear much difference between the real 57' and the Squier.
  11. Dragan


    Oct 5, 2009
    "They" say that 60s jazz and P pick ups has more pronounced midrange and 70s pups has more bottom and snappy high end. For me, 70s Js and Ps sounds better, but as Jimmy said, to each their own.
    For OP, sound you re talking about lies more in production and the way these bass players played, not the pick up. they played through the tube amps and with picks too...
  12. narud

    narud Supporting Member

    Mar 15, 2001
    santa maria,california
    Pre CBS bass pickups were always plain enamel.
  13. jmpiwonka


    Jun 11, 2002
    the pickup in my 77 is plain enamel and measures in at 10.94k
  14. john m

    john m Supporting Member

    Jan 15, 2006

    What are you using to measure the DCR with such accuracy?
  15. jmpiwonka


    Jun 11, 2002
    just a cheap (~$35) digital multimeter.
    i actually measured each coil. one is 5.46k and one is 5.48k
  16. KOLAD


    Feb 14, 2014
    New England
    So are we saying for certain that the only differences are in the wire windings?
    What about output and magnet type?
  17. air_leech


    Sep 1, 2000
    I believe body and fretboard woods make the main difference.

    the ash/maple nitro finished '57 style Nash I used to own sounded very much like what you'll expect from a 70's P. I changed three pickups in that bass and it always kept it's character which consisted of a super punchy low end and bright high mids which made for a very muscular finger style and pick tone. slap tone was instant Freddie Washington's tone on Patrice Rushen's Forget Me Nots.

    my alder/rosewood '62 AV P-bass sounds very mellow in comparison.
    raal likes this.
  18. mickster2


    Mar 14, 2012
    I have a 73 all original P, and its pup has a notceably 'compressed' and punchy sound. Its very suited for rock stuff as teh op suggests.
    To compare, I also have a P with a '62 reissue pup - this is very full-range, with clarity, lots of clear treble and quite low output. The 70s one is much higher output, less clarity and much more punch & low end.
    I 've heard the old thing about CBS cutting costs by underwinding, but my 72 basically has all the hallmarks of being *overwound* compared to the 60s style reissue...

  19. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Banned Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products
    Fender never used heavy Formvar wire on their bass pickups, only the guitar pickups. Certain pickups also used bondable wire, but mostly it was plain enamel.

    The 70's pickups were still 10,000 turns per coil.
  20. 9mmMike

    9mmMike Would you happen to have a cookie for me? Supporting Member

    ..and the terrible paint, neck pocket gaps and 7 lb. (cheaper wood) bodies all just "came together" at the right time?

    PS. I love my 70's basses and I have quite a few.