Do Bartolinis sound this bad on a regular basis?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by EmaTheMirror, Aug 10, 2020.

  1. Ok, this can turn into a polarising debate, however, I just watched this comparison

    (the title/intro is a joke, FYI) and I only have a question:

    Doubting that woods can make such a dramatic difference (and in fact a maple neck is on average snappy and lively) how come those Barts sound so crap and devoid of life compared to the Nordstrands?
    I mean, exposed poles aside, I doubt someone can actually defend the tone difference on an objective basis. It downright plays 10 times worse and I was even listening through the TV speaker on a Chromecast... It's something you can easily pick blindfolded, and basically agreed at the end of the video too.

    I have to say I have one of those very first BTB made in Japan "Premium models" (705ol, made in 1999 when the line came out, alongside the 1000 series) which had the "Ibanez dfr" pickups or similar. They were the ones before Barts were the norm in BTBs, but I've read somewhere that they were ghost-built or licenced by Bartolini. I can't confirm that at all, might be BS, but if there's something I didn't like about that bass was the output/tone presence (I wouldn't mind a low volume output as long as the tone is good, that's not the point at all) and hearing this comparison brings me back memories of that BTB when I played alongside, say, a Fender or a bass with a different pickup design. I wouldn't be surprised if there's the same house behind.

    Are there great, punchy present examples of Barts or is it a brand whose trademark sound has always been such and dull by design?

    I can expect a bit of backlash from Bart fans (if there are) and I'm open to everyone's opinions, but please do watch at least 2 minutes of that video to get what I mean.
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2020
  2. DOOMonkee


    Jul 9, 2020
    I'll give input on at least the Barts in Ibanez. Those are Barts in collab with Ibanez and are going to be unique to Ibanez, not true Barts you'd buy from California. With my experience on the SR line, they are decent pickups. They do the job, but I would argue that, at least the Ibanez Barts, seem to lack any defining characteristics with the active pre-amp. In passive mode, they won't be as clean or even, but you can certainly get a little bit more dynamic sounds from them, as well as a bit of a P bass growl. In my experience, the Ibanez Barts (specifically BH.2) are kind of similar to the DiMarzio Model Js, but darker with a little more bass and low mids. Both sound closer to one another than they do to a P bass in my opinion.

    I want someone else to chime in for the Cali made Barts, but for the Ibanez Barts, they're good pickups they just don't have a distinctive personality in my experience, which is probably what makes them sound worse.
  3. rogerbmiller

    rogerbmiller Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 16, 2003
    So this is a topic that @rojo412 and I often discuss.

    Beginning with the caveat that good tone is subjective to one’s years, I find a Bartolini’s are awful. When you’re playing in your bedroom alone they sound really smooth and creamy and warm and actually quite good. But once you try and play in a room full of musicians they’re useless to me. In fact I call them Fartolinis because you just can’t get any output and punch in a way that you need it.
    there’s something about the way they’re voiced where the sound is compressed so you can’t dig into them and expect to get louder dynamic range. They are just kind of voiced to be steady Eddy which isn’t very interesting or musical to me.

    Now that said, I’ve been able to resuscitate a few High end instruments (specifically
    modulus basses) that had Bartolini pick ups by ripping out the Bartolini preamp’s that came with them. Pairing the Bartolini pick ups with a better preamp has done wonders. I’ve done this now in a couple of instances where the preamp’s have been replaced for John East units, and Aguilar units. The before and after is night and day though I am sure I would be happier with non Bart pups as well.

    Listening to this video it’s pretty apparent that the Bartolini’s just don’t hold up to the Nordstrand pick ups. Nordstrom’s pick ups just have much more life and dynamics in them. At least in my experience.
  4. murphy, rojo412 and EmaTheMirror like this.
  5. Killed_by_Death

    Killed_by_Death Snaggletooth Inactive

    murphy and EmaTheMirror like this.
  6. I actually had that "MK1" in a Cort Curbow. For feedback or further info on the bass, head to my recent "basses with fake/synthetic tone" thread :smug:

    Well, punchy it was, tbh, but I guess it was just down to being wired to one of the loudest (and noisiest) onboard preamps.
    dkelley likes this.
  7. johndb

    johndb Bass is the Place! Supporting Member

    Jul 3, 2014
    Bartolini MK1 pickups were designed for Ibanez by Bill Bartolini over twenty years ago, and were specifically designed to be NOTHING even close to the construction of his signature line of pickups. There were/ are hundreds of configurations due to shell size and style, coil configurations, wire gauge, winds, magnets, etc. There is no commonality between what Ibanez/ Hoshino builds and puts into midline product. PLEASE don't generalize about Bartolini sound based on a completely different budget design. There is a reason that nearly every high end custom builder of note has used either his electronics or pickups over the past 40+ years. MK1 and their like are not true Bartolinis, in my opinion.
    murphy, Kaplan, Datsgor and 14 others like this.
  8. LowEndLobster

    LowEndLobster Bass reviewer and youtube dude guy. Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 29, 2003
    Northern MA
    The Barts in the EHB aren't great IMO. I did a follow up vid where I go through the preamp on both basses in more detail:

  9. That's more than expectable. However, I was mainly referring to that video comparison rather than the MK1, widely known as being a "licenced design".
    Both those Ibanez in the video are +$1k and one comes with "Bartolini", the other with "Nordstrand"... If both are "licensed", hats off to Nozza for making such a great job :smug::smug::smug:
    Mili likes this.
  10. LowEndLobster

    LowEndLobster Bass reviewer and youtube dude guy. Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 29, 2003
    Northern MA
    I believe Ibanez does use both in house and authentic Nordstrands depending on the model. The lower end models with Nordies are "CND" pickups, or Carey Nordstrand Designed. They're quite nice in the TMB505. I believe the EHB1505 has authentic big splits. I'm not sure about the barts in the 1005 and in other basses. It seems Ibanez gets a lot of "custom" barts, like in the AFR5.
  11. Bartolini BH2 for that Ibby you reviewed. I'm not 100% sure if they're "production line" or made for that bass.
  12. Persona87


    Dec 4, 2012
    DFW, Texas
    Nordstrand, Bartolini, and Seymour Duncan have licensed their names out to import pickups. CND are Nordstrand, Duncan-Designed are Duncans... those are obvious because the label is different. Imported Barts are still just labeled as Barts. I've yet to hear an import Bart that I liked, but real Barts are pretty nice.
    funkinbottom likes this.
  13. Bartolini pickups sound so terrible that I have them in most of my basses. I've even installed them on purpose in basses with better pickups just to get that terrible sound which is all I deserve.
    RichT, Herrick, grouse789 and 43 others like this.
  14. Nuage420

    Nuage420 Supporting Member

    Dec 7, 2014
    I'm about to swap the BH2s out i have some seymour duncans coming I'm going to try out and I have a set of single coil jazz that I think i can make work.

    With effects the Barts are fine. Plugged directly into the amp or even with just a compressor i just can't get anything i like out of it for my preferred style.of music. However.... for smooth warm tones jazz work, some solo stuff they're loud enough and do sound good.
    Michael Jewels likes this.
  15. Relayer71

    Relayer71 Supporting Member

    Jun 25, 2009
    I have Bartolinis on a Spector Euro and they sound pretty damn good. They are U.S. Barts specifically designed for Spector.

    I wouldn't trust that video though. That reviewer is a goddamned fraud! One minute, you see his "lobster" hand and then later in the video you don't even see it!!! It's FAKE!!!!! He's no real part man/part lobster!!!! You're not fooling anyone, buddy!!!!!
  16. KeithPas


    May 16, 2000
    I subscribe to that YouTube channel and that guy is one of my favorite reviewers for bass gear. That having been said I don’t recall the guy manipulating the eq on the bass to have it sound more present. I have heard other examples of that bass with those pickups that did have more high end response
  17. Relayer71

    Relayer71 Supporting Member

    Jun 25, 2009
    Here's a vid with the Spector/Barts (Darkglass pre amp on both). Later in the video, they play each bass solo to try different EQ settings (not sure why the vid starts at 1 minute plus in instead of the beginning):

    Last edited: Aug 10, 2020
    Kaplan likes this.
  18. It is well known that the preamp is the weak link in many Bart-equipped Ibanez models. I would think that’s the big issue here. I have had great success upgrading the tone of my basses with the Bart NTMB preamp. I’m still tempted to try actual Barts, but the preamp was a huge improvement in clarity. I was shocked at the difference. I never had issues with the pickup or preamp, just wanted to try it. I do agree, however, that the Ibanez Barts don’t have lots of character. However, they simply work for many people. They’re not jumping all over the mix and they sit in the groove well overall. For many, that is the point of the bass.
    ObsessiveArcher, dwizum and DOOMonkee like this.
  19. danbones


    Sep 24, 2017
    Los Angeles
    i absolutely love these new ibanez multi scale basses. they seem like a perfect blend of function and ridiculousness and i really want one. i’m really leaning toward the 1005ms and swapping the pickups out l, ideally for something more aggressive and livelier. i would be very interested to see how those aguilar pickups work out, im looking forward to your next video!
  20. sonojono

    sonojono Supporting Member

    Feb 13, 2013
    Get an official Bartolini pickup from California and call it a day. Seriously. Legit Bartolinis sounds 10x better than the cheap MK1/MK2 Bart’s. I know it sucks that you have to put money on a bass but that’s the beauty of pickup swapping. To have it tailored to your sound, if you don’t like it sell it back (heck sell it to me) but that’s the risk we all take :)
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Sep 21, 2021

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