Do pickups make as much difference...

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by JimM, Sep 22, 2001.

  1. JimM


    Jan 13, 2000
    Northern California I think they do?

    Whenever I hear a really good bass tone on the radio,for example,the first thing I think is,"'wonder what pickups those are".I don't think about the woods,the preamp,the cabs(if used).Cause all that stuff,it seems to me can do very little with a cruddy initial signal.I especially like tone where the bass is deep,but has low end texture without having to depend upon the treble to have definition.Know what i mean?

    I've seldom recorded,and the times I have have always been with the same p/ups.(S/D quarter pounder Jazz).
  2. Aaron


    Jun 2, 2001
    Bellingham, WA
    I heard a story of a Seattle Luthier once. He was originally a furniture maker, then he got into making guitars. He used great pickups (i.e. Syemour Duncans.) His guitars sounded like crap, though. He used woods like oak, and other woods used in furniture.
  3. Angus

    Angus Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    You going to tell the rest of the story?
  4. JimM


    Jan 13, 2000
    Northern California
    Angus,if you're asking me...

    My p/ups sound okay,but I've heard better.maybe the equipment that recorded me wasn't studio quality.I like my '98 P bass but the one time it was recorded(a church christmas video)it was sadly mixed too low to really be heard.The Jazz was similarly recorded and could be heard ok,but the tone was not the thick sound I was referring to in my previous post.

    zat what you meant ?
  5. Aaron


    Jun 2, 2001
    Bellingham, WA
    that's what i said, too.
  6. Angus

    Angus Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    Oh, sorry Jim! I was responding to PoT, because he started his story, but....
  7. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    Dunno, but I have Barts in three of my basses, and I don't think anything else is going to sound better.
  8. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    From what I hear, basses are made from furniture woods, like rosewood, mahogany, walnut, cherry, wenge, maple, padouk, ash....and crapwood, like alder.
    What is your point? Too humid wood, perhaps?

    The order of importance:
    electronics, incl pups
    construction, incl materials

    Not to mention the player......
  9. Robert B

    Robert B Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2000
    Hampton, Va USA
    Huh?? :confused:
  10. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    First thing I think is, "That recording engineer did a nice job." If you don't have some kind of special or signature tone, the studio can do wonders.

    Changing pups is the single biggest difference you can make in your sound, IMO, Rick Turner's, and others. However, it's sort of impossible to change your woods on any bass I've seen.

    I would be cool if someone came out with a unit that would let you dial up simulationns of different wood combinations.
  11. jwymore


    Jul 26, 2001
    Portland, OR
    What is important when changing PUP's is that you take into consideration the wood of your guitar and the strings you use. It all needs to work as a system.

    For example, if you have a bass with an ash or maple solid body, a maple neck/fingerboard and use a stainless string it is going to tend to be bright and sound a little thin. Obviously if you match this to a pickup with a lot of high end boost it will sound like do-do.

    So, if you are going to change PUP's, think about what you are missing with your current setup and then look at all the factors related to your bass construction and strings. Once you know this, check out the various makes and models of pickups to see what fits your needs.

    Black Rose Customs
  12. CaracasBass


    Jun 16, 2001
    Madrid, Spain
    Of course they do!!!!!
    No matter if you have the best designed bass, with the best blend of woods, with the best hardware, with the best strings, put on it some crappy pups and your sound will be just plain crap...
    I read this once: your bass will sound only as good as your pup will allow it to.
  13. Aaron


    Jun 2, 2001
    Bellingham, WA

    I don't know. I didn't hear the whole story. But is oak a wood for basses? I don't know anything about basses except i've never seen a bass with woods some woods, such as hemlock, oak, birch, pine.
  14. Angus

    Angus Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    Birch - Curbow/Zon. Rockwood and Phenowood (respectively), and I believe Diamondwood, is all made from compressed birch chips/ply impregnated with resin.
  15. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Oak is a splendid wood for necks and fretboards. Similar to black walnut, and as fretboard it goes in between rosewood and ebony, tone wise.
    Birch is very common in acoustic guitars, and is fine for any neck. It's similarity to maple is not only visual;)
    Pine is very seldom used for musical instruments. Spruce, OTOH, is common, in acoustic and hollowbody designs. At least in Europe:p .

    Bottom line: any wood is tone wood. The luthier chooses one combination, that can be replaced with another, and get the same result. Which is the first combination and which is the other? Depends on the luthier, n'est-ce pas?
  16. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    Tracy - the thing is, there's a world of good woods that have yet to be discovered for basses. The reason why it's easy to get the impression that only the "usual suspects" are the best or only tone woods is because we're exposed mainly to larger scale production instruments. As Suburban mentions, "any wood is a tone wood." Once you look at species properties and characteristics, you see some real "sleepers" out there.

    It's clear that almost all makers who make basses in production runs look for these things in the woods they choose to use;

    - Dependable supply
    - Large supply to keep them low priced
    - Workability (e.g., oily? does it dull tools quickly?)
    - Reasonably good, not optimal, instrument characteristics, (tone, strength, stability, takes a finish well, et al)

    A big reason why Leo chose ash and maple for his early instruments. (aside from cost and availability), was because people in the 50's liked the yellow/blonde tones of wood, not because they are optimal tone woods.

    Walnut is often offered for basses but not for guitars, although it makes great guitars. The reason being that guitars outsell basses by a wide margin and the relatively limited supply of walnut can't assure the mass production guitar market of a steady supply. Gunstock makers can get thousands of dollars for a walnut gunstock, so the competition for it drives up the price.

    I stumbled upon a wood for my fingerboard called, mirindiba. Its incredible hardness and density will give me a wonderful board, (plus, the fiddleback figure doesn't hurt either :D ). It's not expensive but you'll have a hell of a time finding any for sale.

    IMO, bubinga, palo escrito, birch, myrtle, and redwood burl are others that are hidden gems.
  17. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Think of a pickup as a FILTER.

    People talk about pickups (or even amps!) making for a more "natural" sound, but face it, the natural sound is whatever the bass sounds like unplugged. The rubber meets the road in the vibration of the strings and the resonance of the body affects that. That's the true sound of the bass. Too bad it isn't louder :)

    The pickup has to convert mechanical energy (the moving string) into electrical energy (an audio signal). At this point the construction of the string comes into play somewhat (i.e. it's magnetic properties) but the basic "input signal" to the pickup is still going to be the fundamental and overtones of the string at the point where the pickup is located.

    The pickup cannot reproduce MORE than the original overtones of the string, but it can reproduce LESS. You can do some scultping with EQ, but in the end, the pickup can't add overtones not present in the vibrating string.

    It's pretty easy to see that different pickups sound different on the SAME BASS, but a GOOD pickup should still retain the personality of the instrument.

    Since the pickup can't add anything that isn't already present, it's sort of the icing on the cake for a good instrument. I can put expensive pickups like Duncans or EMGs on a Squier Bronco and it will still have a mediocre tone because of the woods and hardware.
  18. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Double Bass???:confused: :D
  19. mgood


    Sep 29, 2001
    Levelland, Texas
    The bass needs the right combination of woods, strings etc to have a good sound to begin with or no pickup can help it. To reproduce that sound in a way that you like, you need the right pickups.

    They are like the microphones.

    No mic will make a crappy singer sound good. But a poor mic selection can make a good singer sound bad. The right mic can make a good singer sound great.
  20. Aaron


    Jun 2, 2001
    Bellingham, WA
    Is there a site anywhere that explains what tones come from different woods?