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Do pickups really matter...

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by BigRed, Jun 30, 2004.

  1. BigRed


    Apr 1, 2004
    Palestine, TX
    If you have a really good onboard preamp (Aguilar, Bartolini, etc...) and possibly running it through a good outboard preamp (POD, Aguilar, Sadowsky...), do the quality of the pickups really matter...assuming that they send a consistent signal to the preamps?

    Why would I ask such a silly question?

    I have a '70's Aria Fender-copy Jazz Bass (fretless) that I want to convert to active electronics (whether that is onboard or outboard). The stock pickups SUCKED, so the best I could do at the time was get one DiMarzio J pickup and install it in the neck position. I never use the bridge pickup, because once again, it SUCKS! The single DiMarzio sounds really good, though. Would I really need to get a set of higher end pickups if I were to get a good preamp? I understand that it would be best if I could do that...but money's tight...

  2. McHack


    Jul 29, 2003
    Central Ohio!
    Are you gigging? Do you have NEED for a diff sound?

    If money's tight, & you're happy w/ the sound,,, why mess with it... IMHO, you'd probably do well, to swap out the other pup before you start worry about an active pre.... Especially if money's tight...
  3. JPJ


    Apr 21, 2001
    Chicago, IL
    Personally, I think that pickups DO matter...a LOT. But, they are just one piece of the puzzle and you can't address the impact of pickups in a vaccum just like you can't treat any other element without considering the others. I think if you would ask anyone who has done a "pickup shootout" or has gone from inferior to superior pickups, most will tell you that the change was significant.
  4. keb


    Mar 30, 2004
    Quality pickups can make a huge difference, IME. I'd say good pickups are a more important piece of the puzzle than a good onboard pre.
  5. Trevorus


    Oct 18, 2002
    Urbana, IL
    Agree with all here. What can a good preamp do with a bad sound from a pickup? You can only polish poo so much.
  6. A9X


    Dec 27, 2003
    Sinny, Oztraya
    My thinking on this is; if the pickups are poor, then the preamp can only do some to <i>modify</i> the sound. You may like the result, but it may not be very flexible in the range of tones you can ultimately produce. I also feel a preamp in it's 'flat' setting sould do no more than add some gain, and provide a low impedance output. If it does more than that, again you might be limited in what it can do for you in your particular instrumant/pickup combo.

    If you have one Dimarzio J in the neck pos already, why not buy a bridge one too? I paid $20 for a pair of Dimarzio J's on ebay not that long back, and even new they can be had for about $50-60ea. Try that, and add some single coil/humbucker switches in them and play with it.

    I'd also very strongly advise you to read the thread 'stickied' at the top of this forum by SMASH comparing pickups, and the excellent series luknfur has run on a range of different p/u's and preamps. They may not give you definitive answers, but you'll learn a lot.
  7. BigRed


    Apr 1, 2004
    Palestine, TX
    Good point, guys. Mainly I want more flexibility with my tone. The single DiMarzio has very fat "upright" characteristics when the tone control is full bass, which is perfect on that fretless, but I have basically no other flexibility with the tone. I can't adjust any tone controls without affecting the tone negatively...and heaven forbid turning the volume up on that crappy bridge pickup.

    So here's my delimma...which would benefit me more on my passive fretless, new pickups or a preamp? Would even adding a second pickup help this problem...more than a preamp?
  8. Lockout


    Dec 24, 2002
    Why don't you just get another DiMarzio to replace the bridge pickup and a new preamp? Or can you only afford to get either a pickup or a preamp, not both?

    And about your first post... I'm not sure if you meant this, but you shouldn't need to run through an onboard preamp and an outboard preamp... Either one should be fine, as long as you have pickups that you like the sound of.
  9. JOME77

    JOME77 Supporting Member

    Aug 18, 2002
    I agree. I've experimented a great deal with different combinations of P/U's and pre's and IMO the pickups affect the overall sound more than the pre. When you think about it , it makes sense because the preamp can only shape the sound/tones that it recieves from the P/U's.
  10. adouglas


    Jun 23, 2003
    Bridgeport, CT
    Not long ago I replaced the pickups AND the preamp in my Carvin LB75A for this exact reason. Initially I was just going to do the preamp (the old one was making noise), but I realized that it would be money well spent to get pups that I KNEW were good...

    I got an Aguilar OBP-3 and Bartolini 59Js. The thing is a TONE MONSTER now.
  11. DougP


    Sep 4, 2001

    thats what i wanted to hear! i have some Bart 69J en route for my LB76 and cant wait to drop them in. i'll probably go with the NTMB Pre sometime down the road though.

    Cant wait...er, i said that already.
  12. luknfur


    Jan 14, 2004

    Latley there's a guy selling vintage Fender pups on ebay that are going for hundreds - currently a set of 57/58 P's for over 6 Bens, if that's any indication.

    There's nothing I've found that makes more difference in the bass itself than pups.

    My first dramatic experience with that was removing an OBP-1 from a bass that had a Duncan hotstack and hot P, the sound of which I attributed to the OBP-1. Removing the OBP-1 didn't change the sound of that bass at all from what I could tell. I then turned the OBP-1 into an outbaord and ran other basses through it and found it to be a farily anemic preamp - at least the one I had. Later swapping various onbaords in and out of basses resulted in no significant changes I could tell.

    Premaps will boost and cut and add some tone shaping (various frequency selections) but from what I can tell they add little if any color. Running a BQS, NTMB, or OBP-3 as outboards through the same bass I'm pressed to tell the difference. At any rate, the preamp is working off what the pups feeds it.

    The acoustic tone of the bass affects tone as well but not nearly to the degree that pups do.

    To date, I've haven't run across anything to indicate otherwise.
  13. hyoshim


    May 5, 2004
    Los Angeles
    Hmm... Make sense, this is why I'm still searching for my ideal pickup replacement for my Corvette.
  14. BigRed


    Apr 1, 2004
    Palestine, TX
    Pretty much. It sounds great, EXCEPT it's a one tone puppy right not. The only sound I can get is a fat, deep, bassy tone. I like that tone, but if I want to change it up a little, I can't even roll the slightest bass off of this guitar and keep a decent sound. (Here's the naughty secret why...it's a bridge pup installed in the neck position). I was hoping that a preamp would give me a little more tone shaping capability.