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expensive onboard preamps vs cheap

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by Alexdeth89, Nov 24, 2012.

  1. Alexdeth89


    May 7, 2012
    A friend of mine bought a bass that had seymour duncan pickups and a 2 band emg onboard preamp. The bass sounded awesome and he wanted to have another one that sounded exactly the same.
    So then he got a used bass and threw the same model of pickups but paying another 100 bucks for the preamp seemed like an exageration for him.
    At the end he looked on ebay and found many chinese 2 band preamps for 20 bucks. They are cool because they are prewired and the preamp itself comes in a sealed black box like the aguilar ones.

    Well after setting everything up I have to say that both basses DO sound the same, they both have the same frequencies for bass and treble (40hz and 4k).

    After all when I see all the super expensive onboard preamps that costs more than a hundred I always wonder:

    people paying just for the name?
  2. There are SO many things that go into an onboard preamp other then what freq they 'list' they boost and cut.

    To be honest, I wouldn't even trust the listing of 40hz and 4k off ebay for a $20 dollar preamp. Those freq's are the "popular" center points, so I could see them listing it as such but really boosting at something like 100hz and 6.5k.

    Big "names" should have nothing to do with your selection. I just went preamp shopping as I don't care for the stock MEC stuff that came in my Warwicks.

    The Aguilar OBP 3 was on my short list, but I decided to go with the Nordstrand 3-band instead. On paper, they look almost the same... but how they sound are completely different.

    Just take the db boost/cut the Aguilar has... it has a HUGE 18db of boost/cut. WOW thats a lot... for me, that makes the controls almost unusable. One slight turn of the bass boost and bam, your shaking the room and your tone is muddy.

    On the other hand, the Nordstrand tames that down quite a bit to 12db of overall boost/cut... making the turning of the knob much more subtle and usable... and even at 12db, I have no use for maxing out any of the boost... way too much.

    So little things like that come into play.... among many other things. But I would only buy from the tried and true, trusted preamp mfr's out there (EMG, Bartolini, Aguilar, Pope, Nordstrand, etc..... )

    You get what you pay for. Hell, I'd rather keep the bass passive with a simple tone roll off then put a $20 dollar Chinese preamp in her.
    Killed_by_Death likes this.
  3. jobo4


    Apr 19, 2006
    Austin, TX
    I agree with ModernGrowl. But for 20 bux if you are handy with a soldering gun, it can't hurt to see if you like it. What the hay?
  4. amimbari


    May 6, 2008
    Pittsburgh, PA
    for 20 bucks now? I remember only 2 years ago they were 12. I bought 6 of them... MR MINGS for the WIN.
    what have you got to lose by trying it right? I did and on certain pickups it sounds great, the others BLECH- GARBAGE.
    kodiakblair likes this.
  5. Alexdeth89


    May 7, 2012

    This guy says ming preamps are great, and he's comparing them to the big name preamps out there
  6. chadds


    Mar 18, 2000
    A player I know does most everything on the cheap. His advice for me on a landscaping matter saved me thousands. Conversely he paid $2 on ebay for a no name iphone charger that burned up his battery. :rollno:
  7. Alexdeth89


    May 7, 2012
    By the way amimbari, when I looked at the 80's bass preamps like the JE2000, which is a truly awesome 2 band preamp, I kept asking myself: how hard would it be to replicate this very same pc board? Because the electronics look simple and small, well felt like I found the answer when I discovered the Mr Mings preamps
  8. Seems you (or your "friend') are dead set on getting one.
    Do it - its $20 bucks....

    But don't think we'll sugar coat it and say its as good as others in the industry. With all things in life, you get what you pay for. It's $20 bucks for a reason. Do you want to find out what that reason is? :eyebrow: I'll tell ya one thing - its not because the rest of the quality electronic mfr's like Aguilar/Bartolini/EMG/Nordstrand/etc.... are out to rape you, and this is "just as good for less".
    Camaro likes this.
  9. amimbari


    May 6, 2008
    Pittsburgh, PA
    I support the guys here that are saying you get what you pay for.
    putting 300 dollars into a preamp in a 50 dollar bass is stupid. Try it for 20 bucks if it works, there you go. If it don't throw it in the garbage..so easy the thread could be closed now.

    p.s. ALEXDETH, ya I never opened one up to see if it is the same board as the J2000. It sounds similar, but the Mings catches more interference from fluorescent and neon lights if you don't shield the cavity, where the J2000 is dead quiet.
  10. Alexdeth89


    May 7, 2012
    I don't expect you to say that. I have personally tried both, emg and the chinese ones and I have an opinion. You haven't tried the ming preamps but I respect your opinion, if you want to know why they're only 20 bucks it's because they're from china
    Finnigan's wake and kodiakblair like this.
  11. ^as they would say "the proof is in the pudding"...
  12. Arguably, good preamps should not impart any tonal character, unless they are engineered for a certain fixed voicing. They are supposed to be totally transparent, and more-or-less all do the same thing, albeit with different specs engineered for the equalization, if they have equalization.

    Remember, also, that they cost nothing to make. Throw a few resistors, capacitors, transistors and/or opamps on a tiny PCB and solder them together, and there you have a preamp. You can make them by the billions in a factory, for a very low cost-per-unit, or you can have a small company or an individual selling their handmade preamps that cost more in labor to produce. Same goes for amps and effects pedals and such. Labor is a much greater factor than materials. Additionally, the industry has established certain standards of what things should cost. Paying $100-$300 for a preamp is considered normal by players, because that's what the industry says they should cost. The actual materials cost is far less. Excluding pots and jacks, I doubt the materials would cost more than $15 if I put the parts list of a preamp into a shopping cart on Mouser.
    deepestend, kodiakblair and dralionux like this.
  13. Alexdeth89


    May 7, 2012
    Exactly, I agree with everything line6man said, I think pickups for example, are a lot harder for any company to make them sound decent, but when dealing with preamps, they are just a bunch of simple electronic components, being the operational amp the most important element
    Gt6s likes this.
  14. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Hope you guys aren't meaning to imply that all onboard preamps are created equal. I can tell you with all certainty that they are not. Not tried these Mings here, but I have played lots of cheap active basses with cheap preamps in them, and I'll take the good stuff any day.
  15. Ric5

    Ric5 SUSPENDED Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    I convert 4 string Rickenbackers to 5 string basses.
    Some of the cheap preamps add a bad coloration of the tone.

    My 3 favorite preamps are:

    1 - Audere 4 band
    2 - John East j-retro 3 band with sweepable mids
    3 - Seymour Duncan MM 3 band
  16. sharp8874


    Jan 10, 2011
    I have both the 2 and 3 band chinese preamps in my basses and have to say that they work well but they aren't made the best. The connector on one of mine is really loose and sometimes cuts in and out but I fixed that by just bypassing it. Also the cheap preamps work good for prototyping electronics layouts and I have had great results running my pickups through a 2 band preamp and then through a 3 band. So in the end I think that the cheaper preamps work just about the same as the more expensive ones but the EMG's and other brands are probably of higher quality and less likely to break or degrade.
  17. Here's another case of US companies inventing or creating a product and the Chinese just steal the technology and sell it for next to nothing because they didn't put any money into R&D they pay their workers nothing and they don't worry about the environment or labor safety.Look what just happened in Bangladesh,120 people dead in a garment factory.In China stuff like that happens probably all the time it just doesn't get reported.
    The Chinese steal everything and we are allowing them to get away with it while at the same time we are complaining that American jobs are getting shipped overseas.
    How hypocritical is that?
    I know that it is practically impossible not to buy anything Chinese made but do we really always have to cheap out?
    I personally like to put some money into the pockets of the people who create the products I like and who have a passion for what they are doing even if it costs a bit more.
    That's my rant for today......
  18. thepontif


    Apr 24, 2004
    Designer Fodera Guitars/Michael Pope Design, Inc., Trickfish Amplification
    Yes!!! I know if I was only concerned about ME, I could make a $h!t ton more money if I had stuff made in China. But I'm concerned about our economy here, and as small a part as I play, I WON'T contribute to the lack of industry in the US. My stuff is made here, and it is priced as it must be in order to make a DECENT profit.

    I think the China thing sucks, and I'm sure my stuff has been copied there too.

    That $20 preamp is a $20 preamp..a $20 value. Enjoy it. And don't try to get a job in electronics manufacturing in the US.

    Everyone cries about how bad the economy is..but few make any kind of real investment in it.
    NEWYEARKID and bucephylus like this.
  19. worxforme

    worxforme Self Actualized Bad Speller

    Dec 10, 2009
    LAnsing MI
    Well said, everyone wants to shop at walmart/buy it at the cheapest price and then some wonder why no one can afford to spend money in their business.

    I'm not judging it, just saying.
  20. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Banned Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products
    I agree, and I have to point out that the parts for my rather simple 2 band preamp cost more than this Chinese preamp. That's just the parts. What does that tell you about the quality of a preamp selling for $20 that probably cost $2 to make.

    It might be OK, but probably noisy and with not very reliable pots.