Expensive pickups on a cheap bass

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by sinisterman, Aug 4, 2001.

  1. sinisterman


    Jul 6, 2001
    Is there any reason I shouldn't replace the stock pickups on my el cheapo bass with really good ones?

    I've seen several comments in other threads that say you're wasting your money if you do this. Why? Do the materials they use in the bodies of cheap basses make the tone so crummy that a better will just basically make all the defects louder? Or is it that the wiring in the bass is so bad that it can't cleanly transmit the signal from a good pickup?
  2. CaracasBass


    Jun 16, 2001
    Madrid, Spain
    No there´s no reason, in fact one of the best ways to improve the sound of a cheap (or any) bass is changing to better pups....

    there are so many models and brands that may be dificult to decide whats the best for your sound, but that´s another history........
  3. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    Two reasons, but they may not apply to your situation because sometimes a bass that is cheap in price can be an acceptable bass -

    1. A cheap bass, regardless of pickups, is still a cheap bass. By that I mean that cheap basses are typically sorry in many aspects other than pickups -playability, fret dressing, lower grade East Indian rosewood fretboards, intonation problems, stamped bridge, lack of/poor shielding, lousy pots, fragile and imprecise tuning gears, balance of the body, problematic nut slots, weak neck, et al.
    So, there is a view that it is a waste, like getting a mahogany burl dash put in a Kia or a Yugo. The "you can't polish a turd" school of thought.

    2. If sell the bass at some point with the upgraded pickups, you won't get much, if any, return on your investment.

    So, a lot of people feel that the significant amount of money used for better pickups is better applied towards saving for a new, better, instrument.

    IMO, the decision to put great pups on a lower end bass has a lot to do with how realistic buying a good bass is for you in the future.
  4. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    It has been my experience that one of the things that makes a cheap bass cheap is the electronics. Look at Fender. The MIA and MIM stuff is made of the same materials. The quality of workmanship varies at both plants of course, but assuming you have a "good" MIM Fender, the only difference in it and a good MIA Fender is the hardware and the electronics. Same applies for other less expensive basses.

    I had a $200 Fernandes jazz bass that plays and sounds as good as any MIA Fender after I changed out the hardware and pickups.

    Word of advice. Save the old stuff and make every effort not to tear up the bass when you change the PUs. While nice PUs will improve the bass's sound, it won't significantly raise the value of the bass. If you decide to sell or trade, you'll want to slap the old ones back in and save your nice ones for another bass or sell them seperately.

  5. sinisterman


    Jul 6, 2001
    Thanks for the info.

    I have a Peavey Milestone IV. I bought it new for $150. It's obviously a low-end bass, but it actually plays pretty well, feels good, etc.

    I'd like a better sound, but a) I don't have the $ for a good bass, and b) even if I did, I haven't reached the point where I play well enough to justify buying an expensive instrument. So I thought replacing the pickups would be a good compromise. Based on what I'd read before, though, I wasn't sure that putting in new pups would improve the sound...
  6. Flatwound

    Flatwound Supporting Member

    Sep 9, 2000
    San Diego
    Well, not exactly. A MIA Precision has an ash or alder body, the MIM is poplar. The MIA has a graphite-reinforced neck, the MIM doesn't. Still, your point that a MIM bass can be good, even excellent, is well taken.

    sinisterman- I think Milestone IV's are kind of cool for an inexpensive bass. I have an old Washburn that has a P-style pup that I replaced with a Seymour Duncan Hot for P Bass, and it sounds great. Quality-wise, it's probably not as good as your Peavey, but I've gigged it. I prefer my Fender, but the Washburn is a good backup. In fact, I'm thinking of adding a jazz bridge pup, since I don't plan to sell it.