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Experience Needed: 5 string Jazz pickups

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by BrewsterRooster, Apr 7, 2016.

  1. I posted a thread in Basses, but it went unanswered and moved down 5 pages in a day. My question was really about pickups, anyway, so I'll try here instead.

    I am considering getting a 5 string bass as a gig backup, and for playing a few tunes that need the extended range. I don't need flash and bling, just playability. I demoed a Squier J and some Ibbys. I preferred the tone of the Squier, and I'm sort of professed J-body guy, so I have that one under consideration.

    The bass I tried had a nice familiar feel and it played pretty well. I had a couple minor issues with it but for a $379 instrument, they'd be easily corrected or overlooked. The tone was J in character with adequate volume, but I'm looking for similar snarl and growl to what I get out of my MIAs. The strings on the demo unit probably had something to do with it, although I felt like the pickups weren't quite as responsive as I'm used to. I do prefer passive instruments, so I'm looking to stay in that arena.

    My experience with 5s is so limited I wouldn't even know where to begin guessing for a pickup replacement. Has anybody modded a Squier VM Jazz 5 that can give me some coordinates on this?

    Your experience is appreciated.
  2. bassbenj


    Aug 11, 2009
    I have a Squier that I modded to a PJ with a Fender MIA NOS P pickups and Dimarzio UltraJazz J pickup. And I have a MIM Fender Jazz V.

    This is my experience. Generally I try to go with the pickups the bass came with if possible (swapping pickups adds lots of money so often it's better to just move up to a better bass instead) But in my case the original Squier P-bass pickups were nonsense (they were J pickups on a P-bass!) and I've always hated the "noiseless" pickups that came with my MIM JAzz V. So...

    Well, the Squier turned out reasonably well, but there is just something about the "feel" of the wood which is agathis (a kind of pine) that just isn't quite right. Not bad mind you, but just not giving me the warm fuzzies. And with Squier basses there is a lot of variability in wood even when it's nice wood, so I'd always play a Squier first before buying and choose wisely.

    You have a much better chance at choosing wisely with a MIM Fender V. They are built of 12 sticks of alder that seems to work quite nicely with me noticing no difference between that and bodies of just one or three pieces. The 12 sticks are covered with veneer so it looks killer too. But I always hated the tone of the "noiseless" pickups on my MIM. But I ALSO hate single coil hum, so I was not about to swap out the pickups for single coils which would have probably fixed the problem. So what to buy? Well, my favorite humless J tone comes out of Nordies. But they are $$$. But denizens of TB turned me on the SCN pickups which are almost as good but much cheaper. And that's what I did. That bass just came alive in my hands! Only problem is 5er SCN pickups seem very hard to find these days.

    Anyway, that is my experience for what it's worth.

    My bottom line on your backup problem would be close to what I've got. Namely a MIM jazz bass with the pickups replaced with whatever is being used on MIA Fender basses. (When I did mine, SCN were the standard MIA jazz 5er pickup and I bought them from Fender.)

    Another choice I'd strongly consider would be a backup bass that is NOT the same as your main axe, but different. Namely Ibby along the lines of a SN505 or the like. They are great playing/sounding basses with that humbucker tone that rocks the house if you can find that useful. I've got a GSR206 and a SR506 for the purpose.

    But I don't want to give the wrong impression here because I'm not a J-bass kind of guy. My Squier and MIM Jazz V don't get used much, because my main axes are three (2 USA and 1 Tribby) G&L L2500. And my backup basses if not the Tribby usually are my modded SX basses (still with factory pickups) which though single coil and passive I still use because of the tone (like a lot of people with single coil pickups).

    Since this is all about preference we can't tell you what is best for you.
    BrewsterRooster likes this.
  3. 1954bassman


    Jun 7, 2004
    Hickory, NC
    If I read your post correctly, you must have a MIA four string Jazz that you like, but are considering adding a five string as a back-up. You like the sound of your MIA and are looking for a similar tone out of a five string.

    That being established, I would reccommend against getting a $379 Squire with the intentions of upgrading it (starting with pickups). Your money would be better spent on getting a MIA Jazz (used or even new) that already cops the tone you want without having to spend money for upgrades. I say this because if you are not careful, you will end up with more invested in the Squire than what you could get the MIA for, and may still not like it.
    BrewsterRooster likes this.
  4. I appreciate both of your replies.

    I will have to check on these SCN pickups as I really haven't read anything about them. Nordstrands are a perennial favorite, though somewhat along the lines of what both of you posted, it's odd to think about hotrodding a $379 bass with $200 worth of pickups and the time to put them in. Sort of like installing a hood scoop and blowers on your VW Rabbit. Still, if anybody had gone that route, I was interested to hear how it worked out.

    And yes, I am a devotee' of four string Js. Mine are MIAs and it's something "close" to that tone and response I'd like to find in a 5er. It certainly stands to reason that a MIA 5 would probably be the most sure-fire route to success, though for whatever reason, I'm feeling investment-conscious about what is (to me) sort of left-field instrument as a gig backup. Of course, having said that, I'll probably fall in love with 5s and wish I'd have just shot the wad. Something to think about.

    To Bassbenj's point, I have also considered the MIM 5s and may very well use that as my happy medium. Has anybody played and/or developed meaningful opinions on those MIM Okume Rosewood 5s? That may be a step up in as-built quality, despite the fact that I prefer passive instruments. I think they're nice looking, but with my local GC being as small as it is, it's unlikely they'll ever have one to try. I'd probably be driving a couple hours to either Nashville or Atlanta.

    Lots to ponder here. Thanks again for the feedback.
  5. bassbenj


    Aug 11, 2009
    Just a comment or two on MIM 5ers. The main difference in the necks between MIA and MIM is that the MIA necks have carbon fiber reenforcing rods to add stability. But that said, perhaps it was just luck or planets in alignment, but my MIM neck is the most stable and nicest playing neck I own (except for my Modulus, natch). So go figure. Also mine is active and while there is lots of whining here about Fender preamps and I must admit that were I wanting to make it top of the line I'd put a John East ($$$) pre in there, but as is it's not bad. What I really like about active is the mids control that gives you a range of tone passive guys can only dream about. I actually wore out a mids pot and I understand this is not all that uncommon. Of course the down side is batteries and all that stuff as well as you don't get that special passive "vibe" to the tone.

    And yes, when I was in the market for a Fender-shaped headstock, I did road trips all over the area looking at basses. Although I had picked out a nice used MIA jazz V at many bux, in the end I grabbed my MIM from the local GC which except for the factory pickups has made me quite happy.
  6. Nedmundo

    Nedmundo Supporting Member

    Jan 7, 2005
    I was in a similar position when I decided to try a five. My number one bass had been a 2003 MIA Jazz, and I decided a Jazz would probably be the safest choice. Ideally, I didn't want to spend for an MIA, because I really wasn't sure how much I'd play a five, but I realized if a bass lacked the tone or playability of my MIA Fenders and G&L's I'd never play it at all. So I ponied up for a 2008 MIA Jazz V, and it was the right call. It was a core part of the herd for years, but I now play a G&L USA M-2500 as my only five.

    Which leads to my next point: If you can find a G&L Tribute L-2500, give it a try. IMO, these are better than MIM Fenders in most ways (though some of this is obviously preference), and the L-series basses operate in passive mode for something resembling old-school tone. I'd prefer an L-2500 to my M overall, but the M is outstanding and the on-board EQ proved very useful in a rock musical. I also dig the flexibility of the blend control.

    Also, those SCN pickups have been discontinued, but you might be able to find some on eBay. They're great, and I should have bought some for my Jazz V. Instead, I spent a small fortune on Nordstrands and Bardens, only to conclude that the stock Fenders were the best match for the bass IMO, single coil hum and all. The Bardens were awesome rock machines though, and the Nords were excellent but just not my thing.
    1954bassman likes this.
  7. I searched for the 5-string SCNs and did find a couple NOS sets floating around on eBay...with Nordstrand pricing. Folks are obviously aware of what they have and are upcharging mightily.

    I haven't had any opportunity to demo the Tribs, either, but would love to. It's all about location. Around here we have several mom-n-pop music shops, but the most interesting stuff is hit-or-miss. I got an unbelievable deal on my amp from one of them and I've been smiling ever since, but at other times, the pickings are dry. Our local GC is barely ten minutes from my house, but it's a smaller store - I think they call it "B grade" or "C grade" or something, can't remember their terminology - whereas the bigger ones are in Nashville, Atlanta, or Knoxville. Basically, I can pick any direction I feel like driving but it'll be 2 hours regardless.

    The more that folks are weighing in here, I am honestly leaning toward buying American and being done with it. Still have the queasies because I don't know how much the thing will be played, but the more I think about it, I don't even know why I care. Y'all are probably right in that investing in an exclamation point is better than investing in a question mark, but I will make a point of trying a couple MIM 5s before deciding.

    Thanks for the feedback. I value all you guys' experience and that's why I come here.
  8. 1954bassman


    Jun 7, 2004
    Hickory, NC
  9. mpdd

    mpdd neoconceptualist

    Mar 24, 2010
    i've been forced to go the more affordable used rout myself, a carvin, peavey, or godin and be done with it, i'm not gonna mod anything and spend a lot on pickups and preamps
    1954bassman likes this.
  10. Primary

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