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Favorite onboard preamp

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Hollow Man, Mar 19, 2005.

  1. Hollow Man

    Hollow Man Supporting Member

    Apr 28, 2003
    Springfield, VA
    My first post as a supporting member. :)

    I'm considering buying a custom jazz with single-coil Barts and a passive preamp in it. If I were to buy the bass, I think I'd like to upgrade the preamp to something active. I've heard a lot about the J/U-Retro's, and I'm intrigued by them. However, I don't know much about the Aguilar OBP-1 and OBP-3, the Sadowsky 2-band, or any of the Bartolini models. For all who have played through any or all of these models, which ones do you prefer, and why? What are the pros and cons of each, in terms of sound, flexibility, etc.? For what it's worth, I'd be using this bass mostly for thumbstyle and jazz-ish stuff... no rock.
  2. Hey Hollowman,

    I'm no expert on this but I'll give you what I know. I am having a bass custom built right now and went through this same issue. The luthier (Chris Stambaugh) said that the preamp will only highlight the frequencies that the pups already give you. If the pups don;t have them, the preamp can't replace them. The preamp justs boosts whats already there. That is not to say that the preamps won't have different effects on the same setup, but the pups are far more important to getting your sounds than the preamps. So far, my only experience is with a cheap ibanez preamp. I think it's bartolini, but nothing nice. It came with bart MK-1's. I hear about the obp-3's all the time. You should get some good feedback about Aguilar and bartolini's. A lot of folks have them.

    Good luck!
  3. lowphatbass

    lowphatbass ****

    Feb 25, 2005
    west coast
    The preamps you mentioned can and do have different needs in terms of knobs and switches. It is not always a cool thing to add an extra knob or switch, but it depends on the situation. I just swapped out a bart 2 way 9v with an aguilar OBP-3 18V and was not about to drill an extra hole in my bass for a knob or hog-out the control cavity for an extra battery, but with proper planning anything can be done. The OBP-3 pre's are really micro and have some pretty mighty SACK!!
  4. Whafrodamus


    Oct 29, 2003
    Andover, MA
    I love the J/U retro.
  5. Wilbyman


    Sep 10, 2003
    Parkersburg, WV
    Out of everything I've tried, I think I like the Smith pre the best. I haven't tried the new model with adjustable mids, but I would like to. It's very very musical...the highs never get hissy, the mids are voiced great for cutting through a mix and not getting ugly, and the low knob will give you beef without boominess.
  6. Hollow Man

    Hollow Man Supporting Member

    Apr 28, 2003
    Springfield, VA
    Thanks for the advice so far guys! Keep it coming.

    jay_t: I understand that the pickups control what frequencies go into the preamp, but that is not my concern. I have every confidence that the Bart single-coils that are in there now will be fine, but I'm interested in adding an active preamp that will expand upon the range of sounds that I can get.

    Whafro: If you don't mind my asking, what do you like so much about your J-Retro?

    Thanks for mentioning other preamps that I hadn't even considered. Feel free to not limit your comments to the four that I initially brought up. I'd also love to hear some comparisons from people who've had the chance to try several of these or other preamps. Thanks again!
  7. Moo

    Moo Banned

    Dec 14, 2002
    Oakland, CA
    What's all this crazy talk about passive preamps and passive options that run through the preamp? ;)

    If it runs through a preamp it's active. And I've never heard of a pickup that's missing frequencies, weak maybe but not missing. A good parametric EQ can get any frequency to dominate out of any normal bass.

    That said I'm a big fan of the Bart TBIBT. It's a simple 2 band with buffered blending of pickups that keeps the volume consistent wherever the pan pot is set. To my ears it's always smooth without the harshness I hear in Duncan or EMG preamps. Passive options are a drag on this one since you have to bypass everything.
  8. From what I tried, Music man, Fender Marcus Miller, Sadowsky, EMG and F Bass...
    The F Bass kills the other one in my tatses...
    for the simple reason that it can achieve all my crazy sounds in my hands....
    Very wide range of sounds!

  9. Hey Moo,

    Don't ask me. When I was selecting pups, I was looking at two versions of the Bart X series. Chris Stambaugh said that the thicker of the two was much darker and were missing some frequencies that a preamp won't be able to put back in. So I'm guessing he knows mmore than I do. It may just be that those pups were designed for something more specific than most other pups. Who knows? :D
  10. I have tried two pre-amps in my bass. It came with an 18V 3-band Bartolini (NS3TMB-18 or something like that). That one was really strong on mids, which was nice for fingerstyle but I could never get a decent slap tone out of it. I then switched to a Demeter 3 band. It sounds like a completely different bass. The slap tone is killer. The lows and highs are dominant with less pronounced mids. This is a great sounding pre-amp. Oh, the pickups are Bartolini soapbars. Hope this is useful info.
  11. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    I currently have Bartolini pup's and pre's in my basses - 5.4 A/P 3 way mid select. All the basses I've had in the past - Lakland, Modulus - have had Bartolini. I just like the tone.

    I've also used J-Retro and Sadowsky in Jazz basses with great success. The Sadowsky was with Sadowsky pups. The J-Retro was with DiMarzzio Ultra Jazz pups. I think the Sadowsk was the best.
  12. PlayTheBass

    PlayTheBass aka Mac Daddy Supporting Member

    Dec 7, 2004
    Carmichael, CA
    I'm going to throw in my vote for no preamp -- I've had several over the years, and while I still like the Moon AC-1 in my Jazz, more and more I've come to realize passive is best. To me, it's the most organic, full, open, responsive sound.

    A pickup manufacturer recently told me something that really resonated with me, when we were talking about this very subject: he said, "why would you ever put an inferior preamp in your bass, when an outboard preamp is so much higher in quality?" I thought, well, duh...

    At the risk of sounding like Bob Lee :), if you A/B passive vs. a preamp, make sure you check them out at equal volumes. If not, the "louder is better" rule will apply, and you'll pick the pre every time. I think I fell victim to that for years, and it wasn't until I started doing more studio recording that I began to hear how passive mode could sound better.

    So, I know sometimes it's the tone of the pre you like (like I do with the Moon), but staying passive can set you free! ;) Of course, having a true passive bypass on the pre could leave all your options open, too.
  13. My Conklins each have different preamps. The fretted 5 has an Aguilar OBP-3, which I absolutely love. Very hi-fi, and has a huge range of cut and boost. Slightest changes make VERY noticeable tone differences. Ya need a light hand with an OBP-3. This is also wired with a mid-frequency select.

    The fretless 5 has the Bart NTMB. The bart (to me) seems much warmer sounding, BUT, the basses do have quite a few differences, so there are too many variables to say how much the pre affects (or effects :D ) that.

    Both of these preamps were wired with the passive option. I do agree with SMASH that any pre should be wired with that (if possible).

    I hope that helps and good luck!
  14. Whafrodamus


    Oct 29, 2003
    Andover, MA
    Well, I recently aquired a MIA Jazz with J retro from Pacman, and I haven't put it down. The passive mode isn't too weak, it's usable, but when the preamp is on that bass sings! It just sounds so powerful. Amazing lows, clear and adjustable mid range, and the highs are very clear and not too bright or clanky. I love the 50/50 or pickup selector option too. If IW ant to play in the middle than quickly switch to the bridge, I just have to flick a switch. Now, in my thumb, I installed EMGs and an EMG pre, and I was dissapointed with the versatility of the preamp. With my experiences with the J retro, I totally am going to throw some SD's and a U retro in the thumb. The only problem with the J retro + single coil J's, is that when you're not on 50/50 with the pickup pan, you get some hum. That can be fixed with some humbucking J's. It's a great preamp (a little pricey, but great)
  15. Does anyone know if the Bart NTMB's passive switch goes through the preamp or is truly passive? I looked on bartolini.net and some other places. The wiring diagrams don't show the wires. Like that helps. Just curious if any one out there knows!

  16. davesisk


    Aug 30, 2004
    Raleigh, NC

    Glad I found this thread! I'm replacing the stock onboard preamp in an old Hohner Jack V bass. It was originally configured with two J-pups, 2 volumes, and a stacked bass + treble control, plus a switch to set the active preamp off (in which case the bass + treble stopped working of course, but the both volumes still worked). Anyway, I like the passive sound of this guy, but the onboard had to go. There was almost no cut in the bass or treble, and bass boost was boomy, and treble boost just amplified fret noise. Yuck...what were they thinking?

    Anyway, I originally intended to put an Aguilar OBP-3 wired for sweepable mids into this guy, but wanted to do so with using three stacked pots (vol x 2, bass + treble, mid + sweep), but it turns out that Aguilar uses some odd pot values and no stacked pot for the mid + sweep (50K and 500K) exists. I'm really wanting to keep only the original three holes in the body.

    I've stumbled across the EMG-BQC control, which is an active onboard EQ (essentially a preamp) that comes wired with bass + treble and mid + sweep (plus the treble can be set to one of four center frequencies via some switches on the circuit board AND the mid sweep has considerably more range than the Aguilar...300 Hz to 3KHz). This EMG-BQC sure looks good on paper, and it's a bit cheaper to boot.

    Has anyone used this onboard pre/EQ? It looks like it's OEM'd on a few basses. I've got a question into the tech folks...I want to make sure this guy can be wired to allow a passive only mode, because I do like the passive sound...just want the active pre to have tons of flexibility if it's going to be in there at all! :cool:

    Any advice on this EMG-BQC would be greatly appreciated! I've taken a pretty good look at the U-Retro onboard pre as well, but at $300 it would be a budget-buster for this project.

  17. RichSnyder

    RichSnyder Alien Audio / Mesa Fanatic!! Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2003
    Columbia, Md
    Ran into the same problem with the OBP-3. I don't want to drill for more knobs and I want a mid-sweep. I will say that Aguilar's tech support was very friendly and helpful in answering my email.

    I'll checkout the EMG.
  18. You know, I'm gonna have to throw in my votes for the Warwick FNA Jazzman preamp and the Fender Am Deluxe FMT pre's. These are both REALLY tonally diverse preamps and I prefer them over some of the others I've tried, including the Sadowsky's... which I found too sparkly, as mentioned above.
  19. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    My favorite preamps are not available aftermarket.

    My absolute favorite is the 4 band monster than comes with the Musicman Bongo. That preamp kills everything I have ever heard.

    My second favorite is the Polyfusion that is in my Zon. I just wish the Mid selector was on the top instead of in the cavity.

    Of the aftermarket preamps, the venerable Aguilar OPB-1 is tough to beat. I just wish it had a mid control, and wasn't boost only. I know they make the OBP-3, but IMHO it is not in the same league as the OBP-1.
  20. oversoul

    oversoul fretless by fate

    Feb 16, 2004
    I have never seen such a confuse debate among bassists as trying to describe amp/preamps tone, some ppl say that an Aggie is hi-fi, others that its really vintage tubey sounding, ravingly different opinions sometimes! with all this my opinion can only be:

    Trust your own ears, they're not the same as the guy next to you :smug: