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Fender N3 vs. Bill Lawrence P46/J45

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by Mystic Michael, Jun 13, 2012.

  1. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    Yes, it's the return of the dreaded "versus" thread... :p

    Lately I've been toying with the idea of picking up one - or two - of those great new Fender American Deluxe basses...a Precision 4 and/or a Jazz 4, with the stock Fender N3 noiseless pickups.

    Should I decide to go this route, I may sooner or later have those instruments retrofitted with Bill Lawrence pickups (a P46/J45 PJ set for the Precision; a J45/J45 set for the Jazz), simply because they're so well-regarded, and I gather that the Lawrence models may constitute an upgrade from the Fender stocks - depending upon one's personal taste. Hence the following questions:

    Is there by chance a general consensus on the quality of tone and overall performance quality of the N3s? If so, how would you characterize it?

    For those of you who may have experience with both the N3s and the Lawrence P46 and/or J45, how would you say they compare and contrast? Primarily in terms of tone/frequency response, but secondarily in terms of durability, reliability and overall performance?

    Would appreciate any and all knowledgeable responses... :meh:

  2. As you probably know, Bill designed some of Fender's recent noiseless pickups. I'm not sure if they're still using his design, or if he did the bass pups. I remember reading that he designed those pups to Fender's tonal design goals, whereas his own noiseless pickups were designed to satisfy his own goals. Unfortunately, I have no experience with is bass pups (his guitar pups are great) or the fender's in question, but I personally wouldn't hesitate to try a set of his pups if I wanted an upgrade.
  3. All of Bill's pickups are fantastic. Fender's N3 pickups came after the SCNs, which Bill designed for them. I suspect Fender thought it could save some money by making another noiseless pickup and skimp on the royalties. I've only have direct personal experience comparing the guitar SCNs to the N3s (the SCNs were my preference) and I wasn't inspired by the N3s I tried in a jazz bass, but I'm a real fan of Bill's bass pickups. Bill also designed the pickups for the Roscoe Beck bass Fender makes. I'd spend some time with the N3s trying pickup height adjustments and amp EQ before looking for anything else, which I didn't get to spend much time with in-store.
  4. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    I appreciate both replies thus far... :meh:

    Based on extensive research of reviews, I have little doubt that the Bill Lawrence P46 & J45 are "all that" and more. So much so that I've already placed my order for a P/J set and a J/J set. Even if I don't use 'em anytime soon, I'll hold onto them - for the right time to install 'em and use 'em. I'm sure they'll always hold their value, and will prove to be a wise investment. :cool:

    When the time comes, I'll experience the N3s for myself, and will make a judgment about them then. Biggest question I have is: "Will the P46 & J45 really represent a significant upgrade? Or mostly just a sort of "lateral" switch?"

    More opinions gladly welcomed...

  5. Doug Parent

    Doug Parent Supporting Member

    May 31, 2004
    San Diego, Ca.
    Dealer Nordstrand Pickups.
    I suspect the Bill Lawrences are probably wonderful having tried his pickups before. (different model though) The Fender N3's didn't lack anything for me personally other than these days I prefer true single attitude. (Digging the Aguilar AJ-60's currently) I'm sure you'll end up with something really viable either way.
  6. aproud1

    aproud1 Don't surround yourself with yourself. Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2007
    Cincy, OH
    Just ordered a set for my 62 Jazz RI. Have Fralins in now which have more character than the original Fenders but are missing the gooey bottom end of the Fenders. Hoping for a more even sound with the Lawrence pickups.

    Have played and owned a few basses with the N3's they didn't sound bad but just didn't do it for me. The SCN's I did like but the newer Fender single coils are pretty sweet for stock.

    If I played more aggressive music I'd keep and depending on what the BL pickups sound like I may keep the Fralins. Growly jazz bass for days.

    I'll update when I get the new pickups in. And they will be wired passive V/V/T.
  7. aproud1

    aproud1 Don't surround yourself with yourself. Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2007
    Cincy, OH
    Installed the new Lawrence pickups. not as hot as the Fralins but certainly a more even sound. One big difference is they are dead quiet. Solo'd or not. I like how the pole pieces are staggered. They work great with the 7.25" radius on my jazz bass but the outer poles are flush so your thumb doesn't catch.

    I have some sound clips but they sound weird when I export them so once I figure out the problem I can post them.

    Some pics...


    Tapered pole pieces


    Plenty of wire for any bass.

    highway likes this.
  8. Highpost


    Feb 14, 2011
    ny. nyc
    I just got my pj set a week ago . Back pick up staggered like yours I haven't installed them yet on my mij p bass lyte. Those are great pics you posted. I waited about 1-2 months for these wildes. They make these pickups in batches seasonally. At least that what I understood from Betty . @aproud1. How did you have your fralins wound? Thanks.
  9. aproud1

    aproud1 Don't surround yourself with yourself. Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2007
    Cincy, OH
    Fralins were the standard wind. Really liked them but had a hard time getting over the single coil hum. Funny thing is I never solo my pickups anyway but I'm funny like that.

    Had band practice tonight and really like these pickups. More clarity and definition than the Fralins though the Fralins were certainly more aggressive and punchy. The Lawrence pickups sound just a touch more modern and my bass still sounds like a jazz bass.

    Super cool. They are just as quiet when solo'd. now I just need to chase down my perpetual ground noise on this bass...:crying:
  10. Dee-man

    Dee-man Supporting Member

    Apr 6, 2004
    SF Bay Area
    The P46 sound great. Even, full-range, not overly growly, dead quiet. Super price and folks to deal with. Good luck, DM
  11. aproud1

    aproud1 Don't surround yourself with yourself. Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2007
    Cincy, OH
    Figured I'd offer an update to anyone still watching this thread. Still have the Lawrence pickups in my 62 RI Jazz. They have really grown on me. My band has been recording our last few practices and this bass sounds perfect in the live mix!

    One thing that really impresses me is the neck pickup solo'd sounds more like a p bass than with any other jazz pickup I've ever used.... very cool. :cool:
    superheavyfunk and highway like this.
  12. Bassamatic

    Bassamatic keepin' the beat since the 60's

    I have the SCNs in my MIM Jazz and love 'em. I didn't know what I was doing back then when I found them, and I am very happy to have had the luck to get the SCNs. That Bill Lawrence designed them explains why they sound so good!

    I have a P-46 in my shop and am now thinking about what P to put them in.
  13. topcat2069


    Dec 2, 2007
    Palm Springs
    I'm having my new build finished right now... it will have a p-46 and a Bill Lawrence Roscoe Beck style pickup at the bridge (I got it from a Fender Am. Deluxe P-Bass V 5 string set)... I'm going with passive , Vol. Bal and tone... it should be done next week ... I'll post pictures and a review.... I haven't heard the BL pickups yet .. but I've played a Roscoe Beck and those BL pickups sound great !

    Through the 2000's I had a couple of Jazz Basses that had the BL design pickups and (other than they were Jazz Basses) I thought they sounded great also.... that's why I'm so confident about my choice for the new build.
  14. Tim Marshall

    Tim Marshall

    May 26, 2012
    ya, the bill lawrence p46 and the j 45 is the way to go, bill had a shop in nashville back in the seventies, he would work on my bass when i needed something done. i have always used his pickups he was such a smart man when it came to sound. RIP bill.
    Mystic Michael likes this.
  15. Tim Marshall

    Tim Marshall

    May 26, 2012
    I took the p46's out for awhile and tried a set of seymour duncan spb 3 1/4 lb's i use them for one gig and had to let them go, i worked with them for a week before the gig. a very strong pickups heavy low's and very sharp high's, the tone for me was not there. it was kinda like all blow a no show the p46's went back in the bass i doubt if i ever take them out again. i have a j45 that i plan to do a p j thing. ive herd some good thing's about this set up. it's hard to beat bill lawrence pickups. i am not a pitchman i just like the tone. cheers.
    Mystic Michael likes this.
  16. Laurent

    Laurent Supporting Member

    May 21, 2008
    Napa, California
    Necro thread. It's 3 years old!
  17. Tim Marshall

    Tim Marshall

    May 26, 2012
    I am doing a build now with a j45 bridge and a j45 neck with bill Lawrence pickup's and a Emerson custom prewired jazz set up, a little price'e but great custom work and tone.
  18. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    And now it's nearly four years old! :jawdrop:

  19. superheavyfunk

    superheavyfunk 音楽は人生だ

    Mar 11, 2013
    Who cares? A good thread is a good thread, and there isn't nearly enough discussion about Bill Lawrence pickups in the world.

    It's 2017 now and i'm about to buy a Bill Lawrence J45 and I hope it's all it's cracked up to be. *Rubs hands in anticipation*
    ctmullins likes this.

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