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Fender Suhr era DLX J V + ACG preamp = KILLER Bass!!!

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by rogerbmiller, Oct 19, 2016.


  1. rogerbmiller

    rogerbmiller Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 16, 2003
    NYC
    So my friend and most trusted adviser for all things bass related @rojo412 was experimenting with a bunch of different preamps for his basses and one of the preamps he was tinkering with was an ACG EQ01 preamp. He knows I am a Wal owner and a big fan of filter based preamps. So when he was done with the preamp we struck a deal and I bought it, thinking I could put in a bass down the line and get the felxibility I enjoy from my Wals in a more traditional bass.

    Over the past year and a half, I have become a really big fan of the John Suhr era MIM DLX Jazz basses. And since I am mostly playing 5 stringers again, I have picked up a few of the DLX J Vs which have become my go to instruments. I prefer the pickup in those over just about anything I have heard. They are clear, present and really punchy. At @rojo412 's suggestion I had dropped a @John East J retro DLX in one and was floored by the results so I thought the ACG would be great in one too since John designed the pre with ACG.

    I needed longer ribbon cables in order to get this preamp in the DLX J and they only come in one length, so I contacted @Skelf (Alan at ACG) who was able to get me "couplers" that allowed me to connect two ribbons together to get a long run. To make a long story short, this did the trick though the DLXJ I wanted to drop this in would have required a little shaving under the pickguard to fit this so on a whim I tried another identical bass (same year, color and model) and the preamp fit right in! So much for quality control at Fender in those days!

    Anyway, the results are fantastic. I have something close to a Wal inside my go to Fender.

    I have to tip my hat off to @Skelf and @John East for designing such an effective and affordable preamp that does the filter thing. For $400 you come close to what Wal sells for about 15X that amount of money. I also have to thank @Skelf for being so helpful. Prior to me trying this, he didn't know if the preamp would drop in to a Fender but he helped me through this start to finish.

    If enough people are interested I can post to this with a lengthy review. And with the Pound Sterling being so weak, I would imagine these preamps are cheaper now than they have every been. So if you are looking for something to capture the Wal vibe, I would really recommend this preamp.

    In the meantime here is a picture of the bass and the pre as mounted:


    IMG_1818.JPG IMG_1819.JPG
     
  2. rojo412

    rojo412 MARK IT ZERO! Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2000
    Cleveland, OH.
    Very nice, man!
    Not long ago, I got to experiment with the Suhr pickups and was floored by their naked sound. Very clean, clear, and punchy. I can only imagine what they sound like going through this preamp. I'm sure that saying there's a drastic difference from stock is quite the understatement.
     
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  3. rogerbmiller

    rogerbmiller Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 16, 2003
    NYC
    Suhr era J pickups are the bomb. I just picked up a set so now I am just hoping for a gutted jazz bass to fall into my lap for a good price ;-) And if oyu know anyone who is selling a spare 5-string set...

    Regarding the difference in EQs, for sure this is a big difference! As you know, the ACG is in a whole other category. Some rate them really low, but I don't mind the stock Fender pre actually. It does what is does great, i.e. boosting or cutting lows, highs and mids. But with the ACG it is a whole other animal. More about finding different frequencies in the low and high pass filters, understanding what they do to the timbre of each pickup, and then figuring how best to blend between the two. Just like a Wal. It's mind-blowing/mind-numbing navigating through all the possibilities (especially when you add the internal trim pots to the equation) but I think I am finally getting the hang of it!
     
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  4. smperry

    smperry Administrator Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2003
    Bay Area, CA
    Endorsing Artist: Martin Keith Guitars
    Wow, I'm really interested in hearing this setup. I just checked the pricing of the ACG preamp and it costs less than I thought. hmmm...
     
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  5. Mr_O'B

    Mr_O'B

    Feb 22, 2015
    Fenders with Suhr era electronics get a lot of love and an equal amount of hate.

    I have personal experience with both the American and MIM Fenders with the Suhr era electronics.

    Fender was inconsistent in building the: preamps, pickups and weights of the basses.
    The preamp in my MIM Fender Suhr was horrible! Played a MIM Fender Suhr at a music store
    and the preamp was musical. My American Fender Suhr is a lightweight at approx. 7.5 lbs.
    while most American Fender Suhrs from that era are much heavier.

    Would love to hear a soundcloud of your bass in the near future. Congrats on modding your bass to your ideal tone! :bassist::hyper::bassist:

    P.S. - I only own two basses and they are Fenders. I am not bashing Fender, I am only
    stating my opinion about the inconsistencies between identical basses.
     
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2016
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  6. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    I am looking forward to your review.
     
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  7. Bob_Ross

    Bob_Ross Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2012
    Those ACG/East filter-based preamps are the schiznit! I installed an EQ02 in my Modulus 6-string and it opened up an entire universe of new, usable, killer tones...really woke that instrument up. A Suhr-era Jazz Bass with an EQ01 seems like it would be a formidible beast indeed!
     
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  8. rogerbmiller

    rogerbmiller Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 16, 2003
    NYC
    It is. I will write up a detailed review later.
     
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  9. rogerbmiller

    rogerbmiller Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 16, 2003
    NYC
    PS- your Mod sounds amazing. It's funny but what got me on this course was the fact that I put a John east u retro in my modulus! Once I had the ability to shape frequencies, I was hooked. The ACG takes that shaping to another level.
     
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2016
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  10. rogerbmiller

    rogerbmiller Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 16, 2003
    NYC
    OK everyone here is the review of the Fender DLX JV + ACG EQ-01. Since many ask how does this compare to a Wal preamp, I am going to review in that context:

    I think the most straightforward way to describe the two is that they are similar but noticeably different. The similarities are obvious so here are what I perceive to be the differences.

    To begin with, the ACG is more adjustable. This can also mean that depending on where you define the frequencies, it can be more sensitive. One of the challenges with the wal is certainly the fact that there is such wide variation as you turn the filters for each pick up. However I believe that these variations can be even further exaggerated in the ACG. I have learned that with the upper knobs, if I go full tilt, the variance in the sweep is quite dramatic. Possibilities abound but dramatic variance so difficult to adjust by sight. This can be tempered by packing off the frequency range a bit.

    Another difference I noticed is that with the frequncy range dimed on the ACG, the volume levels vary depending on the setting that you use for each tone filter. With the wal, the volume is pretty consistent as you sweep through the filter. This is somewhat challenging with the ACG because you already have some natural variance in the volume between each pick up and then when you find an ideal blend, that ideal blend might result in a loss of levels. So for gigging this may require additional help like EQ or driver pedal to notch up levels, if you use some of the more "aggressive" frequency settings.

    Given the above, the blend pot is a lot less effective to overall tonal function on the ACG unit then it is with the wal in certain settings. However, the the wal, the pick ups have so much output and are so sensitive and even that you essentially use the blend pot as a master tone control! It's not uncommon to favor the neck pickup and pluck over the bridge PU in a wal for example. It's no less responsive. with the ACG, it's just more of a straight blend pot.if you want to play over the bridge pickup you need to favor the bridge pickup. But I recognize a good bit of this may be the fact that the Wal pickups are way more sensitive and powerful than the Suhr pickups in my J bass. I believe the Suhr pick ups are also very strong and have a high output, but there's just a difference in terms of how they interact with this preamp. Each pickup sounds very different. I would be very curious to know how this preamp works with humbuckers. I get the sense it was designed for big humbuckers but maybe Alan can weigh in on this if he is reading this post.

    As for the ACG's global high pass filter, it's subtle but it's effective. I liken it to an adjustable wal pick attack switch. With the wal, you pull up on the volume knob and it boosts the high-frequency a little bit. You get pretty much the same effect with the high pass filter on the ACG. But you have more control over the high end.

    I have yet to test it in the live environment where there will be higher levels etc. so the review that I've just given may be updated soon.

    Overall, it's a very cool preamp. And having it in a J bass gives me the best of all wolds- I have a classic looking bass and tone platform but some incredible control over frequencies. It's pretty badass actually!

    Hope this helps. Let me know if anyone has any questions.
     
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  11. Skelf

    Skelf Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2005
    Moffat D&G Scotland
    Builder AC Guitars.
    Hi

    Many thanks to Mr Miller so posting the review.

    Regarding the sensitivity of the filters. This depends on which version of the pre-amp you have. The older version has a wider frequency response the newer version had this reduced by an octave to address the problem you have mentioned and now has pretty much the same filter range of the Wal. The overshoot peak is plus 10db on both versions so has always been the same as the Wal. I always found it to be to much on the push/pull which is why I went with a variable boost.

    The levels of the pickups can be matched using the trim pots on the pickup inputs these can also be used to increase the overall level. Again it depends on the version the newer versions have a higher output compared to the older version.

    Filter preamps by their nature are very dependent on the input. Because they only filter what is provided the pickup itself does have a lot of bearing on the overall sound. Just as you have mentioned the pickups make a big difference.

    At the time it was designed to work with the pickups I used in my own basses and that time it was a narrow aperture humbucker. Since then I have expended the pickups I provide and the pre-amp works well with them all. But I should point out that I use the DFM pre-amp in my own basses which is the 4th version of the pre-amp. Filter range is the same as the EQ01 but it has a few other features that the EQ01 does not have but the Eq01 has the highness filter which on the DFM is replaced by a sweepable mid/treble.

    Having used a Wal pre-amp for many years I always found the limited ability to address the sound above the cut off of the filters a bit limiting so the highpass filter was used to address that and as you point out it can also mimic the pick attack to a degree.

    So while the EQ01 can put you in Wal territory it is not a Wal clone it was never intended to be. It can cover territory that the Wal can't but if you really want to have the sound only a Wal has then there is only one option and that is to get a Wal. But you all knew that anyway.

    Happy answer any questions on the pre-amps as long as you are not looking for in depth technical stuff not because it is secret more that I don't have that sort of knowledge which is why I commissioned John East to design the various versions.
     
  12. rogerbmiller

    rogerbmiller Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 16, 2003
    NYC
    Thanks Alan! Good to learn more about the unit As well as the refinements that you have made to the newer models, because I am quite tempted to try another one in a different bass!

    Also, I want to be clear that I don't mind the sensitivity in my unit. I shared this in my review because when I first installed the unit I kept upper knobs dimed to work with the "full effect" of the filters. Now I am past the tinkering stage and into the "fine tuning" stage which is exciting because this preamp is a really powerful tool in its own right and I really feel like I am learning my way around it now. In fact, I Plan to use this bass with my band Monday!! Happy to report back and share audio at that time.

    Again Alan, my hats off to you and John. You have made a great, and for me, much needed preamp by any standard!


    Roger
     
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  13. Skelf

    Skelf Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2005
    Moffat D&G Scotland
    Builder AC Guitars.
    As long as you are happy with it that is what matters most.

    I think because you are coming from the Wal back ground the learning curve is pretty shallow coming from entirely a cut and boost back ground requires a bit more work.
     
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  14. Mad Mardigan

    Mad Mardigan

    Aug 22, 2015
    I want to put the ACG eq 01 in my new Fender aesjv so badly, and am wondering what the stock pups will sound like. Do you have any recommendations on other pups that would fit? Also, does the preamp have a passive mode? Thank you
     
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  15. rogerbmiller

    rogerbmiller Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 16, 2003
    NYC
    Can you send me a link with info about your bass?
     
  16. rojo412

    rojo412 MARK IT ZERO! Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2000
    Cleveland, OH.
    Typically, they don't have a bypass mode. The inputs of the ACG are buffered, so they take each pickup and make it able to be matched to the other for gain levels.
    This, unfortunately, makes doing a bypass mode kind of hard... but not impossible. You'd have to wire up something like a 3PDT or 4PDT switch to run the pickup signals to a separate passive circuit. That would require more pots to be installed in the bass, which on the typical Fender J setup, would be quite difficult.

    As for other pickups, the Fender V pickup size is somewhat common, but not universal. I believe you have to find sets that are 4.1/3.97" widths (or close to that). Nordstrand, EMG, Lindy Fralin, Delano, Joe Barden, Seymour Duncan, they all make them. I spent a lot of time trying to replace my Am Dlx JV pickups years ago, only to find that the Fender SCN pickups really sounded great.

    Hope that is some help to you.
     
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  17. Mad Mardigan

    Mad Mardigan

    Aug 22, 2015
    american-elite-jazz-bass-v/product-019710.html
    Sorry I'm new to talkbass- trying to navigate through the site and it has a bit of lag on my part. I tried uploading the fender elite series jazz bass from fender's site. I have been dying to purchase the ACG eq 01 and would absolutely love to put it into my fender... I think it would sou d amazing, I'd likely want to also install some Delano pups- or if you have any preference to help guide me in the right direction that would be great
     
  18. Mad Mardigan

    Mad Mardigan

    Aug 22, 2015
    Thank you very much
     
  19. Hey @Mad Mardigan, I would suggest since you are going to do the pre anyway, to hold off on replacing pickups until after you do the Preamp install. I have done over half a dozen preamps in different basses and think it will make such a dramatic change in the bass that you may not feel the need to swap pickups at all. I'll bet the PU's in the Elite series are quite good to begin with. You can always do it later but then you might not and save a couple of hundred dollars. For reference I have about 10 basses with preamps ranging from John East, Audere, Mike Pope, Fodera, Tune, Fender, Bartolini and some I don't remember offhand.
     
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