First Thoughts - Bartolini 59 J1 L1/L1 CBJDs

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by Lyle Caldwell, Sep 24, 2004.

  1. Lyle Caldwell

    Lyle Caldwell

    Sep 7, 2004
    These are the passive hum-cancelling Jazz Bass pickups, using two of the "long" versions.

    These replaced the MECs in my Warwick Thumb BO 5 String.

    Right now, the Bartolinis are running through the stock MEC pre, most often with the pre bypassed. I still think the MEC pre is darkening the sound somewhat, so I'll post again later when I replace the pre with either an Aguilar pre or just some good quality passive pots.

    For the tests, before and after, the path was the Warwick strung with DR Long Necks and a fresh Duracell 9v (MEC pre bypassed anyway save for a quick test- see the last "Con" section below) into a George L cable into a SansAmp Bass DI into a Canare/Switchcraft XLR cable into an ART Tube MP into another C/S XLR cable into a QSC PLX 1602 into a Canare/Neutrik speaker cable into an Avatar SB112.

    I'm still awaiting my SansAmp RBI and a friend is borrowing my Great River pre, so the Bass DI and Tube MP had to do for now.

    At no point were any controls on any device changed during my comparisons.

    Ok, first thoughts...

    About the same output, but seemingly less magnetic strength. I can get the pickups closer to the strings without getting weird overtones and tuning problems on the higher notes. There's also much less finger noise with the Bartolinis- the MEC pickups had a low frequency THUD behind each note. That's absent with the Bartolinis, but there is a more defined attack- not "attack" as in high frequency transient sound, but a real "plucked" sound.

    A much improved sense of depth and air. This can be nebulous to describe in type, but they sound much more real. Very present and articulate, much more pleasing to listen to.

    Each pickup sounds bettter individually and they sound better together. The neck pickup has more lower and upper mids than the MEC neck pickup, which had gobs of lows and a semi-scooped midrange. The Bartolini isn't midrangey, but it's full. The Bartolini bridge pickup lacks both the nasal midrange of the MEC and also the brittle highs. It still has the mids, but they are much more musical, less compressed, and the highs are still "rounded" for lack of a better word. They are present without being piercing. It's not a bright sounding pickup, sans EQ, but neither is it dark. I think it will respond excellently to EQ changes and be very usable.

    General note: the bass doesn't sound active anymore, but it has a loud output and is very very quiet (see below). Best of both worlds, perhaps? Pretty darn close, at least. I'll know more when I change out the wiring.

    PHENOMENAL increase in harmonic response. Not only in terms of the sound of a fretted note, but I can now get harmonics on every fret except the 1st, 11th, 13th, and 23rd. The MECs were a real struggle to get 4th fret harmonics on, let alone all the others, and the MEC favored the 12th fret harmonics over even the 5th and 7th.

    This bass is now a harmonic machine.

    Only con: a very very very slight increase in noise when the blend is set in the middle and the treble is boosted on the EQ. This may be something that will "go away" when I rewire the bass. Either way, it's very slight and wouldn't be noticed in a live performance or even solo'd in a recording.
  2. hyoshim

    hyoshim Supporting Member

    May 5, 2004
    Los Angeles
    Cool! By the way, did you have to route out some space for neck pickup? I ask this since you said you used two bridge pickups.
  3. Lyle Caldwell

    Lyle Caldwell

    Sep 7, 2004
    No, the Warwick Thumb uses two "long" J pickups.

    I did have to take the metal springs out of the treble sides of the pickup cavitites, as they would have hit the pickup terminals, so I put rubber tubing around the screws on the treble sides.
  4. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    Cool, glad to hear positive reviews. My next bass is essentially going to have four of these, though under two covers. :bassist:
  5. Lyle Caldwell

    Lyle Caldwell

    Sep 7, 2004
    OK, second thoughts...

    I was getting frustrated with a certain cloudiness in the upper mids and a kind of blanket over the sound, so I took out the MEC preamp tonight.

    I put in some 500K pots I had lying around (WDs I think) and a Sprague .22uf cap, and wired it up passive.

    YOWZA! My new pickups are new pickups again! Much wider frequency response, they don't seem to favor any specific frequency range, my highs are higher, my lows are tighter, and the mids are rich but never overbearing.

    Man, I hate MEC pickups and pres...

    So now I get to do it all over again, as the pots I had are split shafts and the cap is too low a value for the sound I want. Plus the bridge grounding wire (could they use a thinner more rinky-dink wire?) on the Warwick doesn't seem to actually be attached to the bridge anymore, so I have some buzzing.

    And now the pickups are maybe a tad too bright... ...just a hair...

    So I'll order some solid shaft 250K CTS pots, find a .47uf cap, and do a copper shielding job with a star grounding scheme. I'll post back when that's done, but man, these are some fine sounding pickups.

    Every concern I had about this bass is gone now that I've ditched the last of the active crap (not all active things are crap, but this MEC stuff is garbage).

    Now if I can just get all of my new rig together at the same time (the SansAmp RBI showed up the same day UPS picked up my damaged QSC PLX 1602), I'll be a happy camper.

    I'm still intrigued by the Aguilar and U-Retro pres, but if I get one, I might decide to install it in a racked box rather than in a bass. I need to live with my rig for a while first before deciding. This Thumb is going to sound sweet either way.
  6. Im thinkin of putting some in my maple board 5 string J. My current pickups have a high output and with the right setup i can get a good low rumble with some present attack (not the highs as you put it) and i can make it sing on the upper register with mids. I dont want to lose the sing of my bass, would these make the sound too smooth (I like the kind of nasally, expressive sound on the high notes when soloing...not as much as Jaco or anything, but with character...I dont like it to be too smooth like old jazz guitar)?

    Thanks for any comments...