1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Flatten top of Tobias 6-string pickups??

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by kramer.j, Dec 14, 2013.

  1. kramer.j


    Feb 1, 2007

    Before I dive into a risky project, I'd like to hear what you guys think...
    I have a great old Tobias 6-string bass. The only thing that wasn't good was the B-string. Because the top radius of the Bartolinis is much more pronounced than the fingerboard radius, the outer strings were much further from the pickup than the middle strings. This made the low B sound soft and muddy. So, I put EMG 45J's in and I'm perfectly happy with the bass now.
    But... I also have a Yamaha TRB1006, and I find it's tone far too "heavy". So, this got me thinking... what if would hold the old Bartolinis against my belt grinder until their tops are almost flat?? They won't look pretty afterwards, but at least the string balance would be better, and they would probably make my TRB sound better...
    What's your opinion? Too risky, or worth the try?
    Thnx, Jaap
  2. tubby.twins

    tubby.twins Amateur Pickup Reviewer Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2009
    So let me see if I understand this correctly.

    You're proposing to sand down the top of a pickup in order to improve the string-to-string balance. However, you don't know the thickness of the top of the plastic shell, or any layers of epoxy which may sit between the top of the shell and the blades or armatures. (In other words, you don't know when to stop sanding before you start damaging any of the important parts inside.)

    At this point it's worth pointing out that the plastic and epoxy in the outside pickup (i.e. the part that determines its upper shape) plays pretty much no role in the sound or string-to-string balance of the pickup; removing any of that should have no effect on its tone, even if done carefully under the best of conditions.

    You also don't know whether the Bartolini blades or armatures were already built to account for a specific string radius. (It's safe to assume that Bartolini pickups which come with Tobias basses are custom-built by Bartolini for that specific model of bass. I would think they would include the string radius in that specification.)

    Furthermore, you don't know how the Bartolini pickups are going to sound in your Yamaha TRB bass even before you take them to the belt sander. (In other words, assuming you don't damage anything with the belt sander, there is no guarantee that the Bartolini pickups will give the tone you desire.)

    Let me offer you a free piece of advice: please don't use the belt sander on the Bartolini pickups. Step away from the belt sander. Those pickups are worth more on eBay if they are intact (i.e. unaltered) and have never touched a belt sander. If you don't like them as they are, I'm sure someone else will.

    If you really think the tone of your Yamaha TRB bass is too heavy, you should try lowering the height of the pickups with the adjustment screws. If that doesn't work, consider finding new pickups that meet your tonal goals.
  3. svtb15

    svtb15 Commercial User

    Mar 22, 2004
    Austin,TX - McKinney,TX - NY,NY, - Nashville,TN
    I play it all. Whatever works for the gig
    IIRC those BARTS have an arched magnet structure under that cover. It follows the curve.. SO if you sand it down to FLAT, you will hit the Magnets poles or Blade.. .I dont remember what is under it. but it is arched.. Leave them as they are
  4. Brams77


    Jun 30, 2009
    Hey there Jaap,

    Fellow dutchmen here, I don't think standing radiusses of a pickup is not the way to go... They are designed to cope with a radius in their design. Just play with the pickup hight. I assuming you have the pickups very close to the strings, maybe you use them as a ramp, I used to do that also, if you do that the pickups get more senisitve to the hight to each string.
    When getting more space between the pickup and string the whole radius thing and certain strings sound different then others disappears, string to string is more balanced and you get a deeper smoother tone aswell, but you'll have to get used to it. And don't forget the fact you can cure evrything with pickups, some basses have strings that sound stronger and weaker.

    By the way did you change the preamp in this tobias of yours aswell..?
  5. kramer.j


    Feb 1, 2007
    Thanks for your answers, guys!
    I did experiment with the pickup height, but there was no height that solved the B-string problems, even though the bass is set up well, with a B-string that has an action that is similar to the action of the E-string. The EMG's solved the problem immediately.
    But it's a good thought to put the pickups on eBay... better to make someone happy than to risk messing them up.
  6. Brams77


    Jun 30, 2009
    I have the same pickups on my tobias signature, and the b strings is ridiculous. I'm amost thinking maybe you have a faulty bridge pickup or something.
  7. kramer.j


    Feb 1, 2007
    Hmmm... Makes me think... does anyone know what de factory default wiring of these pickups iwas? I tried both parallel and series, but always preferred parallel for the clarity. Series may result in a better B-string, but was too muffled for my taste. Also have to add that the previous owner told me that the original preamp was replaced with a similar Bartolini preamp (3 band with switchable mid frequency).
  8. kramer.j


    Feb 1, 2007
    Ehh, and no, I don't think the pickups are broken. All other strings sounded fine.
  9. kramer.j


    Feb 1, 2007
    This afternoon I put the Bartolinis in my TRB (without grinding them down, that is), and I used the bass during rehearsel this evening. I'm quite happy with the result, the low B is a tiny bit weaker than the E, but it's much better balanced than expected. The coils of each pickup are wired in parallel, and the sound is punchy, clear and transparant.
  10. BruceWane


    Oct 31, 2002
    Houston, TX
    You might try putting an extra magnet on the bottom of the pickup under the B side.
  11. Brams77


    Jun 30, 2009
    Ehmm you are reffering to the tobias bartolinis? they are not dual coils but split coils, like a p bass pickup. Thats why these tobiasses have that growly midrange growl. If you twist the wires you'll get reversed split coils.. Which will give you a different sound not sure if it was even more bright or not, you'll have to google that;)
    Coming back on your comment it's still possible something is wrong with the pickup even if other strings are sounding good, due to the magnet or a fault in the coil. But it could also be in the nature of you particular instrumen the b is not as even/loud as the rest.
  12. kramer.j


    Feb 1, 2007
    The old Tobias pickups are narrow humbuckers, I even had a 3 way switch for a while that switched between neck coil / bridge coil / both coils parallel. That wouldn't have worked in case of a split pickup. The newer MTD basses have split coil pickups indeed.
    Bruce, never thought about that... Cool idea to put a magnet below the pickup :)
  13. Brams77


    Jun 30, 2009
    Thats not what Mike Tobias told me, but then again, you have a Gibson era tobias, maybe it's different, altho I find that hard to believe.
    I know my tobias has splits , and those are the non dropshoulder Barts like you have. I know about the mtd's as I own a 535
  14. MPU


    Sep 21, 2004
    Valkeala Finland
    Every time I've had problems with B-string it has been the string itself that's the problem. Maybe trying another, maybe thicker B-string?
  15. Brams77


    Jun 30, 2009
    True or what really helps is a b string with an exposed core...
    I use dean markley sr2000 on my tobias, it was really a awesome match, and those have exposed cores until the d string.
  16. MrWalker


    Apr 3, 2002
    Hmm I was just thinking, if the pickups left the B weak on the Tobias, and the EMGs fixed it, it seems natural to assume that they would also leave the B weak on the Yamaha, since it's apparently caused by the pickup, not the bass.

    Which you confirm with your experiment.
  17. Brams77


    Jun 30, 2009
    Yeah but apparantly a little less which means prolly a bit of both... ;)
    But I'm quite confident he gets to grips with it eventually, we're just having fun speculating;)
  18. kramer.j


    Feb 1, 2007
    Good suggestions, thnx guys.
    One of the things I found out over the years is that the string height of the low B is a big factor tonewise. So I actually set it a bit lower than I would like play-wise, simply to get a better tone and balance. I'll take a bit of rattle for granted. For the other strings, the setup is close to perfect.
    For strings I use the Elixirs with taperwound low B. Taperwounds are definitely better than normally wound low B's.
    Talking about the low B: I also have a homemade 6-string bass with Ken Smith soapbars on the same position as Ken Smith basses. This bass has the coolest low B imagineable... I'm quite sure that not only the pickups but also their positions (closer to the bridge than a J-bass) are a big factor. However, for strings E...C, I prefer the Tobias :)
  19. A fatter string will probably sound even worse.
    Exposed core/taper wounds will work.
  20. MPU


    Sep 21, 2004
    Valkeala Finland
    I have .145 B-string on my bass and it's no doubt the best i've heard so far. Also nice to play as it's nothing but floppy.