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Fretless pickups: need all sorts of ideas

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by ArtisFallen, Feb 5, 2005.

  1. ArtisFallen


    Jul 21, 2004
    Ok so i've got a question for you all to answer.

    after playing on the bass i made this past summer, a friend of mine asked me to make him a custom Bass. the issue is not whether or not i can build it, but he wants a five string fretless, which is obviously a whole different animal from the classic four-fretted.

    which brings me to the need for pickups. if money were no object, and you had a brand new five-fretless with no pickups, what would you put in?

    My friend really likes to see as many options as he can before coming to a decision, so be sure to tell me what your vote would sound like.

    ooh, one last thing, try to keep the options passive, or at least without a pre-amp, because he never uses onboard electronics. but if you just have the best active set up, please share.

    thanks all.

    -- Zapper
  2. slybass3000

    slybass3000 Banned

    Nov 5, 2004
    I got a Rob Allen bass with a Piezo pick-up in the bridge(that's all) and it is the best sounding fretless I played.
  3. luknfur


    Jan 14, 2004

    The piezo comment is interesting. I didn't think there was any bottom to a piezo. The peizo is my Lightwave has no bottom. But I don't play fretless. There's been some good theads on peizo's though and it's something worth exploring.

    I recently picked up a set of Duncan Steve Bailey Fretless pups and they're pretty sweet - on a fretted bass anyway. Don't know if they're extended range or not.
  4. zcwilkes

    zcwilkes Supporting Member

    Oct 1, 2002
    Barboursville, WV
    Is Villex still around? I know those are passive but they work a little different than other pups.
  5. elros


    Apr 24, 2004
    Proprietor, Helland Musikk Teknologi
    My trusty old Acacia four string fretless had EMG pickups in it (it still has the pickups, but I don't have it anymore) and they were Great! Sweet, even sound and nothing bad like hiss or hum or buzz. My bass didn't have an additional preamp: only vol-vol-tone controls. I ran the EMGs at 18 volts (two 9 volt batteries in series) and the batteries lasted usually about a year.
    Another advantage with EMGs is that (I read this on their web site) they don't need additional shielding of control cavity, nor bridge grounding. Which would simplify construction a bit.

    My new 7-string Listerid bass has BassCulture passive humbucking pickups, and they sound great as well; though different than the EMGs.
  6. Put in a pair of Kent Armstrong soapbars (humbucking) in the neck and bridge positions. LOADS of wiring/tonal options and the sound is very clean and full. You won't be disappointed.
  7. john keates

    john keates

    May 20, 2004
    Villex is still going


    They are passive with a mid control which scoops and shapes the mid.
  8. I'd go with Bartolini's... Course, I'm new to this TalkBass thing, so many people probably have their opinions about them.. I've used the 72M45C's (5-string soapbars EMG 40 shape) with great success. Coupled with the HR-5.4AP/918 (preamp/wiring harness) they sound great. Lot's of growl!!

    If I could suggest something, use a common shape so you can swap them out if you don't like them...
  9. ArtisFallen


    Jul 21, 2004
    what's villex? i've never heard of them
  10. Lots of people speak very highly of Aero, especially in a passive application:


    I haven't used them, but apparently the way to work it is to call the guy up and tell him what you're looking for.
  11. extreme


    Mar 20, 2000
    If you're going passive, I'd just throw in a big fat humbucking pickup in the bridge position. This is what I did with my custom fretless 5 and it's perfect! I did add a preamp, though. In general, I like a straight-up passive setup, but the beauty of a fretless lies in bringing out the midrange so I went with a Bartolini 3-band preamp so I can boost the mids to taste to really bring out the mwah.
  12. robrosen


    Feb 13, 2005
    I replaced the stock pickups in my '88 Carvin LB75 fretless with Bartolini MM-PJs in addition to installing their preamp and I couldn't be happier with the tone. This $800 upgrade (including installation) was the best investment in tone I've ever made.

  13. Fealach

    Fealach Guest

    Apr 23, 2003
    Gone to a better place
    Barts for me too. Curious about the piezo thing, going to have it added to my fretless when i get the $$$ but I'll still have the Barts. Active or passive, I loves me the Barts.
  14. spc


    Apr 10, 2004
    South of Boston
    I have bart 9j's in my fretless jazz (one of them anyway) and I'm pretty happy with them. they are pretty smooth sounding and they seem to sound decent with a band. They are pretty quiet though, I use an aguilar 2 band pre with them (db924?)... I love the sound of straight single coils, but the barts are really quiet when you need them to be, and the bass seems to sound the same even when I play through someone else's rig. Anybody ever try the Steve Bailey fretless p/ups? I think they're Duncan...
  15. luknfur


    Jan 14, 2004
    LOL. I guess you mean anybody else - and assume you've seen the review in the J pup experiment. I just got an email back from the dude I sold the Bailey preamp to (since I don't use preamps) and he's very pleased with it as well. Ironically, both the pups and pre ended up installed in fretted basses. Where all you fretless guys hiding out?

    The review I wrote was the first run on those pups and since then I've had a hard time peeling myself away from them. I swapped the Bailey's to another bass and put the Millers back where they belong and the Bailey's work just as well in the second bass (also acoustically midrange tho not identical). The Millers are a standout in one bass and that's it. I've pretty much concluded active pups seem to stay more consistent in tone when swapped to other basses than passives. I'm going to update the review since I've gotten a better feel for the Bailey's.

    I'm not a big fan of active pups as a rule but the Bailey's are an exception. I like active EMGs for what they are but these don't sound like EMGs at all. I'm basically a passive single J bridge guy. I've had several sets of the Duncan active EQ pups (both 2 and 3 dip J's and PJ's) and the Lightn'n Rods but the Bailey's are the standouts to date.