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Help me troubleshoot my Rickenbacker... sigh.

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by ishouldbeking, Nov 17, 2010.


  1. ishouldbeking

    ishouldbeking

    Feb 5, 2007
    Hollywood, CA
    Endorsing: SIT, Eastwood, Hanson
    I literally was defending Rickenbacker's QC vehemently the other day... and now I think I've got an issue of my own. Guess I'll have to eat my words.

    THE STORY: Just got a new amp, Walkabout Scout 12" combo. Last night was my first rehearsal w/ said amp; plug it in, all sounds good. First song, when things pick up a little in intensity, I notice as I dig into the strings, I'm getting this nasty buzzy distorted sound. Something in between a microphone pop and a farting sound. My obvious instinct is "oh no, something's up with my amp!". Checked the settings... everything was flat, nothing weird going on there. Thought maybe I was overdriving the input, so I flicked over to the active pad, and it cut the volume a bit, but I could still generate the same noise by digging in. Rolled off the tweeter (since I've never even had a tweeter before, figured it might help). Killing the tweeter DID help a little, in that it cut some of the high-end content, making the nasty sound a little less present. At this point I also kicked on my VT Bass pedal, and I think the built-in compression and high-end rolloff also helped tame the evil somewhat, though it was still there.

    Somewhere around here I start realizing I can control this sound somewhat with technique... when I play closer to the neck, its worse. I play with a pick, and picking hard at all would make the sound everytime. And then, almost by accident I happened to tap the neck pickup... and I get a very clear, distinct tapping sound. Tried tapping the bridge pickup: dead quiet. So it sounds like the neck pup is microphonic, right? I've never encountered that before, and I'm wondering if a microphonic pup could send a loud distorted popping sound through my amp, or if I should look for another cause?

    If it IS purely from the microphonics, this actually explains some past issues as well. My theory is that my new Mesa rig is quite a bit brighter than my previous rig (ashdown into VT Bass into Orange 115 or sealed 610, both very dark cabs), which makes the popping sound a lot more present than it was with the old rig. Over the summer I played two back to back shows that both happened to use GK 800RB's thru GK 410's... which were FAR brighter than my usual rigs. The first time, I thought there was something wrong with the 800RB's input because it was making a "horrible, popping grindy sound" :rollno:. The second time, I figured "wow, i guess I really hate the sound of these amps" :scowl:. And then, two weeks ago I had a quick recording session where I was running through the VT Bass and straight into the board... and I didn't connect the dots, but whenever I'd play a little harder, the same popping sound happened! I thought I was just driving the input too hard, so I played softer while I was recording. But suddenly all these pieces fit together last night.

    Does it sound like I'm on the right track here, thinking its a microphonic pickup? And if so, what should I do? For now I can probably play only on the bridge pickup and compensate with some EQ at the amp, but that's not a good long term solution. I assume I need to have the pickup wax potted, or would it need to be rewound?
     
  2. deliciouspesto

    deliciouspesto

    Jan 18, 2009
    Is it the neck pickup? I had a neck higain from a newer rick that was microphonic, old higains didn't have the problem and a new toaster didn't either.

    edit- I see that it is the neck. I'd either buy a new pickup or take it to somebody who can dip it in wax to stop the windings from moving.
     
  3. ishouldbeking

    ishouldbeking

    Feb 5, 2007
    Hollywood, CA
    Endorsing: SIT, Eastwood, Hanson
    I should probably harass the Ric folks and see if it's covered by warranty, right? The bass was built in Jan '09, bought new last March. Could a microphonic pup cause loud popping sounds like that?
     
  4. deliciouspesto

    deliciouspesto

    Jan 18, 2009
    A microphonic pup will pass hi-end and clicks and other acoustic sounds from you striking the strings, if its loud pops I'd think it was actually your strings hitting the tops of the poles. If the string touches the pole pieces there will be a relatively loud pop. Try adjusting the pup lower first?
     
  5. woodyng

    woodyng

    Dec 19, 2007
    Oregon coast
    i have noticed with my rics that i tend to get my best fingerstyle sound from playing back by the bridge-whenever i try to pluck over the area near the fretboard,i tend to get too much rattle unless i am really careful,and both my rics are set up with a bit of playing height at the (replacement) nut. this may not be your overall issue,but it might be contributing to it.
     
  6. ishouldbeking

    ishouldbeking

    Feb 5, 2007
    Hollywood, CA
    Endorsing: SIT, Eastwood, Hanson
    i suspect it seems especially loud and obnoxious because I've got the new rig, whereas the old rig felt pretty muted (part of the reason I wanted a new rig in the first place!). i suspect the "dark" quality tamed a lot of my unruly playing too. but i do think its that pickup acting up more than just my sloppy technique, since it sounded a bit more like distorting and farting instead of just clanky rattling... audible to the point that my bandmates kept shooting me dirty looks.

    i emailed the Ric folks... but I'm not that keen on shipping off a bass and waiting a few months to get it back. my tech could probably do it in a week for about $70. but we shall see what they say.
     
  7. RickenBoogie

    RickenBoogie

    Jul 22, 2007
    Dallas, TX
    I don't know what the actual problem is, but I do seriously recommend putting a Toaster in the neck position anyway. Huge difference in sound, much bigger, fatter, warmer. Certainly worth the effort, and who knows, might solve your problem too.
     
  8. ishouldbeking

    ishouldbeking

    Feb 5, 2007
    Hollywood, CA
    Endorsing: SIT, Eastwood, Hanson
    so keep the higain at the bridge, and go with a toaster at the neck? how much do the toasters cost?
     
  9. cassius987

    cassius987 Banned

    Apr 20, 2007
    Denver, CO
    Toasters are $150 new, pretty pricey, but they really do sound great.

    Frankly I am not sure I even understand what's going on, or what the problem is. Could be microphonics but RIC really went to great lengths to eliminate that a few years ago. At least with their bass humbuckers, the HB-1s.

    My other idea is just that it's really easy to overdrive the new Hi-Gains especailly the way RIC sets the poles up at the factory... they are super close to the strings and if you play aggressively you will hit the poles and also clip your signal. These things get loud! Lower your poles and/or your pickups and then see what it does. It almost seems they are geared toward a certain style (overdriven rock) until you set the pickups up to your liking. They're actually capable of a wide variety of sounds include very sweet clean tones, but it means lowering them and setting the poles up at a medium height. They are really the divas of the RIC pickups.

    If you bought it new in 2009 you are still well under the factor warranty! You've got until 2014. So give RIC a call, then get back to us.
     
  10. ishouldbeking

    ishouldbeking

    Feb 5, 2007
    Hollywood, CA
    Endorsing: SIT, Eastwood, Hanson
    actually the last time I took it in for a setup, my tech had to jack up the neck pickup, because it was crazy low output in comparison to the bridge pickup (which seems to be the norm). the pole pieces aren't really raised, but he did raise the pickup a bit.

    the pickup itself is definitely microphonic to some extent, as it makes a distinct knocking sound when you tap it (while the bridge pup is dead silent), but that might not be the problem causing the gross sound.

    so you're saying the pickup itself can overdrive? that's kinda how this sounds. it reminds me of what a clipping preamp sounds like in that its totally nonmusical, very in your face, and kinda sounds like static mixed with farting :eek:

    I did write to Rickenbacker, waiting to hear back. I just don't want to spend $60 or $70 to ship them something that takes 2 or 3 months to get back. If that's how it'll be, I'd rather just get it repotted on my own for the same cost it'd be to ship. Though this toaster idea sounds intriguing as well.
     
  11. deliciouspesto

    deliciouspesto

    Jan 18, 2009
    Sounds to me like you need to narrow this down. If you can post a clip with the sound, that might help too. To eliminate the strings hitting the poles, lower the poles and or the pickup. This also eliminates the concern about it being overdriven. If the issue persists even if the neck is significantly lower, then it is something else.
     
  12. ishouldbeking

    ishouldbeking

    Feb 5, 2007
    Hollywood, CA
    Endorsing: SIT, Eastwood, Hanson
    I'll take it to my tech and have him lower the pickup before anything else. Just to be sure. He always adjusts my bass for free in between setups anyway.
     
  13. deliciouspesto

    deliciouspesto

    Jan 18, 2009
    Your call.

    Relying on your tech to rotate two screws means this is going to take you way longer than it reasonably should, and you may never figure out the problem completely if you have to ask them to make an adjustment each time you want to try something. Immediate feedback is essential to troubleshooting, and this is super easy stuff.

    I say if you are comfortable tuning to pitch you should be able to raise and lower this thing.
     
  14. kcole4001

    kcole4001

    Oct 7, 2009
    Nova Scotia
    Are the pickup poles too close to the strings?

    It sounds to me like the strings are hitting the tops of the poles when digging in, making a loud pop or clack.
     
  15. deliciouspesto

    deliciouspesto

    Jan 18, 2009
    That is what I'm thinking, I think the microphonics problem is a separate issue. A loud pop means the string hits the pole piece.

    OP, if you don't want to lower the pickup would be you willing to put a strip of masking tape or plastic wrap over the poles? This would prevent contact but let you keep your present height and would let you figure it out almost immediately.
     
  16. ishouldbeking

    ishouldbeking

    Feb 5, 2007
    Hollywood, CA
    Endorsing: SIT, Eastwood, Hanson
    My bass is at my rehearsal space, so I didn't gave it in front of me. I was thinking the pickup screws were under my pickguard, and between work and a few pressing gigs I'm not gonna have much time to dig into his thing. If it's as simple as turning two screws, sure I can do that. I've tweaked the pole pieces plenty on my own. At the moment the pickup isn't that high, and I keep the action set to a medium height so I can play a bit more aggressively with the pick. Almost positive the strings never touch the pickups, hut it sounds like it could be overdriving the pickup itself... It's more of a farty distorting noise instead of a click.
     
  17. deliciouspesto

    deliciouspesto

    Jan 18, 2009
    hm, well next time you have access to the bass push the string down till it makes the pop just to see if it sounds like whats happening. If it is clearly something else, its clearly something else :) The screws are on the outside, just unwind a full rotation or two if you want to lower it. Have you noticed this problem before on previous amps or in recordings or anything else?
     
  18. cassius987

    cassius987 Banned

    Apr 20, 2007
    Denver, CO
    In my experience, it's more like $35 (FedEx insured is what they want you to use) and 2 weeks. I've had two warranty claims with RIC, one finish (they probably could have refused because I did the damage myself, but they still took care of it) and one neck failure (QC issue occurred after a few months, realized truss rods didn't work and it was the neck's fault, so they replaced the bass over the course of a week). The QC issue was a Jan. 2009 bass, because they were experimenting with big necks at that time but they were actually too stiff. In April 2009 they went to the two-piece necks, that's what mine is now and it's friggin' great.

    Can you do a recording of this problem in action? It might help. I'm thinking it really could just be excessive pickup output. Also, *don't* raise the neck pickup to match the bridge, lower the bridge to match the neck. Unless you like overdrive.

    By the way I used to have this very same problem (I think) and it was because my strings were hitting the pickup poles when I plucked aggressively, and especially near the neck pickup where the strings are looser. Remedy: lower both pickups, flatten out the pickup poles, use tighter strings, etc.

    I have learned a lot about setting up Rics due to issues like this and as a result am an overall better "luthier" on just about everything now.
     
  19. Are you sure you're NOT clipping the preamp?
     
  20. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    Colorado
    I grow organic carrots and they are not for sale
    I think your problem may be very simple. You may just be hitting the strings into the poles of the neck pickup. Or you may be hitting the strings into the frets at the end of the neck.

    Try this ... lower the neck pickup a little and try playing back by the bridge more.

    Also try using a compressor.

    Or try raising the action a little.

    Also Rics tend to sound better when played through larger amps.
     

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