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help with upgrading a crappy bass

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by black_devil, Sep 25, 2008.

  1. black_devil


    May 8, 2007

    So i've searched alot and read alot on this forum, now i would like to ask for som recomendations.

    I started playing bass about 2 years ago, i bought this cheap jazz bass copy (a harley benton from thomann). It has worked really well for praticing.

    However, now i have started to record some of my playing and i have really started to notice just how awful it sounds. The tone is all muddy and it kind of sound like i'm playing thru a spring reverb.

    I don't have the cash to buy a fender precision or music man stingray, and i don't think i've got the skills yet to justify owning one :)

    Anyhoo, i would really like to know if anyone could recommend strings and pickups that i install to perhaps make the bass sound a little better? I mostly play (or try to play) 70's disco/funk stuff, not much slapping, just plain ol' fingerfunk.

    Looking foward to hearing some suggestions.
  2. This is a tough one to answer, but I'll take a shot. What are your tone settings on the bass? Basically what I'm looking for there is the blend of the bridge pickup and how much low frequency boost you're using. Emphasizing the bridge pickup can add a lot of brightness to the tone and that may help.

    Brighter strings may help too, but are a bit inconsistent with the type of music you're interested in playing.

    For what it's worth, my experience is that spending any money (beyond fresh strings) on a cheap instrument is like putting lipstick on a pig. While you're saving some money, try out as many other instruments as you can to get a good idea of exactly what you want. Hopefully by the time you've got money-in-hand, you'll have found the right instrument for you. Good luck!
  3. Eilif

    Eilif Holding it down in K-Town. Supporting Member

    Oct 1, 2001
    I'm a big believer that upgrades don't have to cost a fortune. Here's some good-quality, low-cost pickup upgrade options.

    A set of "EMG Select" pickups is less than 50 bucks from Stu-Mac. http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Electronics,_pickups/Pickups:_Bass/2/EMG_Select_Bass_Pickups.html They aren't the best in the world, but they sound very nice and are worlds ahead of the pups most cheapo basses come with. I put a pair in a squier jazz, and it sounded quite nice.

    Mighty Mite Alnico pickups are good also. You can get a new set of them for about the same price on ebay if you look hard enough. http://cgi.ebay.com/Mighty-Mite-Aln...8277133QQcmdZViewItem?_trksid=p3286.m20.l1116

    GFS is another very well regarded good low priced brand, but they will cost you a little over 60 bucks. http://store.guitarfetish.com/gfsjbprojaba.html

    $60 and beyond you may want to look for a used set of Dimarzio ultrabass (a very lively set of pickups) or similar pickups here in the Talkbass classifieds. Sometimes you can find great deals on MIM fender or carvin jazz pups for well under 50 bucks, and they would be good upgrades for you as well.

    Lastly, wiring a new set of pots can often help your sound considerably. Hope this helps.
  4. savit260


    Mar 6, 2006
    First question should be...

    "are you playing through a quality amp?"

    All the upgrades in the world won't make a hill of beans worth of difference if you're playing through a cheap 10 watt practice amp.
  5. black_devil


    May 8, 2007
    thanks alot!

    I'll check out the pickups.

    Never thought about rewiring the pots, any specific pots i should check out ?
  6. kyral210


    Sep 14, 2007
    Ok, here are my tips for upgrading a bass:

    1. Get a copy of "how to make your electric guitar play great". It will show you how to do a perfect setup, and guide you through the rest of these proceses.

    2. New saddles and nut. Its amazing how such a simple mod can make such a massive difference. I recommend Graphtech nuts and saddles. The saddles just require screwing on, the nut is a more advanced change, and you may want a tech to do it for you.

    3. Install a Sprague Orange Drop capacitor. I dont know if its just in my mind, but bass sound better with a good capacitor.

    4. New pickups. I wouldnt touch EMG select. Go for a good set of Bassline or EMG pickups. If you buy a better bass in a few years you can transfer the pickups over!

    5. D'addario strings. I just love them.

    6. A good amp. You bass is where the tone comes from, but the amp makes the noise...

  7. black_devil


    May 8, 2007
    It's very seldom that i use an amp, mainly i just run it through a DI into my mbox and out to headphones or monitors.

    I've actually recorded the bass with some really nice converters a couple of times, the better the converters, the more crapness was revealed :)

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