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How do you replace pickups?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by Garrett Mireles, Aug 31, 2004.


  1. I'm getting ready to order new EMG p/j pups for my bass, and I don't trust any of the locals to even touch my bass...so I'm gonna do the transplant myself. I already have a soldering iron/solder.

    What steps are involved in replacing the pups? Cutting the old wires halfway...then solder the new pickups wires to it?
     
  2. David Wilson

    David Wilson Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Lower Westchester, NY
    It's not that difficult, but there's no 'one size fits all' set of instructions.

    What pickups are in there currently? Active/passive?
    Is there a preamp in there?
    Are you ordering passive or active EMG pickups?
    If active, and your bass is currently passive, is there space to fit a battery in your control cavity?
    Do you have experience with using a soldering iron?
     
  3. AlembicPlayer

    AlembicPlayer Im not wearing shorts

    Aug 15, 2004
    Pacific Northwet, USA
    most of those EMG sets come pre-wired including all the pots and new output jack. No soldering required..just swap out the old with the new.
     
  4. David Wilson

    David Wilson Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Lower Westchester, NY
    That is true, but it's not clear from the initial post what's currently in the bass being modded.
     
  5. 1. I don't know if the pups are active/passive or if there's a preamp on it, but there's a 9v battery cavity already.
    2. Not sure
    3. Active
    4. Yep
    5. Yeah, I took electronics this past year in school, the last 6 months was soldering circuit boards.
     
  6. David Wilson

    David Wilson Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Lower Westchester, NY
    Ok, if you don't know if you have a preamp or not, or whether your pickups are active or passive then you need to do some more investigation.

    1) If you have bass/treble/mid controls, you have a preamp. If all you have is a tone control, you almost certainly don't have a preamp.

    2) whether you have a preamp or not, how are the pickup wires connected to the pots/preamp/battery/ ground? Photos of the cavity would help.
     
  7. Schwinn

    Schwinn

    Dec 4, 2002
    Sarasota, FL
    You are smart to do it yourself. If you take it to someone else you are likely to get a few dents in your bass. None of those repair shop guys will treat it like their own instrument.

    It should be easy if you just follow the instructions for that particular pickup/preamp system.

    My only advice is that sometimes it is easier to wire stuff outside of the bass, such as blend pots and switches. That way you have more room to work. Then after you've done as much as you can, mount the pots and switches in the bass and finish up the last of the wires. For stability you can mount pots and switches on a small box and tape the box down to your work table or on the back of the bass, next to the control cavity.

    oh...and there is a lot of trial and error involved. Don't get pissed if you don't get it right the first time. I've completely reinstalled electronics twice in the same bass and didn't get it 100% right on the first try either time. Just keep the soldering iron hot and troubleshoot in a systematic way. Happy wiring.
     
  8. Stu L.

    Stu L. Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2001
    Corsicana, Texas
    Maybe where your from, but I do treat every insturment as my own, as I'm sure there are some others that do too.

    But I do agree with the rest of this post, good advise :)
     
  9. Yeah I have a preamp then. I have 4 knobs, volume, pup selector, bass, and treble.
     
  10. David Wilson

    David Wilson Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Lower Westchester, NY
    cool. but we still don't know if you have active pickups or not. Photos of the control cavity would help.
     
  11. Schwinn

    Schwinn

    Dec 4, 2002
    Sarasota, FL
    Well, I've taken my bass to two different "repair techs" and both times received damage back with my bass. The first time the pickup was just a little scuffed but the last time, there were two small dents on the front. His response was "well, I polished it up" as if they were there and I just never noticed before...B.S. I know my basses inside and out. I usually do my own work, but sometimes I don't have the tools (e.g. pickup routing).
     
  12. There's a circuit board, I'm assuming that's the preamp? It'd be fun messing with that...anyway, here you go:

    [​IMG]
     
  13. David Wilson

    David Wilson Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Lower Westchester, NY
    sorry, I was away on business all this week and not able to check in as often as I'd like.

    The picture helped, although I couldn't tell for sure if you have passive pickups or not. A closer up view of the pickup wiring would have helped.

    But from what I can see, it looked like they're passive. If that's the case, then it's not a simple swap in / out to use EMG's. You'll have to replace the existing 250K/500K blend pot with a 25K blend pot. You'll have to splice the battery hot wire in with the battery wires for the pickups. And possibly have to convert the bass to 18v to power both pickups and preamp.

    All this isn't that complicated, but if you have zero experience with guitar electronics before it might be a bit much for a first project. Maybe some other passive pickups? Or is there some reason you really want EMG's?
     
  14. Oh that's fine no need to apologize, I just bumped it so it didn't get lost in the archives.

    Well I play rock/metal so EMG's were my first thought. Matter of fact they just came in the mail not too long ago :D

    I'll mess with it a bit tonight and check back tomorrow and let yall know my progress. My goal for tonight is to get atleast the P pickup installed.
     
  15. David Wilson

    David Wilson Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Lower Westchester, NY
    ok. you're going to get variable results mixing active and passive pickups, just a warning in advance - I wouldn't recommend it.
     
  16. Good news: Installation was easy, though it still took me 3 hours. Turns out my previous pickups WERE active. So all I had to do was rip out everything from the cavity including the bridge ground wire (manual said EMGs are grounded internally, could get rid of that one), and leave the 2 remaining pickup ground wires (or whatever they are).

    I only had to solder two wires, the ones connecting the pups to the control pots.

    They sound killer. I couldn't believe the punch I was getting out of these on the E string. My B still (and always has) sounded like crap though, I just need a new bass later on.

    Bad news:

    Previous pickups required 4 knobs. These require 3. AND they don't fit in the original holes!! I can't stretch them that far, the wires don't stretch. See below:

    [​IMG]

    The far left one fits, but the one to its right won't fit in all the way, and I have no room left for the 3rd one, it can't reach over. I've tried all positions, none work. I'm going to have to drill new holes. 3 in succesion, like on a vintage J bass type of thing. As for the old holes, I'll install the previous pots to fill the hole (though of course they'll have no wires disconnected).

    Bad news #2:

    Uhh...trouble with output jack. The hole is slanted and goes into the body. The new one is made as if the output jack was on the side of a bass. I can't get it to fit. The black one is the old one.

    [​IMG]

    I was toying with the idea of getting rid of the new jack and soldering the wires to the old jack? What should I do?
     
  17. David Wilson

    David Wilson Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Lower Westchester, NY
    ok, I thought you wanted to change the pickups and keep the old preamp? If they were active pickups after all, then you could probably just have unsoldered the old pickups, soldered in new ones. How did you determine they were active pickups?

    re: the jack. Yes, that's what to do. Either get a new panel jack or use the existing one.
     
  18. jja412

    jja412 Fine gear enthusiast

    Feb 2, 2004
    St. Louis

    Ok, using the old jack should work just fine.
    But you do not have to drill new holes. Just get some electronics wire, and replace the short leads with longer ones. Do them one at a time, so you know where they all go. Then fill your 1 extra hole with an old pot/knob, and be done with it.
     
  19. Was that circuit board in the first pic I posted a preamp? It was connected to one of the tone pots. The old pups had a pup selector, bass, treble, and volume. So that was a preamp? The new pups have 3 knobs, pup volumes and a master volume. Goddammit, I just screwed myself. I already cut all the wires in half. :mad: Oh well.

    As for extending the wire length on the tone pots, will any wire do? I was thinking of using the old wires for the extensions.

    p.s. thanks for all the help.