How practical is it

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by Matt Till, Mar 13, 2006.

  1. Matt Till

    Matt Till

    Jun 1, 2002
    Edinboro, PA
    To buy a cheap o bass, get it setup, and throw awesome pickups in it?

    I'm sure it's been done to death, I don't know what to search for. I mean, a bass that plays decent, plus good pickups = awesome right?
  2. Kronos


    Dec 28, 2005
    Philadelphia, PA
    I have one I did this to. It's an older BC Rich Virgin I got for a song. I put EMG's in it, put a new Badass II bridge on it, and it became my first gigging bass. Then, just as she was looking lonely and had nothing to do, I defretted her.

    Make sure it's a bass you don't want to part with. Otherwise, you'll never get the value for it if you try to sell it.
  3. Ian Perge

    Ian Perge Supporting Member

    May 11, 2001
    Evansville, Indiana
    I think it depends on you definition of "cheap-o" ;) A Ibanez GSR-200 or another "starter" bass, I don't at all see the point except perhaps to have a decent backup bass once you move up. An instrument like Kronos' BC Rich, however - something cheaper that you might find at a pawn shop or pick up on eBay? He found it to be worthwhile, and I think it's a difference area.

    Then there's the whole "Modded SX" community, which has a great many supporters but honestly is one I disagree with. It goes beyond just pickups, but to purchase a very inexpensive bass but upgrade pups/electronics, bridge and tuners, pickguard, etc? I'd just as well pick up a midrange Ibanez, Yamaha, or MIM/MIJ Fender.

    This is something I'm on the fence about as well. For a while I was on the road to installing Basslines or EMGs in my pair of Yamaha RBX 775s (which were certainly above "cheap-o" but I picked up at massive savings when discontinued), but in the 2 years since I've done so I've discovered/clarified aspects of my style and likes/dislikes, and would like to move "up" the price ladder sooner than I thought I would. Whether or not that will happen is another issue entirely, but since it's in my mind the idea of upgrading basses I'd certainly sell (and absolutely not get the return on my money) is one that has waned.
  4. I bought a cheapo Yamaha RBX170 for about $130 US...gave here a good set up, a good set of strings...a $10 series mod, and made an outboard preamp for it (about $10)...

    I left the original pickups, they sound fine...It's my main bass at the moment. Why? because it plays sweet and sounds pretty good through the church's house system.

    My next projects will be to build a compressor, a DI, and a wah pedal (not necessarily in that order).
  5. WalterBush


    Feb 27, 2005
    Yuma, Az
    I'd say it's definitely worth a shot. Pickups, IME, are the single biggest factor in sound. I went through a spurt of installing Seymour Duncans in a friend's guitar collection (5 axes total), and suddenly his beat up Schecter is his favorite axe, and his Les Paul is collecting dust.

    There are other factors to consider, though, such as long term neck stability, etc. As far as tone, though, I'd say a nice-playing $200 bass with $200 worth of pickups and/or preamp will whomp all over a stock $400 instrument. Just my experience, though. Be prepared to do a lot of your own setup, etc.

    Having said that, once you've wrapped your hands aroung an instrument with a 4-figure price tag, it's hard to be satisfied with anything less.
  6. If you already have a cheapo or are getting something fairly decent used really cheap it can be OK. If you can afford something better, it may pay to get something better to start.

    If you have money coming in and can wait a little, maybe borrow a bass to practice on, then hold out for a little better bass.

    If you do go the fix-up route, keep the old pickups and you can always put them back and sell the bass. You can also sell the replacement pickups if you don't mess them up or put them in another bass. On something like SD Basslines pickups you will probably lose about 25 dollars per pickup as long as you don't mess them up - maybe a little more or less. Other pickups vary - check the bay. YMMV.

  7. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    In my experience of trying hundreds of basses over 30 years, I would disagree with this!

    So, generally if a bass sounds bad "unplugged", then nothing will change it fundamentally....

    You can refine that sound and filter out some frequencies,boost others, but there's no real replacement for good, fundamental, bass tone!! :meh:
  8. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I think the thing that really brought it home to me, was the chance to try out the Status range of basses a few years ago - when they had a wider range with varying amounts of graphite.

    So the (old) Bass Centre had them all and I spent quite a while trying them - great basses, very well made and with very good built-in preamps and well-made pickups.

    But while they felt good to play - there was something in the tone of the graphite basses, I just didn't like and no amount of electronics could disguise this!

    I just like the sound of wood and there's nothing to beat good wood for tone production - it has its own character and warmth that you just can't get from artificial materials or electronics!!
  9. i agree...pickups don't change the 'character' of the bass...the 'quality' a little...but the overall character depends on the instrument, setup, player, and strings...

    please, people, I beg you...never over look strings...
  10. ghindman


    Feb 10, 2006
    When they build a cheap bass, electronics are an easy place to cheap out, so yes you can get good results if you can find a $100 bass with a decent neck/body. But, if you're talking about a $250-$300 dollar cheapo, and then dropping a hundred or two in upgrades, then you're already into used territory for a better bass, like a MIJ Fender, that doesn't need a lot of upgrades to be gigable.
  11. 4Mal

    4Mal Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    Columbia River Gorge
    In the world of inexpensive basses, I can pimp a MIM Fender buy rolling the neck edge, rounding the fret ends, poishing the fret crowns. I'm probably going to cut a new nut. Many from the factory are not proper for the string that I'll evenutally install. The pickup will no doubt be replaced. Most of those turn into pretty good players. Mechanically I consider the MIM Fender to be about as far down scale as you can safely purchase. Even then you'll get the occaisional clinker. I would consider the low end of Yamaha to be in about the same range.

    Squires, SX, etc ... you might get a good one, you might have to sift through a bunch to find one worth working with. I got lucky once with a Squire Strat that was an eye opener... I don't feel like I have enough time to sift that hard again though...
  12. anonymous278347457

    anonymous278347457 Guest

    Feb 12, 2005
    its not just the outcome of modding a bass thats worth while, you also have fun on the way (soldering, planning stuff like that)
  13. SuperDuck


    Sep 26, 2000
    If you're looking to do just a pickup upgrade, a MIM Fender is a great candidate. Fit and finish is good, and with the new pickups it will be a monster.
  14. instigata


    Feb 24, 2006
    New Jersey
    but instead of modding, u can spend a little more and build your own.

    thats what im doing.

    go over to warmoth or usacg, and u can have a bass for less than 700 or so if u put the little bit of work into it and hand finish everything.
  15. sotua


    Sep 20, 2004
    US Northeast
    I bought the same cheapo Yammy rbx170 and added a set of Dimarzio PJs. Awesome bass for very little $$$.
  16. rumblinbass


    Aug 22, 2003
    Wimberley, TX
    The good thing about buying a "cheap-o" bass is that you can mod the hell out of it and not feel guilty or feel like you are destroying a work of art. I have a '93 Smith that I would not even think about modding (even though I got it for a great price!).

    For me, the only reason to get a cheap bass is to mod it. From what I understand, SX basses are a great platform to start with. Besides that, it's a great way to experiment and try new things to see what you like without having to buy a new bass. I am planning of getting a cheap bass in the near future for that reason alone. In the end I may have spent enough money to pay for one of several "better" basses, but I'm getting something that I want, I can say that I did it and it's (almost) completely custom. It has to be approached as a project! It's also a way of getting a decent playing bass without dropping a lot of $$$ at once, but investing a little at a time.

    Not to mention that I need a gigging bass that I'm not afraid to take out of the case!
  17. 4Mal

    4Mal Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    Columbia River Gorge
    In concept yes. In practice a lot of the el-cheapo's aren't made of real stable wood and with a change of season the necks can take off on you. Is that truss rod & nut real high quality or will it strip ? Was it already 'pre-adjusted' and maxed at the factory ? wouldn't be the first time ...

    I've done a bunch of building and upgrading over time I've settled on Mity Mite bodies and necks as being reliable entry level and the MIM Fenders as being a great place to start. Below that it's iffy. You can get lucky, no questions there. You can be un-lucky there too and that happens way more often.

    Having mentioned Mity Mite and MIM. If I'm build one that I expect ot be a keeper. I'm going to start with USACG and maybe a MIA Fender neck, maybe a USACG. Those parts are beyond reproach.

    The DIY experience is a good one and a lot of bassists should take the time to do it. You can learn a heck of a lot about the instrument; the pieces that really contribute tonally; things that contribute to the setup. It's good info. After all the basses I've built one thing I'm totally settled on in addition to starting with reasonable quality parts, I won't do the final setup myself. My luthier will. I thought I did a decent setup until I found him... what that guy can do I can't begin to touch. of course he's a luthier and essentially an artist with wood & wires ...
  18. My two Fender MIM are "cheapo" basses, especially when I purchased both used. I have a DiMarzio WPM in the P, and a set of Model J for the fretless. I have old-style Gotoh 201 solid brass bridges on both.

    With an ear on the wood, both sound good unplugged. The P has the usual Fender dead spot on the 5th fret, G string. It isn't obnoxiously bad, but it is present. A Warmoth neck would cure this.

    Maybe I've been playing my ho-bags so long I don't know any better, but I like mine better than other players' MIA basses. Somehow my neck feels more appropriate. I don't notice the lack of rolled fretboard edges at all. The fretless plays great, but it has the J width neck that I don't care for. A Warmoth ebony fretless neck in P-width would cure this for me.

    Neither MIM bass feels shabby compared to my custom-built G&L L1500 which was 5x the price. All three basses are far better than I will ever be as a bassist.
  19. rumblinbass


    Aug 22, 2003
    Wimberley, TX
    I completely do get what you pay for. If a keeper is what you're after then don't bother with cheap parts. For a beginner though, I would have to say stick with the cheap stuff until you know what you're doing. I would love to start with Warmoth or USAG parts, but they hit you pretty hard in the wallet.
  20. luknfur


    Jan 14, 2004

    You can do it, it will cost you nothing but your time if you do it right, and you can get a nice bass in the process - to me that's practical.

    1) bolt-on neck (my own preference)
    2) comfort
    3) playability good neck/truss rod
    4) routings you want (something with plenty of available pup options)
    5) control bay and pot layout to meet your needs
    6) keep mods reversable
    7) by used bass/upgrades

    Any mag pup will pick up the acoustic properties of the bass but you can vary tone significantly through pups. Most any neck except graphite is going to fluctuate in response to humidity - it’s basically a wood stick with high tension on it. Ideally you’d want a double action truss rod but at least you want one with plenty of adjustment - more for varying string tensions than weather.

    If you don’t chop the bass up, you can throw the stock components back in at sell time and keep the upgrades for another bass or sell the upgrades separately cause you’ll never get your money back out of a bass that you upgraded. I’ve bought upgraded basses that I sold the upgrades separately and paid for the bass.

    The low end basses I’ve accumulated suit me well enough that I’ve been gas free for two years for bass guitars. Rarely even look at one, never think about buying one, often find the prices amusing. And I've rarely been in or posted to the Basses forum in TB - which is probably the most popular.