If you don't like your noiseless pickups, consider swapping out the electronics

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by Pomykalsdj20, Oct 20, 2016.

  1. Pomykalsdj20


    Dec 26, 2012
    Madison, WI
    Short version: I ordered Samarium Cobalt Noiseless pickups and wasn't ecstatic about how they sounded. I swapped my 250k pots and .047 cap for 500k pots and a .022 cap. It made an immense difference. If you hate your noiseless pickups, I would recommend trying this before writing them off.

    I decided to finally swap out the pickups in my Jazz bass, and I was set on the Fender '74 pickups, when I found a set of the old Samarium Cobalt Noiseless pickups for a really good price. I'm pretty sure the general consensus is that Fender's noiseless pickups usually aren't outstanding, but the Samariums were one of only a few sets that I had read even a single positive thing about. I figured for the price, the risk was worth it, so I ordered them.

    Once the pickups arrived and I put them in, I felt they were pretty bland. The pickups they replaced were the "Fender Designed" ones that came with my '77 Vintage Modified Jazz Bass, and I felt the stock pickups sounded better than the Samariums. I decided to keep playing them and hoped that I would come around and end up liking them. After a week or two, I was getting ready to pull out my wallet to buy a set of the '74s.

    Then it occurred to me that noiseless pickups are humbuckers, even though they're "voiced" to sound like single coils. I couldn't remember seeing anyone who said they hated noiseless pickups mentioning that they had swapped out their pots and caps at any point. I did a quick search, and lots of stuff came up about guitar pickups, but almost nothing related to noiseless bass pickups and changing the electronics.

    I ordered new pots and a new cap, wired everything up, plugged my bass in, and was really surprised with how much of a difference it made. The pickups definitely sound brighter, and how I would expect a Jazz Bass to sound. The difference is most noticeable with the E and A string, which before sounded muddy and dull. Overall, my bass now has that classic Jazz Bass growl that I was hoping for.

    I figured since I didn't remember seeing anything about changing the pots and cap when switching from single coil pickups to noiseless pickups, I'd share my results with everyone and hopefully help someone before they write their noiseless pickups off.

    Before all of this, my pots were CTS 250ks audio tapers for the volumes, a CTS 250k linear taper for the tone, and a .047 Orange Drop cap. I also ordered a .047 cap incase the sound was too bright after switching to 500k pots, but I don't think I'll need it.
  2. honeyiscool


    Jan 28, 2011
    San Diego, CA
    Great advice. My small suggestion would be to do it in steps. I change the tone pot to a 500k and cap to .022uf first. And since .022uf is relatively small bass cut, I find that an audio taper on the tone knob helps me dial more of it in quickly. Then, if that's not enough (almost never happens), then I might change the volume pot, but I almost never feel the need at that point.

    I use the low-friction Bourns solid shaft pots. PDB241-GTR02-254B0 (250k linear) for volume, PDB241-GTR02-504A2 (500k audio) for tone. I don't bother with boutique caps, I just use chicklet poly caps. Another decent choice is to use 300k pots for both volume and tone, which is what stock Gibson guitars have.
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2016
  3. Nice one. I've never been impressed by stacks for bass. I'll definitely try your suggestions next time I have to install some. (Although I don't do a lot of tech work these days.)

    I wish Chris Kinman would get some bass stacks happening. His guitar pickups are really impressive. It seems he is one of the few guys who really understand how to design stacks to sound great. His bobbin designs are like engineering art! He is from my hometown actually. And IIRC, he was actually a bass player, back in the day...
  4. honeyiscool


    Jan 28, 2011
    San Diego, CA
    I can agree with this. Everything he makes has been really nice.

    I find it interesting that it seems as though stacked guitar pickups have reached such a high level of fidelity, but for bass, it seems like most people prefer splits. One would think that considering how naturally tall Jazz Bass pickup coils are, there would be plenty of room to make a really nice stack, but for me, stacked Jazz Bass pickups have never really impressed me, they seem to suffer from problems that have largely been resolved in guitar pickups.
  5. Yeah. I've directly compared a few of kinman's tele and strat pickups with vintage fender pickups. They really sound fantastic, but if you use say a bassman, or a guitar amp with a 4x10, and you crank up the bass, you can really hear the difference. The low punch is missing. I only found this out because a guitarist I work with has an old peavy tweed valve amp with four 10's and he plays with the bass almost all the way up.

    So maybe Chris knows that even with his amazing bobbin designs, he can never get a good true bass punch from stacks. I haven't spoken to him for maybe 12 years. But he is a perfectionist and would never put a product out there that he didn't truely believe in.

    This is entirely speculation for me. I've wound plenty of pickups, but I'm certainly no expert. It could just be that Chris just doesn't see a big enough market, or perhaps he just hasn't got around to it! Who knows.

    It's well known that because stacks have coils that are magnetically in phase, they hum cancel by having the signals out of phase, so for us bassists, messing around with 50hz/60hz is frought with danger!

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