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Interchangable Pickup Harness?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by malagai, Mar 2, 2014.

  1. malagai


    Feb 19, 2014
    Hello, I'm new to the boards. In fact, I'm pretty new to bass as well. I'm a drummer but I bought a bass to help with my rhythm and melodic sensibilities.

    Anyway, I am not sure if this is a dumb question or not. Help prove me an idiot or a genius.

    Is it possible to permanently wire a set of volume/tone/jack set of wires, what I'm guessing is called a harness, inside the cavity of a body behind half a pickguard, with all of the connectors leading to a computer/car stereo style wiring buckle like adaptor? Then could you wire your pickups onto a sliding plate that slots into the other half of that pickguard and attach all those wires to the other receiving end of that buckle?

    It seems like someone would have expounded on the Dan Armstrong changeable pickup thing decades ago...or am I way behind and this is a common thing? Closest thing I've seen is one of those volume knobs with quick change screw ports, but I'm not even sure what that is about (sorry, I'm a drummer)

    Anyway, you could have a huge set of a variety of vintage and modern combinations on the fly without much of a problem. If you made the pickup side pickguard rectangularish and evenly place your mount holes, you could try the configuration upside down (or backwards?) for laughs. Just need a body route big enough to accommodate the different sizes.

    It's something I've talked to some guitar and bass players about but for the most part they seemed happy with what combinations already existed, or happy settling on the small window of choices for their custom bass builds.

    I dunno, if it's dumb, let me know. If it's awesome, let me know. Just seems like there should be room for some variety using one bass as the platform instead of having to buy several basses for different sounds...? For me, I think I'd like to play on the one I'm used to all the time.

    Thank you in advance,
    The guy who hangs out with musicians
  2. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I don't see any reason why it wouldn't work, but I wouldn't have it done to any of my basses. I'm happy with what combinations exist and have settled on the small window of choice.
  3. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    It's not dumb, but it's also not really necesary. It's a lot easier and more practical to use EQ (onboard, in a pedal and/or in the amp) and different playing technique to get a wide variety of sound out of one pickup.

    The other reason I think swapable pickups didn't take off is that most players want some differences in setup and string type when going from "modern" to "vintage" sounds. It isn't just a difference in pickup. For me 'vintage' is flatwounds with the strings higher off the fretboard and passive electronics, 'modern' is lighter roundwounds, lower action and an active preamp. Those things are more important to a difference in sound than different pickups.

    It does make sense for a drummer to want to approach bass electronics this way, though. Your main instrument is modular. You can switch out individual pieces whenever you want to without impacting others.
  4. malagai


    Feb 19, 2014
    Ahh. String spacing. See, I told you I don't know what I'm talking about.
  5. I'm not sure what a "buckle" is, but most people use miniature barrier strips (and similar things) when they do this.

    For example:
  6. malagai


    Feb 19, 2014
    Yeah, that's the thing I'm talking about! Who has done this and what are they calling it? I'd like to read the threads about it, but the nomenclature for what the process/operation is escapes me.
  7. edwinhurwitz

    edwinhurwitz Supporting Member

    May 13, 2003
    Boulder, CO
    Endorsing Artist: DR Strings, SMS, D-TAR
    Alembic does something like this. All of their pickups and electronics fit together with molex connectors. I think they have pictures at their site and certainly there are discussions about it on the Alembic forum.
  8. You can use terminals strips or barrier strips. The ones in the picture above are PCB mount. There are strips with screws on both sides, but they tend to be very large, so it is best to use PCB mount strips, and solder directly to the through-hole parts, if you don't have a PCB to mount them on. Alternatively, if you can find small strips with crimp-on connectors, that works, as well.

    Here is an example of a wiring scheme with a PCB:
    And one with no PCB:

    Solderless systems are becoming common as a way to retrofit new pickups and wiring harnesses, with a minimum of soldered connections. EMG uses molex connectors:

    This works well for interconnects, but you will need to use barrier strips for your pickups, because only a handful of pickups on the market have molex connectors, so there will be a one, two or four conductor output to deal with.

    There are also connectors like this:
    These work, but have the same drawbacks as molex connectors.
  9. malagai


    Feb 19, 2014
    Awesome! Thanks for the info! I guess using the word harness negates all my searches, but I couldn't figure out what the dealio...

    Again, thank you for the help!