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J-Retro... great, but one little question

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by BassyBill, Jul 5, 2005.


  1. BassyBill

    BassyBill The smooth moderator... Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    Not strictly pickups, but pre-amps seem to get discussed in this forum a fair bit.

    I have a J-Retro in my latest J bass (Nordie NJ4SE pups) and the sound is terrific, I'm really pleased with it. The only query I have is when I switch the active pre in (with all EQ flat), there is a slight hiss noticeable, only quiet, but "there". Obviously EQ settings can increase or decrease this as you'd expect.

    It's definitely a hiss rather than hum and unaffected by touching the strings/bridge etc. The bass is shielded with StewMac paint and I don't think improving the shielding would make much difference as "it's not that sort of noise". Am I correct here?

    I know that any pre will always add some noise, but it just seems to be slightly more than I get with, for example, my SR4 3 band. It's not really a problem in a playing situation but I just wondered if anybody had tips for cutting it down. The pickup height and gain adjustments are pretty much set already, BTW.
     
  2. David Wilson

    David Wilson Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Lower Westchester, NY
    what's the date on the unit? I know there was an improvement made to the circuit, IIRC in early 2004, with regards to hiss.
    The early units can get upgraded for a small fee, details on the Dudepit - http://vintagebass.com/thedudepit
     
  3. Rodent

    Rodent Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 20, 2004
    Upper Left Corner (Seattle)
    Player-Builder-Founder: Regenerate Guitar Works
    I have a recent U Retro, and the amp I use determines if I can hear it or not - I am hiss free on a Eden WT-800 + Avatar 210T + SB112 cab rig, same when I run the Eden thru an Ashdown 110T ... but with a SWR SuperRedhead 210 combo, that hiss ever so slightly there.

    I'll say that there's no more hiss there than an NTMB will produce with everything set flat, so I never gave concern to it.

    R
     
  4. BassyBill

    BassyBill The smooth moderator... Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    It's a new model so I guess the upgrade won't apply. A search on the Dudepit forum confirmed that minor hiss does exist with the J-Retro. It won't be a problem for gigs I'm sure; if I do some recording it may be that I need to use it in passive mode, should have the chance to find out pretty soon. Thanks for the replies so far - any other users have any comments?
     
  5. All electronics have hiss. Signal/noise ratio. Can't eliminate hiss/noise, you can only maximize the signal to drown out the hiss. Run the guitar wide open if it Jretro doesn't distort. Set the preamp gain right. If the clip light never comes on you've got more noise than you have to.

    If you have a piezo tweeter, it's going to exaggerate any hiss present. If the amp is up really loud when you play, when you're not playing the hiss will be noticeable.

    Hiss is part of electronic amplification, you can only mask it by keeping the signal as hot as possible to drown it out.

    Randy
     
  6. BassyBill

    BassyBill The smooth moderator... Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    Thanks for that - yeah, I've already set the pu gains and the clip light does come on when I play hard, about the same as my other basses. I know you can't eliminate noise completely, it's just that the hiss, whilst not being problematic, does seem just slightly more than on my Stingray. I'll do an A/B with my Status bass next and see how it fares against that.

    I use the "denoiser" on my V-Amp anyway to shut it down when I'm not actually playing.
     
  7. Rodent

    Rodent Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 20, 2004
    Upper Left Corner (Seattle)
    Player-Builder-Founder: Regenerate Guitar Works
    how are the J-Retro gains set for each p/u? I am assuming that you have the same gain micro control tabs that the U Retro has.

    R
     
  8. BassyBill

    BassyBill The smooth moderator... Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    Yeah, there's two adjustable widgets in there. I tweaked these until the output for the bass seemed to be about the same as my other active basses (the Ray, the Status and two J basses, both with EMG Js but no pre-amp).

    I tried turning them up a little more, but as the signal goes up so does the hiss. That seems to imply I have these set just about to the optimum, or am I missing something here? Just about to try the A/B with the Status, will update in about 15 minutes!
     
  9. BassyBill

    BassyBill The smooth moderator... Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    Ok, 'tis done. Just did a direct comparison between my Status and the Jazz with the J-Retro. EQ on basses both set flat, same amp settings for both (also flat). It seemed to me that the Status had JUST marginally less hiss and also very slightly higher output, but the differences in both respects were so small I had to check three or four times and even now I'm not entirely sure I'm not just imagining it. So I guess that's about as good as it gets?

    The hiss is pretty slight - like I said I'm sure it would only show up when recording, and then only when the bass was pretty much on it's own (say for a bass intro, like one of our soul numbers has). Gigwise it'll be fine. One last thought - anybody ever heard of a mains filter cutting this type of noise down? I ask because I thought that just now it seemed less than it was the other day, but I'm not sure of anything anymore... I think I need a lie down now...
     
  10. If it's on recording only, shouldn't there be a way of isolating the frequency and cutting it, effectively muting the hiss? You could find a graphic eq or something of the genre and plug it between the bass and the board, but I assume you can remove the hiss after having recorded, simply by cutting at such and such frequency. Hiss is high-pitched, isn't it? I wouldn't think it would affect your bass tone much... anyone?
     
  11. BassyBill

    BassyBill The smooth moderator... Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    You're right, a very narrow band graphic, or, even better, a parametric with adjustable Q to narrow the bands down, might be able to "snip it out" without necessarily losing much else from the high end. That all depends on how broad the band of frequencies is in the hiss I suppose - I know noise of this sort can contain quite a wide range.

    Just rolling off the top end on the bass or the amp a bit helps, but obviously affects the tone if done drastically. Thanks anyway guys for the suggestions, I feel less bothered about now I've actually proved to my own satisfaction that it a normal and fairly minor thing.

    Now I'm just gassing for a completely passive J with hum cancelling pickups, just in case we decide to record that one track. Please, somebody stop me, quick!
     
  12. Shri

    Shri

    Feb 25, 2003
    France, Paris
    Hi Bassybill!

    I intend to buy a J retro for my bass and i still don't know exactly what pups to put in but i wuold be interested in the Nordtrand NJ4Se like you have. However i'd like to know the kind of sound you have with that config. I prefer low mids and clear sounds. My bass has an alder body and a maple fingerboard. thx.
     
  13. John East

    John East Commercial User

    Jan 10, 2002
    Oxford UK
    Owner of E-Pro & East UK
    > Run the guitar wide open if it Jretro doesn't distort.

    As you say Randy, fine if it doesn't distort, but I would definitely recommend backing the volume down to around 70% which will take to noise floor down a little too.

    My normal advice for setting a Retro is:

    * Set Retro to passive, both pickups and volume at max.

    * Set the volume of your rig to a satisfactory level.

    * Swtich to active and back off the volume according to EQ setting on Retro.

    If you have a lot of EQ on then you could back off the rig a little, but I would always recommend using the Retro itself backed off a little.

    You can think of it like a mini channel strip in a mixer, where you tend not to have the slide faders maxed out. If you don't have enough level there, you would likely up the input gain, same with the Retro. Turn the input gain presets up a little and keep the volume control with something in hand, which passes more signal level though the input stages.

    One other point, how about the string height to your pickups? I had a Retro user drop by the other day because he said the output was low compared to his other basses. When we checked it out, the passive output was low too. The solution was to increase the height of the pickups, as his strings were way to far away from them. This did the trick and made for a much more punchy sound too.

    John
     
  14. Shri

    Shri

    Feb 25, 2003
    France, Paris
    John, maybe you could answer to my question about the j retro and the nordstrand. Also, someone on the forum said that this preamp adds much color to the sound. Is that right? thx
     
  15. Shri

    Shri

    Feb 25, 2003
    France, Paris
    i got you mail john! thanks a lot for your answer! i go to read it fully now. :) :bassist:
     
  16. John East

    John East Commercial User

    Jan 10, 2002
    Oxford UK
    Owner of E-Pro & East UK
    I just realised, that although I answered your email, I didn't reply to this

    There should be no technical problem with the Nordstrands but as for sound, that's very much a matter of taste. If you're able to audition the pickups in some way and you like what you hear, then the Retro is very likely to enhance and bring out more of what's there.

    On the technical side, since the Retros have an individual input amplifier and gain preset for each pickup, and the pickups are mixed electronically, they will easily accomodate virtually any type, and you can even mix unmatched pickups. Richard Bona had one in a Jazz with a humbucker and single coil, a while back, for example.

    As far as coloration, there is a slight preshape built in which gives a lift to the sound when you go to active. This amounts to 2-3dB of boost at the high and low end as a gentle curve which spans the complete audio spectrum. For the 'purist', and I can easily equate with this approach, you should be able to switch from passive to active with no change in sound provided the EQ is set flat.

    One other point some forget or aren't familiar with, is that the Retro bass control is boost only, so the flatest position is with the bass backed right off. In the centre click there is already around 6dBs of boost and so if this was thought to be the neutral setting, it would appear very colored indeed.

    John
     
  17. BassyBill

    BassyBill The smooth moderator... Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    Shri, I've just done some recording with the Nordie/J-Retro bass, as soon as the mixing gets done my fellow band member is going to mp3 me the bass tracks for posting here as sound clips - I'll PM you to let you know!

    For now all I can tell you is the pickups sound great to me, very clear, open sort of tone with a nice balance across the frequency spectrum and plenty of "life" if you get what I mean. The J-Retro has a characteristic tone of its own, as John said, but I like it and think it complements the pickups well. I'm pleased with the basic sound of this pre and the EQ options are really well thought out and very useable. Hope this helps!

    Bill
     
  18. Shri

    Shri

    Feb 25, 2003
    France, Paris

    Hi john! thanks a lot for your added comments!! :cool:
     
  19. Shri

    Shri

    Feb 25, 2003
    France, Paris
    Cool! I really can't wait to hear the recordings then! :D i heard the J retro once on a bass that had dimarzio ultrajazz pickups and was very impressed!! I find this preamp wonderful really. I'm just trying to find pickups that i really want to put on my bass and the dimarzio are maybe not the one i want at the moment. I heard many good comments on the nordie, that's why i really can't wait to hear some recording! :cool: thanks bill for your help ! :)
     
  20. Shri

    Shri

    Feb 25, 2003
    France, Paris
    You put that setup on a jazzbass? what woods are on it? because i think it's also important to know. mine is alder for the body and maple for the fingerboard and neck.