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Just put in my new J Retro Deluxe

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by rojo412, May 3, 2005.


  1. rojo412

    rojo412 MARK IT ZERO! Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2000
    Cleveland, OH.
    This was a fun project with a wonderful result. I have to hand it to John East for designing this thing so well. It feels so tightly made. The plate is thicker and heavier, which gives it an even more flush fit to the pickguard. The pots have no slop, and that is just awesome in my book. Not only that, installation was a breeze. (This is, of course, in my 2003 Fender Dlx J 5)

    I wish I could jam out right now, but the neighbors would kill me, so I'll just share this experience with you.

    First off, I ordered it Saturday from Lowdown Sound in MI. Bob, the sales manager, was a true pleasure to deal with in the entire process. I asked him questions, he answered them FAST. He got the paperwork done fast, I guess, because the unit showed up MONDAY. It was drop shipped from Steve Barr, which is even crazier because he's in AZ, which is not close to Cleveland at all. I wasn't expecting to see it on my doorstep on Monday, so I was blown away. I didn't order next day, but BAM! The fact that I was able to get one in chrome with black knobs was a shock as well. If you guys are reading this, I want to thank you so much for your service.

    The un-install of the Fender Preamp was easy enough. They use enough wires in the stock install to choke a horse, so I just cut away what was not needed.
    This gave me the opportunity to jack up the pickups so the foam "spring" would work better and push the PU closer to the strings. I just cut pieces from a cigar box (mahogany) and shimmed up the pickups. The before picture, with the bass in pieces, looked pretty rough. But I have done this a few times to basses much more expensive, so it was fun.

    When I started putting it all together, it all ran smooth as silk. Removing the battery clip to splice in the stock clips (18v) was no biggie. As always, shrink tubing is a must, so it looks extra clean inside.
    The pickup wires were a snap, even without having modular connections. They just connect to the posts, then I slid more shrink tube over to keep them separate, no matter what!
    The hardest part was the jack. It doesn't fit easily through the inner body holes, so I unsoldered it and ran the wires out the back. They were a bit short, but eventually went together with some skills. I could have used the Fender stock jack, but ***? If you got it, flaunt it!

    Once the wiring was done, it was just a matter of restringing, rescrewing, and a nice polish. I plugged it in, tuned it up and made sure it worked. When I can wail on it, I'll make sure to give my thoughts (day off tomorrow!!!). What I can tell you is it offers, even at low volume, a nice amount of tonal variation.

    If you are considering this preamp, I would definitely recommend it if you want a smooth install. I have done EMG, Aguilar, Warwick, passive stuff, guitars... this was easier than all of them. The results look clean, there was no "Oops, I need to shave off parts of the bass", it was all plug and play.
    And not to sound like a commercial, but if you are considering buying one (or anything, really), I highly recommend talking to Bob at Lowdown Sound. He has won me as a customer for all my bass needs (which are WAY above GC, and judging by the lines that Lowdown carries, will suit me nicely).
     
  2. rojo412

    rojo412 MARK IT ZERO! Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2000
    Cleveland, OH.
  3. MJ5150

    MJ5150 Terrific Twister

    Apr 12, 2001
    Lacey, WA
    Nice score. My Jazz has a J-Retro, and I love it.

    I'll buy my next J-Retro straight from Steve Barr. Steve's customer service is top notch. I already buy my strings from him.

    -Mike
     
  4. xyllion

    xyllion Commercial User

    Jan 14, 2003
    San Jose, CA, USA
    Owner, Looperlative Audio Products
    Admittedly I may be considered biased, but I just love the J Retro preamps. 2 of my 5 basses have U Retro preamps in them. Looking back at the basses that I have sold, I'm sure I have had 6 or 7 different J Retro/U Retro preamps in recent history.

    I cannot say that about any other preamp.
     
  5. rojo412

    rojo412 MARK IT ZERO! Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2000
    Cleveland, OH.
    I can see why. This preamp is awesome.

    I got a chance to beat up on my bass a little and I am more than impressed. It is doing things it never could before and I like it.

    Don't get me wrong, I bought the bass because the J Dlx preamp was nice, easy to use, sounded good. This just adds those features to go to 11 and push it over the cliff. I mean, passive tone control, active/passive, a treble boost pull out... it takes the standard Dlx J to a whole other level. These are the features drawing me to an F bass and now they are on my J.

    I have had many preamps in my day, played with even more when I worked at GC. With the EMG 3 band, it seemed like there was a lot you could do, but so much that it took practice to get it right. I liked their 2 band for the reason it always sounded just right.
    The Status Empathy 5 I have has a great preamp in it, with the ability to switch the mid control off, but it is super loud, overdrives the input of the amp. There is no adjustment for that internally. And with both of these, you have an active pickup, so it can't be switched to passive.
    The Warwick pre's are fairly basic. I have one that is only active, but the A/P ones seemed the same. They rely on the tonewoods to give character and just kind of add or take oomph as needed.
    Barts, I just plain never liked. Too dark, murky, and weren't subtle enough. It was like all or nothing.

    I could go on, but my point is, the J Retro Deluxe is something that has combined a lot of great ideas into a really nice and simple package. The boosts/cuts are useable. The A/P function allows me to see what the bass sounds like uncolored, as well as get me out of a jam (that I'll never get in because I change batteries on a regular basis). The passive tone on an active circuit allows me to have a "Magic Knob" for tonal changes when I am playing rock, then switching to dub, without having to tweak 3 different knobs.

    The only problem now is I want one for everything I own, but can't quite afford to do that. This should be fine for the mean time, I guess.

    Hmmm... my Warwick would benefit a lot from one of these (U retro, std). NO, CAN'T! MUST... RESIST... what about my Status? NO!!! Credit Cards... in .... danger.
     
  6. John East

    John East Commercial User

    Jan 10, 2002
    Oxford UK
    Owner of E-Pro & East UK
    Rojo

    From yesterday I increased the length of the wires by an inch, would that have helped you enough?

    Glad the pre makes you feel good, that's what it's all about, much appreciate your comments!

    John
     
  7. rojo412

    rojo412 MARK IT ZERO! Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2000
    Cleveland, OH.
    It would have definitely helped, I was working with about an inch. As nice as everything was, all put together, it would have been okay (for me, at least) to have everything come as new wire with a separate jack. But then again, it may not look as neat, so I'll leave that to the pros.

    Cheers!
     
  8. John East

    John East Commercial User

    Jan 10, 2002
    Oxford UK
    Owner of E-Pro & East UK
    Very good!

    The reason they come wired complete is simply because I know they're fully working when they leave me. In other words, if you connect the pickups and add battery, you get sound immediately. And there may be instances where the jack doesn't need to be disconnected at all, which makes the install all the easier.

    John
     
  9. Im about to order a Lakland DJ5. Now Im wondering if I should put a J-retro in it.
    What is the difference between the J-retro and the J-retro deluxe?
    Do I keep the original passive tone controls of the Lakland DJ5?
     
  10. BassyBill

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

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    J-Retro has 3 knobs, no passive tone control. J-Retro deluxe has 4 knobs with... you guessed it... a passive tone control.

    I have a standard J-Retro in one of my jazzes and am thinking about getting a second for my f/less 'cos it's just so good. I don't miss the passive tone control myself, the treble roll off does that job just fine if needed. The EQ frequencies in the J-Retro are chosen perfectly for my taste. For instance, the treble boost and cut are at different frequencies, each of which is spot on for doing the job, and the pull boost is at a different value again that's perfect for bringing out the snap when slapping it a bit. The bass control is boost only, that's fine by me, and the mids are *sweepable* over a wide range. That is the real key to the variety of tones available from this thing.

    The only thing I would like is the ability to still use the pickup blend when in passive mode... at present you can only have either 50:50 blend or bridge pup only when the pre is switched out. That said, it's never been a problem, I use it on active about 95% of the time anyway. Great little gadget, nice one John.
     
  11. Ok, thanks for your answer.

    Someone told me this:
    Could someone explain this a little bit? I dont really understand it..:oops:
     
  12. BassyBill

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

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    I guess this refers to basses with the standard 4-hole Jazz bell plate, right? Normally on a Jazz these 4 holes would be volume, volume, tone and jack. But if you have 4 knobs like a J-retro deluxe (or a Fender jazz deluxe) then you need to have the jack mounted on the side of the bass.
     
  13. TheBrad

    TheBrad Baby step bassist - 90% n00b

    Jan 16, 2006
    Mountain View,CA
    I figured I would ask her as opposed to starting a new thread, but I just ordered a J-Retro and I am torn between which bass to drop it in. So I was just wondering would a fretted or fretless J-Bass benefit more from this upgrade?
     
  14. rojo412

    rojo412 MARK IT ZERO! Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2000
    Cleveland, OH.
    They'd benefit equally, I think. It would depend on which you played more and what style to say for sure, but I can tell you this:
    The fretted gets a whole bunch of different slap and hard attacked tones. The fretless would get all sorts of great growling tones.
    Buy 2, make the decision even easier :D
     
  15. TheBrad

    TheBrad Baby step bassist - 90% n00b

    Jan 16, 2006
    Mountain View,CA
    That's the plan, just strapped for cash at the moment.
    Should prove to be a nice improvement, I look forward to it's arrival on the 25th.
     
  16. Through my friendly association with Steve at Vintage Bass Trading, the Retro's have become my pre of choice for my high end builds. I've got a J-Retro in my much customized MIJITSO Fender Jazz and I've put a U-Retro's in each of the last two custom's I've built.