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Low output from MEC passive pickups

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by Crusher47, Sep 21, 2017.

  1. Crusher47

    Crusher47 Tattoo'ed Freak

    Apr 12, 2014
    Fort Worth, TX
    I did a search but couldn't find anything... I have a new Warwick Streamer Rockbass with the passive MEC pickups. The output is very low. As a test, I took 3 guitars to band rehearsal last night, here are my findings:

    I'm using the same amp for all 3 --> Fender Rumble 500 2x10 combo <--

    Fender Jazz w/Seymour Duncans - This bass is loud and sounds amazing, I freaking love it!! The tone, the articulation, the GROWL and this bass is so light too. Anywhoo, I only have to turn up to around 12:00 on the volume and I'm heard over my loud drummer and 2 guitars using 4x10 stacks (and a lead player that is always turning up his amp to be louder than everyone else...I see him between songs messing with his dials, I see it buddy.....ugh)

    Fender Jazz w/stock Alnico vintage pickups - This bass also sounds great but not as loud as the other Jazz. I have to turn this one to around 2:00 on the dial to be heard.

    Warwick Streamer Rockbass - Also sounds good, but I have to max out the volume on the amp to be at the same level as the others. This bass has those 2 huge soapbar pickups. I figured this thing would melt paint off the walls but it is so quiet. Did I get a defective bass? I did do a setup on it and the strings are very close to the pickups. I love the looks of the bass so I would like to keep it...and it's a Warwick! Only a Rockbass, but still it's pretty, sooo pretty.

    So what would you guys do? I prefer to stay passive if possible. New pickups? If so which ones? If active is the only way, just go with a pre-amp? I really didn't want to add anymore knobs though.

    Thanks for your help as always!

    Edit: It still has the stock Warwick strings on it. Not sure if slapping some DR's or GHS boomers on it would increase the volume...I doubt it but you guys are the experts and may have some insight. Thanks!
  2. Check the pickup height.
  3. Crusher47

    Crusher47 Tattoo'ed Freak

    Apr 12, 2014
    Fort Worth, TX
    I did...also tried raising and lowering but no effect
  4. Domespeed


    Oct 7, 2010
    Your pickups should be ok.
    I used to have one of these and the output was very low as well.
    My guess is the coils are wired in parallel in order to have good treble response.
    I remember the DC resistance reading on the meter was very low, too.

    There is a thread on basschat.uk:
    Wiring options for MEC vintage humbuckers..help
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2017
  5. Crusher47

    Crusher47 Tattoo'ed Freak

    Apr 12, 2014
    Fort Worth, TX
    Thanks for the link, much appreciated.
    Domespeed likes this.
  6. Crusher47

    Crusher47 Tattoo'ed Freak

    Apr 12, 2014
    Fort Worth, TX
    OK I read the link and it's just the way these pickups are, so the question is....
    Will adding a pre-amp wake these pickups up?
    Replace pickups with something better? If so, what?
  7. photogdude

    photogdude ustonsucs Supporting Member

    Jul 30, 2010
    Houston, Tx
    I just bought a used Warwick corvette standard from TB, being my first Warwick, I was quite surprised to see how much lower the output was compared to my jazz. Thought something was wrong, changed the battery, but its just a low output pups.
    Crusher47 likes this.
  8. Mildew Jones

    Mildew Jones

    Dec 18, 2014
    Crusher, I added the Aguilar pre to my Warwick STD (late 90's model), brought the MEC pups to life in a BIG way, I highly recommend it. This was the 2 band pre, dropped in to the existing holes just fine.

    Good luck,
    Crusher47 likes this.
  9. Crusher47

    Crusher47 Tattoo'ed Freak

    Apr 12, 2014
    Fort Worth, TX
    Thanks guys, much appreciated!
  10. somebrains


    Feb 7, 2017
    One problem that guy may have is the switch pair is reversed from the Warwick diagram if you look at the printed crossover.

    Older Warwicks used single switches and a soldered piece of wire that are orientated like the diagram.

    Either way I tend to change my Warwick preamps first, then pickups are second.

    I really like Aguilar super doubles, SD NYCs, and EMG x.
    With my sense of humor, Baz's 3-band Haz clone should go in every streamer.
    Crusher47 likes this.
  11. Northfear


    Mar 15, 2017
    I remember there was 5 pages rant on forum.bass-arena.com about it. Long story short: there's no official specs about MEC Vintage humbuckers and different revisions may have different resistance and even wiring. Here's an interesting article about it.
    Yustech GT-Guitars and Basses Solution.: Which Warwick Rockbass Streamer Standard 4 or 5 to buy/avoid and why! Part 1
    Basically your first option is to change 25k pots to something like 500k, which should make it louder (but also could change sound a bit. since it's somewhat muddy and a bit boring anyway, that might be worth a try).
    Second option is to get a preamp with a gain.
    And the third option is just to crank a volume knob on the amp all the way up and don't overthink it all. These pickups are dead silent, so you shouldn't have any problems with noise.
    Changing the pickup might be an option, but there's no direct replacement for them (except some bats). Routing is required in that case and it's most likely not worth it, considering the price on the new pickup set.
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2017
    Crusher47 likes this.
  12. somebrains


    Feb 7, 2017
    My VoIP buddy wants me to scrape all his posts from various server forums so he can make a giant FAQ out of it.

    One day I'll get bored and task an unused cluster at a last mile fiber provider (tons of bandwidth) and scrape all the groaning and resolutions to whatever pickup.

    It's why I post whatever I'm doing on bass. They're mile markers for whatever filtering and sorting logic I'm applying.

    It's the base idea behind why Walmart and etc pour so much money into AI. They think a magic 8-ball of code will help Chunky predict what soup to produce. Maybe the buying behavior will help cross sell cold medicine and such.

    My first set of Nordstands is on the way.
    It was an opportunistic buy, my other option was a cheap set of older EMG MMTWs but I can get those whenever.

    If I have one of those streamers I'd be on Reverb ordering myself a set of the TWs and rout it. I'd slug tape the cavities and install a cheapie used EMG or OBP preamp.
  13. Northfear


    Mar 15, 2017
    Hey, you were in that thread too. Giving away the set of MEC's $$ and telling a story about finding a Thumb and hitting a strip club:D
    MM pickups with blade magnets could actually be a pretty nice option for that bass.
    I've turned mine Streamer Standard into a little bass project, but used EMG40 soapbars with it. Required a little bit of routing and left a few mm of empty spaces between the pickups and the body. Had to use rings to cover that up. Not sure if there's a point in using a slug tape tho. It's shielded pretty nicely with conductive paint.
  14. somebrains


    Feb 7, 2017
    Yeah, the europeans didn't like the idea at all.
    Also hasn't everyone been in a band where you end up being a guest at a strip club some way or some how?
    Wasn't that the point of being in a band?

    I mean I know a 70yo guy that found a P in a dumpster on Broadway in San Francisco in the disco era after his gig.
    Best P I've ever played.
    The same chain suspended bed is in the same strip club, I was in it :)

    JONAS IMPORTS Commercial User

    May 26, 2017
    Distributor of parts & hardware for electric guitars and basses
    Hi, a Warwick Bass just got my service shop and, as you said, it is a pain in the ass trying to find some tech info any where regarding the Mec pickups and/or the electronics used whit them; nor even a pickup color code chart that gives you a hint to do a pro service job to the bass.
    Asking to the bass owner about the problem, he mentioned that his bass never ever sounded as good as other Warwick basses he found and it seems that the Rockbass Corvette $$ series have serious quality issues with the Musicman style Humbucker pickups installed by the maker. Bass is a 5-string version with those massive double coil MM style but with Very low impedance, defective coils and odd pot values for a passive circuit. I found a mess with the electronic values as the pickups where connected to a couple of 25k push-pull pots(volume) and a 500k pot(tone). As mentioned above, the bass has a passive circuit, two-25k pp pots for volume and a 500k pot for tone. The tone control was useless and never made its work since new. I'd like to ask you and to everybody about your personal experiences with this kind of basses and how was fixed in the best case. I changed the values for the two push pull pots and tried with 250k and 500k values and see which made a better job with those MM pickups and found that the 250k made a better job than 500k value but when doing the switching it became a mess again so the split coil, series-parallel or any switching with the push-pull pots made it worst and just a great faillure so, I'll try by change the pp pots and replace them by a couple regular 500k pots and see if at least the bass can do its job decently.
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2017
  16. Crusher47

    Crusher47 Tattoo'ed Freak

    Apr 12, 2014
    Fort Worth, TX
    Thanks for the replies everyone, I really appreciate it. Based on what was said here as well as the links provided, I'm going to try swapping the pots for 500K and see if that wakes it up any. If not, next step would be a pre-amp, but I would like to stay passive if possible, however if the pots upgrade doesn't work, pre-amp will be next.
    JONAS IMPORTS likes this.
  17. BigKD


    Apr 19, 2014
    My MEC passive MM pups are hotter than the surface of the sun. It's hard to say what is causing your issues. Personally, I'd probably gut it and start out with new electronics and pickups.
    LoveJackBruce likes this.

    JONAS IMPORTS Commercial User

    May 26, 2017
    Distributor of parts & hardware for electric guitars and basses
    indeed, MM style pups sounds normally massive and hot, even passive version circuit, but, trying the pp pot switching with 25k value or any value is quite a lost task. By the way, checking the MEC pickups with the mmeter coil come as next :
    Black-white-Bare normally north
    Red-Green normally south
    Do you know which is north or south in MEC pickups?
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2017

    JONAS IMPORTS Commercial User

    May 26, 2017
    Distributor of parts & hardware for electric guitars and basses
    Checking the MEC pups with the mmeter I found the next:
    black-white-bare normally north???
    red-green normally south(series link)???
  20. somebrains


    Feb 7, 2017

    Pull the diagram from W's site.
    Iirc most 4-conductor follow bl/white as north and whatever as south. I've installed a set a long time ago that was different, can't remember if it was Lane Poor or something along that boutique 90's thing.

    3-position switching issues after pot swap like what you described points to a future preamp swap. Owner of the bass isn't going to get much out of a BEC 2 if you took him to German $$ spec, bc a bunch of us ditch the preamp. I use bass control to control mud, treble to choke off gliss and clank, there's no mid control where a ton of the stock MEC MM has some useable voice. Basically the tone controls don't shape, they control unwanted junk. They don't add to anything a different preamp does noticeably better.

    My stock German $$ preamp uses 500k volume & blend, 100k tone pots.

    I would do a continuity check on the preamp harness.
    Mine was soldered poorly, and there were spots that dropped out on the volume pot.
    BigKD and JONAS IMPORTS like this.
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