Marcus Miller 5 String

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Bass Guido, Jan 28, 2006.

  1. Bass Guido

    Bass Guido

    Dec 7, 2005
    I recently purchased a new 2005 Fender Marcus Miller 5 string MIA jazz bass in vintage white. I own several Fender basses, from an original 66 P to a 99 Custom Shop J, I can honestly say the Marcus Miller 5 is truly a work of art. The balance is incredible. The neck is the sweetest and fastest 5 string neck I have ever played. Considering it's an ash 5 string the weight is perfect. This bass is exactly what I've always wanted.....until I plug it in.

    With the preamp turn on, at any setting, it's horrible. It doesn’t matter where you set the controls. The tone either goes from a high Marcus (sort of) ping to an overdriven distorted fuzz sound. With the preamp off it creates a hollow, cheap upright sound with very low output. In addition, with the preamp off, the treble and bass boast do not function.

    I'm considering installing an East retro U Deluxe on board preamp instead of whatever it is that Fender installed at Corona. I've also considered changing out the pickups as well, although I'm not sure to what.

    I'm not trying to sound like Marcus. I'm not sure anybody can, except Marcus. My reason for laying out almost two-grand was to purchase a nice versatile Fender 5 string that like most Fenders sounds at home playing Jazz, Blues, Funk, Rock or anything in between.

    If I can't figure out a way to square this thing away, it's going to wind up on Ebay.
  2. Some have posted about this same issue recently. A search on the issue may help you in which direction to go.

    Installing an East preamp is definitely a viable option. It could only help the situation. I'm sure the bass would be incredible sounding with one.
  3. IotaNet

    IotaNet Supporting Member

    Guido -

    I may not get this exactly right since I don't have a MM but let me take a stab.

    This is not a new complaint against the MM. A lot of folks (including more than a few TB'ers) have been underwhelmed by the MM preamp. Here are a few threads for you to take a look at:




    Bottom line, I understand that many people replace the stock preamp or use an outboard one.

    Hope this is helpful!

    P.S. In the future, you can use the "Search" feature to find info like this! ;)
  4. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    I say get rid of that MM5 and either get an Aetelier Z (they do Marcus right) or get a Fender Victor Bailey V or MIA Deluxe V with an ash body and maple finger board.
  5. adrian garcia

    adrian garcia

    Apr 9, 2001
    las vegas. nevada
    Endorsing Artist: Nordy Basses, Schroeder Cabs, Gallien Krueger Amps
    you know, I am going to have to agree with the Dr. above. I have tried the MM and was not impressed with the tone at all. The Am Dlx 5's have a tone much more to my liking. There is a MM version of the East preamp which may help. let me add that the closest thing i have heard to Marcus is a Celinder . Check out and go to the references page and give a listen to some of the samples.
    if you really love the feel of the bass, i would try switching out the pre and/or pups first. Good luck!
  6. I had the same problem with the one i tried.

    Seriously well made and playing bass, terrible tone.
  7. I actually played a Marcus Miller 5 yesterday. While the preamp was not the greatest I've ever heard, I was able to get a nice tone out of it, and found the bass to also sound reasonably good in passive mode. I did have my Celinder along, and as stated above, the Celinder not surprisingly sounded quite a bit better... but the MM was definitely in the same tone family and not bad IMO.

    I think one of the problems some TBers are having with these basses concerns the lack of understanding of the huge difference in tone between a 60's style J Bass and a 70's style J Bass. A 70' style J Bass is, 'wider' sounding... more treble and bass with less grindy mids, and more 'aggressive' in general. This has to do with a combination of wood (usually relatively heavy ash bodies with maple boards.. one of the brightest bass wood combinations), the pickups themselves, the pickup placement (with the bridge pickup closer to the bridge), and a larger body... contributing to the 'large' sound.

    I have read a number of posts about these basses that suggest to me that purchasers were looking for a 'standard J Bass' sound.... meaning to me a more classic 60's sort of thing, and being disappointed with the Marcus Miller... which is as 'late 70's' as it gets.

    That was a long winded way of saying swapping the preamp might not get you where you want to go.
  8. James Hart

    James Hart

    Feb 1, 2002
    Endorsing Artist: see profile
    My thoughts too... if you dig the bass in every other way. Get a better preamp! Hang onto the old one to put back in the bass if you ever feel the need to sell the MM5.
  9. tplyons


    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    Aggie OBP-1 should do the trick. I've heard a few good stories about them in a MM4.
  10. I was actually saying that a preamp swap would probably NOT do the trick, given that the thread originator seemed (to me, anyway) to be having a problem with the whole 70's vs. 60's thing. However, to your point, if he likes the playability of the bass, then maybe a 'better' pre will help.

    As I've said in previous posts, I don't really like the MM bass at all, but view it as more 'mediocre' 70's style J than a 'horrible' sounding one... which is how the thread originator describes it. Given the thread originators description of his problems, it sounds like the entire bass is voiced improperly for what he is looking for. A Lakland DJ5 might totally solve the problem!

    PS... I just noticed he was getting a 'distorted, overdriven sound' with the preamp engaged... sound like overdriving the input stage on the amp.... I wonder if we have some misunderstanding of how all this stuff works (preamps, gain impact on preamps, etc.) that is causing some of the problems. He mentions, with the 'preamp off the treble and bass controls don't work'... which is, of course, by definition!
  11. James Hart

    James Hart

    Feb 1, 2002
    Endorsing Artist: see profile

    well don't I look foolish now :oops:
  12. :D ... except you are probably correct... I'm sure an OB-1 would help out:) I know a lot of TBers have posted that a Sadowsky or AG preamp really makes those basses shine. I just think that maybe there's something more going on here, given the multiple sound issues he's having.
  13. greg


    Jun 1, 2004
    I've heard of people replacing the pickups and pre-amp on the MM5 with both sadowsky pickups and pre-amps and supposedly that helps it alot. The MM i played felt great and played nicely but the tone was just ok. Sadowksy pickups and pre-amp would remedy this situation IMO.
  14. Nino Valenti

    Nino Valenti Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 2, 2001
    Staten Island NYC
    Builder: Valenti Basses
    If you're going to change anything, I would recommend changing the pickups 1st. If it sounds like bad (to you) in passive mode, IMO, it probably won't sound good with any preamp.

    The switch is a preamp bypass so once you put it in passive mode, there are no preamps controls. A passive style treble roll off can be added. You would need to have the treble/bass on a stacked concentric pot and add the passive tone in the empty spot. This will work in active or passive mode.
  15. Bass Guido

    Bass Guido

    Dec 7, 2005
    Thank you all for your input. It was a big help. I'm going to contact East in the morning and inquire as to what pickups they suggest will give me the sound that I am looking for. I like the East Deluxe unit over the Sadowsky due to the tone control option in the passive mode.

    At that point I'll order the works, stuff it in there and see what it sounds like.

    Thanks again

  16. Please let us know how it turns out.
  17. Chef

    Chef Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    May 23, 2004
    Columbia MO
    Staff Reviewer; Bass Gear Magazine
    This is just me, but if you have to replace pups and preamp to get a sound remotely like what you wanted, I think you just have the wrong axe my friend. I'd suggest selling it and moving on that has a baseline you're happy with.
    There are several vendors such as lakland, sadowsy, etc who make bigger fatter sounding J's (as opposed to the bright snappy slappy MM thing), including Fender. I just got a real nice Fender 62 J reissue that might be closer to what you describe...
  18. ptidwell

    ptidwell Commercial User

    Jun 13, 2005
    Los Angeles
    Owner LoPHAT Cabinets
    I peviously owned a Marcus 4. Iwas not satified with the stock pre and opted for the J-Retro. The difference was phenomenal.
    However the tone you discribed in passive mode was not an issue for me. I absolutely loved my MMJ but it was not getting any play time being a four, and everything else in the family now is a five (got to have the low B) so it went on the block here a TB to offset the new F Bass that IMO was all over the MM tone. So try the J-Retro if you decide your still not happy you can pull the pre out and use it in another project.
    Unfortunately I sold the Marcus with the J-Reto installed.
  19. Trust me, everything you mentioned above was exactly the reason I sold my Miller.

    It looked, felt, and played astoundingly... however, the preamp, and pickup combination was horrendous.

    It did one sound good - the Miller zing.

    After that... :scowl:
  20. MJ5150

    MJ5150 Terrific Twister

    Apr 12, 2001
    Lacey, WA
    Weird. People go out and buy a Marcus Miller signature bass, and then complain becuase it sounds just like MM. What were you expecting?????