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MIA Jazz V Preamp upgrade?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by Joe Smithberger, Mar 25, 2002.


  1. Joe Smithberger

    Joe Smithberger Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2002
    Canton, Ohio, USA
    I was playing around with an outboard preamp with my Fender V Delux and found that the clarity and focus of the B string improved even when I wasn't adding any volume. Is there a good way to tweak the onboard preamp to get a little more push/headroom for the B string? I saw an earlier post about the j-retro unit and I think that one's a little too pricey and a little more radical than I had in mind. It would be nice to just swap out the preamp circuit with something that works better. Any good ideas?
     
  2. I dont see how you can call the J Retro radical, the only differences on the surface are the fact that you can sweep the midrange, and run in passive mode. That is definitely not radical. At $250, I hardly think price is a problem if you're serious about tone. FWIW, I've just received a retro from the "Dude", and will install it in my Fender Jazz Deluxe V this weekend. I'll follow up with a review after I've logged up a few gigs.
     
  3. Joe Smithberger

    Joe Smithberger Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2002
    Canton, Ohio, USA
    Thanks,

    I would be very interested in hearing how it works.

    However, unless you know more about my situation, I really don't think you are in a position to preach the dollar value of tone to me. Especially if you haven't tried the piece yet yourself.

    By radical I was referring to the change in the way the controls operate. Since it is a reversible mod, I am not as concerned about cosmetic changes. I am also not clear how the battery wires in on an already active bass. Can you use the existing battery compartment or do you have to remove the jack plate to change batteries?
     
  4. My apologies, I did not mean to sound that way. You can use the existing battery compartment, no problem.
     
  5. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Boom Bass Cabinets, DR strings
    So Joe, your question is, is there a way to tweak the stock preamp to get a bigger B? The only thing you can do is turn up the bass control.

    Is your other question what other preamps are available for the Jazz Deluxe? There are a few, like Aguilar, which is two band, boost only. There's Bartolini and EMG, which will require some work to install. There's Sadowsky, which Roger would need to install. Then there's the J-Retro.

    Seems like you and Marty were on the same page as far as "radical" goes, I don't know what you know about the J-Retro so I can't really see where you're coming from. Functionally it's closer to the stock pre than an Aguilar would be. You have:


    J-Retro
    Volume
    Pan
    Stacked Bass (boost only) & Treble (cut and boost)
    Mids (cut and boost, sweepable)


    OEM Fender
    Volume
    Pan
    Stacked Bass (cut and boost) & Treble (cut and boost)
    Mids (cut and boost)


    Very similar functionality. The J-Retro adds a passive/active switch, a lock function for the Pan in passive mode, a "Pull-Bright" function on the Treble control.

    Not radical at all. It comes mounted on a replacement control plate. Add to that the fact that you connect two wires for each pickup and connect a jack and you're done. If you have any proficiency with a soldering iron it's simple. Compare that to the cost of getting a tech to do one of the others

    I have two MIA Jazz Deluxe fives, one stock and one with a J-Retro, which I installed last summer. The Retro does allow you to dial in more bottom, among other things. I have the model with the optional Passive tone control, which uses the stock side mounted input jack. You can use the stock battery compartment either way, which is easier than removing the J-Retro plate to change batteries. I like both basses, they now sound different.

    Here's one thing to keep in mind... your amplification. Sometimes the key to a nice B is simply turning your amp up and not making drastic changes elsewhere tone-wise. Lots of players compensate for not hearing highs by cranking them up at low volume. If you leave them flat and turn up the amp, you'll get the highs... and everything else that the bass has to offer sonically.

    Just a thought.
     
  6. Joe Smithberger

    Joe Smithberger Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2002
    Canton, Ohio, USA
    Brad, thanks for the input. I didn't realize they made the model that you have. It sounds like a nice solution if it gets me there. I don't run with the bass boost full up now, so I'm not looking to get more bottom end as much as a more definition down there. Can you describe the difference between your two basses as they stand now?

    I have a K&K preamp that I use with my double bass. It's a belt clip, two band EQ, unit that is more for volume control and impedance matching for a piezo pickup than for anything else. Just for grins, I hooked up the Fender thru the preamp and left all tone controls flat on the preamp and amp. I then set the preamp volume to give me approximately the same volume as I had without it. It seemed that the preamp gave me a more focused B and better string to string balance (volume and tone). One possibility is that the preamp provided a bit more headroom for the input signal, another is that the preamp set the input impedance in a better place for the amp, and yet another is that the preamp was adding a slight bit of compression to the signal. I guess I'm trying to get this same effect without the extra box.
     
  7. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Boom Bass Cabinets, DR strings
    No problem. The difference could be something as simple as presenting a bigger signal to the amp's preamp section.

    This subject has always intrigued me. What I've come up with is how I get the best out of my basses IMO. I always run the volume on my bass full-on. The difference between doing this and turning the amp up instead to compensate is IMO pretty dramatic yet I doubt that most people notice or know this. In spite of doing this, I don't run my amp at low volume. I play with a light but deliberate touch and control my volume with my hands. The nice thing about that is, after you have this ability under your belt, you can instantly go from a whisper to a roar... and back again without having to rely on making a mechanical adjustment.

    The cool thing about this is that I have a ton of headroom available whenever I need it. I get very nice B string response from either bass, the main differences between the two being just a matter of overall tone. When you run at higher volumes, small tweaks can result in big changes. The J-Retro has that pull-bright function where it adds sparkle to the sound, even with the Treble set flat. Plus you can dial in (or out) all manner of Mids with the sweeping function. The trick to EQ is that making cuts is usually more effective than just boosting.

    Here's a scenario I see all the time: bassist grabs bass, cranks up the highs to the point where if they increase the amp volume it's painful. Then they are dissatisfied with the lows without realizing the problem is the highs don't allow them to turn up the amp volume any farther.

    I do the opposite... I keep my amp flat, have the bass flat and bring up the volume so that the overall sound is as full as I want it. Then and only then will I (maybe) make small tweaks at the bass, maybe raise the Bass or increase Treble for the desire brightness and on a very rare occassion I may cut or boost Mids slightly.
     
  8. A good rundown Brad. I've also just discovered a great improvement to the B on my Deluxe V. I've just installed a set of LaBella SuperSteps using the thru body option, and the B has gone from ho-hum to awesome. I've never used these strings before, but I saw that F basses use them, and they have wicked B strings, so thought I'd give it a try. Definitely worth it. Joe, I did'nt mean to sound pompous, but I do believe, from extensive research, that the J-retro and the U-retro are probably the best preamps available today, and they are tailor made for a Jazz bass.
     
  9. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Boom Bass Cabinets, DR strings
    If it matters Marty, I didn't think you sounded pompous, I think it was just a simple misunderstanding.

    I'll have to check out those LaBellas. Thanks.


    Joe, I forgot to mention... there's a pedal version of the J-Retro that's going to be available very soon.
     
  10. Joe Smithberger

    Joe Smithberger Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2002
    Canton, Ohio, USA
    No problemo Marty.

    Thanks for the info guys.