NBD: Proto Precision Bass...on steroids

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by MrMoonlight, Dec 17, 2016.

  1. MrMoonlight

    MrMoonlight Bottom feeder Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2008
    I don't usually do "NBD" posts, since most of the stuff I own you've all seen here over and over ad nauseum. But this bass is one that you don't see every day and if you're anything like me, you enjoy seeing cool, unique instruments from fellow bassists.

    For those with ADHS or those who want to skip all the minutiae, just scroll down the section entitled "Cliff Notes Version".

    So here we go…


    A little over a year ago, I was helping out a fellow musician do the final mix on some original material over at his house (the "extra set of ears" thing). He built a super-nice studio in his basement. As we were going through the tracks, I couldn't help but notice how great the bass sounded. I asked him which bass he'd used to record the songs with, because I had trouble ID-ing it by its tone. He went and fetched a tweed case which, when opened, revealed an Arctic White Fender CS Proto Precision Bass. After we were done mixing, he let me have a closer look at it and plug into his GK rig. Man, that thing sounded so great – a unique tone all its own – that I wanted one for myself right there on the spot.

    For those of you not familiar with it, here's the official Fender video of the Proto Precision

    So the very next day, I scoured the interwebs for a good deal on a Proto P. Heh…Nothing under $3 grand to be had, not even "pre-owned". Then I said to myself, "You know, it's a pretty basic design. You could probably build a bass like this yourself for way less scratch than that." And so it began...


    The Build:

    As I was gathering up the components to assemble my Proto P-Bass clone, I thought about how I could possibly increase the tonal capabilities of the bass. I mean, there aren't any hard and fast rules…if I wanted to go beyond just a single pickup and the basic V-T control setup, who was to stop me? So I decided to take it up a notch. I cooked up a two pickup configuration with coil-splitting options (influenced by my EBMM basses) and then decided go even further by adding a preamp to allow active EQing. I still wanted the original Proto Precision tone, however, so I had to ensure that it could run passive with just the V and T controls, in addition to all the other bells and whistles I was planning. Having the passive option also lets you keep using the bass without missing a beat should your battery suddenly die during a gig. A mini-toggle switch situated between the knobs would let me switch between active and passive modes quickly.

    Things went relatively smoothly, but for a few hitches. For one, the body supplier couldn't rout for the pickup configuration I wanted ("Umm…we don't have that programmed in the CNC."), so I ended up ordering the body with just the bridge holes drilled and the standard oval control cavity routed. The body is alder with an Arctic White poly finish (just like my buddy's Proto). The pickup cavities, the switch/preamp cavity behind the pickguard and the rear battery compartment were routed after delivery of the body. I measured my buddy's bass for the exact positioning of the rear pickup.

    I wanted the TV Jones Thunderblade pickups of course, so when I ordered them, I also ordered the routing template that TV Jones sells at the same time. The folks at TV Jones were great…I wanted the traditional Filter'Tron style covers on my 'Blades so they built the pickups custom for me with the original style covers. I personally think the "blackface" covers they started putting on the Thunder'Blades a couple years back don't look as classy. I liked the old school 'Blades better.

    I also had to have a pickguard custom cut to accommodate the front pickup and the blade switch. I supplied Tony at Pickguardian with the specs and he did a terrific job.

    Sourcing the bridge (had to have the RSD bridge like on the original) was a pain in the butt, but in the end I managed to finagle one. I wish Fender would just make these bridges available to the general public like they do for pretty much every other bridge they make. Would've made life easier. That said, this bridge is fantastic. Best bass bridge Fender ever designed, IMO. Definitely worth the hassle.

    For the neck, I had to compromise a bit. I knew I wasn't going to find a new CS quartersawn, satin finished, '55 P neck anytime soon, but I had the choice of two brand new necks from my stockpile: an MIJ '51P Reissue neck or an MIM Cabronita P-Bass neck. I chose the MIM neck for two reasons. It felt a little more comfy to me than the MIJ and secondly, the truss rod adjustment is at the headstock and not at the heel, which meant I wouldn't have to remove the neck to tweak the rod. Both have a gloss finish, so that wasn't a factor.

    I went with a Music Man style 9 Volt battery compartment cover. The chrome cover complements the rest of the bass rather well, and the doors on those plastic compartments always seem to break off after two or three battery changes. I screwed two inserts into the wood to facilitate securing the cover with machine screws. This way, there's no danger of stripping out the threads in the wood. Maybe not entirely necessary, but I believe in idiotproofing.


    In the end, I wound up with a bass whose sound and playability far exceeded my expectations. I A/B'ed the bass with my friend's Proto (both are currently strung with GHS Pressurewounds…fantastic strings, BTW) and in passive mode with just the rear PU, neither of us could tell the difference. Exact same sound. So I achieved what I had set out to do. But I also have a bass with such a broad tonal palette, it'll cover anything from smooth jazz to heavy metal. In passive single coil mode, it'll cop an SCPB tone pretty well. In dual SC mode, it starts moving into Jazz Bass territory. In active mode, it gets in the StingRay ballpark. In one of the images I included here, there's an overview of the controls. It'll give you an idea of the various combinations possible with the bass. But the best part of it is: I was able to build a "Deluxe Proto Precision Bass" for well under half the cost of the original.


    Cliff Notes Version:

    I played a Fender CS Proto Precision Bass at a friend's studio, fell in love with it and wanted one. After seeing the price of the CS version had snapped me back to reality, I decided to build my own. I didn't want a one-trick pony, though (although the one trick it does sounds awesome), so I pimped it out with an additional PU, 5-way selector switch with coil-splitting options and a Noll 2-band active preamp. It does everything the Fender original does and much more. It looks and sounds great and is extremely versatile. One of the best sounding basses I've ever owned and I spent well under half of what a CS Proto would have cost new. Win-Win situation. The End.

    Hope you enjoy the photos.

    Controls.png DPPB_03.jpg DPPB_06.jpg DPPB_09.jpg DPPB_11.jpg
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2017
  2. garp


    Feb 7, 2009
    Connecticut USA
    Beautiful! Congrats on a job well-done.
    Doner Designs and MrMoonlight like this.
  3. organworthyplayer337

    organworthyplayer337 Professional Hack

    Oct 28, 2014
    Charlotte, NC
    Sweet! Reminds me of the one I built where I used the '51 style (the CS Proto more specifically) to design it;

    I love the Proto! I'm glad more and more threads are popping up about it finally. Congrats!
  4. organworthyplayer337

    organworthyplayer337 Professional Hack

    Oct 28, 2014
    Charlotte, NC
    And wow look at all those controls. Got any sound clips yet?
  5. 2saddleslab

    2saddleslab Supporting Member

    May 30, 2003
    Fine job, Mr ML! Good on ya' for seeing it thru to fruition.

    The "blackface" TV Jones ThunderBlades are old school as well replicating the original Gretsch pickups, this one from the mid 70's.
    However, you get extra points for attention to detail with the custom FilterTron covers, very nice.
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2016
  6. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    New England
    Cool, nice original ideas.
    organworthyplayer337 likes this.
  7. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    wow https://www.talkbass.com/members/mrmoonlight.125656/ , what a beautiful instrument! congratulations on both the building of it and just having it in your universe! super nice job! :thumbsup:

    i'm always amazed at what you real builders can do with your talents and skills!
  8. MrMoonlight

    MrMoonlight Bottom feeder Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2008
    Hey, now that is one delicious bass. Aguilar PU's...nice! And I'm loving those control knobs.

    My day job has been keeping me pretty busy lately, but I'm definitely planning on posting some clips when I finally get some time to sit down and just get it done. It's likely I'll be able to come up for air some time between Xmas and New Years. Stay tuned.

    Thanks for the compliment 2SS. Gotta be honest with you, though...that bass of yours is absolutely mouth-watering. Maybe just an optical illusion, but the body of that thing looks like it might be semi-hollow. Is it? In any case, if you ever consider selling that thing, you know where to find me. ;)

    Thanks for the kind words. It took a bit of effort, and there are always those unforeseen little glitches that pop up during the build, but the end result was more than worth it. Like I mentioned in the OP, the end result far exceeded my expectations. I didn't think it would sound as good as it actually does.
    JRA likes this.
  9. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    i'm sure i'm not the only one who would like to hear it when you get the time! thanks in advance.
  10. ScarfFace

    ScarfFace Supporting Member

    Aug 23, 2014
    La Crosse WI
    Looks awesome! I have a Proto as well. You are right when you say that bridge is the best that Fender ever designed. How did you get one?
  11. 2saddleslab

    2saddleslab Supporting Member

    May 30, 2003
    Thanks! No, it's a solid body weighing in at a reasonable 9lbs, 3oz. The bass in my avatar is semi-hollow (obviously). Sorry, both are keepers. :D
  12. JaredBT


    Aug 7, 2012
    Beautiful. Congrats, enjoy.
    MrMoonlight likes this.
  13. Antisyzygy


    Dec 8, 2014
    Very cool bass. It looks a little like a Rickenbacker / Fender hybrid. I wonder if that dual single coil tone you're describing is like that. Rics sound a little similar to J basses.

    Very cool. So it's like a Stingray with the pickup selector, has Ric-esque pickup locations, but it looks like a Proto-P.

    The talk about taking inspiration from multiple basses to design that made me want to share :


    I have everything but the tuners for this bass. I just am holding off for a good project day when I have the tuners so I can finish the build.

    This idea is blended from a Gibson G3, a G&L L1000, a Stingray and a 51' P/Tele bass. The pickups I had located straddling Stingray and L1000 sweet spots. Two coils are always on so it's effectively switchable from quasi L1000 to quasi Stingray mode.

    The control scheme gives me something pretty similar to what a L1000 has but I was constrained by space, and didn't want to route more, so some controls are dual function. Volume cuts bass for 1/4 turn, volume is pull/push series/parallel switch, etc. Two knobs and one switch total. The switch selects bridge or neck coil to pair with middle, which is RWRP and always on. Everything is passive.

    Anyway, I am not meaning to hijack the thread, I just like build sharing threads like this and like to relate. Sweet Proto P. I really love those super custom builds like that where someone really thinks it out or blends multiple basses together.
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2016
    takeout, MrMoonlight and Matthew_84 like this.
  14. LowEndWooly


    Sep 3, 2013
    Those Proto basses are impressive, but I've never thought they were worth the cash they call for, personally. The build idea was very cool and impressively brought to fruition. Congrats!
    MrMoonlight likes this.
  15. Doner Designs

    Doner Designs Steve Doner Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2012
    Metro Chicago Area
    Doner Designs is an alias for Steve Doner
    I love it. Very nice!
    MrMoonlight likes this.
  16. Great build - love the looks and the tonal versatility. I'm also wondering as to how you acquired that bridge?
  17. REMBO


    Jul 26, 2011
    MrMoonlight likes this.
  18. Very good job ... congratulations ... can I order a 66 jazz bass in Aztec Gold? ;)
    MrMoonlight likes this.
  19. johnson79


    Jan 8, 2010
    Lancaster, PA
    Nice bass!
    MrMoonlight likes this.
  20. MrMoonlight

    MrMoonlight Bottom feeder Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2008
    Absolutely no worries, @Antisyzygy, you're not hijacking anything. Like I said in the OP, I enjoy seeing what other bassists create and love looking at the results. Posts like yours give me the chance to steal..errm...borrow ideas ;) from other cool projects to maybe implement in future builds of my own. I hope you finish yours up soon as I'm anxious to see the finished product. Good luck and keep on it.
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2016
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