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Need advice for replacement pickups for my Geddy Lee Jazz Bass

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by Arcy, Nov 19, 2003.

  1. Arcy


    Jul 4, 2003
    Tuscaloosa, AL
    Hello all,

    About 6 or 7 months ago I bought a Fender Geddy Lee Jazz bass. I had never heard much Geddy, so I did buy it for the sound/features, not the name. I love the way it sounds but I'm finding that when I record, I could use a "punchier" sound. I find the sound, in a mix, to be slightly muddy (I know some of this is just up to the engineer, but I mean in both live and studio situations; I think it could be better). I've heard a few Rush songs and I must admit, the bass sound is killer, the way it cuts through so clearly and with so much definition.

    I'm not real familiar with bass hardware (like I am with guitar hardware), but I know the sound I want. The kind of music I play ranges from progressive rock to progressive jazz. I need a sound that is punchy, defined, and clear, and somewhat aggressive (hot) in the context of a mix. But not "aggressive" in a heavy-metal, super low-end kind of sense; nothing like that.

    I've heard the name bartollini a lot, but I know nothing about them or any other brands really.

    Could anyone recommend some pickups for the sound I'm going for? Can I stick with passive or is it necessary to install active stuff? Oh, and I guess it's best if they will fit into the existing pickup slots on my bass (if such a thing is possible), I'd rather not have to cut into the wood or anything.

    Thanks for any help,

  2. I saw an auction on ebay for a Geddy Lee jazz with Dimarzio Ultra Jazz pickups and a j-retro preamp. I reckon that probably sounded wonderful. You should be fine on a quality 4 string Jazz - pretty much any after-market pickup set will fit without modification. Also, the j-retro preamp is designed to slot straight in.

    If it were me, I'd probably go for one of the following

    1)Dimarzio Ultra Jazz in a passive config. Install push pull pots in place of the standard volume pots and wire the bass up so that you can switch between series parallel easily. Then just have a master tone.

    2)Get an active preamp, such as the j-retro, which is meant to be absolutely astounding and fit some quality single coil pickups, such as fender custom shop 60's or something. The extra oomph from the preamp will give you the option of extra mid range growl or low end punch and the single coil pickups will retain the jazz vibe.

    Oh yeah and the j-retro has a bypass switch, so can go passive if you wish, albeit without a master tone
  3. Bekkeland


    May 16, 2003
    Sandnes, Norway
    Go for the J-Retro.
    You might be just happy with the original pups!
  4. Arcy


    Jul 4, 2003
    Tuscaloosa, AL
    The J-Retro DOES look cool. I'll check out those dimarzio pickups too... I can only afford one or the other though...

    So I'm wondering, which is more important? Seems like it might not help if the pickups aren't great to begin with. What will sound best?
  5. NV43345


    Apr 1, 2003
    Ask Nino, I searched for the thread but had no luck, I am pretty sure he installed some better
    pick-up's in his.:)
  6. Arcy


    Jul 4, 2003
    Tuscaloosa, AL
    NV43345, thanks, I will do that :)
  7. Nino Valenti

    Nino Valenti Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 2, 2001
    Staten Island NYC
    Builder: Valenti Basses
    When was the last time you changed the strings? Personally, a fresh set of strings does wonders in the adding punch & definition.

    An active preamp might help. Personally, I'd try to work the EQ on the amp.

    I originally chaged the pickups in my Geddy because I bought a set of BassLines "Hot for Jazz" really cheap. They were a nice upgrade but I wouldn't of done it if I had to pay full price for the pickups.

    Then I changed the BAssLines to a Set of Sadowsky pickups that I used with a sadowsky Preamp/DI Pedal & IMO, that got a very punchy, knock you in the gut sound.

    IMO, Barts tend to be darker sounding & IMO you might not like that sound.

    EMG J's are pretty much my favorite pickups. Very agrerssive & they cut like a knife.
  8. Arcy


    Jul 4, 2003
    Tuscaloosa, AL

    Thanks a bunch for the reply. Yes, I did change the strings recently (had it professionally set up). The sadowskys or EMG's sound like what I need. Are both high output, or do the sadowsky's really need that preamp to get the sound? The pickups (both) are in my price range... though the preamp is a little pricier. Can it be either/or or are both better? Thanks again,

  9. Arcy


    Jul 4, 2003
    Tuscaloosa, AL
    Hey, I poked around the EMG website... I was just wondering, am I correct that all of their J-style pickups are active? If so, when they list a list price for a pair of EMG-J pickups, does that include the preamp or whatever? Or would they work with the current passive preamp or what? Forgive my ignorance on the topic, hehe. :)

  10. Bekkeland


    May 16, 2003
    Sandnes, Norway
    Seems like that - yes.
    On active EMG pups the preamp is built into the
    pickup cover. They also have different active control systems to choose from. I think the pups will work with your current passive controls (not preamp) But I have no experience with that ind of combination myself. you will have to put a battery in there anyway, to power the pickups.
  11. David Wilson

    David Wilson Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Lower Westchester, NY
    If installing active pickups, you should change the volume/tone pots to be of a more suitable impedance. Passive pickups usually use pots of 250k/500k impedance, EMG recommend 25K for theirs.
  12. Saint


    Mar 2, 2000
    DC - USA
    Just want to point out that, that "killer" sound you heard in a Rush song, may depend alot on which era of Rush you are listening to, because you may not be hearing a J-Bass at all. If it is 70's Rush, you are likely hearing a Rickenbacker 4001. Early eighties could be the Ric, the J-bass or the Steinberger he used for a couple of years. Mid-eighties to early 90's you were likely hearing a Wal (there's a Wal "Geddy Lee" that pre-dates the Fender "Geddy Lee").

    Also could depend on processing, as you mention. The Fender is very muddy on the most recent studio effort from Rush, but if you listen to Geddy's solo album, it is pretty punchy and balanced.
  13. Arcy


    Jul 4, 2003
    Tuscaloosa, AL

    I was talking about the moving pictures album, which I understand was all a J-bass.

    Either way though, I'm not necessarilly going for that exact sound or anything. I'm just looking for a simple, not too costly way to get a better sound from the bass... one thats aggressive enough for rock, but still sweet enough for jazz, because I generally play something in between.

    I guess I'd rather not deal with a bunch of active stuff because it seems too expensive and complicated. But then again, it may sound best, I don't know.
  14. RicPlaya


    Apr 22, 2003
    The Mitten
    Not to get off the subject, but I have a Fender Jazz deluxe which is already active. What could one do to upgrade that? Since it's already active would the J retro work? What pups would be good? I want to beef my tone a bit, I was thinking about putting a rosewood P neck on it and somehow upgrading the electroincs?
  15. fourstringbliss

    fourstringbliss Supporting Member

    Oct 5, 2003
    Puyallup, WA
    I don't know what kind of amp or preamp you use, but Geddy uses the Tech21 Sansamp RBI and that colors the sound of his Jazz Bass quite a bit. You could really dial in some great mid-range punch. It's a rack mount unit in case that's a problem. You could take the money you're wanting to spend on pickups and put it toward a preamp. Here's a link: Tech21 NYC Sansamps.
  16. RicPlaya


    Apr 22, 2003
    The Mitten

    Update...I returned this bass to the store.
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