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Need help choosing pickups and preamp

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by Ozzel, Aug 10, 2004.


  1. Hi all. I need to choose pickups and preamp for a custom 5-string that's being made for me. Let me just describe the sound I'm after, the controls I want, and the woods being used, and then just throw it out to all of you for your thoughts. Thanks in advance!

    Sound:
    I play contemporary Christian and rock in church. I want the sound to be modern, very warm and punchy with a deep but articulate low end. I absolutely HATE nasaly and brittle mids and highs. So when I dial in some mid boost, I'd like to retain that warmth. (***EDIT: My luthier says he won't work with Bartolini, be it the company itself or the electronics, so Barts are out!)

    Controls:
    I'd like my active preamp to have at least 10db boost/cut for lows, mids and highs and a separate volume pot for both pickups, or even a pickup selector switch. I used to own a PV with a blend control which over time I came to dislike. This is because you couldn't completely "turn off" one of the pickups. For ex., if you turned the blend all the way to the neck, PV designed it so that you still got a little bridge. I don't know if all manufacturer's blend controls work that way, but I feel that a preamp with separate volume for each pickup, or a selector switch, will give me maximum control. As for 9v or 18v, I don't have a preference.

    Woods:
    The woods I've selected were done so to help promote that punchy and articulate low-end I'm so in love with: swamp ash body, wenge neck and macassar ebony fingerboard.
     
  2. doublemuff216

    doublemuff216

    Jun 14, 2004
    Astoria NY
    aguilar has a really nice and compact onboard preamp...i forget the model but their site should have it...and as for pups i'd say try bartolinis...
     
  3. David Wilson

    David Wilson Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Lower Westchester, NY
    I'm a big fan of the Aguilar preamps - the obp-1 has bass/treble boost only, the obp-3 has bass/mid/treble cut/boost. They're very transparent when flat, and a little bass boost on the aguilars goes a LONG way.

    As for pickups, have you picked a pickup shape? i.e. J/P/Soapbar.
    If you've picked a J or soapbar shape, have you committed to a route size? It may sound nit-picking, but it's an important question.
     
  4. Thanks for your reply David. The guitar hasn't been started yet, so no routing will be done until I hand the pickups over to the luthier. So J-style or soapbar style is fine, but not P.
     
  5. rusty

    rusty

    Mar 29, 2004
    Singapore
    I suggest Nordstrand dual coils with RMC piezos!! I'll be having that config in my soon-to-be Nordie :D

    Edit: I forgot about the preamp! I'm gonna go with a Sadowsky with passive tone control and single coil operation, but you might wanna think about a Demeter or an OBP-3 :)
     
  6. tim99

    tim99 Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2003
  7. David Wilson

    David Wilson Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Lower Westchester, NY
    Incorrect. The obp-1 is two band, the obp-3 is three band.

    Ozzel, you I'd recommend you read the thread at the top of this forum. It has a bunch of J pickup reviews.

    Also, check out this old bassplayer article: http://archive.bassplayer.com/z1999/9903/pickups.shtml

    Unfortunately, not all those ones are available in 5 string sets.

    I'm assuming you want humcancelling, so I'll make the following suggestions in no order of preference.

    1) Sadowsky hum-cancelling 5 J
    2) Bartolini 59J set (if the luthier says he won't work with bartolini, is he working for you or him? You could order them yourself from bestbassgear.com )

    The Sadowsky's are more open on the high end, where the Barts are slightly muted. The Barts are slightly growlier on the low end than the Sad's. You could also consider Dimarzio Ultra Jazz 5, but those are a bit more scooped sounding than the Sads.

    In my preamp experience, the bart preamps take a little too much of the high end off for my liking. I've found this out over 3 or 4 different basses. You might want that, personally I'd rather have all the sound from the pickups and adjust to taste myself. The Aguilar is completely transparent when flat - I recently converted a Pedulla bass from Bart to Aguilar preamp, and with eq flat the sound is no different in active or passive modes.

    I've heard great things about the Demeter preamp, but have never tried one myself.
     
  8. tim99

    tim99 Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2003
    You are fast. Thanks. I corrected my post.

    Tim99.
     
  9. tim99

    tim99 Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2003
    It seems to me that some like the "colored sound" of the bartolini preamps, and some like the "transparent sound" of the aguilar and demeter...

    Can he get aguilar or demeter in vol-vol-treb-mid-bass?

    Tim99.
     
  10. David Wilson

    David Wilson Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Lower Westchester, NY
    True. Don't get me wrong, I've had good experiences with Bart preamps also - in my Elrick the bart preamp nicely counteracts the bright wound Bart pickups. I tried the aguilar in there and it was a bit too bright for me and I had to cut treble all the time.
    AFAIK the most common Demeter configuration is Vol/Blend (they use a buffered active blend, which eliminates the issues typically associated with a passive blend). But I'm sure they'd wire up one as Vol/Vol if required - although the active blend may remove the motivation for wanting Vol/Vol.

    As for the Aguilar, that can be wired pretty much any way you want. bestbassgear.com will pre wire aguilar preamps for customers. They also have bart preamps in just about every configuration. I don't work for bbg, just a very happy customer.
     
  11. Thanks for your in-depth replies, David. I really appreciate it. What about EMGs? Specifically the 40DC. Their website says the 40DC produces "a deep low end, and yet maintain clarity. All of the DC Models are beefy, brilliant, and have more than enough output." Granted, I've never played a bass with a 40DC in it, so I'm just going by their marketing.

    As for the Barts, I don't think my luthier likes dealing with the company itself. Not sure why. But I trust him; he's a friend. But c'mon, there must be another brand which can produce the warm punchy low-end I want. Seymour Duncans? Nordstrands?
     
  12. By the way, what's the difference between j pups and soapbar pups, besides the shape? Obviously the j pup is designed to produce j bass tone, so what kind of tone is the soapbar pup produce?
     
  13. David Wilson

    David Wilson Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Lower Westchester, NY
    My suggestions were around J pickups, based on my experiences trying most aftermarket J pickups out there. There are too many soapbar shapes for me to make recommendations for all of them.

    With EMG's, like anything your results will vary. EMG J's in my Warwick Thumb 5 sounded great, EMG J's in my Geddy Lee Jazz sounded awful. Most active EMG's have an eq shape applied at the source, on a bright bass the extra top end applied by an EMG J can make it sound brittle. But that's just one example.

    The EMG Ceramic Steel (CS) pickups sound warmer than the DC's IMO. You might love the high end of the DC, I don't know how you hear things or how they'll sound in your bass. But I can say that the CS's I've heard have been warm and articulate but not brittle.
     
  14. David Wilson

    David Wilson Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Lower Westchester, NY
    There may be a tonal difference, but there doesn't have to be. J and Soapbar terms refer purely to shape. There are single coil J's, humcancelling J's. There are soapbars which have dual coils, single coils, quad coils. You can have a J pickup in a soapbar shape, EMG among others make those.
     
  15. Gosh, it gets confusing! So many options, not to mention choosing a preamp. The combinations are infinite. I think I'm gonna stick with the Aguilar OBP-3 on-board preamp. I like the controls very much, and I know Aguilar doesn't make crap. As for the pups, I think it's down to DiMarzio Jazz or SD Basslines. I really don't think I can go wrong with any of the above choices.
     
  16. rusty

    rusty

    Mar 29, 2004
    Singapore