Need pickup/preamp suggestions for "modern" J-Bass

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by funkdaddy, Nov 11, 2001.

  1. funkdaddy


    Aug 6, 2001
    Charlotte, NC
    Hi .......I'm looking for pickup/preamp suggestions for a "modern" J-Bass. I play a lot of funk, R&B and jazzy stuff and would like to be able to get a variety of tones along the lines of Marcus Miller, Mark King, Victor Wooten, Alain Caron, etc. I already have a stock American Standard Jazz bass, so I would like this other Jazz bass to have a different sound altogether (or at least more versatility than my other Jazz). Here are a few options I'm considering:

    *EMG-J active pickups and EMG BTS System (2-band EQ)

    *DiMarzio Ultra Jazz passive pickups and J-Retro preamp

    *DiMarzio Ultra Jazz passive pickups and Aguilar OBP-1 preamp

    I used to have the EMG-J pickups in my very first bass and I remember them sounding quite modern (bordering on "sterile", but in a good kind of way). However, I was not very knowledgeable about basses and "tone" at that time so I don't know if I can rely on my opinion of these pickups. Also, I'm not sure if I should go with a 2-band or 3-band preamp. It seems like a 3-band preamp would offer more versatility, but I kind of like the simplicity of a 2-band setup (less knobs to worry about tweaking).

    I would appreciate any opinions from those who have first-hand knowledge of these products. I also welcome any pickup/preamp suggestions that I did not mention.

    Many thanks!
  2. Nino Valenti

    Nino Valenti Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 2, 2001
    Staten Island NYC
    Builder: Valenti Basses
    EMG w/the Aguilar OBP-1. Sounds great togther. I have it in a 5 string & it kills. I've tried the BTS & it's a great pre-amp but I think the Aguilar is more of what you'ree looking for.

    I've never tried the DiMarzio's or the J Retro, so I can't comment on them. :(

    <a href=""><img width=385 height=70 src="" border=0></a>
  3. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Inactive

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    I have a J-Retro installed in a MIA Jazz Deluxe 5. Has the passive tone control option. The bass is otherwise stock.

    The J-Retro gives my bass even more of the MM bite than it had before. It's more flexible than the original preamp, which I still like and have in another JD5. You can dial in pretty big but controlled bottom, the treble control is centered higher than the stock unit and also has a "pull" function which adds sparkle without going over the top. Sweepable mids, a passive/active switch and the tone control that works passive or active round out the package. I love Bartolinis but see no reason to change the factory pickups. I have 1997's with the single pole pickups.

    I've checked out the other setups in other basses... the boost only Aguilar did nothing for me. Maybe it was the basses they were in but they sounded pretty orinary. I've heard one EMG setup in a Jazz I liked and that was a J set with no preamp in a Modulus Jazz. So far the most versatile pre I've heard in a Jazz is the J-Retro... little tweaks can make a major difference.

    If you're looking for a shy, self-effacing kind of J sounds, this isn't it;). It can sound very aggressive and ballsy and give very punchy fingerstyle that moves air, even on a G string.

    As far as 2 band vs. 3 band, if you leave the mids alone, a 3 works like a 2... it's a wash.

    So, are you building or buying?
  4. mchildree

    mchildree Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2000
    I've had 2 Laklands now that had a pair of Basslines J' was a passive bass, the other with the standard Bart 3-band that Lakland uses. I loved 'em both. I like the really grindy, growly, spanky J-bass tone and the Basslines produce that extremely well passively. With a preamp, you get more options (and mids) but essentially the same tone.
  5. I have the Ultra Jazz and I dig. No preamp installed on the bass, and it does sound nice and huge--a little less polite than the Fralins that I had. I would also recommend checking out the Fender "Noiseless" J's. I had a set of these for a short time, and they were very nice and aggressive, sort of like a 70's Jazz. I know you said you were looking for modern, but I think 70's J's are pretty aggressive and thick sounding too.
  6. funkdaddy


    Aug 6, 2001
    Charlotte, NC
    Thanks everyone for your suggestions. Too bad there's not a way to try out pickups before you buy them (unless you can find a bass that already has them installed - but even if you do, it's hard to know what they will sound like in YOUR bass!).

    Here's what I'm leaning towards:
    * EMG-J pickups and either the Aguilar OBP-1 or EMG BTS System in the "modern" Jazz Bass
    * DiMarzio Ultra Jazz or Lindy Fralin pickups and the J-Retro 01 preamp in my current "stock" Jazz Bass

    I'm hoping these two J-Basses with their respective pickups/preamps will give me a lot of versatility.

    Brad Johnson: The "modern" Jazz bass I'm referring to will be a Warmoth. I haven't ordered it yet because I can't make up my mind on a few particulars. I'm torn between the look of a 70's J-Bass (Alpine White, tortoise-shell pickguard, maple neck/fingerboard with black rectangular inlays) and a Sadowsky-style J-Bass (maple top with an amber tint, rear-routed, birdseye maple neck/fingerboard). Decisions, decisions!!!

    One more question: If I use the J-Retro 01 (or any other preamp) with passive pickups (such as Fralin's or my stock Jazz pickups), will the pickups retain their "passive" character? In other words, will the preamp color the overall sound of the pickups, or just cut and boost as required? I'd hate to have the Fralin's installed and then find out the J-Retro totally changes the sound (yes, I do know that the J-Retro has an active/passive feature, although I believe it only allows both pickups full-on or the bridge pickup soloed in the passive mode - no blending of the two).

    Thanks again for everyone's suggestions. Keep them coming!!!
  7. hujo


    Apr 18, 2001
    Stockholm, Sweden
    I have heard that the EMG system doesn't change the sound of the pickups, when set at zero. I have also heard that the J-retro does, quite alot. Although, I have no personal experience what so ever.
  8. brandinstroy


    Feb 21, 2001
    Colorado Springs, CO
    I Support the following: Fodera, Noble Amps, JHAudio, Trickfish Amplification
    The j-retro actually doesnt color the sound. A friend of mine has the getty lee jazz bass. I have played that bass in plenty of ocassions. He eventualy wanted that active option on it. He ordered the j-retro. I played it with the j-retro last weekend. in passive mode it sounded just as it did before the preamp install. With teh preamp it was unbelievable. I think the j-retro is what you are looking for.

    I think if you scrambled the tones of the artists you chose and put it in one bass it would have the j-retro for sure.
  9. PJR


    Jun 20, 2001
    N.E. PA
    ...another vote here for the J-Retro !!!!!

    .....turned a mild meek MIJ75ri into a Tone Monster !

    .....of course , as always...YMMV.

  10. air_leech


    Sep 1, 2000
    whats the tone difference between the EMG preamp and the Aguilar one?