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Need PUP recommendations for my fretless

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by pburress, Nov 7, 2005.

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  1. pburress


    Nov 7, 2005
    I am building a fretless p-bass with a Chandler neck and need to buy some pickups for it. Any recommendations? Are there any type of pickups that I should favor for a fretless, or does the fact that it's fretless affect the pickup decision?

    I want the best bang for the buck but am on a limited budget. I play the upright also and want a clear clean tone.

    Thanks! Phil
  2. Hey Phil,

    I recently de-fretted my old P-bass clone and I replaced the stock Peavey pickup (which was decent but kind of blah) with an 80s Schaller P pickup that I got off of eBay. I got a great deal and I was blown away with how good these sound. I've bought two from this dealer (a regular and one that was slightly rusted ) and they both sound great!!!

    I'm thinking of routing for a jazz pickup in the 70s bridge position. Does anyone have a suggestion for a jazz bridge pickup for fretless (I'm not trying to high-jack this thread, just curious...please answer Phil's question about pickups first)? I'm leaning towards a Bartolini 9CBJD-1, but I'd love to hear cheaper decent alternatives. Thanks!
  3. Moo

    Moo Banned

    Dec 14, 2002
    Oakland, CA
    Many people prefer a more focused midrange tone for fretless so often a fretless pickup choice will be to accentuate that. But any pickup that works for fretted will work for fretless.

    Also fretless players tend to favor the bridge pickup so if you're going for some of the more classic tones you'll want something in addition to the P.
  4. luknfur


    Jan 14, 2004

    there have been previous posts with the same inquiry so you may do a TB search. But I think that was for J's and it never has got a lot of response.

    I've had basically no luck finding a decent P for fretted. I've got very good P tone from some J's (including single J's) in bridge position. You might give serious thought to going PJ. There's endless options for J's out there for starters. Pups are a lot of trial and error so that would both increase your flexibility tonewise and your pup selection pool tremendously. At any rate, you wouldn't be out anything- you still have a P bass. In my experience, you need the right pup to function alone. With two pups, you can often compensate for what's lacking in one with the other. If nothing else, with two, you stand a better probabilty. I prefer a single pup bass myself - but not if tone is lacking.

    If I was going to commit to a double routing myself, it would be a pair of J's - becuase of the endless options. Pups are basically really just the same thing in different shapes but guys hang up on shapes - especially soaps (you know, looks cool - some guys have to have pups with poles they can see of all things). Obviously the shape affects tone to some degree but even more it restricts what can be done within those confines (just like the size of a lot affects the house you put on it). I don't see much creativity by manufacturers going on within P pups and I assume there's a reason for that.

    Unless you're looking for something different, if you like upright than you'd probably like pups with a solid midrange and woodie. DM Model P and Willpower Middle are strong mid. Probably stay away from something scooped like an SD hot P.
  5. luknfur


    Jan 14, 2004

    You might read my review on Bartolini 9CBJD-1. One very good tone - P tone. No flexibility in adjustment and VERY low output. But that was my experience.

    Schaller makes a double J quad that is 8 lead and good vintage J tone - $20 -30 or cheaper. So you can wire it HB, inline single front or rear coil, split P, reverse split P, and you can isolate the E/A from the D/G strings if you want to split them for stereo (limited application but pretty cool). All of which is humbucking.

    It is structurally 2 Dm model J's put together. In fact looks like a Dimarzio with adjustable hex allen pole. A DM Model J would be another good choice. Great bridge pup - in my experience.

    The down side is you're stuck with the routing and there's only been a few double J's made. Of course you could shave the towers off other J's and use them but pup resale would not be good - unless the covers were removeable and you'd have to get another pair of covers, which wouldn't be difficult. But you'd only have to do that once cause you could keep the shaved ones for the next set. Hmm?...............
  6. pburress


    Nov 7, 2005
    Thanks for the replies and helpful info. I am still looking so I'm still open to input! Basically I'm watching ebay. :p Theres's a set of EMG Selects that I'm watching.

    I'm spraying clear on the body of the bass so it will be a week or so before I'm ready to put it all together.
  7. I tried the EMG Selects before my Schaller P...the Schaller blows the EMG Selects to smithereens in terms of tone IMO.
  8. My MIM-P has the Will Power Middle pickup combined with TI Jazz Flats. This is by far the most "woody" and mid-intensive bass I own.

    Same as Luknfur, I've been searching for that ideal P tone, and have yet to find it. So... I'm swapping my fretless J neck to the P. I figure the P already sounds close to an upright, so why not go all the way? If the swap works, the fretless P will be perfect for all that jazzy, upright stuff. I'll also have an aggressive fretted J with DiMarzio Model J pickups.

    I'm borrowing another MIM-P with SD Quarter Pounder installed, and will experiment with that one for fretted P tone.
  9. pburress


    Nov 7, 2005
    xsogol, How would you classify the tone of the 80's Schaller pickup? I see these on e-bay and the price is right! As I mentioned I want a clean tone. I will be using flatwound strings.
  10. I would classify the tone as warm, round, and classic P bass...think Phil Lynott's Thin Lizzy tone or Geezer Butler's Black Sabbath tone then subtract frets from the equation. I can get pretty good upright-like tone from it with a foam mute...flatwound strings would probably add to the upright-like tone, but I prefer dead/dirty nickel roundwound strings myself...YMMV.
  11. pburress


    Nov 7, 2005
    Thin Lizzy? Black Sabbath? How did you know I was old??!? :p

    Thanks. I think I might try these.

  12. luknfur


    Jan 14, 2004

    I think Typlyons mentioned picking one of those Schaller P's up and liking it.

    I already have a pair of the double J's so I haven't given the P's much consideration. I ended up with a pair cause I was buying one off a friend and it was right when the ebay guy originally posted the Schallers - but mistakingly as Dimarzio's, so I thought it was a different pup. I don't think I've ever tried the double J in P position wired for split P and I've never really looked close at those Schaller P's. They may be totally different pups tonewise.
  13. I didn't :smug: You just told me!
  14. baggman


    Sep 17, 2005
    Boulder, Co.USA
    I recently found an old abused P-Bass clone in a neighbor's trash and made a fretless out of it. It had a Select P-bass pickup in it already. It was soldered directly to the output jack! I had a 250k pot laying around, so I stuck that between the Selects and the jack. The cheapo Select passive P-bass pickups sound great. And all I run is a volume control(I do all of my tone adjustments on my amp anyway). I say if you want a good, inexpensive pickup, try Select. You can get 'em from Stewart-MacDonald. :eyebrow:
  15. I agree with you, baggman, that the Selects sound good and are a great bargain for the money. I just feel, at least in my experience, that those Schaller P pickups on eBay are in the same price range as the selects and sound even better (having tried both). Either way, you really can't go wrong for the price. :bassist:
  16. DavidRavenMoon

    DavidRavenMoon Banned

    Oct 20, 2004
    As a luthier and someone who designs pickups, I have to disagree here. Pickups are NOT really just the same thing in different shapes.

    Shape plays a big part in the tone of a pickup. let's take a P Bass style split pickup, and a Jazz style single coil. First thing you see is the J is taller and narrower. The P is short and squat. This was done for a reason. The short wide P coil has a fatter tone. The tall narrow J coil has more of a focused tone. There's several reasons why this is so, such as aperture width, and the distance from the coil to the magnet. If you put a P in the bridge position of a J, it won't have that punchy burp we all know and love.

    Also, the split P bass pickup is hum canceling, while the single coil J is not.

    Exposed pole pieces? Not just for looks. having separate poles sounds different from having a blade charged by a magnet. And whether or not the poles are magnets or metal slugs charged by a magnet sounds different. Look at Fender bass pickups? Two magnets for each string. This was done to soften the attack transient for the bass amps at the time, which couldn't handle a lot of juice. It also gives them a certain sound.

    Now soapbars are another thing... obviously a soapbar *is* the shape. But what's on the inside? As a builder, I like soapbars. My reason is, first, why should I want to keep using the same shapes used by Fender all these years. This was their proprietary design, that has since been copied to death. Same is true of the Gibson humbucker.

    So while there is a lot of variety with J style pickups.. they are still J style pickups. You wont get one that sounds like a P or something like a Music Man humbucker.

    With the soapbars I can interchange same size pickups, with very different sounding pickups. On my main bass I have three soapbars... near the neck is an EMG 40P.. sound like a P bass pup. In the middle is an EMG DC, which is a dual blade humbucker, and has a MM sort of vibe. In the bridge position I have an EMG 40J, which sounds like a single coil J pickup... but doesn't hum. If I want three humbuckers, I can do that without routing.

    So why would a manufacturer go with a P pickup? For the tone. Before everyone and their mother started using Jazz basses, the P bass was the ruling bass. It's still the most recorded bass in history. A J bass doesn't sound like a P bass. I like P basses better myself.

    Personally I'm tired of looking at Jazz basses and their clones! Where's the creativity and originality in that? :)
  17. DavidRavenMoon

    DavidRavenMoon Banned

    Oct 20, 2004
    The Schaller pickups are quite good! I had a fretless PJ clone with Schallers and a Khaler trem back in the 80's.

    The Schallers started off as DiMarzio clones. The J I had is a split coil humbucker like the DiMarzio Model J. The P looked just like a DiMarzio also. They are pretty much interchangeable.

    EMG Selects are lame. I like the real EMGs though.
  18. luknfur


    Jan 14, 2004

    looks like on some things the words get in the way, some things we have different experiences, and some things we disagree maybe. I don't and don't want to design pickups - but I played LOTS of pickups other people design and I pay attention to them when I have them.

    For starters, pups are a major factor in tone but not even remotely close to being THE factor. Other variables have significant influence so one players experience with the same pup can be very different from another.

    I said pups are BASICALLY the same things in different shapes as a gross generalization and I have for a fact obtained superior P tone from some J pups in bridge postiion than any P's to date in P position (or P's in J position for that matter). I have yet to really find a choice P tone in a P pup for whatever reason. I have also obtained an MM tone in single coil mode with a single J and MM in HB mode by placing J's side by side. Also a Bongo in bridge position puts out better P tone than any P I've had. I just ran a Dearmond humbucker in bridge position that does both a quality Ric and passable vintage Fender P.

    In having ran some 75+ sets of pups I would never speculate on the tone of a pup from it's shape. The placement of the pup would be a much more accurate reflection of such a generic tone than the shape of the pup. I've had more J pups but, without question, a greater variety of sounds can be had from a J shaped pup than any other I've had. For starters there's been more different J's made than all other pups combined for the same dimensions. Second J's are often constructed very differently from oneanother. But the shape is the defining factor for choice for most players cause they're stuck with their routings. That's why I broke the Dimento experiments into basic shapes. A soap guy has no more interest in a J shaped pup than you do.

    Yeh there's been tons of a variety of soaps made - but how many have the same dimensions? There must be 50 different dimensioned soaps around. You may have considerable flexibility with your 3 EMG setup but you're still stuck with the combinations of pups that will fit those routings.

    You would have more flexibility with 3 J's. J's will be a lot cheaper and far more readily available on the used market (and probably new for that matter), a lot more tonal options, you wouldn't be stuck with actives, you could go active/passive/both either via pups or the harness, you wouldn't be stuck with EMG's (but could use EMG's), you could wire series/parallel which you can't with actives, and J's would take up a lot less space so be less inclined to get in the way and for picking, slap, or whatever - yadda yadda yadda.

    As for the creativity aspect of J's: Stack HB, split HB, singles, for rudimentary variations that come to mind. J's look a lot different in construction when they're opened up. Most P's look pretty much the same and they tend to sound a lot more like each other than J's.

    As for the exposed poles, I did not say (or mean to imply) that varying the poles wouldn't alter tone. Virtually any change in design and material of a pup will alter tone. The statement was off the cuff directed to numerous TB readings about players wanting exposed poles for vintage look (and refusing to buy otherwise), soaps cause they look cool, or the big MM type slugs for appearance. I've even seen poles "stenciled" (by a manufacutere no less) onto pups that didn't have them. It's one thing to consider appearance in selection, it's another when a pup is selected for appearance and not tone.

    Personally I don't care who makes what or what it looks like. I could care less whether it's a passive vintage Fender P with exposed poles, an active EMG 40P with no poles, or a Bongo MM with the pretty 44 slugs cause my solution was to get rid of the routings all together and put in Schaller roller bridges so I could mount them all wherever I wanted them - for the tone I might add.
  19. DavidRavenMoon

    DavidRavenMoon Banned

    Oct 20, 2004
    OK, here's where you are making very little sense. You have yet to find a choice P tone from a P pickup? That IS the P tone! What the hell do you think a P pickup sounds like? Obviously you have some other sound in your head that you associate with a Precision Bass. Go to a music store, pick up a Fender P bass, plug it in. That's the P tone. Listen to a Motown record, or John Wetton with Crimson.

    Sure I can make my bass sound like a Rick or a P bass or what ever... but I wouldn't say I can make it sound more like a Rick than a Rick! That's just silly. It's all approximations. We all need to stop copying these tones! Let's find new ones. That's why I built my own bass.

    Nope, sorry. Get a bass body and install a P pickup in the Jazz bridge position. Will it sound like a J bridge pickup? Absolutely not! Now take a J neck pickup and put it in the same position as a P pickup. Does it sound like a P bass? Nope. if you think it does, you either never did these things or you can't tell one tone from another.

    (this does not sound like a Jazz bass!)

    Once again, you didn't understand what I said. I DO have J pickups on two of my basses... but they are in soapbar cases. Inside those cases however, are J pickups. They happen to be stacked J style humbuckers, but they are Jazz bass pickups none the less. Now what makes them a J pickup and not just some single coil? The size and shape of the coil is the main part in the tone of a J pickup. I designed and built my own bass. I had to pick some pickups so I went with the soaps so I didn't have to keep changing the body routs if someone wanted a different pickup type. Obviously, if you have a Jazz bass and want different pickups, you either have to get a different J style pickup, or rout the body!

    There are a few J shapes and sizes also. I have some Fender pickups from a 5 string Jazz that wont fit into a regular rout. I have them because my customer wanted a different sound and replaced them with Duncan MM style soapbars! Why didn't he just use a different J style pickup? Because he wanted a sound you can't get from J's! I have no desire to put a Fender Jazz shaped pickup on my hand made bass... why use the same pickup that's been used for the last 40 something years? I decided to use this particular pickup shape, but I could have went for any other. So how am I stuck? There are at least three companies making pickups for this shape. EMG makes the 40 series, and in that I can get a P, J, and two different humbuckers, the DC and CS. Each pickup is totally different on the inside. The P has two split coils, the J is stacked, and the DC and CS are side by side humbuckers. Each style of pickup sounds different because of the way its made. As much as you may think so, you can't get a single coil to sound like a humbucker, and vice versa.

    Plus EMG makes the 40TW, which is both a humbucker and J single coil in one case. A push/pull volume (or tone) pot allows you to change from the clarity of a single-coil to the fatness of a dual-coil in one pickup. I can also use the passive hi Z EMGs in the 40 soapbar case.

    If I don't want an EMG, I can install a Duncan SSB-5 passive phase II, or ASB2-5 active phase II. Both fit into the EMG 40 rout and offer both active and passive options and a different sound from the EMGs.

    Then there's Bartolini, who makes a mind boggling number of pickups, and quite a few in the EMG 40 case... some with three and four coils.

    Plus I can wind my own and not have to worry about the limitation of the J size and shape.

    No, with three Js I would have less options than I now have on my bass. I would have three narrow aperture pickups, that pretty much sound the same. What I have now is three totally different pickups... each has it's own sound. With the soapbar case I have more choices than with the skinny J case. Also since J pickups come in a narrow neck and wide bridge case, not all replacements will fit, unless you rout for three neck or bridge units. Also mixing actives and passives doesn't really work well, unless you buffer the passives, which of course then makes them actives. You may see people do stuff like mix actives and passives, but that doesn't make it the correct thing to do! If I went with passive soaps, I can do series and out of phase wiring.. been there done that. Not interested. I once had four pickups, 10 knobs and 12 switches on a Rick 4001. I could get any combination imaginable, and most of the tones were something you wouldn't use much!

    As it is I dislike the way more than one pickup mixes, especially passively. Too much impedance and phase issues... you never get the sound of both pickups together!

    My fretless bass has one EMG DC in the MM position, a volume and stacked bass/treble control. That bass gets all the sounds you need from it!

    I don't really care about the coast... I'm a bass builder, I don't buy used pickups and put them in my basses!

    Also I prefer active basses for many reasons. I've been playing 37 years... before there were active basses and replacement pickups. Players like to go for that "vintage" tone these days, but back then it was all you had, and even though people like distorted grungy sounding bass now, we were trying to get better pickups and amps for a clearer sound! This is why we now have things like Barts and EMGs. This is what bass players wanted.

    And they all sound like Jazz bass pickups... more or less.

    J's have the problem of being a single coil pickup, and therefore they hum. Sure, you can run both pickups together and they will hum cancel, but you don't always want that sound. So makers had to figure out how to stop them from humming. The only reason you have replacement pickups for things like Fender basses is that players felt the stock pickups were not so great, and people like DiMarzio made replacements that offered better tone, and things like the split coil Model J. Then Duncan did the stacked J pickups. But these variations are not for tone, but to make a hum canceling pickup that fits into a Jazz bass.

    P bass pickups don't have issues with hum, so they have stayed the same, with the exception of either larger magnets, or steel adjustable poles charged by ceramic magnets in the case of the DiMarzio model P, and its clones.

    But if you think they all sound the same, then why did Leo Fender make two types of pickups for bass? (four if you count the original single coils and Tele Humbucker). And even with the guitars, he made the Jazz Master, which had short squat coils like a P bass, for a more mellow sound than a Strat. Leo later went on to design the MM pickup and of course the G&L pickups. So I guess he felt he could improve on the P and J designs.

    Exposing poles wont change the sound, but having poles as opposed to a blade will. I'm sure EMG started making exposed poles because of the way it looks. I've never seen painted on poles and I can't imagine that was a quality brand name pickup!

    No, obviously you do care... you seem think the J bass is the ultimate pickup... and I don't! We are all welcome to our opinions, but I objected to the FUD about all pickups being the same in different shapes, and to the nonsense that a J pickup can magically sound like anything you want. I can play you a clip where I made the EMG-40P5 on my bass sound like a Rick... but it's not really the same sound, just close.

    Also your bass will sound like your bass... different pickups will make your bass sound like your bass with different pickups. You will not get any tone you want. An example is my 4001... with a Gibson Sidwinder in the neck and a Bart Hi-A at the bridge (and at one point a Fender P in the middle), it still sounds like a Rick.

    The best thing is to find the tone of the bass, and then match the pickups to that tone. This really is science after all.
  20. pburress


    Nov 7, 2005
    What about EMG Selects? The price is right... are they decent? How would they compare to a stock fender pbass pickup?

    I don't know why but I am wary of the 80's Schallers..

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