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New Pickups or New Bass?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by rnilson, Mar 13, 2008.

  1. rnilson


    Mar 8, 2008
    Kansas City, MO
    Yo guys,
    I wondered over here from the DB side of things.
    I have had a MIM frettless j bass for a while. I used it to play at home, jam with friends ect. Well I have gotten into a project that is too loud for my DB and it only took one gig to realize that the j bass with the current stock set up is not gonna cut it. So my qustion is would I be better off to soup up the MIM j with new pick ups and pots or buy a new bass?
    $600 is the biggest amount I can dump into this thing.
    What do you guys think?
  2. How do you find the bass?

    Is the acoustic sound of the bass ok?

    Do you like the way it plays?

    If so, then a pickup swap is probably the way to go :) , remember to shield the thing properly too.
  3. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    In what way does it "not cut it"? That will help us make recommendations. You mention that this new project is louder than you usually play; I've been in that situation before, and found there was an adjustment period for my ears. In my case, the solution was to upgrade to a more powerful amp and larger cab. This allowed me to turn the volume way up and play with a lighter touch. I find that fretless cuts through better if I play with a lighter touch; there is more growl or mwah or whatever you want to call it than if I dig in hard with my right hand. Also, favoring the bridge pickup is a tried-and-true method for cutting through the mix with a fretless jazz bass (if you like that Jaco sound).

    +1 on what Mohawk said; if you are comfortable playing the Jazz, it is a good design, and a pickup swap and/or a different set of strings would be the economical way to upgrade your sound. Good luck!
  4. Kennethfaria

    Kennethfaria Banned

    Mar 12, 2008
    what were you playing it through?

    If i had 600 i'd probably get a better rig, and if you have some money left over put in some new pick ups. But if you did have a good amp, it depends.

    What kind of music do you play?
  5. rnilson


    Mar 8, 2008
    Kansas City, MO
    Well I don't have a "rig". It is a Drum and Bass/ improvised electronica thing. We run two laptops, samplers, loopers, I play bass and the other guy plays keys. All of it goes into a Roland KC 360 mixing amp and then to the house board.
    I run the j bass into a boss me50 and then into a electro harmonix 2800 looper.
    When I say it doesn't "cut it" I mean I would like a more focused sound with a bit more in the low end. In the DnB Genera the bass line really had to ground everything. I have felt the bass had good tone in other settings, but I really a jazz player so I have never had to supply that good strong deep bass sound. I don't think it is the amp because I can get that sound from some of the soft synths off my laptop.
  6. Kennethfaria

    Kennethfaria Banned

    Mar 12, 2008
    ahh ok, so then either get new pups/pre amp or if you dont want to go through all the trouble, you could easily get some sort of jazz for around 600. Another choich would be an Ibanez SR500, Those things are solid, and the have barts in them. Look in the used section of your newspaper or go to Craigslist You can find some deals. Also check out the classifieds on this forum cheap stuff there as well.
  7. 62bass


    Apr 3, 2005
    I'd say get a good fretted bass and upgrade the factory strings. The Ibanez (higher end ones) would come in at your budget and sound good. Favour the neck pickup rather than the bridge pickup.
  8. santucci218


    Jan 26, 2007
    this is going to sound crazy and people are going to flame me...

    i have a highway 1 jazz...they are assembled in america but all the parts are from mexico i think...

    anyways, i wanted more low end growl so i just raised the neck pickup real high and put on heavy strings. raising the pickup really high adds gain to your signal and gives it a bit of a bite to the sound.

    you might as well try it, its free ya know?
  9. rnilson


    Mar 8, 2008
    Kansas City, MO
    Yeah the Ibanes SR500 is the bass I had in mind.
    The only reason I might go with the upgraded pickups instead was that fretted basses sound a little punchy (slappy) to my ears where as a frettless seems to have a more rounded attack (upright like). Is this just my ignorance of EB? I definatly want a smooth rounded tone that mixes well with all the electronic sounds we got going.
    So how would say fender custom shop 60's in my bass compare with the SR 500?
    Is it a given that if I replace the pick ups I should do the pots at the same time. I was always under the impression the the MIM fender stuff had crappy electronics to make them cheeper.
  10. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Hmm, well, if your preference is to NOT use a bass amp, what about something like a SansAmp or Pod that simulates the sound of a bass amp? That plus a new set of pickups would still fit your budget.

    As far as pickups go, on occasion I have played direct into the PA using my Bartolini equipped bass into a DI. They have a warm, organic, gently compressed sound that worked really well in that situation.

    Oh, one other question for you: Is this an issue with your on-stage sound or with the front-of-house sound? In other words, have you talked with people whose ears you trust that were out in the audience that night? Better yet, have you gone wireless and checked out the front of house sound yourself, or had a friend play while you go out and listen? I ask because, a lot of times, the bass can sound thin on stage, but great when you're out on the dance floor. Bass frequencies have a long wave that takes longer to propagate.
  11. kyral210


    Sep 14, 2007
    Rule 1 - If the bass feels good, then upgrade the bass. If it doesn't feel good then buy a new bass and customise it.

    Ok, here is what to try in order (from a guitar tech).

    1 - Try a good setup. I know it sounds obvious, but set up your bass right. Make sure the neck is adjusted right, the pickups ar a the right height, the right action ect... See the Fender Support page for a good reference:


    2 - If that isn't cutting it (and maybe if it is) then get a new pickup set. I love EMG's for their active circuitry, they will definitely cut any loud project. Basically get all the juice and tone you need. Seymour Duncans are also pretty awesome!

    3 - Get an external preamp. If you have the cash then a Sansamp bass driver is perfect. If your strapped for cash, get a Behringer BDI21. The BDI21 is very cheap (£25) but close to the full Sansamp. Why have one? You are likely to DI to a PA system, and this little box will generate that amp tone without micking up the amp. It also allows you to shape your tone way better than any on board (built into bass) preamp.

    One day I hope to build a custom J-Bass with just a pickup selector switch, nothing else.
  12. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    I love fretless, so I say stick with it!

    To add to what Kyral just said, on a fretless bass guitar, the setup is really important. A millimeter's difference in string height can really change the midrange character of the notes. For me, having the action on the low side makes the notes really "mwah". Coming from double bass, I'm sure you're aware of the difference in tone between the old-school, high-action, no-amp thumpy jazz players and the post-1970s low-action, pickup, amplifier guys... same thing with the fretless electric.
  13. 62bass


    Apr 3, 2005
    I like fretless basses sometimes and when played by someone who has a sound I like. Pretty subjective I know. I've also played fretless bass a lot until about 10 years ago. My first fretless was a 62 Fender P that I pulled the frets from in about 1963. I recorded with that bass a lot and played it live almost exclusively. I got a good sound but nothing like the fretless sounds I hear today which to me are fine for one or two songs but not something I want to hear all night. My preference in bass is to slot the sound into a frequency range where it will support the band the way bass used to be played before the advent of roundwound strings. So, I'm quite biased. But I got a sound that was something like an upright bass but I used flatwound strings and the stock Fender pickups.

    I've heard a lot of really good jazz bassists, the old timers, who used the electric recording and live, such as Monk Montgomery and Carl Cranshaw, who also got a great sound with a fretted Fender with the standard flatwound strings and the stock pickups. But maybe that isn't the sound you have in mind and you want the more modern fretless.

    Sure, you can improve the sound of your Fender with a pickup change, but it may not be all that dramatic an improvement for the money you spend. You could spend all of the available $600 on pickups and an onboard preamp and still not be happy.

    As far as upgrading the pots goes, i don't think a change there will be much of an improvement sound wise, unless the ones currently there are completely shot.

    I'd say go out and try some fretless basses until you find one you really like the sound of since you favour the fretless sound. You might want to try the Rob Allen. Way over your budget but one of the nicest playing and best made fretless basses I've tried. Then look at the Godin fretless which also uses a piezo pickup but is considerably less expensive and also gets an excellent sound.

    I don't think you can directly compare the sound of the Fender jazz you have with the SR, even with upgraded pickups in the Fender. They sound quite a bit different. My preference would be the SR, but try one out for yourself.

    Don't forget too that strings can make more of a difference in sound than a pickup change. I prefer Thomastic JF344 strings myself. They work exceptionally well on a fretless bass too. But you may not like them and there's no way to tell without trying them out.
  14. Fretlessboy


    Nov 29, 2007
    St Augustine Florida
    Endorsing artist GENZ BENZ/HERCULES STANDS/XSonics
    personaly, I would drop a set of EMG's into it and call it a day.
  15. I just got my MIM Fender Fretless upgraded... Nordstrand NJ4 pickups, a Rothstein harness (new pots and jacks), new strings, and a professional setup. This cost me about $430 altogether, including shipping. You might find a comparable bargain used for $600, and it's less risky if you can actually hear the bass that you are buying used. If you go the upgrade route, you can get the harness and pickups both from Rothstein:

    I ended up with a really nice vintage tone. Definitely a HUGE difference over the factory setup, and I'm happy with the results. My G ended up a little lower in volume than I'd like... I'm trying to determine now if it is technique, setup or the D'Addario strings.

    BTW, Rothstein has some excellent soundclips of what you could expect for such a MIM Fretless upgrade (though I'm not sure how Tony gets that sustain).
  16. 4Mal

    4Mal Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    Columbia River Gorge
    1. Dimarzio Ultra Jazz.
    a. It's a humbucker so it's quiet.

    b. It's a humbucker so it's darker naturally. It's still clear - just not as bright. That translates as having a larger low end to my ear.

    I just installed a set of these in my 75 RI for a test. I'm honestly not 100% that they are for me. I need to work with them and record them a while. I've been a single coil J guy for a long time ...

    2. Audere pre. It's an incredibly good additionto a J. Easily reversable and totally useful mod. Very neutral but capable of some monster low end with the low Z mode combined with bass boost.

    I'm running that pre on the 75 RI and also on a G&L L2500.

    3. I really dig the low end of the Rhodes patch on my QS 6.1 synth ...

    If you were to move to a fretted bass, I would strongly suggest a Tribute G&L L2000. Sadly not available in a fretless - for that you have to do MIA ...
  17. Kennethfaria

    Kennethfaria Banned

    Mar 12, 2008
    +1 to those EMG's

    as for fretlesses sounding like uprights. Tis true, but all depends on your eq and waht strings you use. Unitl about a week ago ive been using flats on my fretless. sounded good, but then thought lets try some roundwounds. 2 hours later ,i got the tone i wanted. Doesn't sound so upright anymore.

    Call me stupid, but i wouldn't put emgs in a MIM. I'd rather try finding a used bass for 600. Around here I could find laklands for around 650.
  18. BassDepot


    Apr 17, 2005
    Endorsing Artist: Lakland Bass Guitars

    Find what you like then ask the question of how do I get to this sound....

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