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New project - a bass without a preamp

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by matthewfoote, Sep 15, 2004.

  1. I am thinking about ordering a new bass in the next few months and am mulling over a few options. One option which I am really interested by is a bass with no electronics within the bass.

    My first of many questions is has anyone tried a bass with no electronics so that the pickup goes straight to the jack output. I am not even thinking about a volume knob. My idea is to have a totally clean front to the bass.

    One pickup, and no volume or tone knobs. Just the sound of the wood and the pickup.

    What do people think and any comments on tone etc especially from Fodera AJ owners.

    I might consider use an outboard pre [sad or Agi] if I decide that I need a bit of tone shaping


  2. mgmadian


    Feb 4, 2002
    Austin, TX
    Not exactly your configuration, but effectively the same: on several basses I've had my tech wire in an "all-pots" bypass capability, whereby pulling up the Volume knob directs the signal straight from the pups to an onboard preamp, which in turn can be bypassed using a separate push-pull. With both bypasses engaged, the result is that the signal goes straight from the pups to the output jack.

    In general (results vary somewhat by bass and by pickup configuration), the effect with everything bypassed is more highs, more lows, and a more 'organic' sound. With either (i) 2 pickups wired in series, or (ii) a single humbucker in series mode, the effect is more noticeable...for example, on my since-sold G&L, the bypass mod made a big improvement in sound, IMO. Same with my Jazz, when both pups are in series with one another.

    Overall...highly recommend this or a similar "bypass" configuration, though I personally prefer wiring it as an available option, as I like having onboard controls. Mainly for quick changes while playing live, but I also find that a passive tone control in particular is a nice feature for recording (can't really emulate that sound well with outboard processing, and the "feel" of the bass changes with passive tone anyway, affecting my playing/attack/etc)... hence this "all-bypass" capability is configured as an option on my instruments, not the only (hard-wired) choice.
  3. mgmadian

    Many thanks. An informative reply.

    If I read you correctly, you have had a good result with a setup where you could achieve what I am considering but from your experience you preferred an onboard pre which could be bypassed against an outboard pre for ease of making changes mid song.


  4. mgmadian


    Feb 4, 2002
    Austin, TX
    Almost...yes, the basses have onboard pres cuz I prefer being able to access them right away, and I can bypass the onboard pre with a pull of a bypass knob or flick of a switch (depending on the control layout).

    But...the basses also have a second, independent bypass, due to the fact that they also have Master Volume and Passive Tone knobs. This second bypass (usually achieved by pulling up the Master Volume knob) bypasses only the Volume and Tone pots.

    With bothbypasses engaged, the signal runs straight from the pups to output. In case you're wondering 'why not just have a single everything-bypass', it's cuz I often like to bypass the onboard pre, while continuing to use Volume and/or Passive Tone... and occasionally the other way around, too.
  5. IvanMike

    IvanMike Player Characters fear me... Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
    as far as i can remember the only bass that i heard of having the no control option was a rick turner bass
    overall it seems like a simple mod you could have done to any bass (both the preamp bypass and the volume and tone bypass)
    i suppose with a 2 pickup bass you'd have to use a switch that bypassed both pickup volume pots at once (i'm assuming that's what mgmadian's does, although it could be that the bypass only bypasses the passive tone control and not the individual volume knobs)
    as i'm sure you know, the less stuff in your signal path, the "purer" the tone. i can give ya a zillion examples of this from rigs i've used, but 2 of the most notable have been plugging straight into a poweramp (tube or ss) with a really "hot" active bass, and running straight into an aggie tube di, and then right into a ss poweramp
    my yamaha reciever has an eq bypass switch and a cd direct switch - amazing the difference those make
  6. mgmadian

    Thanks for the clarification I get it second time round [me being of the slow brained variety :) ]


    Thanks. I agree about the pure signal which is one of the reasons I want to go this route. The other is a visual one. I would like a bass that is very simple to look at - no knobs and one pickup in the sweet spot. The looks of the Fodera AJ model is part of my inspiration for my thoughts.

    If there are any owners of the Fodera AJ model I would love to hear your veiws on this.


  7. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    I believe Stewmc5222's new Conklin 10-string has a no-controls, pickup-to-jack configuration.
  8. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    I've also seen a Stick player (Greg Howard) play and there's no controls on the Stick. The one big drawback that there was when I saw him play was that he kept having to move to his amp to adjust his tone because he couldn't do it on his instrument (which would have been much quicker and would have not interrupted the show). Every room is different, so in the middle of a song, if you decide you need to change your volume or tone, you have to walk to your amp and fiddle with the controls rather than a momentary move of the hand to adjust on-board electronics.
  9. tplyons


    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    Why not just use trimpots in the cavity to achieve your goal?
  10. rabass6

    rabass6 Commercial User

    Jun 3, 2004
    Owner, Groovemania.it
    I think you've to have a construction quality like Fodera to risk the option of a no preamp bass...it' s better to have an internal pre and active\passive switch, or even an all bypass switch to route the signal to the output jack...either way, you can choose to use the pree just in case
    I know no pot at all looks great, but you risk to be unable to fully use your new bass
  11. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    Gary Willis has a fretless Ibanez with 2 J pickups and no controls. It sounds killer - great solo tone. You can hear it on the video clip at www.basslobster.com
  12. Lackey


    May 10, 2002
    Los Angeles
    Even on his signature bass, Gary says he almost always plays with the preamp bypassed.

    Passive is great, especially if you don't like to deal with batteries and etc.
  13. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    I had two Stambaugh fretlesses, one with a two band preamp and one with only a volume control. In theory I liked the idea of very little in the signal path. In actual use I preferred having onboard controls.

    I sold the volume only fretless to a friend;)
  14. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    I remember the seminar Q/A with anthony jackson at the victor wooten bass camp. (hopefully garey can fill in any blanks I have)

    He talked for a while about how when he was being taught, his instructor would slap his hand whenever he tried to reach for the amp. tell him "if you can't do it with your hands, it's not worth doing" and stuff like that. Of course, a lot of what AJ says is to be taken with a grain of salt, because he's a really anal-retentive perfectionist, border-line obsessive compulsive.

    He is SO particular about his tone. He keeps all his cables in little plastic baggies, perfectly wound every time. One story he told, he went to the fodera shop to get the nut worked on. His request, for vinnie to shave off the nut a little bit, just one stroke, emphasizing one stroke. He went off to the bathroom and came back and vinnie was doing numerous strokes. Needless to say he blew a lid.

    I don't have much real input though, except I really like the concept too.
  15. Dann Glenn had a signature Hotwire 6 with no controls-



    (not sure if that one's passive or has a preamp inside?)

    also Tony Levin's custom 3-string Stingray (which got destroyed in a fire at his studio) had no controls, just a preamp.

    I've got controls bypass switches on my P basses.
    for a gig or recording I leave them in bypass, and use the amp or effect pedal eq to make changes for songs.

    I find bypassing passive volume and tone controls allows a bit more high end through.
  16. luknfur


    Jan 14, 2004

    I run pups straight to jacks and have 5 basses setup that way. I haven't read the other posts yet so my initial input flows from initial thoughts.

    First thing that comes to mind is I probably wouldn't costom order a bass that way. The time to sell will eventually come assuming the bass outlives you and since virtually nobody plays bass that way so it's not the way to maximize a resale.

    If I were to go that route, I would have the bass drilled for 4 poles and a switch. Have a control bay routed amply to handle electronics. And have a tasteful pickguard made to cover the potholes. So you can ad whatever whenever needed - or change your mind at whim.

    Very little experimentation but in what little I've done, the neck has more to do with the tone than body mass. I routed a 3/4" x 4" x 7" pickup bay and could not tell any change in tone on any of the basses - with the exception of a thudder which may have become a tad more so from the routing (splitting hairs).

    Secondly, I stand by my amp when I play and don't need onboard controls. If I couldn't stand by the amp, I would have some onboard control. There's 2 and 3 band cut/boost in the preamp so I don't need another preamp. All the basses I routed used to have onboard preamps and I wasn't impressed with any of it so I've satisfied that aspect of my playing.

    Lastly, I've read the more electronic components you run through the more the signal is degraded. That has seemed to be so in my experience. But I'm currently doing some experimentation and this go round testing is not supporting that concept. It's not any better but it doesn't seem to be any worse so far. To my ears, onboard preamps I've run through do filter the rawness out of a pup that has it compared to going straight to a jack. I'm comparing through pots as opposed to straight out now - and if there's a difference, it's not of any significance to me.

    All that comes to mind initially.
  17. Lyle Caldwell

    Lyle Caldwell

    Sep 7, 2004
    Whether there is a difference and how big the difference is depends on the pickups and the pots.

    Passive single coils will exhibit the most difference, followed by passive humbuckers. Active pickups or pickups that have been buffered should show little or no difference if the eq circuit is well designed.

    Here's a mod that's common with Les Paul freaks that some of you might want to try:

    Assuming a passive pickup and standard 250K or 500K pots, open up the tone pot. It's held together by 3 little metal tabs- just carefully bend them out so that the pot can be disassembled.

    Now look at the carbon track the pot wiper travels across. Find the area of the track that corresponds to where the wiper is when on 10 (when the pot is fully on). Carefully put a small layer of clear nail polish over this part of the carbon track, making sure you get no polish from "9" down. Only on the "10" portion.

    Then reassemble the pot, being careful to bend the three tabs back in place.

    Now when you put everything back together and play, the tone pot is completely out of the circuit when on 10, and engages at 9 and acts normally from 9 down.

    This can really bring out the high end and "air" of a passive pickup, by taking the resistance of the tone pot out of the circuit. Now this will be more noticeable on a lower-ouput passive pickup than with some 17K ohm firebreather, but it will be noticeable on any passive bass.

    The other thing that works with passive designs is to use a cap and resistor in series between lugs 2 and 3 of the volume pot(s). This is a "treble" bleed circuit that will retain the highs as the volume is turned down. You have to experiment with the right cap and resistor values for different kinds of pickups, but when you get it right, treble is retained and the lows aren't affected. A very nice mod. Check the wiring examples at www.kinman.com for a good illustration, though those values are chosen for Strats and Teles. If those aren't quite right for a bass, the right values won't be far off the ones illustrated.
  18. luknfur


    Jan 14, 2004
    The nail polish deal makes me think of the Fender no load pots.

    The only passive setup I wired I did the Les Paul deal. Long time back but I remember using two capacitors that were very different sizes. The result was tone pots that could be blended to get a mix that worked with either or both volume controls. Between that and a switch that ran the pups series HB or inner or outer coils of each HB resulted in an amazing array of tone options from HB to J that was all humbucking and dead quiet.

    After I routed my basses I had no use for that bass and that wiring saved it cause I had found nothing that would brighten up those Bart M34C's enough to make them of any use.

    Also the only pups I've ran on the pot testing experiment so far were Bart singles (not the best choice but most convenient at the time) but I'm working on some Fender singles now.
  19. Lyle Caldwell

    Lyle Caldwell

    Sep 7, 2004
    It's the same result as the Fender no-load (Delta Tone) pots with the following differences:

    1) Fender lifts the wiper off the track at 10, while this method insulates the track at 10.

    2) You can do this with any good quality CTS pot for half the price of the Fender pot (and who knows how good that pot is- Fender uses CTS for their Reissue and Custom Shop guitars, but pretty crappy pots for the rest of their lines).
  20. luknfur


    Jan 14, 2004
    Cool. Going to give that little fix a go and check it out.