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No sound from new (used) bass

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by Uncle K, Oct 23, 2012.

  1. Uncle K

    Uncle K The bass player doesn't get a sandwich Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2011
    Erie, PA
    I bought a loaded P-bass body off ebay to use with my Jazz neck. Well, I got the body today, put on the neck and some strings, plugged in my tuner, and....nothing.

    So I plugged it into my amp....still nothing.

    Cable and amp work with my other bass. So I took the pickguard off and checked all the solder joints, and everything looks OK. So I put my multimeter on the jacks and pots, and I'm not getting a reading. The ground wire seems OK too.

    Any idea what's going on. I'm an electronics noob, and have never done any of this before. :help:

    Yes, I did send the ebay seller a message.
  2. Egbert89


    Aug 30, 2012
    Does any of the wires have a strange twist or turn in it?
    Did you try your multimeter nearer to your pups and work further down towards the jack to see from which point you're not getting a reading anymore?
    A picture of the electronics could be useful :)
  3. bassbenj


    Aug 11, 2009
    Start with the pickups. Put the multimeter (set to OHMS and if necessary set to proper range to read 0 to about 10k. Test meter by putting leads together and make sure it reads zero) across each of the pickup halves. Each coil (half) should read about 5, 6, 7, or there abouts thousand ohms (known in the electronics biz as kOhms (k stands for kilo or 1000). Readings may depend on volume control settings.

    That is the first crucial test of pickups. If it passes that test, then you'll have to check each wire between where it starts to where it goes. All wires should read zero with previous settings. Then test from the center tab on the jack (that pushes against the knob on the end of your cord plug over to where ever that wire goes (usually volume control or tone control). If you get a zero reading then test from center tab to solder lug on jack. If that gives no reading then jack is bad. Also test from that center tab on jack to "ground" which is the jack body. If that reads zero then you've got a short somewhere.

    If things aren't straightened out at this point come back here with what you found and we'll go from there.

    The ultimate pickup test is to take the two wires that come from the series pickups (now probably going to the volume control and wire them directly to the jack terminals. You won't have a volume control but is a sure test for pickups. If that works then the next thing is to see if volume control is bad.
  4. arexlame


    Jan 21, 2013
    Bassbenj, I think I need your help. I've just brought an Arbor bass guitar, second hand unopened. I've had the exact same problem as agent77. Brand new, doesn't work not with the tuner or amp.

    It's not the amp nor cable, these work with other guitars.

    I'm pretty good with the electronics side of things, but the parts and descriptions of the guitars, I'm a little more than shabby.

    I'm wondering what do test in order to narrow down the issue, and what I need to replace. Could you please give me a hand?:meh:
  5. bassbenj


    Aug 11, 2009
    Well, you didn't give very much information, but I loooked up Arbor basses online and they seem to be all passive basses. that makes things pretty simple.

    First thing is to open up the cavity however that is done (panel on front with knobs (jazz), remove pick guards (p-bass) or panel on back (others). You should NOT see a circuit board in there. If you do change the battery and be on your way!

    Usually thing will be just a couple volume controls, "tone" control, and an output jack. Not much to go wrong. Presumably you've tried the volume knobs soloing each pickup already and got nothing. So since it's unlikely (though possible) that both pickups are bad, you'll want to concentrate on the stuff in the cavity.

    Since the bass is totally dead, you should concentrate around the jack and it's wires. Look for wires shorted against metal, and make sure the tang on the jack is touching the end of the plug tip (if it's that kind of jack).

    If you can't find anything visually, and since you are good with electronics (means know how solder) if you see nothing wrong the next step is to get a spare (known good) output jack. It doesn't matter what style. Unwire the the two wires to the old jack (noting which is ground and which is "hot" that goes to "tip" of plug) and wire same way to new jack. You don't have to mount it or install it or anything, just let it dangle and plug in your cord to it. You are only trying to test to see if old jack was shorted or otherwise bad. Try amp and reach under and pluck string without letting the wires sticking out short on anything. Make sure volumes and tone are full CW (max) and see if you hear anything. If you do and bass seems normal, then replace the old jack with a new one of the proper type.

    If the bass is still dead. Put the wires to the jack back and take the two wires from the neck pickup that are going to the first volume control and wire them to the new jack. Do the same test again. There is now no volume control but pickup should definitely be picking up strings and putting out to amp. If not then pickup is bad or wire is broken under the pickup. So take it out and look under there! And if that still doesn't work do the same exercise with neck pickup. ONE of these things should be working and I'd expect BOTH of them to work with this test although pickups DO go bad.

    If pickups pass the above test then short is in rest of wiring. Get a diagram online that matches your bass (usually vol/vol tone for Arbor aparently) and start comparing. If all else fails rewire the whole thing with new decent pots (probably needs them anyway). At that point there's nothing left to test since you've already tested the amp and cord.

    Good luck.
  6. JoeWPgh


    Dec 21, 2012
    Assuming it's passive, and all the connections are good, it's most likely the pup. If it's active, there's a lot more goblins to chase down.
  7. arexlame


    Jan 21, 2013
    Thanks so much for your help guys. Sorry I didn't give heaps of information in the first post. You are correct, it is a passive guitar, I know that much. I will go home and have a look at it, and give your suggestions a go. Thanks for All for your help and I'll get back to you.
  8. arexlame


    Jan 21, 2013
    Hey guys, thanks a lot for all of your help and advice. To clarify what I have, this should help you out.


    I've done some investigation and it seems that the pick ups were the issue. It turns out that only the lower pickup was kaput. I desoldered the pickups and measured the resistance between the two with the multimeter. Zilch, not even a connection. An inkling told me that the lower pickup was screwed, so I cut the two apart, and soldered the top one directly to the amp, and what do you know, it works great. I then tried this through the volume pots, and it works fine.

    I now ask another favour; how do I choose replacement pickups? Do you have any recommendations? I preferably want some thing really cheap, I don't do any gigs, this is just something to sit in my room for the occasional jam along to a song, so I don't need anything incredible.

    I've seen these on eBay, what do you think? http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/P-BASS-P...ries&hash=item2ec2a3dd59&_uhb=1#ht_2543wt_937

    Sorry for the extensive reply, and Thanks again to everyone who has contributed. :)
  9. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion

    Aug 25, 2010
    The Great Midwest
    Those should be fine but they are in Hong Kong and it's going to take some time for them to get to you that's a nice looking bass congrats.
  10. arexlame


    Jan 21, 2013
    Thanks mjac28, a bargin starter kit for $150! The pickups shouldn't be more than two weeks, I can live with out an amp until then. But, there's nothing special you need to get, or look out for so that it will work with my bass?
  11. T_Bone_TL


    Jan 10, 2013
    NW Mass/SW VT
    If time is not too critical (and you seem to have half a working pickup if you wire it back up until you get another anyway) it's always worth taking a look at what *B*y spawns when you restrict the search to wherever you are (I suppose possibly Australia given the particular *B*y you linked to) - you might find something a cut above the Asian product used, cheap and close to you - then again, it may not go for cheap depending who else wants it and how nice it is - so it's something of a crap shoot - but can be worth it if you have time on your side. You may well also find the same Asian product, but already in the country, which can save time, if nothing else.

    From time to time (usually when you are not looking, of course) craigslist or other local ads may spawn entire basses cheap enough to buy for parts...

    For the most part, a passive pickup of a particular shape is interchangeable, but it's not always true without cutting some wood, depending on what you started with and if it had "weird" pickups. But most do just swap.
  12. arexlame


    Jan 21, 2013
    I just had a look at the Australian sellers, but the cheapest there is still over fifty dollars, compared to the Asian alternative which is under ten. I think that Asian pickups should do fine for what I need it for. Thanks for your suggestions :)