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Nordstrand MM dark sounding?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by carl-anton, Mar 8, 2005.


  1. Hi
    I'm on the verge of buying a Nordstrand MM replacement pu for my SR5. But lately I've been hearing about people not liking it because it was too dark sounding. I think I need one because I'd like to get a fatter and warmer sound, and get the mids and highs to be a little less harsh. But I still like to have the zing of new strings. A lot of people bring up Paul Denman as an example of the old shool Stingray sound. While I love his playing and tone I would like it a bit brighter, but is that what I'm getting with the Nordstrand? Could anyone shed some light on this?

    Thanks :bassist:
     
  2. msquared

    msquared

    Sep 19, 2004
    Kansas City
    If it's "dark", it's more because of the type of pickup than it is because of the manufacturer. It does color the sound of course, as all pickups do, but it manages to do so without occluding it (to continue the visual metaphors).

    How you wire the pickup matters, and Carey's included wiring schematic includes a few different options along with a capsule summary of what tone to expect. I wired mine in series to get the mid bump but I can get a pretty decent slap tone too.

    One of the options is to only wire up one of the coils, and he advises that if you do this, that you set it up on a switch to go between one and two coils. So if you found that it was too dark for some of your situations, you could add a jazz pickup in the neck position and wire it up so that you could use a switch to go between a jazz setup and a humbucker setup. This would solve your darkness "problem" without losing the ability to get it back easily. And you will want it back. :)
     
  3. luknfur

    luknfur

    Jan 14, 2004
    DIXIE
    FWIW:

    I can stick pups anywhere in my basses. I'm basically a J tone guy and I prefer the MM closer to the bridge than the Ray placement - actually about where the Sterling is from what I've gathered (seems it's closer to the bridge). At any rate, I placed the back of the MM about where the back of J pup would be.

    I play 4's so I've never had an MM 5, but I've had plenty of MM 4's (see Dimento's MM pup experiment). All but the Bart MM's sounded very much alike actually - splitting hairs. The ceramics (ie. SD smb 4d and Sterling - to my knowledge) are noticeably brighter and clearer. The Alnico 's like the original Ray, Nord 4.2, SD smb 4a, are a little darker, dirtier - vintage toned.

    To my knowledge, adding a J neck would not make it any brighter because that placement generates a darker, dirtier tone. And I've had plenty of J's to know. At best, you might get something tansparent (like a Bart Ric Replacement) at that locaton but it still wouldn't brighten up an MM, it just wouldn't darken it as much. What it would be good for is fattening up an MM that's too bright or too thin. I would not consider that as an option if that wasn't the goal.

    What makes more difference than anything is placement of the pup - further up the neck you go the darker and dirtier, the closer to the bridge the brighter and clearer. The same J pup moved from bridge to neck will about 1/3 louder and typically equally darker and dirtier. That's with the standard 3 1/2" to 4" C/C spacing.

    Nord apparently makes an MM quad that you could run like a single and still have hum canceling. But I've never had one to know their tone.

    The acoustic tone of your bass will have a significant affect on the pup as well and is something to factor in. If you've got a bright bass, then an Alnico may be a consideration. If it's dark then you've got your work cut out for you regardless. But a ceramic MM with caps added will give you the most brightness and clarity. You can vary the caps significantly to suit your taste.

    I'd also go to Harmonycentral.com and look your bass up and see if anybody's stuck a Nord replacement in one. Sometimes the reveiwer leaves an email address you could contact them by for any questions.

    Good luck
     
  4. msquared

    msquared

    Sep 19, 2004
    Kansas City
    Perhaps I didn't explain myself well enough. The idea is to switch between a single MM setup and a simulated dual J setup by disabling one of the coils in the MM while activating the bridge J. The single coil of the MM is probably not enough to sound good on its own, but adding a J in the neck position and blending between them should be close to the tone goal described.
     
  5. luknfur

    luknfur

    Jan 14, 2004
    DIXIE
    FWIW:

    yep, if the MM is split the bridge pole would definetly produce a brighter, clearer, thinner, lower output tone than in HB mode. Adding a J pup would effectively fill out and increase output without darking the tone much if adjusted effectively. But the more the neck J used, the darker, dirtier, fatter, and higher output the tone would tend to become. In a loose sense, that setup would basically behave like a J pair. Wiring the MM as if it itself were a J set (I've stuck J pairs side by side like an MM and they sound very much like an MM) would probably produce a more optimal result. And with a quad MM, each "coil" would be humbucking.

    Another thing about the quad is that each "coil" (row of poles) is actually 2 humbucking coils. With few exceptions, that would produce a noticeably fatter, less harsh, darker tone - probably with more low end and mids, less top, and more rounded tone. That is, than if it were actually one single coil. But with only the bridge poles in use that would probably more than compensate for the darker tendency and result in a noticeably brighter tone yet retain the other desired characteristics.

    A bart MMC or MME may also be the ticket (the MME is a triple coil with the same dimensions as the MMC [no bottom coil like the Sterling and Nord triples which require special routing] and so would yeild quiet single coil output). But they sound like a Bart version of an MM (similar to an LP MM) and not like the other replacements which more accurately replicate the original MM tone.
     
  6. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    My Nord MM isn't dark at all, except its in a Modulus Flea, so the carbon fiber neck might be adding to the brightness.
     
  7. Mental Octopus

    Mental Octopus

    May 24, 2003
    how is the nord working for you? i'm hoping to make my flea bass sound alot warmer....so i would appreciate your opinions on it.
     
  8. msquared

    msquared

    Sep 19, 2004
    Kansas City
    My MM5.2 is in a Flea as well.
    http://matt.fluxcapacitor.net/modfleanordie-small.jpg

    I wouldn't call it "dark" by any means. But I hate to make a definitive statement since it IS in a guitar with a carbon fiber neck/board/nut.

    I like the combination a lot. The Nordstrand sounds a lot better than the Bart MMC that came out of it. I don't get how the Flea/MMC combo ever made it out of the design stage, but obviously it works for some people (Stefan Lessard). Yes, the Nordstrand warms up the sound quite a bit.

    I can barely stand playing anything else. I've had two people play it and offer to buy it on the spot, so I know it's not just me. There's something about the comfort of the neck and the sonic balance of that guitar with that pickup that makes for a wonderful instrument.
     
  9. ...and a beautiful instrument :) Nicest Flea bass I've seen.

    Well, thanks guys so far. I don't think I want to mess with my bass putting other PUs in it than direct replacements like the Nordstrand. I wouldn't mind a little less bright soundíng bass. I have my tweeters in my Goliath III's almost shut off, so I have plenty of headroom for brightness. What I wanted to hear was if the Nordstrand was as dark sounding as Paul Denmans Stingray on the first couple of Sade records? That might be too dark for me. But a less harsh midrange and a fatter sound could be an trade-in that would make me do it anyway.

    But thanks for your comments :) Keep them coming!
     
  10. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    Its the general consensus that the Lane Poor was the best pickup for the Flea basses. Well, when I got my Flea bass it had the Lane Poor and I swapped it for the Nordstrand and haven't looked back. It just seems to have more life and delivers a lot more useable tones. It definitely warmed the bass up and took a little bit off the top. REALLY enhanced the lower midrange, which is where most of my tone is focused, so to me it was a very good thing. I've got it wired for series/parallel and active/passive switching (Bartolini NTBT onboard preamp) and I can find useful settings in all configurations. I primarily run this thing passive and use the onboard pre as more of a treble boost when I want a really hyped in-your-face pick tone.
     
  11. Mental Octopus

    Mental Octopus

    May 24, 2003
    i see i see. thank you very much.

    i have a lane poor/aguilar pre in mine right now...and although i like the sound i find myself really looking for that natural stingray tone. i have a stingray but the flea is just simply the smoothest playing bass i've ever played and i want to keep it, so it looks like i'll order a nordie pretty soon.
     
  12. msquared

    msquared

    Sep 19, 2004
    Kansas City
    Tonight I was curious, so I took my Flea in and A/B'd it against a brand new Stingray with a guitarist friend present. The Stingray in question had a rosewood fingerboard versus the Flea's CF board.

    In summary, the Stingray was noticably brighter than the Flea. After playing the Flea for a bit and then plugging the 'ray in, my friend thought it sounded weird and liked the Flea/Nordstrand a whole lot better. I pretty much agree. It might be that I'm just used to that sound but the "bite" of the Stingray sounded kind of out of place to me.