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Ok, I was WAY wrong, I finally found humbuckers I like!

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by Flux Jetson, Mar 15, 2013.

  1. I've been known to say that I thought humbuckers sound thin, that they are missing something and that I have not heard any I like.

    Scratch that.

    I played an Epiphone Thunderbird IV on a recent trip to Tucson. I had an appointment at the VA hospital there so we made the 350 mile one-way trip to Tucson. When done at the VA, we made our usual run to the local Guitar Center to allow me to get my hands on as many basses as possible until the management tires of me and asks me to either buy something or leave. I live in a small city in the Sonoran Desert that has one tiny little Fender dealer. So I rarely get to play anything outside of my set of experiences.

    When we go to Tucson I'm like the hillbilly that has never seen indoor bathrooms or hot running water. I feel like an idiot sometimes because I'm so easily amused!

    I played about a dozen basses this time. I saw a Sunburst T-Bird IV on the wall, and thought ~why not?~. Woa! Nice! I tried two other Epi T-birds .... hmmm ... not quite. Fret issues, a little less gigantic sounding ... now where did I put the first one I tried? Ah! There it is! Yup! There's that sound, that feel ... this is THE ONE.

    At first it took me a few minutes to properly set up the Ampeg SVT Pro 7 head they allowed me to use (ported 4x10 cab). Once I figured out how to get what I wanted from that beast, it was frelling amazing! Serious SERIOUS huge rhino-nuts sound. It had this amazing low-mids growl that I've only heard on certain hard rock recordings. That particular one has an excellent neck, superior fretwork, and a great finish.

    I really REALLY dug on the lack of buzzy, noisy, sounds that I was used to with my J-bass. No hum either (imagine that?).

    So, we talked to the manager, and had him hold it for me. I explained my situation (my non-munnay situation due to having spent our moneycheck on Drs and the trip there). He was mondo-cool and put a no-money hold on it for me. That was about a week ago.

    Karma kicked in this past week and something we'd been trying to sell on ebay for months finally sold. For $1.50 more than I needed to pay for that bass! Cool right? We closed the deal on the day that they had nearly everything at 12% off, so not only did the Ebay Karma kick in, but we got "that bass" for $36 bucks less than anticipated as well! Rippin'!

    So ... it's on it's way. A bass with those "crappy sounding, thin-toned humbuckers" is on it's way to me .. me .. of all people .. me!

    I never said I was too old or too stubborn to learn!

    I guess all my previous experiences with humbucking bass pickups were just all the wrong stuff combined with all the wrong basses and all the wrong amps. I've had a solid negative vibe for them for two decades, having owned a few of them (Carvins, Ibanez, Steinys, others). Hey, it's possible! Every time I was exposed to them it was all the wrong stuff combined with all the wrong stuff.

    Not this time! And I am certain beyond certain that this T-bird will work just great with my modular bass rig. I can easily emulate an Ampeg with little effort, that will get me started. And then I will REALLY go to work on the sound with my filter arrays and parallel processors and a pair of really kickass compressors that I'm beta-testing for a custom seldom heard of builder that have done so well with my other basses.

    So, I must say .... I WAS WRONG. There are humbuckers out there that sound frelling SICK! I am totally on fire about this new bass. I have had such excellent luck with the proverbial "$300 bass" in the past, this one is just another excellent find! It should land here in about five more days. C'mon Big Brown Truck!

    My sincerest apologies to those that I disagreed so strongly with on this topic. I was wrong, you were right.

  2. Thomas Kievit

    Thomas Kievit Guest

    May 19, 2012
    Hahaha, don't feel bad about it. Sometimes a search for a good pickup, can turn out different then you think ;)

    Congrats on your purchase though! It's better to have pickups that give the sound you want, otherwise you would be a sad bass player (and we don't like them :p).
  3. Nice ! Enjoy, I just discovered flats after 20+ years on rounds... New is good sometimes, and a new bass, double good ;)
  4. It's refreshing to learn that I've been wrong about (whatever, pick a topic). Especially if it is a negative turned into a positive. I can be a pretty cynical person (many negative encounters with the Humans in my life) so it's always good to learn that some things are actually better than I first thought.

    Can't wait to begin the journey with the new axe.
  5. Webtroll

    Webtroll Rolling for initiative

    Apr 23, 2006
    Austin, TX
    Bolt neck or neck through? Was it the new classic series? Pro? I've been jonesing for a TBird but every bolt on neck Epi one I've played has lacked in feel and sound (to me, granted).
  6. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    Yes, which one was it? The latest model - is it the Classic? - actually has the Gibson USA pickups; the TB Plus humbuckers that are, indeed, amazing. Congratulations!
  7. As I mentioned it's the Epiphone Thunderbird IV in Vintage Sunburst finish.

    Later on, should the T-Bird design prove to be something I really get on with, I'll get the Classic IV Pro with the ceramic magnet pickups and neck-through construction or the Pro IV with active electronics and the different bridge. However, it may be tough to locate a ~pro~ that is as nice as this particular ~standard~ is. I may have to play a few to find one that matches the wellness of this silly standard.

    This particular IV is a sweet one, one that you don't run across every day. Great neck, responsive, simply excellent fretwork. Had I not actually tried this particular IV out I would not have bought one. The other two I tried were fairly unimpressive. But I happened to have seen this one hanging waaaaayyyyy up high sortof stashed behind a larger bass (almost as if someone else had found it first and tried to kind of hide it until they could return and buy it). I had to monkey up on top of an Ampeg 810 to get to it. As soon as I got a strap hooked up and got the test-head tweaked right, my very first thought was "ok, what is THIS?".

    After we left I could not stop thinking about it. I had the presence of mind to jot down the actual inventory number, so when I called them and spoke with the manager he confirmed the INV number to me without me first having told him what the number was ... MATCH!

    SOLD ($299, but after 12% discount and adding in-state tax it came to $281!)


    Waiting ......

    I've seen a few YT vids of the Pro, it indeed seems like a nice bass. So what's the deal, I guess there are passive Pros and active Pros. Is it that the Classic Pro IV is passive and the Pro IV is active?

    Classic Pro IV = http://www.epiphone.com/Products/Bass/Thunderbird-Classic-IV-PRO.aspx

    Pro IV = http://www.epiphone.com/Products/Bass/Thunderbird-Pro-IV.aspx

    The one I have coming looks and sounds almost exactly like this one (same two-tone finish and same rich sound) ....

    The one coming most certainly has the black-ish edging and small white dots on the side of the fretboard. One of the "no-go" T-birds I played there had really large white dots on the edge. Crappy fret edges, funky "kid's bass" tone.
  8. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Banned Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products
    Humbuckers are always fuller sounding than single coils, unless you are talking about a Musicman humbucker, which is fairly low impedance.

    What thin sounding humbuckers have you heard? I've never heard any.

    The complaint I hear about the Epiphone pickups is that they are muddy sounding and lack high end.
  9. As I said in the opening post, Carvins, Ibanez, Steinys. I think people are misjudging what I mean by thin (David when you say "fuller" at what bandwidth are you speaking of? Fuller where? More bottom?) There is a midrange element missing in many of them. They just have not been able to impress me at all. Many poeple have argued and argued with me about this, telling there is nothing ~missing~ and the humbuckers are fatter than singles. I don't know what to tell them other than they're wrong. They're not using my ears or my mind. There's some midrange element that is just not there. Sure, humbuckers have a lot more bottom, but they just do not have "The Voice" that singles obviously posess. So if "fuller" has to mean "bottom" or "mud" ... ok, HBs have more, I will give ya that. But to me "fuller" means FULLER. More filled-in everywhere. And humbuckers just lack a certain character in the mids that singles have in spades. I've yet to hear a humbucker that sounds like a Jazz neck pickup. Or a humbucking guitar pickup that sounds anything like a Tele neck or bridge pickup.

    Most bass humbuckers and nearly ALL guitar humbuckers just do not have the same midrange richness to them as singles do to my ears. There is nothing to discuss about it really.

    With the rig that I used at GC in Tucson (Ampeg SVT Pro 7 with a ported 4x10) I had to reduce the bass control down to roughly 9 o'clock and did a 15db cut at 500hz with the treble control at roughly 1 o'clock (no low or high buttons pushed). It sounded pretty awesome in there, I could hear a certain element that was in that bass that I feel can be further exploited.

    On my own rig with my funky stock VMJ, I typically do a light 80hz boost - a 20 to 25db cut at roughly 400/500 hz, and a (ready for this?) 35 to 40db boost at around 1k. So there is a roughly 65db parity between 450hz and 1k. Then a pretty hard 4-pole slope at around 2.5 to 3k. This shape records really well and holds it's own against that obnoxious guitar player and the drums. A very Geddy-ish tone that will darken right up as soon as I stop using any nail on the strings.

    With my rig I'm hoping the T-bird will sound pretty good. I shall find out in about five days. This T-bird has "fuller" sounding pickups ..... more filled in with the ability to extract the highs (what I call highs) out of it. To me "highs" aren't the clickity clackity fret buzzing "sizzle" .. to me that is just waste.

    Potato .... Potahto.
  10. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Banned Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products
    What frequency range are you calling "midrange"? I think that's the thing here.

    Humbuckers reinforce the lows and mids, while canceling some high end. This is because the two coils are sampling a larger area of the string, and adding their two slightly different signals together.

    Everyone knows that humbuckers in a guitar are chunkier sounding than single coils. Listen to the bridge pickup in a Strat. Fairly thin and screechy. Now stick a humbucker in it and listen to it. Fat with lots of mids. That's why people put humbuckers in Strats.

    Which pickups were in those?

    Those Tbird pickups are wound a little too hot and are on the dark sounding side. Singe coils on the other hand are much brighter. The Tbird pickups are the opposite of single coils.

    I think what you call treble is upper mids. That "clickity clackity fret buzzing sizzle" thing is treble. Treble is the difference between James Jamerson's and Stanley Clarke's tone. ;)

    It's all about where the resonant peak is in the pickup's response. And that's what EQ is for. :)
  11. I noticed the bass player in L.A. Guns playing a white Epiphone Thunderbird Classic. The pickups on his are chrome so I'm not sure it they're stock. Nevertheless, it is an Epiphone.
  12. Ok, the mystical magical Epiphone Thunderbird IV that I fell for at the Tucson location Guitar Center arrived yesterday. Opened the (rather poorly) packed box and discovered a large ~GANK~ in the body. It looks like it got hit with something hard and solid on the upper edge of the body, leaving a 1/4 inch deep by 1/2 inch long ~gank~ (gouge/dent) that fuddup the paint to the point of it chipping a large chunk and leaving a square shaped dent in the body. It's right on the corner of the upper edge, so it's rough edges get all hung up on my shirt. Over time it will grow and grow larger and larger making the paint come off in an ever expanding FONK.

    The box it came in is 100% undamaged and is in excellent condition, so this is not "shipping damage".

    There are a few other dents that didn't crack the finish. NONE of these damaged areas were present when I played this bass a couple of weeks ago. It has different strings on it now too, the G string is nearly twice as loud and way brighter than the rest of them. The Volume knob for the neck pickup had been removed and replaced crooked too. I took a bazillion pics of the damaged areas as well as the box itself from numerous angles. The pics are time-stamped no more than 10 minutes after I signed for the bass. (I know how to protect myself from reluctant retailers - nothing is absolute but it never hurts to do as much as you can to make your case for you).

    I called GC and asked to speak to the same Assistant MNGR that we dealt with, he was not there. I was told to call back after 1pm on Thursday (today).

    It's going back. And I am NOT covering the return shipping.


    Oh well, I'll run across another bass someday that I like. I think I may just use the money to have new Stainless Steel frets installed on my aging Cort A4 Artisan, or perhaps that Alesis DEQ-830 8 channel 31 band EQ I've been gassing over. In fact, after playing the T-Bird, then playing my modded Jazz and my Cort, the Cort was able to achieve the same Rhino Nuts low end with it's active preamp that the T-Bird produced. I'd just never tried my Cort with my new "X-Rig" (see link in my sig) before. It kinda blew my mind by how FRIGGIN HUGE it sounded through my newly constructed modular rig. I guess I didn't even need the T-Bird afterall!

    On the T-Bird, I did a quick set up on the bridge, adjusted the pickup heights, it plays pretty good. Too bad it has a few sucks on it .... it's pretty nice looking as far as how the finish looks (it's colors and woodgrain). I will say that after tweaking my Rane PE-17 parametric EQ and a few of my Low Pass and Band Pass filters I was able to get some really clear and punchy 70's rock bass tones from it. It required some serious EQing to pull some clarity out of it, but when I finally worked out the proper recipe it sounded really great. Especially the E and A strings, really growly.

    Ugh ..... Oh well ..... I had a feeling this was going to end poorly. I simply cannot get past the big gank in the body.

    Onward ....
  13. Ugh ....

    This does not rock.




  14. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Banned Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products
  15. Nope, "new" bass! Otherwise I'd go with a repair. It didn't look like this when I test drove it in Tucson. This happened sometime after I played it. It's roughly .250 x .500 in area covered, and roughly .125 deep.

    This isn't what I paid for. I'm usually pretty laid back about this type of stuff, but I do have limits.
  16. Plucky The Bassist

    Plucky The Bassist ZOMG! I'm back from the dead! Supporting Member

    Jul 30, 2010
    Houston, TX
    Oh man, another "WTH were they thinking??" Guitar Center shipping story lol

    I had a Traynor YBA200 shipped to me with the 6550's removed and LEFT IN THE SAME PACKAGE AS THE AMP HEAD. Needless to say, one of them was pulverized, which was surprising since it was only one of them and not all 4. Irregardless, yours sounds like somebody dinged it up and packed it hoping that you wouldn't care or wouldn't say anything about it and suck it up. If they don't treat you right on the store level, talk to retail relations and let them know the store is giving you the shaft on this...they will typically talk some sense into them pretty quick and get the store singing a different tune.
  17. Cool, thanks for the advice! I'm going to call them in just a few minutes here to discuss the issue with the asst. manager that walked us through the whole deal from the beginning. I appreciate the efforts they went through to help us out with making sure they shipped us the same bass that I tried out when I was there. But regardless of their efforts this isn't right. Yea yea, I know ... $300 bass bla bla .. I get that. But I shouldn't be expected to just ~take it~ just because it isn't a $1500 Gibson.

    I'll let them set the tone of the conversation. I'm going in with a level head and a calm demeanor (even though I got pretty amped up on the way home from the Dr. just now .. listened to Rancid all the way home!). However this ends up going will be totally of their doing. If they want to get crappy about it, crappy can easily go both ways, I'm just going to deal what I'm dealt. Hopefully it all goes down peaceful and smooth.

    Ok, calling them. I'll let you know how it turns out.

    Thanks again for the suggestion about where to go if I don't get treated right on this.

  18. Ok, spoke to "Steve" there. At first he wanted me to drive there to exchange the bass for another one. Uh .. 600 mile round trip? Sorry mangs, ain't happenin'. So once he got his head around the situation (even though he's the one who set us up with the purchase and had it sent to us .. somehow he totally spaced that we're from a city 300+ miles away) .. he told me he'd have to call me back.

    Tick tock ....

    So, GC closes at 8pm .... 8 came and went .... at 8:30 I just figured I'd call anyhow. He picked up, after apologizing he once again said they'd be happy to exchange it, that they'd be sure to pick out a really nice one (they have no other T-Birds in stock btw) and that they'd throw in a strap and a handfull of picks.

    I reminded him once again that I prefered a refund, because I'm just not comfortable with buying a guitar/bass sigh unseen and unplayed over the web.

    He finally caved and said that someone from the shipping dept would call me in the AM and they'd get a call tag issued to have UPS pick this one up and they'd refund my entire purchase.

    So, it took a little bit of doing, but so far it seems to have worked out ok. So far. We'll see. It ain't over til it's over (to quote Sonny Crocket of Miami Vice).

    In the meanwhile we're trying to get our oldest cat to take a thyroid pill, she's hyper thyroid and has been losing weight even though she cannot seem to ever eat enough. She'd down from 9 pounds to 5.5 pounds even though she eats and eats. So one drama to the next around here tonight.

    Let's hope the bass issue plays out well.

    Onward ....
  19. I'm sending it back Monday. Meantime I've been playing it, trying to decide if I truly need one at all. I've learned that my Cort is a very capable beast that does everything I was hoping the Thunderbird would get done.

    The more I play this one the more I realize that this ain't the one I played when I was in Tucson. The strings are WAY out of balance (volume wise), almost like it has strings from four different sets/brands/types. It sounds a lot different too (I know about the "why doesn't my new [guitar/bass/amp/cab/whatever] sound like it did in the music store?" phenomenon and am wise to it when I test drive stuff). This is just not the Golden Nugget that I played when I was there.

    I'll be glad to get this hunk of black mojo out of my home and studio, it's leaving a stench.
  20. Toptube


    Feb 9, 2009
    I played one of the bolt-on Epiphone Tbirds at Guitar Center Seattle on an Ampeg Micro CL and heard the tone I've been chasing for a couple of years.

    and, even though the bass was setup pretty well and played well, I hated how it "sat" on a strap or in my lap. I don't care how good it sounds, if I can't stand holding it, its not coming home with me : \

    I ended up just posting a "wanted" ad for some epiphone tbird pickups, here on talkbass. I put them in an Ibanez SRT while I waited for some custom pickups.

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