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Pick-up cover on or off... difference?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by basmicke, Oct 29, 2010.

  1. basmicke


    May 31, 2008
    I just put on the pick-up cover (bell cover) back on my old -55 P-bass. I was wondering if it has any impression on the sound?
    I did it mainly to protect the single coil mike that's pretty "naked" and sensitive dynamically, but the cover is tight on the strings and I think the output got a little more punchy.
    Anyone with experience in this matter? I know some players like Will Lee and Marcus Miller keeps it on their J-type basses but is it mainly as a resting place for the right hand or do they know something I don't?
  2. No effect on the ssound.
  3. tangentmusic

    tangentmusic A figment of our exaggeration

    Aug 17, 2007
    It was originally there for the looks.
    Many players took it off so they could play right over the pick up.
    I always liked the larger one they had on the Jazz Bass with the "F" embossed into it.
    Removing it did not alter the sound, same for putting one on...
    The only diff in sound would be cuz' you cant play directly over the p'up
  4. Actually the original intent was as shielding, but that was abandoned rather quickly when it turned out it had practically no effect on noise, at that point it became decoration.
  5. I would have about as much effect on tone as pickup covers.....which some of us secretly know is the real secret to great tone.
  6. Bassamatic

    Bassamatic keepin' the beat since the 60's Supporting Member

    According to my brainiac engineer, the pickup covers help to reflect the pull of the magnetism from the pickups, making the string vibration more symmetrical. You may actually be hearing the difference. I've never tried it so I can't say, but he does tech work with many of the top musicians in the Bay Area and has input from them as well as his own knowledge.

    They don't have any shielding effect unless they are grounded, and then it is minimal because of the large open gaps.
  7. basmicke


    May 31, 2008
    Since different strings sound different the magnetic field from the vibrating string must be somewhat affected by sonic factors as well.
    My idea was that the bell cover might enhance the sound of the vibrating string and that way slightly alter the sound in some way.
    The normal plastic cover on a pickup leaves the poles raised above the plastic and shouldn't have the same reflecting effect at all.
    The question was if the more metallic sound achieved with the bell cover on is something that actually effects the final sound or if it's just audible acoustically. But it seems none of you so far has had that experience.
    I guess the best way to find out is to do a "blindfold" A/B recording with and without it.
  8. They do influence the tone of your bass in a way!
    They prevent you from playing on top of the pickups and that is enough to change the tone!
  9. basmicke


    May 31, 2008
    Ok. Thanks. Sounds interesting. Even though we're talking subtle nuances it's still might be something to look into more, especially on the old, single coil pre-57 P-basses were the pickup is really bright and transparent, almost over-sensitive.
  10. 4-Bang'er

    4-Bang'er Guest

    Oct 3, 2006
    Strip it! I off load all the covers on my basses-they get in the way of playing.
  11. Which is why Fender stopped attaching a ground wire as it had a negligible effect and cost extra and the covers became pure decoaration..
  12. They make good thumb rests.
  13. Bassamatic

    Bassamatic keepin' the beat since the 60's Supporting Member

    This probably makes more difference than anything.
  14. bassbenj


    Aug 11, 2009
    It's true that pickup covers are mostly decoration although I've found they do indeed change the tone slightly... and IMHO for the worse. They make the tone slightly more distorted and more "humbucker" sounding.

    The effect though real is small. Which is why I love to leave the "ashtray" bridge cover on even though tone is a tad more pure without it. I just love the look. Simple as that. I also run a ground to the cover just to add a bit a shielding, but as others have noted they really do squat for shielding. Just looks.

    I don't use the neck cover, however, because for me it just gets in the way of playing. Yeah the basses look even cooler with both covers on, but I had to draw the line at making that big a sacrifice in playing comfort just for looks.

    Theoretically, a properly designed cover should be able to kill some of the single coil hum, but it would have to be made of thick iron like the huge Ric pole pieces to deflect the magnetic fields. A thin stamped one does zero to affect single coil hum in my experience.
  15. I keep both covers on my jazz bass all the time, and they somehow don't interfere with my finger-style; actually, the neck cover makes a nice thumbrest and I vary my tone by playing in front or behind it rather than messing with the controls.
  16. Mmm....don't think so. As far as I know, the only thing that can 'reflect' a magnetic field is another magnetic field.
  17. syciprider

    syciprider Banned

    May 27, 2005
    Inland Empire
    If we talk about it often enough, the effects of pup covers on tone will begin to take on an element of truth to it just like most urban legends.
  18. I know, right?

    Can't wait for someone to have their covers "magnetized" for the ultimate tone mod!
  19. basmicke


    May 31, 2008
    This is especially when using the pre-57 P-bass with the exposed single coil pickup and pretty large bell cover. I did a A/B comparison and there is definitely an audible difference. I'm not sure though if it's worth having it there since it interferes with my right hand technique sometimes and the difference is not big it just sounds to me as if the tone is a little more balanced and tight frequency vise and a little stronger.
  20. It doesn't make any difference in sound.

    That thing is a "pickup", not a "mike". A microphone is another, completely different device.

    And I use pickup and bridge covers on both my P and J. Don't let any of these guys tell you to take it off if you like it. PURELY personal preference!!!!!

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