1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  

Pickup placement - Wal vs Warwick

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Plastalmonus, Dec 20, 2018.

  1. Hi guys,

    So I’m having a bass built and have gone with a bit of a Wal style by using the Nordstrand Big Blademan pickups and JC-3B preamp. It’s a 35” scale 5 string and I’ve now come to the point where I have to decide on pickup placement.

    Below are the two options I’m deciding on.

    Option 1 is the Wal placement modified for a 35” scale. This should give a more balanced tone I’d imagine as the pickups are spread for treble and bass placement.


    Option 2 is more of a Warwick $$ style. The neck pickup is more or less in the same place but the bridge pickup is moved up closer to the neck. I feel this would give a lot more mid range grind and considering I tend to play more aggressive styles this somewhat appeals to me. I just worry that I will lose out on the treble by sitting further from the bridge. Aesthetically I dig the Warwick look a bit as well.


    So I put it to the Talk Bass Brains Trust (TBBT). What do you guys think the pros and cons of each would be?

    Cheers :D
  2. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    In general, when you move the pickup toward the bridge, you are lowering the bass in its sound. It's not really increasing the treble, but just reducing the pickup's ability to "hear" the bass frequencies on the strings. It's as if you are turning down the Bass knob on the pre-amp or amp a few notches.

    So, deciding on where you want to position the bridge pickup is about how much difference in sound between the two pickups you want to be built in. Closer to the bridge means a bigger difference between the pickups when you throw the switch. Closer together means less difference between the two; the bridge pickup will have a wider range. But you can always trim its bottom end by turning the knob.

    In this case, it's only a small difference anyway. And those big blade humbuckers have a wide aperture, so they aren't super sensitive to position.
    Plastalmonus likes this.
  3. Blankandson

    Blankandson Supporting Member

    Oct 20, 2010
    Gallatin, Tennessee
    I play the Warwick $$ like you are talking about. I use the edge of the pups to support my right hand thumb as I don't use picks. Think about where your fingers are when using either pup in the two positions. Mine works out well for either pup but if I want more of a J-bass tone I don't have that support as I play down just above the bridge. If you're just messing around it's no issue. But late in a 3-hour gig your hand might start to give out. (Talkin' metal here as opposed to old-school country.)
  4. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    1) Anything right up against the bridge is too thin for me tone wise.

    2) My thumb would sit right on top of the "bridge" pickup in your Warwick example.

    3) The "bridge" pickup in your Warwick example is closer the where the Stingray pickup sits.

    For those three reasons I would go Warwick style.
  5. eastcoasteddie


    Mar 24, 2006
    This is a Dean I used to own, 35” and 24 fret.


    The bridge pickup was in the stock location, I routed and installed the neck pickup.
    I had each pickup wired in Series, and then eventually added coil tap switches, A/P switch and a passive tone control.

    The bridge pickup in Series was very basal and honky, but still with great tight definition of the B string. I found myself boosting bass on the preamp just above detent when soloing the bridge pickup. But when using coil tap, the single coils were glorious.

    The neck pickup sounded fine, and with coil taps was very, very P-Bassy.

    The pickups being so close together still had a very different tone compared with the other. Very different.

    When using the inner coils together, it sounded very much like a Thumb bass. Outer coils sounded very muck like a modern active Jazz bass.


    So in a perfect world. I probably would have liked the pickups about 1/2” to 1” closer to the neck, but close together as they are. In other words, like the Warwick $$ I suppose...

    A G&L L2500 has great pickup spacing, IMO. Bridge pickup about 1” closer to test bridge than a Stingray, and the neck pickup about 1” up from the bridge pickup.


    But these pickups are smaller than the Blademen, so there’s more space to play with...
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2018
  6. mikeswals

    mikeswals Supporting Member

    Nov 18, 2002
    Seattle / Tacoma
    a Wal has way more bite than any Warwick, so if that's what you're after you'll want that bridge pickup near the bridge as in pic#1
    nibs208 and nbsipics like this.
  7. bigtone23


    Dec 10, 2014
    Denver, CO
    I would be inclined to go with the Warwick locations, or something very close to it. I don't do the burpy middy soloed bridge pickups in Jazz locations, but do like the fuller sound of a Stingray located pickup.
    If you do the option of series/split/parallel coils, the outside coils will be Jazz-esque, soloed neck humbucker in series will be P-esque and soloed bridge in parallel will be Stingray-esque. That's a win-win-win, IMHO.
  8. Hi,

    Thanks for the responses so far. It’s good to have some examples... also I hadn’t thought of the Stingray placement so that helps.

    I should point out two things about the Nordstrands.

    1. The preamp is a blend control and not a switch.
    2. Carey wrote a note with the pickups suggesting to not wire them series as the output becomes way too hot with these pickups. So due to this I was only going to wire them in parallel.

    I am unsure now if I requested a coil tap but most likely will.
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2018
  9. I am also now starting to lean towards the Warwick option. Bit of P Bass (when coils of the neck are in series) and bit of Stingray (when coils of the bridge are in parallel).

    I owned a Sandberg VM4 and VM5 once and never gelled with the bridge humbucker as I found it too thin.
  10. eastcoasteddie


    Mar 24, 2006
    If you are going to wire each pickup Parallel, I would highly suggest coil tap switches.
    One of my current basses is MM/J, wired with a 3-way switch for Bridge Coil/Parallel/Neck Coil. I do prefer Parallel over Series.
  11. I used to have a Warwick $$. The pickup positions are good because they work well together and solo'd. The problem for me is that it's not real comfortable to have them both so close together. I like to dig in pretty hard and with the $$ configuration there's no room for my fingers to go down past the strings. Just feels crowded. But if you have more of the Gary Willis approach of not using excess force then the $$ would probably have no downside.
  12. Hey guys,

    Thanks heaps for your info so far. Now it’s time for round 2 as I am seriously hitting analysis paralysis and could do with bouncing some ideas off you guys.

    The left side of the ruler is the end of the fretboard.

    Option 1:
    Original Wal placement for a 34” scale, uncorrected for the 35” - this puts both pickups further up the body but may push the neck pickup too close to the fretboard.

    Option #2
    Same as above but the neck pickup now corrected for 35” scale and the bridge pickup left as is. This would be the original Warwick $$ position I have above.

    Option #3
    Same as above but the neck pickup is adjusted 5mm towards the neck. This is mostly just to give the pickups as slightly more spread look as I doubt it will affect the tone.

    And finally Option #4 - this one my luthier threw in today as I reckon he knows that I am horrible at making decisions and likes to torture me. This is what he calls the G&L spacing. Similar to above but moved towards the bridge.

    Now I get that ultimately I need to make this decision however I am running into a wall due to my ignorance of how pickup placement will really affect the tone. If it just comes down to aesthetics I’m fine :D

    Thanks in advance and Merry Christmas to you all.
  13. mouthmw


    Jul 19, 2009
    I'd go for the Wal placement if you want to get closer to the Wal tone.
  14. Thanks for all the feedback.

    Body has now been routed :D

  15. Wizzu


    Mar 26, 2019
    Bummer, chiming in too late!

    I'm always flummoxed that so many luthiers and bass players miss the most obvious and only rational way to determine custom pickup placement according to one's taste: test run with your ears, BEFORE routing.

    1. Make the instrument "string-able" before any routing job to the body (except for the bridge if it's necessary)
    2. String the instrument with your favorite strings
    3. Wire the first pickup, plug it to PA
    4. Play and vary the pickup position (over the strings, of course..) until you get a good idea of what sounds good to you - there are plenty of tricks you can find to stabilize the pup over the strings (I use a wooden ramp with simple poster putty to attach it to the body and hold the pup as well)
    5. Repeat with 2nd pup (if any)
    6. Keep experimenting / combining pups until you like what you hear in all bridge/neck combinations.

    If you know what you're doing and have a good idea of what frequencies you want to push, you can also use an spectrum analyzer besides you ears. That's what I do.

    Done? NOW do the routing. :)

    It's a rather messy process with all the wires etc. but the reward is great: YOUR pickup placement according to your ears, the way you play, and YOUR taste.

    You can also do these experiments on another bass rather than on the bass you're making.

    If you go custom rather than stock, why not actually try, listen and decide for yourself? Why ask others, "think" only, do the routing, and pray that it will be what you want? The probability that it will, is flimsy. Not that it will be bad of course. Just not what you would have really wanted.

    Now. I for one, love to get the bridge pup very close to the bridge (à la Wal) to get a strong high-mid bite around 800-1000Hz. Too close to the bridge and the resonance is too high in frequency to be of any usefulness, also the volume gets too weak. Too far from the bridge and the bite is lost, and can never really be EQed back (it sort of can, but the end result is very different: you can't make a Stingray sound like a WAL despite the fact that the Stringray pup is sonically close to a WAL - why? Pickup placement!).

    I also learned with these experiments, that I much prefer a slant pickup placement than a standard one, with the pup a little further from the bridge under the thinner strings (think Warwick Thumb NT). Not always feasable depending on string spacing and the presence of pole pieces, though.
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2019
  16. Wizzu


    Mar 26, 2019
    I disagree. The pickup placement towards the bridge strongly pushes a given frequency band which center fq varies with the position. It's not just equivalent to a high-pass filter, but rather to a high-pass filter PLUS a bandpass filter (or a resonant passive high-pass filter).
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2019

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.