Pickup Strength - HELP

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by Basslice, Jun 17, 2021.

  1. I am not a ignoramis when it comes down to bass or electronics in general. However, the world of pickups still mystifies me.

    I have a '92 Fender Jazz bass that I bought last year. I mostly like it, but the output level is really low. I gigged with it the first time last month and it was shocking how thin it sounded compared to a Sq CV 70's P bass.

    I measured the AC voltage of both and the max V for the P is more like 500 mV, whereas the Jazz was only peaking at around 100 mV.

    I then checked the resistance. The P bass was about 10 k Ohm, and the Jazz was around 7k on each the bridge and neck pups seperately and 3.6 k Ohm when both are wide open.

    My question: Is this normal? Can I replace the Jazz pups and expect better signal levels?

    FWIIW: My Ibanex PJ and Yamaha PJ basses both read around 10k Ohm, regardless of pup selected. It is only the Jazz that sounds crappy on stage.

    Thanks in advance....
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2021
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  2. ctmullins

    ctmullins Dominated Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    Have you checked the pickup height? Bringing the pickups closer to the strings will increase output. Not too close, of course, don’t want them banging together…

    Another option is wiring your J pickups in series, which will increase the output and thicken the tone.
  3. JeezyMcNuggles

    JeezyMcNuggles Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2018
    Santa Maria, CA
    I suck, but nobody really notices
    Short answer...yes. True answer...it's a jazz bass. You're comparing single coils ran in parallel to a series humbucker. Jazz basses have less output than P basses. Just turn up the gain, or volume to compensate.

    But yes, you can replace the pickups with ones that are hotter. Like quarter pounders. But, it won't sound the same.
  4. sunbeast

    sunbeast Supporting Member

    Jul 19, 2006
    Denver, CO
    Sounds normal, particularly if that Squier P pickup has ceramic magnets (not sure on that but some of those came with ceramic I think?). For a J pickup with hefty output check out a split-coil humbucker with ceramic magnets like the Dimarzio Model J, or really most split-coil ‘buckers will tend to have higher output than a traditional alnico mag single coil. Also the suggestion to wire the J pickups in series is a good one
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  5. Resistance is also not the number you should be looking at for output.
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  6. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Inactive

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Not to be snarky but....

    Have you tried simply jacking up the gain on your amp? That is literally what it's there for.
  7. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    Have you replaced the pickups with Fralin J? That's the first thing I'd check. Lots of folks miss that critical first step. Seems like you're asking the right questions. But you need to build your house upon a solid foundation.
  8. Thank you all for your replies. If jazz pickups are just weak (in terms of output levels), then ok. I don't recall the same issue with a Jazz V I used to own, but I didn't play that bass live too much. I did turn the gain way up the last few times, but it still sounded meh.

    Tonight, I brought the SQ P bass to rehearsal. It sounded great. If what I am gleaming from you all that the Jazz is supposed to put out a weaker signal, then I will try to adjust.

    Thanks again.
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  9. As far as I know, the pickups are original, but I bought it used and it has been owned by several people. So I really don't know if they have ever been changed.
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  10. Dudaronamous

    Dudaronamous Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Oct 16, 2005
    Bothell, WA
    I use a clean boost preamp with my jazz basses and the issue is solved.
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  11. yodedude2

    yodedude2 Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2005
    san antonio, texas
    if the jazz sounds crappy, boosting the signal is only going to make the crappiness seem louder ...
  12. Smooth_bass88

    Smooth_bass88 vaxx!

    Oct 31, 2006
    Western Hemisphere

    Have you considered swapping out the pickups? There are literally dozens of great sounding replacements available, many of which are quite affordable. You can look up the exact specs so you know you're getting something with a strong output.
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  13. Nighttrain1127

    Nighttrain1127 Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2004
    Near Worcester MA
    I would check the pickup wiring to make sure it is connected properly. Diagrams should be available on the net.
  14. ricardol


    Dec 10, 2016
    Did you check the magnetic pull on the poles with the tip of a screw driver? That would tell you about a possible demagnetization of the poles...
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  15. 39-Bassist


    Jul 7, 2010
    Endorsing Artist for: Duncan Pickups; Line6, Hipshot, GHS Strings, Somnium Guitars
    If you really want a nice sounding slightly hotter and no hum sound then I would suggest the set of S.D. STK-2J's.
    Just my 1-1/2 cents
    Most likely blah pickups.
    But hey have fun trying new things. BUT, warning, it could give you GAS.
  16. dwizum


    Dec 21, 2018
    There are three main variables that determine a pickup coil's output. Magnetic strength, number of turns of wire in the coil, and the relative positions of the magnet, coil, and string. (Technically speaking there are other factors too but they're minor in comparison). Stronger magnets, more turns, and components that are closer together all increase output.

    You can certainly buy hotter pickups, but that's like buying a faster car because you think yours is slow when you've only got the gas pedal down halfway. First, before doing anything at all, you should check pickup height. Take advantage of that third main factor - it's free! And easy! Get the pickups and the strings closer together. Lots of basses get built with the pickups slammed really low - raise them up closer to the strings a little at a time until you get poor tone (it'll start sounding distorted or chorus-y), then lower them back down a smidge, until the distortion stops. That'll be the optimal height in terms of output. If you have two "identical" basses but one sounds louder, it's almost certainly because the pickups are higher up in the louder bass.

    Besides the coils themselves, the way you wire them together makes a big difference in tone and output levels. Both of the basses you're talking about - a typical J and a typical P - have two coils in total. In terms of the circuit you create, the outcomes are essentially the same - the electrons don't care if you think of the P bass as "one pickup" and the J as "two pickups." To continue the car analogy, think of the wiring configuration as using the transmission in your car - depending on the gear you pick, you'll get a very different outcome. Even though you're not changing the horsepower the engine creates, you can change how it performs when you shift. Your J has the coils in parallel, the P has them in series. That's a big part of the typical difference - parallel will be lower output and less "meaty." Try the J in series and it'll seem like a totally different bass. Ask here if you need help with the wiring diagram.

    And since DC resistance got brought up, I think it's worth emphasizing what has already been mentioned - it's not a very meaningful number. ESPECIALLY if you're measuring the resistance of the whole circuit versus each coil individually. And even more so if you aren't sure of any of the other variables involved (i.e. type and strength of magnets, etc). For yet another car analogy, assuming a higher DC resistance means more output is like assuming a car with a fatter exhaust pipe has more power. Yes, generally speaking, cars with more horsepower have bigger pipes (i.e. pickups with higher resistance often have more output), but that's clearly not always true, and it's a very, very indirect measurement at best. It gets talked about because it's easy to measure! Not because it's meaningful. Few (if any) pickup makers publish legitimate specs in terms of their pickup output, which is unfortunate, but that's the world we live in. That said, the resistance readings you're seeing on your three pickups are pretty typical. So I don't think there are issues with the pickups themselves.
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  17. Matty Koff

    Matty Koff Inactive

    Aug 21, 2014
    I've owned one passive P-bass, and one passive Jazz. The P-bass has a way hotter pickup.

    This is why bass amps have input gain and master volume knobs.

    Everytime you plug in a different bass it's worth checking to see whether or not you're clipping your amp and check how much headroom you have to not do so. They don't all output the same strength of signal.
  18. Agreed. It is just surprising how much I have to crank the gain in live situations. It sounds ok when recording, but I am having trouble using this bass live.
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  19. Also, and maybe related, the bass has an "interesting" phasing issue. What I mean is that it almost sounds like it is going through a very mild flanger. One of my guitarists also noticed this when I asked him if the bass sounded clean.
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