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Pickup suggestions/help for my 5-string bass?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by SeedsBass, Mar 28, 2005.

  1. I could really use the help and advice of someone who has experience.

    I'm hoping to get people's advice and opinions in regard to getting a new pickup that will improve my sound.

    I currently own an Ibanez SR485 which is similar to the newer versions like this one:

    My bass has active pickups, but they're the stock pickups and they sound very dull to me with no real "character" or "dynamics". I've especially noticed that the higher strings D & G sound kind of "thin".

    I'd really like to improve my sound, but I really know *nothing* about installing new pickups or where to begin choosing. I don't even know if I have to replace both pickups since it is "active" electronics running on a 9volt battery. Would it be possible for me to just replace the bridge pickup? Are there certain conditions I should be aware of?

    I would really appreciate any knowledge / advice anyone would be willing to share with me. Nothing could be better than getting the opinions of those of you have have more years of experience at this than I do.

    I'm certain that I want to purchase Bartolini.

    I'm not sure if these measurements will help because I'm not sure what they convert to in millimeters, and it seems a lot of pickups are measured in millimeters.

    Here's my closest measurement:

    1 & 9/16 (just slightly over 1.5 inches) x 4 & 3/32 (around 4.12 inches)

    I took a look at the Bartolini site and now I'm even more confused, as there are many types of "soapbar 5-string" pickups available and I'm not sure what they all sound like.

    All I know is there are some bass sounds I really like... for example, I like Geddy Lee's tone on "Free Will" and many other Rush tunes, I like Stu Hamm's sound on a lot of stuff he does, and even Eddie Jackson from Queensryche on some of their stuff like Operation Mindcrime. I guess I just want to have an all around punchier tone... I'm not sure how to describe it. I guess I'll need to sample some music tracks to get examples of what I'm shooting for.

    MANY MANY THANKS to anyone who takes the time to reply with their advice or opinions.
  2. David Wilson

    David Wilson Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Lower Westchester, NY
    hi, welcome to Talkbass.

    If your existing pickups are active, then chances are you need to replace them with other active pickups or change your electronics at the same time. If you're set on Bartolini, you're probably going to have to change pickups/preamp at the same time since they don't make any active soapbars.
    Which is tough, because you're changing two things at the same time and so if you don't like the result it's hard to know which part you don't like. Either/both?

    From what you say, I"m pretty certain your pickups are EMG 40 shape. But looking at this auction: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&category=38080&item=7311426986&rd=1&ssPageName=WDVW
    It says that the pickups are EMG 45 shape. Could you double check your measurements?
    Luckily, EMG make a number of different coil configurations in the same shapes. You can get J, P configurations. The CS (ceramic steel) pickups are a bit warmer than their typical active pickups.

    Have a look at the EMG website - http://www.emgpickups.com
  3. Wow, that's some really important info in regard to the Barts, thank you. Sounds like I need to check into a different brand like EMG because I would prefer to stick with the current active electronics situation and merely replace the bridge pickup if possible. I don't have the budget to do a complete changeout of everything, so I'm hoping that there is some way just one pickup can be integrated.

    I'll go re-take my measurements and some photos right now, and come back and post them.

    Thanks for the help!
  4. David Wilson

    David Wilson Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Lower Westchester, NY
    one thing to remember: you can have active electronics (i.e. onboard bass/treble) and passive pickups. If your pickups are active, and you can only replace one, then you need to replace it with anothere active one.
    There are some preamps that can handle mixing active/passive pickups, but I'm pretty certain the OEM preamps on Ibanez basses can't.
  5. That definitely narrows it down! Heading over to EMG now...
  6. I'm noticing that the two most likely choices in the 40's for me would be the CS or the DC, and it states "18 volt supply recommended" for both of them, yet my current setup uses a 9 volt. So here's is a really dumb question - does that mean I would not be able to just replace the bridge pickup with one of this, since my current electronics take a 9 volt battery? Is there a special kind of battery or recepticle?
  7. Ian Perge

    Ian Perge Supporting Member

    May 11, 2001
    Evansville, Indiana
    No, it's a fairly simple wiring mod using parts you can buy from Radio Shack with spare change from your couch. The biggest issues would be fitting the extra battery in your control cavity.

    Not that I'd stick my hand in your couch... or control cavity, for that matter. I've known you too long. ;)

    Welcome aboard. :help:
  8. Thanks scarred! Just saw your other reply to me and between you & davidm above I feel I'm really getting pointed in the right direction now. Based on what you told me elsewhere, I really think I should consider just having both pickups and preamp done in one shot, or at least both pickups, rather than the notion of just trying to replace one pickup and nothing else.
  9. David Wilson

    David Wilson Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Lower Westchester, NY
    Yeah, I think you'd be better off replacing both pickups at the same time.