Pickup technology, pole pieces, ramps, rants and other things ...

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by The13thFret, May 10, 2019.

  1. So I own an Ibanez ATK, I dislike it aesthetically, everything else I own and actually play is P/J, I don't think its a good looking bass. That aside, there was always something about it that made me want to play it. I'm lazy and seek effortlessness. left hand?, give me a Jazz neck with an action just above rattling and I'm a happy camper. Right hand, I have a cobbled together self taught 3 finger technique, I know I attack the strings too hard, I rake, do all the things you are not supposed to do.
    The time line or stream of thought goes something like this.
    • Liked playing my ATK did not know why
    • Played a Line 6 with no pickup, 6 inches of thumb rest, hated it and didn't know why. It had a nice neck, we all obsess about necks right?
    • Realised it was the big fat ATK pickup that was making me play "better". Fingers not diving into the void under the strings etc. etc.
    • Googled, I had never heard of and had no clue what a ramp was, found an web page/article Gary Willis explained all, and the penny dropped.
    • read this article Players Archives - Bass Musician Magazine, The Face of Bass
    • got me thinking.

    So, my questions are as follows.
    Have Bass pickups evolved or advanced much in the last 50 years?
    Why are they still an inch deep requiring a body route?
    Why do we still buy square pickups that don't match the sting/fretboard radius?
    why can't I just buy a bass with a body I like, a neck a like and stick on whatever kind of low profile pickups I like, then swap them out when my playing style/lack of practice makes me thinks new pickups will make things better

    finally, why am I up at 7am on a Saturday morning thinking about all this :)
    two fingers and Killed_by_Death like this.
  2. Killed_by_Death

    Killed_by_Death Snaggletooth Inactive

    For some reason most players are traditionalists & they scream bloody murder when something gets changed in an instrument design.
    Look at the new teardrop-shaped pickups RIC came out with for their 5-strings. People went nuts!
    The13thFret likes this.
  3. ctmullins

    ctmullins Dominated Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    The13thFret likes this.
  4. two fingers

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

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    1) Wiring. Those pickups would have to "plug in" somehow. That take a LOT more engineering and design work. The pickups have to connect to the controls somehow.

    2) Durability. You would have to make them out of something that would not wear out quickly. If pickups are taking the place of a ramp in functionality, they will constantly be dug into by strings, fingers, picks, etc. (especially for guys like us who like to dig in).

    3) Tradition. As much as we loke to LOOK at new and different technologies, what's tried and true sells every time.

    I like your way of thinking though.
    The13thFret likes this.
  5. sikamikanico


    Mar 17, 2004
    In principle, no. Alumatones are somewhat different, but not everyone likes them. I haven't tried them to compare, but the comments make me reluctant to try. Q-Tuner would almost count, but it's an evolution of the old Seth Lover "sidewinder" design from the 50s. That said, I think most pickups today are made better, and that counts...

    Because the designs are in principle the same, physics dictate depth. There's also a bit of a catch-22, IMO: most pickup makers make pickups to fit old pickup formats, even though some designs could fit in shallower cases. But if you mess around with pickup formats, you limit your market appeal.

    Why do you? There's no need. Well, Leo's P design avoided that problem altogether in 1957 :D

    With some planning, you can do that. These days, just about any pickup design/architecture is available in a soapbar format (typically Bartolini or EMG size). Solderless electronics exist too. So a pickup swap can be mere minutes...

    There are worse ways to spend a Saturday morning :)
    The13thFret likes this.
  6. All good and sensible points, but a guy can dream right?

    wiring though? I can wirelessly charge my Android phone, my Beats headphones have a lithium battery no bigger than a cigarette butt. I can broadcast HD tv across the house with a device no bigger than a USB Thumb drive ( I know that's ones and zero's, not analogue signal but still)

    Cheap replicable PVC covers in common fretboard radii, capacitive touch pads, all Sci Fi territory, yet hand a guitar tech from 50 years ago my current pickups, they would be able to identify them as bass pickups and explain how they work!

    I'm starting a wishlist lol
  7. two fingers

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

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Do you have ANY IDEA how expensive the first DVD players were? The first flat screen TVs? The first touch screen phones? The first cordless drills with lithium batteries?

    We, as consumers, paid THROUGH THE NOSE for that new technology. But it was am integral part of our lives. Are you willing to pay $500 each for a fretboard radius matching wireless lithium ion battery powered bluetooth pickup that you can control with your iPhone? SOMEBODY has to pay for all of the R&D that goes into something like that. And for what gain? None of this stuff ever crossed my mind. My life hasn't been lacking one bit due to an absence of these things. My basses work just fine and sound fabulous.

    I ain't paying a grand for a couple pickup like that. You can't just easily "repurpose" technology and use it for a different application without out some huge brain power. Engineers gotta have meetings. Those meetings will need coffee, doughnuts, a building, presentation materials, and at least a dozen calculators. Who's gonna pay for the doughnuts, man????? Who, I ask you????


    (All but that last part was a serious rant as to why we don't have these things.)

    How many Nes Steinberger Radius basses do you think have sold? How many lightwave basses? Those instruments make up a TINY fraction of the bass market. Why? Most of us are satisfied with available technology. Simple as that. (By the way, the Radius bass might be right up your alley. It wasn't up anybody else's. But it might be up yours.)
  8. As always, your point is well made, logical, sensible and clearly articulated.
    My wants do not equate to any commercially viable project, I was just dreaming. As a side note... DVD's? I owned a beta VCR, or as I have heard it called since .."the worlds most expensive digital clock" :)
    two fingers likes this.
  9. two fingers

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

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Dream on!
  10. InternetAlias


    Dec 16, 2010
    Well, I have quite a simple solution for you:

    If it's your dream, make it yourself.

    So I wanted a lightweight headless four string bass with infinite fingerboard radius, a laminated 5 piece neck with an aluminum u channel, a very ergonomic yet practical body, no controls, and just one pickup that goes to the output jack, all the while the headless system takes the least vertical space on the bass, by having the 'tuners' behind the body.

    My solution? Make it myself.
    Jeff Bonny and ctmullins like this.
  11. ctmullins

    ctmullins Dominated Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    I’d love to see photos!
  12. InternetAlias


    Dec 16, 2010
    It's not yet done, as I am still doing the designing aspect of the whole thing, but I will be implementing this headless system in another guitar (where I hack off the headstock and then cut the body so that I can build the headless system in) so that's something to look forward to.

    And to get back on topic - it's worth noting that a bass guitar isn't a well designed instrument in general. And instrument of that scale can't really be treated as a guitar, so that's a compromise. The necks are usually too long for their stiffness, which is not ideal. Single coil pickups should be unacceptable considering we live in 2019, but we have to live with them if we want a particular tone. Those big fender style headstocks make the whole thing heavier where it shouldn't be, and make it easier to hit things with it on an accident.

    So I get it. Bass guitars in general aren't designed that well, and asking for extremely specific features usually costs quite a bit, it's only recently that multiscale headless guitars became a thing - as few as 10 years ago, it was impossible to imagine those being mass produced, yet here we are. So, even if you don't want to build things yourself... as long as you're young enough you can wait for it to be mass produced at some point, or you can learn to do things yourself, or you can start saving enough money to pay a good luthier :D