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Pickups not opened fully sound different?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by JKessell, Dec 15, 2018.

  1. JKessell


    May 12, 2017
    I don’t know if this is well known fact or not but the bridge pickup on my jazz sounds really honky when opened all the way.

    If I close it off a bit and turn the amp up I find a much nicer tone with much less mids.

    Is this something all pickups do? What exactly is going on here?
  2. This is well known. But you are right to ask why, because the reasons are quite complex and confusing, especially if you don't have a background in electronics.

    The frequency response of a pickup, especially the treble range, is not intrinsically "in" the pickup, put there by the winder. It is for the most part actually a product of the electrical characteristics of the pickup (inductance, capacitance, resistance) and the load that the pickup "sees" (or perhaps "feeds" is a better word). With two pickup vvt basses especially, the resistive load on each pickup directly changes as you turn the volume control. This is because of the way the vol pots are wired. (it happens with blend pots too, but it is less obvious because the other pickup is kept at full volume).

    Thinking about tone controls for a moment, for most of its sweep, your tone pot is rolling off the treble, not the cap. And it's doing this by simply putting a resistance across the signal. As you turn the tone knob down that resistance is progressively reduced, increasing the load on the coil. With a vvt circuit, the pickup is wired to the wiper of the volume pots, therefore the vol controls work exactly the same way as a tone pot.

    FWIW with a P bass, or vbt jazz say, where the vol pot is wired conventionally (with the output coming from the wiper), you also get a treble roll-off as the vol is wound down. But for secondary reason. The resistance of the pot forms an rc low pass filter with the capacitance of the cable.
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2018
  3. JKessell


    May 12, 2017
    Ahh I see. Thanks a lot. When the pickup is opened all the way what would you say is causing all that honk? The mids really are very pronounced and I’m wondering whether replacing the pickup and/or Electronics would change anything or is pickup placement and woods more likely to blame? I was going to post another thread but you seem like the right guy to ask.
  4. It's hard to say. It could be anything from a faulty pickup, to just your rig.

    Maybe let us know a bit more about what you are playing.

    So you have the original pickups in there, right? What model bass and/or pickups? eg, are they single coils, or noisless stacks? Is it vol-vol-tone passive? or active?

    And when you are hearing this strong honky mid range, you have the neck pickup all the way down, and the bridge all the way up.

    What amp do you have?
  5. JKessell


    May 12, 2017
    It’s a G&L jb-2 tribute. Stock everything. Single coils. Vol vol tone. Bridge all the way up and neck all the way off. The neck pickup also sounds more mid heavy when soloed but this doesn’t bother me as much.

    Someone was telling me recently that changing the pickups is unlikely to make much difference and that the honky tone is just the pickup placement and sound of the woods. This doesn’t seem right to me but I don’t know enough about electronics to be sure...
  6. sikamikanico

    sikamikanico Supporting Member

    Mar 17, 2004
    To some extent, I'd say all bridge J pickups will sound honky. But what I think is honky may not be honky to you. I suggest you go to a music store (or a few), and try as many basses with a bridge J pickup, see if they do the same thing. Take your bass with you too maybe, see if playing with different amps changes anything...

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