Q-Tuners are good for NOTHING!

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by Verne Andru, Feb 18, 2005.

  1. Simply put, these are the quietest, most transparent pickup’s I’ve ever experienced – period!


    What follows is for the benefit of others considering the Q-Tuners. Sorry if it rambles a bit.

    A few years ago I was searching for a new 5-string bass and settled on a Yamaha BB-405. It’s a solid chunk of alder with a maple neck and rosewood fingerboard. Cost aside, I tested quite a few basses and found I liked the way it played better than the other “name” brands. It’s weighted nicely, isn’t too heavy and has a great feeling 24-fret neck. The fact that it’s one of the least expensive 5 strings helped cinch the deal.

    But there was a problem – Yamaha had to cut corners somewhere and they did it in the electronics. It comes stock with a pair of single-coils that act as quasi-humbuckers when both pup’s are set the same, but even then there is an audible hum. When the volume on the pups is set differently, say more neck than bridge, the hum becomes overwhelming. To my ear, even when set optimally, the stock pups are muddy – particularly noticeable on the low B where there is hardly any definition to the notes between B and E.

    So I Googled on pickups and found Talkbass. After hanging around a while I learned a couple of things:

    1] The single most important factor in determining the sound of an electric guitar is the pickups. Wood type, neck thru or bold-on mean little to nothing. This has been confirmed in discussions with several luthiers. Basically if you are comfortable playing it, the rest is window dressing [and marketing bs].

    2] Many pickups “color” the sound a particular way. There is a “jazz” or “p” or soapbar “sound” that is what some people actively seek out.

    I believe sound “color” should come after the instrument in the effects and amplification part of the signal chain. IMHO it’s the responsibility of the instrument/pickups to deliver the players performance as transparently as possible. Not everyone will agree, but that’s what makes the world go around.

    Enter the Q-Tuners. There’s a thread on the Knuckle bass that expounds on its virtues, so I won’t belabor the point. As an aside, I did get the opportunity to check out the Knuckle at Accugroove’s booth at NAMM and was quite impressed with it and the sound of the Q’s.

    I took the plunge and ordered a set of Q-Tuner BXL’s in December after chatting with a number of references Erno @ Q-Tuner passed along. Their website isn’t very helpful and I was a bit apprehensive because they are not a straight replacement being considerably bigger than the stock pup’s requiring the body to be routed. I received the pup’s on Monday [Feb 14th], dropped them off at my luthier’s on Tuesday and had the guitar back on Wednesday.

    I’ve been experimenting off and on and so far I couldn’t be happier. They are dead quiet – even when cranked all the way up they introduce absolutely no noise whatsoever - keeping in mind this is by ear only, I don’t have a scope handy. They provide note definition to spare – my low B string plays beautifully with clarity to even the lowest note. All strings are “bright” – something that caught me a bit off-guard at first – the “muddiness” I was experiencing before is completely gone.


    Since the BB-405 is fundamentally a Jazz clone, I don’t think it unfair to compare the two. A 5-string Jazz was selling for around $2,000 [Canadian pricing] when I bought the BB, so I’ll use that as the benchmark. Here’s how a Q outfitted BB works out:

    BB-405 - $500
    D’Addario Chromes [stock strings are garbage] - $80
    Q-Tuners - $300
    Luthier installation - $200
    Total BB-Q-405 = $1,080

    Aside from the fact that IMO the BB-Q plays and sounds better than any stock Jazz, I’ve got $920 still in my pocket to spend on other stuff. Not sure I could sell the bass and get back what I spent on it, but that’s not the point. I have a beautiful playing and sounding instrument for ½ the price of a comparable name brand and highly recommend Q-Tuners to discerning musicians looking for the best pickups money can buy.

    Besides, I think they look pretty cool on the BB.


    PS – Paul, thanks for re-thinking the “sig” policy.
  2. vanselus


    Sep 20, 2000
    Boulder, CO
    Oh man, that's awesome. I'd love to hear that bass.

    I have a Knuckle coming that's ALMOST done with a single Q-Tuner in the sweet spot... should have it in the next 2 weeks...
  3. Prices are from L&M on Granville. Thanks for the kudos. I built the pedals with a buddy [Dave] last winter - they're Pigtronix proto's.

    Cheers - Verne
  4. I recorded some arp's etc. with the stock pup's and will be doing the same with the Q's for an A-B. I'll link to the clips once they're done.

    Skip had mentioned he was working on a single-Q Knuckle - so you're the lucky one. He builds beautiful guitars and the Q's sound awesome in them.
  5. Flatwound

    Flatwound Supporting Member

    Sep 9, 2000
    San Diego
    1] The single most important factor in determining the sound of an electric guitar is the pickups. Wood type, neck thru or bold-on mean little to nothing. This has been confirmed in discussions with several luthiers. Basically if you are comfortable playing it, the rest is window dressing [and marketing bs].​

    This is the only thing you said that I'd have a slight disagreement with. You can play several examples of the same model bass, and they will not sound exactly the same. In fact, there is sometimes a fairly large divergence. However, I do agree that the pickups (and placement of same) are probably the most important factor (hence, I'm calling this a slight disagreement).

    Regardless, the bass on those mp3's sounds great, particularly on "Somnium" IMO. If it sounds better now, it must be pretty cool. And I have to tell you that "Open Your Mind" is fabulous.
  6. slowburnaz


    Mar 27, 2002
    Tucson, AZ
    Got those clips recorded, Verne? :bassist:

    I can't wait to hear them. I'm thinking of doing about the same thing with my bass, so I'm really interested in hearing the difference. I've got a Fender Jazz Bass that I may drop some Q-Tuners in...
  7. At the time I bought the BB I was looking at a Jazz 5 with a sticker price of $1,998. I have no doubt you can find a cheaper one or a better deal, etc. but...? On the Chromes, if it's really important to you I can dig out the sales slip - but I'm not really sure what point you're trying to make here.

    At the risk of getting my fingers slapped by your new policy [remember, you brought it up] check out www.Pigtronix.com to see where we're going with that stuff. Those are our prototypes.
  8. Okay – here’s an MP3 that compares the stock Yami BB humbuckers to the Q-Tuners.

    The only way you’ll be allowed to listen to this is if you sign away your rights to making any comments on the, ahem, playing. All I’m doing is running through the diatonic 7 arps, starting with the D# on the A string, dropping to the E then starting the arpeggio’s over on the low B. I thought this was the best way to get the best range as it goes from the low B to the C# on the G. There’s some bleed through from the drum track that I hope you don’t find gets in the way.

    Other than the pickups, everything is the same. There are 2 sessions – first is stock, second [after a pause] is the Q-Tuners. They were both recorded within a week of each other with flat EQ into Ableton Live, imported into Cubase SX and output to MP3 format. The only thing that was applied was a Waves C4 to boost the signal and a limiter at the end of the chain.

    Have a listen and let me know what you think.

    Q-Tuner Pepsi Challange

    You realize it's a beautiful spring day here and I've been trying to get out for a walk on the beach...
  9. Bassic83


    Jul 26, 2004
    Texas, USSA
    Oh, man- night and DAY! I can't wait for my BXXLs to get in- should be this week. I'm building a sixer especially for them. Just got my bridge bought- Gotoh with 19mm spacing, with piezos. I have a Brian Bromberg B2-5 with piezos, and have an extra circuit board to team it up with, so it should be awesome! Just finished roughing out my neck, body will follow in a few weeks. Got my insanely figured wenge fingerboard blank picked out. Have top wood, which is guanacaste crotch, and coe wood, which is going to be maple and walnut. Should be a monster whenever I get to finish it! I'll post clips when I get done... :D
  10. Bassic83


    Jul 26, 2004
    Texas, USSA
    BTW, have you played around with the polepieces yet? How much difference does it make in tone? That low B rules on your recording!
  11. Not yet, but the BB-Q has just been born!

    I was going to put in an RMC piezo bridge so I could get MIDI happening, but Q-Tuner threw a tizzy. They went on about how much hotter the Q's were than standard passives and how they wouldn't work, etc. From my limited tests so far, the Q's have about the same output level as the stock hums - the only "claim" they made that hasn't panned out.

    I'm still considering going piezo/MIDI but with a Hipshot whammy bridge. I talked to them at NAMM and they said they could customize one so the RMC saddles would fit. My imagination is limited only by my budget.

    Hey SMASH - NJAMS is currently the only place in Canada selling Pigtronix. I did the industrial and graphic design, electronics are done in NY and manufacturing in China. Send me a PM if you want to chat further.
  12. slowburnaz


    Mar 27, 2002
    Tucson, AZ

    Actually, they make J-style Q-Tuners that look to be direct replacements for a standard USA Jazz bass.
  13. slowburnaz


    Mar 27, 2002
    Tucson, AZ
    They sound pretty damn good, Verne... thanks! Was that recorded with all of the polepieces at max height?
  14. knuckle_head

    knuckle_head Commercial User

    Jul 30, 2002
    Owner; Knuckle Guitar Works & Circle K Strings
    I was so prepared for a fight when I walked into this thread.....


    Hot stuff ain't they?

    I know the output on the ones I've installed (two to date with two more coming) rival the 18v Duncan actives I use as stock. And with the diddling I did on the pole pieces I found that I ultimately like them flat. It is nice to have the option, and on a retrofit where you can't pick your own placement the ability to tweak seems most useful.

    That is one beautiful bass btw.
  15. The pole pieces are set as supplied by Q-Tuner. I've got the wrench and see where to fiddle but could use some advice. Skipp [sorry I missed you at NAMM] perhaps you can help - turning them which way does what? Clock-wise makes them go up or down and with that how should I expect that to effect the sound?

    On the output level, all I know is I recorded both sessions with my desk set exactly the same way and I have done nothing to one clip that wasn't done to the other. There is a huge difference in dynamic range, but as you can hear and see on a waveform both appear to peak around the same level. However, I didn't swap out the stock Yamaha wiring or pots, which are pure crap, and may be causing some signal degradation, but this would apply equally to each set of pups.

    Regardless, I'm ecstatic with these pups - mission accomplished.
  16. phatcactus


    Apr 2, 2004
    Chicago, IL
    Normally I'd be the first one to fight ya, but I don't wanna try and kill anybody's new gear buzz. :D If ya dig 'em, then that's what matters, right?

    Cool lookin' things, they are.
  17. slowburnaz


    Mar 27, 2002
    Tucson, AZ

    From what I understand about them...

    Lowering the outer pole pieces and leaving the center set up high enhances the harmonics and brings out the highs.

    Lowering the center pole pieces and leaving the outer pole pieces set up high enhances the lows and lower mids, sacrificing a bit of the highs and harmonics.

    From the Q-Tuner website:

    Them there's some fancy words, eh? :) To me, it seems akin to going from a wide aperture to a narrow aperture in one pickup.
  18. Bassic83


    Jul 26, 2004
    Texas, USSA
    Translated from Dutch...
  19. knuckle_head

    knuckle_head Commercial User

    Jul 30, 2002
    Owner; Knuckle Guitar Works & Circle K Strings

    You can expect pretty much what slowburnaz said - the center row raised will accentuate the high mids and highs, while raising the outter two will accentuate the low mids and trim high end. The affect is subtle unless you really torque them out - have fun!

    Sorry I missed you too, but it were indeed a crazy 4 days.

    Righty tighty (down), lefty loosey (up).

  20. Crazy but fun. Thanks for the advice, I'll play around and see what I get.

    What's the "optimum" distance between strings and pups?
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