Replacement pickup for Fender Musicmaster?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by dmaki, Oct 16, 2006.

  1. dmaki


    Apr 29, 2000
    It's about time to overhaul my '73 Musicmaster. The tone pot is shot, the strings are probably from 1973 (rus-TAY), and the pickup isn't really cutting it.

    The Musicmaster sports a single Strat-style pickup with a black cover, hiding the 6 poles made to align with the strings of a guitar - not a bass. I'd like to keep the original pickguard and NOT route anything, so I'm going to put another Strat-style pickup in there... but which?

    I've decided I want a humbucking pickup. The single coil thats currently in the bass hums like there's no tomorrow. I want something with pretty high output, along with rails so that the strings are covered evenly (no "lets see how close to the poles the strings line up"). I hate the sterility of active pickups, so passive it is. I'd also like a 4-conductor pickup, which will allow for series/parallel switching (push/pull volume pot).

    Which pickups have other people tried? What were the results? Did you use a "bridge" pickup or a "neck" pickup?

    I've found several pickups that match my criteria and am curious which might be the best choice...

    SEYMOUR DUNCAN website
    SCR-1 Cool Rails
    EQ (Bass/Mid/Treb): 5 / 4 / 5
    DC Resistance: Neck 9.4 k / Bridge 10.3 k
    Magnet: Ceramic Bar
    Description: "Smooth and bluesy single-coil-sized “rails” humbucker. Recommended for blues, classic rock, jazz-rock fusion, heavy rock and aggressive instrumental rock. Created by popular demand, Cool Rails™ use the same twin coil design as our Hot Rails™, but are wound to produce a clearer, brighter, and more dynamic sound. Hotter and louder than both the Vintage Staggered (SSL-1) Hot Stack® (STK-S2) pickups, Cool Rails are for players who need a louder, punchier, and fatter single-coil sound."

    SHR-1 Hot Rails
    EQ (Bass/Mid/Treb): 5 / 7 / 4
    DC Resistance: Neck 10.8 k / Bridge 16.9 k
    Magnet: Ceramic Bar
    Description: "High output single-coil-size “rails” humbucker. Great for classic rock, garage, punk, heavy rock, thrash, classic metal and nu-metal. One of the highest output and most popular pickups we make. The two thin blades, strong ceramic magnet and powerful coil windings give you the incredible sustain and a fat, full sound that’s needed for playing heavier rock music. This pickup responds to the subtlest finger movements."

    SVR-1 Vintage Rails
    EQ (Bass/Mid/Treb): 6 / 3 / 9
    DC Resistance: Neck 2.31 k / Bridge 2.67 k
    Magnet: Ceramic Bar
    Description: "Vintage output single-coil-sized “rails” humbucker with the sound of a vintage Strat®. Perfect for country, pop, surf, rockabilly, blues, ska and classic rock. Vintage Rails use a unique split rail, twin coil design and special (parallel) wiring to achieve true, vintage, single-coil tone without hum. The sound is clean, clear and bright, with all of the “quack” you love in the notch positions. Though tonally similar to Duckbuckers, the rails design eliminates any potential dropout in string bending."

    STK-S2 Hot Stack
    EQ (Bass/Mid/Treb): 4 / 5 / 6
    DC Resistance: Neck 13.2 k / Bridge : 20.6 k
    Magnet: Ceramic Bar
    Description: "High output single-coil-sized Stack. Recommended for country, pop, blues, classic rock and heavy rock. The powerful ceramic bar magnet surrounded by two Stack® coils sends more current into your amp, so you get long sustain and super string sensitivity. Great for stage and studio."

    DIMARZIO website
    DP181 Fast Track 1
    EQ (Bass/Mid/Treb): 5.5 / 5 / 7.5
    DC Resistance: 5.72 k
    Magnet: Ceramic
    Description: "The Fast Track 1™ is hotter and more muscular than The Cruiser®, but it's still very bright and clean sounding-not at all like a full-size humbucker. The dual-blade continuous magnetic field creates an even string balance with very little magnet-pull, eliminating the "out-of-tuneness" common to rod-magnet designs. The Fast Track 1™ pickup's power double the output of a standard single-coil."

    DP182 Fast Track 2
    EQ (Bass/Mid/Treb): 7.5 / 8 / 5
    DC Resistance: 17.53 k
    Magnet: Ceramic
    Description: "It's got three times the output of an average single-coil, with a huge mid-range and bass punch and a strong resemblance to the Super Distortion® This is our hottest single-coil sized bridge pickup—particularly useful when you need a tightly focused jolt of power to crank your amplifier into rich overdrive. The dual-blade polepieces can handle all string-spacing options."

    DP184 Chopper
    EQ (Bass/Mid/Treb): 6 / 6 / 7
    DC Resistance: 9.19 k
    Magnet: Ceramic
    Description: "The Chopper™ is the louder, punchier brother of the Fast Track 1™. More power is concentrated in the mids and low end for a bigger sound with more crunch. It shares the same side-by-side coils and twin-blade construction as the Fast Track 1™, so there are no misaligned poles or string-pull problems. Excellent choice to fatten tone and increase power of Strat bridge position."

    DP186 Cruiser Bridge
    EQ (Bass/Mid/Treb): 5.5 / 4.5 / 8
    DC Resistance: 5.75 k
    Magnet: Ceramic
    Description: "Harmonic overtones are right where you expect them to be from a “true” single-coil, and the mid-range is open and vocal-sounding. It's hotter than the traditional single-coil, and the bass strings have a bit more chunk."

    DP187 Cruiser Neck
    EQ (Bass/Mid/Treb): 5 / 4.5 / 8
    DC Resistance: 3.13 k
    Magnet: Ceramic
    Description: (same as DP186 Cruiser Bridge above)

    DP188 Pro Track
    EQ (Bass/Mid/Treb): 6.5 / 6.5 / 5.5
    DC Resistance: 8.15 k
    Magnet: Ceramic
    Description: "It's warm, it's friendly, it sounds like a vintage PAF® and will drop right into your Strat®. The Pro Track™ has enough power for any pickup position, and the two nickel-plated blades mean there won't be any problems with string-alignment or dropouts. We've heard from several players who need to play some jazz numbers without switching guitars, and they say the Pro Track™ is an excellent neck pickup. If you install a push-pull pot, you can switch the coils from series to parallel, which will add a more single-coil type sound while still canceling hum. "

    DP189 Tone Zone S
    EQ (Bass/Mid/Treb): 8 / 8.5 / 5
    DC Resistance: 12.39 k
    Magnet: Ceramic
    Description: "We've built in the tremendous mid-range and bass response of the original Tone Zone®, and the same patented dual-resonance design produces great harmonics. We also warmed up the higher frequencies and brightened the low notes a little."

    DP218 Super Distortion S
    EQ (Bass/Mid/Treb): 8 / 7.5 / 5
    DC Resistance: 13.18 k
    Magnet: Ceramic
    Description: "We've built in the same blend of power and tone that made the original Super Distortion® the world-wide standard for high-output humbuckers."
  2. The Craw

    The Craw

    Jul 31, 2006
    I've never owned a Musicmaster, but the best sounding one I've ever heard (and played) had a Dimarzio Fast Track 2.
  3. RHFusillo

    RHFusillo Supporting Member

    Mar 20, 2000
    Phoenix, AZ
    If I had a Musicmaster, I would be tempted to install a Joe Barden guitar pickup. Those things are clean, clear, and LOUD.
  4. Giraffe

    Giraffe Supporting Member

    Nov 6, 2003
    San Diego, California
    Is your instrument a bass? Putting guitar pickups in a bass usually doesn't make any sense. The pickup designers know what they are doing.

    One quick and easy possibility is a Duncan designed for the original single coil P-Bass. There are a few different versions (regular and hot, I believe), and if they don't drop right in a competent tech can possibly shave the flatwork or the guard to make a relatively non-intrusive installation.

    The thinking man's solution would be to get the original pickup rewound. Any number of small pickup manufacturers offer this service, and you can often specify the tone/output you are looking for. Duncan or Lindy Fralin may be able to do this as well. This is the least intrusive way to get a "new" pickup, and possibly get a superior tone (for you) as well.

    You seem interested in preserving the originality of the instrument, which is a good idea. I wouldn't drop a guitar pickup in there just because it fits, unless you are trying to create the 1960's short-scale-Zim-Gar-"bass"-with-a-guitar-pickup tone!
  5. dmaki


    Apr 29, 2000
    Thanks everybody for the responses so far...

    I've actually heard of several people using the FT2. I wish I could find a description of what it sounds like compared to other pickups (i.e. Jazz neck, 4001/3 neck, etc).

    I've heard that Barden's are supposed to sound good (for guitar at least). I'll have to look more into those.

    The Musicmaster Bass is a short-scale (30") model, with a rather thin neck: 1.5" at the nut, 2.125" at the 12th fret, 2.25" at the 19th fret. It was an economy model, essentially a variation on the Mustang Bass (which had a small, split pickup). It did indeed have a guitar pickup, not a bass pickup, probably because they didn't want to spend the money to design a new pickup for a low-cost instrument.

    From what I've read (and experienced), the stock pickup isn't much to write home about. Its sound is a bit bland, its very susceptible to picking up 60 Hz hum, and has a rather weak output. I think the pickup design is at fault and not the individual pickup.

    I've considered higher-output single-coil Precision pickups, but I'd rather not have to modify the pickguard (2.75" wide opening for pickup) or the pickup (2.868" wide). I'd also like to have a humbucker for noise reduction and more tonal options (series/parallel switch).

    Thanks again for all the suggestions.
  6. dmaki


    Apr 29, 2000
    I looked into Bardens a bit online and the reviews I've read have all been positive. They have drop-in replacements for both Teles and Strats, but their sound isn't supposed to mimic their vintage counterparts.

    I called Barden to see what they thought of dropping one of their Strat neck pickups in my Musicmaster but they were not familiar with the instrument. Without trying it out on a bass themselves they couldn't give me a definitive response on how it would sound, but they told me all of their pickups are designed to have a broad frequency range with extended lows and highs, along with a "punchier" and "more articulate" sound. They are noise-free but still have character (unlike the noise-free and lifeless EMGs I have played). I was also told that their approach to designing the guitar pickups was closer to bass pickups and that they are currently developing a line of bass pickups.

    The Bardens sound like a good choice, but they're a bit pricey ($170, compared to the Duncans' and DiMarzios' $70-$75)...

    Has anybody tried Bardens on a bass or guitar? What were your thoughts?
  7. The Craw

    The Craw

    Jul 31, 2006
    As dmaki has already pointed out, the original pickup is a guitar pickup. And there's no essential construction difference between guitar and bass pickups anyway. Bass pickups were usually wound hotter, but for the most part here we're talking about hotter wound guitar replacement pickups anyway.
  8. The Craw

    The Craw

    Jul 31, 2006
    I haven't tried them on bass, but they're piercingly bright on a Tele.

    You should be aware that Joe Barden dropped out of sight for a couple of years and only restarted his business this year as a new company. Unfortunately he stiffed a number of people when he dropped out, and from what I've read on guitar forums he still hasn't delivered product to people who paid for them and have been waiting 2 or 3 years.

    Even if I liked his pickups I'd never do business with him.
  9. I would go with the Dimarzio, I read an article long time ago about somebody replacing the pickup in the musicmaster, and they were all raving about the DiMarzio fastrack, usually in this case the hotter the better for bass response :confused:
  10. malicous


    Apr 25, 2006
    Los Angeles
    I would go with the Aero Musicmaster pickups, as they are specially designed for bass, even though they fit into the strat pickup routing of the Musicmaster. You can find them at this page
  11. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

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