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Stock Fender P Pups? Good? Bad?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by Masher88, Aug 19, 2007.

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  1. Masher88

    Masher88 Believe in absurdities and you commit atrocities

    May 7, 2005
    Cleveland, OH
    Are the stock pups that come in American Fender P basses any good? Why do people replace them if they are good and hurt the resale value? I'm looking into getting a P bass soon, but I'm on the ledge on getting new pups in it. To me, they sound fine...kinda like a P bass should sound.

    Am I missing something? Or can the American P bass be "better" as far as the pups go?
  2. Arthur U. Poon

    Arthur U. Poon

    Jan 30, 2004
    SLC, Utah -USA-
    Endorsing Artist: Mike Lull Custom Basses
    IMO one player might love the sound of the stock pickup, another may not. I thought the stock pickup in my MIA Standard P-Bass' sounded very good other than it's low end sounded a bit murky. I had the stock pickup replaced with a Nordstrand NP4. But the person who put the NP4 in my bass said that he couldn't hear any difference between it and the stock pickup. I feel the NP4 tightened up the bass' low end and it still has a vintage-type of tone. I think overall the stock pickup has a very good sound.
  3. nemo


    Mar 19, 2004
  4. DavidRavenMoon

    DavidRavenMoon Inactive

    Oct 20, 2004
    Oh yeah! Huge difference in tone! The NP4 sounds big!

    Hey, I like the licks you are playing. :) Cool stuff.
  5. sjb64


    Aug 2, 2007
    I think that the stock pu's in American Fenders are good and should not be switched out. One of the main reasons they charge more for the American made basses is, they have better electronics.

    My MIM J-Bass had noisy pu's that didn't sound good and almost no sheilding. It was half the price of an American made version. So it was worth upgrading the pu's and shielding the bass.

    I think that the replacement pu's are good for cheap basses. And in situations on an expensive bass that you love when you are going for a specific sound such as single coil to humbucker or humbucker to single coil.
  6. Nedmundo

    Nedmundo Supporting Member

    Jan 7, 2005
    I agree. I also found the output a little low, but tone wise it's great apart from the fuzzy lows. After trying the DiMarzio Model P and Seymour Duncan SPB-2 Hot, I installed a Lindy Fralin. To me, it's the best of all worlds -- classic, vintage vibe, with clear lows and high output and grit for hard rock. It records extremely well too.
  7. DavidRavenMoon

    DavidRavenMoon Inactive

    Oct 20, 2004
    Fender's quality is average at best. The non US instruments are cheaper because of lower labor costs.

    You can clearly hear in those samples that the replacements sound better.

    Good replacement pickups in cheap basses is a dumb thing to do. They still sound cheap. I upgrade MIM and MIJ Fenders and Squires all the time. The wood working is almost as good as the US models.

    There's nothing special about Fender's stuff. Look at the Marcus Miller bass. That's a truly awful preamp. And Geddy Lee commented in BassPlayer on how bad the tuners were in his signature model. I had a new US Jazz with the neck delaminating around the skunk stripe in my shop last week.

    It's mass produced crap for most part.
  8. why would a USA jazz have a skunk stripe? Is it an older model?

    I supposed one man's "clearly sounds better" is another man's "meh." I actually preferred the sound of the stock pickup soundclip over the np4. And yes. I own both of them.

    And, you know, nothing irks me more than when someone makes blanket statements like "clearly sounds better" or "mass produced crap" or "they still sound cheap." These, sir, are your opinion. Maybe we can all work together to make statements like that sound like, "I prefer..." or "in my opinion..." Huh?
  9. DavidRavenMoon

    DavidRavenMoon Inactive

    Oct 20, 2004
    You play Fenders, so you are biased. Look at your sig. And well lookie there.. you stuck an Audere in the bass. I wonder why you need that with those superior stock pickups!

    I've been playing bass 37 years, and building and repairing them over 30 years, and I've taken enough Fenders apart to see how they are made. Flatsawn necks, poorly crowned frets, loose neck pockets, etc.

    Leo Fenders whole design was about the easiest and cheapest way to made a stringed instrument. They are elegant in their simplicity and the originals designs are beautiful.

    But they are like Henry Ford's car, a factory produced bass. The fret work is mediocre, and the pickups are bland. They haven't changed much in 50 years. There's nothing special about them. Very easy to make. The MIM pickups differ in construction, mostly to save money, and sound different.

    The current Fender pickups are nothing like the originals in that they are machine wound. So what ever magic Leo came up with isn't there any more.

    Clearly in the sound samples the replacement pickups had more output, more highs and more lows. The stock pickups sounded anemic.

    If you were old enough to be plying back in the 70's, you would remember that everyone used a P bass, not Jazz basses. And the hottest thing out was the DiMarzio Model P. You hardly saw a fender that didn't have the cream colored replacement pickup. Why? Because they gave players what they wanted... more output, and a bigger brighter tone.

    There's been a whole industry around upgrading Fenders to better parts. Badass bridges were another thing you saw on a LOT of Fenders. DiMarzio Model J's, EMG's...

    The original pickups and bridges were good for the old flatwounds and Bassman amps of the time. The younger players don't know any better and think it's a "vintage" instrument and tone. They go so far as to try and reproduce what was basically crappy amps that distorted when no one wanted that.

    Things haven't changed much except the latest fad is the Jazz Bass. It's a pedestrian instrument. And yes, that's opinion. :D
  10. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I think the Nordstrands were a little hotter and a little more scooped, but I think the Fenders would work in a band setting better. Scooping isn't always so desirable in a band setting.

    Pedestrian...the one of two basses that are the standard by which every other bass is judged, and they're pedestrian. Yeah, OK.
  11. CyberSnyder

    CyberSnyder Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2003
    I Endorse Alien Audio Basses
    I would agree that, IMHO, the stock samples sounded thicker, better to me. I also own a stock MIA P-bass and an NP4 equipped bass. If I get another P-bass, it will probably be equipped with a Fralin.
  12. Mmm...well, they are clearly "mass produced", so this point is irrelevant. I have played Fenders for quite a few years, but they are not the only bass I play. Making expensive instruments with sub standard parts, in comparison to efforts made in the '50s and early '60s (when the "real" Fender instruments were made), invites the less than favourable terminology - such as such as "crap" and "sound cheap" - that is attributed to the so called modern efforts. Some may prefer pseudonyms or possibly the perception of objectivity, but I prefer to lay it out straight: the company deceives in their marketing and by selling at a cost that is clearly much higher than the sub standard parts the instrument comprises to boost their profits at the consumer expense. There are no kind words for such practices. I say the pickups are "crap" and you can make or buy a much better set.
  13. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Welp, if a guy on the internet says it, it must be true. I'm convinced.
  14. nemo


    Mar 19, 2004
    Thanks for the comments to the clips. I also percieve the stock as thicker, but with NP4 with a twist of tone knob you can tame the highs and have it thick too, but with more defined low end as opposed to stock muddier lows.
    In the meantime I have bought also the Fender Original 62 pickup so I will try this week to make another soundclip with the 62 pup for comparison.
  15. "a guy"? We're being thrown a myriad of marketing ploys and strategies, how many do you believe? No convincing required, it's my opinion - needle in a haystack. Some like it stock, other's don't. I think it's crap, someone else doesn't. All this means is that you need to think for yourself (not meaning you personally)...
  16. DavidRavenMoon

    DavidRavenMoon Inactive

    Oct 20, 2004
    Judged by who?

    I love the way people make up statements like this. I have yet to see some bass standards judging board come and look at my bass! Oh, you said every other bass. Not every bass. My bad. So every third bass has to be like a Fender?

    Take a look around and see all the basses that are way past what Leo did 50 years ago. If you want the tone of the 1950's and 60's, well sure, get P bass with flats and a B-15 (or Fender Concert guitar amp like Kaye and Osborn used) and just stay put in the past. I had to put up with backwards thinking just trying to play a Ric with round wounds! Oh and with a pick. God forbid! This is common now, but bass wasn't always so advanced. And now we have 5, 6, and... like 13 stringed basses. Bass players are clearly heard and up in the mix. Oh and we even play solos! I know some younger players think I'm being funny... But playing that way 40 years ago was pretty rare. The Who were on TV doing my Generation, and the bass solo comes up.. and they show a closeup of Townsend... just standing there. Well that had to be the guitar player, right?

    In fact there's even builders making better Fenders, like Lakland, Sadowsky and a few others. This was clearly based on people wanting something familiar, but better made. Even Leo went on to make better versions of his bass (MusicMan and G&L).

    Fender was one of the first electric basses. So it's nothing but tradition. Just like with the Strat, people are used to it. Popularity doesn't make something necessarily the best.

    If Fender basses were all anyone needed, the whole market of modern basses wouldn't exists. And neither would all the pickups, bridges, necks and preamps produced in the last 30+ years to retrofit Fenders and bring them up to modern standards. And those standards were set by Rick Turner's work at Alembic.

    Even Fender makes concessions to modern bass standards with graphite reinforcement, preamps, etc. And sometimes they have to stick on a Badass. (hmm why did those players do that if the stock bass was good enough?)

    I love P basses for what they are, because I grew up listening to them, but I don't play one. Even when I started playing I went for something different and first played a Gibson EB-3 copy (because of Jack Bruce) and then bought a Ric (Because of McCartney and Squire....) Yeah, those players used a Fender every now and then, but did just fine with something else.

    Personally I judge basses against something like an Alembic. Fender basses are like Microsoft Windows. It's ubiquitous, and also lacking in innovation or evolution. But that's the way it is when you are a company like Fender, or Gibson or even Rickenbacker. People get upset when you change old and familiar things. It's a wonder that people don't want the old two saddle P bass bridges!

    So yeah, I'm opinionated, but that comes from years of playing basses and modifying them for better performance and versatility, which eventually led me to making my own basses.

    The problem is people take it personal when you critique the bass they play. Its just a bass. It's not religion or politics. These boards are always filled with this "this vs. that, put on your boxing gloves" attitude. It's nice to have choices. If all we had was Jazz Basses and Les Pauls, that would be really dull.
  17. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    All USA Fenders have excellent pickups. IMO it's foolish to switch them out. FWIW I believe the same can be said of MIM and MIJ Fender guitars and basses.
  18. Bob Moulton

    Bob Moulton

    Feb 13, 2006
    Ypsilanti, MI

    That would be great Nemo. I would be very interested to hear the difference between the '62 and the Norstrand NP4's. I've been on the fence, but leaning toward buying a new '62 American Vintage Precision.
  19. Liko


    Mar 30, 2007
    There is certainly nothing wrong with the stock Fender P pickups, especially the American series. Most people change pickups because they're looking to subtly (or not so subtly) change the tone, and by so doing create "their" instrument. By changing pickups you can change the sound to be more scooped, hotter, fatter, or practically anything else. Higher-quality pickups, even if they have the same overall sonic balance, may be quieter, warmer or clearer-sounding than a stock pickup. If the instrument ends up sounding better for the modification, who's to say you were wrong to do so? The only exception is modding a vintage instrument. Buying a $10k all-original '69 Jazz and yanking the pickups drops the value by 80%, and as such is not just a travesty, but idiocy.

    Once you have "your" instrument, the chances of you selling it are slim, so resale value means nothing. Fender basses lose a lot of their retail value simply by leaving the store, much like a car being driven off the lot drops to maybe 2/3 of its sticker price once it hits the pavement. Mexis in particular lose a lot of value; you may buy a Mexi for $450 and be lucky to flip it for $250 on the 'Bay.
  20. Dan1099

    Dan1099 Dumbing My Process Down

    Aug 7, 2004
    Please let us know when you do.


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