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Surprised - Can a wiring harness make THAT much difference?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by bhoff5150, Jan 1, 2018.

  1. bhoff5150

    bhoff5150 Supporting Member

    Long story short, looking for similar experiences to either confirm I'm crazy, or confirm I'm not crazy.

    I built a PJ. Passive Aero type 1 PJ set of pickups (Aero pickups are my all time favorite and I have them in 2 other basses that I'm very happy with). Bought a wiring harness, standard vol/vol/tone. 250k Noble pots, and a .047 orange drop cap. The pots are about 1/2 the diameter of CTS pots and the wires used to connect them are the smallest I've seen. The tone of the bass was terrible. Very very thin, no bottom and almost no mids. I chalked it up to the pickups and decided I would later put a preamp in to correct the problem but never got around to it.

    Yesterday, I swapped pickups in a passive jazz I have. It had quarter pounders in it and it sounded great. It's got a tubular shaped capacitor on it which led me to believe it was paper in oil. The tone also got very dark very quickly when adjusted, but with tone full up I would consider the bass to sound correct. I removed the quarter pounders and the wiring harness, and dropped in a set of Laklin/Hansen single coils and the same wiring harness I used from the PJ above thinking that the orange drop would give me more room to adjust the tone knob. The bass now sounds absolutely terrible. Very very thin, and absolutely no punch.

    Since the problem followed the wiring harness, it makes me wonder if I just have a crappy harness?? Is this even possible that a harness can rob tone this much?? I thought that most pots were pretty much the same as long as the value of the pot was equal, and that tone caps really didn't matter that much either.

    Is it possible that this harness is my issue? I purchased from a reputable online store that I won't name. I have bought many pickups and preamps and hardware from the before and I consider them honest and reliable.

    Happy New year and please let me know your thoughts.
  2. MEKer

    MEKer Supporting member

    May 30, 2006
    Wow---I'd post in the Luthier forum here. You are about guaranteed a proper, reasoned response from those expert guys! Please do it and let us know.
  3. Axstar

    Axstar Banned SUSPENDED

    Jul 8, 2016
    You've changed too many things to be able to apportion the blame squarely on the wiring harness. Generally (very generally) a thin tone could be the result of a phase issue between the two pickups in your instrument. Smaller pots and thinner wire don't indicate anything in and of itself, simply that the components might be a little cheap. Cheap components could be defective components.

    I would start again, if this were my bass. I like making my own wiring harnesses, so I would pick up some new pots, wire, cap and a jack and start again.
    EpicSoundtracks likes this.
  4. The "wiring harness" has all the parts between your pickups & the output, so yes.

    Try the same pickups with each "wiring harness" & make up your mind.

    IMHO, you're better off buying your own top quality components & putting it together yourself.
    Bill Whitehurst likes this.
  5. Slater

    Slater Leave that thing alone. Supporting Member

    Apr 17, 2000
    The Great Lakes State
    Going from poor quality components to just adequate can make a big difference. Going from adequate to boutique can be debatable (and frequently is here on TB :D).
    bolophonic likes this.
  6. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    As a pro, I completely agree with that, and it's an important point. A wiring harness that isn't working correctly will make a bass sound terrible. The reason why it isn't working correctly could be cheap components, a bad solder joint, incorrect wiring, whatever. And those problems can happen in cheap harnesses and expensive harnesses. You have to find and fix that problem to make the bass sound...pretty good.

    Going from poor quality components (that are working correctly) to high quality components (that are working correctly) in most cases will make only very small differences in the sound, if any. The main reason to use higher quality components is for reliability and longer life.

    Now, of course, a different harness may change the sound if the resistance or capacitance values are different. Those are variables that you can work with.

    But first, fix the problem and make the harness work correctly.
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2018
    Glazenn and bolophonic like this.
  7. bhoff5150

    bhoff5150 Supporting Member

    Thanks for the comments guys. Much appreciated.
  8. Definitely. When I changed the pots, cap and jack socket on a cheapy Chinese bass last year I could hear a difference. I put in CTS pots, Orange Drop cap and Switchcraft socket. The sound was smoother, more refined and the tone roll-off gave many more useable tones.
  9. honeyiscool


    Jan 28, 2011
    San Diego, CA
    The size of pots doesn’t affect tone. Some of the nicest and most expensive guitars out there use mini pots and diminutive caps, because how would you get gigantic components into an F hole in a hollow body?

    Sometimes when people attempt to shield their instruments, they find that they can no longer use full sized components without components getting unintentionally grounded. I’d rather have a well shielded control cavity with mini pots than an unshielded cavity with full sized pots. Some of the most expensive preamps out there come with mini pots. Not to mention, most such preamps probably have surface mount components with tiny, tiny capacitors. So it’s not about pot or cap size. Noble pots aren’t no name pots. They can be perfectly nice.

    That said, who knows if someone wired the pots correctly? One of the easiest ways to mess things up is to screw up the hot and ground at the jack, which will result in extremely awful tone. With pickups connected via two connector wiring, most are floating and can use either wire as hot, but sometimes upon close inspection, you might notice that one actually grounds the magnets or the base plate or something, and then you can’t just flip the wires without adverse effects.
    Glazenn likes this.
  10. ezstep


    Nov 25, 2004
    north Louisiana
    Lots of wisdom in this sentence.
  11. I’ve often wondered if replacing the stock wiring from the pups to the pots with much thicker oxygen free copper type stuff would help out with what is undoubtedly a weak signal to begin with. I used to be in high end audio many years ago and we looked at every link in the signal chain including interconnect cables costing more than many basses!.
  12. honeyiscool


    Jan 28, 2011
    San Diego, CA
    Pickup connecting wires are 22 ga for something like a foot and a half of wire? If anything greater than that provided any benefit other than just making the connections more brittle by introducing more weight and harder to snake through cavities, we would see it.

    Regardless, what do you think causes more tone loss? 25 feet of instrument cable with 20 ga wire, or 1.5 feet of 22 wire inside a guitar or bass?
  13. Lownote38


    Aug 8, 2013
    Nashville, TN
    It isn't the Aero pickups. That much I can safely say. It sounds like you have a super cheap harness that is holding those pickups back.

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