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SX (Essex) upgrade project

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by slngd, Nov 27, 2012.

  1. Hi TB

    Now it is time for me to get a 'proper' bass.
    I have been playing my RBX170 for what seems too long.

    I have (pretty recently) purchased myself an SX Jazz clone - and now want to upgrade some of the not-so-good hardware that comes with the stock SX'es.

    The attached image are my plans so far. The reason why i am posting this in here is to get some good advice from more experienced modders - and also, maybe some person will use this post as a reference in a modding project of his/her own. Who knows.

    What do you think about my choices?

    What i am trying to acheive here, is simply a better quality bass - and if possible a bit darker more punchy tone.
    My SX has a lovely neck, lovely 3-piece tonewood body. The construction itself is everything i could ask for - and i adore the feel of this bass more than any Fender or whatnot i have played in the past.

    Thanks in advance for your qualified answers! :bassist:

    Attached Files:

  2. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    I think by the time you're done, you will have spent what it costs to buy a used Fender Standard Jazz bass...which would achieve the same thing and have higher resale value. Those mods won't add a penny to the value of the SX.

    What would I do?

    -Leave the tuners alone. They don't affect sound.
    -Leave the bridge alone. It's perfectly fine.
    -Install strap locks only if your playing habits make it necessary.
    -Look for used pickups on Ebay and don't spend over about $60 for them...and that's only IF you actually hear that there is something lacking with the existing pickups which can be fixed with a specific set of replacements.
  3. Jo6Pak


    May 2, 2007
    i agree w/pilgrim. stock tuners and pups are fine. the bridge - well, change it if you must, but i wouldn't go for a high-dollar one. the main thing that really should be replaced is the string tree...
  4. JLS


    Sep 12, 2008
    Emeryville, Ca
    I setup & repair guitars & basses
    The best tonal change you could make would be to have the neck attachment converted to 1/4-20 threaded inserts & machine screws.

    I know zilch about the kits offered on ebay, etc., that are 10-32 thread; I do know that 1/4-20 setup provides serious crush-fit torque, and has been a significant improvement to any bass I've done the installation, on.
  5. Andyman001

    Andyman001 Supporting Member

    Feb 11, 2010
  6. hgbrede


    Nov 1, 2012
    No question, the way to get the best sound out of what you have now: go the "bolt into inserts" route.
    The thread that the previous poster refers to shows one way of doing that.
    I "inherited" a "Lotus" P-Bass copy that was the typical low-end dog.
    Jeff at Bridge Guitar in Kensington, Ca (Bay Area) did the "bolt-through" with 1/4 - 20 button head socket cap screws. Yup, it's possible to do this mod with countersunk machine screws, but I believe the surface mount button head exerts a lot more solid pressure across the entire neck plate and really creates a "unitized" body/neck combo. I really don't mind the slightly "industrial" look - see below:
    The improvement was shocking. Resonance and sustain are simply on a new level, somewhat comparable to the sound feel of a neck-through.
    Listen to the sound of your instrument without amplification, do or have done the mod and then listen again. This is key.
    Wood matters! The sound of your bass plugged in will never be better than the actual sound of the plank you are playing.
    It's an analog instrument, not a midi controller.
    After that mod you can decide where to go from here. It's probably the biggest "bang for the buck" you can get for your bass.
    Pick-ups, if you think you need them? Buy American! Preferably from a small boutique manufacturer (Fralin, Lollar, Barden or some of the younger even smaller outfits like Eastgrove or such). And talk to them. Tell them the sound you're looking for and they will advise fun stuff like over-winding or underwinding.
    But give your local guitar repair guy the few bucks to do your insert mod first - you'll get a solid set-up job in the bargain.
  7. Thanks everyone for your replies!

    Alright, point taken. Not so many $$ in aftermarket upgrades...

    Well, i kinda already did replace the bridge with the Babicz :p It is so much more easy to adjust the intonation and action on those.

    I am not trying to acheive a higher resale value here - as i am not planning on selling this bass ever. The small amount of money it would bring in, would not be able to get me out of dire straits if i were in them anyway.

    Just to make it clear; I like THIS slab of wood. None of the MIM/MIA/MIJ Fenders i have tried out have felt this good in my hands.

    I have redone my plan after you guys talked me out of all the expensive aftermarket upgrades. (Thanks says my wallet)

    Any of you wouldnt happen to know where i can find some more extensive information on the bolt conversion?


    Attached Files:

  8. JLS


    Sep 12, 2008
    Emeryville, Ca
    I setup & repair guitars & basses
    Somebody posted a photo essay--Walter? Pilgrim?--but I can't find it. I shoulda taken pictures of the last one I did.
  9. bassbenj


    Aug 11, 2009
    The SX slab of wood is one reason there is so much SX love on TB. But noobs always get the mods all backwards!

    My "standard" SX mods go like this.

    Forget new pickups.

    First mod is copper foil SHIELDING! Do control cavity, pickup cavity and back of pickguard.

    Mod #2 is wiring. I'm not a big fan of vol/vol so my usual mod is vol/rotary switch/tone. Rotary gives neck only/both series/both parallel/bridge only. Series/parallel mod is a GREAT Sx mod! I've also done some with vol/blend + series parallel.

    Mod #3 is threaded inserts for neck screws and control plate/pickguard screws. 8-32 for neck. 4-40 for plates.








    I just hammer the 4-40s in with a bit of epoxy. Not super strong but good enough for pickguards etc.

    Mod #4 New pickguard from Pickguardian.com. You send him the old one and say "copy this" (in new material of your choice). If you lucked out on your wood, this makes lowly SX look positively booteek!

    Mod #5 If it's a new "ursa" headstock I'll do the "dixiecup" mod just for looks. Of course this is just a cosmetic thing.

    That's it. If you have the better bridge, that doesn't need changed. If you have the cheap bent metal one, it is VERY hard to do better than this for twenty bucks! Is a perfect fit for 5 strings, don't know about 4 strings.


    (Note will NOT fit under SX ashtrays!)

    SX tuners are usually sort of variable and sometimes stiff, but work. Can be changed to taste. I don't.

    Sometimes you need to file down a high fret or two but that is certainly not always the case.

    Note SX pickups are killer and the ONLY reason to change them is single coil hum and you've got too much money burning a hole in your pocket.

    See TB "chunger" SX thread for even more info.

    That's pretty much it.

    Good luck!
  10. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    Having repaired, built and modded many basses over the decades I have to say my SX works well enough without any mods.
  11. Can't disagree with this more. An electric bass really doesn't sound like much unplugged. I've played a number of basses and none of them really sounded "good" unplugged. Plug them in and everything changes. Sure, wood matters. But so do pickups and amps.

    Nearly all bass amps are analog as well. The amp is a major part of the sound.