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Tonal differences between dual and quad coil pickups?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by Kwesi, Apr 17, 2010.

  1. So every once in a while I toy with the idea of drastically altering a bass to get a tone that I think I'd like more. To this day I've owned at least a dozen basses and have thought about altering each one of them yet have only done so once (quite successfully I might add, though it was only a pickup swap :p). I've recently picked up a fretless bass that sounds great but (there's always a but, lol) I'm looking for a somewhat beefier tone at the bridge so I was thinking of dropping a MM style Bartolini pickup in the bridge position. Currently has a Bartolini humcancelling jazz pickups so it would have to be routed. Normally not a great idea but I'm still thinking.

    The pickups I'm looking at, the Bartolini MM5CBC and MM52CBJD3) are both the same shape but the first is dual coil while the second is quad coil. What are the general differences in tone between the two? I've never had a bass with quad coil pickups so I have no idea what they sound like.

    I generally don't keep a bass long enough to consider these things but my two current basses and the one I have on the way have me rethinking my habit of constantly buying and selling basses so I'm thinking of the long haul. Thanks for whatever info you guys can give.
  2. stflbn


    May 10, 2007
    I believe the difference in switching ability. I know some of the Dual Coils are only 2 wire and cannot be coil tapped. I'd assume the Quad coils could go the full gamut of Series/Parallel, Single Coil, All Coils.
  3. tubby.twins

    tubby.twins Amateur Pickup Reviewer Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2009
    Hi Kwesi,

    Most 4-conductor "quad coil" pickups can do the same things that most 4-conductor "dual coil" pickups can do. You can wire them up with a switch (toggle or rotary) which selects from the 4 options: single coil (north), single coil (south), both coils (parallel), both coils (series).

    The real benefit with most "quad coil" pickups is that they usually consist of two "twin coil in-line" armatures inside. This is true for the MM52CBJD(3) pickup that you mentioned. You may think of it like having two twin-coil inline Jazz (or X4/X5 narrow) pickups inside a single MusicMan size shell.

    This allows you to "solo" each of the pickups without having any hum, since each of the pickups is completely humcancelling.

    You could wire up a dual-coil pickup such as the MM5CBC in the same manner, but it would be susceptible to noise in the "single coil" settings.

    Tonally speaking, these two pickups should produce almost the same tones. It really depends on how they make the humcancelling "classic bass" pickups and if there are any differences with the regular dual-coil model.

    In summary, if you plan to get flexible with coil selections and you want all your settings to be hum-free, I think you should go with the quad-coil pickup. It does cost more than the dual-coil pickup, but I think you'll be pleased with the results.

    I was actually considering the MV52CBJD(3) variant of this quad-coil pickup (in the larger 5-string Ernie Ball shell without tabs) for a bass project, but ended up going with Delano's version of a quad-coil pickup instead, model MC 5 HE. I would love to try one of Bartolini quad-coil pickups, since my other basses with Bartolini's "classic bass" pickups have sounded very nice.

    As a final note, bear in mind that not all quad-coil pickups are treated as dual twin-coil inline humcancellers inside. For example, Delano's quad-coil versions of their "SBC" soapbar pickups appear to be "split", such that one of the two humbuckers is wired up like a P-bass offset arrangement, and the other is its reverse. This may have tonal implications, depending on where you place the pickups. On the other hand, Bartolini's quad-coil "deep tone" pickups (even the smaller soapbars like P2 or P4) appear to be the true dual twin-coil inline humcancellers. (I've done a "screwdriver test" on mine, and it seems to be this way.)

    Any further questions we can answer for you? :)
  4. slaerts


    Aug 3, 2006
    I have the quad coil soapbar bart pickups in my bass. xxm56c or something. I have it coil tapped to run in single coil, series and parallel. The series is slightly louder and beefier and growlier than the parallel. It has more prominent lower mids (hence the beef/growl). I find the single coil/parlallel tones to be almost identical only the single coil has a slight hum and the parallel doens't ring as clearly in the highs. I find I use series most of the time, single coil sometimes and parallel rarely.
  5. Thanks for the info guys! Hehe, all these tonal options have me seriously considering having my bass routed. More lower-mid growl is precisely what I'm after so maybe this is the best option for me? I'll give it a bit more time before I make any final decisions.
  6. miner49er11


    Jun 24, 2006
    So not to make it more confusing, BUT I've been working with a discontinued (as per Bartolini cust service) set of 6-string Bart quad soapbars which are wired 4-wire+shld. Each of the dual inner and outer "single coils" is jumpered together. Can I just eliminate the jumper, connect four more leads, and have a set of the "currently available for 5-string but not for 6" Bart quads for a 6-string? Honestly, I'm thinking about not even messing with them and selling them here... ~Pete
  7. tubby.twins

    tubby.twins Amateur Pickup Reviewer Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2009

    I'm not sure what you're asking. Are you trying to use a 6-string quad-coil pickup in a 5-string bass, or is it the other way around? Be aware that there's probably a small gap between the split coils, in which a string won't be tracked properly. For a 6-string quad-coil pickup, the gap should be right in the center, but on a 5-string quad-coil pickup the gap should be offset. It should be between the A and D strings in either case, depending on the pickup and its intended string spacing.

    You can definitely eliminate the jumper between each of the split-coils in a single (inner or outer) "coil", and bring these out as wires to the wiring cavity. This should give you ultimate control over which coils are selected. In most cases you'll only need 2 more wires, since you can use other wires to "shunt" the coils together to achieve the same combinations.
    Bassitudes likes this.
  8. edwinhurwitz

    edwinhurwitz Supporting Member

    May 13, 2003
    Boulder, CO
    Endorsing Artist: DR Strings, SMS
    I have a David King fretless 5 and it's got Bartolini soapbars in there (standard humbuckers) and it sounds exactly like what you are going after. It would require a rout to go in your bass, but I think it would work well. I would probably not go for a Musicman shape as it would sample a wider section of the string and I think you'd lose stuff that you'd want. It would give more depth and low mid girth, but at the expense of upper mids and clarity in the humbucking setting. I think that with the regular soapbar you get plenty of width for the growl and depth and still retain a fairly even spectrum. I did wire the pickups with series/parallel/single coil options, but I use it in parallel 99% of the time (I'm one of those guys that modifies the hell out of everything almost as soon as I get it).

    I liked your youtube videos, great tone and phrasing on the soloing covers!

  9. addicted


    May 23, 2012

    I sort of reviving old thread here but I am interested when you mention that a dual coil pickup has 4 coil-tap options including single coil north & south, both coils series & parallel. I have seen basses with coil tap switch in single coil north/south/parallel configuration and parallel/series/single coil config. But I have not seen parallel/series/north/south config. How to wire the pickup in this 4-options configuration using most 3rd party pickups? Is there any benefit of doing it? And I presume using rotary switch is mandatory since there is 4-way DPDT switch?
  10. MaddAnthony_59

    MaddAnthony_59 Supporting Member

    Dec 16, 2006
    Columbus, IN
    I Channel Surf During Commercials. (Drives my Wife CRAZY!!!)
    I just received a Passive 2 pickup bass with Bart Quad Coils. V/V/T controls. It is configured in North(or Front)/Series/South(or Rear) for both pickups. It is Pretty Near Perfect. With both Pickups in North or South, and rolling one or the other Vols back a touch gives a very distinct Jazz Bass tone. Front Pup alone in Series, P-Bass Perfection. Rear Pup alone in Series, Stingray-A-Go-Go! Balancing the 2 in different combinations is Mind Boggling! H/S, S/H, H/H. I didn't realize about the Hum Canceling benefits of the Quad Coil before reading this thread. This has answered a Lot of Questions I had. Enjoy the Porn...





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