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Ultimate Essex 6er Neo pickup mod...

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by bassbenj, Nov 7, 2012.

  1. bassbenj


    Aug 11, 2009
    Well I've discovered it! One of the secrets of the universe. Sure many of us know that SX is one of those well-kept secrets. And the one I'm about to talk about is the recently available SX 6 string Fender clone. I've got three of them.

    The original plan (I bought two) was to have a fretted and fretless bass. But then I discovered how cool it was to have one strung with flats and one with rounds. So I had to buy another to convert to fretless. Which I did. I bought an ebony pre-radiused fingerboard, removed the old one with a steam iron and glued the new one on. I loved EVERYTHING about this bass EXCEPT the tone and the hum! For some reason unlike my Ursa 5 strings SX basses, these 6ers have a pretty low output. And that means single coil hum comes through pretty loud when neck or bridge pickups are soloed. Of course single coil pickups always sound great if you ignore the single coil hum. And you can choose a setting with both neck and bridge to cancel hum.

    But still not happy. So the question was can one hot rod these pickups? The idea is simple. Stick some Neodymium magnets on the bottoms of the pickups to boost the field and hence the output without boosting the hum levels (which more gain does).

    A quick scan of the internet yielded these two possibilities:
    This one


    and this one:


    All you do is just stick them (they have quite a bit of force) to the bottom of the SX pickups like this:


    and this


    Simple. You can use either on the pickups and the thick one gives more output, but they also make the pickups deeper. So if you aren't in the mood to dig out the bottom of the cavities, the simplest thing to do is put the thick one on the bridge pickup and thin one on the neck pickup. This is cool because it gives your bridge pickup a bit of a boost for solos and keeps the levels sort of even. Plus it fits with no routing even with a reasonable spacing to strings.

    Results were SPECTACULAR! And those stories about high magnetic fields damping strings proved false. That bass just sitting on the bench was SINGING away! This is SO cheap and easy to do! If you want a "hotter" bass and less single coil hum, this mod is your baby!

    Good luck!
    _christian_ likes this.
  2. TheEmptyCell

    TheEmptyCell Bearded Dingwall Enthusiast

    Jul 16, 2005
    Belfast, UK
    This is similar to the B-Booster that Dingwall has been providing for the Combustion series basses that have a cheap version of their standard pickups in them. The B string came through quieter than the E-G, so Dingwall started providing an extra magnet that sticks onto the bottom of the pickup under the B string. It brings the volume and tone of the B right up to par with the rest of the strings.

    Cool mod, I'd be interested to try it on all sorts of pickups, just to see/ hear/ feel what happens.
  3. lofreek


    Jul 19, 2004
    St. Louis MO
    Not having found a drop in replacement pickup for the SX6, plus the fact that I rather like the tone of the stock pickups, your magnet experiment looks worthwhile. Thanks for the info.
  4. bassbenj


    Aug 11, 2009
    I'm sort of interested to try it on other pickups as well. I've got some Bart soapbars on an SX fretless that also need the boost as well, but it's not clear if you can stick them on a pickup like that. It's pretty easy when there is a magnet on the bottom like the SX ones have. I don't know what's inside the Barts.

    And I forgot to mention that since the magnets are a bit shorter than the ceramic one glued on there, I was wondering if there might be output variation from string to string. I didn't notice any on the final result. But after having done this, it occurred to me that these magnets also come in 4 inch lengths. I didn't get them because they are just a tiny bit longer than the pickup. But since the ceramic magnet sticks down below the case, I don't think that makes any difference so long as they fit the rout. And that only matters on the bridge pickup.

    I'll have to order a few more magnets in 3" and 4" to play with this more!

    I do love how it brought the old SX 6er alive!
  5. heb9_28


    Jul 1, 2009
    So, so, so excited about this post. Thank you so much for this. Let us know if the 4" magnet fits in the rout!!!!
  6. Ric5

    Ric5 SUSPENDED Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    I convert 4 string Rickenbackers to 5 string basses.
    I have put additional magnets on the bottom of pickups as well. Any pickup that has a weaker magnet can benefit from this. I get alnico bar magnets from the hardware store or I use magnets from pickups that have been dismantled.
  7. JMimbs


    Jan 5, 2012
    Central Florida
    I will definitely have to check this out! Thank you!
  8. TheEmptyCell

    TheEmptyCell Bearded Dingwall Enthusiast

    Jul 16, 2005
    Belfast, UK
    I signed up for the newsletter from that site a couple years back when I briefly thought about winding my own pickup. Never ventured down that road, but I'd still like to give it a whirl.
  9. bassbenj


    Aug 11, 2009
    I have one more piece of information on this mod. Since I had an extra set of magnets (one thin, one thick) I decided to drop them in my fretted SX 6.

    What I discovered, was that the pickups were DIFFERENT in those basses. That pair was ordered when the first batch of SX 6ers was sold. The one I made fretless was from a later batch.

    The pickups in the first pair are FAR FAR better than those in the second batch. The first ones have very little single coil hum even when soloed. The first batch have NO large ceramic magnet visible on the bottom. They actually work quite nicely as is!

    But hey, I put the Neos on there anyway. The 3" ones snuggle nicely in the hollow on the bottom of those pickups. And as expected they boosted the output level. It's still great but now it's more like a ACTIVE bass in the level of output! Still worth doing in my estimation but not as critical as it is with the lesser pickups.

    So that's all I know for now. Next I'll have to order a couple more magnet sets to do the SX 6 round wounder and experiment with some other pickups like my low output Barts.

    I wondered why I was so happy with the first two SX 6ers and unhappy with the last one. Now I know!
  10. FileBass


    May 9, 2012
    this is awesome!
  11. heb9_28


    Jul 1, 2009
    Ordered my magnets today. Really excited to try them out. Interested to see how these will affect the Audere Pre I plan to drop in it in a few weeks.
  12. heb9_28


    Jul 1, 2009
    Did this mod today. Really surprised at the improvement (not that I didn't trust you bassbenj!). Still have hum, but then again I haven't shielded the cavity yet. But I did notice that the hum stays more at bay as I turn the tone up.

    Another nifty thing was that if I put a -15db pad on my amp (post mod) then the volume was still similar to pre mod witout the pad, but the hum was GONE. Without the pad, I have a nice, big sound that is quite hot.
  13. why dont buy pups equiped with neo magnets?
  14. heb9_28


    Jul 1, 2009
    I'm not exactly sure of your question but if you're asking why I wouldn't just go out and buy a set of new pickups for the bass, its simple.

    I haven't found a set of 6 string jazz pickups for less than $200. Not to mention that this mod was simple, I did it myself. I'm not sure I'd be comfortable installing a $200 set of pickups in my bass.

    The total for these magnets (shipped) was $20.

    So, I saved about $180+ by doing it myself rather than buying new pickups and having them installed.

    So, that's why.
  15. JMimbs


    Jan 5, 2012
    Central Florida
    Also, very few 6-string pickups fit into this SX bass. So, $200+ the cost of routing out the body. This mod sounds MUCH easier to me.
  16. NorCal Dog

    NorCal Dog

    Nov 28, 2005
    great idea

    just ordered some neo's for some P/J experimentation

    thanks for the tip :D
  17. NorCal Dog

    NorCal Dog

    Nov 28, 2005
    neo magnets came in yesterday

    i've got a Squier Jag SS with a stock P & an SX J in the bridge

    i fit a 3" x 1/2" x 1/8" neo under the J pickup

    & a pair of 1 1/2" x 1/2" x 1/8" neo's under the P pickup

    preliminary findings are; very cheap mod, evened out the volume differences between the p/j pickups, can run both pickups wide open with no drop in volume, can roll the volume back ever so slightly on either pickup & the the pickups respond accordingly

    GREAT MOD !!!

  18. bassbenj


    Aug 11, 2009
    I got another batch of neos for experiments too, only results not so great. I got them to shove under a pair of Bart soapbars I have on an SX fretless 5er that is a bit on the weak side.

    This seemed like the perfect fix. But I just took the pickups out and the bad news is that these Barts are potted with the electrical terminals sticking out the bottom. Hence you can't get the magnets where they belong.

    Sometimes you get the bear. Sometimes the bear gets you.
  19. Originally posted in Squier Jaguar Short Scale Club part 2 thread.

    Like many I have noticed that the bridge pickup on the Squier Jaguar SS is more than a little anemic sounding. I read with interest the thread and posts about adding a supplemental neodymium Rare Earth magnet to the pickup, but I haven’t see details or sound samples. So here we go, I hope it makes sense.

    The actual modification consists of:
    • loosening the strings
    • removing the pickup mounting screws
    • removing the pickup and cover from the body
    • take the cover off the pickup
    • placing the bar magnet on top of the pole pieces of the pickup
    (it will definitely tell you which way the magnet attaches, watch your fingers)
    • reverse the steps above to reassemble and re-tune your bass.

    For me the best part about this modification is there are no special tools, soldering or routing required. Total time (if you put the magnet in the correct place the first time) is about 5 minutes.

    I used a single 3”x1/2”x1/8 magnet from K&J Magnets, Inc. I was pleasantly surprised with the standard USPS priority shipping, arriving 2 business days after placing the order.

    If you’re going to do this, I found the magnet MUST GO ON TOP of the existing pickup pole pieces inside the plastic pickup cover. (Something I didn’t see mentioned in other posts.) Recording 1, 4 & 5 clearly illustrate the difference in volume based on the placement of the supplemental magnet and the stock bridge pickup.

    Please Note: By putting the magnet inside the pickup cover it increases the over all thickness of the pickup, so be careful when reinserting the mounting screws. It is easy to strip the screw hole in the body, which means you’ll have to do the “toothpick and glue” mounting hole repair.

    The recording: IMO a bass’s sound can only accurately be judge by how it sits in a band mix. The linked files all use the same backing track constructed with Band-in-a-Box software. The bass was plugged directly into an E-MU 0404 USB interface. Initial levels were set for the stock soloed P (neck) pickup since I plan to leave it unmodified for now. All of the bass tracks were recorded with the input set exactly the same on the 0404 interface and within the DAW. I use Sonar X1 (no added effects or eq) for the DAW. The volume and tone on the bass were set wide open. Any variations in tone or volume are the result of the individual pick ups. If you want to isolate the individual pick up sounds from the backing band the band backing track is panned hard left, the bass is panned hard right and the only instrument.

    Sound Samples:
    1 Stock Bridge Solo
    2 Stock Neck Solo
    3 Stock Both
    4 Mod Bridge magnet on bottom solo
    5 Mod Bridge magnet on TOP solo
    6 Stock Neck + Mod Bridge (magnet on top)

    I hope this helps answer some question about how this relatively simple and inexpensive modification sounds.

    Post Script to original post:
    I'm not sure why the magnet under the pickup actually lowered the overall output, while placing the magnet on top worked so well. But the recorded results are clear. Since making this modification I've used the bass at several rehearsals and at gigs ranging from a quiet 3 piece classic rock coffeehouse gig using a Vox T25 single 10 combo, and at a very loud blues jam using the host's SWR and Peavey bi-amp heads into a 4x10 and 1x15 cabs. At both places I received several surprised looks and positive comments at how huge the "little black bass" sounded.
    _christian_ likes this.
  20. bassbenj


    Aug 11, 2009
    I'm not sure why a magnet underneath didn't work, but I'm thinking t might have to do with how the pickup is made. Mine were steel poles with a ceramic magnet underneath which the neos simply boosted. If the pickup was one with magnets for poles they may have actually inhibited it somehow. Anyway, probably on top is the optimum way to go in any case, but in my case the pickups were epoxy potted and it didn't seem easy to pry them from the cases.

    Great sound samples! It was very similar to the transformation I got out of my SX 6er with magnets on the bottom!