Upgraded My Fender Urge II (Stu Hamm) and WOW!

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Quadzilla, May 9, 2017.

  1. Quadzilla

    Quadzilla Supporting Member

    So I bought a killer, I mean KILLER Urge II. I loved the feel, weight (8.5 lbs), balance, playability and most of all THE NECK! The neck is super straight with LOW action and with it being asymmetrical on the neck profile itself, it's just so fast and easy to play.

    But the stock electronics are lacking on these (IMHO). Not balanced, just blah sounding and lacking in tone (I've owned two of these and have played others and always found this to be the case)...

    This one came to me with a couple upgrades that improved it, but still didn't hit the mark. The previous owner had put a Bart 3-band pre and Bart pickups in it. But I knew that it could even be better so I started talks with one of my favorite pickup builders, the great Howard Ulyate!

    We got started with designing a new kind of P pickup. I don't work for Howard, but told him that I'd be happy to do some testing and eval with him. Yes, I also paid for my pickup (I didn't expect or want anything for free). I wanted a P pup that would properly balance the D&G strings with the E&A strings. We tried a couple of prototypes and settled on this design.

    The E&A poles are "normal" Alnico V and his normal wind. For the D&G side, fatter poles with stronger magnets. This beefs up the tone. Gives the D&G strings a bit more weight and "ummph" in the notes.

    The result is a VERY balanced P pickup. The D&G strings no longer get lost in the mix or sound thin.

    Next, I wanted Howard to make some J pups that had a bit more to them as well. They look normal from the top, but "underneath the hood", there is an extra Alnico 8 pole in between the two Alnico V poles for each string. There is just a bit of difference in the tone from his regular J pups (in a good way). They sound very even and "creamy" without losing definition. Just KILLER J pups! Highly recommend these!!!!

    I had TBer and electronics-wiz John Dahlman (JKDahlman here on TB) do the install, shielding, and proper mods to the Bart pre and switching to make all this work. The 3-way switch works like this:

    1 - J pups
    2 (middle) - All pups
    3 - P pup

    The balance control only controls balance between the J pups and it works in modes 1 & 2.

    The rest of the electronics are setup "standard" (vol knob, balance knob, treb/bass stack and then the mid knob with push/pull for freq select).

    This bass is now a BEAST!!!!!!!

    Thanks to Howard and John for making this bass into what it should be!

    20170507_211412_HDR.jpg received_10155527875933274.jpeg received_10155527876108274.jpeg IMG_1323.jpg 514745323.jpg 20170507_211317.jpg
    Last edited: May 9, 2017
  2. JerBo


    Jul 25, 2009
    Wow. That sounds very interesting. I just put some Novak BS/DS pickups in my Modern Player Tele bass and OMG it's amazing. I like the thought of that P pickup tho!
  3. chuck65

    chuck65 Supporting Member

    Jun 6, 2010
    Orange Park FL.
    Dude ! GREAT mod! I'm still test driving my new ( to me ) urge II , but so far this thing is a beast. :) I like a little more honk in my top strings , but I can definatly see where you are coming from. what strings are you running?
  4. Quadzilla

    Quadzilla Supporting Member

    Right now she's wearing D'Addario 45-105, but slapping on some Dean Markley Blue Steel 46-103 nickels shortly (my current fave).
  5. chuck65

    chuck65 Supporting Member

    Jun 6, 2010
    Orange Park FL.
    I think mine came with rotos , but I have a set of D' Addario NYXL 45-105 on the way. I was one of the original Blue steel fans back in the eighties ! I almost went back with a set of mediums , but thought the bass might be a little too hot for straight up stainless steel. I was going to go with the stock Fender 8250m 45-110 tapers ,but they aren't what they used to be , so i took a pass.
  6. docdeck1960


    Feb 22, 2011
    That's a beauty!!
  7. I love the Urge II. Man, some of the best tones Stuart Hamm ever got came from an Urge II. 'Live in San Francisco' with Joe Satriani, the GHS records, 'Outbound' and so on. It's a different sound to the Urge I and the Kubicki Ex Factor that came before and whilst the Kubicki will always be my favourite, I loved the outright grunt of the Urge II on tunes like 'Wrong and Strong'.

    I'd still love to know why Fender discontinued the bass, after such a long relationship with Stuart. He was, in fact, the first player to have a signature Fender bass. I think that's pretty significant! I liked the sound of the Washburn he later played though the sound of his Streamer basses doesn't quite do it for me like the Urge and Urge II did. Anyway, I could carry on in this fashion for hours. I absolutely worshipped Stuart's wonderful playing as a young lad and I still do!

    OP, I'm glad you got your Urge II running the way you want it. The balance of the output across the strings on the splitcoil is an important factor and you're lucky to have found a decent builder who could wind a pickup to get you the sound you wanted. Now, to make music!
  8. bassclef112

    bassclef112 Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2003
    Astoria, NY
    Wow!!! Nice mods/development and work! I bet she's a brute now!!
    I would love to hear it!

    Had an Urge II for a while and I really liked it. I thought Fender did an excellent job balancing the pickups. Both the J's and P were very authentic sounding alone, and with any combo available (i.e. neck J/P) this had some very nice tones. My favorite was all on!:bassist:

    Among all my other J/P basses this was basically a duplicate for me tonally so it finally went. But very nicely done!! An excellent bass
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2019
  9. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    Looks nice! I have an usa Urge 1. Would love to compare it with an Urge 2 one time!
    I always wondered if they sound really different or similar? Do you still have this one?
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2020
  10. songwriter21

    songwriter21 I have an obsession for wood. The musical kind. Supporting Member

    Jul 31, 2005
    I worked with Stu on the first Bx3 tour, as a tech/roadie. I asked him a few years later about this departure. He simply told me that the master builder(s) of the Urge II had left Fender, and so his time was up with them. Perhaps the same thing happened with Roscoe Beck and his amazing signature bass.
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2020
    lowdownthump and Les Fret like this.
  11. Howard @knarleybass is a frickin’ Mad Scientist for sure, love his creations.
  12. Yes, that man was Todd Krause. I believe his name actually appears on the inside cover of 'Outbound' where Stu had thanked him in the dedications. Obviously a very skilled builder. I was never entirely certain of the circumstances under which Stu had left Fender after such a long and groundbreaking relationship. I seem to recall they made a limited run of anniversary Urge II basses shortly before they were discontinued.
    songwriter21 likes this.