Versatile Bass/Pickup Question?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by JFT, Jun 19, 2002.

  1. Hi Guys,

    This is my first "official" post on this forum and sorry but it'll be long. (I crossed post the pickup group not knowing where this post fit best.)

    (Great forum BTW). So here's a little background:
    I play guitar and I'm about to convert to bass.

    So I'm gathering information and shopping before getting that first bass. Just got a kid so I'll be able to afford a single one before a LONG time (years) so I'm looking at getting as flexible a bass as I can afford. (around 500$)

    I don't expect to become a Jaco or a Stu Hamm or Victor Wooten. I like several style of music going from funk to rock including smooth jazz. I want to be able to lay my own bassline in my compositions which spans quite various styles which is why I target a versatile sounding bass.

    I find it very difficult as a "newbie" to go and test bass in store and it is even worse to test pickups. It is so easy to turn treble and bass knob must be easy to assess bass pickup versatility... WRONG of course not because a newbie isn't good at equing a new instrument and has no idea how it "could" sound in a mix with other instruments. To top it off salesman have a tendency to push what they like. The last one attempted to sell be a Yamaha BB-604, pushing really hard (while all I wanted was info on sound produce by various pickup)

    Which bring me to the title...
    My ears tell me I prefer somewhat meatier sound (P-sound?) to the Jazz sound (over all J sounds too thin to my ears) but P are really lack luster flexibility wise. May be I got it all wrong but a single P-pickup with just a tone control isn't that exciting to me especially thinking this will be my one and only bass for a few years. So would humbucker/soapbar be the solution for me? Are they meatier and more versatile sounding than both J and P pickup?

    My wallet allowing I'm thinking of a pickup configuration similar to a BTB-400 or NS-2000/Q4 if soapbar are the holy grail of flexibility.

    Thanks again for reading this VERY long post.

    P.S. I read many people post regarding MTD Kingston but aren't those one trick pony sound wise due to a single pickup with a single tone control? Thanks Again
  2. HeavyDuty

    HeavyDuty Supporting Curmudgeon Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 26, 2000
    Suburban Chicago, IL

    Versatility is a very personal thing. I know many will say a Jazz can do anything, while others will say the same about a P. I *personally* think a MusicMan Sterling is as versatile as it gets - a single humbucker with coil splitting and three-band EQ. (That's why I have one!)

    Have you looked at any basses with a P/J pickup configuration? A lot of people think of this as a good compromise for an all-around bass.

    In your price range, you may want to consider used. Some used basses I would seek out to test drive would be used G&L stuff, a Fender Stu Hamm "Urge", a Fender Hot-rodded American P (P/J), and (a little more expensive than you're thinking) a MM Sterling or Stingray five string.

    On the new side, a Fender Deluxe P-Bass Special (What a mouthful!) comes in under $500, and would give you the P/J configuration. The Fender Deluxe Zone Bass seems decent from what I've heard.

    Bottom line - play as many basses as you can find, and let your ears and hands decide! You'll know when you find the right one...

    Have fun!
  3. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Two humbuckers with coil split/series/parallel swiches and a 3-band EQ will make you so versatile, you might never find your way home again.....:cool: But you'll never need to tuch the EQ on the amp, either.
  4. Thanks for the input.

    If I combine Suburban post with HeavyDuty I come to the conclusion that the coil splitter is a must have, and that coupled with a double-coil will probably give me what I'm after.

    Again HeavyDuty your post was really an eye opener, I mean comments about the Sterling.

    People are going to scream after me but I find the MM/EB design REALLY ugly. So ugly in fact that even before thinking in term of money I never even research them. After your post I went to harmony-central to read the review there and I think that it probably is the holy-grail of what I'm after.

    Price is however to steep, probably even used...

    So I guess I'll have to find a replacement :rolleyes: . ( And change my mind about their look :p )

    Any idea?

    Thanks again!
  5. PolkaHero


    Jan 5, 2002
    Get a G&L L-2000. Designed by Leo Fender and one of the most versatile basses you'll find in its price range. There's a lot of used ones that show up on Ebay, Harmony Central, etc. and end up selling for less than what their worth.
  6. HeavyDuty

    HeavyDuty Supporting Curmudgeon Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 26, 2000
    Suburban Chicago, IL
    JFT - I'm sure there's many other humbucker-equipped basses that either have coil splitting stock or could be easily adapted, and active EQ circuits are common enough. Nothing wrong with not caring for MusicMan basses - I feel the same way about Yamaha.

    Since G&L is scarce up there in the Great White North, how about an MTD Kingston four or five with an added EQ and coil switching? The only functionality you'd lose against a Sterling is the loss of the phantom coil.

    (P.S. to Geezer - love the sig! I may steal it for use elsewhere...)
  7. HeavyDuty

    HeavyDuty Supporting Curmudgeon Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 26, 2000
    Suburban Chicago, IL
    Oh, and I've occasionally seen used Sterlings as low as $750 or so. Isn't it worth getting what you *really* want since it's going to be your one-and-only bass for the foreseeable future? Look in the archives - someone here removed the pickguard on his Sterling, which completely changed the look IMO.
  8. I guess it is a dumb question but what is a phantom coil :confused:

    How involve is it to install a coil splitter and adding an additionnal pot in a basses? Can all luthier cleanly do it without butchering the bass?

    Still with my "quest" for versatility but limited budget... Wouldn't a Kingston Heir (the one with MM+J) config fit perfectly? If it is possible to have it mod with a coil-splitter and switch...

    Then later on I guess it would be possible to add an active preamp and a pot... I guess so much I could slip in the budget.

    Would all this be feasible and worth it?

    I listen to MTD samples on and the heir sounds really awesome.

    Any opinion on these?

    Thanks again
  9. HeavyDuty

    HeavyDuty Supporting Curmudgeon Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 26, 2000
    Suburban Chicago, IL
    I can't say I've spent any great amount of time with MTD stuff, but the Kingston I messed with a few months ago was very nice. Your idea of gradual modifications is sound.

    There's not a whole lot involved in adding a coil splitter to a humbucker bass so long as the pickup is wired in an appropriate fashion - it can be as simple as replacing one of the pots with a push-pull pot (rotate for volume or tone, and pull up for switching). No new holes or anything - a simple job for your tech, or for you if you can use a soldering iron.

    Two band EQ can easily be added to most basses in lieu of a tone pot - a lot of them use concentric pots. Just be sure whatever bass you buy has enough room for stuff in the compartment.

    A "phantom coil" is a third coil that's not used for sound pickup - it's there only to serve as an electrical second coil for a humbucker when it is split. Single coils tend to pick up hum - the phantom coil gives you the single coil sound with the electrical hum-canceling benefits of a humbucker.

    Another bass to look at - a Lakland Skyline¬Ö