Psst... Ready to join TalkBass and start posting, make new friends, sell your gear, and more?  Register your free account in 30 seconds.

Villex pickups

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by nonsqtr, Jun 15, 2004.


  1. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    This has been an eventful week. Actually it started around the middle of last week, and it's been going on since then. On Saturday I got a demo of some new Villex pickups. These were brand new for me, I'd never seen or heard them before. The demo instrument was a 70's Fender Jazz Bass, stock except for the new pickup system. In a nutshell, these pickups are passive, but when you're listening to them you'll swear you're hearing actives. The frequency range is greatly extended compared to the stock Fender pickups (the Villex pups go down to 18 Hz for those 9- and 11-string basses, and they go way up beyond active-land), and the dynamic range is also greatly extended. Other than that, they're remarkably faithful to the vintage J sound that we all know and love. Cosmetically, they're drop-in replacement for the stock Fender pickups. Electronically, they're somewhat unusual, there's a midrange control that works off a second coil embedded into each pickup, which when left on zero yields a real nice slappy sound, and when cranked to full generates an incredibly fat sounding midrange that's perfect for walking and jazzy stuff (I'm guessing the boost is centered somewhere around the 400 Hz range, maybe slightly lower). The sound? Beatiful! Completely amazing. If I'd been blindfolded, I would have sworn up and down that I was listening to an active system. But, these pickups are completely passive! For those of you who like the sound of actives but don't like the concept of batteries in your bass, these Villex pickups may be just the ticket. To my ear, they sound GREAT! (with a capital G). I wouldn't hesitate for a moment to replace the stock pickups in my J bass with a pair of these Villex J-pups. In fact, I'm going to do that very thing shortly, to "my" J bass (which actually belongs to a buddy of mine, but that's a long story, it's been in my possession for almost ten years and I haven't heard hide nor hair from the owner in just about that long, so for all practical purposes it's "my" J-bass). Of course I'll keep the old pickups around just in case. But really, these Villex pups are remarkably faithful to the vintage character of the J sound, other than the extended ranges and the midrange tweakability. You can easily dial up a "classic" J-bass sound with these pups. I'm not affiliated with Villex in any way, the only thing I really know about him is that he's been around a while, he has several patents related to pickup technology, and several major manufacturers are currently using his ideas. But, it's very likely that I'll be seeing him in the very near future, so if any of you are seriously interested you can drop me an e-mail and I'll do what I can to hook you up. Seriously though, I've been playing the bass for a long time, maybe forty years, and there hasn't been a whole lot new under the sun during that time. Every once in a while though, something new does come along, and that makes me sit up and take notice. This is one of those times. Passive pups that sound truly spectacular. That's gotta be something new, 'cause I've never heard anything like these Villex-es. Clearly Mr. Villex knows a bit about physics, 'cause without revealing his trade secrets, let's just say his design is "very clever", and he's worked wonders with the frequency range and dynamic range of his pickups. There are some big names in the industry that are currently very interested in these pickups, and from what I gather the only reason they're not being mass marketed is that Mr. Villex winds, houses, and tests each pickup by hand (ie he can't make them fast enough to satisfy a large commercial market). At the moment, my understanding is that the J-bass pups are the only ones that can be had "quickly", but rumor also has it that Mr. Villex can build just about any kind of pup that might be needed, and since I play mostly five-strings these days, I'll surely be taking him up on that capability. But I do fours too (once in a while), and I'm really looking forward to trying a set of the Villex P-pups shortly, and I'm also thinking seriously about ordering up a set of Villex soapbars for my Yamaha beater-bass. If any of you have any experience with Villex pickups, good or bad, I'd love to hear about it.
     
  2. David Wilson

    David Wilson Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Lower Westchester, NY
    Hi, yes I've had experience with Villex pickups in the past. If you do a search you'll find some prior discussions. Modulus have been offering them as an option in their basses for 2 years now I think.

    I had a P/J set in a hot rod precision, and it sounded great. I really regret selling that bass, the only bass I regret selling actually. I was able to have vol/vol/mid/tone controls in that bass, as I had routed out some space for a preamp I later took out. I'm not a big user of a passive tone control, so I'm happy enough to have the mid control instead of tone - it's something I'd use more often while playing when going between finger/pick/slap.

    I also just got a J set and a P to go in, well, a J and a P bass.

    There's no doubting Mr Villex is a very clever man, although the wiring diagram for a 2 pickup set is clearly the product of a warped mind! As you said, he'll make you pickups in any size you want. If you see my other recent thread you'll see info on his new passive output booster!

    edit: Also, I know they're an option on Chapman Sticks these days as well.
     
  3. elros

    elros

    Apr 24, 2004
    Norway
    Proprietor, Helland Musikk Teknologi
    Interesting review, thanks.

    I am in the process of choosing pickups for my in-progress custom 7 string bass, and Villex is one of the options. In fact, Villex is probably the most interesting option - I am very curious about how these sound, and perhaps that curiousity will be the deciding factor. I'll tell if I go for Villexes in my 7.
     
  4. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    Do you mean the pair of secondary coils that are wired in series with the midrange control? Yeah, I guess that would qualify as "warped", you'd have to look at pickups in a slightly unusual way to think about that. On the other hand, it's nothing really new, radio engineers have been using that principle ever since the 30's, for instance in transmitters, to control the resonant behavior of feedback circuits. Which I suspect is exactly what's going on in the Villex pickup system. But what do I know? I'm just a bass player. :)
     
  5. john keates

    john keates

    May 20, 2004
    I bought some Villex pus and whacked them into my old faithfull Yamaha TRB 5. I am very pleased with them so far. The main thing that I wanted them to do was to get rid of the hisss that the Yamaha circuit had whilst improving the sound.

    They are double coil hum-bucking soapbars.

    I would agree that the range is very extended. There is a whole load of stuff that I can do with these that I couldn't before. The mid controll works well allthough the pot that came with it was really stiff and I can't find a knob to fit. I will fit a new pot soon, maybe at the same time as getting the booster thing that david mentioned (thanks david for your info on the subject :) ) I would love to know what this does exactly.

    It is true that these pickups sound like actives. They have a really focused low end and detailed highs. I have yet to play them properly loud through a good amp but those tests that I have done so far have been fun. They have a lot of punch to them - makes me feel in touch with the instrument.

    I would like to hear them in other instruments - allways looking for sound samples (hint-hint).

    I showed them to a luthier and he was totally confused by the wiring diagram. It works though.
     
  6. David Wilson

    David Wilson Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Lower Westchester, NY
    I've been doing a P and J shootout, the P shootout needs redone but the J is about done. I've recorded the Villex pups so I'll post that soon - they're installed in my Geddy Lee Jazz and sound great.
     
  7. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    Yes, I'd be very curious to hear what they sound like through the board. I'd guess they sound pretty good.
     
  8. David Wilson

    David Wilson Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Lower Westchester, NY
    Well, the sample isn't through the board. It's right into a Korg PXR4 recorder.

    Go to http://briefcase.yahoo.com/david_wilson and the 'Jazz Pickups' folder. There's a bunch of stuff there, including the Villex zip file. I'll be doing a separate thread on my J thoughts soon.

    Note, samples were recorded pretty quickly so my levels weren't always perfect - there's some clipping on the slap stuff.

    On the villex clip, everything after the first riff was recorded twice - first with mid up full, then with mid turned down to taste.
     
  9. geshel

    geshel

    Oct 2, 2001
    Seattle
    Interesting. I like the low-end growl the EMGs give sometimes. The UJ's are surprisingly less vintage sounding than I thought - the EMGs (which admittedly are called "vintage") are darker.

    The Villex are definitely interesting.
     
  10. David Wilson

    David Wilson Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Lower Westchester, NY
    The EMG JV's were a big surprise, they weren't what I was looking for but for active pickups they sound very 'unactive' (inactive?). Since they don't have the low and high end boost their J's so, it's a more even response.

    The UJ's I liked a lot, they had a nice low end boost although the top end can be somewhat harsh at times. The Villex's are my favorites so far - good output level, even response and the versatility of the mid control (I usually don't use a tone control, so I don't miss it).

    I need to re-record the Nordstrand 4JSE's and the stock pups for reference, should get that done in the next week.
     
  11. geshel

    geshel

    Oct 2, 2001
    Seattle
    Oh - and what's up with the DM J's? Which are those? They sounded really thin. Like the neck pickup was too far from the strings maybe?
     
  12. David Wilson

    David Wilson Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Lower Westchester, NY
    No, that's their sound. It's a very mid focused sound. Maybe the recording make it sound worse than it is, I think it's more a case that the UJ and the Villex have relatively more bottom end than the Model J's.
     
  13. john keates

    john keates

    May 20, 2004
    Hey, david, thanks for the sound samples. It is an education to hear them.

    I am wondering about the clipping and the fact that it only really happens with the Villex.

    The first thing that I noticed when I started to slap away with my new pickups was that the attack right at the start of the note was real sharp. When recording into my four track, I found that avoiding clipping meant that the rest of the note was quite quiet.

    I am wondering if this is a Villex thing (something to do with the fact that they are passive maybe). Also, what could be done to alleviate this problem? I am not keen on compressors - I am thinking of some kind of limiter but it seems odd to have to limit the output straight from the bass.

    Sorry for all the questions...
     
  14. David Wilson

    David Wilson Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Lower Westchester, NY
    John,
    I think it's more that they're a higher output, so you have to adjust your input levels or pickup height. I hadn't moved the sliders on the recorder after recording some DM UJ's the day before. My pickups were too close to the E string, I adjusted and it's fine now - while still keeping an even level across strings.
     
  15. john keates

    john keates

    May 20, 2004
    I have a question about Villex pickups. Sorry if it is a little novice.

    Should they go into the active or passive input of the amp?

    To me they work better going into the passive input but they are high output so does that make them not quite like other passives?
     
  16. iloveloosey

    iloveloosey Guest

    Sep 9, 2000