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What’s the best &/or worst pickup configurations?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by merseymale, Oct 28, 2018.

  1. merseymale


    Oct 28, 2018
    Hi! for my very first post, here, I’ve picked a big one!!
    Be warned this is a long post and not for the faint hearted… ;-)

    I have to downsize & I think I can Live with two bass guitars that should cover everything(?)

    A short scale (EADG)
    & long scale (BEAD)

    So I have two questions one which is difficult and the other which is harder!

    I believe that, in a twin pick up arrangement, where the midd pick up can be series and/or splittable ‘bucker and the bridge pick up is a humcancelling/2coils for 2strings type of jazz there would be 12 possible options
    (Please correct me if I’m wrong!) Which are:

    Bridge pick up parallel

    Bridge pick up series

    Midd pick up split

    Midd pick up in series

    Bridge pick up parallel (in parallel with) midd pick up split

    Bridge pick up in parallel (in parallel with) midd pick up in series

    Bridge pick up in series (in parallel with) midd pick up split

    Bridge pick up in series (in parallel with) midd pick up in series

    Bridge pick up parallel (in series with) midd pick up split

    Bridge pick up in parallel (in series with) midd pick up in series

    Bridge pick up in series (in series with) midd pick up split

    Bridge pick up in series (in series with) midd pick up in series

    So my questions are:

    1)which of these do you have on your bass currently that you really like (&/or which ones have you tried only to find fairly useless)?

    My intention is to have the best five or six options rather than a complicated system for all of them - especially, as
    I suspect, that a few of them would be fairly similar to each other!

    2)once we can ascertain, say the top 10 favourite positions, how would I go about wiring the best FEW of these as I can’t be hassling with switches for ALL of them on one bass! ;-)

    I imagine selection will be via a rotaryswitch, possibly six way, which I’m fine with but I’m not wholly sold on the idea of a blend pot
    (Although if needs must…!)

    Also I’m not totally in favour of push/pull pots in this situation but again am willing to make compromises if it makes the circuits easier to handle in some way...

    Thanks in advance for your time and even if whoever is reading this far cannot think of ALL the answers IF they have ANY thoughts, from personal taste/experience, on even one of the above options that would be appreciated!

    For instance I myself feel that the wiring should include a split midd alone; series midd alone and also series bridge alone for sure

    Thanks in advance,
    folks and folkettes!
  2. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    While it’s fun to have all of those options available, in a band mix only a very few of them will prove useful. So you’re right to just concentrate on the best few.

    I like having a series/single coil switch for the neck, and even the bridge if you’re feeling fancy. If the single-coil hum bothers you, use parallel instead. Running the pickups in series one with the other can be useful, but I’ve never needed it.

    I also really like the Freeway Switch for things like this.
  3. merseymale


    Oct 28, 2018
    Thanks for your replies!

    I will certainly have to look into a Freeway switch (?) But as for the single coil sound of the bridge -it wouldn’t work because each coil sees just one set of strings (because it is a jazz style With two coils inside the case)

    The midd pickup is a 4pole PAF sort of thing so, yes, shutting off one of the coils would give somewhat of an original, pre ‘bucker Pbass sound

  4. Element Zero

    Element Zero Supporting Member

    Dec 14, 2016
    Wow. That’s quite the list.

    I’d say the best one is which ever sounds best to you and the worst one is the one that sounds worst to you.

    You’re welcome.
    merseymale likes this.
  5. For maximum output you'll want all the coils in series.
    So, each pickup's coils in series & then those pickups in series with respect to (WRT) one another.

    The caveat here however is that the more coils you have in series, the lower the resonant frequency. You might think that's good for a BASS guitar, but it might also make the output muddy.
    One way to mitigate this is to install a passive bass cut knob, but keep in mind that's just reducing your output, which was the goal of series coils (more output).

    The complete opposite to this is wanting the most highs you can get, which would mean running all the coils in parallel.
    The caveat here is that your output will be reduced.

    If you want a happy medium, you could wire each pickups' coils in parallel & then wire those pickups in series WRT one another.
    or wire each pickups' coils in series & then the pickups in parallel WRT one another (this is usually the default for a bass with two hum-cancelling pickups).

    For maximum diversity you could install two push/pull volume pots.
    Each one switches its perspective pickup from series/parallel.

    However, in that configuration you won't have the option to run the pickups in series WRT one another.

    IF you like lots of high mids or highs in your output, just go all parallel.
    I find it's easy to add bass at the amp w/o making the output noisy, but adding treble (or high mids) at the amp = hiss.
    merseymale likes this.
  6. merseymale


    Oct 28, 2018
    YEP! So true ;-)
    I suppose I just wanted to reduce the time spent trying on all the permutations…

    I guess we listen with our ears not with our eyes
  7. merseymale


    Oct 28, 2018
    now that IS a good point...
    Killed_by_Death likes this.
  8. sikamikanico


    Mar 17, 2004
    In addition to the 12 options, you of course have all the "one pickup by itself" options... so 17... and don't forget that a humbucker has two single coils you could use, which extends your options :)

    It's hard to answer this question speculatively, we don't know what pickups you'd be using, and chiefly, what you like. The only real solution is for you to try them all.

    But some speculation on my end: everything in series will sound ridiculous; the split coil (bridge pickup) by itself in parallel will sound weak; the humbucker will sound best either in parallel or series, but not both; the two pickups might work best in parallel with each other.

    Also, what other electronics will you be using? Those can also help eliminate some pickup combos...
  9. merseymale


    Oct 28, 2018
    Thanks for taking the time out and making some good points however I think the first four on the list sums up solitary pick ups, doesn’t it?

    As I have yet to put these things together I am still open to suggestions about what Electronics I’ll be using (although I’m still not a huge fan of push-pulls and even less so of blend controls however I am open-minded!)
  10. sikamikanico


    Mar 17, 2004
    Sorry, didn't see those! My quick math indicated that 12 options include all the pairings, and assumed you left out the individual pickups :)

    Good luck with this. If you're not settled on electronics, here's another trick that can save you some pickup switching - you can mimic series wiring by using a loading cap (or have a switch to pick a few different ones). It can even sound better - less muddy, and without volume increase. It just shifts the resonant peak. I find it very musical...
  11. merseymale


    Oct 28, 2018
    Although I have been at this kind of thing for decades (!) I have to admit this is a new one on me!

    Are you talking about a preset tone control rolling of some of the highs…?

    I’m always happy to learn something new THANKS
  12. somebrains

    somebrains Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2017
    Warwick $$'s and G&Ls taught me that the settings I found least gratifying screwing around at home were the best to use with a band.
  13. sikamikanico


    Mar 17, 2004
    Yes and no. In essence, tone pots combine the effect of resistance and capacitance, where resistance influences the level of the resonant peak, and capacitance its frequency. Both kinda sound like rolling of highs, but in two distinct ways. RobbieK recently did a very nice video demonstrating this visually and audibly: Video Drop: Tone Cap Shootout (All About Tone Controls Parts 1 &2)

    When I tested this with J pickups, I could emulate series wiring best by using a 2200 pF capacitor (and volume adjustment). Perhaps there were other minute sound differences, but it worked well enough to convince me it's a viable alternative (unless you're after the volume difference, and some do use it to their advantage).
    merseymale likes this.
  14. merseymale


    Oct 28, 2018
    That’s a good point...
  15. bigtone23


    Dec 10, 2014
    Denver, CO
    I find that I prefer having pickups in series mode and then blend them in parallel for thicker tones and have pickups in parallel mode and blended in parallel for brighter tones. I try series wiring of two pickups, but it usually results in too much mud if the pickups are hotter than standard output Jazz bass-type single coils.
    merseymale likes this.
  16. The best pickup configuration is the one you actually find on the best bass for metal. No need to remind everyone which bass I am talking about since we've settled this matter years ago.
    Yahboy likes this.
  17. merseymale, Frenchy-Lefty and Yahboy like this.
  18. Yahboy


    May 21, 2008
    Suggest a try with Ibanez SR300E which come with Powerspan pickup and flexible Tap switch. Variable of tone.
    Killed_by_Death likes this.
  19. Unfortunately, Ibanez mis-labeled it tapping, when it's coil-splitting:

  20. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I did something like that once and didn't even find them useful outside of a mix. I just leave things normal and don't mess with anything else anymore.

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