Where's the beef? Pickups, preamp... or nothing?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by vindibona1, Aug 1, 2018.

  1. I've just bought a used Ibanez Gio 6er and am really impressed with the build. Can't believe I stole it for $100. I've tested the Ibanez SR505 and SR5 5 string basses and while the build of this Gio is (surprisingly) as good as the 505's I've tested, I know that the pickups and/or the electroincs in the Gio aren't anywhere near on the same level as the mid priced SR5 and 505 which come with Bartolinis and who knows what preamp.

    The preamp control configuration on the Gio is a little unusual as there are two volume controls, a master tone and a "bass boost". So other than the bass boost and being an active system, there really isn't much that it offers that a passive system doesn't offer. And I can tell just from the look of the pickups, they look very much like the ones on ebay that you can buy two for $17.

    So what would you try first to make the sound better? Preamp, pickups or just live with it and get an external preamp or a good EQ pedal? Thoughts? Suggestions?
  2. funkinbottom

    funkinbottom Supporting Member

    Apr 23, 2006
    Northern CA.
    I think I would replace pickups and preamp first. With as many bassists on this site that are constantly modding their bass, there is usually great stuff for sale in the classifieds here on TB.
  3. Killed_by_Death

    Killed_by_Death Snaggletooth Inactive

    Get some passive pickups, tear out that Phat II bass boost & install a bass cut knob, like what G&L puts in the L-2000 & ASAT basses.
    There basically isn't a full-on preamp in the GIOs, just that crappy bass boost needs a battery.

    TBH I wish my Ibanez Premium was passive.
    A good preamp is transparent when the knobs are set for zero gain or boost & that's how my Ibanez is.

    However, I have owned some where the preamp did a lot of the heavy lifting, like in a MIK BTB300 I had.

    If the bass cut knob doesn't appeal to you, install a 3-way toggle in the forward-most hole.
    MonetBass likes this.
  4. Crater


    Oct 12, 2011
    Dallas, TX area
    Most likely the bass has passive pickups, it just has that miserable (IMO) Ibanez "Phat II" preamp in it. Those can be easily bypassed and you won't need to change the volume controls or tone controls.
  5. ofajen


    Apr 12, 2007
    92.4W 38.9N
    My starting point would be to do the best setup I could with good strings, play it for a while, get to know what it does and then decide if it needs anything. But then, that’s just me, YMMV.

    4StringTheorist and JRA like this.
  6. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

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  7. So from what I'm reading, basically the thing is in passive mode unless I use the bass boost, as the bass boost is the only thing different from a passive mode. No? If that's the case the pickups just aren't wonderful either. But what would you expect from a lower end Ibanez?

    I gotta tell ya, the setup is perfect. I've paid for setups that aren't any better than what's on this bass. Seriously. Rounded fret ends. Level frets from first to last. Low action; as low as any other bass I have. I'd prefer a hair wider string spacing but it is what it is. It's just that the sound needs some cojones.

    Are there any pickups that are worth anything for $50-$75/set or less?
  8. Slater

    Slater Leave that thing alone.

    Apr 17, 2000
    The Great Lakes State
    Unfortunately, soap bar pickups ain’t cheap. You could look out for some used EMG HZs (maybe someone upgraded and they’re selling their HZs). IMO, anything lower in quality isn’t worth buying, and is probably equivalent to what you already have.
  9. ofajen


    Apr 12, 2007
    92.4W 38.9N
    Given your concern over the pickups and electronics, I was also speaking to a careful optimization of pickup height, which is also part of instrument setup. In particular, checking the effect of pickup to string spacing at manufacturer’s spec and also trying both closer and farther than spec to see what might best suit the sound you are after.

  10. A good thought Otto. I just checked and maybe they're a tad low. I just raised them up 1/8" but it's too late to test them tonight. Other than that I don't think there is really anything else to check.

    BTW... When I removed the strings to boil them, the nut was loose and fell off. I wanted to have an idea of what material they were using on the Gio nuts... and it wasn't plastic. When I did the "drop test" the ping of the nut sounded like it could be TUSQ. Sounds a lot like the ping of the TUSQ saddle that came out of my 2011 Taylor 614ce. I was actually surprised that it wasn't plastic!
  11. You're probably right. I'm probably best off to stay put for the time being. It's one of those things. It's a $100 bass that doesn't play or feel like a $100 bass. But it's still a $100 instrument psychologically.
    Slater likes this.
  12. Killed_by_Death

    Killed_by_Death Snaggletooth Inactive

    I saw a SR306E in a pawn shop today. Those are the pickups to go for IMHO, but I'm not sure how you'd check if they'd fit:


    Maybe you could talk your local Ibanez dealer into quoting you a price for some PowerSpan pickups.
  13. ofajen


    Apr 12, 2007
    92.4W 38.9N
    The preamp is always in the signal path, it’s just a one band active preamp. I get the impression that a number of folk have replaced theirs. You might want to try subbing in a two band preamp that is more to your liking.

  14. ofajen


    Apr 12, 2007
    92.4W 38.9N
    Also, you might be interested in this thread.

    Lose the Phat

    One post includes a circuit diagram. The bass is wired up like a passive with two 500K volumes and a passive HF tone, but then sends the signal thru the Phat module right before the output jack.

    Turned all the way down it should be flat, but you could take it out of the circuit and it would be wired like a Jazz Bass. It’s said to be a slap contour, meaning it boosts bass and treble and cuts mids.

  15. Thanks for the link Otto.... In reading the link I came across the above reply talking about replacing the Phat II witha Belcat 3 band. I think that is exactly what I have in my bin that has never been used. However, it would require drilling another hole for the 5th pot. I dunno... Is there any way to wire up the new preamp and test it without going modding the body for the extra pot so I can reverse it or at least take it back to passive with the old internals? Would a Belcat 3 be an improvement over the Phat II?
  16. Killed_by_Death

    Killed_by_Death Snaggletooth Inactive

    You can convert two of the knobs into once concentric pot:

  17. I could... for about $20 for the pot and knobs... for a $10 preamp on a $100 bass :).

    I'm tempted to try try the Chinese preamp only because I have it an never used it and wouldn't think about using it in a better bass. I dunno... I'm wondering how I might wire it up and test it without mounting it in the bass?
  18. Killed_by_Death

    Killed_by_Death Snaggletooth Inactive

    You could also just leave one of the controls inside the bass & non-adjustable.

    It would get tricky to remove the pot, because you'd need to substitute a resistor in it's place to keep that control at zero boost/cut.
    Or alternatively you could not & then it would be 100% boosted or 100% cut :wideyed:
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2018
  19. ofajen


    Apr 12, 2007
    92.4W 38.9N
    This might be worth trying. I think I might start by taking the Phat module out and just running it as a passive bass, then perhaps trying the other preamp once I had a sense of which of the controls would be most useful.

    Actually, if it were me, I’d ditch the Phat module and replace with a Q filter mid-cut control and keep it as a passive bass. You can see how I installed a Q filter in my P bass in this thread:

    If P, then Q!

    If you do decide to explore that option, you will not need a stacked pot the way I did on the P bass, since you would have the spare hole from the Phat to use a normal pot on the Q filter.

    Last edited: Aug 3, 2018

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