Why is the Epiphone Toby Deluxe so noisy?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by King Louie, Jul 17, 2016.

  1. King Louie

    King Louie

    Jul 17, 2016
    So I have an Epiphone Toby Deluxe 4 string. I like the sound very much, I like the playability, it is very lightweight which is great for the back (3,4kg/7p8oz) and it looks stunning, much like a boutique instrument. Especially in stage light when the "walnut" finish seems to fluoresce. But the bass is noisy! Our music school offers band coaching (which by the way is a great thing to do). Our band coach, a multiinstrumentalist who has quite some experience with different bands, says that he has never experienced any bass that was as noisy as the Toby. He likes the bass as well, and has even recommended it so his girlfriend, who is a beginner bassist like me (2 years), and it is just the same with her instrument. So I know I did not just get a lemon.

    Now there are some obvious answers, but none of them seem to apply as far as I can tell

    1. "Single coils always hum!"​

    It is no single coil! Epiphone lists them on their website als "Tobias TBT™ Dual Rail Humbucker pickups" so I think they must look like this(link) noiseless pickup from another tb thread: Two long thin blades, each wrapped with a coil in opposite direction so that they produce a humbucker that just so fits the jazz format. Also, if they were single coils, the noise should go away when both pickups are full on, but it does not. I cannot be sure about the pickup design though, because it is not possible to remove the cover, which brings us to typical reason number

    2. "There is a loose wire in your pickup, you have to mold it to make sure nothing can move!"
    Well, the pickups sure look molded to me, which I would never have expected from such a cheap bass:


    Which brings us to the last of the usual suspects:

    3. "You gotta shield the electronics!"​

    Well I did:

    I checked that all copper parts are interconnected and to the ground (outer ring 1/4'' jack) using a multimeter. I also disconnected the bridge wire after shiedling as recommended. No effect whatsoever. So the factory shielding using conductive paint may or may not have worked, but it is not the culprit.

    I refrained from exchanging the pickup wires with the shielded ones I had ordered after I saw that a) the factory wires look exactly like the shielded ones I ordered and b) the wire was molded into the pickup and I might just cause another shielding problem if I cut it off and resoldered it.

    So, from all I can tell, Epiphone did everything just like it is supposed to be done to get the instrument quiet, and still they ended up with one heck of a noisy instrument.

    So what on earth went wrong?!?
  2. eloann


    May 14, 2012
    Hey man.

    The active preamp thingy they put in there is really crappy. It adds a ton of gain and noise and isn't useful.
    I removed it on mine and the tone improved a lot even keeping the stock pickups.
    Reedt2000 and csc2048b like this.
  3. Hotblack

    Hotblack Pay the cost to be the boss. Supporting Member

    May 20, 2002
    Provided content for Genzler Amplification
    I hate to give an answer that doesn't offer a solution to your current problem (fixing the existing electronics), but...
    I replaced the electronics (pups & pre) and the bass came alive. I think the Toby's are a wonderful deal in terms of construction, but their guts leave much to be desired. I went all Bartolini with mine and it really made the bass more enjoyable. The Barts did not radically alter the characteristics of the bass. It was like taking a blanket from over a speaker. Just my $0.02.
    steelbed45 likes this.
  4. King Louie

    King Louie

    Jul 17, 2016
    Hey guys,

    thanks for the answers. It is basically what I thought. I just don't get why Epiphone spent a bunch of knowledge and money (for such a cheap bass) on getting the pickups quiet, and then undermining all their efforts with a crappy electronics that you cannot even get quiet with shielding. Does not make any sense to me. I still think that maybe someone capable made a great design, and then they gave it to some dork for production who made a mistake that might be fixed if you find out what it is.

    eloann, what electronics did you use?

    Hotblack, which Bartolinis system did you build into the Toby?

    I was also thinking about some EMGs because I heard that they are dead quiet and that they seem to have a modern sound which would maybe keep the character of the Toby. But it is basically investing 200+ in a bass that cost 200... And not knowing if I will like the outcome.
  5. eloann


    May 14, 2012
    Doesn't make any sense to me either. I'm guessing the reason is so they can inclue "it's active!" in the marketing pitch.

    For now I just removed the active part leaving a gaping hole instead of the 4th knob and wired the stock pickups passive which is really easy to do (connect the hot and ground from both gray sleeves).
    I'll probably swap the pickups too eventually. Won't be using anything active though - batteries are a pain, especially in a bass that doesn't have an easy access compartment.
    csc2048b likes this.
  6. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize! Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    What I do in this case is buy a cheap pot and put it in the hole with the original knob. Still looks original at very little cost. And means somebody could replace it back to stock.
    csc2048b likes this.
  7. King Louie

    King Louie

    Jul 17, 2016
    I did not even know it is that easy? Don't you have to include a new capacitor or anything?

    Does anyone know if the non-deluxe Toby has the same noise issue? Because it also has a bass boost knob (or treble cut, which is probably the same thing after adjusting the volume). That would be the most stupid thing ever: "Get a deluxe, with extra added noise, a battery that might run empty and that's it!"
    Bass V likes this.
  8. Clark Dark

    Clark Dark

    Mar 3, 2005
    "It's recommended to disconnect the bridge wire after shielding?"
  9. eloann


    May 14, 2012
    The tone knob is a regular, passive tone. There's nothing to add besides 2 points of solder.

    The Toby standard is passive and probably not as noisy - though there's the inherent single coil hum. The deluxe does have nicer (to me) finishes available, and I picked up mine for about the same price as a standard.

    I'm planning on replacing it with a toggle switch when I change the pickups. But yes, I absolutely could stick the unconnected crappy preamp in there again just for looks.
  10. megafiddle


    May 25, 2011
    In many cases, shielding can be so effective that the bridge ground is no longer necessary. In that case the bridge ground wire is sometimes disconnected to remove any potential shock hazard from being in contact with circuit common.

  11. Hotblack

    Hotblack Pay the cost to be the boss. Supporting Member

    May 20, 2002
    Provided content for Genzler Amplification
    Don't remember. I think the classic series, but could say for sure. It's the 3 band EQ, sweepable mid, push/pull active/passive pre.
  12. honeyiscool


    Jan 28, 2011
    San Diego, CA
    Two things:

    1. Why would you disconnect the bridge ground? I never would.

    2. If you want to get rid of the preamp, just use a VTVT setup, tone knob for each pickup. Or do what I do, configure a second tone knob for passive bass cut.
  13. honeyiscool


    Jan 28, 2011
    San Diego, CA
    buy it used. Then you can sell it if you don't like it.
  14. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol

    Reconnecting the bridge would be a wise move. It is the simplest way to get rid of hum.
  15. megafiddle


    May 25, 2011
    Just curious, can you describe the noise?

    Possibly the pickups are defective (only one coil working) and signal is both weak and no longer humbucking.

    Does the noise disappear if you reorient the bass, rotating it around?
    (that is assuming a 60 Hz hum or buzz)

    Or is the noise more of a hiss, like a receiver without muting tuned between stations? In that case it would definitely be the preamp.

  16. wraub


    Apr 9, 2004
    ennui, az
    But, in many cases, the bridge ground is a necessary part of the system, especially if the shielding is not so effective.
    Reconnecting the bridge ground to see the effect seems reasonable.
  17. madmanmerc

    madmanmerc Guest

    May 11, 2015
    I have the 4 string passive model and i have absolutly no noise. Super quiet. Love it, nice and light. Great bang for the buck
    Bass V likes this.
  18. Hevy T

    Hevy T Supporting Member

    Jan 11, 2011
    Lethbridge, AB Canada
    [​IMG] I had a 4 string white passive one. It was really quiet. However I found the pickups really weak. So I changed them out for a set of duncan designs I had kicking around. It made it better. I ended up trading it in for something higher end if I remember correctly. I truley miss it. I would love to get her back and give her some Model Js. It was the perfect bass for when my back and neck acts up
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2016
    Bass V likes this.
  19. csc2048b


    Apr 4, 2010
    i agree with the others: bypass the active circuitry and go passive - apart from killing unwanted noise, you eliminate so much hassle and dirtying the environment with worn batteries.
  20. King Louie

    King Louie

    Jul 17, 2016
    That is exactly what I read & why I did it. Happened in Woodstock. It was raining so hard that some performers got electrical shocks through their instruments because the water connected power and ground. Not that I plan on playing in Woodstock anytime soon...

    It is a hiss. Definitely not 50/60Hz. Soundfiles below.

    I tried reconnecting the bridge wire and was underwhelmed with the result. I made soundfiles through my Zoom B3 and uploded them on Soundcloud for you to listen. Tone knob is rolled fully on, you can get rid of the hiss by rolling it down of course, cutting out the frequencies. First file is with ground wire to the bridge, second is without. If anything, the bridge ground wire adds another high pitched hiss to the signal. Maybe the pretty long bass strings act as an antenna for some static or something. But listen for yourselves.

    Embed seems to not work for me. Here's the link:

    Edit 2:
    OK, dont ask me what's wrong with soundcloud. Just Copy/Paste the link Address if it does not work for you.
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2016