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Messin' about with cheap basses and pickups

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  • Messin' about with cheap basses and pickups

    Back in 2013, I bought an Ibanez GSR200 on ebay, so I wouldn't have to trust one of my Rics to the tender mercies of airline employees. Toured with the Ibby until we got back to Oregon, where I switched back to a Ric.

    I have a couple of Daisy Rock basses, a Heartbreaker and a Blackheart. At one point, I bought a Bartolini 8S P-bass pickup and put it into the Blackheart. Didn't seem to be a big improvement over the Duncan Designed pickup it replaced.

    The Ibby sounds all right, and plays really nice, especially for such a cheap bass, but the electronics left a bit to be desired. The bridge pickup never seemed to amount to much, and the tone control doesn't roll off as much as I'd like.

    After a while, I got to thinking. I really like the Bartolini pickups on my BurgindyGlo Ric. That's why I bought the 8S for the Blackheart. But the original Duncan pickup is pretty good, too. So why not put the Bart into the Ibby? And I could get another Bart for the bridge position, too.

    I put it off for a long time. I couldn't justify the money for the new pickup (which was silly, really. They're only about $75). But I had a good week a few weeks ago, so I bought one, a 9CBJD S3. That's a dual coil, humbucking Jazz pickup, same size as the one it was to replace. It arrived last week. Let the fun begin!
    "The Web puts all of the world's knowledge at our fingertips; unfortunately it's mixed with all of the world's bull****************."
    -- Bob Parks

    "A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it."
    -- Oscar Wilde

    "No man dies for what he knows to be true. Men die for what they want to be true, for what some terror in their hearts tells them is not true."
    -- Oscar Wilde

    "It is a trap of history to believe that eyewitnesses remember accurately what they have lived through."
    -- Theodore White

  • #2
    First thing was to remove the Bart from the Blackheart and put the Duncan back in. I thought that would be a simple project, but it was complicated by the fact that I'd put in a series/parallel switch, and didn't pay careful attention to which wire went where when I took the Bart out. It also occurred to me that I could take DC measurements on the pickups while they were out. Not all manufacturers publish the DC resistance of their pickups. Bartolini is notorious for not doing so, but I think they make a good case for it being more or less irrelevant.

    People who switch out pickups like to know the DC resistance because they think it tells them how a pickup will sound. And it does, to a certain extent, but there are a lot of other factors, and DC resistance is the only one we can easily measure. Magnet strength, magnetic aperture, coil inductance (related to DC resistance, but also to coil geometry and wire gauge) and pickup location all affect how a pickup sounds. But we tend to focus on DC resistance because it's easy to measure and understand.

    And in certain applications, it can give a pretty good idea. When everything else is the same, or nearly so, then comparing resistances can tell you enough to help make a decision. But it can still be misleading.

    Here are the resistances I measured:

    Bartolini 8S: 7.2K (3.6K per coil)
    Duncan Designed P: 17K (8.5K per coil)
    Ibanez stock P: 5.7K

    Bartolini 9CBJD S3: 6.3K
    Ibanez stock J: 4.6K

    Looking at the P pickups what really stands out to me is the very high DC resistance of the Duncan. It's highly wound, and no doubt has a correspondingly high inductance. One might think that the Duncan would have a much higher output than either the Bart or Ibby, but I didn't notice that it did. What I did notice is that the Bart's magnets seemed to be much stronger. Magnetic flux is as im,portant to a pickup's output as its windings, but we don't have a convenient way to measure that. Subjectively, the Bart and the Duncan had comparable output, which is not what one would expect from the DC resistances. Maybe the Bart had more high end, which is what one would expect. Both, in my opinion, had more output and sounded better than the stock Ibby.

    Similarly, I like the sound of the 9CBJD S3 more than the stock Ibanez J, but that could be because I went to all of the trouble to change it out. I damned well better like it more!

    Anyway, I'm getting away from the story of the changeout. Taking the Bart out of the Blackheart was easy. Putting the Duncan back in gave me fits, trying to determine where to put the wires, but I did eventually figure it out. Put the bass back together, noticed that it was time for dinner, and knocked off for the evening. I did notice that the Blackheart looked better with the black Bartolini pickup against the white pearlescent pickguard than with the white Duncan, though. Oh well.
    "The Web puts all of the world's knowledge at our fingertips; unfortunately it's mixed with all of the world's bull****************."
    -- Bob Parks

    "A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it."
    -- Oscar Wilde

    "No man dies for what he knows to be true. Men die for what they want to be true, for what some terror in their hearts tells them is not true."
    -- Oscar Wilde

    "It is a trap of history to believe that eyewitnesses remember accurately what they have lived through."
    -- Theodore White

    Comment


    • #3
      Happy New Pickups Day. Keep us posted on your continuing adventure, maybe some pics too.
      Official HCAG “Theory-Challenged Hack”
      Member of the IBANEZ ACOUSTIC ASSASSINS
      Proud Member of The Alvarez Alliance
      Member of the Schecter Society
      Person-2-Person on the Web

      Comment


      • #4
        Next day, I put the Barts into the Ibanez. That was easier. No fancy switching to deal with. What I did discover was that I didn't have any springs or foam for the J pickup. I went to the hardware store and found some compression springs of the right diameter, but they were too long. So I cut them in half and put some washers between them and the pup. I also discovered that, while the stock pup and the Bart were the same length and had the same location for the screw holes, the Bart had larger... um... wings? anyway, the little extensions that surround the screw holes. So the dimensions weren't exactly the same, even though the length and width were. I did a little bit of filing on the bass until it fit. Put it back together. Then I put on a thumbrest made from a piano key. Vintage ebony. Only the best! Tested it and the Blackheart, Blackheart worked great. In fact, I think the heavier windings on the Duncan pup work better with the series/parallel switch. With the Bart, it seemed to mainly make a difference in volume, but there's a definite difference in tone with the Duncan. A couple of odd things happened while testing the Ibby, but everything ended up fine. Or so it seemed.
        "The Web puts all of the world's knowledge at our fingertips; unfortunately it's mixed with all of the world's bull****************."
        -- Bob Parks

        "A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it."
        -- Oscar Wilde

        "No man dies for what he knows to be true. Men die for what they want to be true, for what some terror in their hearts tells them is not true."
        -- Oscar Wilde

        "It is a trap of history to believe that eyewitnesses remember accurately what they have lived through."
        -- Theodore White

        Comment


        • #5
          Tuesday, I took it to rehearsal, and things did not go well. I tuned the bass up (with a clip on) and plugged it in. Bridge pickup didn't work. Okay, well, still gotta rehearse. Turned up the neck pickup, and the weirdest thing happened: The "north" pickup worked, so I had the G and D strings, but not the A or E! I fiddled around with things, took off the back plate. The bridge pup worked intermittently (which told me that the odd things that happened when I first tested it weren't just my imagination). Then the neck pup started working properly, and the bridge stopped working again, so I just went with the neck pup for the rehearsal.
          "The Web puts all of the world's knowledge at our fingertips; unfortunately it's mixed with all of the world's bull****************."
          -- Bob Parks

          "A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it."
          -- Oscar Wilde

          "No man dies for what he knows to be true. Men die for what they want to be true, for what some terror in their hearts tells them is not true."
          -- Oscar Wilde

          "It is a trap of history to believe that eyewitnesses remember accurately what they have lived through."
          -- Theodore White

          Comment


          • #6
            Which brings us up to today.

            I started in on the bridge pup. Tested the potentiometer (hoping that was the issue. The only thing cheaper would be a wiring issue), and it seemed bad. Disconnected the pickup and tested it. It was good. Took the pot out and tested is by itself, and it tested good. WTF? Maybe a loose wire I'd missed, shorting it out? I put it back together. It worked, then it didn't. Wiggling the potentiometer shaft made it cut in and out. Okay, bad pot, intermittent. Replaced it, and it worked perfectly. Also, while digging through my parts, I found a bad with four small compression springs! Perfect size, and I had them all the time. Go figure.

            So far, so good. But now the neck pup is doing its half on, half off thing again.

            Pulled the pup and saw the problem. Where the south coil connected to the north coil, the insulation had pulled back from the hot lead, allowing it to short out intermittently. Minor surgery took care of that. Reinstalled the neck pup. I also screwed it down quite a ways, as it had seemed quite a bit louder then the bridge pup. Turns out, that was a good idea.

            Overall, though, success! Both pups are usable, where before only the neck pup had been, with the bridge pup functioning more or less as an auxiliary tone control. Now, it's usable as a solo pickup. I'll try it tomorrow through a full size bass amp.
            "The Web puts all of the world's knowledge at our fingertips; unfortunately it's mixed with all of the world's bull****************."
            -- Bob Parks

            "A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it."
            -- Oscar Wilde

            "No man dies for what he knows to be true. Men die for what they want to be true, for what some terror in their hearts tells them is not true."
            -- Oscar Wilde

            "It is a trap of history to believe that eyewitnesses remember accurately what they have lived through."
            -- Theodore White

            Comment


            • #7
              Yea shorts when you get things back in there and buttoned up can be a big pita. you want to keep the unshielded wires short whenever possible and avoid overheating wires or adding too much solder.

              One trick I use for situations where I may have exposed wires is to use a dab of hot glue. Its easy to apply and its non conductive. I commonly use it where I have soldered two wires together and need to insulate that connection. Heat shrink can work too but the hot glue cant tack wires in place so they don't move around. Its removable too, it can simply be peeled off metals and plastics. I use it on my guitar cables too. I found I can fill up the cavity inside the connector and the durability of the connection will last many times longer in preventing wires inside the connector from getting pulled loose.

              Comment


              • #8
                Sounds like more fun that I'd want. Anyway, glad to hear you're happy with the result.
                Official HCAG “Theory-Challenged Hack”
                Member of the IBANEZ ACOUSTIC ASSASSINS
                Proud Member of The Alvarez Alliance
                Member of the Schecter Society
                Person-2-Person on the Web

                Comment


                • #9
                  Used it at rehearsal today. Sounded good. More aggressive than my usual Ric. On some songs, I thought it sounded better, but on others, definitely not as good.
                  "The Web puts all of the world's knowledge at our fingertips; unfortunately it's mixed with all of the world's bull****************."
                  -- Bob Parks

                  "A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it."
                  -- Oscar Wilde

                  "No man dies for what he knows to be true. Men die for what they want to be true, for what some terror in their hearts tells them is not true."
                  -- Oscar Wilde

                  "It is a trap of history to believe that eyewitnesses remember accurately what they have lived through."
                  -- Theodore White

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    One downside, though. The 9CBJD S3 doesn't have a high output. To balance the outputs of the two pickups, I had to lower the height of the neck pup quite a bit. As a result, I have to kick up the gain a fair amount. That's not really a problem, but I guess I was expecting more output. Maybe because it was designed to go in the neck position?
                    "The Web puts all of the world's knowledge at our fingertips; unfortunately it's mixed with all of the world's bull****************."
                    -- Bob Parks

                    "A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it."
                    -- Oscar Wilde

                    "No man dies for what he knows to be true. Men die for what they want to be true, for what some terror in their hearts tells them is not true."
                    -- Oscar Wilde

                    "It is a trap of history to believe that eyewitnesses remember accurately what they have lived through."
                    -- Theodore White

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Perhaps I spoke too soon. Used it at another rehearsal this afternoon, with a different band. Same rig I always use with that band, and I didn't have to change the settings at all. Maybe the other band was just louder than usual on Thursday.

                      Anyway, it sounded good this afternoon. Each pickup has its own voice, and together they create a third. Very versatile. Very light. Hardly even feels like a bass. I'm planning on using it at a gig on Thursday.
                      "The Web puts all of the world's knowledge at our fingertips; unfortunately it's mixed with all of the world's bull****************."
                      -- Bob Parks

                      "A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it."
                      -- Oscar Wilde

                      "No man dies for what he knows to be true. Men die for what they want to be true, for what some terror in their hearts tells them is not true."
                      -- Oscar Wilde

                      "It is a trap of history to believe that eyewitnesses remember accurately what they have lived through."
                      -- Theodore White

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Played the Ibanez at three shows this past week. It works well, and sounded good. Now, I think it's time to go back to the Rics.
                        "The Web puts all of the world's knowledge at our fingertips; unfortunately it's mixed with all of the world's bull****************."
                        -- Bob Parks

                        "A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it."
                        -- Oscar Wilde

                        "No man dies for what he knows to be true. Men die for what they want to be true, for what some terror in their hearts tells them is not true."
                        -- Oscar Wilde

                        "It is a trap of history to believe that eyewitnesses remember accurately what they have lived through."
                        -- Theodore White

                        Comment













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