DiMarzio DP149 Ultra Jazz Bass Pickups
By Ara Ajizian |
Breathe new life into any J-style bass with this matched set from DiMarzio.
As a relatively new bassist way back in 1994, I found myself in need of a "real" instrument. My band at the time was gigging regularly around Las Vegas, and I was having problems with the neck on the inexpensive, overseas-made bass that had replaced my first pawn shop special. After spending some time at the local music shops playing different basses, I came to the conclusion that a Fender® American Standard Jazz Bass™ was going to be my instrument. I settled on a black one with a white pickguard (which would one day be signed by John Entwistle, but that's another story) and rosewood fretboard. My best friend and guitarist Ed loaned me some scratch, and Pat Kahn at Desert Music gave me a great deal. I walked out of the store beaming and ready to take on the world.
For 20 years now, that bass has served me well. For much of that time, it was the only bass I needed, but as my musical interests expanded and I found myself playing heavier music, I'd often default to the five-string Epiphone Thunderbird Pro I picked up, which had a bit more output and growl that drove my Ampeg SVT Classic nicely. It wasn't that my Jazz Bass sounded bad all of a sudden, it just didn't sound right anymore for what I was doing. Although I love the Thunderbird, I really only like to play five string when needed, and I missed the comfort of my old four-string friend. Finally, I decided that some new pickups would get it back in the game. I spoke to some bassist friends, did my research, and decided that DiMarzio's DP149 Ultra Jazz pickups were my best bet.
The DP149 set maintains the classic look of your original Jazz Bass pickups with outstanding tonal range.
What You Need To Know
- The DP149 Ultra Jazz set consists of a matched pair of hum-canceling DiMarzio neck/bridge pickups, designed to fit Fender Jazz Basses. There is a slight difference in the size of each pickup, so be sure these will fit your J Bass as some don't have this offset size.
- Installation was straightforward and simple (I'll cover this process in a later article) if you're comfortable with a soldering iron. Otherwise, you'll want to have them installed professionally.
- This set retains the traditional look of the original Jazz Bass pickups.
- Tonality is a much different story, as these pickups were an immediate and noticeable improvement over the aging stock pickups in my Jazz Bass.
- The first and most obvious change was in the output. The DP149 set delivered a much more pronounced and bold output with no hum evident whatsoever. With the volume knob now my new best friend, I'm able to drive my Ampeg when I want but back off when needed and still maintain clarity and punch.
- Across the frequency spectrum, everything about these pickups just sounds better. The lows are deeper and warmer, while the mids cut through nicely and the highs and harmonics are pronounced and pleasing.
- The response of the DP149 set is outstanding. I play mostly fingerstyle but incorporate a pick as well, and the dynamics of each style of playing are enhanced by these pickups. The percussive thump I'm after when playing with my fingers is in-your-face and cuts nicely, while the attack of my pick is crisp, punchy and defined.
- Midrange used to be a problem for me with the stock pickups, but not anymore. When incorporating my fuzz pedal, the DP149 set gave me all the growl I was after but held on to the low end without getting muddy.
- I'm getting a lot more use out of my volume/tone controls with this set, whereas before everything pretty much had to be dimed for a decent sound.
- If anything, these pickups removed the limitations I had with the stock pickups on my Jazz Bass, so it's hard to find anything limiting about them.
- Again, if you're comfortable getting into the guts of your bass and wielding a soldering iron, installation is easy. Otherwise you'll have to pay someone to put them in.
I got my baby back! I'm admittedly a loyalist when it comes to my instruments, especially basses. If it works well, I play the hell out of it and do my best not to muck anything up. But as much as I loved playing my trusty Jazz Bass, it just wasn't getting the job done tonally anymore. It pained me to feel like I was losing my connection with this instrument that's been there with me practically from the start, but now that pain is gone thanks to the DiMarzio DP149 Ultra Jazz set. I can now pick it up and play it with the same level of excitement and enthusiasm I had the day I bought it 20 years ago. If your Jazz Bass is in need of some new life, I highly recommend this affordable upgrade.
Ara Ajizian, Harmony Central's Editorial Director, has been playing bass and guitar as well as singing since he was 18, and soon that love of music combined with a passion for writing; launching what's now a decade-long career immersed in the gear world. He's thrilled to be back on the Harmony Central team after two years as Managing Editor for Musician's Friend covering gear, bands and events and gigging in the Los Angeles area.