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Fender Mike Dirnt Precision mk1 10 years on


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Fender Mike Dirnt Precision Bass review 10 years on

Just picked up a mk1 Mike Dirnt Precision in black with a Fender hard case for £275, absolute bargain as the guy who had it from new had retired from playing bass. I like Mike Dirnt and Green Day but I brought because 1: it's a cheap "GENIUNE" Fender Precision and 2: I like the shape of the 51 - 57 Precisions.
I read loads of stuff on the net about how heavy the bass was, the chunky neck, the loud pickups that were either too twangy for soul or reggae or too bassy for slapping, not helped by a tone control that didn't work that well.
Over the years I have played many Precisions and so have countless Professional musicians, this bass has been used through every decade of music from Blues to Metal, Country to Indie Pop / Punk.
During the sixties this bass was used on numerous records that came out of that decade. So it's a good versatile bass with a huge fan base even today. So......why the mixed reviews???
If you know this bass it has never had great tone control, different body woods, different necks, different pickups all can make one Precision bass sound slightly different to another but at the end of the day barring adding active electronics it is always going to be tonally challenged. I understand that and because of its simplicity I quite like it.
As I said I didn't buy my one because of any particular sound I was after, most of my sound can be obtained through the Ashdown Klystron 500 amp I use and the couple of pedals I have on the floor.
The one thing about a Fender Precision is people make loads of aftermarket gear for this bass and that really interests me, I love customising my basses, you should see my Gibson reissue Non Reverse Thunderbird, but that's another story. So I decided to try and correct some of the issues and have some fun changing bits around to suit my style.
Set up first:
It had 110 gauge strings on it and for me an extremely high action, I had read that some of these necks were a bit dodgy in the quality control department from the factory, some being warped from new or twisted. I found adjusting the trust rod and then retuning kept putting a back bow in the neck that was still too much and still left a high action. I assumed I had neck problems too, especially when the truss rod seemed to run out of adjustment. For what is supposed to be a chunky neck it has a lot of flex. After some internet research it was suggested putting a small amount of pressure on the neck which can release some of the neck tension while adjusting the screw and allow for further adjustment. This seemed to work but it's a work in progress as I write. The action is now considerably lower and probably very close to where I want it, just a bit of tweaking left to do. I also fitted my preference of strings a set of Rotosound Nexus Black Coated 105 gauge. In one review someone wrote that the A string angle over the nut was very shallow, I'd agree it isn't great but not unusable even so I brought two Hipshot string trees one for E and A one for D and G another problem sorted.
Intonation next, absolutely no problem, the Badass bridge allows for bags of adjustment a really nice bridge to work with. Another internet reviewer said he swapped the Badass out for a standard Fender "bent bit of tin" bridge because it sounded better??? Every man to their own.
Strap locks next because this is a heavy bass NOT as heavy as a Matsumoko Aria SB but it isn't a light weight either. Don't let this put you off though use a wide padded, good quality strap and remember with the weight comes sustain,
bags of it.
Mines the first year they were released 2004 and the single ply white pickguard has started to warp and bow a little. So I decided to change it from white to black, a genuine Fender one from the USA, so it's now black on black. Another problem sorted.
Tuners seem to be fine and at the moment I can see no reason for swapping them out for Schaller units. Again the nut seems pretty good although I did toy with the idea of swapping it out for Graphtec one as another internet reviewer said his broke after two years of use. He seemed pretty annoyed that it would be at his cost to replace, I don't get this as to me it's another consumable and as such are very cheap it's not like the neck broke. I bet he's had the same strings on it for years too.
I digress, sound next. I liked the sound of the '59 pickups that come as standard with the Mike Dirnt, personally I found that yes if turned up the tone knob it got quiet trebly, I assume this is because Mike likes it that way, it is his signature bass remember. On the other hand wind the tone back a touch and beefiness of a double bass comes back.
Changing the pots out wouldn't really add any bass as this has CTS 250k volume and tone pots. You could change the cap to a 0.068 or a 0.1 but sometimes that gets a too muddy. If it's slapping you want 500k pots would help and a 0.033 cap but I could see it getting very very twangy.
I found in the past Seymour Duncan Quarter Pounders have a lot of poke and a lot of variable tone in them that is really noticeable when you adjust the tone knob. I was going to buy another set of them. Then I read a lot of amazing and very satisfied reviews from all walks of life about the Bill Lawrence P46 Precision pickup. Most agreeing these are the "best Precision pickups out there" and at about a tenner cheaper than the Duncan's and hand made in USA by a true pickup guru, I was hooked and ordered a set about £51 including postage,from the USA. Awaiting delivery now. As I'm using the standard pickups at the moment I thought I adjust them to my style as they were rather low, yes the action was high and the pickups low, I don't think the original owner would have got the best out of this bass sound wise, anyway out with the screwdriver, loosened the screw and the pickups stayed where they were. Yup the sponge had gone flat and lifeless after 10 years. No worries just put springs under the screws.....nope that don't work because the pickup covers where the screws go through are not attached to the pickup so yes you can raise the cover but the pickup stays where it is at the bottom of the cavity. In the end I found some slightly larger springs which I placed under the pickup body they stay there because of the magnetism of the pickup, one at each end of each pickup put the cover on and bingo actual adjustable pickups. When the Bill Lawrence pickup arrive I'm going to copper line the cavities.
On one review of the Bill Lawrence P46 it was suggested a 0.1 cap be used. I prefer a standard 0.047 cap so what to do??
I found a guy on eBay in the USA who makes a Variatone wiring loom. It consists of a stacked CTS volume and tone pot 500/250k with a standard 0.047 cap. That takes up one hole of your control panel. The next hole is filled with a 6 way Variatone switch. The positions are :
1: Off ( it uses the cap on your stacked volume / tone pot)
2: 0.01
3: 0.022
4: 0.033
5: 0.068
6: 0.1
The guy who makes them will customise the switch to your preference of caps but these suit me for bass.
The loom is already made up and has a Switchcraft jack socket on the end! Just bolt it in, connect your pickup, simple. This gives me some useable, some not so useable options tonally and apart from the stacked pot looks like a standard P bass set of controls.
I'm going to change the stacked tone pot cap for a Paper in Oil one as I like the smooth warm woody sound they give, the rest are all quality ceramic USA items on the Variatone switch same as most other basses on the market these days.
So there you have it, my slightly less Mike Dirnt and more me Fender Precision bass. Don't overlook this bass if you like the shape, if the sounds not your cup of tea it can be changed, even just changing the cap, pots or the strings to flats makes a big difference. Also use reviews as guide, people's opinions are their own opinions and generally no two are ever alike.
Finally a P bass is a P bass, it's iconic, reliable and cool, but it is a P bass and without a some effort it's never going to all things to all men although over years it's come pretty close and over that time, it's now getting on for 65 years old, it has lost none of its appeal.







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These are great basses and I really like the way you`ve made it "you" rather than MD. Nice one. I really like the idea of the Variatone switch. I think the "Longhorn" Jazz had one of these in and watching the clips it`s amazing how something so simple can change the sound so much - and without the need for batteries.

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Nice write up R Bird.

Sounds like you got a proper bargain there too…I played one in GAK a year ago and decided I liked it but not the £700 price tag so much! Ended up getting one on ebay for £350 posted in a hardcase.

I think mines a 2003/4 and thought it would’ve had a few bumps and scrapes after 10 years use, but apart from some varnish cracks around the tuners on the front of the headstock (possibly over-tightening) it was immaculate…so have actually put some effort into looking after it.

Really like the pickup…and was surprised how versatile the tone control is – wound up gives you plenty of twang/clank (at the expense of string noise), backed off for the dubby stuff. Although I thought it would have a higher output, mine is a fair bit quieter compared to my Squier CV Precision.

Love the fat neck…sustains all day long, although it makes super fast and fiddly stuff a bit more tricky. The weight’s never been an issue…only a bit heavier than the CV.

Mine is the custard yellow version…which took a bit of getting used to, but I quite like it now, its pretty retro.

The only issue…and I haven’t been able to sort it out, is the slightly dead, dull sounding e-string (plugged in or not).
This happens fretted and open, ruling out the nut, and have changed the strings a couple of times now and tried raising/lowering the saddles so who knows. Its mildly annoying rather than a complete disaster so have left it, but next stop is a luthier when I have time…

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"The only issue…and I haven’t been able to sort it out, is the slightly dead, dull sounding e-string (plugged in or not).
This happens fretted and open, ruling out the nut, and have changed the strings a couple of times now and tried raising/lowering the saddles so who knows. Its mildly annoying rather than a complete disaster so have left it, but next stop is a luthier when I have time… "

I read a post either on here or another review site where the owner had the same problem, he changed the nut and bingo it cured it. I was going to change mine to a Graphtech one but at the moment mines seem fine :-/
I appreciate yours seems to be also when fretted ?? There was some rumours about neck issues but I can't seem to find them concurrently on the internet after a lot of looking I think I found one, I nearly swapped my out for a Maple Pawn shop Jaguar neck with the upside down tuners and it still is a possibility in the future.

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  • 7 years later...

Hi you mentioned the neck problem you had on your Mike Dirnt?  I recently have got one and seems I have the same problem in every time I adjust the truss Rod it’s straight until I start to re tune and then the backbow problem?? How did you adjust your truss and put pressure on the neck at the same time ? I love the sound and my neck and headstock has a flamed effect on both headstock and neck so I don’t really want to get a new one if can be helped? If it is truss Rod I think you can renew them too ? Help and advice would be great . I know this is a old post too 🙏🏽

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15 hours ago, RedEarth said:

Hi you mentioned the neck problem you had on your Mike Dirnt?  I recently have got one and seems I have the same problem in every time I adjust the truss Rod it’s straight until I start to re tune and then the backbow problem?? How did you adjust your truss and put pressure on the neck at the same time ? I love the sound and my neck and headstock has a flamed effect on both headstock and neck so I don’t really want to get a new one if can be helped? If it is truss Rod I think you can renew them too ? Help and advice would be great . I know this is a old post too 🙏🏽

OP hasn't been back since 2017. You might have better luck starting your own thread in Repairs and Maintenance. Loads of help available there.

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