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Spector TonePump

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Any Spector experts out there?

I remember having a nice Euro 4LX but sold it because I just couldn't get on with the TonePump pre! I never knew where the 'flat' setting was so my tone was always too boomy or just not able to cut through.

Is there a secret to getting the most out of this pre? I know there are some that rave about it!

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@cetera

@ClassicVibes While I've generally been a passive bass guy, I would never sell on a bass because of what's in the control cavity.  I had a Bongo 5HH a while back, the pre was stupid hot and while it sounded fine, during rehearsals you'd just keep notching everything up and up so by the end of the session it would sound awful, but this was more about restraint than it being uncontrollable.  That said, the Tone Pump Jnr in my Spector Legend was a POS and has been taken out.  The DG pre in the LT is wonderful.

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Really useful tips relating to this provided by Mastadon2 and Cetera in the Spector thread:

 

On 15/01/2020 at 21:53, Mastodon2 said:

As of the start of the year, I'm a Spector owner again. I straightened the neck out because I like my necks pretty much bang on straight and dropped the saddle heights down.

I wound the Tonepump down to 50%, which I think is a must for any bass with that preamp and it sweetens the tone up so much. On the 100% setting as they come from the factory the gain output is just ridiculous. Even putting the input gain on my Markbass Ninja 1000 way down, it would still clip even when not playing particularly hard...

 

On 16/01/2020 at 14:21, cetera said:

Yes, the Tonepump with EMG PJ or DC is VERY hot. There is a trimpot on the side of the Tonepump where the output gain can be reduced. People seem to like to reduce to between 40% & 60%.

The Tonepump Jr isn't as hot and the EMG Hz pickups are passive so this is less of an issue on the Far-East models...

 

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There are two standard Tonepumps. One with a trimpot and one without. Check the one in your cavity.

If you have a newer trimpot version I'd say bring the output down to around 50% and then experiment with onboard controls. Both bass and treble are mainly (?80%) boost so wind them back to almost off and that will be near flat. You can then control your boost level.

If you don't have the newer trimpot version then just do the same on your onboard controls and work from there, but you may like to put a level pedal or something to lower your overall input level to the amp....

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The Tonepump must surely be one of the most misunderstood and unfairly maligned pieces of electronics in bass guitar circles. There has been a longstanding propagation of untrue information about it, not helped by the fact that even Spector themselves didn't fully understand it.

The Tonepump was made by a Czech company, Michalik, allegedly as a Haz knockoff, using some clever JFET wiring. Spector purchased them from Michalik and branded the ones going in their bass as the Tonepump. I guess there was confusion at Spector over the translation of the technical documents in English because they repeatedly put false info out about the Tonepump, calling it "boost-only". This appeared on the Spector website, in the blurbs on online music shops and even from the mouth of PJ Rubal when someone asked him about it.

What makes matters more confusing is that the flat point in the cut/boost spectrum isn't at the halfway points for the bass or treble knobs - it's believed to be in a different place for each knob, and there are no centre detents to help you find the halfway point in the travel of the pot. I find the best way to use my Spector with Tonepump and EMG PJ is just to set the bass and treble knobs where it sounds good and then use the pickup pan to fine tune the sound.

The idea of the Tonepump appears to be an intentional design to distort the signal when on full gain. I guess this was done to help get the Spector grind sound, but in truth it will probably just clip the input of your amp. For the majority of the lifespan of the Tonepump, there has been a small screw on the housing of the preamp which is the gain control. Open your bass up and it will be set 100% in its fully open position for max gain. Use a small screwdriver to wind it fully clockwise and you'll note your bass has no output at all. Wind it back up until you're happy with the sound and your bass isn't clipping your amp unreasonably. Voila.

I have my Tonepump set somewhere between 50-60% gain. This still gives it a lively Spector sound and doesn't clip my amp and I don't need to adjust the input gain on my amp when switching to other basses like my active Ken Smith or passive Yamaha Attitude. I find this gives me a more usable sound. 

If I want classic Spector grind then I use my Darkglass Alpha Omega to provide gain, rather than relying on a distorting preamp, which can sound harsh. I do wonder if the Tonepump would have made a better impression on many if Spector had set them to 50% gain, leaving people the option to turn it up if they wished, rather than just sending them out on full. There's probably a few people out there who played them or bought them and didn't like the preamp because they didn't know it was deliberately set high and could be tamed down. 

Personally I dont buy into the "hotter is better" signal crowd. I like the smoothest, purest signal I can get from my bass. Dirt and drive can be added later, and even that works better with a cleaner input signal from the bass.

 

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Posted (edited)
22 minutes ago, Mastodon2 said:

The Tonepump must surely be one of the most misunderstood and unfairly maligned pieces of electronics in bass guitar circles. There has been a longstanding propagation of untrue information about it, not helped by the fact that even Spector themselves didn't fully understand it.

The Tonepump was made by a Czech company, Michalik, allegedly as a Haz knockoff, using some clever JFET wiring. Spector purchased them from Michalik and branded the ones going in their bass as the Tonepump. I guess there was confusion at Spector over the translation of the technical documents in English because they repeatedly put false info out about the Tonepump, calling it "boost-only". This appeared on the Spector website, in the blurbs on online music shops and even from the mouth of PJ Rubal when someone asked him about it.

What makes matters more confusing is that the flat point in the cut/boost spectrum isn't at the halfway points for the bass or treble knobs - it's believed to be in a different place for each knob, and there are no centre detents to help you find the halfway point in the travel of the pot. I find the best way to use my Spector with Tonepump and EMG PJ is just to set the bass and treble knobs where it sounds good and then use the pickup pan to fine tune the sound.

The idea of the Tonepump appears to be an intentional design to distort the signal when on full gain. I guess this was done to help get the Spector grind sound, but in truth it will probably just clip the input of your amp. For the majority of the lifespan of the Tonepump, there has been a small screw on the housing of the preamp which is the gain control. Open your bass up and it will be set 100% in its fully open position for max gain. Use a small screwdriver to wind it fully clockwise and you'll note your bass has no output at all. Wind it back up until you're happy with the sound and your bass isn't clipping your amp unreasonably. Voila.

I have my Tonepump set somewhere between 50-60% gain. This still gives it a lively Spector sound and doesn't clip my amp and I don't need to adjust the input gain on my amp when switching to other basses like my active Ken Smith or passive Yamaha Attitude. I find this gives me a more usable sound. 

If I want classic Spector grind then I use my Darkglass Alpha Omega to provide gain, rather than relying on a distorting preamp, which can sound harsh. I do wonder if the Tonepump would have made a better impression on many if Spector had set them to 50% gain, leaving people the option to turn it up if they wished, rather than just sending them out on full. There's probably a few people out there who played them or bought them and didn't like the preamp because they didn't know it was deliberately set high and could be tamed down. 

Personally I dont buy into the "hotter is better" signal crowd. I like the smoothest, purest signal I can get from my bass. Dirt and drive can be added later, and even that works better with a cleaner input signal from the bass.

 

It would be awfully nice of you to put up some soundclips. 

I take it the blue square in the picture below is the trim pot?

cwxe2tbuhfoeyxw3txeh.jpg

Edited by ClassicVibes

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Yes that is the trim pot.

Unfortunately I don't have any method of recording at home that would do the bass justice. I just record clips on my phone if I'm making sure I don't forget a bass line for example. I should probably buy a DI box and record to my laptop.

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I know what you mean not having a simple volume.  The bass is very hot with the EMG's and does sound incredible when you get the settings right.  I just play about with the controls until I get a good punchy sound.   The array of sounds you can get from euro is amazing.  I'm playing a Spector Coda 4 with EMG's I got for £400 brand new delivered.  The Coda is fantastic as well and is my go to bass...The neck feels like a jazz bass..Been trying to find a spector euro Doug Wimbush with the slimmer neck but can never find one for sale.

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6 hours ago, ClassicVibes said:

It would be awfully nice of you to put up some soundclips.

I have a Euro LE '79 and the means to record, although please note I would describe my playing as absolutely average.  What is it that you want to hear?

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One of my fave live bass tones and its a spector euro (I think).  Im sure the SVT helps but cracking bass tone (shame about Steins guitar sounding like it was falling down stairs as he plays it:) :)

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23 minutes ago, ClassicVibes said:

Yes!!

OK I'll sort something out.  Can you give me an idea of what you want to hear please in terms of pickup options and Tone Pump settings so I can try to meet your requirements

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1 minute ago, ead said:

OK I'll sort something out.  Can you give me an idea of what you want to hear please in terms of pickup options and Tone Pump settings so I can try to meet your requirements

I would say:

P pup solo

J pup solo

Both pups

Bass max to min

Treble max to min

Both pups on with the EQ 'centre' points

 

Or something like that!

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OK I will do my best.  I will of course photograph my setting carefully as it took me a bit of experimentation to get to what I like.  Note that I have also wound down the gain to around 50% on the unit.

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Posted (edited)

Here are some samples @ClassicVibes

Recorded direct into an Ashdown Tone Pocket (set flat), then via USB into Audacity.  No trickery on settings (that I am aware of at any rate).

Gratuitous bass pic:

EURO4LE79_800x600_03.jpg.621f0f42608612b80e1c3a68867244cd.jpg

P pup solo, EQ set as near to flat as I can get it by ear

LE4 P only flat.wav

J pup solo, EQ set as near to flat as I can get it by ear

LE4 J only flat.wav

Both pups at my preferred settings of c.30-35% bass, c.20-25% treble

LE4 both AD B33 T25.wav

Bass max, treble flat

LE4 both max bass.wav

Treble max, bass flat

LE4 both max treble.wav

Both pups on, EQ set as near to flat as I can get it by ear

LE4 both flat.wav

Treble at max is very 'squeaky' which is probably my less than perfect technique generating unwanted string noise.  Sorry about that, several takes needed to get a least worst version :(

Edited by ead
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1 hour ago, ClassicVibes said:

Nice! See, how did you get your pre to sound so tame?

I've backed off the trim pot to around 50% possibly a bit less, I can't recall exactly as I've not looked at it since I set it up.  I did the same to my '77 Euro LE.

1519347448_EuroLE402.thumb.jpg.a4cb3fcb3cf3775d581e75148b442eab.jpg

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Posted (edited)

Finally got around to adjusting the TonePump in my EuroLX5 - have set it to 50%.

The TonePump setting seems to particularly impact the bass EQ output and overall volume - I'll need to read back through the earlier posts to see if that chimes with what other folk have been saying; but my bass EQ knob is much more fully usable with the TonePump at 50% rather than being limited to 1/10 (!!) when the TonePump was maxed.

With the TonePump set at NIL, the overall volume was very low and as the bass EQ knob was dialled up, there was virtually no increase in the bass freq. volume just an increasing cut of the mids.

Here's what the TonePump looks like in case you're interested, as I don't think anyone else has posted a pic yet: 

TonePump.jpg

Edited by Al Krow
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Sadly adjusting the TonePump down to 50% didn't get rid of the noise I was getting from having my Smooth-hound transmitter plugged into the Spector jack - seemed to be an interference / earthing issue, as the S/H noise disappeared when I clasped the transmitter in my hand. Any easy fix for this?

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So a basic Legend 4 has come up for sale near me.  PJ pups and in a misty/bluey grey colour.  Looks nice and also the guy has bought a tone pump circuir (fitted with all the pots, battery clip etc).  Im sorely tempted despite being a p bass player, its just that tone in the vid above - I cant get it out of my head!

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FWIW, I thought the Spector Tonepump was probably the best sounding pre-amp of the dozens of basses I've owned in the past 15+ years. Mine was the later one with a trim pot and I wicked it down to 50%.

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11 hours ago, Pow_22 said:

 - I cant get it out of my head!

I think Kylie has the same problem.

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7 hours ago, 40hz said:

FWIW, I thought the Spector Tonepump was probably the best sounding pre-amp of the dozens of basses I've owned in the past 15+ years. Mine was the later one with a trim pot and I wicked it down to 50%.

Hey that's a huge thumbs up for the TonePump! Is yours the same as the one I posted in the pic? Mine was in a "new old stock" bass with an est. late 2016 build, based on the serial no.

I'm guessing you've been through a fair few basses over the course of 15+ years - be interested to hear from you a bit more about what makes you rate the TonePump so highly compared to the rest?

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