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Recommendations for Musicman pickup/preamp


dolphindasheryoshi
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Hi everyone,

I recently bought and assembled a Pitbull Guitars MMB4 kit bass as a fun COVID lockdown project (happy to post pictures if anyone is interested!). The quality is surprisingly good (it's definitely one of the better quality 'kit guitars' I've ever seen), and after a decent set up it plays really nicely. The tone is fine, but definitely could be improved. Right now it's a stock (passive) pickup which does the job but is nothing too exciting, and no onboard preamp. I've got a birthday coming up and I'm interested in replacing either the pickup or adding an active preamp (eventually I plan to do both, but right now it'll probably be one or the other because they're not cheap).

I have two questions:

1) Would you recommend replacing the pickup or adding a preamp first?

2) Does anyone have any recommendations for either? I'd like a Stingray-ish tone, but it doesn't have to be an exact replication of that tone if there are other options out there (on my Google search I've seen several posts from people asking which after market pickups give the closest possible recreation of the Stringray tone, and e.g. seen people complaining the EMG pickup isn't very similar to the classic Stingray pickup - I'd of course be thrilled with a perfect Stingray tone but I'm also happy with something a bit different if it sounds good). The main limiting factor is cost; as it is a relatively cheap bass kit I don't want to spend too much money. I've heard great things about Nordstrand, Aguilar, and Seymour Duncan. I use Seymour Duncan P-bass pickups in two of my basses and one of my guitars, so I know they're good pickups for a reasonable price. 

I'm also aware when it comes to Musicman pickups there are no standard sizes, so whatever is recommended I will have to check whether it will fit before buying.

Like I said above, I'm pretty open to any suggestions and it is just a fun project bass, so if you have other options/ideas with what to do with it, just let me know!

Thanks for the help :)

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John East Pre is really nice and drop in.  Sounds great - very expensive.

Or this - super cheap if you solder: https://www.musikding.de/Classic-Bass-Preamp-Preamp-kit

The gy that designed it gives an interesting rundown of the process: here is a weird google translation! https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=auto&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fandyszeugs.wordpress.com%2Fmusicman-stingray-classic-preamp%2F

Pickups are legion! I got a Nordstrand MM 4.4 - sounds really good to me.  I planned to have a lot of switching options but in the end am just running it parallel - old school style. It's worth checking that if you're going for a sound-a-like the impedence is right as otherwise the interaction between the pickup and the preamp might not work well (if you check the german article I linked there are some remarks in the comments)

I'd upgrade the pickup first as it's really good to know what the passive sound is first.

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On 11/09/2020 at 09:08, simon88wilson said:

Thanks for suggesting this, I've never heard of it before but after having a Google it seems to be pretty positively reviewed. Definitely a strong option! Have you tried it yourself? I've heard some preamps sound nicer with some pickups than others (similar frequency responses or something, I'm not 100% sure on the technical details), so do you have any recommendations for pickups specific to this preamp? If I were to go for e.g. the Seymour Duncan pickup, would it be safer to go for the Duncan preamp than this one? Thanks!

On 11/09/2020 at 12:34, bloke_zero said:

John East Pre is really nice and drop in.  Sounds great - very expensive.

Or this - super cheap if you solder: https://www.musikding.de/Classic-Bass-Preamp-Preamp-kit

The gy that designed it gives an interesting rundown of the process: here is a weird google translation! https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=auto&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fandyszeugs.wordpress.com%2Fmusicman-stingray-classic-preamp%2F

Pickups are legion! I got a Nordstrand MM 4.4 - sounds really good to me.  I planned to have a lot of switching options but in the end am just running it parallel - old school style. It's worth checking that if you're going for a sound-a-like the impedence is right as otherwise the interaction between the pickup and the preamp might not work well (if you check the german article I linked there are some remarks in the comments)

I'd upgrade the pickup first as it's really good to know what the passive sound is first.

Thanks for the response! Yes, my googling has turned up lots of recommendations for the John East and if I were upgrading a higher end bass I think that would be the one I would go for! However it costs as much as the bass itself, so it's probably a bit overkill here!

The cheaper preamp is definitely an interesting budget option. That Google translate link was really quite helpful and interesting. 

The Nordstrand definitely seems like a solid option for a pickup, of the ones I've read about it seems to be mainly between the Seymour Duncan (a bit cheaper) or the Nordstrand (a bit more expensive but also higher quality).

On 11/09/2020 at 15:24, paul_5 said:

I’ve been really impressed with the Wilkinson Musicman/Jazz combo - switch either pickup on individually or run in parallel for the standard ‘stingray’ tone. Not expensive either:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wilkinson-Platinum-WJM-Bass-System/dp/B01M0RSO1M

 

Interesting, I knew Wilkinson makes some really nice hardware but haven't come across their pickups! I'd likely go for their standard Musicman as opposed to their Musicman/jazz combo (I'm not a huge fan of a jazz bridge pickup by itself so I don't think I've ever use the single coil mode - if I had two MM pickups at bridge+neck the combo would definitely be the way to go!). Have you tried this pickup at all? 

Sorry for being naive, but I noticed on Wilkinson's website they also have an active musicman pickup. What is the difference between an active pickup and a passive pickup+ active preamp? (in practice I mean, I understand that one has a battery in the pickup and one has a preamp, but how does this difference alter the tone?)

 

Thanks for the responses everyone, it is much appreciated!

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On 13/09/2020 at 21:41, dolphindasheryoshi said:

Thanks for suggesting this, I've never heard of it before but after having a Google it seems to be pretty positively reviewed. Definitely a strong option! Have you tried it yourself? I've heard some preamps sound nicer with some pickups than others (similar frequency responses or something, I'm not 100% sure on the technical details), so do you have any recommendations for pickups specific to this preamp? If I were to go for e.g. the Seymour Duncan pickup, would it be safer to go for the Duncan preamp than this one? Thanks!

 

Yes i have used this one myself, i actually swapped out the 3 band preamp in a musicman stingray to one f these and much preferred it. It is just a copy of an original 2 band. So any pickups that would be recommended for a 2 band stingray would be fine. I would probably go for a Seymour Duncan SMB-4A which they say is voiced on the 70s musicman pickup with that preamp which would have been what the stingrays would have had back then.

Edited by simon88wilson
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I’m going to second the Low End Lobster series. It is excellent. I just used it as the basis of sticking and Aguilar M4 and John East 2 band MMSR in my Sub Ray 4. 

The summary video is excellent, but each of the preceding videos leading up to the final summary are equally worthy of attention. 

The series illustrates well that the pickup really is most of the time, with a preamp adding the final bit of special sauce. But the pickup is key. 

Here’s the end summary video - 

Good luck and enjoy!

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An unorthodox, but costwise solution is to leave the preamp out and put that money to a better pickup. 1 bad + 1 bad = not good. 1 better = same price, isn't it?

I have one bass without any adjustments and it is my main bass at the moment. I know the price of the pickup was steep, but I can control the sound through my bass amp, or the pedalboard when in need.

https://www.q-tuner.com/product/transparent-q-tuner-q2-0-bass-5-string-pickups/

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After being in a similar position when I was younger, I found that an active preamp is the first place to start, as most mm style pickups give a relatively sufficient stingray sound.

Preamp wise, the retrovibe one is probably the best and most cost effective one to go for, as it uses the stingray preamp schematic, but uses cheaper parts, hence the lower cost, though looking at them now, theyve jumped up in cost, as I used to see them for £40ish. The cheap 2 band Chinese ones tend to boost the volume too much and can distort the amplifier too easily. But can give you a rough approximation towards the sound.

Pickup wise, if you want close to the stingray sound, go for any open pole (ie the magnets are on show, like the stingray) mm shaped pickup. Try and find one with a resistance of roughly 8ohms, as the lower resistance get closer to the sound you're after. Ceramic pickups (that have magnets on the bottom of the poles, found mostly on cheap chinese pickups) work okay, but the alnico ones (no magnet on the bottom) get you a bit closer.

As an ex poor teenager RHCP fan, I hope this helps get you where you need to be.

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On 14/09/2020 at 04:41, dolphindasheryoshi said:

Thanks for the response! Yes, my googling has turned up lots of recommendations for the John East and if I were upgrading a higher end bass I think that would be the one I would go for! However it costs as much as the bass itself, so it's probably a bit overkill here!

A bit of trivia, John developed the original design with the help of a number of Basschatters back in 2004 or so.

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