The Last Bass Outpost

Gear Discussion Forums => Bill's Shop: Projects, Mods & Repairs => Topic started by: Alanko on June 15, 2017, 02:03:53 PM

Title: A silly idea?
Post by: Alanko on June 15, 2017, 02:03:53 PM
I've found somebody selling some circa 2008 Gibson Thunderbird pickups. I'm not entirely happy with the plugged-in tone of my MIM Jazz bass. I like the girth and grind of a Thunderbird, and I love the feel and unplugged tone of my MIM Jazz bass.

A simple question really, is it worth getting my Jazz routed for T-bird pickups? I'm not after that chromed out look or anything retro like that, simply a bit more meat and muscle to my Jazz bass, while retaining the feel of it.
Title: Re: A silly idea?
Post by: Highlander on June 15, 2017, 02:51:05 PM
Three letters and one luthier will give you the answer...

JAE; Peter Cook.

QED ;)
Title: Re: A silly idea?
Post by: Aussie Mark on June 15, 2017, 03:59:57 PM
Mike Lull doesn't think it's a silly idea at all

(http://www.mikelull.com/images/basses/jt4/08-gallery.jpg)

http://www.mikelull.com/site/instruments/basses/bass-JT4_JT5.html

Title: Re: A silly idea?
Post by: slinkp on June 16, 2017, 05:51:14 AM
Go for it.  You'd be in good company.

That's more or less the idea behind Carlo's Cataldo RR bass...
(http://www.cataldobasses.com/image/obj262geo221pg1p411.jpg)

And he's done some mods like this one in the archives of the outpost ...
(http://i976.photobucket.com/albums/ae241/cata1d0/THUNDERBUCKER/P1040571_zps084a407f.jpg)

... where you can also find any number of fenderish basses by Brad Lowe equipped with T-bird pickups. Lots of P's, not sure if Brad's done any J's; here's the first I came across...
(http://i104.photobucket.com/albums/m199/BeeTL/DSC01934_zpsb0jjy804.jpg)

And Mike Watt still has this on his page of basses:
(http://hootpage.com/56pbass.jpg)
Title: Re: A silly idea?
Post by: lowend1 on June 16, 2017, 01:27:43 PM
I'm happy with my effort.
(http://i6.photobucket.com/albums/y247/lowend1/Mobile%20Uploads/image_zpshdcfv5ft.jpeg) (http://s6.photobucket.com/user/lowend1/media/Mobile%20Uploads/image_zpshdcfv5ft.jpeg.html)
Title: Re: A silly idea?
Post by: Alanko on June 18, 2017, 02:30:05 AM
My only concern is that the bridge pickup route will be too long on the Jazz bass. I've found a source of black T-bird pickup rings online, so the bridge pickup might gain a ring.

Cool to see all the examples here, but mostly seem to use those chrome pickups and rings.
Title: Re: A silly idea?
Post by: slinkp on June 18, 2017, 05:34:38 AM
I still say go for it. Chrome is the thing that gets everybody excited about the vintage look and sound, but people are probably tired by now of me ranting about how great the black TB+ pickups in my LPB1 sound.
Uwe is vocal about his love for them too.
Title: Re: A silly idea?
Post by: Dave W on June 18, 2017, 08:49:49 PM
Chrome covers and rings would only be a big deal if a Jazz Bass came with them to begin with. Even if it did, go with what works for you.
Title: Re: A silly idea?
Post by: Chris P. on June 19, 2017, 01:15:22 AM
Pino Palladino has a Tbird equiped Fiesta Red P too, which was discussed earlier. That one is (officially not) made by the Fender CS.
Title: Re: A silly idea?
Post by: Alanko on June 19, 2017, 01:58:41 PM
Pino's bass grew a mudbucker at some point, somewhere in London.  8)

The pickups are purchased, so I just need to wait it out. And hope that the local repair guy will do the routing!
Title: Re: A silly idea?
Post by: slinkp on June 19, 2017, 10:22:13 PM
Post sound clips when you get it done!
Title: Re: A silly idea?
Post by: bassilisk on June 20, 2017, 04:03:15 AM
I bet the Jazz with those pickups totally rocks. I had a 2000 TBird and I liked everything about it, but I was in the thralls of GAS
and had too many distractions with items on the menu I still wanted to try.

I thought those pickups sounded great. Looking forward to seeing the finished product!
Title: Re: A silly idea?
Post by: Alanko on June 20, 2017, 12:45:33 PM
No pressure, eh! My guess is that the Jazz pickup routes will be a wee tiny bit too wide. Maybe ~2mm or so, or a 'baw hair' in Scots. I think I might be able to get away without using the rings.
Title: Re: A silly idea?
Post by: BeeTL on June 20, 2017, 02:06:20 PM
One of these rings will cover a Jazz bridge rout, no problem:

(http://www.lowecustomguitars.com/wp-content/gallery/random-images/DSC01744.JPG)
Title: Re: A silly idea?
Post by: gearHed289 on June 21, 2017, 08:08:06 AM
I still say go for it. Chrome is the thing that gets everybody excited about the vintage look and sound, but people are probably tired by now of me ranting about how great the black TB+ pickups in my LPB1 sound.
Uwe is vocal about his love for them too.

You can add me to that list. Loud, aggressive, great tone, and consistent across all strings. Good pups! I looked into this idea myself at some point and I'm pretty sure the ring will cover the J route. I still like the rings I added to my black plastic TB+. I've thought about going chrome, but I think it might be a bit much.

(https://scontent.ford1-1.fna.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/1604620_10202009589419820_1726098445_n.jpg?oh=b184a5d8056cb6ca4a06da95272d8bdd&oe=59DE22D9)
Title: Re: A silly idea?
Post by: exiledarchangel on June 21, 2017, 12:08:49 PM
I still like the rings I added to my black plastic TB+. I've thought about going chrome, but I think it might be a bit much.

I like that combination, has a nice balance of light/darkness.
Title: Re: A silly idea?
Post by: slinkp on June 21, 2017, 12:49:06 PM
Nice LPB Gearhed!  I like that color.  Is yours active or passive?
Title: Re: A silly idea?
Post by: Alanko on June 21, 2017, 01:55:19 PM
I like the combo of black pickups and chrome rings. As I said before, I'm hoping I can get away without having to use rings, to try and keep the bass looking quite clean. We shall see! I've found it difficult to find the true length of the Gibson pickups, only various aftermarket replacements, and the seller forgot to measure before he sent them to me. If there is a couple of millimeters in it then I will let it slide.

I have a gig on the 23rd of July, so I want to have the bass reworked by then, which involves leveling the frets and a total rewire with coax and 500 k pots.

The bass is currently strung with Jim Dunlop flatwounds and fitted with the Fender Badass II-style bridge that was on my Starcaster bass. The string spacing is tighter than a stock Jazz, and I oddly prefer it this way.  Like the red pickguard on the bass I tried it out thinking it would stay on for five minutes and somehow it has all stuck.
Title: Re: A silly idea?
Post by: gearHed289 on June 22, 2017, 08:07:18 AM
Nice LPB Gearhed!  I like that color.  Is yours active or passive?

It had a Bart pre when I bought it, but I pulled that out and sold it on eBay. There was really nothing wrong with it, it's just that at the time, I was going for a totally passive vibe after YEARS of putting EMGs on everything, including my main Ric. The rings with black pups and reflector knobs are a nod to the Hobbit basses. And I forgot to mention, I had to have them custom made since the black pups are a hair bigger than the chrome ones.
Title: Re: A silly idea?
Post by: lowend1 on June 22, 2017, 11:34:34 AM
This one had a J pickup at the bridge:
(http://i6.photobucket.com/albums/y247/lowend1/IMG_0098_zpsomyg3fwz.jpg) (http://s6.photobucket.com/user/lowend1/media/IMG_0098_zpsomyg3fwz.jpg.html)
Title: Re: A silly idea?
Post by: Alanko on June 22, 2017, 01:47:51 PM
That is cool! Is that a Gibson pickup, and where did the ring come from? Too many questions.... It looks like a very thin trim ring?
Title: Re: A silly idea?
Post by: lowend1 on June 22, 2017, 03:23:28 PM
That is cool! Is that a Gibson pickup, and where did the ring come from? Too many questions.... It looks like a very thin trim ring?

That is a black TB Plus, no trim ring. You're seeing the edge of the rout with black paint inside. The only trouble that I ran into was that the TB Plus was out of phase with the Select P - so I had to reverse the leads on the P.
Title: Re: A silly idea?
Post by: Dave W on June 22, 2017, 06:16:31 PM
Love the color. Is that Sherwood Green?
Title: Re: A silly idea?
Post by: lowend1 on June 22, 2017, 08:37:47 PM
Love the color. Is that Sherwood Green?
That is Squier's finest British Racing Green.
Title: Re: A silly idea?
Post by: Alanko on June 23, 2017, 04:11:36 AM
The pickups arrived today! Very solid, chunky units. I've measured them up and they are 94 mm x 41 mm (3 and 11/16ths by 1 and 10/16ths for you Imperial peasants  :P). By my reckoning they are wide enough to fill out the Jazz routes without requiring any trim rings as it seems that *most* Jazz bass bridge pickups, the wider of the pair, are 95 mm wide.

My only lingering concern is with the speaking area of the pickup. I can see quite clearly the actual topology of the pickup on the back, and there are basically two coils with blades, charged by thin ceramic magnets. I'm hoping these are wide enough to capture the full spread of the pickup. As I mentioned before I'm running the bass with narrower string spacing, so this might not be an issue.
Title: Re: A silly idea?
Post by: Dave W on June 23, 2017, 09:30:34 AM
You ought to be okay then.
Title: Re: A silly idea?
Post by: Alanko on July 07, 2017, 02:14:43 PM
The silly idea has taken off!

(https://scontent-lht6-1.cdninstagram.com/t51.2885-15/s640x640/sh0.08/e35/19765174_1609221325788848_8114589438702518272_n.jpg)

I wussed out of routing for a bridge pickup, but decided to add one Thunderbird pickup in the neck position. I like the sound of both pickups on a Jazz bass, and the bridge pickup solo'd, but never been the biggest fan of the stock neck pickups. The Thunderbird pickup sounds great in there; a sort of warm woody tone that still kicks out a lot of output. It blends nicely with the stock bridge pickup (once I flipped the phase of it).

One problem was that I had a Fender 'Super 55' pickup in the bridge. Neither of the two Gibson pickups worked with it, and I had a hollow phasey tone from both, albeit with different mids/treble content. No bass end to speak of. You cannot flip the phase of one of these Super 55 pickups for whatever reason. Fender designed all the intuition out of those pickups which, given that they were basically copying the Dimarzio Area J pickup set, is surprising. Out goes normal pickup technology and in comes fragile circuit boards, unreliable quick connectors and the flimsiest of mounting tabs. Apparently a lot of these pickups died.
Title: Re: A silly idea?
Post by: Pilgrim on July 07, 2017, 03:06:26 PM
THAT is one very good-looking result!!
Title: Re: A silly idea?
Post by: Dave W on July 07, 2017, 04:38:21 PM
Looks good.
Title: Re: A silly idea?
Post by: Alanko on July 08, 2017, 03:22:14 AM
I've dug out the route for the bridge pickup now. I finally plucked up the courage. No router here, so I used a forstner bit to dig out each corner, then joined it all up with a dremel cutting wheel and a chisel. Not the prettiest work in the world, but it will do the job. I have a chrome T-bird pickup ring on order from Ebay that will hide the route, though it is actually pretty good. The only ugly issue is that the J pickup was ~4 mm wider than the T-bird pickup in the end, so the factory route was wider again, with a bit of slop. This means that there is maybe ~3 mm either side of the T-bird pickup. Not a crime, but if it can be hidden then I'm happy.
Title: Re: A silly idea?
Post by: Highlander on July 08, 2017, 04:37:44 AM
 8)
Title: Re: A silly idea?
Post by: Alanko on July 08, 2017, 11:24:46 AM
Here is the Silly Idea bass. As you can see the edges of the route are a little rough, but these will be hidden by a chrome ring in time.

(https://scontent-lht6-1.cdninstagram.com/t51.2885-15/e35/19765068_1983383675224489_673963682518007808_n.jpg)

What I can say is that this thing sounds absolutely killer. A warm, consistently present Jazz Bass tone. Enough treble if you require it, fast response and brilliant dynamics. A reassuring presence in the mids that can be somewhat lacking with Jazz pickups. Even string-to-string response, excellent harmonics... the works! I'm using 250 k pots wired up like a conventional Jazz bass.
Title: Re: A silly idea?
Post by: Dave W on July 08, 2017, 04:42:35 PM
Good work there. Looks okay without the ring but I can see covering the edges with a chrome or black chrome ring.
Title: Re: A silly idea?
Post by: BeeTL on July 09, 2017, 07:20:56 AM
That looks great!
Title: Re: A silly idea?
Post by: bassilisk on July 09, 2017, 09:00:28 AM
That looks smokin'! I really like it.

It's builds like this that keep prodding me into GAS that I do not need..... ;D
Title: Re: A silly idea?
Post by: clankenstein on July 09, 2017, 06:08:24 PM
That looks really good and i'm pleased to hear that the sound is so full.
Title: Re: A silly idea?
Post by: slinkp on July 10, 2017, 07:17:44 AM
Sound clips! Sound clips!
Title: Re: A silly idea?
Post by: gearHed289 on July 10, 2017, 08:06:10 AM
Very cool!
Title: Re: A silly idea?
Post by: slinkp on July 10, 2017, 03:25:04 PM
btw, where did you find the pickups?
Title: Re: A silly idea?
Post by: Alanko on July 11, 2017, 02:44:44 AM
btw, where did you find the pickups?

The pickups came from Ebay. I'm on several Facebook marketplace pages for bass gear, and I was looking up used Thunderbirds. The pickups came up, so I messaged the seller asking for dimensions etc. I then spotted the same pickups on Ebay (for less!) so I bought them from there.

Oddly enough I was reading about John Entwistle's Fenderbirds last night, and apparently Peter Cook recessed the pickup mounting screws. I did the exact same mod to these pickups before fitting them, and before reading the article.

I just bought some sort of Line 6 space station from a guy at work, so I will record clips using that in the near future.
Title: Re: A silly idea?
Post by: Pekka on July 17, 2017, 04:05:52 PM
Looks really great and I'm sure it sounds great too. Have you checked how the pickup locations measure with a 60's T-Bird locations?
Title: Re: A silly idea?
Post by: Alanko on July 21, 2017, 01:31:05 PM
Looks really great and I'm sure it sounds great too. Have you checked how the pickup locations measure with a 60's T-Bird locations?

I'm not sure where to start with a thing like that! If you have the numbers I can do some checking.

I got a chrome ring for the bridge pickup, and had to grind 1mm or so from the inside of the ring to fit the pickup. A bit annoying, but it does look cleaner for it.

The bass is getting its first public outing on Sunday, so I might have some pics or something to show for it then. I will try and get some audio of it out. As I have it strung with flats you only get half of what I'm sure the bass can do; with rounds I imagine it would really snarl. Imagine a thicker, fatter Jazz bass without the dental-drill highs and you might be imagining the right thing.
Title: Re: A silly idea?
Post by: godofthunder on July 27, 2017, 10:23:03 AM
  I have always found Jazz basses to be anemic.  While I am not a big fan of TB plus pickups they are sure to give your Jazz a kick in the ass, I say go for it.
Title: Re: A silly idea?
Post by: slinkp on July 27, 2017, 10:38:27 AM
While I am not a big fan of TB plus pickups...

It's funny, I wasn't either at first. They didn't sound that special to me solo. They don't have the distinctive character that I hear in '60s bird samples, or recordings that I know were made with them. But I find it really easy to dial in a sound that works great for me in a band context. Direct or amped. I often need no EQ at all, though I like a little overdrive.  The three other basses I still own (Greco bird, Ibanez blazer with Alembic P/J set, Dano DC bass) require a lot of fussing and fighting, each in their own way.