Announcing the ultimate fretless bridge pickup comparison

Since I’ve been playing and building my own fretless basses for years, I’ve had the opportunity to try several different brands and styles of pickups. I would like to share what I’ve learned, regarding how important the pickup is to the tonal signature of a fretless bass.

One evening, while I was sitting at my usual idea-generating location (i.e. the porcelain throne) it occurred to me that I should build a “testbed” fretless bass which could hold a variety of pickups, and record sound clips of each pickup using the same settings and the same riff, in order to eliminate variables other than the pickups.

I’ve actually started this project somewhat, in my comparison of pickups on several of my existing fretless basses. You can find the existing sound clips at this page on the TalkBass forums.

But I’d like to expand the scope somewhat, and include as many brands and types of pickups as I can (within budget constraints). Also, in order to limit the options, I have decided to use soapbar pickups only, since they come in usually standard sizes. I’ve also decided to limit this comparisons to pickups mounted in the “standard” bridge position (i.e. Jazz bass location) since (a) the midrange detail is more prominent, and (b) differences between pickup brands can be more easily heard. Also, I find that I prefer the sound produced by pickups at the bridge pickup location.

So, in order to begin this comparison, I realized that I could re-use one of my existing Warmoth Gecko 5-string bass bodies, which happens to have a large pickup cavity in the bridge position. It’s routed for a 5-string MusicMan style pickup (no tabs) which *should* be large enough to hold the following pickup sizes:

  • Bartolini P2 (4.25″ by 1.25″)
  • EMG 40 (4.0″ by 1.5″)
  • a few other shapes, which I am going to save for later, as a surprise.

The outcome of this project will be a webpage which has sound clips for each of the pickups under review (TBD) along with my comparisons, both subjective and objective.

I’ll go into more details later, regarding which pickup brands/models are up for consideration, and which ones I already have.

If you’re interested in this project, or if you feel compelled to let me borrow a pickup or two, I would be grateful for any assistance. This project will probably kick into high gear once I get back from an extended vacation out of country, so don’t expect anything other than brief updates until early November. (And no, I won’t be able to take any basses with me. Sniffle.)

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.