Modding my Bass Guitar part 2

Updated 23rd-24th June….

I wrote the other day about the modifications I made on my Fender Jazz Bass. Yesterday, I took my friend Robben to see it, for a more extended look. The first time I took it to the basement where Collibosher rehearses, I thought it was good but to be frank I was just relieved that it all worked after the money I’d spent. Let me digress on that one for a moment. The guitar has now cost:

  • £150 to actually buy it.
  • £26 for a set of Rotosound Tru-Bass Black Nylon Flatwound Strings
  • £205 for the stuff from Audere after import duties and postage.
  • £78 for the replacement pickups.

That’s £459. So I guess the real test is: did the cost justify the result? Well, co-incidentally, £459 is a typical price of an Ibanez SR500 bass, and Robben has one. So her opinion is very valuable. And she fell in love with the strings so is thinking about adding them on hers! Though maybe at the next change….

So, back to the testing. To say her jaw dropped at the sound it made through a Warwick Sweet 25 (250w bass) amp would have been an understatement. Everyone had told me that the Warwick was a great bass amp, but I was unconvinced that I’d made a good choice. Well now it sounded clean yet at the same time, with the right settings on the bass, gut-wrenchingly deep. More fiddling with the controls took it to the other extreme, very trebley and sharp, like a normal guitar only deeper. And everything in between. It only goes to show the adage – garbage in garbage out. It was the guitar that had made the amp sound ordinary.

Money well spent

As we packed it up, she told me that the money was well spent, and that it has the sound of a £1000 bass. Well I wouldn’t know that, I’ve never really had anything to compare it with. But she has been a roadie for Kiss, and is currently doing roadie work, understudy bass and bass tech for a 80s tribute rock band called Iron Tyger.

A little more about how the Audere stuff cost £205. If anyone reads this from the USA, then it won’t cost you anything like that amount. As my bass had been drilled out for a second socket on the side of the unit, and had an unused battery box already fitted, then it was a more expensive unit which makes use of the 4th hole on the plate. It costs $179 (the basic unit with the jack on the plate costs $149), by the time I had added copper foil and postage, I was charged £159 off my credit card. The rest was import duty (£26), and Parcel Farce fees for paying it up front for me (£8) and delivering on a Saturday (£12).

Audere vs John East

The equivalent unit from John East, a UK firm, would have cost me £207.50. I don’t know if postage is extra. East’s prices are greater because they have proper distribution and have to include a mark-up for retail stores. Audere only sell direct. But many people in America get East stuff at much greater cost. However neither Audere nor John East claim to be better than the other, but say that their products have different priorities – and that the other product and their own suit different people. The impedance switch is unique to Audere but East has other tricks up its sleeve. Audere has its early warning system for battery failure, East has a bypass switch. The point here is that despite all the extra expense I would have been hard-pushed to spend the money in the UK, avoid the import duty and postage, and get something significantly better.

EMG JHZ pickups

emg-leadA final word on the pickups. I think it would have been overkill to get very expensive pickups. The earthing options on these EMGs, even though not explained in the instructions, nor anywhere I could find on the net, added an extra flexibility for cutting out interference. The article here on the Audere site gives instructions for dealing with Fender noiseless pickups, so the obvious thing to do was to separate the shield wire from the green wire on the EMG connecting leads, and route the green to “Cold” input and shield to chassis earth. Feeding a nice, clean, neutral sound into the box of tricks seems preferable to spending a fortune on really great pickups only to feed them into an onboard pre-amp for mashing up. I’m certainly not complaining of the outcome.

Rehearsals (Update)

Well I have to say the first rehearsal with the modded bass was the best ever. We were so tight – fewer mistakes and lost places. The bass sounded sharp and clear, and it was very noticeable. It helped keep everyone together. Difficult to describe but a great session. Mark, our singer, said it was the best rehearsal we’d had. Looking forward to Collibosher‘s next gig with what amounts to a new bass. I’m happy!

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