Tools for the Task: J-Bass-Style Replacement Pickups
Reward yourself and your Jazz or J-style bass by conjuring up a new (or old) voice through a set of replacement pickups.
From Jaco to John Paul Jones, from Geddy Lee to Flea, and from Marcus Miller to Larry Graham, the J-bass formula is omnipresent in music history. Sometimes, however, that formula needs tweaking to get you where you want to be tonally. Swapping in a new set of J-style pickups like the 10 we’ve gathered here could very well be your ticket.
JC 4 AL
This single-coil replacement set balances the woody low-mid growl and warm midrange of ’60s J pickups with the funky twang of ’70s J pickups.
Reminiscent of ’70s J-bass sounds from Marcus Miller, these pickups are reported to offer a tone that’s lighter and airier than ’60s examples.
For those after a vintage-J sound, without the usual-suspect hum, this set was designed for a focused attack with clear and clean lows, and open-sounding and smooth highs.
Inspired by the pickups Seymour Duncan created for Jaco, this alnico-5 set promises pronounced harmonic overtones without giving up treble response.
Modeled after a set of mid-’60s Jazz pickups, this alnico 5 pair uses period-correct parts and a proprietary winding pattern meant to provide impressive string-to-string consistency.
Designed to maintain authentic Jazz-bass tone and character without fear of single-coil hum, these double-blade pickups will fit traditional J-style basses without the need to mod.
NJ4SV Vintage Hum-Cancelling
These alnico 5 pickups have laser-cut bobbins, are wax potted to contain unruly frequencies, and were designed to provide a full bottom end to complement their growl.
’60 PE J-Bass
Handwound with 42AWG plain enamel wire, which is accurate to late-’60s J-bass coils, this set boasts a defined bottom end, punchy mids, and clear highs.
Jazz Bass Vintage
Designed to deliver classic, warm bass sound, these pickups feature hand-beveled and treated magnets, and bobbins made of vulcanized rubber.
Aguilar Announces The AG 5P-60 and AG 5P/J-HC Precision/Jazz Bass Pickup Sets
The AG 5P/J-HC set brings together matched five-string Precision and Jazz-style pickups including Aguilar’s AG 5P-60 P-Bass pickup and an AG 5J-HC bridge pickup.
New York, NY (August 23, 2013) -- Aguilar, the leading edge USA manufacturer of high quality bass pickups, is pleased to announce the AG 5P-60 five-string P-Bass pickup and AG 5P/J-HC hum-canceling pickup set. The AG 5P/J-HC set brings together matched five-string Precision and Jazz-style pickups including Aguilar’s AG 5P-60 P-Bass pickup and an AG 5J-HC bridge pickup.
“The AG 5P-60 pickup truly brings the classic sound of the ‘60’s to today’s five-string Precision basses,” says Aguilar president Dave Boonshoft. “The five-string P-Bass has become much more prominent over the last ten years. After the massive success of our four-string AG 4P-60 we knew we had to bring the AG 5P-60 to fruition.”
The Aguilar AG 5P/J-HC is a well-balanced set that provides a flexible array of Precision or Jazz Bass bridge pickup tones. Now you can get the thunderous lows of the neck pickup or the midrange cut of the bridge – or both - without 60 cycle hum!
Currently touring arenas all over the US with country superstar Luke Bryan, bassist James Cook requested a 5-string P/J from Roscoe Guitars to meet his various tonal needs for stage and studio use. The finished bass has the first set of AG 5P/J-HC released and Cook could not be happier – “I was immediately taken back by how warm, crisp and transparent these pickups are. I finally have all the tonal control I need in one bass because of Aguilar's pickups! I can go from that ‘Jamerson sound’ to ‘Jaco’ with just one turn of a knob!”
Like all Aguilar pickups, the AG 5P-60 and AG 5P/J-HC set is wound in Aguilar’s NYC factory. These pickups deliver the big, dynamic tone that Aguilar pickups are known for.
AG 5P-60—Street $119
AG 5P/J-HC—Street $209
For more information:
Sandberg Electra TT4 Bass Review
A J-style that offers a lot of the features Sandberg is famous for but at a more wallet-friendly price.
Let’s face it: The versatility and playability of the Jazz bass that Leo Fender gave us in 1960 have cemented its place in music history and made it the weapon of choice for a wide spectrum of bassists the world over. Since then there have been many would-be contenders to the original formula, though a good number of these basses have fallen into the pretender category. But over the years several companies have come up with J-styles that stand out, usually because of some sort of ingenious electronic or physical improvement.
Sandberg’s high-end J-styles are in the latter camp. These German builders have long been the darlings of the European bass scene, and in more recent years the company has garnered attention around the globe with its wide selection of vintage-style and modern basses. One of their most recent offerings, the Electra TT4, is a J-style that offers a lot of the features Sandberg is famous for but at a more wallet-friendly price.
Although most of the TT4’s components are made in Korea, Electra series instruments are assembled and quality controlled at Sandberg’s Braunschweig, Germany, workshop. While many elements of the test bass affirmed Sandberg’s reputation for skillful craftsmanship, a crack in the upper horn’s finish, slight exposure of the unfinished neck pocket, and a couple of unfinished fret edges did raise an eyebrow. In what was probably another cost-saving decision, Sandberg eliminated the 4-dot company insignia that’s typically inlaid between the upper horn and neck pocket on higher end basses.
Those familiar with Sandberg basses will notice that the Electra TT4 has a look similar to the company’s vintage-inspired California series. The basswood body of our review model has an attractive creme finish that’s complemented by a tortoiseshell-pattern pickguard. The satin-finished maple neck is crowned with rosewood and 22 frets, and it’s anchored by six bolts that provide plenty of stability. Sandberg kept the look classic with clover tuners and their take on the traditional headstock. While it’s commonplace to find string trees on the 1st and 2nd strings, the TT4 has Sandberg’s proprietary retainer, which puts the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd strings at an angle consistent with the 4th string. This uniformity may not precisely deliver the benefits of an angled headstock, but it is a much better alternative than the typical circular retainers.
The Electra’s chrome bridge hints at influences from G&L and Hipshot hardware, and the saddles offer plenty of string height and spacing options, along with a locking mechanism that keeps them where you set them. The cutaway for each string slot makes for convenient string installation, and players who have tangled with a broken string onstage will appreciate the quick-release feature. Meanwhile, the uniquely tapered strap buttons provide unforced fastening of straps in all shapes and sizes—and keep them securely in place.
The TT4’s wonderful low-end vibrations are transmitted by Sandberg-designed single-coils with alnico 5 magnets. Tones are shaped by a 2-band preamp that’s also designed by Sandberg. Aimed at the player who desires both modern and vintage tones, a push-pull pot in the volume knob allows toggling between active and passive operation.
Sparring with the Sandberg
My first impressions playing the Electra TT4 were quite positive. Its weight and balance were excellent, and there was never any hint of neck diving or shoulder stress, regardless of the angle. Speaking of the neck, it’s super smooth and is really the center of the TT4’s savvy design. Moving up and down the fretboard was virtually effortless, and on many occasions I found myself not even thinking about the instrument—focusing instead on just making music. Simply put, the Electra TT4 has one of the most comfortable necks I have ever felt on a bass at this price point.
I tested the TT4 by plugging it into a Phil Jones D-600 amp pushing a Glockenklang Quattro 410. One can most certainly expect some 60-cycle hum when soloing single-coil pickups, but the Sandberg units were particularly noisy—especially the bridge pickup. When I popped the volume knob into passive mode, the bass delivered a taste of characteristic J-style tones, though they were a little timid in the low mids. This was alleviated to some degree in active mode, where the bass knob could supply more lows and low-mid punch—but active mode also changes the Electra’s tonal characteristics to more of a clean, scooped sound. Boosting the treble knob provided ample brightness and put some teeth on popped notes, or warmed up the tone with a downward dial.
Pros: Nice design with fantastic playability.
Cons: Unusually noisy pickups. Difficult to conjure classic J-bass tones. Minor finish issues.
I tested the Electra TT4 in a few different live settings and styles. On a blues-trio gig, I boosted the bass and significantly cut the highs to deliver deep, round sounds with the neck pickup. The treble knob really came in handy at a louder rock covers gig: A slight boost provided a pick-like attack to fingerstlye playing, allowing my lines to cut through overdriven guitars and a bombastic drummer. A horn-band setting was where the Electra performed best, though. The TT4’s timbre was fitting for a wide range of R&B and soul classics—from barking bridge-pickup lines to snappy thumb-slinging fills.
In all of these settings, the Electra’s playability shined—sometimes outshining its tonal traits. On some occasions its sound lacked a little authority, and I shied away from soloing the pickups due to the hum. But the TT4's super-comfortable design definitely made for a very pleasing experience for my hands and back.
In the realm of J-style basses, there’s a lot of competition. And though the Sandberg Electra TT4 may not wow vintage purists with its tones—which could use more punch, and also suffer from some noise issues—this bass will work well for a variety of modern music, as well as for slappers looking for a nice, moderately priced instrument. Overall, the Electra TT4 plays better than many in its class, and it offers many of the great features and characteristics that have long made Sandberg a standout bass company.