View Full Version : Pickup preference?

Jan-04-2004, 7:15am
Hi all

It seems that Bartolini, DiMarzio, Seymour Duncan and EMG (along with various other generic brands) make P-bass pickups suitable for use in an emando.

What are the pros and cons of each? Are there others?

I'm cross-posting this to the builders' forum too. Hope that's ok with Scott!

Bob Borzelleri
Jan-04-2004, 12:49pm
Having been through this decision process recently, I offer the following thoughts:

The original Mandobird pickup is surprisingly even across all strings, but doesn't have a broad range. #That is to say it can't find the warm lows that are lurking within the Mandobird nor can it find and portray the high end that the Bird is capable of producing.

My first upgrade was a Seymour Duncan "Sledge Hammer" P-Bass PU that happens to be a house design for Guitar Center stores here in the US. #Its primary appeal was the $39.95 cost for both pieces. #It improved the overall sound, but primarily in the high end. #Range seemed to be improved, tone a bit cleaner, but it also revealed some distinction in tonal quality between the E and the A strings that wasn't apparent with the stock PU. #Low end was a bit warmer and range seemed to have improved a bit.

The next attempt was a Bartolini. #I must say that I had always thought the Bart likely to be the best bet, but I had a hard time finding one in any local stores so I wasn't sure what I would be getting if I ordered by mail. #My only experience was in playing a no-name custom strat in a Berkeley, California shop. #While I didn't know which Bart PU it had, I did know that the sound was full, warm, crisp and clear.

After researching for far to long, I came to the conclusion that, of the several available Barts, the 8CBP appeared to be the best bet for mando work. #Fellow MandoCafe'r John Walser had been doing similar research and he and I agreed to split the cost on a set of 8CBPs ($50 a piece) and see how the Mandobirds liked them. #John was first to install and reported great sound. #I was down with the flu and just stared at the package John sent me for several days. #Upon recovery, I hooked up the Bart and was immediately impressed.

The range is broader than anything I've tried. Tonal consistency between strings is even. #Highs are brilliant and the lows are full and warm. #

I think the best advice I can give is that the differences among brands will be as significant as any differences between brands so choosing between Bartolini, Seymour Duncan, Dimarzio, etc. might be meaningless unless you focus on specific models within each of those manufacturers. #

I think it is important to remember that these pickups were originally designed to serve an electric bass. #For the most part, I think you can reasonably assume that this design goal is going to favor the low end. #Whether this is at the expense of highs varys among the various manufacturers/models. #To make things even more complicated, some P-Bass pickups are designed to emphasize particular musical genre qualities (or lack thereof) such as grunge, funk, you-name-it. #You gotta decide which sound you are looking for and only then can you dive into the swarm of P-Bass pickups with a reasonable chance of coming up with what you want.

For a full, consistent and balanced warm/bright combination type tone, I suggest you find another Mandocafe'r to split the cost of a pair of Bart 8CBPs. #Hope this helps.


P.S. #As soon as our new house is completed (along with the new woodshop), one of my first projects will be to add another Bart (one that favors highs) to the already crowded Bird body immediately in front of the bridge (see hastily taken photo of MandoBart before morning face washing). # # #


Dave Hicks
Jan-04-2004, 1:25pm
Does the difference in string spacing between bass and mando lead to any problems? (E.g. some strings will probably be directly over the polepieces, while others will not, possibly leading to volume problems.)

Bob Borzelleri
Jan-04-2004, 1:58pm
"Does the difference in string spacing between bass and mando lead to any problems? (E.g. some strings will probably be directly over the polepieces, while others will not, possibly leading to volume problems.)"

Not in my experience. Both the OEM and the SD PUs I've played around with are spaced pretty much spot for each string for the MandoBird. I'm told the Bart polepieces are spaced the same although the cover makes direct observation difficult, if not impossible.


Jan-04-2004, 11:32pm
I have an electric mandolin built by Steve Ryder. He winds his own pickups and sells them separately. The single coils on my mandolin sound terrific and are very quiet. Another option you might consider.


Jan-26-2004, 7:54pm
Its not on a mandobird, But, I improved the sound of 8 string Fenderfm61se with EMG select strat style stacked humbucker (set at an angle, more pick space near fretboard)
tone rolloff warms it a bit but E string volume goes down as a result. nice jazzy tone.
Also shifted Vpot Knob with a double concentric one, as it was in the way. New, plain black plastic pickguard stuff. tone roll off frequency has something to do with the disc capacitor's value.

Jan-27-2004, 1:19pm
Schwab uses the Bartolini. Rono is using a Bill Lawrence blade type pick-up. I have no experiience with either.

Jan-27-2004, 9:05pm
Q Re: Bartolinis.. Please educate/correct me if I'm wrong..

Schwab mandos feature coil cut switches and Bartolini pickups. The Bartolini catalog shows the P-Bass pickups' polepiece as being a single blade shape, not two (as shown in their other humbucking designs), and not individual magnets.

So... If the 8CPB is acting as a single coil pickup (since we're using half of the Bass pair) does this mean I can't wire up a coil-cutting Mandobird using 1/2 of a 8CPB?

Doesn't this also mean Schwab isn't using 8CPBs (or some other single coil P-Bass pickup), but is instead using perhaps a guitar humbucker or a custom made set?

Please forgive me if this is obvious.. I'm just trying to get a handle on it!

Jan-27-2004, 9:08pm
Oh.. And I guess the most important question.. For you Schwab owners, is the coil cut worth it? I read Steven Stone's review on emando and he seemed to prefer actual single coil pickups for single coil sounds.. Steven?

Jan-28-2004, 11:44pm
I believe that the Bartolini used in the Schwabs is a guitar mini-humbucker with a twin blade design. #I occasionally use the coil tap, but it isn't meant to give single coil sound, AFAIK. #It gives a reduced output, since the coil is tapped with fewer windings than the regular output. #It would be useful if you switched from lead to rhythm and wanted a cleaner, quieter tone. #In my band, I play lead all the time so it's not really an issue.

Jan-30-2004, 3:54pm
My Schwabs use the old Seymour Duncan humbuckers. I have never played the Bartolini's. I know absolutely nothing about electronics. So, I honestly don't know what the mini-toggles do for each of the pick-ups except what me ears tell me. In the "down" position the pick-ups become louder and also less noisy with hum. In the "up" position the tone is a more defined and precise. Some tube amps seem to prefer one position over the other, some more so than others. Some tube amps are extremely noisy in the "up" position to the point it becomes annoying. Some tube amps produce way too much of a spread out mushy sound in the "down" position. I find the ability to vary very useful.
It is very difficult to judge a pick-up without considering the amp that it's played through.

Jan-30-2004, 4:23pm
Rather than experiment with stock pick-ups I would suggest calling Bill Lawrence on the phone. He and Becky (I think) are some of the friendliest people on the planet. Bill builds custom pick-ups. He will talk to you and ask you what kind of sound you're looking for and of course about your instrument. He'll personally hand wind your one-off custom pick-up. His prices are very low because it's just he and his wife Becky. Steve Ryder also does this kind of custom pick-up work too but I've never contacted him. He makes a stacked humbucker as a replacement for the Fender "Mandocaster" pickup which would be interesting to try. The "Mandocasters" pick-up is absolutely terrific, but a bit noisy.

Jan-30-2004, 9:42pm
Thanks for the responses! Lee, I think you described a "coil cut" perfectly, if I'm reading my books correctly: when your switch is down, you're using both sets of polepieces/coils in your pickup (result: more output, hum-cancelling, but maybe "muddy" sounding). When your switch is up, you're shorting out one of the coils (result: less output, noisy, but "cleaner" sound). At least that's what I'm gleaning from guitar ads trying to sell coil-cutting wiring configurations. Whether or not this is a "true" single coil sound I guess is up to debate.

BTW, did anyone notice in Epi's mandobird literature the pickup is always listed as a humbucker? How can that be with only one row of polepieces?

Jan-30-2004, 10:07pm
It is my understanding that there are two different kinds of switches. A split coil pickup does just as you described, switching between dual coil and single coil configuration. The other switching is called "coil tap" That's where leads come out of the pickup with fewer winds, to give a cleaner lower output sound. It is still hum cancelling however. Most pickup manufacturers have a faq on their websites that will explain the distinction better than I can.

Jan-31-2004, 5:01pm
Humbuckers don't require a separate set of pole pieces, just a separate coil. The second coil is would the opposite direction, and the output of the two wired in parallel.

That's how stacked humuckers are made.

Jan-31-2004, 9:20pm
Thanks again for the info; I had no idea there was a difference in terms between "cut" and "tap".

RT, I wasn't implying all humbuckers required separate polepieces. Are you saying the P90/Pbass looking thing in my Mandobird is really a stacked humbucker? Considering how noisy mine is I'm having problems believing that. Are you implying the 8CBP is also a stacked humbucker?

Sorry to be so.. obtuse.. But before I start swapping pickups I'd like to know what I have.

Feb-02-2004, 2:34am
Fender LaceSensor seem another choice in Strat format 4 different tone colors of varying impedances and outputs.
have the 'gold' model on my 4 string that got midified later.

Feb-03-2004, 1:56am
Any maker's split P-bass pickup is a humbucker when both halves are installed (as on a bass, and assuming that it's wired correctly).

The half-P-bass pickup is not, by itself, humbucking.

Feb-07-2004, 3:28am
I got this reply from Kevin Schwab:

The pickups I use for the five-string are the Bartolini mini-humbuckers, model 2C in the neck and 288K/N in the bridge. #The problem with the single string mandos is the tendancy to give you a thin tinny sound. #The Bartolinis have a fuller, fatter sound. #The 288k/N #in the bridge is nice and bright without being piercing. #The pickups for my 4-strings are custom wound on P-bass bobbins.

The catalog on the Bartolini website is two years old; don't know if the 5 string pickups Kevin is talking about are new, old, or custom - can't seem to find those model numbers on the web. #

BTW, I think I'm just going to get a Schwab.. Anyone interested in a Mandobird with VINTAGE original pickup? http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/laugh.gif

Feb-14-2004, 8:32am
Thanks for all the good input on this topic. I'm led to the conclusion that it may be best to stick with P-bass pickups so they can be swapped out easily without need for any major changes to the cavity.

Feb-15-2004, 6:03pm
Delsbrother, you should hang on to it, in 20 years people may be looking for the pre-Gibson-going public Epiphone Mandobird!