Originally called the “Deluxe Model”, the J Bass came out 9 years after the original Precision Bass in 1960 as Fender’s attempt to capitalize on the success and widespread adoption of the electric bass.
Compared to the P Bass, the J Bass was designed to be more ergonomic and provide additional tonal possibilities with its two pickups. Somewhat ironically, most jazz players remained true to their acoustic basses in the early 60s, but the J Bass was received with arms wide open on various genres like pop and rock’n roll.
Its low-mid growl and high-end sparkle made it a great choice for musical situations where you wanted extra space in the mix but still wanted the bass tone to cut through. Bass players realized that it was as great choice when you had big guitars and big vocals. Which is why it became the bass of choice for players like Jaco Pastorius, John Paul Jones, Marcus Miller, and countless others.
But the 60s were a long time ago.
What can you do if you love the way your J Bass feels and plays, but you want to get tones that go way beyond what your vintage spec'ed J Bass offers?
Then a pickup swap is just what you need...and the good news is that several forward looking pickup designers have great options to bring your J Bass into the 21st century.
J Bass: the perfect platform for modern tone
Modern tone can mean different things to different people. For some, they relate modern to a more hi-fi-sounding pickup that reproduces the entire frequency spectrum. For others, it’s about making the J Bass sound like an entirely different instrument.
In this list we’ll do our best to describe what the design goal of each pickup is so you can have a better idea of which will get you closer to your tonal objectives.
This pickup is designed for those players who want more of everything. The DCB line brings more output and extended frequency range so that you can have a bigger sound than what is normally expected from a vintage voice J Bass.
The DCB-4J uses a dual ceramic bar magnet design that allows it to provide extra output and noiseless operation and works well with any range of string spacing.
Bartolini was one of the first boutique pickup builders who started wiring modern J Bass pickups. Instead of trying to be louder or having a broader frequency spectrum, they created their own Bartolini voice.
Bartolini pickups are famous for having thick lows and growly low mids and the 9J1 pickup delivers in that regard. They have a somewhat subdued top end, so if you’re looking for more snaps, you should check out the Bartolini 9CBJD. It has a similar thick and growly tone but with an extended high end if that’s more what you’re going for.
Delano is a small pickup builder from Germany who has built one of the most unique sounding and looking pickups for a J Bass.
With its oversized poles, the JMVC4 is a hum-canceling pickup that takes a greatest-hits-of-bass tone approach to its design. It has more punch, a tighter bottom end, smooth high-end snap, yet still retains some of the characteristic J Bass growl.
These pickups are a great option for those of you playing in dense band situations since they let you cut through without sacrificing any low-end heft.
EMG Robert Trujillo “Rip Tide” Signature pickups
The Rip Tide pickups are based on the EMGs that Trujillo had been using since before his Metallica days, and then they were given what EMG calls the “Metal Works” treatment which gives them a really cool look.
These pickups are what you think of when someone mentions the word active bass. They have lots of punch, high-end sizzle, and output that will help your bass punch through even the heaviest of guitars. They work great with distortion and are a breeze to install due to their solderless wiring.
Nordstrand Big J Blade
The Big J Blade pickups are Nordstrand’s version of how a modern J Bass should sound. They’re available in two distinct flavors, Warm & Wooly and Clean & Clear. Both versions have increased output when compared to a vintage voiced J Bass pickup...and, also worth mentioning, they’re true single coils, so they might be susceptible to a little 60 cycle hum but keep some of the same dynamics and snap that traditional J Bass picukps are known for.
The Warm and Wooly is, in essence, a fuller-sounding J Bass. It has less of a mid-range scoop and more harmonic complexity in its tone which makes a unique voice for a J Bass-style pickup.
The Clean and Clear is punchier and more even-sounding than a vintage voiced J Bass pickup while having a lot of additional clarity in the upper mid range, making it sound very precise and articulate.
Seymour Duncan SJB-3 Quarter Pound
The Quarter Pound Jazz Bass® Pickup is what you look for when you want a high output and punchier bass J Bass tone. It’s what you would call very overwound so it gives it a more mid-forward tone that you don’t normally associate with a J-bass.
When you combine its mid-forward character with a lot of extra output then you have a combo that works great with distortion and manages to cut through walls of distorted guitars. Also, players who use a pick tend to gravitate to this pickup due to the snap and attack it gives to this technique.
Different shades of modern for your J Bass
As you can see from this list, there are very different versions of what modern means. Having said that, no one will confuse any of these pickups for vintage J Bass tone.
So if you love your Jazz Bass®, but want to add some distinctly new tones to it, any of these pickups will give you want you are looking for.
If you’re still trying to decide which is for you, then give us a call or send us an email. We can surely help you find the pickups that will get you tone modern tone that your Jazz Bass® Pickup equipped bass is longing for.