Hey all. First off, I wasn't sure if this should go here or in GG&A but I figured here would have a bit more bass knowledge.

So I am going to be building a bass as a wedding gift for my buddy. He wants it 5 string, fretless, 24 frets, and shaped like a MTD Kingston KZ. It's going to be a neck through deal with maple, mahogany, and walnut laminates, mahogany body wings, a red stained flamed or quilted maple top, and an ebony fretboard. The build should be starting *hopefully* early November, but I am starting to plan now, and maybe start acquiring some wood.

Anyway, the thing I am concerned about is the electronics and pickups. In the guitar world it seems to me that most people use passives, actives are for teh br00t4lz mettlezors, and no one really uses onboard preamp circuits... but it seems completely different in the bass world. There's all sorts of brands I've never heard of and stuff I don't really know.

He was in jazz band in high school and wants to get into more slapping and I'd assume jazzier stuff. Does anyone have any advice for me on what kind of stuff I should set up him with? Is there really that big of a difference active vs. passive? Any other general advice?

I should also note that I am working on a fairly limited budget. I am a college kid with not a crap ton of money. Also I did search around a bit, but I didn't really find fun useful info, hence this thread. Thanks!
Fingers -> Schecter Damien FR -> Fulltone OCD -> ABY Box -> Bugera V22 / Peavey 6505+
as far as the active vs passive thing goes its really a matter of preference but from the stuff you listed about what he wants his bass like it sounds like hell probably want active pickups. there really aren't any companies that make terrible pickups but i would reccomend seymour duncan pickups (theyre called basslines)
To disagree with the above, I reckon that passive pickups would be fine, but an active preamp would be necessary, especially if he's into slap, for that modern hi-fi tone. As to which is a question of budget, I would recommend:


I would promote the Audere as good value for money, and probably the best on that list.

As far as pickups go, it depends on what kind of tone you're looking for, but I would treat the industry staple Seymour Duncan Quarter Pounders as the start point, and go from there as the budget allows. SD also do relatively inexpensive preamps. As do Nordstrand, but their pickups are some of the most expensive around. They are however, some of the best around. Also, Sadowksy, above, do pickups at ~$140 for a pair:


For a much more modern tone, I would look at both Bartolini and EMG for pickups and preamps, active and passive.

As an aside, for a slap-orientated bass, is mahagony going to work for the body wings?
Attendez la creme!
"Harry dear, its an inaminate object"

Mahogany'll be warm sounding, but it shouldn't seriously impair the tone for slap, the maple laminates should help, and the pickup choice will be important.

I'd look at Seymour Duncan and Bartolini for pickups and preamps if your on a budget, pickups like Nordstrands might set you back a bit more then you want. When you get started you should post a build thread in GB&C, I'd follow it haha. Anyways, best of luck
Thanks for the great advice!

The two pickups I was eyeing were the Quarter Pounder passives and EMG actives. From what seemingly little I did find, QP's seem to be a pretty solid standard and EMG pretty much owns the active guitar pickup market so I figured they would probably be pretty good.

As far as preamps go, I figured I wasn't going to be able to get out of that one, but I didn't know you could use them with passive pickups. I'll definitely look into them more, but is a preamp something I can build myself? They look very compact, but if I could save myself some dough by making a slightly bulkier one I am sure Mike wouldn't care.

It's funny you question my wood choice, because I kind of was while I was writing it, and I am definitely open to input on any aspect of this bass really. Mahogany with a maple top and maple/walnut/mahogany necks seem to be fairly standard in the guitar world and Mike wanted a pretty maple top, so I figured mahogany would be a good wood to counter the bright and snappy tone of the top, mostly bright neck (I was planning a wide maple, very narrow mahogany, semi wide walnut, very narrow mahogany, wide maple 5pc laminate neck), and extremely bright ebony fretboard. Is there a wood I should go with instead? I considered bubinga and paduak as well, but I can only get 1" rough cut sections of bubinga and the paduak is pretty orange... I thought it might not look good with the red maple top, ebony fretboard, and maple/mahogany/walnut neck. What you guys think?

While I am at it, any other advice on 5 string fretless bass build?
Fingers -> Schecter Damien FR -> Fulltone OCD -> ABY Box -> Bugera V22 / Peavey 6505+
EMGs are a bit of an acquired taste, but I suppose it depends on how modern your man wants his tone. Lindy Fralins are about the same in price, and would provide much more of a vintage Fender vibe, that you could then modernise with the preamp, affording you more versatility.

Ask the GBC forum about actually building a preamp. I personally wouldn't, they're not that expensive, ~$180 gets you a 4-band Audere, ready-made, with all mod-cons, and I reckon that'd be money well-spent. But do see what the other guys say. I don't think that being compact is a bad thing, they're only that size to fit into vintage J-bass control cavities. Also, if you route a larger cavity, you can use an 18V set-up.

Stepping out of my comfort zone, I would blame Gibson for the use of mahogany in guitars, and yes, it sounds great. Translate that to bass, as Gibson did, and it doesn't work quite as well.

About the woods:


As for what looks good, Im useless, black, white or natural if you please.

Fretless? You may want to think about expoxying the neck to allow the use of roundwound strings.
Attendez la creme!
"Harry dear, its an inaminate object"

Maybe I'll more stick to active and passive Basslines then... I doubt Mike even knows exactly what kind of tone he wants. He played a Samick jazz bass copy in high school, and has since been playing my Samick p bass copy, so he's in for a bit of a change regardless. His main complaint on those basses was that there wasn't the string spacing in the bridge to "dig in" and he used to play upright bass which I think he kinda misses, hence the fretless idea. I think he'll mostly play at home by himself or in a church band.

I'll dig up my old electrical engineering book and see what I can dig up with regards to filters and signal boosting... I just feel like there is about $50 worth of parts in that $180 preamp and I enjoy designing and building that kinda stuff anyway, I'll at least look into it. Also, I do plan on an 18v system, IMHO if you're going to do the work of putting in actives you might as well do it "right" (that being a subjective term).

I actually agree with you a bit on the use of mahogany in guitars and other Gibson-esque things like set necks. I do, however, think I am going to go through with the mahogany on the body wings. I can see where a bassy wood in a bassy instrument might not be the best idea in the world, but I'm hoping the EQ, pickups, and neck/top will account for that.

When you say "epoxy the neck" do you mean putting some sort of epoxy finish on the fretboard to protect it?

xEdit: I'll definitely be making a build thread for this... it just might be a while before it happens.
Fingers -> Schecter Damien FR -> Fulltone OCD -> ABY Box -> Bugera V22 / Peavey 6505+
epoxy the neck, actually I would recommend polyurethane as opposed to epoxy. It adds a protective layer that will preserve the fretboard longer from string wear, especially from roundwounds
^I said epoxy because "thats what Jaco did, therefore it must be teh brootalz". I think you can spray polyurethane on, which should be easier, but whichever works best for you. Without such a protective layer, your man would be limited to using at least half-wound strings, which, if you're looking for a modern hi-fi slap tone, is quite restrictive. Roundwounds will afford much greater brightness, which works well for slap.

Thinking about it, EMGs would probably work quite well with a mahogany bass, because they're quite bright, they'd help to disperse some of the muddiness inherent in mahogany. I suppose its budget dependent really.
Attendez la creme!
"Harry dear, its an inaminate object"