#1
Hi folks,

Just to bring you up to speed, I own a Dearmond Starfire bass (tobacco sunburst, Made in Korea) that I bought a few years back.

You might say I did some modifications to it:

1. I removed the frets out of it after reading a Bass Player article on how to make a fretted bass fretless, and I replaced the grooves with white styrene "fret markers". I also carefully applied gun stock oil and finish to toughen the fingerboard.

2. I removed the original circuitry and spent 6 hours painstakingly soldering together a circuit which allows the pots to be replaced with 4 push/pull switches under the pots. It effectively gives 20 pickup configurations instead of 3. Here's the link to this mod:

http://www.deaf-eddie.net/drawings/es-333.jpg

It is meant for a guitar with two humbuckers, but I did it for this bass (it has two humbuckers). Even Deaf Eddie commented that he had never heard of anyone doing this to a BASS!

3. After putting in the circuitry, I thought I was done, but I was not happy with the string spacing, so I asked a machine-shop friend of mine (every guitarist should have access to a friend like this) to custom make me some saddles to make the string spacing a little smaller. At this point, the bass still looked like it was unmodified (except for the fretless fingerboard), and it played great, but I was still not satisfied...

4. Last week, I finally took the plunge and removed the nut and replaced it with a 5 string nut (Carvin nut blank and a Dremel tool). I also drilled two more holes in the bridge to accomodate a fifth saddle, and placed a black Steinberger straight-thru locking tuner in the headstock between the two tuning keys that usually accommodate the D and G strings. Yup, it is now a 5 string bass (E A D G C).

It plays incredibly fast for a fretless, but it has to be played with a pick--but that's what I wanted. It has 20 pickup configurations and is fretless. I'm NOT done yet, though.

I plan to send it off to H G Thor labs in New York to get the fingerboard professionally finished in marine epoxy, like Jaco. It will have a glasslike surface to it, perfect for making the strings MWAH out. This will cost me about $400 though.

And finally, when I get the money, I want to hit up Fred Hammon to make me two Dark Star custom pickups (modeled after the late Hagstrom pickup for the Guild Starfire bass--the HOLY GRAIL of passive pickups) with 5 pole pieces. He will charge me $550 for each pickup, according to him. I will have to toss out the 20 PU config circuit for a simpler one, but the Dark Stars will be well worth the sacrifice.

Then, it will be finally done. My wife thinks I obssess WAY too much over basses. She's definitely right. I'm not expecting any sympathetic comments for this, but I just wanted to share my bass mods with you.

Here's to the ULTIMATE tone! May you find yours in your lifetime...
#2
I have to say jaco, i've never met anyone who is as crazy about basses as you my friend. 20 pickup configs? you mad man! respect though. got any pictures of this puppy?

You seem to mod basses more than play them! have you got any music of your anywhere, i'd love to hear you play..

edit: what does the phase switch do? i understand the concept of phase.. does this just put the two pickups out of phase?
#4
pictures!

and that wiring is bloody insane!
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#6
you sir, are insane......I love IT!

550 dollar pickups?... if you toss that around for pickups you must have one sweet rig...

Have you ever had a bass with more than 2 pickups?...I'm sure you have so how was it?...What were the pickups?...Is it worth having the third?

I'd like to know because I'm having a bass body made for me and I need to tell the guy whos making it the dimensions for the pickup routings and I'm not sure what pickup configuration I want...I was thinking 2 MM style humbuckers and a J Style single coil in the middle...I want to get a really deep tone that doesnt sacrifice the clarity of the mid-upper register...You know, like really deep but at the same time capable of having a really punchy midrange and piercing highs...Of course the active preamp that I'm planning to install will help but the pickups will also be a big part in dictating the tone of the bass...Any advice?

cheers on the bass by the way, I hope I get experienced enough to do crazy stuff like that to my basses
"All matter is merely energy condensed into a slow vibration and we're all one consciousness experiencing ourselves subjectively, theres no such thing as death, life is just a dream and we're the imagination of ourselves."
#8
Hmmm... $550 is insane. We got several pro's in here, who can make any type of pickup, and not only to certain tonal specs, but they can make some rare-wood casing for it, too, and some other specialties...

THe most expensive one I've encountered was $300, it had some beatiful root casing (the fibers looked like swirls... insane), it was a humbucker, and it had some crazy gizmo in it... Forgot what it was, though...

But $550... Insane.
#9
Quote by XeNoCiDe730


Have you ever had a bass with more than 2 pickups?...I'm sure you have so how was it?...What were the pickups?...Is it worth having the third?



I'm a little compelled by this too. Not because more = more good or anything, because I'm pretty jammed by the two humbuckers. But Bootsy had what, 6 pickups on his space bass?


So I'm a little curious as to whether anyone's had more than 2, what purpose each served, what kinda configuration they went for, etc.
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#10
If you put more pickups on the bass, the one major drawback you will have is magnetic pull--more pickups = more magnets = more attenuation of vibration = less sustain. Bootsy can probably get away with it, because he probably has some custom pickups that have very low magnetic pull (possibly more coil windings to compensate) or uses active pickups (moderate to high mag pull but low windings, so PUs have to be pulled way back to not attenuate vibrations of strings). OR--he may just have a few dummy pickups to make it looks as if it is a 5 pickup bass. Aesthetics...

The Dark Star pickups I'd like to get are hand made by Fred Hammon, and are usually $250 a pair, but the ones I need have 5 pole pieces in a 4 pole piece spacing. The pickups that they are modeled after (the Hagstrom PU) are the most amazing pickups, with a nasty growl that would cut through any mix and would make any guitarist envious. They were the first full range pickups made, and were first used in the Guild Starfires in 1965-67. They are single coil, but their design is such that they have a number of layers of flat pieces of metal between the magnet and the coil, so that it reduces eddy currents and increases magnetic saturation--the source of the nasty snarl. The Hagstroms, or Hags, are no longer made, and are highly sought after as the "Holy Grail" of passive pickups. Jack Casady and Phil Lesh started with these pickups in their Guild Starfires, and decided to expand their tonal variety by adding active circuitry--thanks to a number of electronics wizards who soon became known as the Alembic company (ever heard of them?).

Anyways, the Hags speak for themselves. Have a listen at:

http://www.hammoneng.com/soundclips1.htm

You gotta remember that these are passive pickups and single coil. They have a punch that is ungodly. There are many modern bassist converts who utilize the Dark Stars in their basses (the Dark Star is Fred Hammon's homage to the Hagstrom--engineered almost exactly the same, but with more modern materials and with a better knowhow of what the pickup components do).

There are many who want a great sound from their basses--some use high end Ernie Ball-type humbuckers, others opt out for Jazz PUs--I recommend that you have a listen to these first. You may be surprised at their tone and output. And they are highly responsive--you can fingerstyle on them, slap and pop them, they can dish it out. Just to warn you--they have a HUGE following with an almost cult status, and those in the know speak highly of them. I'm telling you--they will turn heads.

So yeah, I need Dark Stars with 5 pole pieces in the spacing of 4 pole pieces. For this, Fred has to go out of his way to retool the parts, so $550 is price for each pickup. It IS insane. I'm still debating with myself about it. But I have fallen in love with the sound of these pickups--they are so addicting, you will not want for another pickup--ever.

my precious...

Anyways... no pics of the 5 string Starfire yet. It plays phenomenally fast with a pick, and is very pleasing to the eyes--the vintage f holes and tobacco sunburst semihollow body add to the drool factor.
#11
I wouldn't pay that for a pickup unless it wrote the songs for me... or I was going for perfection in my own custom job. Nice one - hope it's worth it!
#15
And it is obvious, Ashdown, that because people did reply back that there was some interest in my post. So what if it was self-indulgent? I would assume most people on this forum are proud of their rigs no matter how much effort they put into perfecting it, including you.

I don't care--I'm just going to sit back and wait for the admin of this forum to do what is necessary to suspend you from the forum.
#16
Quote by Ashdown
And you look chinese


Thanks for the compliment. Actually, I am Japanese, but I get that a lot from occidentals like you...

And while I'm at it, I am Buddhist and have a Master of Science in Physics. And I've been playing bass in various bands for about 20 years now. I say these things, just in case you care to attack any of those traits as well.
#17
And Ashdown, just in case you didn't realize this--that icon under you name is of a guitar, not a bass. This is a bass forum--most people talk about basses in here and do care about bass mods.

If you want to jab at a Chinese or Japanese guy who happens to obssess over his projects, don't do it in here--go somewhere else. I don't appreciate your kind coming in to belittle my efforts in adding to the forum.
#18
Kudos Jaco this just proves that guitarists can't argue with bassists cuz we're just to good at insulting others it is our power it is our curse.
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When a famous boxer from the 20's was asked "What do you think about Shakespeare?", he replied, "I'll moida' da' bum!"
#19
wow that ashdown guy is really a rude prick...

GEEZ WHERES DAN WHEN YOU ACTUALLY NEED HIM?!!?

DAN, GET OVER HERE AND BAN THAT ASSHAT!

Be careful Jaco, Dan might warn you for that triple post, lol....

And btw, thanks for the info, however I will not be able to listen to the exact pickups I want but I will definitely check out a variety of basses that have good J pickups...But all in all do you think 2 humbuckers and a J pickup would be good configuration that sounds good?...For my style of music, which calls for more depth and bass than clarity and punch...But since I want a good all around sound, I want the J p/u in the middle...Or should I go with one 'bucker and a J?
"All matter is merely energy condensed into a slow vibration and we're all one consciousness experiencing ourselves subjectively, theres no such thing as death, life is just a dream and we're the imagination of ourselves."
#20
hey jaco, there is something SERIOUSLY wrong in your head, don't know what it is, but i like it you just inspired me to do some more modding to my first bass , and one last thing!!!! you GOTTAAAAA put some pics here, i'd love to see this beast that you're creating
#21
XeNoCiDe730,

Just take a listen to the Dark Stars. They are full range pickups when you dial them down a notch. They have bottom like you will not believe--you just need a tone pot to cut the highs and you get super deep lows that aren't cluttered or muddy.

http://www.hammoneng.com/soundclips1.htm

Or you can try a DiMarzio Sidewinder PU for a Gibson EB-3 bass. They have BOTTOM.

I'd go with just 2 pickups. 3 is overkill and may actually squelch harmonics that you like.
#22
They sound great. remind me a lot of Wratchild (maiden) intro. tho i havnt listened to that particular song in a few weeks

you think someday in the future, when i feel the need to put money into my bass, that a Dark Star in the Mid position (and leave the 2 buckers i have) in the SR505, would deliver a good Steve Harris? no doubt the bass itself and the amps had help in that clip on the site, so if i had a carvin 1000W combo, a SR505 with the darkstar in the mid, (i'd get it wired somehow lol) would i get that tone i so crave?
#23
^WOW!...those are some pretty awesome soundclips...Great tone...Really reminds me of a classic electric bass tone similar to Geezer Butler or Steve Harris and the like...I'm not much of a connoseuir (sp?) of different pickups but those definitely sounded like something special...

I sure would love to have some of those but at $250 a pop I probably cant afford one for my custom bass (I have to the spread the money evenly for hardware, electronics, etc)...But I'll check out those Dimarzios you mentioned...And I'll go for 2 pickups since its probably better...But maybe I CAN get one Darkstar and have a one pickup bass...thats an option...


BTW you can call me xeno...I dont really like my account name or the way I spelled it, I swear I must've been high when I made my UG account, lol...not that i get high...i just....whatever...

<EDIT> nevermind, they are $150 a pop not 250....Does the guy make them for 5 strings at a higher price?...If they are affordable I might invest in these pickups...Do they mesh well with onboard preamps of any brand?
"All matter is merely energy condensed into a slow vibration and we're all one consciousness experiencing ourselves subjectively, theres no such thing as death, life is just a dream and we're the imagination of ourselves."
Last edited by XeNoCiDe730 at Jun 26, 2006,
#24
If you wife ever leaves you (god forbid) let me know..we'll move to Vermont and gay marry so I can play that artwork that you call a bass. I wish I had the money to spend over a grand just on pickups.
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#25
does all this modification to the pick ups actually make any difference to the tonal quality of the bass? i mean, using pup option 4 really sounds that much different then pup option 50,000 or whatever you have now? if it does, props to ya, but if its really not that noticable a transition, it seems to me that the only thing it would be good for is bragging about on a forum
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#26
Quote by Ashdown
Nobody gives a fucking shit


warned.

Quote by XeNoCiDe730
wow that ashdown guy is really a rude prick...

GEEZ WHERES DAN WHEN YOU ACTUALLY NEED HIM?!!?

DAN, GET OVER HERE AND BAN THAT ASSHAT!

Be careful Jaco, Dan might warn you for that triple post, lol....

And btw, thanks for the info, however I will not be able to listen to the exact pickups I want but I will definitely check out a variety of basses that have good J pickups...But all in all do you think 2 humbuckers and a J pickup would be good configuration that sounds good?...For my style of music, which calls for more depth and bass than clarity and punch...But since I want a good all around sound, I want the J p/u in the middle...Or should I go with one 'bucker and a J?


yes, Jaco, please edit your posts instead of triple posting, but no warning.

And xeno, please do not jokingly comment about my job as a moderator. Yes, I'm not perfect. Most people would say I nitpick over little things. Please don't joke about how I'm goign to warn someone for doing something. It does piss me off.
Quote by casualty01
the RIAA can't shut us down, interpol can't shut us down. the U.S. gov't can't shut us down and CERTAINLY not YOU can shut us down.


BA in Music theory
MusicMan Bongo, SUB -> Orange Terror 1000 stack

Quote by waterproofpie
it's a UtBDan sandwich. Awwww yeah!
#27
Geez Dans Kickin "A" and takin' names hahahah
President is Man
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When a famous boxer from the 20's was asked "What do you think about Shakespeare?", he replied, "I'll moida' da' bum!"
#28
Jaco man, that sounds like a great modding!

HG Thor is a monster... I saw one of his basses... NUTS!
haha
#29
Quote by pickinandgrinin
Geez Dans Kickin "A" and takin' names hahahah



Did you not just read his post?
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#30
For the moment, I have to be content with what I have, which is a great deal. The Dearmond Starfire has a lot of tonal options, but in playing them with the 5 strings, they don't seem like they do too much to alter the sound, which is why I am really wanting to put in those single coil Dark Star pickups and just extract the 20 config circuit. But they are pricey, so I am probably going to hold off on those babies for a while. I do want to get a Dark Star for my Fender Mustang bass, though--the stock pickup has character, but no bottom end.

Pickups make a huge difference in the sound of the bass. The better the pickup, the more character it pulls from the bass' natural wood tones. The Dark Stars are great for this because of their full range--they sound superb in a semihollowbody bass, but also sound great in a solidbody bass, with completely different tonality. Lakland basses have recently been seen with Dark Star pickups--so have Fender P-basses and Ibanez Artcore basses.

I can't claim that the Dark Stars will work for every genre of music--no pickup can claim to do that, but they come awfully close. They are single coil, so they have a tone similar to the jazz pickup, but not exact. The saturation mechanism of the magnetic field in the pickups give the pickups a warm growl not heard in the jazz pickups. Don't get me wrong--I love my MIJ Squier Jazz with EMG pickups. It's just a different tone, that's all. The Dark Stars are easy on the ears, even when they ooze nasty tones. I can't explain it--you either just "get it" or you don't.

The saddles for the Dearmond seem to be holding up, but once in a while, they pull off of the saddle sideways, which is problematic. I will have to deepen the grooves on the saddles so that the strings stay put.

I will post a photo of this bass soon.

It's amazing how different the Dearmond Starfire (Gold Tone humbuckers) and the Guild Starfire (Hagstrom single coil) sound. The Dearmond is mellow, with a bit of nasal tone to it, whereas the Guild is full, robust and nasty.
#31
Hi folks,

It's been a few years since I posted to this particular thread, but I figured to give it some closure at this point.

I didn't put in the 5 pole-piece Dark Stars. I went with a more-economical approach by putting in Q-tuner pickups ($300/pair, yeah they are still pricey--I am aware of that). They look really cool (in a geeky way) with the pickup coils floating in a transparent epoxy housing, with neodymium pickups and 33 adjustable allen screws to fine-tune your tonal response string-by-string.

They sound pretty amazing, and the harmonics that they can pick up are bell-like. I attach a video clip here of me just having fun with the Dearmond Starfire bass:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqXqyTOrN4g

It's not too loud, and I apologize for that up front. Turn up the volume and feel the "mwah factor", especially when I attempt to play some Jaco lines.

So, after this, what is the fate of this bass? Instead of the Vari-Tone switch I installed, I plan to order a StellarTone ToneStyler bass knob for $120--they are (for passive pickups systems) the best and most versatile "vari-tone" system one can hope to get in one knob. I recently put one into a Fender PJ and a Carvin LB20 bass--no one can tell by looking at it, but the tone versatility astonishes my bandmates. I HIGHLY recommend you toss your passive tone pot and replace-install one of these for the sake of realizing how much tone you can get out of your bass! I can't go back to the stock tone pots--they seem so one-dimensional now.

Anyways, I hope you have enjoyed this quest as much as I have. I hope you find your ultimate bass tone--to hell with stock pickups and setups...keep on tinkering!
Jaco de Lucia.

The Zen of Duh: How low can you go? Zero Hertz. That's the lowest anyone can go. Just turn off your bass amp and not play.

Q-tuner PUs (0X0 configuration) and HG Thor Labs for the best fretless bass tone. MWAH FACTOR!!!
#32
OMG! that is amazing. I want one now. What's the final price tag including mods?
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#33
It looks as good as it sounds.

Great playing, by the way.
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