Why aren't both pickups in the SB-2 humbucking?

Seeing as how we are fortunate to count Paul Gagon as a member here, it seemed like a good time to give him a home to stretch out in and relax a little. Maybe exercise the grey matter and present a little history of the guitar and bass (amps too!) from his perspective as one of the eminent designers of our time.

Got questions? Great! Good questions might be, "What kind of windings are on the S500 pickup and why?" Or, "What was the thought process behind the MJ-4?" Troubleshooting questions should remain in the regular forums (he reads those too). Finally, please be mindful of how I feel about tech questions via PM or email.

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Why aren't both pickups in the SB-2 humbucking?

Postby GregP » Sat May 05, 2018 11:33 am

Greetings,

I was wondering why the SB-2's bridge pickup is single coil and not humbucking? Won't the existence of a single coil pickup lead to noise when it is engaged?

Thanks!
-Greg P
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Re: Why aren't both pickups in the SB-2 humbucking?

Postby Ken Baker » Sat May 05, 2018 1:50 pm

For that we'd have to reach back and ask Leo. Sadly, he ain't here; passed in 1992. OTOH, we can do some educated guesswork.

A humbucking pickup of comparable physical size would be the El Toro/Interceptor pickup, but it really doesn't have enough oomph to be a good sonic fit. If that bridge pickup was replaced with a pickup of comparable power, such as an L Series soapbar, there wouldn't be much differentiation between the SB-2 and the L-2000.

The split neck pickup on the SB-2 is really quite hot and does the heavy lifting with that bass. The SC bridge, while reasonably hot on its own, can't quite keep up so is used to add flavor and a certain amount of overall tone control. There is a little bit of SC noise but not too much in my experience, possibly because it's only the one SC pickup instead of two (like a Jazz) which can be hum additive.

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Re: Why aren't both pickups in the SB-2 humbucking?

Postby GregP » Sun May 06, 2018 3:40 am

Thank you for such an informative reply, Ken. :D
That is certainly a great hypotheses which explains why the SB-2 wasn't outfitted with a humbucking bridge pickup originally. Which begs the question, why doesn't it have one now? G&L currently has a superb noiseless jazz pickup being employed on the MJ4 bass. Although I suspect it would have to be wound a little hotter to compensate for the lack of an 18V preamp on the SB-2.
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Re: Why aren't both pickups in the SB-2 humbucking?

Postby Ken Baker » Sun May 06, 2018 9:09 am

GregP wrote:Thank you for such an informative reply, Ken. :D
That is certainly a great hypotheses which explains why the SB-2 wasn't outfitted with a humbucking bridge pickup originally. Which begs the question, why doesn't it have one now? G&L currently has a superb noiseless jazz pickup being employed on the MJ4 bass. Although I suspect it would have to be wound a little hotter to compensate for the lack of an 18V preamp on the SB-2.


I don't think we'll see G&L mess with the SB-2. It's a pretty iconic George & Leo design. Powerful and remarkably flexible with just the two volume controls.

The MJ-4 pickups have the same problem as the El Toro pickups, perhaps to a greater degree. There is only so much wire that can be wound on the bobbins and still fit under the covers. This is why you only see these pickups in the MJ Series - there's a preamp in there to supply the grunt. Leo had looked at humbucking Jazz style pickups, but never made it happen. Paul developed the MJ pickups and found that they really need that preamp.

The El Toro stands up wonderfully in passive mode. You just have to remember that the coils are internally wired in series, just like those of the M Series. Team them up with a good preamp and you have a killer bass.

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Re: Why aren't both pickups in the SB-2 humbucking?

Postby Nedmundo » Sun May 20, 2018 9:47 am

GregP wrote:Thank you for such an informative reply, Ken. :D
That is certainly a great hypotheses which explains why the SB-2 wasn't outfitted with a humbucking bridge pickup originally. Which begs the question, why doesn't it have one now? G&L currently has a superb noiseless jazz pickup being employed on the MJ4 bass. Although I suspect it would have to be wound a little hotter to compensate for the lack of an 18V preamp on the SB-2.


I wonder whether the SB-2's current pickup could be converted into a noiseless split version, just like the MJ4 pickups and all the other linear humbucking J-bass pickups out there. Some of them sound very close to traditional single coils, especially IME Lindy Fralin's Split-Jazz, which I've been using since 2005 in a Fender. They're amazing, but others are great too. So, perhaps G&L could make it noiseless without changing the tone much. (I've also wondered how well the El Toro pickup would work. I'd love to try it.)

OTOH, Ken's right that the noise isn't that bad with the SB-2. I rarely use the bridge pickup on mine, but when I do I'm not bothered by the noise, and I HATE single coil hum. The design works as is, and since it ain't broke, G&L probably sees no reason to fix it.
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Re: Why aren't both pickups in the SB-2 humbucking?

Postby bdgotoh » Sun May 20, 2018 10:32 am

Nedmundo wrote:(I've also wondered how well the El Toro pickup would work. I'd love to try it.)


I put an El Toro pickup into the bridge position of my friend's SB-2, it sounded much better than the stock single coil to both of us. I didn't like the 1/4" gap at either end, though - the single coil is longer than an El Toro pickup. It didn't bother my friend so he has used it like that for 10 years now.
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Re: Why aren't both pickups in the SB-2 humbucking?

Postby Nedmundo » Sun May 20, 2018 4:48 pm

bdgotoh wrote:I put an El Toro pickup into the bridge position of my friend's SB-2, it sounded much better than the stock single coil to both of us. I didn't like the 1/4" gap at either end, though - the single coil is longer than an El Toro pickup. It didn't bother my friend so he has used it like that for 10 years now.


Sweet! For a couple of years, I've been fantasizing about an SB-25 five string with an El Toro-style bridge pickup, and your experience makes me want one even more. I think that would be a monster, and lots of G&L fans would probably dig it. And while we're at it, make it an SB-25T.
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Re: Why aren't both pickups in the SB-2 humbucking?

Postby bigtone23 » Wed May 23, 2018 10:35 pm

An El Toro PU in the SB2 sounds like a great tonal idea.
Now, where does one find an orphaned El Toro pickup?
July 1983 El Toro. Rosewood, black, alder? body. 10 pounds.
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