T-style single coil vs. split-coil -- what're the differences?

Discussion in 'Bass Area; The Bottom Line' started by beb, Jan 31, 2012.

  1. beb

    beb Member

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    I'm planning on building my first bass. I want to use a single pickup to keep costs down. Also, I play blues and 50s - 60s rock, so a lot of tonal options isn't essential. However, I don't know the tonal differences between the P-Bass unsplit single coil (4-slug type, not J-Bass type) and the P-Bass split single coil. Please enlighten me.

    Also, does anyone have an opinion (tonal, not aesthetic) on an all-alder body vs. maple-topped alder? (the bass will have a maple neck & rosewood FB)

    Thanks!
     
  2. BigDoug1053

    BigDoug1053 Supporting Member

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    The split pickup is quiet and would be my choice - though you would get more comments from the tele/early P pickup.
     
  3. lpdeluxe

    lpdeluxe Member

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    The original Precision single-coil (reissued in the '60s as the Telecaster Bass) was essentially a Telecaster guitar pickup remodeled to fit a four-string bass. Revolutionary as this was, Fender didn't know what problems would come up. As it happened, several became evident pretty quickly. First up was 60-cycle hum, which was apparent as soon as players started turning their amps up. Another one was that the wide frequency range and fast attack of the single-coil was damaging speakers in the early bass amps. It also lacked sustain, but that put it about even with the standup bass, so in the beginning nobody worried over it.

    The split-coil was designed to overcome the problems. It is humbucking, making it much quieter, and Leo placed the pole pieces in pairs below each string to smooth out the attack, which also served to increase sustain. Since he had also been upgrading his bass amps, the early warranty return problem was minimized. As it happened, the new pickup had a distinctive sound that bassists and record producers learned quickly to love. The single-coil was more "hi-fi" without the big midrange bump that makes the split-coil jump out of the mix.

    The single-coil is great for percussive material, less so with legato styles. I used to take my '51 reissue to gigs along with my split-coil for that reason: it's the Thump King, and sounds terrific on rockabilly and early Chuck Berry. But if I took just one, it had to be the split-coil due to the hum the other one would pick up in bars, especially those places "wired by the bartender."

    Humbucking single-coil style pickups are available, but they are pricier than the standard ones. I'd go with the split-coil, myself. I love the sound, and you can adapt your style for different kinds of music.
     
  4. The Golden Boy

    The Golden Boy Member

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    There's a lot more "pop" on a SCPB pickup.

    It comes across as hotter and, IMO needs some sort of compression/limiting to tame it.

    I love that sound.
     
  5. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

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    if you don't know, get the split-coil, it'll work for everything.

    the original single-coil is neat, but (like they said) has issues, so you should really know what you're getting into beforehand before getting stuck with it.
     
  6. beb

    beb Member

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    Thanks, everybody. I appreciate the input. I think I'll go with the split-coil. It sounds like the best 'all-around' choice.
     
  7. mordechaister

    mordechaister Supporting Member

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    Yeah split coil is the way this time around.

    I heard one of the problems with the original single coil is that the attack was so strong is was destroying the speakers they were using. Not that you'd have this problem now, unless you're using speakers from the 50s.
     
  8. musicofanatic5

    musicofanatic5 Supporting Member

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    It is quite likely the reason so many tweed Bassmans lack their original spkrs.

    I love my tele bass for its immediacy of attack, and the shape of the envelope of the note. It is definitely not for everyone...
     

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