So, I’ve got a Squire Bronco Bass (actually, it belongs to The Artist) and I think it was well bought ($150 at Guitar Center). Though it seems strangely light, it’s well-balanced, and the neck has a good feel.
The only real problem with it is that it is noisy. The tone is just fine when it’s playing, but I found it to be very noisy when it wasn’t being played. The problem didn’t seem to be grounding, but something within the electronics. I checked the Interwebs, and found many complaints about the original equipment pickup, often described as a “standard Strat pickup”. The word “crap” usually was in there somewhere as well.
Some people on the Interwebs replaced the pickup, and since my Stratocaster pickup upgrade (subject of a future post) went so well I decided to try that, too. I selected the Seymour Duncan Hot Rails bridge pickup, which set me back $75. Yeah, that’s half the cost of the bass, but since I was happy with the Bronco in all other respects, it didn’t seem like too much to spend to get things just right. (Incidentally, I chose a guitar pickup because the outgoing pickup was a guitar pickup and I wanted to be sure all the holes would line up.)
This should be easy, right? Remove the old pickup, solder the new one in its place. Well, the old pickup had two wires, and the Seymour Duncan humbucker has, yeah, five. Fortunately, the Seymour Duncan site has wiring diagrams for all sorts of configurations, so I found one that sort of matched what I was trying to do (there wasn’t one for wiring a guitar pickup into a bass, but close). The wiring diagram had me soldering the black wire where the white one had been, which was a little unnerving, but the diagram was pretty clear so I figured they knew what they were doing.
With the diagram thing went pretty smoothly. I really need to go to soldering school, though. I can’t figure out how to hold the soldering gun in one hand, the solder in another, and still have hands free to actually hold the parts together that I’m trying to connect. Glad the pick guard covers my work.
One thing I wasn’t sure about (and couldn’t get from the web) is whether it was sufficient to replace just the pickup, or whether I should replace the volume control and other electronics at the same time. I bought a 500K potentiometer to replace the 250K one, and was also concerned that I should be putting in the recommended capacitor (0.47 microfarads instead of the stock one, which I guess is 0.22). In the end I decided to replace only the pickup and leave the 250K pot and old capacitor in place and see what it sounds like. A lot of people talk about replacing the jack, but I don’t quite understand that. If it’s making a good connection, how much can a jack be improved?
The bass has a terrific sound now, really sweet (The bass you hear on my cover of Psycho Killer on my music page is the post-upgrade Bronco). And it is absolutely silent when it’s not being played. Just how I like it. On the surface it seemed questionable to put a $75 pickup into a $150 bass, but in my opinion it was well worth it.
UPDATE: I though I would add one more photo, in case it helps anyone else trying to do this. This is the wiring for the Hot Rails pickup, based on the Seymour Duncan wiring diagram. I’ve got the white and red taped together, the green and bare wires going to the black lead, and the black wire connected to the white lead.