Fender Ultra Jazzmaster: Love the guitar- HATE the pickups. Suggestions welcome

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Tribute2Johnny
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Fender Ultra Jazzmaster: Love the guitar- HATE the pickups. Suggestions welcome

Post by Tribute2Johnny » Fri Dec 18, 2020 9:19 am

Hey all- been a while!

So this past year I grabbed a Fender Ultra Jazzmaster from work and fell in love with the Mocha Burst and the feel of the guitar. I put a Mastery in there and the thing plays beautifully....EXCEPT: the 'fancy' noiseless pickups (that normally would be a plus in my line of work playing badly grounded venues) are the most boring and lifeless pickups I've ever heard for the price. You'd think at nearly $2k Fender would put a little more effort into the bottom-line of the circuit. I've got a set of Fender '65 Jazzmaster pickups in my '11 Squier J Mascis and it sounds great in comparison (especially volume). This got me thinking about the most boring of first-world problems: what should I replace them with? I already spent some serious $$$ so I might as well get some. I know there's a ton of threads about this out there but seeing how it's 2020 I figured I'd get a more recent opinion from folks.

Thoughts?

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Re: Fender Ultra Jazzmaster: Love the guitar- HATE the pickups. Suggestions welcome

Post by Ceylon » Fri Dec 18, 2020 9:44 am

If I had one of those, I might go all the way towards a "modern" Jazzmaster and get the jumbo versions of the G&L MFD pickups, hide them under regular JM covers like on the Doheny, and re-wire the electronics to have a PTB-style tone layout.

But it sounds like sound-wise you're after something more traditionally Jazzmasterish?
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Re: Fender Ultra Jazzmaster: Love the guitar- HATE the pickups. Suggestions welcome

Post by mbene085 » Fri Dec 18, 2020 11:24 am

Never be afraid to change the pickups on a guitar that you otherwise love. If the look and feel of the guitar are right, the tone needs to be right, too.

While I haven't installed mine yet, I've got some Kinman Jazzmaster pickups on the way. If you want it to be noiseless and sound good, that's what I'd go for (and I did!).

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Re: Fender Ultra Jazzmaster: Love the guitar- HATE the pickups. Suggestions welcome

Post by HarlowTheFish » Fri Dec 18, 2020 12:56 pm

If you're gonna swap them out, I'm happy to take them off your hands (mods if this isn't cool let me know and I'll edit it out).

If it feels good, plays nice, and you like the guitar otherwise, there's really no reason to keep pickups you don't dig -- it's like the easiest way to change your sound into something that brings you joy, to paraphrase Marie Kondo, which is the key thing.

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Re: Fender Ultra Jazzmaster: Love the guitar- HATE the pickups. Suggestions welcome

Post by Tribute2Johnny » Fri Dec 18, 2020 1:28 pm

Ceylon wrote:
Fri Dec 18, 2020 9:44 am
If I had one of those, I might go all the way towards a "modern" Jazzmaster and get the jumbo versions of the G&L MFD pickups, hide them under regular JM covers like on the Doheny, and re-wire the electronics to have a PTB-style tone layout.

But it sounds like sound-wise you're after something more traditionally Jazzmasterish?
Most likely me thinks. I used p90s for quite a while until I switched to more of a standard JM sound.

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Re: Fender Ultra Jazzmaster: Love the guitar- HATE the pickups. Suggestions welcome

Post by Tribute2Johnny » Fri Dec 18, 2020 1:28 pm

mbene085 wrote:
Fri Dec 18, 2020 11:24 am
Never be afraid to change the pickups on a guitar that you otherwise love. If the look and feel of the guitar are right, the tone needs to be right, too.

While I haven't installed mine yet, I've got some Kinman Jazzmaster pickups on the way. If you want it to be noiseless and sound good, that's what I'd go for (and I did!).
Thanks for the heads up! Also thanks for the info about the company....I have no idea where those replies went.

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Re: Fender Ultra Jazzmaster: Love the guitar- HATE the pickups. Suggestions welcome

Post by Tribute2Johnny » Fri Dec 18, 2020 1:29 pm

HarlowTheFish wrote:
Fri Dec 18, 2020 12:56 pm
If you're gonna swap them out, I'm happy to take them off your hands (mods if this isn't cool let me know and I'll edit it out).

If it feels good, plays nice, and you like the guitar otherwise, there's really no reason to keep pickups you don't dig -- it's like the easiest way to change your sound into something that brings you joy, to paraphrase Marie Kondo, which is the key thing.
I'll keep that in mind!

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Re: Fender Ultra Jazzmaster: Love the guitar- HATE the pickups. Suggestions welcome

Post by jvin248 » Fri Dec 18, 2020 1:38 pm

.

Before you jump in the pickup swapping wagon, these are the steps to fix tone:

-Adjust pickup heights up/down and tilt for bass/treble (free). Generally lower gives better tone and if you want more volume then turn the amp louder.
-Measure actual volume and tone pots and swap those for higher (brighter) or lower (darker) measured replacements. Pots have a 20% tolerance range and it matters. ($10 kind of range)
-Swap tone caps for smaller (brighter/more sparkle) or higher (smoother/darker) uF. They have a 10% range but the meters to measure them are not common in most utility rooms/garages. ($2 kind of range)
-If really muddy then use a capacitor in series with the hot lead of the muddy pickup.
-Swap pickups and go back to the top of the list. ($200 kind of range).

Rarely do you need to go beyond the first two steps to fix most issues.

The controls matter and color the tone even when the knobs are 'dimed'.

.

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Re: Fender Ultra Jazzmaster: Love the guitar- HATE the pickups. Suggestions welcome

Post by HarlowTheFish » Fri Dec 18, 2020 1:52 pm

I'll pretty much agree with everything jvin248 said above with the caveat that if you play with distortion and have to deal with the higher noise floor, keeping them super low can make it worse because there's less pickup output, so you need to turn everything up some more, which gets you more noise -- I do generally prefer (high-output) pickup lower to give them some air, but they already have pretty great signal-to-noise ratios and decent output, so they can handle it.

Something else to consider is that if you're plugging into the same setup that your other guitars work well with, it might need different EQ on the amp and different settings on your pedals -- sometimes we just assume that "oh it's similar enough it'll be fine" but it turns out that it's just different enough that we think the pickups/guitar just sound bad, but they'd be fine with different settings downstream.

If you want noiseless, you could go Kinman (most accurate, reportedly, but expensive and the guy/his website kinda rub me the wrong way -- reminds me of Ed Roman's crap), Fralin (a bit darker and more P90-ish, reportedly, but they sound great -- just not necessarily 100% accurate to a proper Jazzmaster pickup), or go for whatever non-noiseless options you want and wire in an EBMM Silent Circuit -- I have the color codes and a couple of tips I picked up from the EBMM forum, it's like $60 from Dubaldo Music, and it'll work with any pickup. Needs a battery, but you still have signal if it dies, you just lose the noise cancellation (they're supposed to last like a full year too so like ¯\_(ツ)_/¯).

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Re: Fender Ultra Jazzmaster: Love the guitar- HATE the pickups. Suggestions welcome

Post by Tribute2Johnny » Fri Dec 18, 2020 2:13 pm

jvin248 wrote:
Fri Dec 18, 2020 1:38 pm
Before you jump in the pickup swapping wagon, these are the steps to fix tone:

-Adjust pickup heights up/down and tilt for bass/treble (free). Generally lower gives better tone and if you want more volume then turn the amp louder.
-Measure actual volume and tone pots and swap those for higher (brighter) or lower (darker) measured replacements. Pots have a 20% tolerance range and it matters. ($10 kind of range)
-Swap tone caps for smaller (brighter/more sparkle) or higher (smoother/darker) uF. They have a 10% range but the meters to measure them are not common in most utility rooms/garages. ($2 kind of range)
-If really muddy then use a capacitor in series with the hot lead of the muddy pickup.
-Swap pickups and go back to the top of the list. ($200 kind of range).

Rarely do you need to go beyond the first two steps to fix most issues.

The controls matter and color the tone even when the knobs are 'dimed'.
Yup- these are options I've learned through the years- but are always great to see being preached.

However:
-Even after adjusting the pup height the output is low and dull in comparison to every other pickup in guitars I have.
- The Ultra has two no-load tone pots which I most of the time leave at ten; or in this case in the bypass mode. Pretty sure this means what I believe might be the brightest tone I could get with these pickups. Please tell me if I'm wrong.
- Tone caps I've never tried to do! Let me look into this option...
- I wouldn't call the JM Noiseless 'muddy', just dull and low output.
- Looks like the option for all the noiseless shenanigans in this scenario.

Thanks for the reply!

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Re: Fender Ultra Jazzmaster: Love the guitar- HATE the pickups. Suggestions welcome

Post by timtam » Fri Dec 18, 2020 6:45 pm

The Ultra's main pots are 250k, so upping those would likely liven it up (albeit tone pots already no-load at max). But that is complicated by the main volume pot also having the S1 switch onboard. But a pickup change would also likely have to deal with pot changes.
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Re: Fender Ultra Jazzmaster: Love the guitar- HATE the pickups. Suggestions welcome

Post by jeremyrd » Mon Dec 21, 2020 11:34 am

I swapped out my stock American Professional pickups for Creamery WRHB's. They sound great, and Jaimie was easy to work with.

WRHB's aren't a vintage JM tone, but the Am Pro isn't a vintage JM either so that didn't bother me. Besides, if a Jazzblaster is good enough for Lee Ranaldo...

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Re: Fender Ultra Jazzmaster: Love the guitar- HATE the pickups. Suggestions welcome

Post by mbene085 » Mon Dec 21, 2020 11:52 am

timtam wrote:
Fri Dec 18, 2020 6:45 pm
The Ultra's main pots are 250k, so upping those would likely liven it up (albeit tone pots already no-load at max). But that is complicated by the main volume pot also having the S1 switch onboard. But a pickup change would also likely have to deal with pot changes.
I believe they sell a 500k S1 but not 1meg, for what it's worth.

I doubt a pot swap is the solution here though, those are fundamentally low-tech stacked humbuckers in this guitar and you either like that feel or not. They definitely don't respond like single coils.

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Re: Fender Ultra Jazzmaster: Love the guitar- HATE the pickups. Suggestions welcome

Post by HarlowTheFish » Mon Dec 21, 2020 12:42 pm

mbene085 wrote:
Mon Dec 21, 2020 11:52 am
timtam wrote:
Fri Dec 18, 2020 6:45 pm
The Ultra's main pots are 250k, so upping those would likely liven it up (albeit tone pots already no-load at max). But that is complicated by the main volume pot also having the S1 switch onboard. But a pickup change would also likely have to deal with pot changes.
I believe they sell a 500k S1 but not 1meg, for what it's worth.

I doubt a pot swap is the solution here though, those are fundamentally low-tech stacked humbuckers in this guitar and you either like that feel or not. They definitely don't respond like single coils.
I actually don't mind stacks, and IMO you can get pretty close (not quite, though) by using a bigger pot than you'd normally go for -- 500k for Strat/Tele stacks, 750K-1M for P90 stacks, and probably 1.5M or 2M for a Jazzmaster stack (never tried the latter though, and both of those are a bit uncommon ratings). Doesn't feel quite the same, but sounds pretty darn close and responds into pedals and an amp in a way that's more than good enough for rock 'n' roll.

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Re: Fender Ultra Jazzmaster: Love the guitar- HATE the pickups. Suggestions welcome

Post by Tribute2Johnny » Fri Dec 25, 2020 8:59 am

Uggh- you're right about the different pots in here. This thing is a doozy in comparison to the JMascis I have that I rewired with a new harness and Vintage '65s.

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