Apr 11 2015

Pimping My Bass With John East, Part II

*** Geek Alert!! Non-bassists might find this post a bit boring but I don’t care***

***Brace yourselves boys and girls!! ***

Welcome to Spring folks!

A lot has happened since my last post when I first visited bass maestro John East at his workshop with my Marcus Miller bass. Those of you that have been following my updates on Twitter and Facebook will be well aware of all the various gear I’ve bought and sold over the last six weeks or so. But that is for another post entirely…

John East Triumph Bass #4

This post is a little late coming (apologies for that) as I actually visited John again a few weeks ago now. This time I took back my beloved Warwick Triumph electric upright bass. In the fortnight since our previous encounter, John had been busy building a brand new custom preamp for the Triumph.

Based on his famous J-Retro design, the new preamp features stacked bass/treble (with a pull/push bright switch), stacked volume/pan and a stacked parametric mid control. Very much like the Marcus-retro preamp in fact.

John East Triumph Bass #6

Having now done couple of gigs on the Marcus bass since John’s modifications I can now firmly say that his system is by far the best preamp I have ever used! The vast array of tones now available to me from the one bass is astounding. From the classic Marcus slap tone right down to a convincing P-bass thump; it’s all there.

John East Triumph Bass #1

I was very excited to see what John could do for the Triumph. It has always had a beautiful sound of it’s own but with only the one tone control and pickup blend (magnetic/piezo), the tonal variations possible were incredibly limited. I was relying heavily on amp EQ to get my sound. Which basically requires quite a lot of extra high-midrange boost and a touch more bottom end.

John East Triumph Bass #5

It ended up being quite a long process to balance the two pickup systems. The original Warwick preamp had some kind of passive mixer so some on-the-fly modifications had to be made when it came to fitting it. The bass now sounds incredible! Like the Marcus-Retro it offers complete control over the tone of the instrument and now I can set the amp flat for total onboard tone-shaping. The bright switch is like a secret weapon on this bass!

John East Triumph Bass #2

We’ve got a little more tweaking to do in order to match the response of the two pickups (I will be paying John one last flying visit sometime soon for the fine-tuning!) but I am over the moon with what he’s achieved. I recommend anyone with one of these instruments (or any electric upright that has space for it) to get in touch with John for this upgrade. He’s a genius.

My next post will invariably also be about gear so apologies to those of you in search of glamorous touring tales and photos! The big bass gear-shift continues. Next up for sale will most likely be my entire looping rig. You heard it right folks. I’m desperate;y trying to scale right down so everything is as portable and lightweight as possible. I’m halfway there with the amp rig but the looping rig is next. If you’re in the market to seriously upgrade your looping rig, I have the perfect solution for you. Send me a message on Twitter or whatever.

Until then…

Simon Little's Bass Rig 10/04/15

Mar 22 2015

Pimping My Bass With John East, Part I

*** Geek Alert!! Non-bassists might find this post a bit boring but I don’t care ***

*** Brace yourselves boys and girls!! ***

Happy Sunday folks!

I had a show with Clare Teal last night in Lichfield and thought it would be the ideal opportunity to pop in to see John East to have one of his Marcus Retro preamps fitted to my Japanese Fender Marcus Miller bass. I’m so excited about the results I had to tell you all about it!!

John East March 2015 #2

All bassists know of electronics wizard John East, particularly his fantastic J-Retro preamp that has been around for years. I’ve read numerous rave reviews from bassist all over the world about John’s preamps so when I saw him on his stand at this year’s London Bass Guitar Show I sidled up for a quick chat.

John has developed a preamp specifically for the Fender Marcus Miller bass and I got to try one out on John Bird‘s Marcus bass at a filming session for iBass Magazine about a month ago. I was blown away by the range of tones available and thought it was about time I gave my Marcus bass a bit of love as It has been slightly relegated by my two P-basses over the last couple of years.

So having had Martin give it a fretstone at The Gallery in Camden last week I took the bass over to John East so I could have him fit the preamp himself. What a treat!

John East March 2015 #1

John’s Marcus Retro preamp is based on his famous J-Retro circuit, but the “bass and treble contours are voiced to be similar to the preamp that Marcus uses. Two versions are available, with and without control plate“. So iyou can fit it in any jazz-style bass but if you have the Marcus signature it comes with a matching faceplate from Fender so you can pop it right in.

My Marcus bass now has one volume knob stacked on the blend knob (way better than the standard jazz two knob scenario), stacked bass & treble, stacked sweepable mid and tone with a switch to lock the pickup selector if necessary. There’s also handy push/pull functions to switch between active and passive modes and bright boost. Such a delight!

It feels like I know have four basses in one! The tonal range available now is incredible. I can now can a beautiful p-like subby fat tone (even with roundwounds) alongside all the usual classic jazz bass sounds. And an improved Marcus Miller slaptastic twang, obviously!

Marcus Miller Bass John East preamp

If you got one of these basses, just get one of these preamps! Don’t even think about it. Just get one. I’ve been thinking about selling this bass for years as I rarely use it but now I can see this becoming one of my busiest basses. Seriously. Just go get one…

So, what’s next? you may ask yourselves. Well, I also took along my trusty Warwick Triumph bass (yup, I left London with a carload of gear!), which John had a look at and he’s now designing a similar preamp to fit this bass. It’s be going to be based on the Marcus Retro but without the tone knob and with a voicing aimed specifically at the Triumph. John has a stomp box version of this preamp; I tried the Triumph through it and it sounded fantastic. Hoping to get that fitted sometime next week.

I’ll let you know how it goes and post some more pics!