Modern vs. Vintage

We hear this all the time- "Modern" vs. "Vintage" - but when it comes right down to it, which do we want?

Well, unfortunately, we're not gonna answer that for you.  This is a pretty personal matter of taste, and there's really no right answer.  That said- how about we dispell some of the "vagueness" of the question to help you find your own answer?  Teach a man to get the idea.

A "vintage" wound pickup is one that is usually wound with a specific type of wire that's pretty thick in comparison to what's used in a more "modern" wind.  Since modern windings use a thinner wire, there's physically more wire on the bobbin than there is with one that has thicker wire.  More wire = more output.  More output = more distortion.

That's an extremely oversimplified comparison.  Don't make the mistake of thinking that distortion in a pickup is a bad thing- we're talking mainly about harmonic distortion that occurs when you push more current into your amplifier.  This comes out as a brighter, more present tone, but added distortion does decrease the bottom end of the frequency spectrum.  

 If you've ever listened to bass players like Marcus Miller, you know that you can recognize him pretty much right away.  Super sizzly high end and almost freakish articulacy is what you hear.  (A lot of that has to do with Marcus, of course.)  His tone "breaks up" just a little, too- in a very pleasing way.  That is the distortion we're talking about.  Marcus' tone, and others like John Patitucci and Mike Pope (to name but a few) are the hallmarks of the "modern" sound.  If you're a slapper, then this is most likely what you'll gravitate towards.

By contrast, if you've listened to players like Larry Graham or John Paul Jones, their tone is round and "grounded" sounding.  This is the result of using a pickup that has a more vintage wind in it.  The groundedness comes from a little less voltage coming off the pickup, and that translates into a little less distortion.

Your amplifier plays a big part in this, too.  If you are fortunate to have ever been able to play through an Ampeg SVT, you know what that earth shaking tube sound is all about- and there's nothing quite like playing a vintage pickup through one of those.  However, if you've ever tried to slap through one of those, you know that's not always the best of sounds- especially so when you have a more modern wind to your pickups.  Conversely, if you've ever played a more vintage pickup through one of the newer Class D type amps (Mark Bass, T.C. Electronics, etc.) you know that you kind of have to play around with the EQ to get it to sit right, whereas a more modern wind seems to just "sound right" immediately.  Weird, huh?

 So, what it boils down to is this- it's a choice to make, and it's yours alone.  At Honey Badger, we try to give you the best possible variety of available choices and allow you to make that decision.  Oh, yes- we have our own thoughts on what we like, but those are ours. (it has a lot to do with a certain '62 Jazz through an Acoustic 360.......) 

One of the more innovative ideas we've had lately is to pair a modern pickup with a vintage pickup in a J-style set of single coils.  We call this our Modern Neck/Vintage Bridge Set and it allows the player to get a tighter bottom end from their neck pickup while still getting that vintagey "burp" out of their bridge pickup.  This has proven to be a pretty cool setup that provides the best of both worlds without forcing you into a box- you should check it out.

In closing- remember- there's no "right" combination.  There's only your combination, and if that's a modern J-style bass through an old Acoustic 360, then that's fabulous!  We salute you, just as we salute those of you who use an early 60's style J through a Euphonic IAmp!!  Get your mojo however you feel you have to, and Honey Badger is here to help you do that.