DiMarzio Model P Pickup and Pre-wired Replacement Pickguard
It's an easy way to give your P Bass an authoritative voice, and it’s available in any color you want—as long as it’s black, or white.
The DiMarzio Model P combined with the Pre-wired Replacement Pickguard is an easy way to give your P Bass an authoritative voice.
One of the easiest ways to change the fundamental character of an electric bass is to install a new pickup in it. With so many manufacturers cranking out aftermarket replacements, it’s possible to explore a wide range of tonal options for virtually any instrument. While swapping out pickups is not a difficult operation, many people are intimidated by the prospect of firing up the soldering iron and digging into the electronics of their treasured ax.
DiMarzio is one pickup maker that has responded to this sentiment by offering prewired setups and modular systems that make installing a new pickup much easier than it used to be. DiMarzio’s new prewired pickguard for P Bass and prewired control plate for J Bass instruments are designed to simplify the process of installing pickups such as its P- and J-style units, which have long been favorites of bassists, thanks to their high output and aggressive tone signature. I figured this was a good opportunity to breathe new life into my P Bass.
DiMarzio's Pre-Wired Replacement Pickguard for P Bass comes mounted on a standard, three-ply Precision Bass–style pickguard, available in white (white/black/white) or black (black/white/black). The volume and tone pots are made by CTS, the industry standard, and both feature 250K values with a modified audio taper designed by DiMarzio. Instead of going with the typical .047mFd capacitor for the pots, DiMarzio chose a .033mFd, which sets the roll-off frequency slightly higher. The end result is that more midrange frequencies are left intact as you roll back the tone control. A Switchcraft input jack is also prewired to the pots, and a simple three-screw harness allows you to connect all the wires with a small flathead screwdriver (included). No soldering is required.
The pickguard will fit any of DiMarzio’s Precision-style pickups, and it is offered with either the Model P or Split P pickup. For my review, I chose the venerable Model P, one of the most popular replacement pickups since its introduction in 1977. The Model P uses ceramic magnets, which give it a more forward-leaning tone than the vintage sound of Alnico V magnets. The individual pole pieces are adjustable with an allen wrench, which allows you to fine-tune the pickup response for each string.
The first order of business was to get the old pickup (a Nordstrand NP-4) and pickguard off the bass. As this particular bass, a 1988 Fender MIJ P bass, has a small tunnel routed for the pickup wires to pass through to the control cavity (like on the older Fenders), it was necessary to disconnect them from the pots in order to take the pickup out of the bass. I also had to disconnect the ground wire from the bridge. A couple of well-placed snips with a wire cutter did the trick.
Once the bass was stripped, I installed the Model P pickup into the pickup cut out, threading the wires through the hole to the control cavity. The included mounting screws were black to match the pole pieces and plastic cover (the Model P is also available with ivory covers). All that was left to do was connect the pickups to the wiring harness. The wiring diagram made it relatively idiot-proof—but don’t forget to connect the bridge ground wire, or the pickup will buzz. After the wires were connected, I screwed the pickguard back onto the bass, and everything worked perfectly.
With my bass plugged in, the tonal differences between the Nordstrand and the DiMarzio were obvious. This is not a case for one being better than the other, as each has unique qualities. The Nordy is a faithful update of the vintage P Bass tone, with a rounded bark and smooth response—it was a big improvement over the stock pickup. But the DiMarzio jumps out with increased gain and a more aggressive profile. I’m not suggesting that louder is better, but you certainly do notice it right away. And aggressive does not necessarily mean rude—the Model P has an assertive voice, with warmth and roundness. The low midrange punch is accentuated and grabs its rightful place in the mix.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The DiMarzio Model P combined with the Pre-wired Replacement Pickguard is an easy way to give your P Bass an authoritative voice, and it’s available in any color you want—as long as it’s black, or white.
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