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How would you describe the sound of the jazzmaster pickups?

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Generally, they're warmer and have more mids than a strat. Less high end too. Quite mellow, soft, round, Jazzy (it was aimed at jazz players to begin with, hence the name).

But it depends on who makes them and how they wind the pickups and what output they are, and what wire + magnet they use, as this changes the sound. Most of the time modern Fender Japan pickups are horribly thin sounding and people replace them.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have the Antiquity II's, they remind me of fat, warm and round sounding. I have the SJM1's as well, I would have to say it's mildly close to medium hot with a fat and round sound. Though it's been a while since I've had them installed, for what? A day? Ordering new pots and parts, so I'll post more if you want on them once I install them.

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I only have 3 references for the Jazzmaster sound - Ric Ocasek, Surf/Indio Rock bands, and My own home built guitar. All of them sound different as they run through different amplifiers and pedal/effects setups.

The overall tone of the Jazzmaster is a little "twunky", due to the 1Meg pots bringing out the single coil character of the pickups, and the low end is often sub-woofer level but missing some of the lower mids, basically, the very middle mids and high mids are rather well pronounced, but when mellowed down through the tone control or turning the lead volume back, you can get some more mellow and standard rock guitar tones from one.

In the bridge the guitar tends to sound VERY twangy, but seems to have a distinct warm-ness missing from Fender's usual pickup design (pretty much everything else that's a single coil not derived from Gibson), which I think is due to the wide size of the pickup expanding the magnetic field a bit, and more signal being gathered by the lack of coil depth. Turned down on the lead volume one can get sounds almost reminiscent of a Gibson guitar, but they still retain a tight, percussive, yet warm sound....sort of like a P-90 with Strat attack and decay. The value of the pots tends to make a huge difference in sound, the higher the pot value, the more high end "twunk" and the less pronounced the Mids are.

The majority of Jazzmaster players I've heard use both pickups together on the lead circuit most of the time: Ric Ocasek (My Best Friend's Girl, Shake It Up, You Might Think), Elvis Costello (Watching the Detectives), and most of the Surf and Indio Rock guys used this setting, probably due to the hum cancellation more than the sound, but that's typically the sound I'm the most accustomed to hearing out of a Jazzmaster. Without going into scientifics again, I'd say it sounds a lot like a souped up Telecaster with both pickups on, very twangy, but with a tint more highs (1meg pots), and lows (wide magnetic field), and very prounounced midrange. The best example of this tone I've heard without any effects or distortion is The Cars Musikladen 1979 clip, particularly the intro. My home brew sounds crazy similar. This sound can be very jangly, but not in the Rickenbacker sense, the Jazzmaster has sort of it's own Timbre.

The neck pickup alone is probably the second most used sound, This position really brings out the low end capabilities of the pickup and makes a very thick, full sound. I believe the neck position is the optimum frequency band for this pickup for the reason that less lows and low mids are created naturally in the bridge position, giving the pickup a very glossy sound, whearas the neck is very warm and smooth, but still tight and defined like a regular Fender alnico single coil pickup usually is. Lead or Rhythm are excellent for Fuzztone rhythmwork, and Glycerine by Bush is an excellent example of this sound, as is lot of the DInosaur Jr. material (all the J. Mascius guitar I've heard has had a LOT of neck pickup soloing and rhythm work on it). Clean it has an almost acoustic-like jangle to it on a very very very clean high headroom amp.

On my own I tend to use these settings for these kinds of tones just using the same overdrive on a good Tube amp or emulated tube amp.

Bridge Only = Volume Flat out = Telecaster on Steroids, a little too twunky for some stuff

Bridge Only = Volume On 5-8ish = Sort of a Humbucker like crunch with pronounced highs

Both On = Volume Up = Typical Jazzmaster sound, Detectives/My Best Friend's Girl-ish

Neck On = Volume Up = Jangly Cleans, sounds a bit stratty when full up with more low mids

Rhythm Circuit = Warm buttery Fuzz-like Overdrive, think Dinosaur Jr. meets early Cars

Most of the time I run with the volume backed off and on the bridge pickup for distortion, and use the neck only or neck + bridge for cleans, and use the rhythm circuit with my Fuzz Factory for the more usual Alt-Rock Jazzmaster fare.

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