Upgrade my bass or buy another one?

I have a bit of a dilemma.
There is a gorgeous Yamaha BB-4GA for sale, which I know nothing about except it’s supposed to be mint condition (build year 1988) and I have a a very positive experience with non-musical Yamaha products.
On the other hand, for less money I could do a serious upgrade to my current Ibanez SR-800.
The stock electronics suck (EQ anywhere else than neutral sounds just plain bad) and I find the pickups way too bright for my liking (after changing to flatwounds it’s better, but not quite the tone I wish it had).
There is nothing bad I can say about the build quality, neck, frets etc. it’s a very solid platform for upgrades I think.
The upgrade options I’m considering so far:
-a set of Seymour Duncan Quarter Pound PJ Set or Seymour Duncan APJ-2 Lightnin’ Rods PJ Active SET, plus a Darkglass Tone Capsule preamp
-a complete set of preamps + electronics - Seymour Duncan Rex Brown Signature PJ System

Any experience with any of the above?
Here’s a picture of the bass I can’t stop thinking about (and I usually don’t like gold and prefer natural wood to burst colours!):


Ok Ibanez is using soapbar pickups and you are considering PJ pickups. I’m not sure how that would work out for you without a major cosmetic upgrade. Though Rex Brown also offer the thunderbird version but it still not the same size.

Is that your Ibanez pictures?

You can go with Fishman Fluence but it would be brighter for sure, that’s what they are known for. If you want less brightness maybe look into Bartolini or Nordstrand. They are more mid forward.

I’d just get buy the Yamaha. Lol.

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No, this is the Yamaha I’m thinking about buying, my Ibanez has PJ pickups.
I’m just wondering about buying another “generic” bass vs a high-end upgrade (What I’ve read about the Yamaha stock preamp suggests it’s also nothing too fancy).

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I have a Charvel Pro Mod PJ, with a Dark Glass Tone Capsule and DiMarzio pickups, I really like it.

But how do you like the feel and playability of your bass? Yamaha makes good basses. And a double humbucker sound is very different than a PJ. So I’m not certain what to say. Pickups and electronics can be changed, there are all sorts of good PJ sets out there - EMG Geezer Butler set, DiMarzio 60s PJ set, both are warm and those are just two examples. Double Humbuckers give a good sound too. What are you going for?

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What I’m looking for? Warm, full, dark tones. Punchy is good, but zingy, metallic not really.
I like the sound of bass on 60/70’s rock and funk/soul the most.
Right now anything on the D and G string sounds sharp and metallic like an acoustic guitar. Which is an awesome instrument, but not the sound I want.
How would you describe the sound of the “double soapbar” configuration?

I mean, I AM tempted to buy another bass, but considering options :joy:
I don’t have much to compare with, but playability of my current bass is really OK for me - I’ve spent a considerable amount of time setting it up to my preference, and the slender neck shape is really comfortable. That’s why I’m not dead set on buying another one vs tweaking this one.


Yeah if you are tone hunting then 60s, 70s rock are mostly fender p bass or jazz bass. My 2 favorite tones are the 62 jazz and 75 jazz.

You may want to look at HH musicman as well.

As for upgrade for the Ibanez, it’s a tough call. You’d be spending more to upgrade than the going price on that bass. Don’t get me wrong I dropped a grand on a $100 squier but I spent hours shaping the neck to my liking.


Double Buckers tend to have a more modern sound. A really good old warm sound you can get with a Yamaha BB734. @PamPurrs loves a BB735. which is the same thing in a 5 string.

A P or J can get the old warm tones out. If you want to do an upgrade of your Ibanez a DiMarzio 60s PJ set would do the trick. Or just a Fender or Fender clone Jazz or P bass.

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I too had issues with an Ibanez being way too bright, - in my case an EHB fan fret 5 with Nordstrand pickups. What has surprised me is how in general I didn’t like how it sounded on its own, but it sounded really good in a mix. After several string changes (now LaBella flats) I have a tone that now sounds good by itself and in a mix.

That Yamaha is a very pretty bass! Eye candy is almost as important as ear candy :slight_smile:

If you’re comfortable messing with your bass, there’s nothing wrong with making a project out of it, but be prepared that things often don’t quite fit right and it may be a lot more work than you think, and more cost than planned as you decide to try something different, yet again!

For your 60’s and 70’s sound, what are you using for your amp/cab? That can put a tremendous amount of color on the sound, and may be as big a contributor as the instrument. If you don’t have access to a vintage cab like a Portaflex, you might think about something like a Zoom B6 or even a Helix if you want to go that far. The B6 is at a decent price point and has some pretty good emulators on it that you can use pretty much “out of the box.”

I am using an Orange Crush Bass 50 cab, I think it sounds “vintage” enough.
Fender P and J basses are out of my price range, they seem to outprice anything else. Maybe it’s the brand, maybe import costs but they are expensive. Also, not a fan of the look and the single pickup choice (why make it 2 separate basses instead of a PJ configuration??).
There isn’t much choice in used Yamaha basses around here, pretty much just the base TRBX models, some TRB1004 and this BB-4G.

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Well… they can. Actually the difference between humbucker and single or split coil sound is more that humbuckers tend to sound more full, saturated and rich than J or P pickups. Not as punchy as a P, not as growly as a J, but heavier and richer and more mids-forward and slightly darker/compressed/less dynamic.

But they can sound super warm or super modern, sure. It just depends on the pickup, bass, and EQ/tone setting.

On the negative side, where bad J’s can sound thin and nasally, and bad P’s can sound dull and thuddy, bad humbuckers (or bad humbucker placement) can sound muddy and overly dark. Hence the term “mudbucker”. Some people actually like this and go for extreme neck pickup placement to encourage it.


Fender tends to command a price just because it’s a Fender. I’ve played several, never bought one - I’ve enjoyed other basses more. I also am a fan of dual pickups - there’s a lot of versatility there. I haven’t played a Yamaha, but there are a lot of folks who really love them. If you can play the Yamaha, then that should help answer the questions, but it seems that maybe you haven’t been able to. I understand that conundrum. If it were me and I really like the feel and setup of the Ibanez, I’d probably be tempted to make a project of it rather than get something delivered that would just be a different project.


I would contend that that richer, saturated, more mid forward sound is more modern.

There’s no absolutes with this stuff. Pickups come with all sorts of sounds. But for what the op is saying, I think a DiMarzio 60s PJ set or similar would be closer than a DiMarzio Model PJ set, although I think these are fantastic and good value for the buck


Then you want to get a P bass.
And maybe a Jazz at some point.
A PJ is fine but its not a Jazz bass for sure and close to a P in general, depending on which.

I find the good part about a PJ is being able to take out the muddiness of the P with adding a little J.
You can also use them as a straight bridge J for that trebly sound.

But the sound you are looking for is a P.
And most likely not the Ibanez at all.

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Upgrade your bass or buy another one?

I’m… shocked this has not yet been said: why not both?



I have done both. If you have the time to mess with the bass and also the headaches that come from the upgrades then go that route. But it can also be very frustrating. I upgraded a Sterlin RAY4HH and what should have taken a few weekends turned into months. One was my inexperience with this bass. The second was that things that were said to fit, didn’t. So I had to spend a bunch of time fixing things or making modifications. And as it was my primary 4-string bass, it was out of commission during the problems.

I was going to go that route again with a Jazz bass and upgrade it to how I wanted it. However, I found a factory bass that checked all the boxes of what I wanted. It was more expensive than buying a bass and upgrading it. But it also was working out of the box and I had zero headaches getting a very playable guitar.

If you love to tinker and don’t mind hitting a wall sometimes, go the upgrade route. But having a great bass from the beginning was very nice. Had I not found this Cort Elrick, my next bass was going to be a Yamaha.


@JustTim has the right idea, lol.
The seller was open to negotiations, after driving the price down to what I was willing to pay I couldn’t say no to it.

The Ibanez will get some upgrades someday. For now I may just put roundwounds back on it and drop tune it for some heavy stuff.

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As is often the case.

Hah, no, I’m kidding. I’m going to mark this down and forward it around to my family as proof that I had the right idea once! :smiley:


That’s not true at all, I know for the fact that you we right at least one time before, lol.

Holy hell, I was right twice? Happy Friday to me! :smiley:

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I’d like to see the paperwork on that. :disguised_face: