Sunday, January 21, 2007

Nordstrand Fat Stacks vs. Dual Coils

Since the previous Nordstrand pickup blog entries appear to have been very helpful to players trying to make tough decisions between various pickups models (see the Nordstrand vs. Fralin and Nordstrand Jazz Pickup Review blog articles), I thought that a Fat Stacks vs. Dual Coils entry was probably long overdue. I have been receiving a LOT of questions about these two pickup models lately, and I have a feeling that the push behind the volume of inquiries is coming from three primary sources. First, Roscoe Guitars has added Nordstrand Dual Coils as an option, and several of my Roscoe customers have been requesting Dual Coils on their custom orders. Secondly, the success and popularity of the new Nordstrand Nordy line of basses has brought a lot of attention to the Fat Stacks set, especially since we are featuring them on many of the early Nordies that have left Carey's shop. Lastly, many high-end and custom builders have adopted Nordstrand pickups as their pickup of choice, so even non-Nordstrand owners are getting exposed to Carey's outstanding pickups. I hope that the following review helps to clear up any outstanding questions that might be floating around out there.

The first point of emphasis is that even though both pickups look similar and are the same size, they do NOT sound alike. In fact, they are very different pickups. The Fat Stacks were originally designed to be the "ultimate" pickup for the jazz bass fanatic. They sound like their name a super-fat jazz pickup. This is why you will see the 'Stacks featured so heavily on the new Nordy line. While they offer a bigger, thicker, fatter jazz tone, they also deliver a great slap tone as well. The pole-pieces are shifted off-axis to deliver a better response for slapping. Another benefit is that by adding a coil tap, you can convert the hum-canceling stacked coils into single coil mode, essentially converting a Fat Stack into the Nordstrand Big Single pickup. All Nordy basses come standard with a mini-switch on the control plate providing the player with the advantage of having the benefit of "two pickups in one".

The Dual Coils, on the other hand, deliver what many players traditionally refer to as a true "modern" sounding pickup. They can be wired in either series or parallel, and can also we wired so that either series, parallel, or single coil modes can be selected. The DC sets are extremely versatile in offering a range of wiring configurations and a variety of tones. The series mode has a slightly higher output, places an emphasis on the midrange, and will give you a deep, rich, thick tone. If you're looking for an ultra-modern, "hi-fi" tone, then a set of Dual Coils wired in parallel would be the way to go. This wiring option emphasizes the lows and highs.

While tone is largely impacted by the bass itself, how you set the instrument's controls (if you have a bass with an on-board preamp), how you set the controls on your amp/preamp, and your own playing style, the pickups are a big contributing factor in the overall sound of your instrument. But, even with all of those variables taken into consideration, I hope that the generalized descriptions above will provide you with a better understanding of these two Nordstrand pickup models and will help you make the choice that is right for you and your bass.



Blogger Tom said...

Thanks a TON for taking the trouble to write all this up. It is VERY helpful.

7:14 PM  
Blogger Bill said...

I was wondering if the Dual Coils were tapable to single. Now I know. I wonder how the fat stack in single sounds compared to the dual in single...

5:39 AM  
Blogger Grendel said...

Thanks a lot for that note ! Very helpful :)

5:38 AM  

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