The Tone of the Beast

Steve Harris Iron MaidenI’m a huge fan of the Quarter Pound P Bass pickup. Ever since I got one for Christmas from my folks (along with a Hot Jazz bridge pickup; can we say “Coolest Parents EVER?”), the larger-than-life tone was part of my sound and what I equated as the pinnacle of bass tone. That is, until the SPB-4 Steve Harris signature pickup was unveiled over the summer. Suddenly, the gear head in me thought that surely, this pickup was definitely more growly and in your face than the QP had been. So, I eagerly ordered one and awaited the time when I would unleash the “tone of the beast” and rip through the gates of Heaven and Hell with monstrous tone.

Road tested for years – decades even – the SPB-4 uses “Alnico 5 rod magnets and a unique vintage-hot coil wind that delivers a forceful sound with pushed midrange but tight bass and treble response. Measuring in at 13k DC resistance, the SPB-4 is more dynamic and sensitive to Steve’s unique two finger playing style and drives the preamp section of an amplifier hard without clipping.” With that knowledge in hand, I looked to my stable of basses to see what would be worthy of placing this tonal responsibility on. I settled on my tried and true Lakland 44/64 Precision Bass. Firing up the soldering iron, I quickly swapped out pickups and eagerly ran into the amp room (which is really called the guest room, but one can dream) to plug in the bass and hear the difference. What I heard surprised me.

To say that the SPB-4 is more dynamic and sensitive is akin to saying the Beatles had moderate success. On one front, the pickup really opens up the capabilities of the tone knob to allow you a wider range of tone from just the stock pot and cap. I could easily get that large, motown inspired thump and then quickly change it to a more biting, aggressive sound that easily fits into any metal band (and dominates it, I might add). On the other, that sensitivity translates especially well into your right hand. Little changes in that hand – position, attack, fingers used – have much larger effects than a stock pickup. I’ve found that it breathes a more complex character into your playing and the instrument itself, and have enjoyed the extra that it provides.


While the SPB-4 Steve Harris signature pickup could easily be lumped into the “sounds great if you want THAT sound” category, it’s far more versatile than what you may initially think. Past that vintage hot tone is an extended tonal range and sensitivity that allows this pickup to sit in on any gig you may have, in any genre. It will bring your playing to life, affording you greater musical dynamics and a tone that fits the high standard that Steve Harris is known for.
Sorry QP, there’s a new P Bass in my basses.

 

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