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Username: bpeder

Post Number: 7
Registered: 8-2008
Posted on Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 12:26 pm:   Edit Post

Hi Y'all. I have an ongoing problem - exacerbated by the fact that I have let it go and tried on and off to deal with it. First off, the PUP. I'm not sure what it is. The picture shows a bar style Alembic PUP in my fretted custom Benedict 5-string. It has a filter and volume, and a switching input jack and is held into the routed cavity by the standard two screws on top and two underneath that have the threaded sleeves embedded into the body.

About three years ago it started cutting out on me. It would work OK for about 4 songs into a set, then... nothing. I was able to set the bass aside and forget the problem for a long time because I am playing mostly upright anyway. But every once in a while I'd pick it up and even with a new battery, I'd have the same problem.

So I finally rolled up to the guy here in MN who made the bass for me and told him the trouble. It took him some time but he finally contacted Mica and was sent - what I am told - was a small part that plugs (onto?) the preamp, and that tends to burn out if you inadverently put the battery in the wrong way. My battery holder is one of that type that hinges open from the back of the bass and battery slides in and out. There is no clip involved.

So anyway, I get the bass back and it worked for a few minutes, then started grumbling... A sound very similar to bad preamp tubes in an old tube amp. It was also very microphonic in other ways too. I could tap the battery holder and get a loud chunk sound from the amp. Wiggling the PUP made noise too. All issues the bass/electronics never had in its previous life. It was built in 97 BTW.

As it looked to me that the problem was beyond my luthier's capability, I contacted Mica and she was very cool. However, I was not. I promised her pictures and more input on the problem, but decided first to try to open things up and see if I could find the problem. I discovered that the ground line from the bridge was not connected, but that was about it other than that I thought that my guy had done a fairly sloppy job of soldering and wiring.

I re-soldered some stuff like the battery connections and the obvious one from the bridge, put it all back together and YES! it worked. Smooth, fat, punchy and clean again. Until I took it out on a gig... About five songs into a set, it started grumbling again and then got intermittent and then cut out completely. I'm at my wits end.

We have good guitar guys in town that know electronics. The guys at Willie's American Guitars in St. Paul come to mind. But is this truly a problem that would warrant contacting Mica again and just saying "please send me an RA number"? I'm wondering if the forum thinks that would be best? Just how complex is that system anyway? For what it's worth, I think if I sent the PUP, filter, volume and input jack assembly off to the factory, they could at least wire it up so it does not look like a kindergartener did it. I guess I'd rather not send the whole bass, but I will if that's what it takes to get the problem solved. Thanks in advance for any feedback!

It's the one on the right...
Advanced Member
Username: jbybj

Post Number: 326
Registered: 6-2006
Posted on Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 7:42 pm:   Edit Post

I recently got back my pups and electronics that I had sent to Alembic. They diagnosed (bad chip) and repaired it very reasonably. The turn around was pretty good too.

I'm fairly certain that Ron Wickersham does all the electronic repairs. So I can't imagine who might be more qualified to figure out your problem. He can probably smell what's wrong. Send it in, just the electronics that is.......
Username: bpeder

Post Number: 8
Registered: 8-2008
Posted on Friday, April 01, 2011 - 8:33 am:   Edit Post

Thanks jbybj. I popped a new battery in last night again and plugged the bass in and played a bit. Sounded great. I just left it on its stand for 20 minutes because this problem always seems to pop up when the bass is plugged in for a while. Sure enough, it started rumbling.

I pulled the PUP out and noticed that when I gave the body of the PUP a light twist, the rumbling would stop and start. I did this because I had read in a recent post that it's a good idea to not put too much pressure on the PUP when using Alembic's innovative 2 screws up, 2 screws down mounting system.

That PUP is a solid block of stuff is it not? It looks as if the guts are encased in resin poured into the shell. You'd think that nothing could go wrong in there but maybe I have a corroded or broken wire?

Anyway, that last bit of farting around seems to have put the system completely out of order. I can get some sound out of the PUP if I tap it lightly on its face with a small screwdriver, but not if I tap it with a sharpie. I think it's time to send it back to Alembic...
Senior Member
Username: terryc

Post Number: 1537
Registered: 11-2004
Posted on Friday, April 01, 2011 - 9:29 am:   Edit Post

bpeder..I agree..you best send the whole innards to Alembic for service..a note though..the Alembic active pre amp system DOES NOT require a bridge ground as it works independently from a battery.
Username: bpeder

Post Number: 9
Registered: 8-2008
Posted on Friday, April 01, 2011 - 12:20 pm:   Edit Post

Thanks terryc. I wonder what that line was that I re-soldered? It looked like it snaked up through a dedicated bore-out to the bridge. Yup. I wrote to Mica today to ask for an RA #... This is really a nice bass and I got a dozen years of perfect function out of it before it started to get funky. I wanted a bass by this luthier but I also wanted Alembic electronics. Well, we shall see. What worked once will work again. I want my son to have this bass someday!
Username: bpeder

Post Number: 11
Registered: 8-2008
Posted on Sunday, April 10, 2011 - 2:54 pm:   Edit Post

Is requesting an RA# the correct procedure when you need service on a bass or on electronics? I have not heard from anyone at Alembic yet. It definitely seems to be the actual PUP... I plugged it in today and it sat for hours and worked, but the moment I tried to replace the 2 screws to remount the PUP, it started rumbling. Pulled it back out and it quit. Gave it a light twist it worked, popped it back in and it stopped before I got the second screw snugged. Something is shorting out inside that block of resin...

It either works, rumbles or no output at all.
Senior Member
Username: tbrannon

Post Number: 1319
Registered: 11-2004
Posted on Sunday, April 10, 2011 - 6:20 pm:   Edit Post


If you get a chance, make a phone call to Alembic during business hours. Every time I've called I've gotten immediate help and everything solved.

I hope you get it all sorted out soon
Username: mica

Post Number: 7284
Registered: 6-2000
Posted on Monday, April 11, 2011 - 1:35 pm:   Edit Post

We don't have an RA system here - there's only a handful of repairs at any time, and we track them by name instead. You can just drop me an email (in my profile) when you are sending with the following information included:

1. your name and return shipping address
2. phone number(s) / email to discuss what we find
3. the amount you want us to insure your package for when we return it to you

For an Activator repair, we will repair while it's on the test bench up to $50 so it can be turned around quickly. If there repair is more than that, we will contact you first for approval.
Username: bpeder

Post Number: 12
Registered: 8-2008
Posted on Wednesday, April 13, 2011 - 10:29 am:   Edit Post

Awright! Thanks Mica. PM to follow. Pete
Username: bpeder

Post Number: 13
Registered: 8-2008
Posted on Thursday, June 23, 2011 - 8:50 am:   Edit Post

Mary shipped my electronics back to me in time for a gig tomorrow. These guys are fing outstanding! They sent a new PUP and cleaned up my wiring and did a great job of securing wiring from my battery harness. Looks like my hunch that the old PUP was dead turned out to be the case.

I have no idea what can happen to those coils - encased in epoxy resin as they are - but I'm looking forward to putting it all back togther and playing the bass again. My gig tomorrow will be my first electric gig in almost 5 years! Tone on everyone!
Username: artswork99

Post Number: 1528
Registered: 7-2007
Posted on Thursday, June 23, 2011 - 10:48 am:   Edit Post

Pete, Good to hear it all worked out. Have fun at the show tomorrow! Art

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