I visited the Nashville Fender office while recording Sixpence's Divine Discontent record. We were halfway through tracking and I wanted something with a Fender feel, but a different sound for a couple of songs. I was wishfully hoping that Fender might have something more in the 'Music Man Stingray' vein & lo & behold - a 5 string P-Bass with a humbucker was hanging on the wall in the artist rep showroom!
This is an ash-bodied 5-string Precision with maple neck and deluxe appointments including ultralight tuning machines, abalone inlays, deluxe bridge and an active 3-band onboard eq. This particular Deluxe Precision 5 is one of the earliest Fender made with Bill Lawrence pickups, a 9 volt preamp and 5-in-a-line tuning machines. I love that I have an example with the 5-in-line headstock- it looks a little more 'classic Fender' than the 4+1 arrangement adopted soon after.
The obvious departure from a 'normal' P-Bass (other than the extra string) is the big humbucking double-J style pickup in the bridge position!. This extra pickup is what drew me to the bass in the first place. It has a unique, very un-Fender'ish sound quality to it. Burpy (like a Jazz bridge pickup), but very throaty and aggressively mid-forward. It has a bit of the 'jazz fusion' type voice to it, but with a fuller bottom end. While definitely not a pickup for a classic Fender-tone purist, the Lawrence bridge humbucker has a great sound that's very much all its' own!
While the extra humbucking pickup is sort of the Precision Deluxe's hallmark, the neck-position split-p pickup is totally traditional. Ever since modding the instrument myself (see below), the stock neck pickup retains all of the nuance, authority and thump that Precision pickups are known for. It's a great sounding bass with 2 very distinct voices!
I recently swapped out the stock active-only Fender 3 band preamp with an aftermarket Aguilar OBP-3 onboard preamp. The new preamp retains the same basic control scheme as the original Fender unit- but with a couple of additions:
a) The Aguilar pre has a push/pull switch on the volume pot that puts the entire instrument into passive (no preamp) operation. I definitely prefer how passive basses interface better with pedals, preamps and other outboard gear. Installing the passive option on this bass not only gave it better compatibility with 'traditional' outboard gear, but it also made the neck pickup sound much more like a normal, old 4-string Precision pickup!
b) I wired my Aguilar OBP-3 with 2 selectable mid-band eq centers (again, via push/pull pot). The Aguilar lets you shift between either 400hz or 800hz. I believe the original Fender pre in this bass was centered close to 400hz, which when cut significantly made the output very low and it's broad 'q' lost too much punch. The Aguilar's narrower 'q' and selectable frequency makes the preamp a lot more useable in context!
Identical model no longer available, but the current evolution of the Deluxe Precision is: see the new model at Fender
Aftermarket Aguilar OBP-3 Preamp: read about it at the Aguilar website
Strung up with D'Addario XL-170-5 Roundwounds of course! D'Addario.com