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The (Hopefully) Comprehensive Bronco Bass Modding Guide
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honeyiscool
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 28, 2011 6:13 pm    Post subject: The (Hopefully) Comprehensive Bronco Bass Modding Guide Reply with quote

Updated for 2014.

I have tried three short scale basses: a Fender Mustang Bass RI, an MIA Fender Musicmaster Bass, and a Squier Badtz-Maru Bronco Bass. My favorite of the three? The Bronco Bass. Maybe because it was my first bass, but it has become my #1 go-to bass and been with me through many recording sessions and rehearsals.

I know the Bronco Bass gets a bit ignored around here, especially now that the higher end Squier Mustang Bass is available. But the Bronco Bass is a great player. Set up correctly, it is a very comfortable bass to play and has the potential to play and sound really awesome, with that deep and hollow thud common to 30" scale basses. The Bronco Bass has these following things going for it in terms of modding:

1. Cheap. Very cheap. A used one can often be found for less than $80.
2. Satin poly finished maple neck with Mustang Bass dimensions. It takes stain very easily if you don't like the pasty white.
3. Humbucker routed body. Your choice of inexpensive upgrade pickups.
4. Small tuners that offer good weight distribution, can be easily replaced.
5. Even with all the modding, the Bronco Bass will probably be cheaper than a Fender Mustang Bass, which IMO doesn't even sound that great stock. As for the Squier Mustang Bass, it might be close, but replacement pickups (Aero and Nordstrand, as far as I know) are expensive.
6. Easy to work on.

In my mind, a stock Bronco Bass lacks in three key areas:

1. Pickup: The stock pickup is a cheap Squier ceramic Strat pickup. It's half decent in a cheap guitar, but it's a piece of shit bass pickup. This is the only thing that really needs to be replaced.
2. Bridge: Although it's possible to intonate it pretty well, the D and the G strings will always be a challenge.
3. Tuners: The stock tuners are OK. But they're not great.

Also...

4. Strings.


So let's tackle them one by one.


Pickup

The stock Bronco Bass pickup is a generic ceramic 6-pole Strat pickup. The only thing this pickup is useful for is for taking the bar magnets off and giving it to your younger relatives. It lacks output, it hums, and makes your bass sound really, really bad. But on the flip side, it's a standard Strat pickup, meaning we have a lot of upgrade options, without any modding:

1. Any Strat pickup. Lining up pole pieces is mostly for cosmetics. It will make little sonic difference whatsoever if you line them up or not. So you could, in theory, use any Strat/Mustang pickup and be no worse off for it. I do not suggest this, however because OCD.

2. Rails pickup - $25 to $60
There are many choices here, from DiMarzio, Seymour Duncan, GFS, etc. I think the one that I always hear about is the Seymour Duncan Hot Rails. Those who have installed it in a Bronco/Musicmaster Bass have raved about it. Cheapest (probably) is the Dragonfire Duo Rails, and I am honestly a big fan of Dragonfire stuff. They seem to be the same quality as GFS but slightly cheaper.

3. EMG HZ S4 or EMG Select SES - $45 to $60
These are passive pickups. These are passive dual rails inside an EMG housing, which makes it not look like rails. Those who have installed it rave about it. Maintains a near stock look.

4. Lace Sensor - $55
My personal favorite. Low noise single coil. I choose a Red Sensor for its increased output and frequency response. Lace actually makes a bass pickup whose numbers look identical to the Gold Sensor, so even that would make a pretty good pickup, but it's probably a little too low output for me. Not humbucking, so they have some noise, but Lace has greatly reduced noise compared to standard single coils. Older versions benefit from shielding, although a stock Bronco Bass is actually very well shielded, much better than a lot of Fenders I've seen. Modern examples of Sensors are very well shielded out of the box. Also maintains a near stock look.

5. Aero Musicmasterer 4 Type 1 - $120
This is the only bass pickup in the world that's designed specifically for the Musicmaster/Bronco Bass. Aero is a boutique hand-wound pickup manufacturer, and I can personally vouch for the fact that they make a great pickup. However, I have not tried this particular pickup, so I can't say it's worth the $120, but I've seen good reviews. Single coil. Maintains complete stock look, since it fits into an existing cover.

Basically, anyone who's upgraded to any of the many aftermarket pickups has found that the bass now sounded much better. A medium output humbucking bass pickup in the middle position has the iconic sound of bass guitar that's been used on countless records, so they're probably the kind of pickups you want, but certain single coils will work well, too.

Thanks to the humbucker route, the Bronco Bass can take other pickups, as long as you want to mod your pickguard/create a new one:

1. Any Strat humbucker. Rails type will avoid the whole pole pieces issue.

2. Mustang Bass pickup. Honestly, the Duncan Designed Mustang Bass pickup that's in most Mustang Basses (yes, the Fender has a Duncan Designed) today is very mediocre and I wouldn't do this. I know that a Red Lace Sensor blew away a stock Mustang Bass in terms of sound. Good Mustang Bass pickups can be had from Aero, Seymour Duncan Custom Shop, and Nordstrand, but they're not cheap. The Aero one is wonderful. I have one and recommend it. Seymour Duncan is unique in that theirs comes with plastic covers. Most aftermarket Mustang Bass pickups don't.

3. Slanted single coil P-Bass pickup (like in Tele Bass and such). This is a really intriguing idea and I have to say, I like it, but never tried it.

So I think this covers everything.


Bridge

By the way, there have been at least two different versions of the Bronco Bass, and I don't mean just the Badtz Maru variety. I had a standard Bronco Bass at some point and I noticed that the drill pattern for the bridge grounding hole was actually different from the Badtz Maru bass. Talking to Larry at Aero Instruments, he said that Bronco Basses have had some variation over the years in string spacing.

Anyway, it is possible to intonate the 2-saddle bridge pretty well. Here are some tips:

1. The E and A strings will intonate pretty well with standard string spacing.
2. I've found that raising the G string a lot improves intonation greatly. However, I don't really like to do this.
3. The best compromise is that you make it so that at the 12th frets, the D and G are off about equally. Then, when you're tuning the bass, tune so that the 5th frets of all the strings are in tune, instead of tuning the open strings.

That said, nothing beats a 4-saddle bridge. If you want to upgrade, I think an obvious solution is a 4-saddle Squier Musicmaster Bass bridge (from the Vista Series, around $20) for that stock look or a Mustang Bass bridge if you want to be fancy. That said, these bridges come with their own issues. For one thing, they require drilling for ferrules, which is a pain, and then through-body stringing might require you to use 32" scale strings instead of 30" scale strings, and some strings are not suitable for through-body stringing. So I think it's better to use top-loading bridges for the average modder. So here:

1. Hipshot Vintage Bass Bridge (.669 String Spacing) - $60 - $70

This is an excellent, excellent bridge. I have an earlier version of this bridge on my Bronco Bass and I love it. Also, string changes are easy with this bridge. Keep in mind, there are multiple versions of this bridge, and you want the narrowest spaced one. You can find these on Ebay for less than on Hipshot's website. This actually has narrower spacing than a stock Bronco Bass bridge and I actually like that, since it gets the outer strings more inside the neck. I also like the fact that it looks similar to a stock bridge.

2. Any other Hipshot. The B Bridge can get you a .669 spacing as well. Hipshot A Bridge is especially wonderful because it can get you the even tighter .656 spacing (or .687 which is closer to stock) and each saddle is adjustable for intonation as well as spacing. So you can really nail down your string action the way you like it.

Either of these options should suit you well. My earlier version of this document recommended a Fender Highway One bridge, but honestly, I have to go back on that one because in my mind, Hipshot is the only company that really makes good narrow 4-string bass bridges. You should be able to cover all the existing holes, no problem at all.


Tuners

The stock tuners are mostly fine. I've had two Bronco Bass necks, though, and they had different tuners. One neck held tune very well, whereas the other didn't hold tune as well. I realize it was probably the nut or whatever, but I decided to replace the tuners since they weren't turning so well anyway.

The peghead holes are a bit smaller than 7/16", so you will want a reamer to (slightly) enlarge the holes because you won't see any tuners smaller than 7/16". Removing the bushings is also a bit of a pain, so do it patiently. I prefer using a socket bit that just fits the hole and hammering it very lightly from the back. Anyway, Here are my two suggestions:

1. Schaller M4 - About $80 for a set

These are high-end German-made tuners found on boutique basses like Alembic. They look stock from the front. I needed to enlarge the hole a tiny bit (I just used a bit of sandpaper), and obviously I needed to drill my own mounting hole, but it was pretty easy. These are excellent tuners, no doubt.

2. Hipshot Ultralite HB6C 3/8" - About $100 for a set

Ultralite are made in 1/2" or 3/8" versions, and you want the 3/8" version. The nice thing about these tuning keys is that you can get them in multiple shapes. If you want that vintage Fender look, you can get the clover keys. I used Schallers in my bass, but if I did it again, I'd probably choose Hipshots. I use Hipshot on my Mustang Bass and prefer their construction to the M4 I have in my Bronco.

I know some of you may gasp at these prices, but trust me, you don't want big, heavy standard tuners on a Bronco Bass neck. It ruins the excellent balance of the instrument.


Strings:

Fortunately, there are many, many options for strings for your Bronco Bass. Unfortunately, the Fender 5250XL strings that came stock with the Bronco Bass are not the same strings as the Fender 5250XL strings that they sell today. While the stock strings were good, I think the new 5250XL strings are crap. Subjective, I know, but I believe the 5250XLs are now just rebadged D'Addario bass strings, and I hate, hate, hate them.

Here are my top three suggestions:

1. La Bella 760FL-S Light Flatwound Strings: The best flatwound strings in the world, I say. You can go with the 760FX-S (Extra Light) if you're so inclined, but the slightly heftier 760FL is probably a better choice.

2. GHS Electric Bass 4 String Pressurewound 30" - 31" Scale: These are the strings I use. Flatwound feel and oomph, roundwound clarity. Very versatile.

3. La Bella 760RL-S Light Roundwound Strings: If you want to go roundwound, get some good ones.


Aftermath:

I got a lot of these parts at a nice price. I also took about three years to fully upgrade mine. Let's tally up how much my Bronco Bass cost with the mods:

1. Bronco Bass: About $100 for open-box Badtz Maru model.
2. Fender Lace Sensor Red: About $35 used.
3. Schaller M4 Keys: Purchased new from Ebay for $79.
4. Hipshot Vintage Bridge .669 Spacing (Chrome): About $34 used.
5. GHS Pressurewound Strings: Purchased new for $21.





That comes to a total of $269 for a really, really great bass that sounds better than any stock short scale out there. That said, with the new short scale Jaguar Bass, that might be an easier modding platform, but I still say the Bronco Bass deserves love.
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Last edited by honeyiscool on Sat Sep 13, 2014 1:28 am; edited 8 times in total
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Dave
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 13, 2011 11:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Honey, Looks like I may be back into work within the next couple of weeks and our local cash converters pawn store has a red bronco I'm interested in treating myself too. Will be looking to upgrade a little according to your suggestions. There's a red Lace sensor I can get my hands on but the Hipshot bridges are a bit pricey over here. I'm looking at cheaper options this side of the pond

If my google maths is working right the bronco string spacing 2 1/8 = 53.975 mm

On this UK site they have one bridge with 54mm spacing "Chrome Hip Shot Style Bass Bridge". Not exactly the vintage look but hey ho

There's also "Wilkinson Classic Style 4 String Bass Bridge with offset Brass saddles" but they are 58 mm - would that extra 4mm push the outer strings way too close to the edges? I don't have a bronco bass neck to measure...

Any thoughts on these?
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 13, 2011 11:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

you can get a musicmaster string thru bridge for $25 with ferrules on ebay.
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honeyiscool
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 18, 2011 5:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dave, is this what you're talking about?



If it's 54mm spacing, I think it should work very well. It would keep the stock feel. I only hope that it's large enough to cover the existing screw holes while intonating but i really don't think that would be a huge problem, since the existing screws are not that widely spaced anyway, and bridges should honestly perform, they don't need to look like a period piece.

I wouldn't use the 58mm spacing. You're talking about pushing the strings 2mm in each direction, which means at the 12th fret the strings would be 1mm off where they are now. It's not enough to push the strings off the neck, but enough to look bad and not feel so great either, especially when you're doing vibratos on the G string.

hotrodperlmutter wrote:
you can get a musicmaster string thru bridge for $25 with ferrules on ebay.


I still recommend against string through bridges. Not only are string through bridges hard to install and get it perfectly, they're not suitable for some strings. I realized yesterday that one of the reasons GHS Pressurewounds, which aren't even full flatwounds, never sounded right on the Mustang Bass might have been because of a weakening near the bend at the string through bridge, which made the A string sound awful.
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2011 12:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Honey, unfortunately I missed the bronco in our local pawn shoppe but I will get one at the first opportunity and give that bridge a whirl - will report back on how it works out!
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 21, 2012 6:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I came here looking for information on upgrading my tuners, and I found out what I needed to know, thanks!

you might like what I did to my bronco...
http://www.shortscale.org/forum/viewtopic.php?p=988684#988684
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mordechaister
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 21, 2012 6:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've been meaning to pick one of these up. Especially now that Fender has the SS Jaguar with rosewood neck and now the Mikey Way bass with rosewood neck that I could use for it. Daphne blue, rosewood and a pearl guard anyone?
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 21, 2012 3:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

since a rosewood neck previously put this project out of range, daphne with maple and pearl it went.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 21, 2012 3:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

THAT IS BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!
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honeyiscool
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 21, 2012 7:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That looks great, mutter! Is that the GFS rails? Let me know how that all sounds.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 21, 2012 7:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

it's a dragonfire hotrail like i had in the brostang. they're like $20 and they sound 'mazin. i will be putting the black telecaster bridge version in dave's jeff beck contoured telesquire i hope to complete after recyclguar goes pank.

robbie is wiring it up (at least he should be; i can never tell exactly what he's up to) a.s.a.p, and i hope to be able to test out some different string types on it to find out exactly what i will like the best.

it's been a long time coming.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 21, 2012 7:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh sweet. I use Dragonfire Screamers a lot, so I'm not surprised their Hot Rails are bangin'.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 21, 2012 8:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

did you ever see the previous bronco conversion project threads?

astro's

mine's

serfx's - toying with the idea of converting to maplestang bass
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honeyiscool
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 21, 2012 8:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've seen a few of them. It's really a great modding platform. I hope that doesn't stop, now that there are other shortscale options available.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 21, 2012 10:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've never been able to find it agan, but I saw a Bronco that someone put a Darkstar pickup in. That's a pickup that will now run you about $350 used in a bass that goes for about $75. Awesome.
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2015 8:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I know this topic is a little old now, but there's another company making reasonably priced musicmaster replacement pickups called Sentell Pickups. They look promising:

http://www.sentellpickups.net/bass.html

He produces four different varieties, and all of them look fun.
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honeyiscool
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2015 8:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There's actually a lot of cool pickups being made by them! So many cool designs. I love the gigantic pole piece Mustang pickup.
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2015 8:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes! I've heard great things about them in general, too.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 14, 2016 7:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would also like to point out that Cavalier Pickups manufactures a quite inexpensive '51 P-Bass pickup that has a fitting pole piece spacing and only requires minor filing to fit through a stock Bronco Bass pickguard. I am not affiliated with them, but I bought one as they're cheaper than Sentell or especially Aero pickups, and I'm happy with it! Rob diStefano, the owner, told me he'd already sold several of them for use with Broncos.
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 06, 2016 11:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just for the sake of necro'ing a dead thread:

I just purchased a Bronco, and the Gotoh 201 doesn't even line up anymore...have read that certain Bronco models have 2 holes that coincide, but that seems to no longer be the case.

There's a cheaper 17.5mm string spacing bridge that may work on the Bronco...GuitarFetish lists a vintage MusicMan replacement bridge, that I ordered to try, probably made in the same overseas factory that the Squier hardware is made in... Looks like two holes may line up.
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