New Squier Bronco bass upgrade kit!
My wife recently expressed an interest in learning bass, and like many of us, I certainly couldn't turn down an opportunity to hunt for new gear! There has been a bass in our home before, in the form of a beautiful Shoreline Gold Squier PJ bass which was a lovely thing but was sadly sold during a cull. We did recall that she realy didn't like picking that one up though due to the size, being a 'full' scale P bass at 34", so perhaps a short scale would be the way to go.
After a quick scan online at short scale models on a budget, I had a few in mind but in an effort to try a few to see which suit best, we headed to one of the local Birmingham guitar shops. Although models like the Ibanez Talman short scale bass were jam packed with great specs, the bulkier body and much chunkier neck on that particular bass meant that the Squier Bronco soon won our hearts. Although an incredibly simple configuration, the classic 'student model' 50s Fender looks, manageable body size, comfy neck and surprisingly good overall build quality for it's £150 ish price point is such a winner. Obviously at that price point it's clear these are just 'box shifters' for the factory and selling dealer, so it's in need of a good set-up, but most musicians accept that and are happy to carry out that kind of work. Although out the box it does do the job nicely, you can't help but feel there is some room for improvement, in particular it's plugged in tone. That's mostly down to it's standard Strat (6 pole!) guitar pickup installed as standard, and the usual Indonesian Squier low quality wiring components. I couldn't help myself as I'm always up for a good project, so I contacted Tim at McNelly Pickups to ask about options for these and luckily for me, he does indeed make a specific upgrade pickup! This pickup was originally designed for the Musicmaster, but as that shares the same pickup footprint, it is also the same sizing and mounting for the Bronco bass. This pickup features double pole pieces and a chunky wind and a baseplate, achieving an output/DCR of around 10.5k. So it really packs a punch! 

McNelly Musicmaster / Squier Bronco bass pickup

This is a 'drop in' replacement in terms of size and mount, so still sized like a strat single coil that the Bronco has from the factory and uses the same pickguard mount so you won't have to reach for a router make a new pickguard. But more than that, this is a specifically designed bass pickup with a nice high output that produces overall fatness along with great clarity which will transform a Bronco or Musicmaster bass.
A common, simple mod many Bronco players carried out at the time of taking on this project in 2018 was  to install a Seymour Duncan Hot Rail Strat Pickup. So still a guitar pickup rather than a bass pickup, but due to the rail magnets they didn't have to worry about pole piece spacing, and they're a high output pickup so just about managed the bass response too. By the sounds of people's demos online, this a cool sounding upgrade to make. But to me that felt a shame to fit another 6 string guitar pickup rather than a specific bass model pickup designed for these short scale models, so I gave the McNelly a whirl!
It would certainly be a shame to drop this beautiful new pickup into the bass with the existing wiring, so I put together a wiring kit with some nice quality, tight tolerance CTS 'TVT' 250k pots, Gavitt 22AWG wire, a Pure Tone jack socket and a Mustard style .022uF tone cap. McNelly recommends the .022uF for this pickup, just to bring out a good range of tonal adjustment, but ultimately it works well with a variety of values depending on your personal preferences. I stuck with the recommended value though to start with. 
After installing all of these, even through our 'humble' Rumble 15 Fender amp, the difference was astonishing. So much so, that I've decided to offer the McNelly Musicmaster / Bronco single coil bass pickup as a standalone product now, which is available on the website as I type! As well as my Bronco wiring harness kit too.

Want to hear an A/B comparison? Well thankfully Joe over at the Guitar Nerds podcaster kindly put some clips together for me showcasing a completely standard Bronco bass, against a McNelly / Home of Tone modded Bronco to show just how different they are. I just want to throw a thank you out there to the good people at the Guitar Nerds, as since this article went out in 2018 and I shared my modded Bronco, they have been incredibly supportive of the mod and shared it a lot which has been amazing. So thank you for their support on these kits!



Squier Bronco bass wiring kit

The wiring harness is also drop in, in terms of component placements, but due to the factory components being smaller, lower quality spec parts, there is a little modification required to fit. This is simply widening the pickguard pot and jack mounting holes to suit the larger USA imperial spec shaft diameter. But a couple of minutes with a 10mm drill bit and you're all ready to install, and is well worth doing as the wiring will help bring out the best in the pickup. You can now order this Bronco upgrade harness on the website, and I've also listed the option to order a complete Bronco upgrade kit which is for a Signature Series harness and the McNelly Bronco single coil bass pickup as a bundle. Two specifically designed items with the Bronco bass in mind, a cool upgrade to make to this great value short scale!

Home of Tone 'Signature Series' Bronco wiring harness kit
McNelly Musicmaster / Bronco single coil bass pickup

Squier Bronco Bass pickup and wiring upgrade kit

Comments

Adi Joseph

Adi Joseph said:

I have a 2017 bronco bass learning to play.Would like more imfo ?

Charles Coffeyin

Charles Coffeyin said:

Can I put this pickup in myself with not too much trouble will it go in with existing holes Etc

James Gascoigne

James Gascoigne said:

Hi Charles!
In terms of fitting the McNelly Bronco/Musicmaster bass pickup it’s about as simple as can be which I’m sure you’ll be glad to hear! It fits existing body routing and existing pickguard cutout. All you’ll need to do is remove the original pickup and remove the wires from the volume pot. Fit the new pickup and solder the two new wires. So a nice simple, drop in solution.
Hope that helps and thanks for reading the blog!

Donald Easton

Donald Easton said:

I know what you mean. I’m into short scale basses. I own a Gretsch Junior Jet, and a few months ago, upgraded the Gretsch pups to TV Jones. I also bought my son a Squire “Badz Maru” style Bronco, but he never took to it. I use it as backup. My mate put a Strat Seymour Duncan pup in. Now, it’s loud, but that’s it…it’s loud. Quality is nowhere as good as the TV Jones. I’ve just found your blog. Do you find that your McNelly Bronco Pup produced good tonal qualities, as well as volume. I’d say the TV Jones PUPS aren’t hot, but they sound really nice harmonically. So, I get quality sound, but up my amp if need to. The Bronco needs the amp turned down a lot. It’s just too loud. Thank you for reading. The downside about the TV Jones is..the PUPs themselves were around £120 each. Then got stung by postage from US to UK (£90) Finally got stung for £100 Labour. So in all….around £430 just to put two pups in. I’d intend doing this myself. Just need to find out your charges. Many thanks, Donald.

James Gascoigne

James Gascoigne said:

Hi Donald, thanks for taking the time to read the post and share your thoughts too :)
I can honestly say the McNelly Bronco/Musicmaster bass pickup can hold it’s own against any other quality bass specific pickup design. It is essentially based upon a double pole P-Bass pickup, only without the split coil design due to the sizing/mounting. It’s a full sound that has good attack with the tone control all the way up, and a really nice warmth with the tone control rolled off (my personal favourite setting). Highly recommend installing it alongside a wiring upgrade though, I would honestly say there wouldn’t be much point upgrading the pickup to this without putting some attention to the wiring components. Better wiring components would help bring out the best in the pickup, well it would bring out the best in any pickup really! I am planning to record some demo sound clips of my own Bronco bass and McNelly pickup installed, just been a lack of time to do so recently. But really want to record some basic clips with both round wound and flat wound strings, my bass playing isn’t the best but I hope it would give some insight to a basic set-up with the pickup installed. If it helps, there’s some info on the pickup price as well as my wiring harness upgrade kit too over on the main shop part of the website. But any specific questions, feel free to e-mail me directly on james@homeoftone.co.uk
cheers

Graeme Thomson

Graeme Thomson said:

Hi James,

I hope you are well!

Just picked up the Bronco bass for a bit of recording and I am going to invest in the Harness soon it looks great! Just out of interest which bridge and tuners have you installed on yours as I’m looking to make similar mods to make everything a bit sturdier and improve intonation!

Many thanks

Graeme

James Gascoigne

James Gascoigne said:

Hi Graeme!
Thanks for the comment :)
I haven’t actually changed the tuners on mine yet, something I have wanted to just haven’t gotten around to it. So if you change them, let me know which you go for!
Bridge wise though I retrofitted a Gotoh high mass bridge. It juuuuust about covers the factory bridge mounting holes, but will need re-drilling for the new bridge. Works great!

Graeme Thomson

Graeme Thomson said:

Thanks James, much appreciated! Just ordered the harness looking forward to getting it fitted!

Chris Ashenberg

Chris Ashenberg said:

So I just came across your page.

I have both a Squier Musicmaster and a heavily modded ’78 Fender Musicmaster.

The Squier is pretty perfect, smooth playing neck and a great sound with that Vista Tone.

Just looking at the photos of this pickup I’m wondering about the height of it. It looks very tall, is there room for adjustment with the standard routing? I already have new CTS pots and jack that were installed about a year ago along with a Nordstrand pup that is much better than the original but still pretty weak by comparison.

Thanks

James Gascoigne

James Gascoigne said:

Hi Chris,
Ah nice! Great to hear you like the Squier Musicmaster too.
It’s a standard fit, I’ve supplied so many of these pickups now and not encountered a single fitting issue with Musicmaster or Broncos across the range from vintage originals to import modern made examples. It’s a direct fit :)

Andy

Andy said:

Hi mate!

Bought the full kit from you earlier this year. Finally tried it out a few weeks ago. Sounded super dope with an AC30. Together with some J-style knobs, a black pick guard, new tuners and some other bits and pieces my Bronco is a really dope instrument! Cheers!

Dan Sallade

Dan Sallade said:

I love the bronco. I really would love to buy an upgrade kit. Pickup and wiring all with the black pick guard. I was checking out on the website, but not given an option to ship to the US. Do you ship to the US?

James

James said:

Hi Andy! Awesome to hear you’ve been able to finish up the project and get the kit installed, glad you like it too! Appreciate it!

James

James said:

Hi Dan,
Thanks for the comment, great to hear you enjoy the Bronco too :)
I’m afraid at this current stage, I am unable to sell to customers in the USA. Details on this are all noted in my shipping info/FAQ’s. But basically obtaining business insurance/product liability cover to sell products to the USA is incredibly expensive for a UK company, and it just isn’t viable for me at this stage. But the good news is that the pickup is made by McNelly Pickups in Canada, and he sells in US dollar. So the pickup can be ordered from them directly, and it will work out a lot more cost effective for you to do that too.
Cheers,
James

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