The EB bass may be only one instrument, but there’s actually a collection of eight basses inside. What makes this possible is what Gibson calls “tuned coil tapping,” a novel coil tapping design that provides two distinctly different tones for each pickup. With two pickups (neck and bridge), that’s a total of eight possible combinations.

This feature is available in both the four-string and five-string EB models. You set a pickup to its tuned coil tap wiring by pulling up on its volume control (Fig. 1).

Gibson 2014 lineup EB Bass
Fig. 1: The bridge pickup knob has been pulled up, which sets the pickup to the tuned coil tap position.

Coil Splitting vs. Coil Tapping vs. “Tuned” Coil Tapping

Conventional Coil Splitting turns off one humbucker coil to make a single-coil pickup. Coil Tapping, which is less common, taps a different part of a single-coil pickup’s windings to give the equivalent of a pickup with fewer windings. The “untapped” sound will be full output and accent the midrange compared to the tapped sound, which has lower output and more high-end clarity.

The EB’s Tuned Coil Tapping does tap a coil, but the similarity with conventional coil tapping ends there as the tapping affects only particular frequencies. This has three big advantages:

  • Maintains most of a humbucker’s hum-reducing properties
  • Doesn’t cause a big volume drop
  • Retains the low end
  • Tailors the sound specifically for bass, which is key to obtaining the sounds of different basses

Gibson 2014 lineup EB Bass
Fig. 2: An EB Bass pickup. The windings for each pickup are brought out separately so they can be tapped.

The Eight Basses Inside an EB Bass

The EB-4 and EB-5’s “native” pickup sound is a big, growling sound with a fair amount of midrange “bark.” It’s a great sound, but it’s not always what you want—for some applications, you might want a brighter, more “British” sound, a mellower vibe, or whatever. Tuned Coil Tapping is voiced primarily to scoop the midrange somewhat, which can emphasize the low or high end more by de-emphasizing the mids. This is clever, because if you start with sound that doesn’t have much midrange, there’s nothing you can do to add something that’s not there. The EB pickup’s solid midrange means you can use it as it, or reduce it.

Each of the EB’s eight distinct bass sounds has its own character. Here’s a summary of the switch position and, from a subjective standpoint, the sound it creates; this assumes the volume knobs are turned up full.

Neck pickup: Balanced tone, most bass, mids give some “bark”

Tapped neck pickup: Scoops some mids, rounder sound, retains low end

Bridge pickup: Less low end, more midrange bite

Tapped bridge pickup: Scoops mids, lighter low end, defined highs, good “pop” bass sound

Neck and bridge pickups: Retains strong low end, adds midrange but there’s an apparent slight scoop in the lower mids because the higher and lower frequencies are louder

Tapped neck pickup and bridge pickup: Major scooping around 500Hz-1kHz, good lows, a hint of brightness, lays back in a track

Tapped bridge pickup and neck pickup: Adds some upper mids back in compared to the tapped neck pickup and bridge pickup

Tapped bridge pickup and tapped neck pickup: Like the tapped neck pickup and bridge pickup sound, but adds slightly lower midrange frequencies back in.

And of course, these are just the basic sounds. Once you start using the tone control and varying the pickup volume controls, there are even more possibilities.

It’s definitely worth spending some time experimenting with the different options so you’re familiar enough with them to choose the right sound for the right music. For recording, the EB’s versatility is a huge plus, and for gigging…well, it’s certainly easier to take one bass to the gig than eight.