Engelhardt EM1-B pick up help
I just purchased a used Engelhardt EM1-B as a slap bass (plain gut d and g, wound e and a) . I tried it on a gig last night using a gage realist pick-up and it was a disaster (no definition at all. Big thud). My other bass is a Shen plywood strung with velvet blues and it sounds great. The Engelhardt EM1-B sounds find acoustically, but plugged in it was rough. Any help/thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
The realist is a very good pickup on resonant-topped carved basses, but on a (particularly newer or thicker) laminated bass it can be less than impressive. The bass you are using with it, coupled with the gut strings, is a recipe for dark, indistinct sound - as you have found.
Consider a pickup further up the bridge, which will get more "detail" from the strings and less "boom" from the body. Something in the wing, or in/around the adjusters (if you have 'em).
For instance: A K&K Bass Max, Schatten RB1, Underwood, Fishman Full Circle, Realist Lifeline, etc.
And if you're rockabilly (or slap)-specific, consider a "clicky" pickup as well. K&K and Schatten, among others, offer two-element systems which provide both a "main" pickup and a "clicky" pickup - and the means to combine them and tweak their tone (usually in the form of a compact two-channel preamp.) There are other choices as well, I'm sure some others will chime in.
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