Pickup and Preamp advice needed

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by Inga51, Nov 8, 2012.


  1. Inga51

    Inga51

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    Jul 2, 2009
    Location:
    Perth
    Hi folks, I've tried my best to get my head around the FAQ section for newbies like me...and have learned a lot. However, like with all things, it is full of contrary opinions, and doesn't seem to contain the specific information that I'm looking for....so here is my situation:

    I'm new to DB, having played EB for about 15 years. For my EB setup I currently play a Warwick Corvette Std Bubinga (Active) into a MarkBass Little Mark III, connected to a Bergantino HT112ER. I am very happy with that setup and am not looking to change any of that equipment as most of my playing is still on EB. I play mainly at church (minimal FOH/PA support if I want it), and at small community theatre productions of up to 150 seat venues (generally with no FOH support for the musicians). I've always wanted to learn DB and have been playing more musicals that call for DB or a mix of EB and DB throughout the show. I'm currently playing a loaned (low end) plywood bass. I am not able to modify it in any way as it's not mine.

    So, I'm looking for advice on a suitable pickup that will not require much in the way of installation, and will be easily moved to a different bass when I purchase my own. I'm also looking for advice on a preamp that might serve as a A/B switch for when I'm using both UB and EB in a show. Ideally, both of those pieces of gear would work nicely with my MarkBass / Berg set up.

    Also, another question about pickups in general...I am learning both arco and pizz techniques and will most likely be required to play both on a regular basis. I find the arco sound much louder than the pizz volume, even when I really dig in. Do pickups help to even out that difference, or is a compressor required to assist with this?

    Look forward to hearing your feedback and advice.
  2. DoubleMIDI

    DoubleMIDI

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2010
    Location:
    Germany, Nordrhein-Westfalen
    For pickups, either a bridge wing pickup (easiest to remove, but a bit harsh sounding with arco) like the Underwood, or a bridge foot pickup like the Realist and Shadow NFX (darker sounding, good arco sound). But since the standard Realist marks the top below the bridge foot, you might want to use the Shadow SH965NFX or the Realist Wood.
    The Shadow already has a impedance buffer built in, so it is a cheap complete solution to use with almost any amp. For the other passive piezo solutions you need a high impedance input (at least 1 MegOhms) at the amp or need a buffering preamp with a high impedance input (any of the FDeck HPFpre is good for that and they are cheap and high quality).

    In theory there are also contact microphones (Schertler DYN-B, Ehrlund pickup, AKG C411), but they work better on massive tops than plywood tops and are more expensive.
    There is also the mostly infamous Fishman BP100 that only works well on a few basses, so not a good solution if you want to move it to a different bass later.
    The SoundClip is a bit expensive and bulky and might sound different each time you mount it on the bridge.
    Other pickups need one or several holes in the bridge so this is not what you want.

    If you want an A/B switch, you might better use a effect return together with a (bit expensive) high impedance preamp with tone controls/equilization for the double bass (like the Headway). Search the forum for these kind of discussions.

    It depends on the pickup how much different the volume of arco and pizz is. But the pickup position also influences the sound, so you need to find a compromise that works for your applications. General rule: The closer to the string the brighter (and less resonant), the closer to the top the darker (and more resonant). Don't forget, that you can easily cut down things that are too loud, but you cannot get back things by amplification that are almost missing.
    The easiest way to control pizz/arco volume is a volume pedal (with adjustable lower volume). Some players use arco for solos, so you get louder when you need it.
  3. Inga51

    Inga51

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2009
    Location:
    Perth
    Thanks DoubleMIDI. That's a great start and definitely the sort of general information that I was after.

    I've just checked http://www.markbass.it/product_detail.php?id=99 and it seems the amp will only handle 500Kohm input impedance, so a preamp will most likely be necessary unless I go down the route of the Shadow NFX pickup.

    I had been looking at the Ehrlund online this afternoon, but was concerned that it would not pick up much quality sound from the top of the cheap bass I'm learning on at the moment. And as they say "garbage in, garbage out"...but then that will most likely apply to any pickup that I purchase.

    I had definitely hoped to avoid having to adjust a volume level (be it via foot peddle or a knob on the amp/preamp), when switching between pizz and arco. Is there anyone that can give me more thoughts on this situation?
  4. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2005
    Location:
    Olivette, Missouri
    Inga 51
    That problem can be easily remedied by using a simple buffer Pre amp, like the HPF/Buffer Preamp or Fishman PRO Platinum. Google Francis Deck Bassist for the HPF. If you're going to be switching between Arco and Pizzicato, then IME, the Realist, Realist Wood or Shadow would be better choices as bridge wing pickups don't sound all that great with the bow.

    Ric
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  6. GrowlerBox

    GrowlerBox

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2010
    Location:
    Nude Zealand
    I use a Markbass F1 with the fdeck HPF-Pre series II. My pickup is a Realist Soundclip, which I like, but has had mixed reviews here (search this forum). The advantages of the Soundclip in your situation are the easy removability and the on-board volume control.

    Don't be afraid to use what you may feel are pretty extreme EQ settings for DB as compared with BG -- I find myself cutting lots of mids (low-mids to reduce boom and feedback, upper mids to reduce "nasality"). The HPF-Pre gives you the high pass filter and a phase switch, as well as an extra volume control if you get the Series II or III, very helpful if your pickup doesn't allow volume control (i.e. almost all of them).
  7. Inga51

    Inga51

    Joined:
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    Great feedback. Thanks Ric.
  8. Inga51

    Inga51

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    Jul 2, 2009
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    Sounds like the fdeck is being mentioned a lot. Will definitely check it out.

    The Soundclip did attract my interest due to the easy of mounting and moving it. However, if most people are saying that a wing pickup isn't going to sound that great for arco work, maybe it's not the pickup for my needs?
  9. Matt Ides

    Matt Ides

    Joined:
    May 12, 2004
    Location:
    Minneapolis, MN
    The cheapest and best sounding pick up for arco tends to be the realist, IMO. Try and grab one slightly used or on sale. They can be plug and play but do benefit from a pre-amp buffer. They are darker than other pups but sound pretty good all around unless you need to crank the volume. Not everyone is thrilled with them but half of my playing out is arco so I appreciate it for that.
  10. Inga51

    Inga51

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2009
    Location:
    Perth
    Thanks Matt. I had been leaning toward the Realist, being an under foot mount. I might get the wood one to reduce the risk of marking the surface of the bass.
  11. GrowlerBox

    GrowlerBox

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2010
    Location:
    Nude Zealand
    It's not quite the same as a wing pickup -- the tone varies markedly with positioning on the bridge, the different weight attachments, and/or insertion of a rubber shim, to list a few variables, and not counting different basses, techniques, amplifiers/speakers, etc.

    I wouldn't recommend this or any other pickup unauditioned if that's possible. Another advantage of this pickup is that it cab be trialled without any modification and returned to the retailer if it doesn't suit. The Gollihurs will do this with prior arrangement, I believe, probably for overseas customers, too (I've found them excellent to deal with).

    Anyhow, just a thought. :)
  12. Inga51

    Inga51

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2009
    Location:
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    Great info! Yes, I'm based in Australia, so auditioning pickups is nearly impossible. There are no retailers in Perth that stock any pickups for DB from what I've found.

    I had pretty much settled on purchasing the gear through Gollihurs and have done a lot of reading of the info on Bob's site.
  13. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC Supporting Member

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    Location:
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    Given your constraints, I agree that you should stay away from bridge-foot mounted pickups, including the Shadow.

    As for the Ehrlund, it does tend to be true to the bass. I wouldn't say that it does better with "massive" tops. I'd say it does better with carved tops as opposed to ply, simply because former sound better to begin with. If you're up for the expense, the Ehrlund may be a very good option, especially because it does so well with arco. The issue, for you, is not on what types of bass the Ehrlund is at its best. Rather, it's whether it will do better than other pickups on the ply bass you're playing. I'm not aware of any reports, specific or general, suggesting that a bridge-wing piezo pickup sounds better than the Ehrlund on a particular ply bass. In fact, I suspect that the opposite is true.

    If you're going with a bridge-wing pickup, it would be worth checking out the Rev Solo 2. It's definitely one of the top contenders in that class. No, it won't handle arco as well as the Ehrlund but no bridge-wing piezo seems to do that.

    As for impedance, the 500 kohms you mentioned, represents the input impedance of your Markbass. It's not that it "handles" 500 kohms. Rather, that's the load it presents to whatever is plugged into it. Piezo pickups generally like to "look into" higher impedances (e.g., 1 Mohm, 10 Mohm). Such impedances load the piezo in a way that optimizes its frequency response (in most cases).

    If you're going with a piezo pickup, then, as mentioned, the fdeck pre/HPF is a very wise choice. In fact, some of the best advice you'd ever get when it comes to all of this is to simply buy the fdeck as a matter of course. It's an absolute gem of a device and, perhaps, the biggest bang for the buck you'll see in the amplification realm.
  14. Inga51

    Inga51

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2009
    Location:
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    Very interesting advice, and I can't fault the logic. I must admit the Ehrlund had been one of the main options I was interested in based on my research. I hope to move up to a carved top bass when I purchase my own, so even if the pickup just does "okay" on the loaned ply bass, I'll be happy. As you said, the question of whether any other pickup would do better is spot on.

    Thanks for the explanation of how impendance works. I must admit I didn't really understand the topic aside from the numbers that people quote. You've explained it nicely.

    If I do go down the route of the Ehrlund, is it looking for a certain impedance? I take it the fdeck would still be a worthwhile investment regardless?
  15. Inga51

    Inga51

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    I've just done some reading, and the fdeck is not shipped to Australia. So if I was to go down that route, I would need to arrange on-shipping from someone in the US (not a problem, just a bit of a hassle). On the other hand, Gollihur Music offer the Ehrlund with it's own preamp for less than the cost of the Ehrlund plus the fdeck. Bob says on his site that the proprietary preamp is very basic and sounds better than any other preamp that they have tried with the pickup/mic. Maybe that bundle is the way to go...
  16. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC Supporting Member

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    Indeed. If you're going the Ehrlund route, it's best to use it with the pre-amp designed for it. It loads it properly and you'd be all set.
  17. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

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    Inga 51
    You'll definitely want to purchase the Ehrlund Pre Amp if you decide to get the Ehrlund EAP. The advantage of buying the Ehrlund Preamp is that it will work with a wide variety of other pickups. I've personally used it with the Revolution Solo, Realist, and Underwood and it actually improves the sound of those piezo element pickups.

    Ric
  18. Inga51

    Inga51

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    Perth
    Good stuff. Great to know!
  19. DoubleMIDI

    DoubleMIDI

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    The FDeck HPFpre is always a good investment, even if you only use the high pass filter to dial out (very) low frequencies. You can get a louder signal (more energy in frequency ranges that could be heard better) out of the same amp using it and you will get a clearer sound.

    I don't understand why drurb thinks the bridge foot pickups are not good for your kind of application. (But drurb and I often have different opinions, which is not bad, but two ends of a spectrum, I think.) The only thing is they are rather dark sounding and you cannot get the highs back if they are (almost) missing (without a lot of noise if possible at all). But if you cannot hear yourself, it is always a good idea to raise (or angle) your amp.

    The Ehrlund is a good pickup, but due to some reports here, it does not work for some basses. And if I remember correctly these often have been plywood instruments. I have to correct myself, I didn't meant massive (as thick) but carved tops that generally seem to work better with the Ehrlund. And so I thought the Ehrlund is not a good starting point for your playwood bass. Also you have to search for the best position as the sound quality differs a lot depending on the position on the top. I would say, if you will get an instrument with a carved top someday, you might reconsider the Ehrlund. But be prepared to check the best sound at home for some hours before you want to use it on stage.

    The SoundClip has a similar problem with position and it is too heavy to leave it on the instrument. If it falls down for some reason it will damage your instrument. So, as a beginner, you might never get the same sound with it. Like the Ehrlund, it might be a bit expensive.

    I played with a Shadow SH-965NFX and a Polytone Minibrute II in a church with a spiritual choir, piano and drums and hardly needed the amp at all (only for monitoring until the technically unexperienced choir leader told me to shut if off completely). OK, I have a carved instrument which is louder than a plywood one, but you do not need much amplification with a good right hand DB pizz technique even with a plywood bass.

    The problem with bridge wing pickups is that they want a certain pressure to sound "good" (more or less). Since the bridge wing distance to the bridge foot is different on every bridge (and also the thickness of different bridge wing pickup elements is different) you might need either to fill the gap (even the kind of gap filling material may change the sound) or remove some wood from the bridge to fit the pickup elements in the bridge wing pickup.
    I don't want to say anything about which bridge wing pickup is "best". They are all different and even one you don't like might sound better with a bit less of pressure (should not fall out by itself of course).

    The bridge feet pickups are not very complicated to install and keep their sound (until they might die after about 5 years due to high pressure). They also won't get stolen as easily as a bridge wing pickup. So, from a practical side they are good for a beginner. If they are not too dark sounding, then you better try a little darker bridge wing pickup like the Underwood. (The Shadow SH-950/951 bridge wing pickup is brighter than the Underwood.)
    It is possible that bridge feet pickups sound not as good on plywood than on carved instruments, since there is less low frequency sound from the top (but might be helpful to get a little brighter sound from a plywood instrument).

    Be prepared to buy a better (working) pickup for your own bass later. It might probably be more expensive than your first one, but you can still use your old one as a backup if the better one fails.

    If you think you know which pickup you want, search the forum again for reports about this pickup. Also for your second or third choice. It might help you more than our discussion here to make the right decision for you. If you have problems getting the pickup you want "down under", ask here again, we might be able to give you a good source for the pickup of your choice.
  20. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC Supporting Member

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    A great device to have for sure but not needed at all with the Ehrlund to tame infrasonics. Yes, you could use the HPF to attenuate energy at higher frequencies (e.g., 100 Hz or so) as some like to do.

    That's an easy one. The OP is borrowing the bass. Not a good idea to put a device under the bridge foot and risk any marring of the top. I sure wouldn't want someone to do that with a bass borrowed from me.

    I tried to find reports of it "not working" on ply basses but couldn't. Maybe I missed them. I do seem to recall one player mentioning that he wasn't happy with the Ehrlund on a ply bass. Still, such anecdotes wouldn't lead me to be confident about that being true, in general.

    As I mentioned, I'd bet that the Ehrlund does a better job on a ply bass than a piezo bridge-wing pickup, particularly for arco which is part of the OP's play. That's especially true if you're willing to find the sweet spot. The OP mentioned that he wants a carved bass to be in his future. This really all turns on whether one believes that the Ehrlund is particularly poor on ply basses and I just don't know of any convincing evidence that that's the case. Some of this point of view is based on my own hands-on experience with the Ehrlund. Granted, I don't use it on a ply bass.

    Agreed, and this makes the Rev Solo a fine choice for a bridge-wing pickup because the fit is tweaked by sanding down the pickup and not the bridge wing. It takes extra effort but it's worth it.

    Again, it's a borrowed bass. The bridge-foot pickups might be a fine choice but there's the risk that I mentioned above. I hardly think the likelihood of someone stealing the pickup off the bass should influence the decision.

    It's always good to have a backup. Still, in this case, all things considered, especially the desire to amplify arco (at which piezos can be very poor), I think the Ehrlund would be a fine way to go. It offers a very high likelihood of yielding fine sound, it's easily removable, will not harm the borrowed bass, can be used later on a better bass, and comes with a seven-day money-back trial period from Gollihur. If it doesn't work out, then you send it back. Inga51, I don't think it's at all likely that you'd be sending it back. That's my opinion. :)
  21. DoubleMIDI

    DoubleMIDI

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    Feb 28, 2010
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    drurb, you may have missed what I wrote about bridge foot pickups and marking.

    The (copper) Realist marks the top, so I advised NOT to use this one, but the Realist Wood does not mark the top, as far as I know.
    I'm absolutely sure that the Shadow NFX does NOT MARK the top, because I use it for several years now and never seen any mark on my top when I changed my bridge. It is probably a bit more complicated to mount because it slips without tension. No problem if you have two more hands.

    If a darker sound is acceptable, the Shadow NFX is my first choice for a beginner because it is cheap (at least in Germany), has an impedance buffer built-in and if a single pickup foil under on bridge foot (E in most cases) works, you have a spare foil, in case the mounted one is damaged, which makes it even cheaper. Also it stays in place and you don't have to find the sweet spot (only three choices: G foot, E foot or both).

    Inga51 can order the Shadow NFX from Germany (about 160 Euro, I think) and Thomann can send it to Australia. (50 Euro for shipping is a bit expensive, but I would help forwarding it to Australia for about 20 Euro without insurance if wanted. But even DHL wants 42 Euro for an insured packet to Australia.)

    For the 7 day money back guarantee, the delivery time to (and from) Australia may eat that up, better check that before ordering. And maybe it would be better to order it directly from Göran Ehrlund in Sweden to avoid double VAT (but VAT and postage is really high in Sweden). Maybe Göran might give a bit more money back time to Australia because of the long delivery?

    I still think an Ehrlund might be good after some more experience with an amplified double bass, but would think something more simple to install and also a bit cheaper is a better first solution for a beginner.

    For price reasons and potential problems (feedback, phantom power/mic preamp) I didn't recommend any kind of microphones. Specially not for a beginner.

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