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A visit to the Azolas... Objective URB vs. EUB info!

Discussion in 'Electric Upright Basses (EUB's) [DB]' started by junglebike, Jul 31, 2004.

  1. junglebike


    Feb 14, 2003
    San Diego, CA
    Okay... just got back from a very informative trip out to visit Steve and Jill Azola. I promised a follow-up to this thread where I asked the following question:

    If you've in a situation where you've gotta use an amp (and a piezo) to be heard, what will perform better:

    (1) an URB
    (2) a solid-body EUB
    (3) a more URB-like EUB (i.e. semi-hollow, floating top, etc)

    Luckily, I live in San Diego, 50 minutes from the Azolas. Here's what I found about each of these three options:

    (1) The Azolas (who are fabulously nice people, by the way) encouraged me to bring my bass and rig up for comparison purposes. I have a ~50yr old carved German 3/4 with a Fishman Full Circle, and a Euphonic Audio Iamp-800 combo.

    Amazingly, Steve spent 30-40 minutes working with me on the amplified tone of my upright. He ended up *giving* me a leather/velcro strap that wraps around the strings to eliminate irritating string overtone noise, and a foam block that keeps the tailpiece from vibrating at high volumes. These simple modifications elminated some of the problems I consistently experience live. While it "damps" out some of the natural acoustics of the body, it makes the bass more controllable at higher volumes. Fortunately, it takes about 5 seconds to undo these mods when you're playing "pure". Very cool stuff.

    (2) I switched from my URB to a solid-body EUB -- the "lightning bug". The small (really really small!) body takes some getting used to. Workmanship is fantastic. Tone is very good, but I'd say noticably different from my acoustic. Not better or worse, but it's got different characteristics, most notably attack and sustain. The low end was much more manageable, however, and the string-to-string balance was more consistant than on my URB. Also, the lightning bug has an on-board 3-band EQ, which is *very* useful, and can dramatically change your tone on the fly. Very practical, very useable, and very close (but not quite) to an URB.

    (3) Next came the high-end: the Azola Eurocoustic baby bass. This is a fully carved cello-sized instrument. Beautiful! Stunning! Gorgeous! Feels comfortably familiar right off the bat, looks like a "real" bass violin. Plugged it in, and wow -- this thing is the real deal. Easily as good or better than my upright into the same amp. I was struck that, while it took me months and hundreds of $$$ to come up with my current bass-string-pickup combination, here was something you could buy right off the shelf and know it'd sound great into an amp.

    I switched around numerous times, but these initial impressions stuck. I talked with Steve about them -- he noted that he didn't think it would be possible for him to make his solid-body EUB's sound much better than they already do -- there are just too many differences between a big hollow instrument and a sold plank of wood. What he was shooting for with the Eurocoustics was (in my words) enough URB-ness that a piezo would be fooled into thinking it was on an URB. Based on my experience, he's absolutely achieved that goal.


    1. The Azolas are just fantastic. They took several hours out of their Saturday to chat with me (and my wife). Steve worked as hard as he could to make my bass work well, doing his best to make me not have to buy anything from him. Wow -- that's confidence in one's product!

    2. Piezo pickups (in any form) just can't match an acoustic bass' natural sound. So if you're able to play without an amp, or with only partial "reinforcement" from one, more power to you.

    3. If your audience is hearing mostly the signal from your piezo, and you are playing a Eurocoustic baby bass, I VERY seriously doubt that anyone (including you) could tell the difference between it and a good URB, even with a stellar sound reinforcement system.

    4. If you are in a loud band, or playing places with less than stellar acoustics, and you're hearing mostly piezo signal, I VERY seriously doubt that anyone (including you) could tell the difference between a solid-body Azola and a good URB.

    5. Feedback/extraneous noise issues on a piezo-equipped URB in louder environments can be substantially reduced with a foam block between the body and tailpiece, and a string damper.

    6. All of these conclusions need to be weighed in conjunction with size/transportation/cost issues! The lightning bug comes with an 54x13x8" ATA flight case for $2k. The Eurocoustic baby is cello-sized, and $3.5k. Your URB is huge, and probably very expensive.

    Hope this is helpful. I feel like I have a much better grasp on the problems of URB amplification after talking with Steve for several hours. Please respond with comments or questions, via PM/e-mail if need be.

  2. azflyman


    Apr 24, 2004
    Astoria, OR
    WOW, killer info. Sounds like they are the type of people that deserve to be paid for the product they produce. I have never played an Azola bass, but I will :) Next time I am in Carlsbad I will have to take a look, I go at least once a year.

  3. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    Hey JuggleBike,

    Thanks for the review. I had my eye on the EuroCoustic for a while before I met my Chrissy and changed my mind. Anyways, did you by chance crank up the volume on the amp or do you have an idea how much volume is needed to cause it to feedback? Not that I plan on blowing anybody's eardrums out or anything, but would be interesting to know what it's capable of.

    Also, I'm curious about this foam block and dampener hoojiwhomper. Where does the block sit on the tail piece? Under the balls of the strings or say in the middle? Where the leather/velcro strap go? Do they both dampen the tailpiece to eliminate overtones in the area between the bridge and tailpiece?
  4. Andrew Jones

    Andrew Jones Banned

    Feb 28, 2001
    Northampton Mass
    Where do you put the leather/velcro on the strings?

  5. bill spangler

    bill spangler

    Mar 4, 2001
    Albany GA
    I know it's a pain, but some pictures of Mr Azola's mods to your bass would be very educational.
  6. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    HDiddy, I've played my Azola at paint-peeling volumes, indoors and at huge outdoor stadiums, with no feedback.
  7. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    Thanks Biggus Johnsonus, I figured as much, especially when one of my favorite Tito Puente recordings (Live at Birdland) has a bassist playing the floating top bugbass or Scarab. Great sounding bass.

    Maybe one day when I have $2k burning a hole in my pocket.
  8. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Between the bridge and tailpiece.
  9. junglebike


    Feb 14, 2003
    San Diego, CA
    I'll try and get a pic taken soon.

    As mentioned before, the velcro/leather strap is wrapped around the strings, between the bridge and tailpiece. This gets rid of high-freq ringing.

    The foam block is wedge shaped, and about 3" long, 1.5" wide. It sits midway from the bottom of the bass and the string balls, so it's only touching body wood on one side, and tailpiece wood on the other.
  10. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    Look at the Eurocoustic bass... it's got a wooden bridge almost like a regular brige, smaller sized body but still has a decently sized chamber w/ soundpost, same scale length, and is a laminate. The David Gage Czech-Ease is the same, but even more DB like and has a short tail-string-length-whatever-you-call it too. So why not slap a double bass max on a Czech-Ease and save yourself a couple hundred bucks?

    It would be really cool to compare a Czech-Ease vs. a Eurocoustic baby bass to see how different they are. But in the meantime, having a bugbass & a LaScala makes alot of sense to me like Biggus Johnsonus has done. Thoughts?
  11. My first preference is a microphone and a double bass. I also have a Schertler contact mike that works quite well with the right amp. I did get tired of lugging a double bass, amp, speakers and my electric bass to some of the big band gigs I would play. This lead me to buy an EUB.

    I have a Clevinger Bennett Bass. It is a "stick" bass with a hollow body. It has the Clevinger bridge pickup as well as a holisonic pickup inside the body. You can blend the two pickups to get your desired balance between string sound and wood sound (body sound). I have had many comments that it sounded very natural. I went this way because I wanted something I could through over my shoulder in a gig bag.

    I still prefer my double bass and a microphone, but in most like situations, that is not really a workable solution for me.
  12. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
  13. jgbass

    jgbass Guest

    Dec 17, 2003
    Thanks, Junglebike, for the good info. Something like this would be good to have as sometimes I play at high volumes in a jazz band. Hope you can get a pic up sometime. Had the chance to meet the Azolas several years ago at Bass Day in LA and try out their basses. Nice folks.
  14. chuck1073


    Oct 3, 2003
    Preston, CT
    It seems everytime I hear Steve and Jill Azolas names mentioned it's always followed by glowing praise. I'm the proud owner of an original "Bug" ... the care that goes into the construction of the bass and Jill's instant answers to emails have made a great bass that much better.

    It does sound lots different from my DB...but for high volume gigs with my swing/jazz/GB band...it really fills the bill. Especially when we're on longer trips and I'm traveling in the. van. As much as I love my DB...trying to fight the feedback on a big stage when the sound company is doing the "racks and stacks" thing makes the Azola the logical choice.
    Plus when doubling I can swing the slab around behind my back, step on the A/B switch grab the "Bug" and not miss a beat between songs! :)
  15. junglebike


    Feb 14, 2003
    San Diego, CA
    Here's a pic of the strap and foam block on my bass, as installed by Mr. Azola himself...

    Attached Files:

  16. bill spangler

    bill spangler

    Mar 4, 2001
    Albany GA
    Thanks for the pics.

    Base on what you learned from the Azolas, I got a strip of leather from a friend of mine who redoes auto interiors and kind off weaved it between the strings. I also sawed a piece of styrofoam into the shape of a wedge and then wedged it between the tailpiece and the top. My feedback problem was nearly elimianted!! Thanks again!