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Acoustic Image/Realist?

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by SamRReye, Mar 2, 2014.

  1. SamRReye


    Sep 30, 2009
    Has anyone tried a pickup that they found worked particularly well with the acoustic image contra?

    Despite it's monicker, I'm having a hard time getting a good acoustic sound out of my acoustic image contra amp.
    I've had it for years and for a while I just pretty much stopped using it and have been playing mostly acoustic.
    But now I have a weekly gig that's (too) loud and I've had to dust off the AI. It almost sounds like a direct out to me.
    I'm using a realist pickup which sounds OK if the house has a back line with a big rig (4 8"s or something like that).
    I'm open to indicting either one (the amp or the pickup). I'm sure you all know how frustrating it is to have so many options coupled with the inconvenience (and cost) of trying even a couple different things.
    I have an old Czech flat back with a really nice punch and a dark tone. I'd very much like to preserve some of that through an amp. Thanks a lot!
  2. SamRReye


    Sep 30, 2009
    I'm open to pick ups or mics. Anything you've had luck with.
  3. statsc


    Apr 23, 2010
    Burlington, VT
    My AI Coda and Ten2 amps have always preferred the Fishman Full Circle pick-up. My bass is a very old German flat back with much the same tonal characteristics as yours.
  4. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    Matching your bass, pickup, and amplifier is something that's sometimes counterintuitive to what you'd think. If you combine a darker timbre instrument, dark sounding pickup, like the Realist, and the older AI Contra, that doesn't provide separate EQ controls for upper and lower midrange, you will effectively get a very muddy indistinct sound, because the effect of that signal chain is cumulative. There is now a Realist Lifeline that doesn't require bridge modification like the Full Circle does, and sounds better with a bow.

    The Realist is one of the few pickups that works well with a bow, but the trade off is, that it's pizzicato character is darker than it needs to be, on a darker sounding instrument, like yours.
    The older AI Contra is in effect, a neutral amp, but to my ears it has a very indistinct sound in rooms where the low frequencies are hard to control, which is often the case. Many times the amp sounds better to you onstage, than it does out in the audience.

    Well put, but to come up with a solution you'll need to change something out. A different pickup, will probably be the least expensive thing to try.

    I'd try and find a friend with a Fishman Full Circle or Realist Lifeline on their instrument and try the amp out with that setup. It's a way to start the ball rolling.

  5. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    Or an Underwood!
  6. Mike Arnopol

    Mike Arnopol Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 4, 2005
    Owner of MAS Soundworks
    back in the 70's and early 80's I was using an Underwood like every one else. I never felt that I was getting enough "thump". You know--that very legato amplified sound. I had switched to the Fishman BP100---a lot of guys hated it but the problem with that pickup was that it was near impossible to get it properly mounted.

    I heard Eric at a gig and I knew he was using an Underwood. But he was getting a really strong attack. Kindof like the Barcus Berry but with a good sound and decent sustain. The only thing the Barcus did well was initial attack.

    Anyway, I looked at his bass and noticed that the G string side of the pickup was just hanging there. He just had the E string side in place! And it sounded great. I took an Underwood and cut off the E string side, grafted some extra cable and put a jack on it. Sounded great!

    But by then I was using a Wilson. And then Barbera. I loved the Barbera but it just kept breaking. Then I switched to the FC.
    If I could find a pickup that had the initial attack of the Realist and the tone/sustain of the FC---I'd be thrilled!
  7. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    Re: using the Underwood "E" element only - Yes, I did the same thing - on my bass, it improved the overall sound quality - a bit darker and more front-end "thump".
    It is still my fallback PU for those times when I'm in experimenting/effin' around with my set-up.
    I wonder if Don Underwood has considered selling a 1 Element version?

    This was recorded with the Underwood "E" element only-

    (Yes, we were going for a more "direct/CTI" sound on the project...)
    Thanks for your time and interest.
  8. SamRReye


    Sep 30, 2009
    So is the general consensus, as Mike said, that the realist has a better attack but this fishman a better overall tone and sustain?
    I found someone who's going to let me try out a FC this week.

    This is all great information. Do any of you, besides the first one or two guys that posted, have specific experience with these pickups on the AI contra amp?
  9. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member


    No, sorry for going OT. I've never used the Full Circle or the AI contra.
    I have tried the Realist ( the original "copper" foil version, that installed under the E string foot - I found it "unusable" on my bass).
    I see that you are going to "try out a(n) FC this week" - are you familiar with the installation details of the FC? I've read that the installation is critical to the performance of the FC. FYI.
    Thanks and sorry for the "derail".
  10. SamRReye


    Sep 30, 2009
    Don, no worries-
    The guy letting me try it is a pro repair guy and deals the FC. He swears by it so I'll assume he knows what he's doing.
    Yes! The realist that goes under the foot is the one I've been using with the AI contra. Terrible sound.
  11. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member


    Good Luck - It'll be interesting to hear your comparison of the FC and Realist.
  12. jmlee

    jmlee Catgut? Not funny. Supporting Member

    Jun 16, 2005
    Halifax, Nova Scotia
    I've been using a Fishman Full Circle with an older AI Contra for years. My bass is a plywood Cleveland New Standard by Arnold Schnitzer. Contrary to what was said above, my impression is that the Contra sounds better in the audience (in a small room) than on stage. People often remark to me how great the bass sounds put in the room, when I'm not nuts about what I'm hearing on stage. That said, I often use it as a stage monitor with sound support even in quite big rooms like the one below. Now, all that said, here's what else I've learned. For any medium-sized room up, it really needs the matching extension. With the two, I've worked with a 4-horn jump blues band in a pretty good-sized bar, just live off stage. Also, I really hate the honk of just about any piezo, especially on an open A (I just hate the FC less). What is really working for me now, especially in a high volume situation is blending the FC with one of Clark Biesele's great magnetic pickups through an old Raven Labs preamp and into the effects return on the Coda. The Biesele adds a focus to the notes that I admire and the feedback resistance of the combination is outstanding.

  13. lrhbass

    lrhbass Supporting Member

    Apr 20, 2009
    Doing a mix myself. FC with the EAP-Flex pre. Seems to be working for now.
  14. SamRReye


    Sep 30, 2009
    Yea but people in the audience may not be aware of what a really great bass sound is. Schnitter set up my bass as well. He's great.
  15. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    While I was at the ISB convention last June, I watched jazz concerts, by bassists Jay Leonhardt, Bruce Gertz, Wayne Darling, Larry Gray and others. Acoustic Image was the amp provider for all the concerts. These concerts were held in Hatch Recital Hall at the Eastman School of Music. With the exception of Larry, the bassist/performers all used the AI Ten2. With each player I found that the sound coming off the stage was nice, but not as focused as you'd expect it to be, in that beautiful auditorium. Now that AI has separate Low and High midrange controls, I think that you would be able to get a better "edge" on the DB sound.
    I would have loved to hear the newer amps in that setting.


    Attached Files:

  16. Greg Clinkingbeard

    Greg Clinkingbeard

    Apr 4, 2005
    Kansas City area
    Setup and repair/KRUTZ Strings

    Really nice!

    I experimented with an Underwood over a year ago but after fitting a new bridge, I never got around to widening the wing for it. So today I took the wire cutters to my Underwood, cutting just above the E element and fit it to the bridge. With a tight fit, I found the tone to be bright and nasal so I removed more wood and it's just tight enough to stay in place. The tone is beautiful. Really nice low end and clarity all over the bass without much piezo artifact. I suspect it will sound good on a gig.
    Last night I played a loud one with Realist, AI Clarus and two Acme B-1s. Even with the EQ set for utmost clarity it wasn't happening. I suspect the Underwood will work well.
  17. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member


    Yes, the Service Memo on the Underwood website ( dated 10/20/2006), advises "finger tight" ( i.e., not too tight ) for the fitting of the element(s). I think we all installed it too tight, the first time around.
    It's counter-intuitive thinking that using only 1 element, (instead of 2), would capture and reproduce a more accurate sound. I was not expecting it to improve the sound, but it clearly did, on my bass.
    I met Don Underwood in the early 90's while playing in the Carmel, CA, area. He came up after the performance and began chatting about his experiences amplifying the bass. It took me a second to put 2&2 together and realize that this was the "Underwood", who had revolutionized the amplification of the bass. We had a nice conversation, in which I learned that he was not a bassist, but a saxophonist who was disappointed in the bass sound on gigs he was playing!
    I still marvel at how simple and elegant his design was/is.
    Good luck and let us know how your setup performs.
  18. til mannix

    til mannix

    Mar 5, 2013
    I'm using flatback German/Czech(?) carved bass from around 1940 with medium Spirocores. On some stages putting the AI Contra on the floor not only makes the bass sound bottom heavy but also muddies the upper range and promotes feedback. One way I found to improve the sound greatly is to put the amp on a chair (preferably hardwood but padded also works) which allows for a much flatter sound but it still has great growl. As already noted AI amps are not very loud by themselves but they do sound good and are adequate for most gigs I do.
  19. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    I always use the high pass filter on my AI Coda to tune the low end to the room (also reduces feedback at high levels). Works like a charm.

    I used to use a copper Realist, now using a Full Circle which sounds more open to me. Both pickups work fine with my Coda.
  20. jmlee

    jmlee Catgut? Not funny. Supporting Member

    Jun 16, 2005
    Halifax, Nova Scotia
    +1 on the high pass. I also always use the tilt back on both the main and extension cab. Throwing straight down into the floor doesn't seem near as effective.