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Chuck Israels Signature Mic (The ‘Chuck) by Xlson Audio (Sweden) Gear Junkie Review

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by rickwolff, Apr 18, 2018.

  1. rickwolff

    rickwolff ..Gear & Tone Junkie.. .3M Dual Lock Endorser Supporting Member

    I have spent almost a month with the Chuck Israels Mic, and even though I didn’t want to let it go I am anxious to hear Ric Vices impressions as well so it’s off to Missouri (the ‘Show Me’ state).

    I have used the mic in my home studio as well as on a number of gigs. I think I have finally gotten an answer to the question I have been asking myself for quite a while now:


    Using this mic, the answer for me is YES, sort of. Here’s what I mean by that:

    SOUND QUALITY. The sound quality of this mic is wonderful. After all the discussions I have been a part of regarding MBOL (My Bass Only Louder), this is the closest I have come. In fact, I would have to say it is more than ‘close’. I truly doubt that I could tell the difference if I compared this mic in a studio to one of the usual boutique ‘studio mics’. Granted, I haven’t tried that, but perhaps Ric Vice can speak to that shortly. Specifically, this mic provides nice clear high notes with ‘air’ as well as full, rich low notes that sound like rich Belgian Chocolate.

    Also, regarding sound quality, I have heard the new (as yet unreleased) Chuck Israels album recorded with his mic and WITHOUT SOUND BAFFLING, and it sounds GREAT.

    ATTACK-DECAY, OR NOTE ‘ENVELOPE’: Along with the sound quality, this may be the most important feature of the mic (and perhaps true for most, if not all other good ‘air mics’ as well).

    I noticed immediately once I plugged the mic in and started playing that my bass ‘JUST FELT DIFFERENT’. At various times, using different pickups, I have felt fairly good about the sound I was getting but there was something about playing through a pickup that never FELT the same as just playing unamplified. (Perhaps some of the ‘no-amp’ crowd would like to weigh-in on this). Playing through the ‘Chuck’ I felt that my playing had kind of a ‘bounce’. Like there was spring in my step. Whatever it was it put a smile on my face that wouldn’t go away. It was as if my sound AND the feeling were telling me ‘THIS is why I play the bass’.

    PIZZICATO AND ARCO: Some other transducers I have used were pretty effective pizzicato, but tended to fall-down sound-wise when I pulled out the bow. The ‘Chuck’ is different in that regard. I found, that to my ears’, it sounded every bit as good with the bow as pizz. And that is even when I am coming straight out of the DI without mixing in any ‘air’ the speaker provides.

    BLEED: I have discussed this in the other thread regarding this mic, but to recap: NO AIR MIC CAN TOTALLY ELIMINATE BLEED. To make a mic usable on stage you have to get significantly more Bass Signal than ‘bleed’ of extraneous sounds (such as the other instruments with you on stage). I can tell you that this mic produces a LOT more bass signal than bleed. With several other air mics I have used in the past, I could only get a reasonably isolated bass track if I was well separated or shielded from the rest of the band. With the ‘Chuck’ I have sat right next to the drums and piano and gotten a very good bass track on my recorder. (See the ‘Pennies From Heaven clip below).

    FEEDBACK: This may arguably be the most challenging aspect of using a microphone in a live setting. The treble control on my Genzler amp is a shelving control with a corner frequency of 7.5 kHz. I turn this knob completely off. The ONLY time I have experienced feedback on a gig was once when I turned around and attempted to adjust my sweepable mid-range during a tune. I grabbed the treble control by accident and when I spun it clockwise I immediately go a loud screeching feedback, which stopped as soon as I turned the knob back to zero.

    EASE OF USE, MOUNTING: The mic was sent to me with an H-Clamp by Explore Audio. This ingenious mic-mount provides a very stable mounting while allowing for all the placement flexibility you would want. I found (on both my carved basses) that I really liked the sound I got with the mic just below the G bridge foot - nearly above the soundpost. The placement didn’t strike me as ‘finicky’, I had it on and off my basses each time I played a gig and I always got the same predictable great sound. Peter is also sending me an On-Stage mic mount which attaches to the tailpiece. I am really looking forward to trying that, I like that it may be a bit less visibly obtrusive than the H-Clamp. I’ll let you know how it works when I get it.


    1. THIS IS NOT YOUR ‘TWO-BUCK CHUCK’. If you’re familiar with Trader Joes and their cheap ‘house wine’ of this name you’ll know what I’m referring to. This mic is a rather expensive piece of kit, hand built and imported from Sweden. There are certainly much cheaper ways to amplify your bass (as well as some a good deal more expensive). Whether it is ‘worth it’ to you is something only you can answer. At about the same price as a Grace Felix it’s not for the ‘faint of heart’ or ‘thin of wallet’.

    As with most things, there is a wide continuum from extremely inexpensive to ‘absurdly expensive’. There are very good products that don’t cost much (I would count my KNA piezo pickup as one, for example - but I won’t be using that nearly as much now except for occasional blending with the ‘Chuck’). A big part of this depends on why you play bass, for whose benefit, and what do you have to do to get ‘The Sound’ that you hear in your head.

    To give you my answers to those questions: I play the bass because I love the sound of it, and how it blends with and supports other acoustic instruments and the human voice. I joke with my wife that perhaps I have finally become ‘an artist’ because I make music primarily for myself. If I’m enjoying it that’s good enough. If the audience is enjoying it too, that’s a plus. If they’re NOT, I’m much more likely to change my venue than to change my playing.

    I am now able to get the sound I want to hear with the gear I now have: Either of my two ‘decent’ carved basses, a good microphone (the ‘Chuck’) and two ‘semi-boutique’ amplifiers that cover the type of gigs I choose to play. I primarily use my Genzler Acoustic Array - Gollihur Series, which provides the phantom power I need with this mic, as well as very usable and easy to use tone controls that give me everything I need without employing a separate pre-amp (as always, YMMV).

    2. DOES THIS MIC DO EVERYTHING WELL? No, but show me anything that does. Whether it’s motorcycles of sailboats, there are ‘cruisers’ and there are ‘racers’. Take one and use it for the wrong purpose and you won’t be happy. A Cruiser’ won’t win you any races and cruising in a ‘racer’ is almost guaranteed to be miserably uncomfortable.

    This mic, in my opinion, wants to live where you want to sound as acoustic and unamplified as possible, but you want to do so at a volume level that is significantly higher than anything acoustic. I read that Rick Jones of Acoustic Image when asked how to make his (excellent) amplifiers sound the best possible, he answered ‘Turn it off’. I don’t know if that is a true story, but it illustrates nicely what it is that many of us are attempting to capture with all our gear’.

    Where I think you would be looking for a different solution would be Really LOUD performances, Rockabilly etc. Might be better served with a piezo or even a magnetic pickup. It just doesn’t happen that I choose to play those types of gigs. That said, with good Front-Of-House, I think you could get ridiculously loud using this mic. It’s just that when you get Really Loud the question becomes “Is MBOL even what I want to achieve in this environment”.

    Also, a major goal of mine is to improve my arco chops. If I am successful in doing that the Chuck Israels Signature Microphone from Xlson Audio is something I can really grow into.

    I’d be tempted to say the Gear Junkie can retire now, but I expect some wiseacre on TalkBass would forward that to my wife.

    All the best,

    Rick Wolff
    The 'Gear Junkie'

    Last edited: May 4, 2018
    Earl, Povl Carstensen, statsc and 3 others like this.
  2. rickwolff

    rickwolff ..Gear & Tone Junkie.. .3M Dual Lock Endorser Supporting Member

    Please note my correction above (thanks to Sergio for pointing it out). The Genzler Acoustic Array provides 12 VOLT PHANTOM POWER - NOT 48.

    The Xlson mic DID work (apparently fine) with the 12 volts, but I expect Peter Axelson may be surprised at that as he thought anything less than 48 volts might cause clipping.

    I checked with Jeff Genzler on this and here is what he had to say:

    "Yes, we use the 12 volt requirement for Phantom Power for condenser mics........

    Most condenser mics run on this voltage just fine and there are other circuitry issues if we would use the 48 volt requirement. Certainly there are very high end mics that might require the higher voltage but I think you’ve found that the mics you’ve used with this amp have worked just fine.

    In our history of designing acoustic amps, we’ve always used the 12 volt threshold and it has been widely accepted."
  3. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    Every manufacturer seems to have their own "opinions" on this, so you have to read between the lines, to figure it out. If you take a look at the graph below for the DPA 4099 Dvote, you can easily see the difference in sound pressure levels and signal to noise ratio, between 12 and 48 volts. When the DPA 4099B was first introduced, John Littler demonstrated that although it was opimally designed for 48 volts, it would work respectively at the 18 volts the EDB-2 provided. Since the Xlson and DPA 4099B are very different designs, only Peter would know how well it would work at the 12 volts, provided by the Genz Benz. The standard is 48 volts, but as I recall even Acoustic Image Phantom power is lower than 48.

    Enough said, now I'll get back to figuring out a way to mount the Xlson on my bass, it doesn't like the H-Clamp,and the the Gollihur Bass on Stage is problematic with my Pecanic tailpiece, so I may have to resort to using a standard boom in the studio.


    Last edited: Apr 20, 2018
  4. It is not the noise I would care about (unless recording), but the lower sound pressure level limit (perhaps not for a double bass but maybe for other sources picked up with the bass) and the much lower signal level.
  5. Mark Gollihur

    Mark Gollihur Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jul 19, 2000
    Mullica Hill, NJ
    Owner/President, Gollihur Music LLC
    Agreed. For a stringed instrument, I really don't think overloading the mic, even at the lower voltage ratings, is going to be a problem.

    For instance; look at the DPA chart above - the difference between the 12v and 48v specs on a DPA; max SPL is 142db with 48v, and reduces to 122db with 12v.

    FWIW, sitting front row at a rock concert is 120db; and an average gunshot is around 130db. 140db is a commonly accepted "threshold of pain" for sound.

    Even if you've got a 4/4 bass with Spiro Starks and play like a Sasquatch on speed - methinks you're not going to even get close to those limits with an acoustic bass.
  6. So shooting the bass player might result in amplification distortion using 12 volts only.

    Impulses can have high amplitude peaks and they should not get distortion. Heavy slapping and extended playing techniques might have larger peaks than one might expect. Probably lower than 120 dB, but I won't bet my life on that.
  7. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    So, generally speaking can we say
    that reducing the voltage to the mic
    is more of an issue in a studio recording environment than it is in live performance? How does it effect running FOH to the mains? It would be nice if we had a spec sheet for the Xlson.


    P.S. Acoustic Image and Euphonic Audio and Grace Design all provide 48v phantom power. So it may not be a big issue in the bass community.
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2018
  8. rickwolff

    rickwolff ..Gear & Tone Junkie.. .3M Dual Lock Endorser Supporting Member

    I made another correction in my review above.

    I had incorrectly stated that the mic produces little above 6 kHz. That is incorrect - I had misunderstood what Peter was trying to tell me which is this: there is not much above 6 kHz with a Double Bass that is necessary information, therefore he advised I cut the high-frequency EQ control on my amp.

    This probably goes a long way toward explaining the resistance to feedback. As I mentioned in my initial review above: The ONLY time I have experienced feedback on a gig was once when I turned around and attempted to adjust my sweepable mid-range during a tune. I grabbed the treble control by accident and when I spun it clockwise I immediately go a loud screeching feedback, which stopped as soon as I turned the knob back to zero.

    Thank you for the clarification, Peter. I'm glad you've got my back. When I say something stupid (or just incorrect) about the mic I can expect to hear a correction or clarification from Peter. As I am not any kind of technical expert I'm welcome his oversight.
  9. Happy Steve

    Happy Steve Supporting Member

    Dec 17, 2007
    Mel-burn, Ore-stralia
    Being side-address, maybe the Chuck can be mounted like I had my e906 on Friday - see pics. This setup worked well but I had to make sure my right thumb did not hit the mic.

  10. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    Thanks for the pictures Steve. I think I already tried that spot, but I’ll give it a second go round. The outer edges on my bass are curved outward all the
    way to seams. It makes using the H-Clamp tricky at best.
  11. rickwolff

    rickwolff ..Gear & Tone Junkie.. .3M Dual Lock Endorser Supporting Member

    Ric Vice just shared with me a little audio clip he made with the Chuck Israel's Signature Mic. WOW! Great playing and fabulous recorded sound.

    Thanks, Ric. Good to know I wasn't just imagining how well this mic captures the natural sound of the double bass.
  12. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    Greetings All

    Here are some pictures and one sound sample of the Xlson "Chuck Israels" microphone. I recorded the sample "in the room" using a Blue "Spark" Digital and the RODe record app.

    My brand spanking new powered MAS 1/8 with the Grace Felix preamp sitting atop the cabinet.

    Grace Felix.jpg

    Xlson .jpg The Xlson is just around 3 and 3/4 " long and weighs next to nothing
    Mirecourt.jpg And one other thing my Mirecourt bass.

    Excuse all the "flubs" in the execution of the sample, and it's got a bit to much bloom on the bottom, but here's what the mic sounds like.

    Attached Files:

    Kristian likes this.
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