Contact Mic on Plywood Bass: AKG C411 or Ischell C3

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by drwv, Jul 10, 2022.

  1. AKG C411

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  2. Ischell C3

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  3. another contact mic

    16.7%
  4. something that isn't a contact mic

    66.7%
  5. buy a hybrid bass, you savage!

    16.7%
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. drwv

    drwv

    Nov 26, 2019
    WV
    I play a plywood Englehardt, with admittedly poor technique, and am not necessarily on a quest for MBOL, but simply "an upright bass" rather than sterile piezo amplified sound. I use a Realist Lifeline, which is excellent at preventing feedback, and have tried blending an Audio Technica ATM350 clip-on condenser, but the gain required to work with even an EQ'ed HPF'ed signal was a feedback and bleed nightmare. I'm interested in trying to use/blend a contact mic instead.

    I've read lots of praise in this forum for the Ischell line, including the new Ischell C3. With the current USD exchange rate and introductory pricing, it's ~$203 for the C3BHP, which seems like a steal. However, the Ischell website warns:

    The AKG C411 also seems to get praise, in many of the same threads, and including people using it on plywood basses. It's over 20 years old, and as far as I can tell, its price has risen, now going for ~$164. Price-wise, they're in the same ballpark.

    Is there a technical reason that the Ischell can't be used on a plywood bass, or is this simply a "garbage in, garbage out" warning?

    Would it be silly of me to pay roughly the same amount for a 20-year-old pickup (C411), which wasn't designed specifically for a bass? Should I prefer the shiny latest-generation tech of the Ischell C3, designed to be a premium bass pickup, despite the contraindication for plywood? Should I flip a coin knowing that either contact mic is likely going to give me similar results? Am I going down the wrong path entirely?

    (Additional detail: My Englehardt has a decent dark tone, and lots of resonant sustain; the sustain translates with the Realist, but - even with high-impedence and EQ'ed amp - the tone sounds... like a sterile pickup. I've got 12V phantom power on my 2-channel amp, which can blend the contact mic with my Realist Lifeline, if necessary. I'm not interested in the size or mounting hassle of using a dynamic mic; and the Ehrlund EAP is in a different price bracket. We don't play insanely loud, but I play in close proximity with two other feedback-prone acoustic instruments, so bleed is a particular concern. I play folk-style pizz only, no arco.)
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2022
  2. I’ve tried several contact mics, including the AKG and the original iSchell, but nothing worked well on my cheap ply bass.
    Using one element from an Underwood pickup is still the best.
    And I use the other element on my EUB.
     
    Ric Vice and drwv like this.
  3. bassically_eli

    bassically_eli Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2010
    Mebane, NC
    I have the AKG and a ply Engelhardt. I have been unable to find anywhere on the top of the bass that gets a an even response. Wherever I put it, there are always a couple of notes that boom like crazy (usually A to Bb) and a couple that are totally dead (usually the E). I can dial it out with a notch filter, and careful use of a limiter helps too, but it's so much trouble that I haven't found it worth taking to a gig. I much prefer the blending a pickup with a mic method, even if the mic gain is almost nothing.

    The AKG does work okay on the bridge, but ends up sounding like a bridge pickup.

    I have been experimenting recently with blending my Lifeline with a Vic's bridge wing pickup. The Vic's pickup has a lot more high end detail but also a lot more mid range honk and piezo quack. I don't think I will use this live because I'm afraid it will tempt me to spend the whole gig turning knobs instead of playing, but I guess I could still change my mind. I recently got a Headway EDB-2 H.E., and it's been fun (and, dare I say, educational) blending various mics and pickups. The dual 5-band EQs are very useful.
     
  4. JeffKissell

    JeffKissell Supporting Member

    Nov 21, 2004
    Soquel, CA
    I ended up circling back to a copper foil Realist with a decent preamp. I’ve used ribbon mics, condensers and contact mics also various pick ups. The Realist gets me 70% there and a Clarus SL or Grace ALiX gets me another 20-25%. If I’m in a situation to use a mic I definitely will but my personal rig is really simple… Laminated New Standard Cleveland, Realist, AI Clarus SL, Audio Kinesis Thunderchild 112.
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2022
  5. K. Powell

    K. Powell Supporting Member

    Nov 9, 2014
    I had an Ischell on my 7/8 Lemur ply Jupiter bass. I had found the sweet spot with it for a while, then had some work done it on the bass and removed the pickup. I couldn't find the sweet spot again and sold it later. Also the putty mounting stuff was a P.i.T.A to get right. I currently use a copper Realist and Tech21 para driver preamp which is warm and full sounding for my purposes. The Tech 21 is a good pre for the Realist in my opinion.
     
    drwv likes this.
  6. I've tried a Realist on my ply but it was the worst sounding pickup I've ever tried.
    Nothing but boom.
    But I didn't left it on and experimented further.
     
    K. Powell likes this.
  7. bassically_eli

    bassically_eli Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2010
    Mebane, NC
    The copper Realist on my Engelhardt was pretty bad by itself. No definition or highs at all. Really had to be blended with something else unless it was a very low volume situation. The Lifeline is about 1000 times better: more definition, great note envelope (every other pickup on my bass adds too much sustain), and still has that great Realist arco sound.
     
  8. TideSwing

    TideSwing Supporting Member

    Oct 31, 2014
    I recently got a C411 and added it to a KNA DB-1 on a 60s Kay with a Headway EDB-2 H.E. (thanks for the rec @bassically_eli ). The C411 is on top about 6” below the bridge. With some heavy EQ on the Headway, I am getting a pleasing tone out of my Quilter BB800 + Bassliner 2x10, which is my electric bass rig minus the other 2x10. Either pickup or contact mic alone did not sound as good as both blended together.

    I also tried them with my Roland Cube 20XL and while there was volume, I couldn’t get a good sound out of it. I’d probably just run the KNA straight in for simplicity. Alot of variables between your bass, pre and amp, tough call to determine how much adding one of those mics will give you the sound you’re looking for.
     
    drwv likes this.
  9. K. Powell

    K. Powell Supporting Member

    Nov 9, 2014
    I think string choice affects pickup performance quite a bit. I use red diamond G & D guts with Spiro mittel A & E. More thump and less definition is the sound I like and it reduces feedback issues due to the lack of sustain I get with these strings. Using something like helicore pizz strings would be a far different situation.
     
  10. TideSwing

    TideSwing Supporting Member

    Oct 31, 2014
    Agreed. I was trying to remember why I used to be okay with my bass straight into my Roland Cube mentioned above. Totally forgot I had guts on vs the Obligatos I have on now. So, yup a whole 'nother variable to consider.
     
    K. Powell likes this.
  11. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    While there are exceptions to any group of basses. Contact microphones, like the Ischell C3, AKG C411, and contact piezo's like the Realist Copper Foil and Ehrlund have difficulty sensing
    the top plate on a laminated bass. For the most part, you're better off with a Realist Life Line, Full Circle, or Yamahiko, KNA DB/1 and Vicks, depending on how much you nave to spend.
    IME blending a mic with a piezo on a laminate bass doesn't benefit the sound that much. Just my take however.
     
  12. bassically_eli

    bassically_eli Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2010
    Mebane, NC
    I agree with everything you said except the part about the mic. I love the sound of my bass through mic, whether that's blended or mic alone. I've had good results with both electret condensers and dynamics live, and good results in the studio as well. Actual results live depend on the usual variables of course (stage volume, speaker/monitor placement, and room acoustics mostly), but has generally been successful for me. If there are problems, I just dial in more PU and less mic. From a physics perspective, I can't see why blending mic and PU would be any different with a laminate bass than a carved top.

    Edit: I just want to add a caveat that I believe there are others who have had success with contact mics on laminate basses. I suspect that they are lucky (rare) exceptions, but idk that for sure, so consider me agnostic on the subject.
     
    Sam Reese likes this.
  13. If laminate tops work with a contact mic might depend on the stiffness of the top. Not only thickness, type/stiffness and number of wood sheets influences this but also the angle of the grain of the sheets.

    A 90 degree ply gets very stiff and with (almost) the same stiffness horizontally and vertically (depending on number and thickness of the sheets in the different grain directions).

    A small grain angle is less stiff perpendicular to the grain which is similar to carved wood with a single grain direction but can also be weaker in that direction.

    That influences the vibrational modes of the top and might be a reason why some plywood basses work with a contact mic and others don’t.
     
    bassically_eli, drwv and Ric Vice like this.
  14. drwv

    drwv

    Nov 26, 2019
    WV
    It seems that the TalkBass consensus is that a contact mic on my plywood bass would be - at best - a gamble with poor odds. I'll drop the idea for now, and head back down the microphone blending path. Thanks for sharing your experiences!
     
    Francois Blais likes this.