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Crappy tone with piezo pickup

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by DILYSI Dave, Apr 3, 2013.

  1. DILYSI Dave

    DILYSI Dave

    Jan 26, 2013
    My bass - Palatino 3/4 that sounds pretty decent unplugged. Has an adjustable bridge. Has some kind of bridge piezo pickup. I think it's a Fishman BP100, but it came with the bass so could be a copy. Dunno if those exist.

    My rig - Hartke 7000 Head and Boogie 2x10 cabinet that sounds awesome with a bass guitar. Ballsy, thunderous lows, very clear highs, but without picking up on noise.

    My problem - The upright plugged into the rig sounds like crap. Very hollow / weak sound. Additionally, it seems like the pickup is very biased towards high sounds, as various noises (Fingers moving across strings, belt buckle hitting the bass, etc) come through loud and clear, while the bass tone itself fails to. I've tried messing around with the equalizer to some effect, but that mearly took it from "bad" to "less bad". Honestly, it sounds like playing a $149 bass through a cheesy 15 watt practice amp with a 6" speaker.

  2. Bassists have tried various positions for that pickup, but for the most part it's just a terrible pickup. Fishman's 'Full Circle' pickup isn't anything like it - generally it's well liked for both arco and pizz use. But the old paddle pickup with the clips holding it to the top of the bridge was an awful thing which put a lot of people off Fishman for a long time. You could try putting it on the flatter back side of the bridge if you haven't already. Getting rid of the clips by finding the least offensive location for the paddles on the back of the bridge, marking them, then lightly gluing them in place (double-sided tape, gummy film, a weak contact cement perhaps) can help by reducing both the weight on the bridge top and the pressure effects in the pickup elements.

    Some have even moved them below the wings of the bridge, shimming with cork or wood or even cardboard, using them the way an Underwood is used. And I've seen a couple of cases where bassists put them under the bridge feet (like how a Realist is fitted), in one case just as-is, in the other using a very thin cork gasket material to fill out the rest of the bridge foot area. But none of these efforts has been long term, just filling in until a decent pickup could be bought.

    From having repaired a couple of these paddles when the connections have become worn I have found that over 70% of the sound is taken from right at the root, where the hump of material covers the bond with the wire. You could perhaps try putting a sound-absorbing shim between that area and the bridge wood, like a thin wedge of rubber eraser or cork. That might damp the higher frequency sensitivity problem a little.
  3. First the BP-100 isn't the best pick-up, but it is useable. Second, the amp you are using is most likely the culprit. Hartke amps are bass guitar amps, in order to get a decent sound with an upright you most likely need a pre amp. GK amps also play well with upright bass.

    Fishman makes the pro-platinum eq which is for bass and is a decent pre amp. Fdeck, who posts on this forum makes a pre that gets rave reviews. Read all about his pre hear. http://www.talkbass.com/forum/f4/review-new-pre-amp-high-pass-filter-346669/
  4. Michael Eisenman

    Michael Eisenman Supporting Member

    Jun 21, 2006
    Eugene, Oregon
    +1 to previous post
  5. nicechuck


    Jul 9, 2007
    This thread should be under amps mics and pickups
  6. DILYSI Dave

    DILYSI Dave

    Jan 26, 2013
    Doh! My apologies. Feel free to move it mods...
  7. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    +1. Ditch the Hartke and the EB gear. I've owned 2 pieces of Hartke gear years ago and they both sounded like ass for DB.

    Fart fart fart fart... fart fart fart.
  8. eddododo

    eddododo Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2010
    now granted I'm not here to try and say that hartke is amazing double bass gear at all, but I've made a very similar setup sound pretty good live

    Look into impedance buffers, including and especially Fdeck's designs.

    secondly I would say spend some serious time trying to eq that head.. most of the settings I arrived at that work well on double bass are very unintuitive and visually kind of strange (read : no smily eq)
  9. DILYSI Dave

    DILYSI Dave

    Jan 26, 2013
    I am going to give FDeck's magic box a whirl. It really does sound like impedance mis-match is my biggest issue. Given that I've been able to make this rig do everything I've wanted it to for the better part of 2 decades, I'm not real anxious to throw it away - especially since I'm likely to be switching between the upright and a 5 string BG.

    Thanks for the tip on the no smily eq. That certainly is the default I start with, so I'll ditch that assumption.
  10. eddododo

    eddododo Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2010
    it sounds like a pain in the ass, and truly it is, especially when you consider that youre gonna want your bass far from your amp, but lowering all of the band EQ in raising them individually really helps to understand how they are affecting your double bass sound
  11. seang15


    Aug 28, 2008
    Cary NC
    " I am going to give FDeck's magic box a whirl."

    You have chosen...wisely. :ninja:
  12. DILYSI Dave

    DILYSI Dave

    Jan 26, 2013
    So yeah, the HPF black box is a good thing. Still not the perfect tone, but a hell of a lot better.
  13. eddododo

    eddododo Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2010
    Sweet! experiment with the placement of the piezo pickup.. you'd be amazed where it's useful

    I wish I had remember this thread was here, I would have been posting here and there..

    lately I've been using a piezo pickup blended with a little Mic that I got off of TalkBass.. granted that I made the blender and the phase correction that I needed myself
  14. Fat Steve

    Fat Steve The poodle bites, the poodle chews it.

    I've found that wedging the piezo into one of the "wings" on the bridge or in the heart-shaped cutout gave me a much better overall tone than simply sticking the piezo to the surface of the bridge with tape. I'm not sure how your pickup is setup, but it's something you may wish to consider.
  15. turf3


    Sep 26, 2011
    I am far from an expert on DB pickups and amps - I have been playing DB 2 yrs. and have only been amplifying it for about 2 months now. BUT---

    It seems to me that using a crummy pickup, then adding a bunch of stuff to it to improve it is backwards. Just seems to me that if you have to make compromises, the further down the signal chain you make them the better.

    In my case - and I am not necessarily an example - I went for the Realist pickup - a fairly expensive and well-regarded pickup - then a medium grade preamp (Fishman Bass, not the "Platinum" but whatever the less expensive one is) and then a cheapy Guitar Center amp (Acoustic AB50). I think this sounds pretty good at low/med. volumes. (Not top quality, I understand)

    It sounds from above like the weakest link in your signal chain is a cheapo pickup that came with the bass (don't even know but what it may be damaged) and everyone says is a crummy pickup. And then it appears you need a preamp. Why not just get a really high quality pickup, a med. quality preamp, and then see what happens?
  16. NBass


    Nov 18, 2007
    I know I'm in a minority group here and maybe i'm just plain wrong on this but want to just put this out there.

    IMO the problems being described around piezo tone being thin, brittle,to much treble are all in my experience true of all piezo pick ups to a greater or lesser extent. I have tried pretty much all of them over the years and never been satisfied. some were good but only ever at very low levels. Recently i tried a magnetic pick up (Schaller) and was shocked at actually how much better it performed then any other piezo i had tried. I would say it produces a much more natural warm sound which is much closer to my acoustic sound than the realist or a handful of others ever have and yet all i've ever heard is 'mag pick ups make you sound like a P bass' which is probably why i never tried it years ago. I find it hard to agree.

    To me all pick ups will obviously colour your sound and its about choosing which compromise works best for you. But i cant help thinking that magnetic pick ups get a bad rap and perhaps more people should give em a try? If you look at other acoustic string instrument forums guitars violins ect you'll find that scores of them swear that mag pick ups reproduce a much better acoustic sound.

    I'm just saying this as i feel everyone just jumps in and suggests more piezo pick ups and cant help but wonder how many of you have actually given the old mag pick up a good try.

    Just a thought.

    All the best!!
  17. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    When I was disenchanted with the Barcus Berry and Polytone pickups, I had a Paul Tonnenges four element magnetic pickup installed to the end of the fingerboard. It was very discrete and didn't feed back, it sounded nothing like my bass sounds acoustically and with a bow, the tone quality is very undesirable. I've played several instruments with the Schaller installed on them. Unfortunately, it's sound isn't nearly as pleasing as either the Realist or Full Circle, both of which you can use a bow. Just my take, but I have experience with magnetic pickups.

  18. NBass


    Nov 18, 2007

    I do quite alot of trio gigs purely acoustically and i just find that when i then go to amplified playing with the schaller i can treat the instrument in exactly the same way. For example i get an even balance of sound between high register and low, there are no bumps, percussive sounds are more natural and less clunky, I admit that bowing does drop in volume a little though but that is a smaller compromise and i just play harder. You are right that it is not the exact sound of the acoustic instrument but i've never found the realist to be either unless at such a low volume that i would just rather use a mic.

    Anyway thanks for your reply, its just a question thats intrigued me for a while and its really interesting to hear others views.

    All the best
  19. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    Interesting, I'm guessing that your bass really puts out a lot of volume acoustically. You always hear a blend of the pickup and the instrument itself. As to your observation about the Realist, I found it's tone to be pleasing until you increased the volume through an amplifier or P.A.. Then it's tonal characteristics change over and become ugly, just like you observed. My solution was find another pickup that didn't have that change over. On my bass the problem was solved when I installed an Ehrlund EAP. We both solved the Piezo quack, just with different approaches. Nice to hear what works for others.

  20. abaguer


    Nov 27, 2001
    Milford, NJ
    Hartke's sound dreadful with fishman pu. Your best bet without getting a new rig is a good preamp. I generally scoop the midrange because even with the fishman preamp you can get zingy highs which are assured with Hartke equip. May want to trade for GK head if you're going to be playing a lot of upright and bass guitar.

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