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Effects pedal to make URB magnetic pickup sound less fretless

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by stevegranger, Oct 22, 2015.

  1. stevegranger


    Feb 9, 2007
    Hi Talkbass,
    My first post here on TB. Thanks for a great website, I've learned a ton!

    I play URB for jazz settings, mostly big band or small combo gigs, 2-3 times a month, so not a pro by any stretch. I'm a late comer to bass, started about 9 years ago, but played keys and guitar for decades before that.

    Anyway; when I play with a big band, it can get pretty loud. I fought feedback constantly the first few years, tried several pickups (K&K BassMax, BP-100, a home-made clone of Realistic under-the-bridge-foot). Tried various methods of damping, adding padding or tape or whatever, with marginal success. Eventually I caved in a bought a Krivo magnetic pickup - it works well enough and feedback is vastly more manageable. But, I just don't like the sound. It's much like a fretless bass guitar, which isn't surprising given the setup.

    So I'm wondering if there's a effects pedal or widget out there, that can take my Krivo signal and make it sound more like an acoustic upright. I'm not hoping for super-realistic sound, just want something that will make it better. The sound coming from the Krivo isn't bad, it's sort of almost there. When the band is loud and cranking, the fretless sound gets lost in the noise and at that point the bass sounds "enough" like a real upright to keep me happy. But when it gets quieter, or when I play in a smaller combo, the fretless sound stands out much of the time.
    And I'm trying to be cheap, something like $100. I'm half tempted to try making my own pedal (electronics engineer is my day job).

    I have a Golden Bullet mic, sounds OK but I can't get enough volume out of it using my rig. That may mean the preamp is dying or I just need to change the battery.

    My setup:
    Johannes Kohr K-61 URB (decent student model) with unknown steel strings.
    Acoustic Image Contra 310 (yeah, the original), with occasional extension cabinet for more oomph.
    Krivo pickup.

    Thanks all,
  2. Jason Hollar

    Jason Hollar It Don’t Mean A Thing... Supporting Member

    Apr 17, 2005
    Central Pa
    I'm a fan of the Boss Bass EQ- it's relatively inexpensive and you can easily cut out some of the gnarly low or hi mids, which may contributing to the fretless mwah you're trying to avoid. It's also got a volume cut or boost if you switch between bowing or need a little preamp boost.
  3. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Hi Steve--

    I don't think your problem will be substantially solved by trying to change the tonal balance but it would likely be of some help. IMO, your problem stems largely from the expected temporal (transient) characteristics transduced by your pickup. I posted this a while back:
    The attack/decay envelope that makes a double bass sound like a double bass radiates from and is a result of the vibration of the body. Much of it is lost via the use of bridge-wing pickups and even more is lost if one uses a pickup that basically captures the vibration of the strings. There are a bunch of posts and discussions about the temporal attack/decay profile. If you're curious, you can find them easily by searching on "attack/decay" and entering my username. I'm certainly not the only one who has contributed but that search strategy will get you to the discussions.

    As for solving your problem, short of dropping a bunch of $$$ on a different pickup, you might actually try an expander (the inverse of a compressor) to give you more attack. Actually, I think the best solution is to try a different pickup. The Rev Solo (a bridge-wing pickup) does a good job and is quite immune to feedback. Still, nothing ever served me as well with a big band as the Ehrlund EAP. The magic is the way it transduces the attack/decay. You can read the details of my big-band experience with it here. I'm not necessarily suggesting that you switch to the Ehrlund. That would certainly not be an inexpensive solution!

    By the way, I understand why the Golden Bullet hasn't worked well for you. I had one a while back. The K&K pre-amp that came with it was a very poorly built and performing device. The system had very little dynamic range and was highly prone to feedback.
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2015
  4. A lot cheaper than the Ehrlund but with similar qualities is the japanese MSP pickup, but you have to go through the customs process. You might want to use a impedance buffer/high impedance preamp with it for a better sound, but this depends on the input impedance of your amp.

    You can try an EQ, best a (fully) parametric one if you are familiar with it, if not a graphical might make it a bit better, but the frequency control is rather limited.

    With the magnetic pickup you don't get the vibration at the bridge but a special point on the string which is colored by the vibration intensity of the modes of the string at this point. The kind of change is similar to the sound change when you bow closer to the fingerboard or closer to the bridge. A different sound color.

    And don't think a very different vibrational signal from a point of the string which is also a bit distorted could be easily reshaped to the pressure signal at the bridge. The high frequencies that get lost because of the rather large area of magnetic influence of the string on the pickup cannot be restored.
  5. stevegranger


    Feb 9, 2007
    Thanks all, good information all around. Sorry about my slow reply; my day job gets in the way.
    Even if an EQ pedal doesn't give me the acoustic sound I want, I like having some fine-tune EQ control for other reasons, thanks for the idea.

    Drurb: A few weeks ago I read the thread you cited, very helpful and it confirmed what I already suspected. Someone in that thread posted pictures of the electrical waveforms for magnetic vs. microphone pickups, and the long, unwanted decay of the magnetic pickup is plain to see. That thread is what got me thinking about a pedal in the first place. Something that would let the initial attack come through but gradually attenuate after that, try to crudely mimic the decay of the body vibrations. I haven't heard of an expander pedal but I will check into it.

    Glad to hear that my dislike of Golden Bullet isn't just me being picky. Too bad: it sounds OK, just can't get it near loud enough, let alone loud enough without feedback. Even with my AI Contra all the way up, volume is still weak. Maybe better pre-amp would help.

    I'm surprised that the Rev Solo works well in loud settings, but only because I thought it was a slightly better BassMax. I guess the wood casing works a lot better than rubber, though I expect that I'd need to cut the treble quite a bit to get rid of string noise and such.

    Ehrlund seems to get good press, though yeah, it's beyond my price range. Weird thing is, I experimented with a cheap spin on this several years back. I took a $2 electret mic element and rigged up a cheap pre-amp, and stuck the mic on the body using a double-sided sticky pad. It worked surprisingly well for how stupid cheap it was. I played with it a half hour, messing with the placement, but suddenly it went poof, up in smoke, my pre-amp must have over-biased it. Hope to revisit that idea someday, it seemed promising.

    Thanks again.
  6. HateyMcAmp

    HateyMcAmp Supporting Member

    Apr 13, 2006
    Denver, Colorado
    I always got a lot more out of my bridge-wing pickups volume and dynamics-wise with a preamp featuring a high pass filter and phase. How "natural" sounding any bridge-wing can be is a running debate, but this rig was closer than a mag IMO and very much chilled out the brittleness and feedback that can be common with this kind of pickup, while still capturing a little fingerboard sound. The amp you have is actually the only Acoustic Image that doesn't have a HPF built in, so it might be to your advantage to get one and re-try your piezo pickups. The fdeck series 1 is only about 50 bucks, so it's well within your budget and might bring some stuff you already have alive.
  7. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    If you're going to build something then take a look at a convolution reverb
    There's plenty of convolution reverb plugins to try.
    Make an impulse response, or try some samples from a double bass lib
    If you get it working to where you like it in software, you can see if you can build a hardware version.

    One thing I'd say is consider one path through for the low bass and another for the midbass up through the convolution.
    There's some video's on youtube a few years old on "Convolution Bass", which can give you an ideas
  8. If you want a feedback resistant piezo, try the Full Circle (but experiment with fine tuning the rotation angle for more natural (and quieter) sound with less feedback.

    A cheaper alternative to the Ehrlund is the Japanese MSP, but you need to import it from japan and go through the customs process yourself. You also need to find a good spot like with the Ehrlund. It's not as feedback resistant as a bridge mounted piezo or magnetic, but sound rather close to the Ehrlund. But take care of the high power magnets and what they can do to magnetic data storage.
  9. shwashwa


    Aug 30, 2003
    Groove Doctor likes this.
  10. The Radial stuff would work Shwashwa, but for the OP's $100 budget. I don't think you can get either the PZed-Pre or the Bassbone OD used for $100.

    Fdeck's HPF Pres are within budget, especially if @stevegranger makes it himself. The schematic is offered freely and Fdeck is always helpful from what I've seen.

    There are some bass effects pedals that are supposed to make a fretted BG sound more like a fretless or more acoustic, some even fall within the budget. However, that's kind of like giving someone with 2 full-leg casts a set of crutches to help them walk when in fact the legs are already mended (or in this case not broken in the first place) and what is really needed is to cut the casts off and let the bass *ahem* person, walk freely unencumbered by casts or crutches.

    I've not played with a big band and horns, but I've shared a hollow stage with a hard-hitting drummer, electric egoist (guitar), amped acoustic guitar and amped fiddler on numerous occasions with my Underwood piezo and PZed-Pre with its HPF set on "kill". I've been on the cusp of feedback a few times, but nothing that body position (mine or the bass's), EQ & HPF couldn't handle. I've never resorted to socks behind the tailpiece nor foam or tape in/over the ff-holes...

    There's also those crazy feedback fighter/suppressor units, but they take a lot of effort to dial them in and the few people I've known who swore by them eventually ditched them to make their lives easier.

    Yeah, piezo with a decent pre-amp (such as Radial or Headway) and HPF could be the ticket. Might need to exceed the budget, but it would be a worthwhile long-term investment.
  11. I use a Zoom B2.1U for my EUB, probably twice as expensive new than $100, but there are versions without the pedal, that are cheaper and you might be able to get one used almost in your budget.
    The Zoom has a 1 MegOhms input impedance, good for a lot of piezos, different effects including EQ, some effect combinations are possible too. The compressor is not the best, I'm not sure if expansion is possible with it.

    So have a look at the PDFs of some multi effect devices if they might meet your needs. But you should know what the parameters mean, how to program it and what effects might bring you closer to your sound. And if you want to go that route, try to get one that you can use for other purposes as well.
  12. Definitely try to blend the Krivo mag PU + Golden Bullet mic. Ask some friends if you can borrow something to try it out first. Any mixer, two channel amp, blend pedal, etc will get you started. Bias more mag for big band, & bias more mic for quieter jazz gigs (keep below feedback level).

    To beat feedback live: elevate cab, stand btw bass & cab, mute string afterlength, etc. Read up on it - dozens of threads that discuss this.
  13. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    It seems there have been three classes of solution offered:

    1) Try to solve the issue with electronics: If kept very simple, it maybe worth a shot. Still, IMEO, tone-shaping will not address the fundamental problem, which is the failure to transduce the temporal attack/decay profile. I'm not sure that an expander, which I suggested as an electronic fix, is readily available on pedals.

    2) Mix the Krivo pickup with the Golden Bullet (GB): I'm giving that two thumbs down. My big toes would go along with them if I could point them down separately. :) I found the GB to be a very poor mic. Mixing it with the Krivo under the big-band conditions described is a book of recipes for disaster, given all of the possible bad combinations and the fact that there would be few, if any, that ever helped.

    3) Start over with a different pickup and pre-amp: I think this is the best approach in the long-run. It might be outside the budget in the short-run, but, perhaps, some cash could be recouped from the sale of the Krivo and the GB. I agree with Feral Feline in terms of his cast and crutch analogy. The Krivo is the set of casts. I suggest biting the (golden) bullet and removing it.

    Bottom line: IMO, forget the pedals and mixers. Go back to Bass-ics.
  14. shwashwa


    Aug 30, 2003
    golden bullet isnt great mic, but if you're only using it for the high mids and highs its not bad at all. i have one, and its passable especially if you have a touch of magnetic blended in for the low end. its the best solution for the gear he already owns. all he needs is some sort of cheap blender.
    Groove Doctor likes this.
  15. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    Frankly, in some big band situations, the Ehrlund into your amp, wouldn't get you loud enough to play in that setting. I've used mine with the Kim Portnoy Jazz Orchestra and it worked remarkably well, but we had a decent FOH system with
    monitor sends. I'm a professional bassist with many years of experience playing in big bands. My take is that you cannot drive your sound from the back of the band, it has to be sent to the house. Ironically, when I was in highschool (back in the dark ages)
    I had no trouble playing my plywood Goetz bass and being heard. Drum sets in those days like Rodgers, Ludwig, and Slingerland were much smaller kits and far thinner laminate shells. Truth is things have gotten progressivly louder and drums are now built like Sherman Tanks. When I made the transition to being amplfied with Big Bands here in St. Louis, I finally realized that "less is more." So the higher you can practically raise your amp off the floor, closer to your ear, the better off you are. If you only have $100.00 bucks to spend, I'd recommend going with what you have and living with the sound it makes in a Big Band setting. I had a Paul Tonnengies magnetic years ago, and frankly within the confines of a 16 piece horn section, it worked just fine.


    P.S. Expecting a Piezo Pickup or Mic, to effectively isolate itself, from all the sound waves set buy a 16 piece horn section reflecting off various surfaces is akin to madness. My personal solution in college was to use a Fender Bass. Now I have a Clevenger EUB that works fine for these situations. I can accomplish this with my DB, but it's a very expensive proposition. It requires a whole kit of expensive gear to use a DB without FOH support and even with that, the results aren't always that satisfying. To use the Ehrlund in a 16 piece big band, requires a dedicated pre amp DI, ala the Headway EDB-2 and a separate powered QSC K8 or K10 to hear myself.
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2015
    MR PC likes this.
  16. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Perhaps a solution for the gear he already owns, but I think the best solution, overall, is to change the gear and I think that can be done on a budget. As for "the best" solution, well, I think not, given the bleed-through and feedback issues that mic is likely to cause in a big-band setting. The OP can do the experiment and let us know.
  17. MR PC

    MR PC Banned

    Dec 1, 2007
    On the tight budget, the fdeck and the Boss EQ will be enormously helpful in use with the Krivo or any magnetic pickup. Both units are faithful in their duty, bulletproof reliable, compact in design, and very affordable.
  18. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    ...and neither, separately or in combination, addresses what is the fundamental issue. "EQ" will be of limited benefit, but perhaps enough and it is inexpensive.
    Ric Vice likes this.
  19. bdowd

    bdowd Supporting Member

    Oct 27, 2005
    New Hampton, NH
    I use the fdeck and boss eq, full circle, into channel b of a basswitch, sounds great, i think it is a solid recommendation for on the cheap.
  20. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    D Dowd,
    So the Liehl Bass Switch is $599.00, Fdeck $70.00, Boss EQ is around $150.00. Full Circle $180.00. Not exactly cheap, but a very nice setup. The poster was looking to spend $100.00.
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2015

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