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First pickup if you did it all over again

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by musicman1586, Dec 25, 2012.

  1. musicman1586


    May 24, 2012
    Question of curiosity for everyone. Seems like most people have to try out a number of pickup/preamp/amp combinations before finding the one that works best for their set-up and the sound they want. As a beginning DBist I'm still more concerned with whether or not I'm producing a sound even worth amplifying, buuut, I do know that I am going to need to replace the bridge on my bass in the coming future, and since some pickups are installed in the bridge or adjusters, I figure now would be as good a time as any to get some info and consider making the investment.
    So my question is this Talkbass community, given the experience you have had yourselves, if you had to start all over again, with a foreign bass, an undetermined amp set up, and knew you would likely be stuck with the same pickup for a while whether you like it or not, which pickup would you go with?
    Basically I'm wondering not what the ideal set-up might possibly be for my instrument/amp set-up, but rather which pickup might have the highest probability of "working out", because whatever I buy I will probably have for a while. Right now I think my best shot would be something like the K&K Bass Master Pro. Expensive, but part of that price is the preamp, which I will need anyways as my amp doesn't have the proper impedance. Such a set up would give me a wide palette of sounds to be able to mess with, which serves dual duty, both for increasing the possibility that it would work out with my instrument given that I have two pickups to choose from. That wider range of sounds would also allow me to figure out what it is I even want out of my amplified sound as well though.
    I've read a number of stories on here where people have bought a pickup and then found it completely unusable with their bass/set up, and I really would like to avoid that. So if you had to take the plunge only once, what would be your pickup of choice to take the risk with?
  2. al808


    Oct 11, 2008
    Hi musicman1586,
    Simple really, you need the holy grail of bass amplification, the
    Ehrlund Acoustic Pickup (EAP) Linear Microphone (for Upright Bass), and the preamp that goes with it, available at Gollihur music.
    Cheers, Al.
  3. I´d probably try for the Blonde this time.
  4. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    For consistency, simplicity, and reliability, I'd have a Fishman Full Circle installed in the new bridge and have an fdeck HFPre on hand for impedance matching.

    The Bass Master Pro was one of the pickups that I owned long ago when I first started, and I really didn't like the sound of the 4 discs that attached to the bridge. The sound was too bright for my ears, and with too much string noise.
  5. tornadobass

    tornadobass Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2000
    Iowa City, Iowa
    Endorsing Artist: Black Diamond & SuperSensitive strings
    I keep going back to the BassMax for its simplicity, easy install/removal and sound...or the Rev Solo...same reasons.
  6. drurb

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

    Apr 17, 2004
    Well, musicman, if a reliable good-sounding transducing system is what you're after, then the K&K is sure not where I'd go. I've always found the K&K line-up to be rather unrefined. That's especially true of the electronics.

    I would go right to the Ehrlund as al808 said. The Full Circle with an fdeck for impedance loading optimization (as suggested by Chris) is a good turn-key choice with a high probability of working right off the bat. The Ehrlund takes a bit of tweaking but I have found the one hour or so taken to find the "sweet spot" to be well worth it. That time is essentially nothing compared to the hours of successful gig-time it has produced already. I suggest that you not be put off by the fact that part of fitting the Ehrlund involves that tweaking. Look at it this way: With most pickups, you don't have the option of adjusting the mounting position. It's not that it wouldn't be of benefit to do so, it's that you don't have the choice!

    So, if I were starting with an unknown bass, and an unknown rig and I knew I'd be stuck with the pickup, I'd go with the Ehrlund because I'd be highly confident that I could find some location on that bass that would produce an acceptable sound and it's likely that I could find a spot to produce a great amplified sound.

    I've used K&K systems, a Rev Solo, and the Ehrlund. I don't ever intend to go back to a piezo-based pickup system.
  7. Greg Clinkingbeard

    Greg Clinkingbeard

    Apr 4, 2005
    Kansas City area
    Setup and repair/KRUTZ Strings
    Musicman hasn't told us anything about his bass. Is it ply or carved? We don't know what type of gigs he is or will be playing. What we have is the ultimate hypothetic situation. Based on that, I'd say that across a wide cross section of basses from beginner plywoods to nice old carved basses a Full Circle probably has the best chance of sounding OK. It picks up a good mix of body and string. My bass likes a Realist better, although I'm trying an Underwood for louder gigs or rooms that require more clarity. The Full Circle may not be the best choice for a particular bass but it's a good pickup that has never sounded bad on any bass I've tried it on.
  8. drurb

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

    Apr 17, 2004
    Yes, really. Unless musicman is playing mega-loud gigs that might lead to feedback, then the type of music he plays and the type of bass he plays matter little. Yes, I know about the reports that the Ehrlund doesn't seem to work well on ply basses but, frankly, I'm skeptical regarding the generality of those reports. I can understand that, because the Ehrlund gets far closer to reproducing the characteristics of an individual bass, it might not sound all that great on a bass that doesn't, itself, sound that great. In such a case, it might be more desirable to go for the more "artificial" transduction through the bridge. While I understand this from a theoretical point of view, I'm not sure it holds up in practice. I'd bet a cookie that I can make an Ehrlund yield better sound on a given ply bass than will a FC. I know, I know, it's a matter of opinion regarding what's better and all that. Still it's worth betting the cookie. :)

    A good transducer that reproduces the attack/decay profile and spectral properties of the instrument will work for any type of music, assuming that what you're after is the sound of the bass itself.

    Yes, a Full-Circle, is a good turn-key choice. I mentioned that. It has a high probability of sounding "ok." IMO, it can't touch the Ehrlund which also has a very high probability of sounding, at least, "ok." IMO, it has, however, far greater potential and can more easily be moved from bass to bass if and when that becomes a consideration. Then there's the reproduction of arco...

    You can listen for yourself right here. Compare the Full Circle to the Ehrlund. You can argue that it's not representative or that it doesn't generalize but, in my experience, the clips are quite representative.

    Greg, have you had a chance to try an Ehrlund on your bass? I resisted for a long time but now that I have it, I find it to be a whole different level. I'm trying to share the joy.
  9. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
  10. Greg Clinkingbeard

    Greg Clinkingbeard

    Apr 4, 2005
    Kansas City area
    Setup and repair/KRUTZ Strings
    I'm doing some gigs without an amp now and liking that quite a bit. There's nothing like playing without an amp to demonstrate that all amplification is flawed when it comes to capturing the sound of the player and bass. That said, of all of the pickups I've tried, the Realist has been the best in capturing the sound of my bass and works well in low to moderate volume situations. From all of reports, the Ehrlund is likely a whole 'nuther world but I'm in no hurry to go exploring.

    I know two guys getting really good sounds out of Underwoods. One is on an old King plywood strung with Obligatos and the other on a nice carved bass strung with Spirocores. Both amplified sounds are what I would consider nice and woody with little 'electric' artifact out in the room.

    Threads like this put the cart before the horse (to use an old phrase) because an inexperienced player might believe that the sound comes from more from the pickup or amp rather than the player. Really, you gotta get the sound 'into' the bass before you can amplify it. It may be irresponsible to recommend any pickup, contact mic or whatever costing several hundred dollars without knowing more. I recommended the Full Circle because it works OK on most basses and tastes like chicken. Is this going on a $500 ebay bass? Gotta love the internet.
    I'm going snipe hunting.
  11. Greg Clinkingbeard

    Greg Clinkingbeard

    Apr 4, 2005
    Kansas City area
    Setup and repair/KRUTZ Strings
    OK, I found this which illustrates the OP's situation: http://www.talkbass.com/forum/f4/boss-gt-6b-temporary-pre-amp-907767/

    Pick something cheap, get an Fdeck HPF and concentrate on learning to play the bass. That's my advice.

    FWIW, My first bass was a Chrissy 100 and an Underwood seemed to work pretty well on it. It's not the 'be all' or 'end all' but this probably isn't going to be your 'ultimate' bass and you have quite a bit of development in your future as a player. The sound starts with you and the bass. Remember that.
  12. deste


    Sep 14, 2009
    Bologna, Italy, Europe
    Endorsing Artist: GullanskyLab pickups
    Too hard to tell...
    Sure, it would be useful knowing what kind of bass you have, but most of all what kind of sound you want.
    Do you play only pizzicato, or use also arco? Do you prefer a "natural" (whatever that means) or a "filter" (as above) sound?
    I'm a lot concerned in this: I endorse a small pickups producer, and we often talk about sound, and we experiment together a lot (right know I'm gonna test the last version of a pickup I really like, just to eliminate some issues).
    In case you don't know it, you cam find all the basic infos here:
    As you will see, there are few main pickup styles: the Underwood-like (in bridge slots), the BP100-like (attached to the bridge), the Full Circle-like (in bridge wheels), the Realist-like (under the bridge), the contact pickups, and the microphones.
    The search for your own sound is endless. At the present my situation is this: I own an old anonymous late XIX century bohemian bass, with a very dark sound; Belcanto strings, dark, good attack, not much sustain; when I play arco (tango ensemble), I use my old Etek (small italian brand, now out of business) condenser mic, directed to the g-side f-hole; when I play jazz, I use the same mic to the PA, and to my amp (an old GK MB150) I send the signal from my 20odd years old Underwood when I want an aggressive, midrangy sound, or from my GullanskyLab Notturno II (remember, it's the brand I endorse!) for a sweeter and darker sound.
    But this is just what works for me: my suggestion is to check as many pickups you can with your bass, at least those you can set without great intervention (Underwood-style, Realist-style, DP100-style), and then choose. But remember, you choice may last for twenty years or twenty days...
  13. drurb

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

    Apr 17, 2004
    I agree wholeheartedly that the sound must come from the player and that relative newbies may not appreciate that to the extent that they should. I NEVER practice with my bass amplified. It's all about the acoustic sound (for me). As I've said before, I consider amplification to be a necessary evil. Still, I don't think the OP put the cart before the horse. The OP asked a reasonable question. It was, if you had to start over at the beginning and choose a pickup that you thought would work out well, what would it be? That's a reasonable question and I don't think that implicit in that question is a disregard for the importance of developing one's acoustic sound.

    I don't think it's irresponsible at all in this case. The OP can see the price of any recommended pickup and decide if it's within his/her budget. Geez, the FC starts at about $230. The Ehrlund is just shy of $400 with its pre-amp. So, even choosing the FC seems counter to your own advice (with which I don't agree :)):
    The FC ain't so cheap. Now, suppose one has the FC installed and doesn't quite like it. Hmmm... not so easy to pull it off and recoup some $$$. That's much easier with the Ehrlund.

    Greg, I do get your point about not recommending a high-priced transducer without other knowledge. Again, I don't see the FC as exactly inexpensive and the OP asked a very different question. He didn't ask what is right for him, given his situation so much as he asked what pickup we would each choose starting de novo with an unknown bass.
  14. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I think the Full Circle is more than a "turn-key device" - rather it's a reliable, no fuss (once it's on) "will always sound at least OK on every bass and will sometimes sound brilliant on the right bass with the right player" type of device.

    I've listened to that, and have even recorded similar comparisons myself. But the real proof for me is what the pickup sounds like on the gig in the mix, which brings in a lot of variables, but which also is what the final goal is. In my experience, while mics and mic-like devices always sound best when recorded direct, I quit using/mixing mics into my stage sound because while they sometimes sounded good to great, they often introduced issues that distracted me from my main goal of making music. The Phil Jones combos and the Full Circle sound consistently good everywhere I go, which is what I'm after. If I'm distracted trying to dial in a sound, I never play my best.

    As for the Full Circle, IMO it's not perfect, but to me it's like the "spiro mittel" of pickups. You know what that sound is, and even if it's not your first choice, you can always pick up a bass so equipped and make some music.
  15. Clarkybass

    Clarkybass Supporting Member

    Apr 30, 2010
    The OP is asking for personal opinions in which case everyone's view is legitimate and the question of budget is irrelevant. I have a Full Circle on my 1880s 3/4 flatback and it sounds great to my ears through a decent preamp (fdeck, PlatPro or Headway). I have also just installed an Ehrlund on my Kolstein travel bass and first indications are very positive, very much like a DB mic'ed up. The fact the Ehrlund didn't work out on my flatback, though, tells you that trial and error are a painful (and usually expensive) part of the process and there is not a one-size-fits-all solution.
  16. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    Happy Festivus to all.

    This thread reads like every thread in the history of TBDB regarding pickup recommendations.

    Chris hits it on the head in the quote below

    The fact is you can read all you want but until you get on stage a number of times with your bass and your technique in a variety of rooms you really can't judge any pickup. Talkbass is dangerous that way because there is definitely a 'pickup du jour' and then people get pissed (and poorer) wondering why it didn't work for them.

    Myself? I have two basses. One with a Realist. One with a Bassmax. I either use a MB150s alone or a AI Clarus with an MBX or a EA Wizzy 12M. I've been playing professionally for a while and know what I want. I've gotten pretty good at getting a tone I like out of most any backline provided for me though (within reason) out of necessity. That said I also know that no pickup/amp is perfect. With any of them you just have to try them out and weigh the pros and cons.
  17. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    I would snag this

    http://www.talkbass.com/forum/f145/underwood-pickup-942199/ and get an Fdeck preamp.

    You can use the Underwood with both elements or one element (the way I ended up using it). If you don't like it, you can sell it. This was my third pickup and I used it for a good 20 years. I rented my Underwood equipped bass to a big band playing at the Midwest Music Conference last week and it sounded good going through the house sound.

    The other suggestions are fine, too...just more expensive. The Underwood isn't great for arco if that is part of your plan.
  18. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    Definitely a good place to start. I bought Eric's.
  19. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Underwood would be my second choice, above the Bass Max only because it's thin and fits in most bridge wings without alteration.
  20. Greg Clinkingbeard

    Greg Clinkingbeard

    Apr 4, 2005
    Kansas City area
    Setup and repair/KRUTZ Strings
    If the Full Circle doesn't work out one can simply replace it with 1/4" adjusters, assuming they purchased the 1/4" FC. I sold my Full Circle last year and did just that.

    Going back to the OP's original question, if I had it to do over again I'd keep my Realist because it works best on my bass for most situations. However, I'm looking forward to experimenting with the Underwood because what sounds good at home or on duo or trio gigs doesn't always work with horns and a drummer. I borrowed an Underwood a year or so ago for a loud outdoor gig and was told I'd never sounded better. Although my perception was that the tone was overly sterile, that didn't translate to the other musicians and listening audience. The role of the bass player is to first outline the changes and keep the tune moving with a good time feel. Although I often get compliments on my sound, other musicians on the gig want to clearly hear the changes and feel good about the time. If I'm struggling with getting through, overplaying after engaging my HPF and adjusting EQ then I'm not in the flow of delivering what the other musicians need. Whether or not my pickup accurately captures the acoustic character of my instrument in my living room is way down the list.

    The problem with the Full Circle, for me is the wire coming out of the adjuster. My flatback bass changes constantly and I often crank the adjusters up or down. It just became a royal pain.

    TEHO, YMMV, WYLIWYL (what you like is what you like), etc, etc, etc...........Looking for that peace sign emoticon.