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How much of a step up is a FC from an Underwood?

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by Kevin Hsieh, Mar 4, 2008.

  1. I've been considering adding another pickup to my arsenal for sometime (I currently don't even want and can't afford going the mic direction). Numerous people here and my luthier have convinced me that the Full Circle is far superior to the Realist, however my luthier said that the Full Circle is basically an Underwood without the need to EQ.

    In that case, I wouldn't need to upgrade to a Full Circle and then I could just EQ my Underwood. What advantages am I getting from the Full Circle? I'm asking again because Evan has a FC up for sale and i'm considering taking it.

  2. salcott

    salcott Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2007
    NYC, Inwood.
    The Realist sounded great on my old Tyrolean bass. The Full Circle sounds great on my LaScala and my Merchant Vertical bass, and may be capable of higher volume applications. Both are much better than the Underwood. If I did a lot of arco, I might lean towards the Realist, though. all my own opinion, of course. Email or PM if you want to discuss further.
  3. Uncletoad


    May 6, 2003
    Columbus Ohio
    Proprietor Fifth Avenue Fret Shop. Technical Editor Bass Gear Magazine
    I don't agree with that statement. Having had an Underwood, a Realist and a Full Circle all on the same bass I agree the Full Circle is the best of the bunch but not for the same reasons. I think the underwood is very string focused with a very bright tone. It requires a bunch of tweaks to sound like much to me and the Arco tone is very unsatisfactory. The Realist is much more dark and wood driven being on the top rather than nearer the strings. It's Arco tone is excellent and pizz at low volumes also very nice. It can get boomy and out of control quickly as volume goes up. The FC sits between them with a clear string sound and a nice deep warmth that does Arco and pizz equally well.

    Fwiw if the backup to my Full Circle is a Realist not an Underwood.
  4. Greg Clinkingbeard

    Greg Clinkingbeard

    Apr 4, 2005
    Kansas City area
    KC Strings
    On my new bass I have both a Realist and a Full Circle. I'm basically trying them both for a while and will probably settle on one. I gotta say that so far, I like the Realist better. My amped sound is much closer to the acoustic sound with it than it is with the FC. The bass is very punchy which helps the Realist to cut; it sounded very woofy on the other bass.

    One thing I don't like about the FC is that it has some of the piezo quack in the mids that sounds artificial at higher volumes. Granted, the Realist won't go as loud without feedback.

    I played a gig tonite with a 10 pc band and a loud drummer with the Realist and got several compliments on the tone. I would recommend trying the Realist first. If the adjuster threads match up for a FC it is a fairly simple install also.

    Either would probably be much better than the Underwood.
  5. B String

    B String Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2002
    Los Angeles
    For a good amount of time I used a RavenLabs blender, to
    blend a Realist and an Underwood. This combo worked very,
    very well. These two pickups complemented each other.
    After changing amps and no longer using the Ravenlabs
    blender, I've found with my AI Focus and Berg HT112 that
    in some rooms, for some types of music, The Underwood is
    just right. For different music, or some rooms, the FC is much
    better. I hate to be the one to say it, but...... You're just
    going to have to go through the monetary pain of pickup
    experimenting. I have both the Underwood and the FC on my
    bass. The Realist had some problems after a few years, and
    was usually too boomy.
  6. CoreyN


    Mar 9, 2008
    I haven't had the opportunity to experiment with pickups as much as many of the people on this board, but I have to say that I have been very happy with my FC since I got it about a year ago. I have not experienced any issues with it. The best part is that unlike the Realists or Underwoods (or BP100s for that matter) that my friends have used, typically I can just plug in and go, without having to spend five minutes fine tuning the EQ so that it sounds halfway decent and doesn't feed back.
  7. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    I walked away from the Underwood years ago and wouldn't recommend it to anyone except ...
    I heard Tim Gilson last night and he sounded great though an Underwood and a Contra. I had to ask him what the pickup was because I was sure that it wasn't an Underwood. Moral of the story: You have to spend the cash and find out if it works for you.
  8. Lia_G


    Oct 27, 2005
    I find the Underwood to be incredibly sensitive to pressure, and thus to truly precise installation. I use an Underwood on my Chinese carved bass. Dustin Williams here in Nashville installed it, and it sounds wonderful. People at Hammond Ashley in Seattle installed the same Underwood on my two previous basses while I lived in Seattle, and it just sounded so-so. Now, yeah, it could be something else ... like maybe this bass just likes being amplified, or whatever. But the pressure does seem different from the pressure on the other two basses.

    I just bet there are a ton of Underwoods floating around out there that aren't optimally installed, and would sound tons better with some skilled attention.

    I do still need to try a Full Circle. Despite what I've said about how well the Underwood is working on my bass, I am still curious. ;)

  9. Michael Glynn

    Michael Glynn

    Feb 25, 2004
    I agree with the people saying that the FC more of a "plug-and-play" pickup, whereas the Underwood requires more work to get it to sound good. I used a FC for the past 3 or 4 years and it sounded great directly into my Acoustic Image amp and even better through a Raven Labs or DTar preamp. Arco was especially impressive compared to the Underwood.

    On the other hand...my FC recently died and I was forced to pull out my (15-year old) Underwood. After a lot of experimenting, I actually have it sounding good enough that I have no interest in buying a new FC. I ended up running it through a Sansamp Bassdriver DI that I normally use for electric bass and I only use the E-string side element, leaving the G-string element hanging loose. Proper fit is also important, as has been mentioned. If my Underwood dies I will probably buy a new FC, but it's working for me now. If you haven't tried removing the G-string element, I would give that a try because it can make a huge difference in the sound (for better or worse).
  10. Jeremy Allen

    Jeremy Allen Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2002
    Bloomington, IN
    I second both of these statements.
    I've had the Full Circle, the Realist, and the Underwood on the same bass, and I was surprised to note that the Realist sounded best, the FC was second, and the Underwood was a distant third. (I had given up on the Realist). I think that on less-than-amazing basses, the FC is by far the best choice--you just plug it in and you get a good functional sound. But if you've got a truly great instrument, I think the Realist can bring it out. (If you need to play super loud, the Realist may not work for you, and it may behave oddly in some rooms--again, the FC is much more consistent in this regard).

    The Underwood has a specific sound, and some people can get great results with it. For me, it drives me nuts because I spend all of this time developing a full, woody tone that utilizes the whole bass, and none of that comes through with the Underwood. Removing the G-side element alleviates this somewhat, but the sound is still somewhat more electric-sounding that the FC (to my ears).

    I recommend the Full Circle to my students because you just don't have to think about it much; but I'm currently enjoying my Realist again. Both are a step up from the Underwood in my experience, but many people make the Underwood work.
  11. LarryR


    Feb 2, 2003
    Los Angeles
    I've read that the same pickup on different basses can sound different, yet, bruthatoad's review reflects my experiences exactly. Having tried the Realist and FC on my bass, and Underwood on other basses, I stuck with the FC. (for me) it's the best overall combination of string, thump w/o honk, warmth & good volume before feedback.
  12. Roger Davis

    Roger Davis

    May 24, 2006
    This thread is getting very interesting.

    I have an Upton Prof into which I installed an Underwood. It sounds amazing and other people have complimented the sound, whichever amp I use. I also have a high end Chinese (yes, there is such a thing) which sounds great acoustically but is driving me nuts with an Underwood installed. It's just not tight and focussed but is very echoey. I think it may be the installation. The diference between the two is that Gary supplied the Upton with a Rev Solo and so the bridge wings have quite a wide gap. I have a box of wooden shims of various thicknesses and it was easy to quickly find the right fit. Whereas the Chinese has narrow slots (I asked for an Underwood to be fitted and tested prior to delivery but it never was). So I fiddled around with the slot and got a half hearted fit. I was never completely happy with the fit and that is probably the reason for the Underwood's poor performance.
  13. Jason Hollar

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

    Apr 17, 2005
    Pittsburgh area
    I'm glad to be rid of both my Underwood and Fishman BP 100 pups. They sounded awful on both my basses -- then a cheap Kay, now a slightly more expensive Romanian flatback.

    The Realist was WAY too boomy and couldn't get loud enough at all even for blues gigs.

    I'm loving the FC more these days for quiet jazz gigs -- as it brings out a more woody, almost mic'ed sound -- but only in certain rooms.

    The Barbera is still the best one for me because it cuts through in horrible sounding rooms and can get very loud if I'm rocking out.

    Bummer is -- the FC and Barbera are wildly out of phase and blending them is a big disappointment.
  14. Jason Hollar

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

    Apr 17, 2005
    Pittsburgh area
    Just to add to this...

    A student of mine just got an Upton Revolution Solo...much in the same design as an underwood.

    Sounds pretty darn good actually!

    Now I might need to get one..........

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