K&K Bass Max vs. DBT, pre-amp vs. no pre-amp

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by Bill Brasky, May 7, 2002.

  1. I'm hoping to put some sort of pickup on my DB in the near future and was looking for some info to help deciding on the best configuration. From what I've read by searching through some posts here, people tend to come up with a pretty complex setup by the time they find a sound they like. I'm hoping to keep it simple, definitely nothing more than a pickup and maybe a preamp to start with. The bass I play at school has a pickup similar to the bass max with the two little pieces that fit into the bridge wing (on both the E and G string sides) but I don't know what brand it is (probably not K&K I think). That pickup goes into a Peavey amp without any preamp, and it's not the best amplified sound you've heard, but it gets the job done I guess.

    From what I've read so far, I think I'm favoring the Double Big Twin, since it appears to be better for a jazz sound, and has the four transducers for each individual string. Does anyone know the impedance specs for the bass max and DBT? I looked on Bob Gollihur's site, and the K&K site and all it said was "high ohmic" which for piezo pickups I guess would be in the 1-2 M ohm (?) range. I'll probably be using this mostly on my Carvin amp, a combo with the R600 head and 2X10s. The impedance for the passive input on that amp is 1 M ohm, so I'm wondering if I could get by without using a preamp for it. I imagine it couldn't be any worse than the setup I use in the school jazz band. I know from what I've read around here though, Bob G. seems to strongly recommend a preamp with the K&K pickups, especially the double big twin.

    So I guess the bottom line is actually already up there in the subject line. I just wanted to get some opinions from people who have used these pickups and it seems the K&K stuff is pretty popular around here. Thanks
  2. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    It sounds like the pickup on the bass at school is an underwood. As far as K&K goes, I like the Bass Max a lot and don't care much for the Double Big Twin, which I feel sounds too "Fishmanlike". I definitely think that a preamp improves the sound and gives a lot more control over tone, so I've had one attached to the leg of my gig stool.

    One thing to watch for on the Bass Max is the balance issue - if you put it on the bass wing, the G string seems a bit thin to me...put it on the treble wing, and the E string is a bit weak. I solved this by building a "Double Bass Max", but this may be further than you want to go. Keep in mind that I'm a tone freak and am extremely fussy about tiny little differences in balance and tone. If you are not so picky, then you might not even notice. As always, YMMV, as will the advice you get here, there, and everywhere. Good luck...DB amplification is a slippery slope.
  3. Yeah, I had a few doubts on the bass max, for one because of it only being mounted on one side of the bridge, and I kind of wondered if that would cause balance problems between the different strings. Also, I'm not sure if it would fit on the bridge because mine is shaped a little differently in that gap where the thing slides in. It's kind of rounded on the upper side (like closer to the strings) so I don't know if that transducer would fit in there snugly or if it would sound as good since there's not as much surface area making contact.

    Could you describe what you mean by it sounding too "fishmanlike"?

    Is there any other setup that would sound as good or better in about the same price range? (I'm thinking like $200 or less, since that's about what it would be for a K&K with a preamp I believe).
  4. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    What Chris meant by "Fishmanlike" I guess is a brighter sound. the Underwood tends to be much darker. I've owned both and the Bass Max as well; it's a very good pickup, has the fatter bottom of the Underwood with some of the clarity of the Fishman.

    Matching a pickup to your bass is important. The darker the bass, the brighter the pickup you want and vice versa.

    After going through many pickups over the years I will say GET A PREAMP. I have never had a pickup that didn't sound much better when using a preamp, period.

    A DB amplification rig need not be complicated at all. I never used anything more than a preamp with any of the pickups I've used. I've never bothered with mikes and mixers because the bands I play in are too loud for that stuff to work anyway. Pickups are a compromise solution that gives you consistency and ease of use at expense of a "perfect" tone.
  5. Bob Gollihur

    Bob Gollihur GollihurMusic.com

    Mar 22, 2000
    New Joisey Shore
    Big Cheese Emeritus: Gollihur Music
    Contrary to Chris' experience, I've not had reports of the transducer favoring one side or the other, except in rare (and I mean rare) cases where the bridge has an unusually short distance from the wing to the top of the bridge. It just isn't a problem, and I have sold one helluva lot of Bass Max pickups.
  6. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    Remember, when I said I was fussy about balance, I mean that I'm one FUSSY bastard....I don't think this is an exaggeration since I'm the only person I know who uses two pickups AND a mic every time I plug in (my old teacher used to say that my bass looked like a BORG because of all the wires hanging off of it).

    I like the Bass Max, but I like the Double Bass max better. I didn't mean to dis the Bass Max at all - as a testament to this, I went through 7 different pickup setups before getting my current configuration. Since getting the setup I have, I haven't even looked at anything else. The proof is in the sound, and the sound is there with the K&K stuff.
  7. jimclark68


    Dec 16, 2000
    Morganton, NC
    Bill, I have a bridge that I believe is similar to yours in terms of the wing - it sort of rolls inward and forms a point where you would mount the BassMax pickup. Mine works just fine and fits well, but I do use the tip of a sax reed as a shim, mostly to keep the point of the wing from damaging the pickup. It seems to me that a bridge with a flat surface in the wing would transmit a stronger signal since more surface area of the bridge would be in contact with the pickup, but again it seems to do just fine for me. I have mine mounted in the G-side of the bridge because it fits better (and therefore responds better), and it seems to have fairly even balance from G to E. I also have the K&K Power Pack preamp, and agree with the others who have said that it is a must have.
  8. I thought I was the only guy in the world using Carvin and K&K in the same set up.

    I've been using a PB 500 (same engine as your 600 basically) and it works very well with the Bas Max and a pre-amp, so I'd recommend it in your set up.

    Get the pre-amp.
  9. I also have a bass max(rockabilly special actually)that I purchaced from(all hail!)Bob Gollihur and never had a balance problem...but I will say whatever pup you get make sure you get a buffer pre-amp.piezo pups sound awfull straight to the input of a bass guitar amp and you NEED that buffer to match impedence...some amps have inputs that will handle it...like acoustic istrument amps such as the SWR blonde amps.but I would still use a pre-amp.this step of amplification is just as important as the pup you use...hope this helps
  10. lermgalieu

    lermgalieu Supporting Member

    Apr 27, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    I'm using a Bass Master Pro, which comes with both the Max and the Twin AND a preamp, within your price range I believe. I wouldn't leave out the preamp...

    Whatever you end up with, you will just have to tweak with it until it sounds right to you, no bass is the same. I have noticed that my Big Twin is bassy (its on the bass side), but I need to revisit how I have it shimmed in there, and maybe muck with the tone controls on the preamp a bit more. Overall, its the best pickup I have had (I also have had the Fishman and a couple of other doorstops)
  11. Question about the Bass Master Pro:

    If I bought a Bass Max and one of the preamps that Bob (AH) Gollihur sells with them, and then later decided to buy a Double Big Twin and use it combined with the Bass Max (or vice versa), that would be the same as a Bassmaster Pro wouldn't it? Or is there a small difference I'm missing? If thats the case, I might just get one pickup and preamp and upgrade later if I decide I need to.

    I'm still kind of torn between the two but whichever one I get I will definitely get a preamp with. I just finished up final exams here and will be going back home soon, so hopefully I'll talk to Bob in the next week or two and figure out what I'm going to get. Thanks for all the input.
  12. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    The only difference would be that the BMP would be wired into a single stereo jack, and the two single pickups would each terminate in a mono jack.
  13. olivier


    Dec 17, 1999
    Paris, France
    My K&K power pack preamp never worked correctly, gives distortions, and, as far as I am concerned, is useless. Bad mileage in my case.:(

    Now, I use the Bass Max and am happy with it and invite you to "enjoy" it like the rest of us.;)
  14. Bob Gollihur

    Bob Gollihur GollihurMusic.com

    Mar 22, 2000
    New Joisey Shore
    Big Cheese Emeritus: Gollihur Music
    If your Power Pack distorts it is likely that the internal gain control is set too high. I recommend in my supplement with all stuff I sell that the internal gain control be set to the minimum, or near to the minimum. The Bass Max is pretty hot, and the Power Pack can preamplify a signal from 1 to 10 times the original level, based on the setting of the internal gain control. If set to high it will easily overload the first stage of most bass amps.

    The internal gain control is there so the Power Pack can be used with virtually any pickup, piezo or magnetic, made by any mfr.

    If anyone has difficulties with anything they buy from me, please contact me so we can figure out what's up.
  15. olivier


    Dec 17, 1999
    Paris, France
    I just wanted to say that, in my own particular setup (K&K-BassMax/AI-Contra) the PowerPack preamp was not of absolute necessity.
  16. erik II

    erik II

    Jul 11, 2000
    Oslo, Norway
    I plugged my Bass Master Pro through a stereo-mono cable directly into my Clarus , and it made the speaker pump like crazy. The preamp must filter out some seriously low frequencies...?

    Anyone know something about this? Is it bad for the speakers?
  17. Bob Gollihur

    Bob Gollihur GollihurMusic.com

    Mar 22, 2000
    New Joisey Shore
    Big Cheese Emeritus: Gollihur Music
    I am not really clear on what you did.

    If you plug the BMP output into a Clarus (or any other amp) using a mono cable, you will only get the Double Big Twin portion of the system, since it requires a stereo cable to carry both signals.

    In any case, the preamp is just a straight line preamp with onboard EQ. It doesn't have any effect such as you suggest.

    I've used the Bass Max plugged directly into my Contra many times, though I often like to use a Power Pack or Pure Preamp for local control of the volume. But as olivier said, it isn't necessary; the Contra has an ultrahigh (1/10 megohm) input impedance jack to properly load piezo-based pickups.
  18. erik II

    erik II

    Jul 11, 2000
    Oslo, Norway
    Here is what I did: I made a short stereo-mono adapter; a stereo cable with a female stereo plug in one end, and a male mono plug in the other end, where the two signals were merged.
    With the original stereo cable from the PU plugged through the adapter into the amp, a mix of the two signals was sent into the amp.

    I then observed what I described above: The speakers moved excessively when I played. With the original preamp set-up I couldn't see much movement at all - the difference was huge.


    (edited for clarity - I hope :))
  19. catwood


    Apr 26, 2002
    Little Rock, AR
    I've experienced something similar with the K&K preamp giving distortion. I play with a Bass Max into a EA iAMP 350 combo. I used to play through a GK head with the preamp and in my ignorance thought that this was what a "great sound" was. Once I got the EA amp I cranked it up and found that the signal was distorting sooner than I expected for a 350w head. It took me about half an hour to finally realize it was b/c my gain was too high in the preamp. I lowered it and found that I could get a good bit louder, but still, it would reach a point where the lower notes would be distorted. Not that overloaded sound when you know you pushing all the watts you can, but like a distortion pedal was in the mix. After another half hour I came up with the most brilliant idea: PLUG DIRECTLY INTO THE AMP - NO PREAMP. The sound I got then knocked me off my feet. It's been everything I ever dreamed of. And Loud! It seems that even with the gain down low, having a preamp in the mix is going to distort the signal as you turn up louder BEFORE you would normally distort were it the case that you were playing direct.
    That preamp is an excellent tool, but I just don't agree with people saying that "hands down, you need it." There are some amps out there like the Clarus and iAMP that match the req'd piezo impedance just fine, and in this case, seem to deliver the signal even stronger w/o it. I was actually a little disappointed to see it perform better w/o the preamp, b/c I had just purchased the slap transducer from Bob before realizing this. The mixed signal is sweeet for slap, but I just can't seem to get quite as loud.
    Perhaps I haven't toyed with it enough. I want to stress that I'm not dissing on the preamp. I just haven't turned back since I realized that I only need one cord to plug in.

    man, i'm long winded.
  20. MEP


    May 27, 2002
    I'm using a K&K Bass Max that I bought from Bob and overall I like it. My pickup is mounted on the bass side Most of the time I use it without a preamp, just run it straight into a DI, then to the house system. The sound live is good and seems to be pretty balanced, however I tried to record with it and hated it. The A and E strings are pretty boomy and my bass is pretty even toned naturally. So, for live gigs I find it great but for recording it needs lots of EQ.

    But overall it is a good pickup and is definitely easy to install.