Looking for a better pickup...

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by Gilbert F, Dec 6, 2005.

  1. Gilbert F

    Gilbert F Guest

    Oct 13, 2004
    I've been using a K&K Bassmax and a Pure Preamp for about two years now, and I've got some issues with it:
    -The sound is very unnatural and boomy with my bass (a completely stock Engelhardt ES-1 with Correlli 370 Tx Strings) through an iAmp 800 combo, even though the pickup is fitted very well.
    -The signal (even with the preamp's internal gain turned all the way down) distort and make farting noises sometimes (infrasonics?).
    -The pickup does not handle arco well my bass, unless heavily EQ'ed.
    -The pickup feeds back pretty easily, even with string after-lengths muted and a wadded up t-shirt wedged between the tailpiece and top.
    -My Engelhardt's bridge is very short, with the heart thing only like less than an inch from the A and D strings

    I'm now looking to replace it with something that:
    -Sounds natural (even if somewhat electric-sounding. I hate the horrible mushy, pingy, piezo-y tone I've been getting with the Bassmax.)
    -Handles both pizz and arco well (I play plenty of both with my jazz septet)
    -Isn't mounted in the bridge wing
    -Can handle high volumes (like playing with a loud drummer/big band)
    -Doesn't require lots of modifications to the bass
    -Doesn't require any extra gear
    -Has a balanced output for each string
    -Costs less than $300

    Note, I am very satisfied with the sound of my bass unplugged, and the amp works great for my bass guitar.

    Possibilities I've been considering are the Schertler Stat-B, the String Charger, and the Realist. My bass still has the stock Engelhardt crappy bridge, but I'm going to replace that with an adjustable one in the near future.

    So, what are your suggestions for a new pickup?

    Also, does anyone know if the K&K Pure Preamp (which I really like) completely cuts everything below 20hz?

  2. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    You should consider the Vektor. I believe Flatback is in your area and he has one. It's a bit of a pain to get installed but certainly no worse than a Turner or Barbera or Wilson. And once it's done, the sound and the neatness of the installation is wonderful.
  3. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    I am guessing that the pickup is too hot for the preamp, and the one is clipping the other. Are you willing to tinker with the electronics a bit? Wiring a 0.047 microfarad capacitor in parallel with the pickup would cut your overall gain by about 9 dB.

    Radio shack part number 272-1068, for $1.29

    For experimenting, don't even bother with solder. Once you have a tolerable system gain, then I'll bet you can work out the infrasonic issue with your amp. If not, then pick up some 47 kilohm resistors, part number 271-1342, and wire one in parallel with that capacitor.

    I know it sounds insane, but it's also a possibly cheap solution. For details on how and why I think this works, read my recent manifesto in this forum on piezo pickup matching.

    If you are not handy with a soldering iron, I'll bet that your luthier is. It seems to be part of the job description these days.
  4. Gilbert F

    Gilbert F Guest

    Oct 13, 2004
    Adrian- I read the link you gave me about the Vektor, and did a search and read the two threads about it, and it sounds like a great solution, but here's the thing: I'm planning on taking my bass to the shop and having them replace my current, non-adjustable bridge with an adjustabe one. Once I get that bridge, will I be able to have the Vektor installed in it? If so, can I have a luthier do it? How critical is proper placement of the hole you have to drill? And also, would that pickup sound good on my plywood bass?

    fdeck- I don't think the pickup is overloading the preamp, because when I run it straight into the iAmp (adjusting the input level control so as not to overload the input) it still makes those noises. I'm pretty sure it's the just the pickup, although I have heard the Bassmax used by others with great results. I guess it's just not for me. Up until recently, I haven't been playing amplified DB that much, so I've tolerated it, but now that I'm doing more, I need something better. Also, I don't think I want to mess with adding any capacitors or anything.
  5. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    You know, I forgot that you have a plywood bass. I am not sure at all that the Vektor would sound good with a plywood so I'm glad you pointed it out. The Dyn-B which operates in somewhat of a similar manner does not sound good on plywoods and the same may be true of the Vektor. Sorry to confuse things.
  6. hensonbass


    Feb 25, 2004
    Atlanta, GA
    I know it fits in the wing slots which you said you don't want but I think you should try an Upton revolution solo PU for $99.

    You can't beat this for under $300 IMO.

    Check the posts
  7. Gilbert, if your bass sounds good acousticly, the Vektor PU will work on it. The Vektor PU has been originally developed for the Vektor electric upright bass, which has a more or less solid maple body, and it works well with that too, whereas the Dyn-B doesn't at all. Both PU's work similarly, but the way they are mounted and pick up the sound is very different.
    And the way the sound is generated on a plywood bass is the same as on a solid wood bass, so the front vibrates, which is all you need for the Vektor to be able to work.

    As for installation, it is easiest to fit both adjusters and PU at the same time. If you're interested, check with your local luthier, and if he's in doubt, tell him to contact me about fitting the Vektor.
  8. Gilbert F

    Gilbert F Guest

    Oct 13, 2004
    This Vektor pickup is looking very interesting. I seriously think that one day I will get it, although not in the near future. Right now, I'm looking for a pickup that's easy to install, and that I can use on my current bridge and then transfer to the new one when I get it. Then, once I get the new bridge (probably in a few months) I'll start thinking about having the Vektor installed.

    As for the Revolution Solo, I've heard many good reviews about it, but the soundclip I heardhere sounded pretty bad to me. It really reminded me of my what my Bassmax sounds like with the low mids at like 180hz completely cut. Are Revolution Solos supposed to sound like this? If so, than it's definately not for me.

    Does anyone have anything to say about the String Charger, the Realist, or the Stat-B? The only time I heard a String Charger was on the Oscar Peterson dvd "A Night In Vienna." The sound NHOP got with it was quite electric, but still sounded good. The only time I heard a Realist was on Billy Norris's song on the Talkbass sampler, and the only time I heard a Stat-B was Tbeers's big band recording. I think the sound I liked best was the Realist. Any comments?
  9. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    I haven't wanted to poo poo the lovefest in the Revolution Solo thread, but it didn't work for me. It sounded to me and the guys I play with, like a bridge wing pickup, which it is. Definitely not "like my bass only louder". Reading the posts in that thread, I see a lot of preamp tweeking, etc. and I know that with most bridgewing pickups, you can dial in a good sound with the right pre-amp and settings, but so far, I'm just not into that.

    I use the Realist. Most people I know use the Realist. I won't say it's the best pickup, I'm very interested in the next great pickup, but for me, I'm not convinced that there is a better one right now for my budget, tastes and habits.

    I had a Stat-B and returned it to the shop. There were two things that I didn't like about it. One was that it sounded good into my amp, but not any amp I plugged into and I was going to a lot of jam sessions then and using house gear, I wanted something really predictible. 2 was that it compromised (slightly) my acoustic sound, when I pulled it out, my treble side openned up a bit, when I put it back, it choked it down a little bit. I also had a short on the pre-amp chord at a gig, which is one reason, I've tried to avoid any wires that I didn't absolutely need. I'm not sure that I gave the Stat-B a fair trial and have thought about it again, but it's an expensive experiment.

    So, the Realist sounds good. It sounds natural and acoustic, not exactly like the acoustic sound of my bass, but close. At loud volumes, it would be nice to be able to dial in a little bite, which I can sort of do with my GK, but this is a drawback to it. It's filtered to sound how it sounds and it's not that versitle. But it sounds good, better than anything else I've tried. The other drawback with the Realist is that they sit between the bridge foot and table, which is not ideal from a set up stand point. Luthiers don't really like them because they imprint the top a little, so it's not a great thing to just slap on and try. Overall, it's a very good pickup for most people, but it depends own what you want and how much of the rest of your gear makes up your sound. I suspect that a Stat-B through the right pre-amp and those Pub speakers is probably tough to beat, but I still want the ability to not be as dependant on total set up. The Realist is very plug and go.

    I'm intersted in the Dyn-B and the Vector, but don't know if I'll ever get to try them. The Vector can't really just be tried, because they are installed, so you'd have to take the leap. Maybe I'll get to sample a Dyn-B at some point.

    Good luck,

  10. Gilbert F

    Gilbert F Guest

    Oct 13, 2004
    keykendrick- I don't think I'll go with the Realist (at least for now) because I've heard that it doesn't do well at high volumes or on plywood basses. It sounds great though.

    I think I've settled on the K&K Double Big Twin as my final desicion. I already have the Pure Preamp, which it's supposed to work well with. I've been leaning between the DBT and the Fishman BP 100, but it seems like most people find the DBT to be better (more natural sounding, no negative effects on the acoustics of the bass, and it's cheaper). I'm pretty sure that I'll go with it. I'll give a full report when I recieve it sometime next week, hopefully. Does anyone have any thoughts/experience/tips about the Double Big Twin?
  11. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    I don't, but the BP100 is a dog. Anything is better than that.

    The Realist works fine on a plywood bass for what it's worth, same as a carved bass. It depends on the sound you're going for. I play in a group that sometimes gets Hancock-funky and it's not always the best pickup for that sort of thing. Good all around jazz with occasional arco, though.

  12. larry


    Apr 11, 2004
    I'll chime in with my $.02 since I've had many of the pickups mentioned.

    My opinions / observations are subject to my experiences using my basses and my amps (YMMV):

    The Revolution Solo is a fine pick-up for pizz., but not for arco. It is the pick up I use most.

    The Fishman Full Circle is the best I have used for arco by far, pizz is very good, I just like the Rev. Solo a little better.
    Still have it on my bass right now with my Rev. Solo.

    The String Charger was my main pick up for a few years. Has many advantages since it is magnetic (no feedback, does not get boomy, very defined sound), however it is far from natural sounding and it does not sound all that great arco. Gilbert, you may like it based on your distaste for piezo-ness, but I'm not sure you would dig the arco sound, and it would probably be more than a bit electric-sounding.

    Realist was on my bass for a couple years after the String Charger. A very good pick up, but it is a bit muddy and less detailed when compared with the Full Circle or Rev. Solo.

    Based on your needs, I THINK you would be most happy with the Fishman Full Circle out of the bunch I mentioned, but I can't say how it compares to the Vektor or the K&K.

    Good Luck, let us know what you pick.
  13. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    I know two people who use a BP-100 exclusively and they're very happy with their sound. One is my teach, who sounds like a million bucks with his Juzek. It's not exactly a natural sound, kinda electric-like but it sounds hella good on his bass. He's tried a full circle and wasn't happy with the results and some other pickups as well. I'll have to agree with him, the BP-100 was better than the FC on his bass. :eek: IMO, It all depends on what you got and what your ears are wanting to hear.
  14. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I don't care for it, and left by itself, it tends to sound a bit like the BP 100. YMMV. Of the K&K stuff, I prefer the bass max.
  15. Gilbert F

    Gilbert F Guest

    Oct 13, 2004
    Well I took the plunge and ordered the Double Big Twin, yesterday. It should get here by Tuesday or Wednesday, and I'll install it and post a review. My bass teacher also uses a BP100 and she sounds like the bass only louder (but slightly thinner) for both pizz and arco, so that's why I was considering it, but she also uses Obligatos on a carved bass. Anyway, the DBT is only $95, so what the hell.

    AMJBASS Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2002
    Ontario, Canada
    That sound clip of the Revolution Solo is not a good example at all. I have been absolutely thrilled with the sound of mine and I have had almost every pickup on the market while in my quest for the "acoustic only louder" sound. The Revolution Solo comes the closest. More clarity than the Realist, and without the electric sound of most bridge mounted Piezos.
  17. bolo


    May 29, 2005
    Apex, NC
    Gilbert, I think you mentioned getting an adjustable bridge installed on your bass sometime soon. My advice would include experimenting some more w/ pickups after you get the new bridge too. In fact, you may have to get out your old Bass Max and start this whole thing over again!

    Seriously - I changed bridges about three years ago and it had a very notable effect on how the K&K Double Big Twin sounded on my bass. It also impacted the sound of the K&K Bass Max. It was like kinda starting all over again. And I remember being pretty startled - I wasn't expect any dramatic changes in tone I guess.

  18. Gilbert F

    Gilbert F Guest

    Oct 13, 2004
    Well I finally got my DBT, after the funky Fedex guy delivered it to the wrong appartment, two days late. I've installed it, but won't get to test it out till tomorrow. I can't wait!

    Thursday night, I played a gig (Jazz quintet) with my Bassmax. The room (my school's gym) was just horrible, and I had to crank the iAmp unusually high (above 5 on the master volume with full gain). During soundcheck my preamp's battery died, so I had to go without it, and due to the high volumes required to be heard over a loud drummer, miked sax and trumpet, electric guitar, and miked piano, I had to kill everything below like 180hz to eliminate feedback and boost 5dB at 1000hz to get some articulation, which basically left me sounding like Jaco on a bad day. Then to top it all off, I had some monster feedback DURING MY SOLO in the second song, so I reluctantly ditched my realbass and finished the set with my slab. Grrrrrrrr!!!

    I hope the Double Big Twin won't have any of those problems. Can anyone tell me what kind of resistance it has to feedback?

    Now, I think that if that DBT doesn't solve all my problems, I'm just going to get a gosh-darn String Charger with piezo attachment thing.

    But seriously, do the makers of the popular piezo pickups (K&K, Underwood, Fishman, etc) expect them to work at anything besides really low volumes, or is it just my bad luck?
  19. Gilbert F

    Gilbert F Guest

    Oct 13, 2004
    After installing it yesterday (a fairly simple procedure) I played my first rehearsal (quartet with un-miked drums, trumpet and tenor sax) with the new pickup, today, and I'm pretty satisfied, so far. Here are some of my thoughts:

    -The first thing I noticed was the sound. It seems to have fairly even frequency response, even moreso than the Bassmax, at least on my bass. The tone is bright, airy, and very well defined, with nice tight bass. Surprisingly, it sounds fine without the Pure preamp, although the 3 band EQ does help, but I can still get plenty of gain running the pickup straight into the amp. Playing jazz pizz, the sound can range from very "stringy" and modern, to slightly old school with some simple preamp adjustments. And best of all, I can get a nice sound for both pizz AND arco without touching any controls!
    -Second, this pickup resists feedback very very well. I had the DBT plugged straight into the passive input of the iAmp with about 3/4 gain and EQ bypassed (the bass was positioned directly in front of and facing the speaker), and I only got some low end rumbling when I turned the volume up past like 5 or 6. No muting or EQ'ing whatsoever! Then, I turned the bass at 150hz down by 10dB, and was able to crank the volume up to 8 without any feedback. I expect I can go even higher (although I doubt I'll ever need to) if I add some foam muting on the string afterlengths and wedge a shirt between the tailpiece and top.

    Well, I'm pretty satisfied with the DBT overall. The only MINOR drawbacks I found is that you have to be careful the little wires from each element aren't touching the bridge, because it'll pick up the rattling, it picks up any noise from tapping the bass or bridge, or moving the bass, and it loudly amplifies the noise of turning the tuning gears. For now, I think I've found my perfect pickup. Once I've gotten a chance to really test it out, I'll post a full review.

    Thank you guys, for all of your helpful info.
  20. bickele


    Dec 29, 2003
    Bergen, Norway
    OT: if you kill everything below 180Hz, you're killing the fundamentals of every note roughly up to F3 (the F on the G string lying by the neck joint).
    I'd avoid such a massive cut in favor of a specific notch filtering at the trouble feedback frequencies. This will give you a much more balanced sound and a lot more volume, meaning you won't need to crank your amp up so much.
    My guess is that you started feeding on the solo because you started playing above F3 and the volume difference up there was enormous...