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Messenger EUB megathread

Discussion in 'Electric Upright Basses (EUB's) [DB]' started by clochard, Dec 31, 2005.

  1. OliverH


    Aug 2, 2008
    Just checked out the local price for Pirastro Obligatos - A$290!!!

    Damn, and I thought I had it bad buying electric bass strings. Guess it should make a big difference though.
  2. OliverH


    Aug 2, 2008
    Well it has been a long time since the last post but I got a set of used Obligatos from another member here and put them on - I'm getting a fantastic sound out of my Messenger now, much closer to the "jazz" sound I've been after all these years :)
  3. winston

    winston Supporting Member

    May 2, 2000
    East Bay, CA
    Good for you. The Obligatos definitely had a lot of jazzy growl on my Messenger.

    Just curious, are you still finding the bass difficult to play? Along with what others said about setup before, some keys to building stamina (and tone!) on upright without hurting yourself are:

    1) Proper posture
    2) Awareness of the power that comes from using the large muscle groups (back, shoulder, arms)--your hands are transmitting that energy to the strings
    3) Making friends with gravity--much of the force required to hold down (or pluck/bow) the string is supplied by the weight of your arms. Being able to really feel this while you play can lead to a great reduction in the amount of strain you put on your hands/tendons/etc.

    Of course a good teacher always helps with all this.
  4. OliverH


    Aug 2, 2008
    I still find it difficult to play but I'm not playing every day. I'm trying to approach technique as I learned from the few lessons I had some years back with a teacher but it's probably pretty awful. I know I don't play correctly below the heel of the neck (using your thumb on the fingerboard etc) but I find it hard to hold onto the bass at that point since there is no shoulder to lean on.

    Anyway I'll keep battling on... basically it's just practice and having some lessons I guess.
  5. artfahie


    Dec 14, 2007
    Bar Mills, Maine
    I love my Ergo but am nuts about the sound of the Messenger... John is getting me one that a friend doesn't give much attention to... it'll be the one with the upgraded pick-up (sorry I don't recall the model #).... talk about a descent guy... very nice indeed. As I don't need two uprights I'll be selling my Ergo when the time comes... I've really become quite attached to it... truly a great instrument as well.

    Art Fahie
  6. Ukiah Bass

    Ukiah Bass

    May 10, 2006
    Can anyone speak to the sonic quality of the Messenger bass with and without the Barbera bridge/pickup?
  7. abaguer


    Nov 27, 2001
    Milford, NJ
    I bought mine I think in 93 so it just had that highlander preamp/pickup with the transducer under the bridge. I used that for a few years and then upgraded to the Barbera. The Barbera is a quantum leap in sound. String to string balance was much better as was fullness of sound. Soundmen really liked the sound, gave them a lot to work with. The thing to remember is that it is still an EUB and does not have the acoustic sound of upright. Lots of sustain but the Barbera improved the sound significantly. I've had the Barbera bridge for over 10 years with no problem and lots of roadwork.
  8. Ukiah Bass

    Ukiah Bass

    May 10, 2006
    Yeah, I'm thinking about a buying a used Messenger (11-12 yrs old). The builder, John Knutson told me he's unable to provide an upgrade to the Barbera technology because Barbera produces very few of these units and eventually wants to phase them out of his product line. So John reserves Barbera only for new builds of the DLX model. John said the active EMG preamps in the bass I'm considering (owned by his neighbor) sound good for pizz & arco as is.
  9. abaguer


    Nov 27, 2001
    Milford, NJ
    Yeah, the EMG will sound good as is. I still keep the little wire transducer under under the bridge and on some outdoor gigs when I'm not in PA I sometimes switch to just that because it sometimes cuts through a little better when drums are louder than jazz gig. If I'm in PA I use Barbera all the time.
    Ukiah Bass likes this.
  10. Ukiah Bass

    Ukiah Bass

    May 10, 2006
    Thanks for this info. Virtually none of my gigs go through a PA. Wineries, civic events, etc. are all easily handled with my amp and cab. On the other hand, John played a Messenger with Barbera pickup for me at his shop and it sounded really good!
  11. I have a Barbera on my Merchant Vertical Bass (EUB) and boy, yes.. it is a great salsa sound but not too acoustic. However, I do find one can work more wonders with such a strong signal and no feedback - lots you can slap on that to mould it different ways. Although.. there is a drawback.. barbera uses piezzo elements embedded in the bridge under the strings, 2 per string. The issue here is that piezzos have wires soldered to them.. or more exactly.. not to them as piezzos are ceramic and you cannot solder a wire to ceramic. So the wire contacts are soldered to a blob of solder deposited on some sort of silver/conductive dust glue which is stuck to the piezzo. Well,... the glue tends to dry out eventually and detach so you start getting intermittent drop in the signal as the solder contacts are jingling around in the tight space where they are embedded while you play.
    I currently have a D string with only one piezzo active which makes it half the volume of all the other strings - so .. unusable piackup.
    Now comes the interesting part..
    1. I send an email to Barbera explaining my predicament and asking if he would be willing to sell me a couple of piezzo elements. I know what I am doing and can replace the failed one myself.... - no answer for three weeks.. eventually never answered me
    2. Three weeks into the wait, I give up and call his shop.. get the guy. I explain the situation and while he is trying to convince me that I should send him the whole bridge for repair ($500 USD + shipping (and I am in western Canada which means customs too)), I am trying to convince him I can repair it if only given the piezzo with same specs (cuz I can't tell where he gets em or what specs they actually are). He reluctantly agrees and says he'll email me the paypal info and how much to send him. Click.

    3. No email for 2 weeks. I call again.. can't reach him... leave a msg... no callback. Then .. check this, I call from my number.. goes to vm... I call from my wife's number - he picks up.
    He sounds really annoyed (cuz its obvious I tricked him) and tells me that hes super busy but will get around to it soon.... never heard from him again. Never called him back.. for about a year now, as I was made to feel like he made me into some sort of a badgering customer (my sense of decency and pride got wounded here as you can tell).

    Is that just HORRIBLE customer service or what? Dude, if I didn't want to sell you the part.. I could have just said,, sorry, not our policy,, need to send in the whole thing for repair. We don't ship out single parts. - that would have ended my wait, calling, emailing etc..

    Instead, I am made to feel like I dumped his sister or something and am stuck with a half working pickup...

    So,, anyone have a malfunctioning barbera they d be into selling me for parts?

  12. You don't need a new piezo if only the contact gets disconnected.
    Get some liquid silver as used for repairing printed circuit boards. Very carefully (!) put a thin layer of liquid silver on the contact part, let it dry, probably repeat it a few times to make the layer a bit thicker. Then either
    A) wait for a few days to let the whole layer dry and solder on it very quickly (piezos crystals can get damaged if they get hot) or
    B) don't let the last layer dry completely but push the ripped off part against it, clamp it and let it dry for some days. Be very careful with mechanical stress or it might get ripped off again. And also have a look that the silver does't spread out to areas it should belong to when clamping.

    Better try B before A. And be very careful to put the silver only on the parts that were coated before not elsewhere around.
    Maybe you would like to try soldering some cheap piezo disks before you try the Barbera element.

    I think the guy you talked to decided against the policy without knowing about it and then was forbidden to send the element out.
    Some pickups cannot be repaired like the Realist or epoxy-coated piezo disks. They have to be replaced completely. The same with your Barbera bridge, except that one element might be removed in half or completely and replaced. If you could do that yourself, you could build these pickups which is not easy due to the thermal sensitivity of the piezo crystals. That's the reason I assume why they didn't respond to your calls hoping you would send the bridge in after a while. Even be prepared to pay more than the usual repair fee if you try a repair yourself that failed. You might have screwed something up through your repair or they might see a repair attempt by a non-professional and react with a higher repair fee.
  13. Hi. Thanks for advice.
    The thing is.. I killed the piezzo element with a soldering iron.. before I realized it can't be done that way. I had a couple of others detach as well previously, but was able to resolder them fine... this one didn't work out. That's why I need a working one.
    I'd try another I just can't find where to buy a piezzo with such physical dimensions.. all the ones I found online are way to big to fit into the recess for it in the bridge, and correct me if Im wrong,, but I probably can't snip it down to size without destroying it.
    You may be right about the guy.. but I doubt it.. I combed through talkbass regarding Barbera and have read about very similar experiences with them.. seems my negative customer experience is definitely not unique.
    Doing some more research looks like WilsonK4 does the same thing without the longevity issues or install trickiness. However, due to it costing a pretty penny I bought a Krivo instead and am waiting to receive it any day now. I figure since Barbera makes the sound pretty electric.. the Krivo should provide a very similar sound and since I do need the pickup for mostly high volume/noisy latin gigs I might have solved this to my satisfaction. Somewhere down the line I may acquire a K4 for my acoustic upright,, should I find Krivo not good enough.
    For my acoustic I currently use a combo of Schertler DB piezzo and a DPA 4099 mic through a headway preamp (or mic straight to the PA), but I also find the Schertler giving me grief when I'm in a noisy situation. I mean, it works,, but it requires fidgeting frequently and I am starting to get tired of that.
  14. blastoff


    Sep 5, 2007
    way out west
    Hey guys is this thread still alive? or is there a newer more mega-er mega thread somewhere?
    anyways i bought a messenger a little while back, and i really dig it. i do want to change out the strings though. the strings it has currently sound rather nasal to me, though it could be that the pickup set needs some adjustment. the strings have a light blue silk winding. what are peoples favorite strings for this eub, for a nice warm round characterful sound? i do much more pitz than arco. thanks!
  15. There is not another megathread.
    Can you take a picture of the strings silk at the tailpiece and tuner ends please?
  16. NG51

    NG51 Supporting Member

    Aug 19, 2010
    I think John uses Thomastiks, but I'm not sure. You could probably ask him-he's a very good guy:Knutson Luthiery
  17. If these are the stock strings that John Knutson put on it, and if they are Thomastiks, then they are the Super-Flexibles.
    "nice warm round characterful sound?"
    What does that mean exactly?
    Long sustain or short thump?
    I associate warm tone with orchestral strings, and these strings are not particularly round-sounding, and they have a rather short sustain.
  18. blastoff


    Sep 5, 2007
    way out west
    cool! thanks for the replies. i do plan on getting ahold of John when i have a chance and bring my bass by his place as he only lives a few hours away. yes tone and especially the terminology we use to describe it is very subjective. i very much like tomastiks and the tone they produce on my precision bass. i like thumpy and dark tone and certainly a lower tension feel is nice. ive had helicores on my upright forever and the tone is fine by me and ive even always felt that my K&k bassmax has been just fine for an amplified sound. im definitely not after a HiFi tone by any means. maybe ampeg baby bass perhaps with a bit more growl. any how maybe these strings are fine and its more the bridge set up and pick up situation i would need to look at. ...working on pictures. photobucket sucks

    Attached Files:

  19. You could try Helicores on the Messenger, if you have a spare or older set laying around, you may be pleasantly surprised! :)
  20. zootsaxes


    Mar 6, 2015
    Memphis, TN
    Yesterday I became the proud new owner of TB's Daveaceofbass's used teal Knutson Messenger DLX bass and thought I'd contribute to this mini-mega-thread. Not only was Dave a super nice guy to deal with, but this bass rocks my socks, ya'll. I took off the light Correlli strings that he had on there that sounded great arco but were super lame pizz and put on some good ole Spiro Mitts to get a baseline feel for the instrument. I adjusted the bridge all over the spectrum and settled on the longest string length possible (42") to match my other basses with approximately 4-5mm space under the G string - low enough to bow all day long in thumb position, but high enough to really dig into some Ray Brown type walking when necessary. So far I've played through my Ampeg B15 and my tiny little PJB Cub, and just for fun, my saxophone effects pedal rig. The results are astoundingly varied. I need to test more, but I am amazed at how many different voices this instrument is capable of, depending on what you're pumping it through and how you EQ it. The pickup system took a minute to get used to, but I kind of figured out that the primary pizz #1 pickup is supposed to be tightened as much as you can with your fingers, and that got "the sound" ... My strings are still stretching, so it's hard to comment on the bright/dark spectrum -- but, I can and will say that the bass FEELS great. I mean, I don't want to play my normal basses this thing feels so good. I can play acoustically at 6AM and still hear myself, but not wake up the wife and kids - Game changed. Life is good, and this thing is a blessing. jeremy.jpg
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2021
    BAE and Francois Blais like this.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

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