Miking Guts vs. Guts with Pickup

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by bonaventura, Jul 1, 2008.

  1. Gut strings sound great! I do a lot of gigs unamped, but there are some special problems in amplifying guts, and I didn’t see much here on TB about that. So here’s what I, in all my inexperience, have experienced in guts. (I also play steel strings on my second bass.) Mainly, I guess I am interested in learning from you all about whether or not you use a mic or pickup with guts.

    IMO the best amplified gut string sound is through a mic -- rather than pickup -- because it's the overall sound of the bass you're amplifying, not just the vibrations from under the bridge foot or from a wing slot. That can sound muddy, depending on what kind of strings you play. But with those pickups, Realist, Underwood, etc., you’re only amplifying part of the sound of the bass. With a mic, you get the full sound of the bass as it comes out of the bass into the room, the richness, the overtones, plus the deep tones and pinging sound of the gut strings. You hear the projection of amplified gut strings even up into thumb position, which is just phenomenal -- something steel strings simply will not do for you. Amen. :smug:

    I've got two mics. I prefer the Neumann KM185. It's "hyper carotenoid" or whatever, which means it restricts the area it amplifies, a focussed "spot" mic -- not an all-rounder -- and will produce more volume before feedback than a less focussed mic. I got an “H-Clamp” for holding the mic firmly in place where I want it. The Neumann needs phantom power, and the Acoustic Image head provides sufficient power.

    The AMT SB25 is also good (quite a bit cheaper than the Neumann and made in the US). It is a bit more resistant to feedback than the Neumann. Uses a battery or phantom power, and has its own preamp.

    Feedback is the tradeoff. With a mic you'll get feedback much sooner than with a pickup. There are ways to avoid feedback, however, and it doesn't really impair my playing anymore. Each room seems to create its own unique situation, acoustically, for feedback. The Hi-Pass Filter is a great tool. Sometimes I place the amp off the ground, or slightly in front of me, or find some other way of ensuring the mic does not "see" the box.

    I think guts sound best with a mic. Does anyone prefer a pickup, say a Realist or Underwood or Fishman, with guts? How does that compare to a mic for guts in your view?

    Some of the TB-ers seem to think that synthetic strings like Obligatos or Evahs sound muddy, but these guys are almost always using a piezo pickup of some kind, not a mic. They say Obligatos sound good when you’re practicing by yourself, but not when amplified. Isn't it more accurate to say it's not the strings, it's the pickup and where it is located that makes the difference?
  2. I always try to use a mic with my bass. I don't even bring a nice mic out for the little gigs I'm doing, just a beat up SM58 mounted on the H-clamp. I think the lack of bass response on the 58 works to my advantage live, rolling off the low bass. I like the pickup I have (K&K bassmax) paired with a Raven Labs PMBII, but even the old 58 makes the bass sound more natural. I'd like to experiment with mixing the pickup and mic, but I hate having to carry extra gear. I doubt many folks actually prefer the pickup to a mic on their bass. To me, it seems like a trade-off, a little tone sacrificed for ease of amplification, not having to fight with feedback in every room with weird acoustics. And some pickups sound quite good. No matter what we do the bass will never sound as good as playing with some friends at home with no amplifiers, PA's, or microphones in sight.
    I played with Obligatos on my E and A string before going all gut and never found them muddy at all. They do have a complex midrange tone going on that seems to mellow with time. I guess through certain pickups or amplifiers that midrange could lead to lack of definition. I always played them with high action and dug in hard.
  3. I find that guts amplify well with a pickup or a microphone. When I had spiros or Evahs on my bass I was always trying to get them to sound like gut. I prefer to play unamped (doesn't everyone?) but getting the sound out is job number one.
  4. Bobby King

    Bobby King Supporting Member

    May 3, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    I think that you need to take a different approach with a gut versus a steel strung bass when choosing mics and pickups. While condenser mics can sound good on a steel string bass, I find that a dynamic or ribbon mic is better for gut. They seem to better handle the "punch" of gut without becoming boomy or unfocused or crapping out with distortion. An EV RE-20, Sunnheiser 421 or Beyer M-88 are all good gut bass mics. If you ever have access to an old RCA ribbon mic, that's what was frequently used on bass in many of our old favorite recordings. IMO, pickups like the Realist or Full Circle sound better with steel strings, they can get kind of boomy/woofy with guts. For many years I've used an Underwood pickup ( the bass-side element only) with guts and I can get a pretty decent gut sound through an amp. Of course, it's not as natural sounding as a mic, but it's a trade-off to get more volume without feedback. All of this is very personal, and I know you'll get lots of different opinions on this subject. ;)
  5. milomo


    Aug 5, 2007
    Bloomfield, NJ
    I have guts on both of my basses, and each bass has a different pickup on it. My plywood has a Realist, and my Juzek has a Full Circle, and both sound great, and require a minimum of amp-knob-twiddling to sound how i want.
  6. I use all guts on one bass and steel one another. I just switched which bass has which strings and WOW!!!! what a difference. Had guts on a 1958 Kay MIB with Upton Rev. pickup, had steel on a New American Standard Hybrid Cleveland with a Fishman Full Circle pickup. Always dealt with feedback with the Kay gut rig. Now with the guts on the Cleveland I can really get loud with very little feedback. I also have just bought a new expensive amp too (Thunderfunk TFB-750 A,and Accugroove Tri 12 and Tri 15).

    I've used just mics before,but on the live gigs I do it's just not enough volume. I totally agree that the sound is better with a mic,but it's just not an option for me on most of my gigs.

    AMJBASS Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2002
    Ontario, Canada
    For some reason I always found it very difficult to get gut strings(mostly the D and G) to amplify the way I want with a pickup. They have less clarity and a different attack than steel. Although I have found that the underwood style pickup seems to do OK. I prefer a mic with Gut. With steel strings, it is easier to control the sound with a pickup. I have a lot less trouble EQ'ing. Depends what you are going for I guess. The sound is obviously more natural with a mic...
  8. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    I amplify my (Gamut) guts with a Full Circle and it works fine. However I definitely lose a bunch of the tone in the process.