My Underwood needs attention

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by webmonster, Mar 24, 2018.

  1. webmonster


    May 19, 2013
    New Zealand
    The underwood pickup on my bass has given me some trouble and I've traced it to a poor connection(s) on the treble side where the wire from the bass side joins.

    Is this a common problem and is it likely to be straight forward to repair?
  2. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    Temporarily you can use the single element on the bass side. Several TB players do that to avoid phasing between the two elements. You might contact Double Midi via PM, as he has some experience with this. It seems to be a relatively common issue. Alternatively, there are now a couple of greate sounding, inexpensive, single element piezo pickups like the Cremona and MSP, should you have to replace the Underwood. Underwood has great customer service they will repair )or replace it ) depending on the issues.

    Last edited: Mar 24, 2018
  3. Selim

    Selim Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    New York City
    Do they still have lifetime warranty? The serial number on my Underwood is something like #11 (bought in the late 70's?) - I remember I had to drive from RI to the dealer's home in MA to get one. It broke around 15-20 years later and I remember taking it to the (then) local Underwood dealer (who was also my luthier after I had moved to NYC), who fixed it free of charge.

    But I only recently found out (thru TB) that some folks were using just one element, and I like it better.
  4. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    I know that their very good at customer service and will work with you to get it repaired or replaced (if necessary).
  5. Email Belinda. She’s awesome, and last I heard they were still offering total support for their product.
    Ric Vice likes this.
  6. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    I once had a long chat with Don Underwood. He was the one of the nicest guys I've ever talked to. Very engaging, very intelligent, loved
    music. He designed that pickup and Walter Woods bought one and set the input impedance on his amps based on the Underwood.
    Don also talked about a bass bridge being a cantilever arch and the unique way it vibrates. Don knew his stuff.

    Eric Hochberg and Don Kasper like this.
  7. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Gold Supporting Member

    Do you own a pair of wirecutters?
    Just snip and play. (A drop or two of SuperGlue on the cut area is a good idea.) I recently did exactly what your asking - removed the "G" side element completely, (and fabricated a mounting mechanism that I prefer.)
    I call it the "ONEderwood" bass pickup.

    Last edited: Mar 24, 2018
    Selim likes this.
  8. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    I’d try having it repaired (or replaced)
    first. I’m very confident that Underwood will stand by their pickup. Once you have it in working order you
    can choose whether to use one or two elements. It’s nice to have options.
  9. B String

    B String Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2002
    Los Angeles
    Truly one of the nice guys. I was working in the Monterey area in the 70's. A local told me about this Organ player who was making pickups. I went to his place to meet him. Really nice guy. I bought #009. It finally gave up the ghost a number of years ago. I called Don to let him know how long it lasted. He insisted I send it back for inspection. He sent me a new pickup. I (lightly) argued with him that the pickup had out lasted any kind of warranty and I wanted to pay him, but he wouldn't hear of it. Great product and a really sweet guy.
  10. I would first try to get it repaired.
    If they don't want to do that (or the price is too high), try to do it yourself. You will still have the option of cutting off the last element if it doesn't work.

    I never had an Underwood but a Shadow bridge wing pickup which is build the same way.
    On mine the shield connection to the brass inside one element broke, so I got a lot of noise (I think it was at the first element towards the output cable).
    I shove the shrink wrap isolation back, bent the brass "fingers" open and the I could see the problem. Soldered it back (roughing up the contact area with a small file (?) or sandpaper can help to make the solder to stick better to the brass), checked the connection by applying a little bit of stress and bent the brass fingers back. Shrink wrap back and there you go.

    One word of warning. Heat can destroy the piezo crystal, so use a bigger plier, put some rubber bands around to keep some tension and grab the pickup element with it to put some heat away from the pickup. Do a rather hot but quick soldering job, use good solder, maybe add some rosin for a better flow of solder.

    If the signal wire broke it might be rather tricky to repair it, so be careful not to break that connection. I only had two times when the shield connection broke (solder separated from the brass), so I cannot help if it's the hot wire that have broken.

    So, you see better try to get it repaired first, if that doesn't work for you, try a repair yourself or by a good electronics guy (let him read what I have written here if you won't like to do it yourself). If that doesn't work too, you have still the option to cut off the cable to the defective element, but thus might not be reversible.
    webmonster and Ric Vice like this.
  11. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    Agreed, it's just easier and more sensible I think, to try and repair it first.
    webmonster likes this.
  12. Yuppers.

    /thread. :) :)
    KUNGfuSHERIFF likes this.
  13. webmonster


    May 19, 2013
    New Zealand
    Hi all,
    Thanks for all your replies - many of which I did see until now!
    I hadn't 'subscribed' to the thread. I wonder if I can do that retrospectively... aha! Found it. I think.

    Officially it appears Underwood offers a 2 year warranty, according to the instructions that came with the pickup.

    I've been doing some experimenting and now I don't think there is a problem with the wire connecting the G side to the E side.
    What is happening now is that the E side works perfectly and all of a sudden there is a nasty farty sounding distortion. This goes away if I move the element by a tiny amount.
  14. webmonster


    May 19, 2013
    New Zealand
    Also great to read several messages saying that Underwood are great to deal with. If my pickup needs repairs then I'll send it to them, whether they charge me or not.

    Also interesting to read that some of you prefer to use only one element; I've never thought of trying it that way.
    Groove Doctor likes this.
  15. M Underwood

    M Underwood Commercial User

    Aug 30, 2017
    Head of Operations, Underwood Pickups
    Hi guys,

    Thanks for the cool stories and kind words of support. We are always here to help, so just contact us! We NEVER recommend cutting off the end of the pickup. It is designed as a closed circuit that uses two transducers. You will ruin your pickup and it will not sound how you think it's going to... And you will make us cry. Every time a pickup gets cut we cry. Hard.
    Like one person posted, if you want to use one element, then tape or velcro the other off to the side away from the bridge. A lot of players do this and it's perfectly fine. Don is still around for advice, so send us a message!
  16. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Gold Supporting Member

    2 Questions:
    1. How is the sound and/or electronic performance of the pickup ("...a closed circuit...") compromised by removing (and using only) one of the elements? I (and many others) have found that the sound improved (Greatly!, on my bass), and am unaware of any downside.
    2. Will you be offering a single-element Underwood (One-derwood!) to satisfy those of us who prefer a single-element version?
    Thank You for your fine product.
    Tom Lane likes this.
  17. M Underwood

    M Underwood Commercial User

    Aug 30, 2017
    Head of Operations, Underwood Pickups
    Hi Don,

    I'd be happy to elaborate on the reasoning behind this. First of all, our design with two transducers is not for a stereo effect or for favoring one side of the bridge or the other. The whole idea of having two transducers is to have complete feedback control. One transducer controls the other transducer and vice versa, to keep runaway feedback from occurring. One element on it's own does sound good, but you don't have control of the feedback that will occur in certain frequencies on the bass. Also, if you use one transducer, you double your capacitance, and it goes into a completely different frequency range.

    An example of frequency control happens in an amp. All amps have a feedback loop that goes back one or two stages in the amp before it reaches the output stage. It is called inverse feedback. It is fed in at a low level to cancel some of the signal upside down (picture a sine wave) to balance out the natural tendency to feed back infinitely by howling, screaming, etc. Sometimes amps use a resistor to accomplish this.

    It took Don Underwood years and lots of experience working as an engineer at Baldwin to understand this concept. He placed it firmly in his design of our pickup and we've been doing it for 40+ years. We would've saved/made a lot of money using one transducer if it was a realistic option. The two transducers in our design are necessary to flatten out the the frequency response and in order to amplify a complete range of harmonics from the bass viol. Without the two transducers, the entire range will be uneven. We have no plans for making a single transducer pickup, although I do like the name One-derwood! We will just have to come up with some other product that can use that name.

    I hope this helps!

    Melissa Underwood
    Ric Vice likes this.
  18. Thanks Melissa.
    Thanks to your father as well for his revolutionnary work!
    Thats said, it seems that in real life, there are a lot of differents bridges, and some phase cancellations or reinforcements are occuring in different ways.
    In my case, cutting the second element helped to reduce the feedback and improve the overall tone, despite your advice of avoiding that.
    So my impression is that there's not a single solution that will always work in all cases.

    Best regards,
  19. Mike Carr

    Mike Carr

    Feb 5, 2002
    Hong Kong
    I've used Underwood Pickups for more than 20 years and have tried many others along the way too. I always keep coming back to my Underwood and prefer the sound and response when using both sides. If only using the E side the sound is a bit too "thumpy" for my taste and the G String sounds weak compared to the others . Using the G side only the sound can be awash with a lot of ringy "artifacts". The bass sounds like it's got some sort of reverb effect applied . And I lose power and presence in the low end. Not good. That's just my ears and my experiance. I've got a Full Circle, a BP 100, a Krivo magnetic and a Schertler Stat B sitting unused. I really want to love the Stat B, I really want to. But my Underwood is the one I keep coming back to. Full disclosure, I do have Realists installed on both my Uprights and when I do want to go for a very deliberate sort of facsimile of a "Blue Note " old school bass tone only louder thing I'll plug them in. I more often than not can get a good sound if I roll off about half my bass and lower the minds a bit. Better I.M.H.O. than an Underwood with just one side engaged. But honestly, my Underwood still sees the most action. I can get a good sound with a minimum of fuss through any amp. 95% of my gigs are in venues with backline either installed or brought in for the gig. Could be anything..various models of Ampegs, SWR's, Hartkes, Mark Bass or anything . Sometimes on a bad day no amp, just a DI'd into the house. Small amp, big amp, small room or big hall I can always find a sound that works with my Underwood...both sides in. Don't get me wrong. I love the Realists. At low to moderate volumes and with the right eq I can sound great while using mine. But when its time to go to "Loudsville" or anytime I want my bass to growl like a hungry tiger the Underwood wins. Sounds just fine to me with a flat eq or maybe just a bit of bass boosted. With or without a pre amp I can make a good sound happen but I do find the results a bit more consistent though the variety of amps I encounter if I use a preamp. Underwood is the benchmark against what all others are judged. I dig mine..lots!
    Ric Vice and M Underwood like this.
  20. M Underwood

    M Underwood Commercial User

    Aug 30, 2017
    Head of Operations, Underwood Pickups
    Hi François,

    It may appear to work for you until you reach certain notes on the bass. Perhaps those notes aren't being played. Again, as I said, there will be a nice sound, but the two transducers together have a purpose that I've explained and that is just the physics of it. No amp exists that does not have a feedback loop for this very reason. I'm happy to hear it may be working for you. I just don't want people to get the idea that this is is some sort of quick fix without understanding the science behind it.