Realist or L.R. Baggs?

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by Steve Boisen, Sep 16, 2004.

  1. Steve Boisen

    Steve Boisen Supporting Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    Tampa Bay, FL
    I currently have an Underwood pickup on my Kay bass which I run though a Fishman Pro-EQ and a SWR Workingman's 12 Combo. I was planning on buying a Realist pickup to replace the Underwood and Fishman, but the leader/guitarist of the jazz quartet I play with had a different suggestion. He said he prefers the sound of the Underwood over the Realist and suggests instead to replace the Fishman Pro-EQ with a better preamp such as the the L.R. Baggs Para-acoustic D.I. or perhaps the Sadowsky. He seems to think that the Fishman colors the natural sound or as he puts it "sucks tone". Will replacing the Fishman with the L.R. Baggs really make that big of a difference in my tone? I was looking forward to getting the Realist and ditching the preamp altogether, although now I'm not so sure, especially since I've read of Realist failures and scenarios in which the Realist doesnt sound very good on a laminated bass like my Kay. Any thoughts?

    - Steve
  2. B String

    B String Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2002
    Los Angeles
    If your bass has a preponderance of high end, (lots o highs)
    than the realist may be ok. On my carved basses, its mostly
    lowend and boomy. BUT!!! The realist can sound very different
    on each bass. Do you have the fishman pro eq, or the "bass"
    version pro eq? The bass version is pretty versitile. If you
    can't get a decent sound with it, it might be time for a pickup
    change. What are you not getting now? Also, try going from
    the pro eq directly into the effects return input on the back
    of the amp, instead of the front input. this way you will bypass the swr preamp. Make sure the effects blend knob is
    all the way up on the amp. Use the fishman as the only
    preamp, you may like the sound alot more.
  3. winston


    May 2, 2000
    Berkeley, CA
    I used to have a Realist on my New Standard Cleveland laminated bass. Now it has a K&K BassMax and a Schertler Stat-B. I run these through a Fishman Pro Platinum Bass EQ, a Baggs Para-DI, or a SansAmp Bass Driver/DI, into the FX return of a GK400RB driving a Bergantino HT112 or EA Wizzy 112.

    On my bass, it was difficult to get any sort of growling mids or note definition from the Realist, even with a preamp. Both the BassMax and Stat-B have better mids/highs while retaining a full bottom end. I haven't used an Underwood myself, but the BassMax is a cheap (~$90) way to get a different tone that's guaranteed to cut better than a Realist.

    I'd have to disagree with your guitarist. Neither the Fishman or Baggs "sucks tone", but I consider the Fishman to be definitely the more neutral-sounding unit (with controls set flat, the pre/post XLR-out tones are identical). The Para-DI seems to have a bit more of a cutting midrange, and its bass control is voiced much higher (80hz vs the Fishman's 30 hz). The Baggs has a preset 35hz hi-pass filter (the Fishman's is variable between 15 and 125hz), and it seems to have a significantly higher output from the 1/4" jack. Plus there's no ground lift switch or pre/post switch for the XLR (possibly problematic if you're using both an amp and PA), and while it has a TRS FX insert jack, there's no dedicated tuner out. Both units have a phase reverse switch, very handy for fighting feedback.

    That said, I find the Baggs to be more musical-sounding. The EQ on the Baggs seems more like "tone control" (with the semi-parametric notch and midrange you can get many different sounds), whereas the EQ on the Fishman feels (to me) like you're just adding/subtracting so many dBs at different frequencies. However, with my setup I find myself using minimal EQ (I usually cut a tiny bit of highs/upper mids) and the variable lo-cut and compressor on the Fishman are very helpful

    I like both and wouldn't want to be without either right now. The SansAmp BDDI is a whole different kettle of fish--it's much more electric sounding, but I haven't tried their Acoustic DI--which many DB'ers love. See if you can try a Baggs before buying; you should be able to find one used for less than $100. As for the Realist, it responds differently on every bass, but you probably won't get too many highs from it on a laminate.
  4. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    I happen to own both the Baggs Paracoustic preamp AND two Fishmans, the older Pro-EQ (not the current Platinum) and the Dual Parametric. The Fishmans sound alike (no surprise) with EQ flat, both sound fatter than the Baggs but the Baggs is more detailed and "airy" sounding. That jives with Winston's claim that the Baggs emphasizes mids.

    As far as Realist vs. Underwood, on my beater bass the Realist gives me more highs and string detail than the Underwood did. But on my Juzek (also lam) the Realist was murky sounding so I switched to K&K Bass Max and Schertler Stat-B (hmm, just liike Winston again) and they sounded much better.

    How any pickup will sound is very much dependent on the bass to which it's mounted. I guess the real question is what sort of tonal change you are hoping to hear with a different pickup or preamp.
  5. Steve Boisen

    Steve Boisen Supporting Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    Tampa Bay, FL
    Thanks for all the feedback. You've all shared some good insights. I guess what I am looking for is a more consistent sound. The Underwood/Fishman combo sounds okay in some situations but too midrangy-honky and/or electric sounding in others. I can sometimes remedy this by removing one of the the piezo elements (usually the G strings side) and letting it hang from the bridge, but in some cases the sound is too boomy and indistinct. Last June when I played in Illinios I rented a carved Shen bass from Stephen Reinfranck and I was impressed with the Realist he had installed on that bass. It sounded good though both the GK 200MB combo I used on the Chicago club date and through the Peavy TNT combo that was provided at the WGLT music festival, all sans pre-amp.

    - Steve
  6. tornadobass

    tornadobass Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2000
    Iowa City, Iowa
    Endorsing Artist: Black Diamond & SuperSensitive strings
    Your first post stopped me for a moment...I use an Underwood, a Pro-EQ and a WM-12, but the bass is an American Standard. I've also tried a Baggs preamp and a Realist.

    The Realist didn't work well with my bass...I think the Underwood does better because it hears more strings than body and my bass is a bit dead around low A on the E string.

    The Baggs had nice features, but I think the Fishman is more neutral sounding.

    You might try your setup with a different amp before swapping out the pickup and preamp. The WM12 sounds nice, but it's a bit middy.
  7. B String

    B String Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2002
    Los Angeles
    It seems like you are constantly fighting the sound of
    the amp you are using. Most electric bass amps are not
    meant for a piezo pickup, or an acoustic bass. Most of
    the guys i know seem happiest when they either get an
    amp with upright in mind (acoustic image for instance)
    or get a good preamp (d-tar, fishman, baggs, etc) and
    bypass the preamp on the amp they are using. Most amps
    have an effects loop. Go from the preamp out, into
    the effects return input, master volume and/or blend
    knob turned up. It never ceases to amaze me, how guys
    can get a natural pleasant sound out of amps like a
    peavey tnt. I can't even get a good electric sound out
    of one of those beasts. I think my old Walter Woods amp
    spoils me.
  8. Steve Boisen

    Steve Boisen Supporting Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    Tampa Bay, FL
    I've always been under the impression that the SWR WM12 was designed for electric and/or upright. SWR states this on their website and in the owner's manual, plus Bass Player magazine described this amp as the best choice for electric/acoustic doublers in their combo amp shootout a few years ago. It seems like more than a few upright players use it. I didnt care for the sound from the Acoustic Image Contra I tried (maybe I need to get used to it) and the SWR was the most natural sounding bass amp of all the ones I tried when I went on my "amp quest" last December. My Roland Supecube 60 combo sounds a little tighter, but the SWR is more transparent and acoustic sounding. All that being said, I will try your idea of bypassing the SWR pre-amp. That sounds like an interesting idea and may be worth a try.

    - Steve
  9. B. Graham

    B. Graham Guest

    Aug 11, 2002
    I've got a '39 Kay. I've never tried anything other than the Realist. Never had to sonic need to, it's just always sounded like the bass sounds. I thought about the K&K at one time, but I'm trying to limit the amount of "change just to change" excercises I bring upon myself with set-up and gear these days. The right string exploration is enough.

    You might take a peak at the Raven Labs stuff. I also pondered the Presonus Acoutic-Q. I've not tried one, but I like their other stuff.

    Lastly, I hear Roland has come out with an upright specific amp.

    Good luck with it.
  10. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    If you are using NO preamp currently, either the Baggs or Fishman preamp will help in three ways:

    1. The impedance buffering will get rid of some of the honkiness immediately and aftten up the lows

    2. The EQ can be used to dial out most of the rest of the honkiness.

    3. The XLR out can be used to send your signal to the PA; in some rooms I'll go ampless and use the PA monitors instead. Less stuff to carry and often sounds better.

    I have found that the area around 800Hz is where "honk" lies so that's where I immediately start tweaking the EQ. With either of my preamps I can get a pretty usable tone out of almost any bass amp (yes, I was recently saddled with a TNT and was able to tame even that after some persistent knob twisting).

    I consider my preamps essential if I will be using any amps other than my own.
  11. Steve Boisen

    Steve Boisen Supporting Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    Tampa Bay, FL
    I never play without my pre-amp. It's one of the older Fishman Pro-EQ's with the all metal chassis, not bass specific like the new platinum models. Playing through the P.A. is never really an option because the band I generally play with ( ) doesn't use one (no vocals) and we mostly play concerts and private functions as opposed to club dates. All the other gigs I play (Django-gypsy jazz quartet, Dixieland band and Spanish Lyric Theater orchestra) are sans P.A. as well.

    - Steve
  12. Steve Boisen

    Steve Boisen Supporting Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    Tampa Bay, FL
    Well, I ordered a Realist from (all hail) Bob Gollihur today. He thinks it will sound good on my 1949 Kay and will give me the "old school" pizz sound I prefer. We shall see.

    - Steve
  13. Mike Carr

    Mike Carr

    Feb 5, 2002
    Hong Kong
    I have a Kay Bass about the same age as Blimpdog's.
    The Realist works quite well with it. Old school, yes!