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Realist vs. Bass Max

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by BassGreaser, Aug 24, 2003.

  1. BassGreaser


    Aug 22, 2002
    Austin, TX
    How do these compare in sound. I've read good things about both in the Newbie section. I want to hear from people that have used both:ninja:
  2. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    I have both and use both but on my two basses they sound very different.

    I think the Realist is smoother sounding on the bass where it works OK (on the other bass it sounds awful; Bass Max sounds OK on both).

    The Realist is more difficult to install but has a better output jack mounting. The Bass Max is simple to install (and easily transferred between basses) but has an output jack mount that comes loose a lot (for me anyway).

    The Bass Max is cheaper ;)

    To some extent it depends on the sound you are looking for, what your amp setup is, etc.
  3. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    Me too! So I ended up slipping the realist's mounting ring around the jack for the BassMaster Pro. It looks sorta ghetto (if you get up close) but it allows you to use a straight stereo cord, and it doesn't slip.
  4. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I got rid of my Realist when I got my Bass Max, which is also a fairly "ghetto" looking custom model. Pics of it can be found Here. Unlike my fellow bottom end brethren, I don't have any problems with the mounting jack coming off.
  5. OTOH I got rid of my K&K Double Bass Max when I got my Second Realist. It all depends on the instrument and that sound you hear in your head. My experience is that most of my customers who started on or play a lot of plank seldom like the Realist. It's "wood" sound vs "string" sound. YMMV
  6. I am also looking for a new PU to get "THE SOUND"

    There are several draw backs to piezo pickups that are annoying to me. 1) the glassy brittle sound. 2) the midy nasal wha sound - also evedent on some acoustic guitar PUs. 3) feed back - less of a problem than mics however.

    Listened to Mr. Fitzgerald's suggested clips, and some others. Nice live sound and recording. Good thumb position intonation too!

    Feed back didn't seem to be a problem and the brittle glassyness was not noticeable but there was a hint of the dreaded nasal middy wha.

    I guess that just proves what we all know. Obtaining "THE SOUND" is difficult.

    Thanks for posting the clips and the detailed info on your setup.

    And yes, the groove is everything! Or something anyway!
  7. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    You are most welcome. I should warn you that the sound I like is a pretty modern "middy" sound anyway, so you may be finding a part of my preferred sound distasteful (which is fine, we're all supposed to be different). If you want to check if this is true, the duo stuff was all recorded with a mic, and comes closer to my notion of "THE SOUND", although it still has quite a ways to go. Good luck on your search.
  8. J the D

    J the D

    Mar 22, 2002
    Bradenton, FL
    I have not tried the Bass Max. I stopped looking for and trying pickups when I put the Realist on my Barvarian flatback. It sounds like my bass for the first time in 30 years of looking.

    I took a black cable wrap and attached the input jack to the inside of the tailpiece through two string holes in a sort of industrial fashion. Used the dikes to cut off the excess after it was fastened tight. With rvrything black it is not easily seen and it is well protected inside.

    Be careful with the input jack for the Realist. The copper casing on the edge of the pickup can tear from the weight of the input jack when it falls out of its holder.
  9. To me the Realist produces the more natural sound of the two. I have owned 2 bass max's and I always get fed up with the lack of sustain. What happens is the bass max is mounted at a spot on the bridge where it gets compressed alot so you get this big initial attack from the pressure of pulling the string. after that, it decays very quickly. The realist is in a spot where this can't happen and it has a more natural sustain. BUT this is just my experience and I will probably end up getting a bass max again for high- volume gigs.
  10. the sound I like is a pretty modern "middy" sound

    The mid tone that is most annoying to me is not so much the mid frequencies as it is the nasaly wa wa tone. A few weeks ago I was returning home from a gig and a jazz combo was playing at one of the many wineries in this part of the world. I parked on the other side of the main bldg. from where the band was set up. When I got out of the car that distinct piezo nasal tone was very prominent. As I walked closer to the band stand the other frequencies filled in and the nasl wa wa became less apparent.Bob uses an underwood.

    This same nasal tone is also very prominent in the Fishman (which I am currently using - thus the desire to change), bass and guitar PUs, Ovation guitars, and others.

    So, it's not so much the pressure level of the mids as it is the tonality of the mids. In fact mids can help the bass to cut through the mix instead of becoming too boomy. I'm sure we all know what thats like!

    I played a concert in a 750 seat auditorium last Saturday. While doing the sound check in the empty room everything sounded muddy and masked; there was no definition between instruments. In fact the bass and guitar were indistiguishable, just a rumbling boom. I couldn't here the piano and I was right next to it. However when the performance began with a full house the sound was focused,crisp, and clear with no EQ adjustments. Anouther lesson in the physics of sound.
  11. winston

    winston Supporting Member

    May 2, 2000
    Berkeley, CA
    I've been experimenting with both the Realist and BassMax in the last couple days. My bass--a laminated New Standard Cleveland--came with a Realist and I have a BassMax I had used on the Palatino I was renting so I whipped out the ol' bastard file and put on the BassMax.

    I decided to install it on the G side because I had tried it in both sides on the Palatino and found that (to my ears) the string-to-string balance was better on the G.

    I had initially thought the Realist was too dark-sounding (as many people have said) but I think it actually is providing a pretty accurate sonic picture of my bass, which has a huge bottom end but not an incredible amount of upper-mid growl.

    In contrast, the BassMax has significantly more high end and attack--but, as CB3000 noted, it doesn't have as much sustain as the Realist. However, (if this makes sense) the extra high end seems more an artifact of the pickup's response than a function of my bass's acoustic sound. At the same time, it feels like it compresses the dynamics more than the Realist. So I feel like the Realist provides a more accurate reproduction of the envelope of the note.

    I also thought the Realist had a better arco sound on my bass--the BassMax could get fairly harsh with the Spirocores, but not painfully so. Additionally, I found that the Realist's sound was more consistent when plugged into different amps. I have Eden WT400 and GK400RB heads with SWR 2x10 and Carvin 1x12 cabs, and I've been trying my SansAmp Bass Driver as a preamp. I also tried both pickups through an SWR WM12, a Fender Bassman 60, and several Kustom combos at my local music store and in every case I prefereed the thick, rich sound of the Realist.

    Arnold Schnitzer told me that he has reservations about wing-mounted pickups because they can muffle the transmission of the string's vibrations through the bridge. While I didn't notice a huge difference, there was a dampening of the bass's acoustic response with the BassMax installed. Since I chose this bass particularly for its unplugged tone, I think I'm going to use the Realist most of the time and put in the BassMax only when needed.

    I don't want to sound like I'm dumping on the BassMax--it sounds very good, it costs about 1/2 what the Realist does, it's easy to install/remove, and it brings out the string detail that can help upper-register pizz lines jump out. It sounds much better than the Fishman BP-100, my first pickup, and it is probably better than the Realist for high-volume situations where you need to cut through.

    This experiment has been fun but it was also a bit of a hassle. One of the reasons I'm playing more upright than electric these days is to simplify and spend more time playing music and developing a sound than tinkering with gear. I just want to get a good, solid rig together so I can focus on the music.
  12. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    Just to clarify--I've said that wing-mounted pickups change the acoustic character of basses. This is a fact. Play your bass acoustically, then insert your wing-bridging pickup(s). If you don't hear a difference, your ears may be clogged, or you forgot to remove the earplugs from last night's bombastic gig (damn drummers!). Here's what happens: Any violin-family instrument's bridge has holes in it. Every string should have a hole or unbridged area between it and the instrument's top plate, looking down perpendicularly. My understanding of this is that it forces the sound from each string to go through the bridge feet and evens things up across all the strings. If you bridge the gap(s), you change everything in relation to response and tone. The change sounds subtle, but it's there. A few years ago, Todd Coolman brought in his wife Darla's bass, because it just wasn't sounding good. The bridge had little wooden spanners across the gaps for an old Schertler pickup, though Darla plays classical. I took the bridge off, removed those pieces, and put the bridge back on. Smiles all around! The bass livened up and the bottom opened up as well. So if you hear a lack of sustain or a change in sonority with a wing pickup, experiment acoustically and I think you'll see that this is the pickup's effect on your bass' acoustics, as well as the pickup's inherent coloration.
  13. sean p

    sean p

    Mar 7, 2002
    eugene, oregon
    winston -

    did you do a/b tests on your bass with and without the realist installed? to my ears my bass sounds different with the realist installed than without, which stands to reason since it's a layer of 'stuff' insulating the (moving) bass top from the (motivating) string vibrations.

    the bummer about the realist, of course, is that it takes half an hour to install or take off (if you remove the g string to detach the plug). the bass max takes about ten seconds to get on and off.

    if i'm in a situation where i'm playing acoustically a bunch (especially orchestal music), i definitely want to be doing it without either of these pickups installed.

    i have both these pickups and also prefer the sound of the realist, but the convenience of the bass max makes it better for a situation where i'm changing p/u's regularly.

    sean p
  14. I make it a practice to play all the basses that I install the Realist pickup on both before and after installation. The only time I have noticed any difference was when the thickness of the pickup made the bridge feet not fit properly on the bass top. Usually this will only occur on basses that do NOT have adjustable bridges. In those cases, it has been necessary to refit the feet of the bridge to account for the difference the pickup makes in the fit. Most adjustable bridges seem to have enough play to over come the thickness of the Realist so they still fit the top of the bass properly.
  15. BassGuyNL


    Jul 20, 2000
    The Netherlands
    Just curious: on the pictures on your website there's also one of those K & K Golden Bullits mounted, right? Did you ever try the Realist combined with the mic through your Raven Labs PMB?
    I've got the Realist, the PMB is ordered (to be used with the Underwood from my backup bass), but I wondered if the combination above would be any good.
  16. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    It sounded pretty good with the Realist, but then my Realist fried out and Gage wouldn't answer any of my emails, so I got the Bass Max. A student of mine had the exact same "shorting out" problem with his Realist, and has gone back to his Underwood.
  17. VicDamone


    Jun 25, 2000
    After six months with the Realist it began to short where the wire meets the wafer. I packed it up along with a copy of the sales slip and a written discription of the problem to Gage. They called me a couple of times then sent me a new one about six weeks later.

    Not the best service but the new one works fine.
  18. Has anyone tried the K&K Big Twin installed under the bridge?
    I'm currently using the Bass Max. (You really can't beat the $ per lb.)
    But I'm thinking of ordering the Double Big Twin/Golden Bullet combo, with thoughts of mounting two of the contacts under the bridge, and mounting the others on the bridge (between the E/A & D/G strings). This coupled with the mic would, conceivably be the best (debatable, I know) of three worlds. Top, String, and a mic.

    What say ye?

  19. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    The second element of my original "Double Bass Max" is actually two pieces of a DBT fashioned together. I thought of placing two of the DBT elements under the bridge feet a la the Realist, but unfortunately the shape of the elements makes this damn near impossible, as any attempt to do so would cause the bridge to tilt dangerously. It's a good idea, though. Good luck.

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