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The Life Span of A Realist

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by Ric Vice, Jul 27, 2005.


  1. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    Today, I replaced my Realist with a backup that I had purchased
    several years ago. I bought the first one in 2000 and just recently
    it's been going in and out. It never dies completely but the output
    level of the pickup cuts in half and the tone quality changes.
    I was wondering if anyone else has experienced this problem, since
    I remember reading a thread where someone mentioned that the Realist
    has a limited lifespan, because the polymers in the piezo film lose there
    ability to bend over the top of the bass. The pickup sounds very nice on
    my 5/8 french bass, but will have to replace it every five years? That's
    something that they don't mention on the David Gage Website.

    Ric :confused:
     
  2. RShew

    RShew

    Mar 11, 2004
    Los Angeles
    I have had the same problem as well. Picked up a Realist around 2000-2001 and just recently replaced it. I actually just put a new one on the see if they had improved anything (I noticed they changed the design). The first time I plugged in, I had to turn the amp down so much further than where I had it before and the clarity was much better. I wrote Dave to ask about this and have not received a reply. I still use a Realist as I think it sounds good with my bass (67 Pollman). Hopefully we won't have to do it every five years but...
     
  3. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    I'm pretty sure I've had mine for more than 5 years ( I think I bought it after a boat gig in 96) and I have had absolutely NO trouble at all....
     
  4. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    With those ham-fists of yours, how could you tell?
     
  5. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Ontario
    Like an old married couple, I tells ya...
     
  6. Jeremy Allen

    Jeremy Allen Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2002
    Bloomington, IN
    I bought my Realist in January of 1999 and by last September I realized that it had gradually been declining in quality for a year or so. The output seemed to get lower and lower (even as the sound coming out of my bass increased through set-up and technique improvements) and eventally it sounded like a microphone, quite muddy and indistinct. Which sucks, because I loved that pick-up and when I listen to live recordings from three years ago or so it sounds great. Don't know what the deal is, but I thought about asking this same question to the board. I ended up selling the Realist for real cheap to someone who wanted to try one out, and he indicated that it worked well on his bass so who knows. One would think that 250lbs of pressure would eventually have an adverse effect on the piezo element...but one would also think the sun goes around the earth.
    I do feel like my sound and my bass's response has changed drastically since I purchased the Realist, so it could be that the change in sound came from my my end of things (as is usually the case). Now I just grit my teeth and use an Underwood, which seems to work fairly well (especially if you cut out the 6500 Hz spike and/or only use the bass side piezo element).
     
  7. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    NYC
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    mmmm, ham...

    Yeah, I guess that's not much of a recommendation from a guy who uses an amp for about 3 gigs a year.
     
  8. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Ontario
    True, but the issue at hand seems to be the durability of the piezo elements themselves. Unless you only attach your Realist when using an amp, it doesn't really matter how often you use it, just that it works without problems when you do.

    Johono5: You might consider the Revolution SOLO pickup from Upton Bass. I'm picking one up for my birthday in November to replace the Underwood on my own upright, and from what I've heard, it's the basic unamplified tone of your bass, only louder, and a much smaller risk of feedback in relation to the Realist. This way, the natural sound of your bass (which according to you has been improving) will be what you hear -- only even louder! :D Also, a nifty note that I'll definitely be trying when I get mine -- if you flip the pickup over in the bridge wing, the sound you get is instantly much darker.
     
  9. Jeremy Allen

    Jeremy Allen Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2002
    Bloomington, IN
    *sigh* I too wish to be optimistic. But if I had a nickel for every time I heard the claim "unamplified tone of your bass, only louder..." I could have bought an "octobass" and hired an assistant to help me play it, truly rendering amplification unnecessary, by now. I've heard the same good things about the Revolution SOLO, Aaron, and look forward to hearing what you think of it; but I've also seen many of them up for sale here and I imagine that it might not be the silver bullet. (Probably nothing is.)

    BTW, I never had even the slightest difficulty with feedback when using my Realist. I know some guys who did, and they all seemed to produce a very thin acoustic output in the first place; but I cranked mine on many occasions without any trouble. (Except for once when I laid my bass down in front of my amp during the set break but forgot to turn the volume down--I almost split me trousers jumping over the bar to get back and hit the power switch.) The Realist didn't sound good at extreme volumes, but I've never heard a pick-up that does. It just ain't natural.
     
  10. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    Well, at least so far in this thread there is more than one
    instance of "piezo film fatigue" after 5-6 years of use.
    I love this pickup and I just purchased a backup for the one
    that I just installed on the bass today. At $175.00 a pop the pickup costs
    @ $35.00 per year. Interesting :eyebrow:
     
  11. Pcocobass

    Pcocobass

    Jun 16, 2005
    New York
    I've been having problems with my realist recently, too (about 3 years old). It seems that it doesn't make contact with the cable correctly, so I'll be playing and the sound will go in and out turning on and off completely. I've got to say it's a royal pain in the a**. If it's as simple as a loose connection, I have no idea how to get inside to fix it. I don't think you can open it up, but someone correct me if I'm wrong.

    I hadn't noticed a degredation in sound quality, but then again, if it happens gradually, maybe I just didn't notice...? I don't want to buy another one, it's too damn expensive to begin with.
     
  12. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    That's what happened to mine after about a year and a half. I sent three emails to Gage, got no reply, then gave up. My only regret is that I never got to try the Realist with the AMT - I bet it would have sounded really nice.

    When my first Full Circle pooped out (right after I put a set of Spiro Starks on :eyebrow: ), I called Fishman, and they said to mail it to them, and they'd send a new one out the same day they got the old one. Now that's what I call service.
     
  13. Pcocobass

    Pcocobass

    Jun 16, 2005
    New York
    That's a good point, Chris. I'd like to get it repaired if I could, but I don't know that I'd buy another one at this point. I certainly am not excited about researching and buying another pickup... :eyebrow:
     
  14. I've had the Revolution Solo on my bass for two months now, and I can tell you first-hand that it doesn't "sound like my bass, only louder". No way, José. I don't know why people keep claiming that. It sounds like a pickup. It's a very good pickup (the best I've ever had on my bass), but still a pickup.

    Gotta agree with you here. But since I got the Rev. Solo, I've decided to stop worrying about pickups (for now :rolleyes: ). I play as many unamplified gigs as I can, and when that's impossible, I try a mic on a stand. If that doesn't work either, I just plug in the bad boy. It's not a really pretty sound, but it doesn't make me barf and I can live with that.
     
  15. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    Thanks for everyones responses so far. Granted, we only have instances of
    Realist fatigue so far, but it sounds like we are onto something here.
    I guess that we should do some kind of pickup longevity survey for
    talkbass members. What do you think?
     
  16. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I haven't heard of a pickup aging since the Polytone. In those days, man those days, anyhow... The polytone was grounded from end-to-end with a piece of foil that surrounded the ceramic element. The ceramic would start cracking from the first note, and eventually would tear the foil so that you would lose (notice I didn't say loose) ground. The solution was to take a garbage bag tie (the wire wrapped in paper kind -- the plastic ones were pretty new then and wouldn't do the job) and ground the thing from end to end externally.

    Don't miss those days....
     
  17. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    Man, that brings back memories, not good ones however.

    My bass is a 5/8, and Even using the smaller Polytone, I had
    to have a machinist reduce the size of the brass adjuster that
    fit that pickup to the inside of the bridge. After all that futzing
    around that pickup still sounded bad. God bless Don Underwood
    for building the first decent sounding pickup. It was something
    of a revelation at the time. I used one for years.
    Probably the worst pickup I had was the original Barcus Berry,
    with the silly putty that attached it to the underside of the bridge
    I spent more time pushing it back against the bridge during breaks then I
    care to think about. What a pain in the...........!
    The Realist is a great pickup when it's working on my rig, but
    the problem may be (to early to tell yet) that it has a limited life span.

    Ric
     
  18. Prefon5000

    Prefon5000

    Jul 28, 2005
    WI
    I have been using my realist for about four years, and I have not experienced any problems with it, and I use it quite a bit. I also have a friend who has used one for over five years and has not had any problems with it.
     
  19. Chef

    Chef Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    May 23, 2004
    Columbia MO
    Staff Reviewer; Bass Gear Magazine

    Man, the coffee shot straight out my nose on that, thanks;) That pretty much sums up how I feel about my bassmax...I've tried a few different pups, and none of them please me very well, but...sometimes you just gotta do whatcha gotta do...
     
  20. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Another user with no problems. I forget when I bought the Realist, but it's been a good 5 years at least. It even survived a car wreck :D