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Underwood...no good?

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by aaguudis, Dec 5, 2004.

  1. aaguudis


    Apr 3, 2001
    I am beginning the long journey towards the promised land of "my bass, only louder," so please bear with me as I will probably be making many posts.

    So I went to play around with the AI contra the other day. Sounds a lot better than the amp I use right now but still sounds way too plugged in. Is this my underwood pickup? Would a pre-amp help out? I'm kinda lost right now as everyone says the contra is so great and just sounds acoustic but that just wasnt happening for me.

  2. ctxbass

    ctxbass Supporting Member

    Nov 6, 2003
    Central Texas
    I have found that the Underwood pickup has a more natural sound if it is not wedged too tightly in the bridge.
  3. I haven't had a lot of luck with underwood. I have only played through one but didn't really like the sound. Personally I'm a big fan of the David Gage Realist if you're looking for a new pickup.
  4. Wilbyman


    Sep 10, 2003
    Parkersburg, WV
    Everybody's ear is tuned differently and every bass and room are a little different, but when I was using the Realist I felt I was at most volumes getting a very undefined thump and no pitch clarity. After switching to the Underwood I don't believe I'll be experimenting with anything else. It sounds more electric because of a high-end frequency boost inherent to the pickup, but I find the boost gives me alot of note clarity at all volumes. It never gets muddy or boomy even in difficult rooms.

    I'm using an AI Clarus head (soon Focus, whenever it arrives) and a Berg HT112, but if I was using a downfiring Contra I would want the Underwood in there for sure. Maybe a darker sound is your thing though, more power to you. Lots of other options too.

    You'll get a hundred different PU recommendations if you ask a hundred different bass players, it's too much of a subjective thing I think. I guess I was just representing the merits of the "plugged-in" Underwood sound.
  5. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    You've got that right. :)

    The Underwood's not really my favorite pickup, but check out Paul W's sound on the Sampler page to hear how one can be used to sound great - Paul is also really good about answering questions about his amplified setup, and I've learned a thing or two from our brief conversations on the subject.

    My main beef with the Underwood is that it's too "solid" sounding, and that it tends to emphasize too much string noise. The latter is more easily fixed than the former by simply cutting highs (maybe twice if you have the gear for it) in the preamp(s). For the "solid" problem, which tends to make the sound too electric, you'll want to look closely at the fit of the pickup, which as someone mentioned has a strong effect on the tone, and also at how you're amplifying the signal. The important thing here is not to set any portion of the preamp signal too hot, as this only accentuates the effect. When using EQ, always cut instead of boosting, and get your power from the power amp rather than the preamp. Hope some of this is useful.
  6. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    I mainly use the Realist with a K & K mic. I have tried pairing the mic with an Underwood and liked the results. The great thing about that pickup is its incredible resistance to feedback. Dave Holland uses one paired with an AKG mic and gets one of my absolute favorite live tones. I wonder if the key is the mic so you can get the cut from the pickup and the body from the mic.
  7. Lately I'm using this same combination (Realist + K&K). I have had an Underwood for years, but never was completely satisfied. I just couldn't get rid of the high end. With the Realist, the sound is much more natural. It's maybe a little short on the mids, which is why some people think the Full Circle is a good compromise - being somewhere between the Realist and Underwood tonally. I'm still looking for the Holy Grail, but I can tell I'm getting closer. I'll say this about the Realist - the amplified arco tone just about made me wet myself it was so good. You will never get that out of an Underwood.

    It seems the way I'm headed, the pickup is going to cover the body and sustain of the note. The Realist also provides a good thump on the front end. The mic will then transmit the detail, which it can do with much more accuracy than any pickup.

    IMO, of course. YMMV, and in three months I may be on to something else. :rolleyes:
  8. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    FWIW, I saw Charnett Moffett several months ago and he was using a Full Circle along with a Realist into a big GK rig. IIRC, the FC was actually on the treble side, and the realist on the bass side. The man had a monstrous arco tone and his pizz sounded great too. Maybe worth a try, IMO BTW BBQ BBC *** LOL ROFLOMG. :)
  9. I'd love to try a FC but my adjusters are too big and I just don't want to ditch them. Do you think he was blending both pickups or just using one or the other depending on the situation?

  10. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    I meant ROFL OMG. But then again ROFLOMG could be... ROFL on my gnu?

    I'm pretty sure he's using both pickups. He HAS to be! I've been fascinated by his distorted sound (yes distorted using some effects boxes) ever since I've seen him w/ Ornette a few years ago. I'm convinced that he's running one pickup signal through the effects boxes while the other pickup is normal. The two are blended and go into the amp one way or another. Which goes to what I have no idea. I've tried to put some distortion pedals on my bass and it sounded like crap. Charnett's sound was both sweet and terrifying at the same time and had alot of definition. Now I don't know if he's turning one off altogether when he's playing naturally. That's hard to say.

    His rig was like big GK (like an 800rb or something like that) head driving a 4x10 and what looked like a 12" or 15" cab on top of that. High volumne for sure. From what little I know of the realist, it tends to feedback? My guess was that most of the volume and highs were coming from the FC. The rest from the realist. He stood about 10 feet in front of it the entire night and wasn't using any kind of dampeners (velcro through the strings, foam pad between top and TP) at all that I can remember. Maybe just the velcro-type thing if anything.

    I know some of you guys cringe at the whole distortion thing, but his thing was pretty wild yet tasteful. His rendition of Star Spangled Banner was a bit of a cliche' I thought, but he definitely gave Hendrix a run for his money. Pretty cool to see anyways.