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upright Preamps Basswitch, Headway, Acoustimax,

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by SeayBass, Aug 16, 2012.

  1. Hi guys

    I thought I'd weigh in on the preamps I have been using lately. I spend a lot of time in truly acoustic environment, so I am always looking for gear that meets the 'my bass only louder' standard. It's hard to do...

    For my tests I am using the Ehrlund mic/pickup, with a Genz Benz shuttle 6.0 for my upright and doubling work. I use a LDS 2x8 cabinet. I bypassed the preamp on teh Genz by going into the auxilary input->power amp. This gave me a clear picture of the preamp's sound.
    I have chosen the Ehrlund after trials with most all the pickups on the market, and some microphones.
    FYI, I found the Ehrlund preamp gave me more problems than it solved (true with Schertler, too). I have tried no Fishman product that I like.

    Note that none of my gear requires phantom power. It's all mono/TS. So I can't really speak on any of the aspects of phantom power or stereo, XLR operations. I don't use effects much, and usually only one bass at a time. I don't mix pickup or mic signals. I just use one line into one preamp with a mute switch (and DI), and play.

    Because I just got my hands on the Basswitch, I thought I'd share my thoughts on it and compare it to the 2 other pre's I like in the market today. I am using the BBE Acoustimax up to now, and it works well, too. Headway is another good product that I use when I need 2 channels for doubling. Here's what I have to say about the 3 preamps:

    BBE Acoustimax- $150-200
    flexible unit that provides nice, subtle tone shaping. The frequencies that are adjustable dont' quite line up with some of our bass-playing needs, but it works for me. It might not work for you. Don't assume it won't work because it doesn't say 'bass' on the package. Like the other preamps reviewed here, it offers enough gain for the Ehrlund, which is a low signal. It also has phantom power and phase reverse, DI and loop, tuner out. At its price (I got mine for $150), it's tops IMO.
    The sound is smooth and yet cuts into a mix. The EQ is very tweakable, but subtle inside the overall sound, which is not as natural as the other pre's below. On gigs, I use amplifier's EQ to cut some mids. I do find it more natural than other stuff under $300 that i have heard, and it's definitely better than electric-specific bass pre's under $300.
    the 'sonic maximizer' is a handy doodad- it gives a surround-sound quality to the signal. However with my setup, it is more a 'feedback maximizer' on upright; but I do like it on electric bass--it spreads the sound out nicely. I NEED a mute button, and Acoustimax has one.
    *it's only a single channel unit
    *mono input/ no microphone in
    *Its footswitches are the noisy, ubiquitous metal stomp-type switch, and I hate those. I play a lot of gigs where they are too audible when used.
    *The tone is colored, but I find it colored in such a way that it will penetrate the mix, as opposed to being a false-warm that I hear in lots of bass stuff.
    *no battery power, and the power supply is the cheap wall-wart type

    Headway EDB-1- $320+
    there's plenty of reviews on this little preamp. I won't go too deep into it, but it's a 2-channel pre with a highly tunable notch filter plus a 5-band semi-parametric EQ. It's the size of a cable modem. It is feature rich, and clean. Its made to go on a mic stand, which is cool. With tweaking, I can get the 'my bass only louder.' Its switches are all sliders, and must be manipulated by hand. But they are silent, and if the unit is on a mic stand or belt clip, it's very easy. It can be battery powered, or AC.
    The sound is warm if you want it, and very tweakable. Running flat, I find it a bit colored, but with simple cuts here and there, I can get a very natural sound. One helper in certain rooms is the instrument selector switch (a high-pass filter) that rolls bass off. I use that in boomy rooms to clean up my sound. It is good for electric bass, too.
    Additionally, the notch filter offers an adjustable 'Q' and frequency that can have a huge impact on tone and feedback. It can be turned on or off, so you can flick the switch to get a different setting for a 2nd instrument.
    If you need to mix a mic and a pickup, this is a GREAT tool. For 2 instruments, it's a good tool.
    *Has 2 channels, but the EQ applies to both channels-not one or the other, so it can be tough to mix to perfection.
    *The mid frequencies are semi-parametric, but they don't quite agree perfectly with 'bass needs.'
    *The above is true for the 'bass' knob, as well, IMO

    Basswitch- $600
    This new product is only available at a few vendors. It's much more expensive than most of the rest. When you hear it, you'll understand why. It is far and away the smoothest of the preamps on the market. The reason is, of course, the components. It all starts with the studio-grade transformer on the front end, then runs through high end components all the way through.
    There are 2 channels, a/b. The mute button is also there. Button 3 is the mix loop/boost button which allows some neat options as well- it means 'mix the effects loop' not 'mix channel a+b.' However you can use the 'mix loop' return as a 2nd 'mixable' input. with some limitations.
    The 4-band semi-parametric EQ is great, but even if you run this flat, you'll be pleased. I always want 2 sweepable mids, and the 2 available mid adjusters (as well as the treble/bass) are precise and nicely subtle, with the appropriate frequencies for bass. A small tweak gives you a fairly narrow and precise cut or boost, and a big tweak widens the notch. No matter how far you tweak, though, the sound remains smooth. The warm, full, clear, and natural qualities of the preamp are remarkable.
    There are 3 quiet footswitches, which is one reason that compelled me to check it out.

    Out of all the pre's I have heard, this one allows the most natural sound from the git-go. From the first it was 'my bass only louder.'
    I have to add that I have tried the Basswitch on electric bass, too, and while it does sound good on electricb ass, I was more impressed with its impact on my upright sound than my electric. That speaks volumes to me.

    *no battery power
    *no phantom power
    *TS/mono only
    *mixing 2 signals simultaneously is complicated (you can do it with loop return inputs, though the mute button won't work on it)
    *no mic input

    I hope you find this info helpful. If not, sorry I typed so much!!
    stay low! Stay cool
  2. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri

    Not my experience at all, in my experience, unless you are using the Headway EDB-1, the Ehrlund Pre Amp is essential to get the pickups true timber, volume and presence. Actually, with my bass and amplifier, a Walter Woods, the Ehrlund Pre gets a better sound than the Headway.

    As to the Headways use, just as you mentioned, it works the best, into a power amp, powered speaker, or the auxiliary input of a amplifier. Running it into the front end of a bass amplifier, no matter how good it is, overwhelms the input. So just like you, I used the EDB-1 into the power amp input of the Walter Woods. Eventually, I decided it was easier to use the Ehrlund Pre than mess with the Headway.

    If you forget to turn your amplifier on first, the Headway EDB-1 will put a distinct pop through your system. You have to reverse the process when you're powering the system down.
    Since the Phantom Power is set at 18 volts there is a distinct hiss (whlte noise) that is audible when it's powered up, fortunately it disappears in the mix of instruments.

    Since the Notch Filter runs across both channels it's an either or situation, as it impacts both channels simultaneously. The box works better IMHO with a single instrument, this was what I believe the designer intended.

    In my thinking, it has two separate gain controls on two inputs, that eventually run into a single channel device. The Gain Structure on Channel is to hot for the Realist and, apparently, the Full Circle Pickup. This can be addressed by purchasing a padded guitar cable from David Gage, or having the box modified so the Channel 1 input is set at Unity Gain. The only things that are independent on each channel are individual gain, high pass filtering, and input impedance.
  3. I have heard this from lots of players. The consensus seems to be positive for the Ehrlund preamp from what I have read on talkbass. I think it's bass-specific. And more than that, it is 'place specific.' I have tried the Ehrlund mic on a few basses, and the 'sweet spot' is very very different from instrument to instrument. In my experience, the Ehrlund preamp bumps frequencies that create lumpy, muddy tone and feedback. That's why I went in search a preamp with a mute button and EQ for tweaking.
  4. flobass


    Sep 15, 2009
    +1 for the Basswitch! It is a really great "my bass only louder" pedal. I just wanted to add that the Basswitch IMHO is AMAZING for electric bass! The flexibility and musicality of the EQ section is really fantastic! And for doublers, this pedal is a dream! Connect both basses and go! I just finished a tour where I played my upright and my electric bass and I had to switch basses during the show. Correctly set up, you just change your instruments and press one bottom. That's it! No adjustments, no other switches, no unplugging. Really great! And the quality of the sound and how it's built is also perfect.

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