This week I have been trying out the Vektor pickup. This pickup was developed by German luthier Tobias Pöhling and Sven Gawron who makes the Vektor electric upright basses. They originally developed it for the Vektor basses but it is now being sold for use with acoustic double bass and that's a damn good thing for us. I purchased the pickup and outboard preamp directly from Toby. The pickup is 150 Euros and the preamp is 50 Euros. In total that's about USD 250. In my opinion this is the best-sounding pickup on the market right now if you're looking for something that comes close to a mic. The sound reproduction is amazingly natural and consistent for both pizz and arco with none of the problems of bridge-mounted pickups that I've tried (harshness, excessively loud arco or finger noise). I think the key to its success is pretty simple - a) it's a contact mic, b) and it picks up the vibrations primarily from the top table of the bass but also to a much lesser degree from the bridge. In these respects, it is very similar to the Dyn-B. One key difference is that the Dyn-B relies entirely on vibrations from the table whereas the Vektor is also getting some vibrations from the bridge. Also, the Dyn-B's "acoustic chamber" is created by the putty ring around the pickup whereas the Vektor is housed snugly in the bass side bridge foot. At least on my bass, the Vektor is superior to the Dyn-B with less feedback (actually none), less reproduction of unwanted resonances (actually none), a more natural, focused, and less nasal tone, and greater clarity and consistency throughout the range. You can see photos of the pickup on Toby's site here. I have to say that I was scared about installing this pickup because firstly I sold my Dyn-B and had never heard the Vektor before and the only thing I had to go on was Piro's experience and for that I have to thank him for discovering this pickup and giving it a try and posting all his experiences which you can read here. And to try out the pickup I would have to have work done on my bridge. The only downside of the Vektor is the installation procedure and cost if you have your luthier do the work. Correct installation is critical. In my case, I had my luthier carve new bridge feet. We then reinstalled my existing aluminum bridge height adjusters but flipped them so that the threaded shafts were in the top half of the bridge instead of in the feet. Both the threaded and unthreaded ends of each adjuster also had to be cut shorter, and of course the pickup itself had to be installed. The total cost for that work (and my luthier's rates are extremely reasonable) was basically about the same as the cost of the pickup and preamp. So in all, the total cost was not that far off the cost of a new Dyn-B. Toby says he can fit the pickup into an existing bridge for 50 Euros. Problems may arise however if your bridge has height adjusters and there is not enough room in the bass-side bridge foot for the pickup (it requires about 15 mm of space). This is why I had my luthier carve new bridge feet. I'm really glad he decided to use some really nice twenty-year old Maple and the sound is better for it anyway. Cost for installation will likely be less if you don't have bridge adjusters or if there is already enough room for the pickup anyway. Of course you could always try and install it yourself. Toby supplies detailed instructions and he is extremely helpful and responsive via e-mail. You definitely need a drill press/pillar drill to do this work. The installation procedure for the Vektor is somewhat invasive but certainly no more so than the Turner, Wilson, or Barbera systems. The beauty is that once installed, the entire system is very inconspicuous - even less so than the Dyn-B. All you can see is a very thin neutral-coloured wire leading from the bass-side bridge foot to the tailpiece which is where I mounted my cable jack. It's a very neat system indeed and one I don't mind having on the bass permanently. I should also mention that once the pickup itself is installed, you have to solder the wire onto the cable jack. My luthier was setup to do that so I did it. No big deal although the wire is pretty thin so it's a little bit fiddly. I did all my testing initially into a mixer and listening through headphones and my studio monitors and then later through the Focus 2 and an Acme B-1. As I said before, the reproduction is very impressive. I don't know how this pickup would handle really loud volumes - I don't play at those kinds of levels so I can't say although I did crank things pretty loud - for me at least. I didn't experience any feedback at all. Comparing it to the AMT mic, the AMT definitely has a presence and clarity that I have not found with the Vektor or any pickup. No doubt about that. The mic is still the only way for me to get the true sound. However the Vektor has a strength of signal that the mic doesn't have - especially on the low end. Although in my opinion, the strong low end is actually artificial which is what I find with pickups in general. Even though my bass does have an strong acoustic low end right down to C, what you hear through the mic on the low end is definitely more accurate to my ears. However it is nice to have those strong low notes especially in the mix, as it is what a lot of people expect to hear and they like it. I don't mind it as long as I get the more natural, airy sound from the mic throughout the rest of the range of the instrument. In that respect, mixing the two signals works great just as it did with the Dyn-B and the AMT. And of course there are times when I can't use the mic (such as outside in windy conditions) and the Vektor by itself definitely sounds very good. It reproduced the tone and the attack of gut strings very well. I found the signal to require more gain than I expected and more than other pickups I've tried. I did take the bridge off three or four times to check the installation of the pickup and I experimented with different thicknesses of the little rubber pads/shims that are supplied to fit over the pickup so that the pad is almost flush with the bottom of the bridge foot. If there is not enough contact with the bass then the signal may be weak. In the end I found that what my luthier had done was perfect to begin with - the shim sticks out about 1/2 mm. With the Focus I usually have to have pickup channel turned up around 75% of max whereas on the mic channel (using the XLR output of the AMT preamp into the Focus 2's mic input), I have the level at around 35 - 40%. Like the Dyn-B, I think this pickup may not work too well with a plywood and it goes without saying that it won't make a crappy sounding bass sound any better. It's a very high fidelity pickup and will only reproduce what's already there. The only other (small) gripe I have is that I don't like relying on a preamp that uses a 9V battery as I don't want to be in a situation where the battery might go at a critical time. I'd rather use a DC adapter even though I know the sound should be cleaner with the battery. Then again, I use my AMT preamp with the adapter all the time and it works fine for me. Toby's preamp is nothing special and in theory you can use any preamp that can supply 9V phantom. Does anybody know of a small, inexpensive but clean-sounding unit that can supply the phantom and has a wall wart option?