Guide to Double Bass Pickups

My students often ask me in there double bass lessons which pickup should I get for my bass.  They have read reviews that this one or that one are the way to go and what would I recommend.  

My response is always three fold.

1. How much do you want to spend?

2. How loud do you want to be able to play?

3. Every bass and person's ears and hands are different. So a pickup that works for others may not work for you.

Below are the observations I have made through my experience finding the right pickup to suite my needs for a particular project.

K&K Bass Max

This piezo pickup for the upright fits in the wing of the bridge on the E string side.  It is relatively inexpensive compared to other models that will be discussed here.  It can also be plugged straight into an amp without the need of an additional preamp.  I have achieved fairly loud volumes with this pickup on my upright and it reproduces a fairly accurate sound of your instrument for both pizzicato and arco playing.  It is easy to install and remove so it does not have to be a permanent fixture on your bass.  I currently use this pickup as a back up for my main double bass. As well as using it on my Azola Electric Upright Bass.  

Fishman Full Circle

This piezo pickup is encased in a aluminum bridge adjuster that needs to be installed by a professional luthier.  It is a very popular pickup amongst players in all genres.  You can get very loud with this one and again does not require any additional preamp.  I have had this pickup on my Kay upright for years and it has never failed me.  One gets a great full bodied pizz sound with this pickup.  The arco volume is great and really cuts through a band however it is a very one dimensional sound and lacks the subtle nuances that bow can inflect. 

Gage Realist Pickup

This piezo differs from the Full Circle and the Bassmax in that it is placed between the body of the bass and the foot of the bridge on the 'E' string side.  This is said to impart more of the body sound of the instrument as opposed to being heavy on the string sound with the other two pickups.  This pickup is favorite amongst Jazz and some Bluegrass bass players.  Again you do not need an additional preamp. However in my experience this pickup should only be used on low to medium volume gigs.  I was never able to get this pickup to function on my 7/8's bass both the wood or the copper version.  Perhaps it was due to it's large size I was never able to achieve a decent volume before feedback.

Schertler Stat B

This pick up is actually an elctro static microphone that is encased in a piece of cork that the user shapes to fit into the oval holes located on your bridge.  I love this pickup it is what I currently use on my 7/8 5 string double bass.  This pickup has the best arco sound of any pickup I have ever tried and "sounds like my bass only louder" rings true here.  There are however a couple of down sides to this pickup.  The first is price. This pickup is not cheap and you need a preamp for it as well which is not cheap either.  I lucked upon a used one and I am glad I did.  The second thing is I takes some trial and error to get the right placement for this pickup.  Not only do you need to have the cork shaped to oval hole correctly, you need to experiment with how tight the pickup sits in the hole.  To tight can damage the pickup and to loose the sound is abysmal and prone to feedback.

Krivo Magnetic Pickup

I just recently added this to my arsenal.  It mounts to the end of fingerboard using velcro.  This is for when you need to get really loud.  My plan is to mix my piezo signal with Krivo for in group that plays very loud.  I shall report my findings here soon.

Fdeck HPF

I highly recommend to all my students to buy this piece of equipment.  It provides three tools that every double bass player needs at one point or another when they are performing amplified.  They are: a correct impedance input for use with piezo pickups, a phase reverse switch (which is essential in fighting feedback) and a High Pass Filter(HPF) that is used to remove to much boominess from your double bass.

While there are countless other pickups on the market I hope that this brief over view of some of the most popular and my favorite give you some insight into these pickups.  When in doubt consult your bass teacher during a lesson, they may very while have one of these pickups sitting in a drawer waiting for you to take for a test spin.


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