Ubass Preamp ‘Shoot Out’! – part 1

Hi!

Well ‘shoot out’ might not be the best description since I’m only testing three different models but it’s kinda catchy don’t you think🙂

I have written about preamps before in earlier posts but haven’t really done any serious comparisons sound and feature vise.

These are the ‘contenders’:
– Fishman Model B Bass Preamp (discontinued)
– K & K Dual Channel Pro Preamp
– Headway EDB-1

The three different models ARE different and don’t share exactly the same features so it’s not gonna be a ‘fair’ fight🙂 But the main focus in this test is SOUND so the extra features on the Headway Preamp can be seen as bonus.

OK here we go!

Fishman Model – B
Since I got my Kala UBass back in July 2010 I’ve been using my old Fishman almost every time I have been gigging or recording. It’s quite small and have the basic controls (volume, bass and treble) on the top of the preamp making it super accessible when you use it attached to your strap or back pocket. Since there are no controls on the original Kala UBass it’s nice to be able to make mid-song adjustments ‘9n-the-fly’!
The Fishman preamp requires a 9 volt battery to work and there is no option to run it on ‘wall power’. It has not been any problem for me since the battery last for a long time. I think I have changed it once or twice since July 2010.

Fishman options
Since the Model B is discontinued (you might be able to find one on ebay of cause…) here are links to other Fishman preamps.
B-II for Acoustic Bass This has almost exactly the same features as Model-B with the added AC Adaptor Jack!
Pro-EQ II Acostic Preamp/EQ More EQ options.
Pro-EQ Platinum Bass Preamp/EQ/D.I. With a built in DI (Direct Inject/Direct box) like the Headway EB-1.

K & K Dual Channel Pro Preamp
I bought this preamp in conjunction with a dual pickup for upright bass. This pre has dual inputs and since the dual upright pickup has a stereo out one of the inputs can be used as a stereo input. Pickup 1 to channel 1 and so on. Read more here.
It has two controls on top of the box.
Volume and volume for the two different channels. You can’t change the tone on the outside of the box as you can with the Fishman. But there are small pots inside the box for fine tuning. But the easy access of the Fishman is not possible. Since you probably only use one channel for your UBass it would be better to have the same control possibilities as on the Fishman but it could work if you open the box and fine tune, find a good setting and stay with that.
There is also one advantage you won’t accidentally turn the wrong knob when wanting to make a mid-song adjustment of the volume reaching for that volume knob on the strap!
Yes similar to the Fishman pre it also has a belt clip making it possible to attach it to the UBass strap (if you use one).

Headway EB-1
This is my latest edition to outboard pres. It has a lot of features some of them not found on the Fishman and K&K.
There are dual channels with the possibility to use it with for example one piezo and one microphone. (this setup is most useful when you use it with a guitar och violin (or maybe an upright bass). There are an onboard EQ, notch filter (to remove a specific frequency that makes the sound ‘boomy’ of make the sound feedback (probably most problematic with guitar and violin). The channels have different input impedance options so you can use it with a vast variety of piezo versions. (I also play a Rob Allen Guitars 4-string MB-2 fretless bass equipped with a Fishman piezo and pre and I can plug it in on one channel match the impedance and use the other channel for my Ubass making it easy to switch if I’m using both of them on a gig).

Sound comparison
After that brief look at some of the features and differences of the three preamp let’s go on to the ‘real’ test – how do the make the UBass sound?

As I’ve written before you really have to get as tight and firm bottom end as possible since its where the core sound of the UBass is at. So let’s see if there is any differences in how well thee pres can accomplish this!

Test 1
This test was done before I thought about testing the K&K too so there is only the Fishman and Headway preamps in the test.

If you follow my blog you know that I recently uploaded a song/style lesson playing the Bob Marley song ‘Three Little Birds’. The sound you hear on that video is the Headway EB-1 only. BUT I took two signals from my UBass and ran the other signal through my Fishman Model B. (I used a mono > mono + mono tele adaptor to split the signal – see pic below). There is of cause some differences between using the line out of the Fishman and the D.I. out of the Headway but I wanted to use the best possible connection available on the preamps. See more pics below.

UBass with dual out adaptor

 

UBass connected to the Fishman and Headway pre amps

 

Fishman Model B
TC Electronic Konnect 24D

Listen to the different pre amps in the video clip below. I switch between the two pre amps as follows:
Bass only (Headway > Fishman > Headway > Fishman) >
Bass + Drums (Headway > Fishman > Headway > Fishman)
Watch the clip here.

Ok. What do you think? I’ve been trying to record the different preamps as flat as possible. I have only put a low cut filter (set to 35 Hz) on both recordings. Personally I think it’s hard to hear any big differences. Maybe there is a little bit more ao an audible clicking sound with the Fishman!? But when you listen together with the drums it’s really hard to hear any difference.

In part 2 I will use all three preamps and record even record without any of the three preamps going direct to the mic pre of the soundcard.

Links
Fishman
K&K
Headway

Stay tuned…

/Magnus

9 thoughts on “Ubass Preamp ‘Shoot Out’! – part 1

  1. Great article Magnus, very informative,
    I myself going to buy Kala fretless and thinking over the best way to record my guitars and Kala through one device
    I found a product called Radial PZ- DI which is DI box but suitable for piezo and magnet pickups (resistivity switch). I’m a guitar player and don’t have a bass cabinets or amps – would this be enough to go direct to interface? I might use it your technique of miking bass and make simultaneous recording through the DI box.. And for my acoustic with piezo and electric guitar as well
    thank you
    Vadim

    1. Hi,

      Great that you’re thinking of getting a Ubass!
      A Ubass (especially the acoustic/electric) is a very good choice if
      you also play guitar and want to add bass to your recordings.
      As it happens my first interviewee for the Ubassists of the World Series on my blog was a guitarist that also plays bass (and other instruments too). He wanted to
      easily add bass to his recordings and found the acoustic electric Ubass (fretless) to be perfect for jazzy, country-ish and folky music…and beyond!
      Please read his interview here if you want:

      As for recording I think the Radial PZ will be a good match. I use the RMI Basswitch for most of my recordings (and it also is a invaluable tool when playing live).
      One of the neatest feature is the impedance switch that let me switch between 1MOhm and 10MOhm where the 10 MOhm option really makes my Ubass shine. I should also add that I use the original version of the acoustic/electric model that doesn’t have a built in preamp. Although you have a built in pre your sound will benefit from the second preamp stage, softening out the sometimes harsh quality of the piezo pickup.
      Video that compares the sound using the 1 MOhm or 10 MOhm option can be found here:

      As you wrote The Radial PZ has a similar function with the xxxxx switch.
      It switches between xxx MOhm and xxx MOhm.
      I do think this will be a great buy since you also want to record acoustic guitar through that same box. If possible please consider recording your acoustic guitar with condenser mic(s) too. The blend of the piezo and a mic can be great in some situations!

      To get the mikes bass cabinet sound there are a few software options.
      If you use, Logic, ProTools or any other good DAW there are often built in modulation sod different speaker cabinets. Just add one to your Ubass channel and see if it makes the sound better. There is also a French company called Two Notes Engineering that makes both hardware and software speaker and amp simulations.
      I have used their plugin, xxxx with great results.

      Hope you find these tips useful!

      All the best,
      Magnus
      playubass.com

  2. Hi Magnus, and thank you!
    I thought I watched all you videos on youtube, but was wrong – I overlooked that one! Excellent, it answers almost everything I wanted! Really great and very helpful.
    I would like to keep my stuff in studio as minimum as possible but without compromising the quality. So I don’t really want to buy unnecessary things. But this Radial PZ boxes are very good for piezo pickups as they have 5-10MOM impedance. They have even smaller unit Tonebug SB4 which is stripped version of PZ-DI, without controls but I think the main circuit is the same, so for my Godin Multiac and Kala that would be the right choice too. I don’t need the selector because I’m not going to record electric bass (or electric guitar) anyway.
    I watched your video concerning miking the bass with different microphones and that was very interesting too. It really gives the bass its vividness. And I could do the same with my Godin Multiac, despite it has very quiet sound.
    Thanks again!

    1. Not sure? Think I got it at ”radio shack” or somewhere similar…Inreally don’t recommend using this approach…it was mainly to get the same recording to both preamps…

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