This year will see an updated preamp system – making a debut in the new US made electro-acoustic Ubass!
Kala has teamed up with LR Baggs that have designed and built a new Ubass system (piezo and preamp) from the ground up especially for the UBass.
Hot news – info from Kala:
Kala U-BASS amplification crafted by LR Baggs delivers a massive amount of power and versatility in a one of the most creative and inspiring basses you will ever play.
Kala and LR Baggs set out to create California made Electro-Acoustic models of U-Bass that provide world class amplification for professional musicians. The result is a jaw dropping, full-range bass response unexpected from the short scale, 21” instruments. Plug in and experience a stunning range of tone for any style and any environment.
The LR Baggs award-winning Element pickup is engineered to capture each instruments most delicate vibration with a flexible film sensor thin as human hair. In contrast to other compression style transducers, the sensors flexible design tracks the motion of the top and saddle to unlock an unrivaled dynamic range. In addition, the pickup’s minimalist construction lessens any influence on the acoustic properties and creates an intimate coupling between the pickup and instrument for the highest fidelity possible.
Kala and LR Baggs worked together from the ground up to design a system that would deliver uncompromising performance for musicians whose primary instrument is bass. This is not an acoustic system reapplied for a new class of acoustic instrument, rather a bass system that provides full-range amplification required for the most challenging conditions. The system features volume and highly responsive bass and presence controls that present endless possibilities ranging from the warm and smooth response of an upright to the punch and authority of an electric bass.
This sure sounds amazing and I can’t wait to get my hands on one of these new UBasses and take it for a spin!
Will be great to compare it to my trusty spruce fretless electro-acoustic that I have played for more than three years now!
I will try to share more info when this new Ubass will be officially released. Would have loved to see it first hand at NAMM this week but I guess I have to wait a bit longer since I can’t make it to there this year…hopefully I can go there ”some-year-soon”!
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.
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).
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).
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!
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.
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.