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Bass Player 01/2002 Bass Player 01/02

From the article: Soundroom: PICKUP SYSTEM FOR ACOUSTIC UPRIGHT B-BAND STATEMENT

By Greg Olwell, Bass Player Magazine January 2002

Even under the best circumstances, acoustic instruments are notoriously difficult to amplify with-out feedback. Add the acoustic upright's massive soundboard to the equation and you've go a doghouse waiting to howl. In the quest for more volume, many upright pickup designers sacrifice the instrument's rich, natural tone in order to keep feedback on a leash. Finland's B-Band takes a unique approach to this problem. Its Statement pickup system uses transducers mounted under the bridge's foot and in its wings, along with and elegantly simple dual-mix footswitchable mixer/preamp.

Crystal Clear Without Crystals

Most other pickup designers create a signal by relying on the electrical charge created by crystals when agitated by the bridge's vibrations. (Piezo comes from the greek root for "pressure.") Instead of using piezoelectric crystals, B-Band uses a proprietary electret film in its transducers. Functioning like a compact condenser microphone, elastic film contains microscopic gas bubbles that create an electrical charge when vibrations passing through the bridge change the film's thickness. One of the shortfalls of other designs in that the pickup has only one location from which to gather the upright's rich sonic information. The Statement offers three transducer elements mounted in two locations to sense different elements of the bass's sound: two elements are mounted in the wings of the bridge and shimmed with few pieces of cork, and one mounts against the body under the bass-side foot on the bridge. The transducer elements' XLR connector attaches behind the bridge to one of the strings and is easily removable. I was able to install the system in about ten minutes; using just a pair of scissors, I cut the cork for mounting the bridge transducers and thin wood shims that mount under the bridge. While the pickups elements are an essential part of the system, the flexible floor-mounted mixer really helps this unit shine. Once you adjust the body gain and bridge gain trim pots at installation, operation of the mixer/preamp is a no-brainer. Each mix knob allows you to blend between the bridge and body pickups to set a pizzicato tone for mix1 and an arco tone for mix2, with a volume control working for both mixes. By stepping on the sturdy footswitch, you can toggle between your preset pizz and arco tones-no more dashing back to your amp for quick EQ adjustments.

On The Road

I tested the Statement with a plywood Englehardt-Link EM-1 (strung with LaBella 980 gut strings) first through an SWR Baby Blue and then through our Demeter/Hafler/Eden reference rig. When I played both arco and pizz, the body pickup filled the room with warm fundamentals and amazingly natural tone. Staffers remarked that it didn't sound like a pickup. It sounded like the bass, only a lot louder-high praise indeed for an acoustic pickup. When I played solo with the mixer set on the bridge pickup only, the sound was a little harsh and brittle, but it was easily beefed up by mixing in the body pickup. On a singer/songwriter gig at a small club, I ran Statement's ¼" out through the PA. I found that blending the warmth of the body pickup with a touch of the bridge pickup added definition and helped produce a full sound over the bar-noise and amplified acoustic guitar. On a jazz/Latin gig, another tester used a 50-year old Romanian hybrid flatback with D'Addario Hybrids in what he says was the muddiest room he ever played. With his SWR SM-900 set flat, he kept adding more bridge pickup to enhance clarity, eventually blending out the body pickup entirely. He commented, "Beautiful sound" better than my bass sounds naturally, even for arco!" He stood in front of his amp the whole night and was able to play louder than ever, without any feedback. Some staffers initially bemoaned the lack of onboard EQ, but once the Statement was plugged in, any more EQ seemed needless in light of the bass's natural voice pouring through the speakers. Our only gripe is the hard-to-reach mute switch, which makes a very audible "pop" when engaged or disengaged. A quieter, top mounted mute footswitch could come in really handy onstage. At nearly $500, the B-Band Statement isn't cheap compared to some other pickups. But when you factor in the simple and intuitive preamp/mixer, quick and unintrusive installation, and natural feedback-free tone for both arco and pizzicato, the Statement system should rank high on your list of must-try pickup systems.

Greg Olwell

© Copyright 2002 United Entertainment Media

Reprinted from the January 2002 issue of BASS PLAYER.
Reprinted with permission from BASS PLAYER.
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