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Riffi 01/1998

From the article: Review of B-Band for Electric Guitar and Double Bass

By Martin Berka, Riffi #1/98

EMF Acoustics B-Band Pickups

Close miking indeed

** B-Band succeeds in everything where the competitors I have tried before have failed **

EMF Acoustics has recently released, to the market, two novel B-Band electret pickups for electric guitar and double bass.

B-Band for Electric Guitar

The B-Band electret EG pickup for electric guitar is a add-on install for Strat and Tele style guitars. The pickup is a contact strip that is flat and fits under the bridge saddles. The only prerequisite is that the bridge plate must be flat; for example there cannot be any grooves for the height adjustment screws. Also, the edges of the bridge plate can t be bent upwards because the preamp, which is located at the end of the contact strip, needs some space. You could easily install this yourself but we decided to use luthier Christian Oesch for the installation.

According to Mr. Oesch, installing the pickup, as it is, is easy. It requires nothing else than loosening the strings for a while. The preamp wire can be handily slipped under the edge of the pickguard and led to the output jack via the normal way. In Tele style guitars this requires drilling a small hole in the instrument. In both cases the output jack has to be replaced by a stereo jack because the original electric guitar signal requires one output terminal and the B-Band another. Both signals are fed via a stereo cable to an external preamp. Using this stomp box the sound of the normal pickups and the sound picked up by the B-Band can be split to amplifiers of their own.

Although the installation itself went fast, it took some efforts to adjust the string-to-string balance. Each one of the saddles requires a slightly different adjustment for the strings to sound in balance.

For the player it is essential to know; does this kind of additional "slice" affect the sound or the playability of the instrument or not? In the case of the B-Band, there's no reason to worry because the sound of the guitar remained as clear and bright as before the installation. Also there were not any signs of degraded sustain. Also, the system does not restrict the player when he wants to use the system without the sound of the bridge pickup. An ordinary guitar cable still works when you only want the output of the original pickups of the guitar.

The sound of the B-Band is terribly close to an acoustic guitar, although there still is some difference compared to an acoustic with under-the-saddle pickup, as can be concluded from the material of strings, construction of the guitar and other things. The most notable difference is that the B-Band sounds smoother with the low-end notes. Anyhow, the system is quite sensitive to mechanical stimuli and the player should be careful not to touch the pickup or the preamp attached to it because annoying fizzles and thumps will result.

When listened from a tape, the sound was maybe different compared to my own acoustic guitar, but not by no means worse in any sense. Actually, the B-Band got closer to the sound that comes out when recording an acoustic guitar with a good microphone.

Using the bridge system and magnetic pickups was also an excellent combination whereupon the rich midrange and brisk uprange brought their own addition to the traditional electric sound.

B-Band Statement System for Double Bass

Another product we tried this time was a B-Band Statement system for double bass. It consists of two easily-installable pickups and a tiny preamp. The installation of the pickups doesn't leave any marks to the instrument. One of the pickups is put under either of the bridge foot while the other is put into the ornamental slot on the side of the bridge. In each case the pickup has to fit tightly in its place, but excessive compression force is not permitted. By looking for the location of the pickups, plenty of usable combinations can be found. Finally, I fitted the body pickup under the bass-side foot and the bridge pickup into the treble-side of the bridge.

The pickups are readily connected with pieces of wire, to a small wooden box which can be handily attached to the tailpiece. On the side of the box there is a stereo output jack, because the signals of the individual pickups are not summed until the mixer of the preamp. That is, one of the pickups picks up the tight bridge sound while the other senses the vibrations of the body. The idea is to construct two individual mixes with the controls of the preamp; one for pizzicato and another for arco. A good starting point is, depending on the bass and the player, that in finger playing you will need 80 percent of the bridge pickup and 20 percent of body sound, whereas the values are somewhat vice versa with a bow. You can select between these two mixes when playing, depending on the situation.

The tone of the bridge pickup is pleasingly dry and analyzing, and it is also remarkably insensitive to pick up fingering sounds and other irrelevant side products of playing. The body pickup produces a warm bass range, in which the sound of the body woods is strongly present. This brings considerable depth to the sound of the bridge pickup and it also gives a authentic image of the real physical dimensions of the instrument.

With the mixer, the mutual balance between the pickups is easy to find and the sound can easily be adjusted in accordance with your own taste. Thanks to the system, the B-Band succeeds in everything where the competitors I have tried before have failed: The sound works with both pizzicato and arco.

Martin Berka

© Copyright Martin Berka / Riffi