Long story short: this unit is a complete game changer when it comes to double bass amplification. Period.
Trying to amplify an upright bass can be a true nightmare as you know.
Over the years there have been different methods to try and amplify this instrument on stage but the results were always lacking in one department or another. Basically we have 4 different approaches:
1. Magnetic pickups that capture the vibration of an steel string and transform that into an electric signal. Pros: good volume before feedback. Cons: only work with steel strings, sound is very electric (actually close to a P Bass)
2. Piezo systems in the bridge. Pros: slightly more natural sound but not quite. Cons: not so good feedback rejection, sometimes dull or overly bright sound (none of them even close to the real sound of the acoustic instrument)
3. Microphones (condenser, dymamic, mounted on a stand, placed behind the bridge wrapped in foam or aiming to the f holes using a clamp). Pros: the most natural sound. Cons: feedback is an issue always, rendering them unusable most of the times (extreme EQ solves that somewhat but removes the natural sound)
4. Stick on devices that sense the top's vibrations: Cons: theoretically they get a natural sound but that's not always the case. Cons: too sensitive to element placing (nice sound in one spot, terrible sound 1 cm away), usually prone to feedback, sometimes the material used to stick the element to the top will leave some waste and could even damage an old instrument.
The new LARS Pickups CM (Contact Microphone) belongs in this 4th group of products but as we said earlier on, it is a total game changer. Here's why: for starters the special acoustic putty won't leave any waste on the instrument nor will it damage even the most delicate varnish plus it can be used a lot of times. This will allow you to experiment for some minutes until you find the best spot on your instrument.
This product has been created by Lauren Serrano, one of the top sound engineers in Spain with a really vast experience when it comes to successfully amplifying acoustic instruments in big stages (flamenco guitars, upright basses, bowed strings, etc.). We have to admit we were a bit reluctant because all the similar stick on pickups we had tested so far did not really deliver plus some of them were really expensive and required some special preamp to work fine. Well, the CM-B is totally passive, doesn't need any preamp and what's more important, delivers the most natural upright bass sound we've heard so far when connected to a bass amp, mixing desk or audio interface. What's more, when you use it live feedback is not an issue at all as it will easily deliver 12dB's more before feedback than a good condenser mic. That's a lot!! Lars suggests placing the unit bellow the bass leg of the bridge just about 2-3cm away from it and that' a great starting point. Of course every bass and top resonates differently so you might have to spend 5 minutes trying different locations. This is fun to do and will prove that the putty doesn't leave any waste at all on your beloved double bass. Cool.We have done a lot of tests and LARS' placement suggestion was right in about 90% of the cases. On a David Gage Czech Ease bass we found the best spot right below the treble leg of the bridge but that's just because the smaller body of that instrument probably resonates different.
Pizzicato sounds deep and detailed and actually what you hear through the amp or monitor is the real sound of your bass and strings. Impressive. But the real treat comes when we grab a nice bow: arco sounds incredibly natural and musical. No strange artifacts or harshness at all. We are really impressed.
We've even compared the LARS pickup with a DPA 4099 mic (excellent stuff). First, we recorded both signals into two channels using a professional audio interface. The results were remarkably similar. Maybe the DPA mic had a little more "air" but the LARS was slightly more focused but we are talking about some nuances. Amazing. Of course hooking an amp or monitor made all the difference. The mic sounded just fine but as soon as we turned up the volume a little bit there was a lot of feedback and extreme EQ had to be used, removing some of the natural tone from our bass. However the LARS unit needed almost no EQ and allowed us to use a much louder sound without having to sacrifice the natural character of our instrument.
Honestly, we've spent lots of money and countless hours trying to get a natural amplified upright bass tone but despite the use of complex systems involving 2-3 ways to capture the sound and expensive preamps, nothing really matched the true acoustic sound of the upright bass. Until now. All you need is a LARS pickup and you are good to go. Simple as that.
Truth be told, output signal is a little low so some sort of gain lift might be useful, but that's about it. Any acoustic preamp such as Fishman, LR Baggs or (our favorite) the EBS Stanley Clarke preamp is all that you might ever nee but this is not absolutely neccessary so if you plug into a regular amp all you'll have to do is turn up the input gain a little bit.
Make yourself a favor and order this fantastic LARS CM-B from us. You won't regret it, believe us.
LARS CM-B Contact Microphone