The RealistTM has rapidly become a popular choice of bass pickup, and it is now used by a number of top bassists. It consists of a thin, flexible piezo film that fits between a bridge foot and the top of your instrument, and is carefully and specifically designed so it won't alter the acoustic sound of your bass.
Its sound is very natural and woody, with less focus and more body, due to its location on the body of the instrument. There are many different "natural bass sounds", all of which depend on the vantage point; what's your preference? Do you want the sound from one foot away, with more detail and string artifacts? If so, that's not the sound of The Realist. It has less detail - not necessarily a bad thing - due to the location of the transducer in relation to the strings. It provides more of the sound of the instrument "from a distance," where the body sound takes over from that upfront detail, but it is still sensitive to string sounds. Because of the nature of its sound, the Realist is an excellent choice for bowed response - as well as for the classic pizzicato sound. By comparison, pickups with "more detail" can sound scratchy or overly trebly, particularly when bowed.
The pickup seems to perform best on carved basses and quality laminated instruments with a nicely responsive top. As with all transducers, the bass and its characteristics dictate the results. Note that if your volume needs are high, The Realist may not be the best choice... as it seems to feed back more readily than some other pickups. I would suggest the K&K Bass Max as an alternative choice for players with higher volume needs, or the Fishman Full Circle (requires an adjustable bridge), which has a similar character but a bit more feedback resistance and string detail.
The photograph to the right is a close-up of a Realist installed on Bob's Eminence electric upright bass. The Eminence uses a unique, specially-designed version of the Realist, but the installation method is the same. You can see that the pickup has a low-profile appearance and easy installation.
The Bass Realist is available in two types: the original, classic copper foil design (the "Copperhead"), and the new wood veneer version (the "Woodtone.") What's the difference? In a word, very, very subtle. Trusted Gage sources tell us that if you played one on Friday night and the other on Saturday's gig, you wouldn't notice any difference. They have the same volume, the same wonderful arco and pizz response, and each installs in the same easy way.
The Coppertone has a thin piece of doubled-over foil which is the part that goes under the bridge foot. The Woodtone's two inch by one inch slice of wood veneer has a highly compressible black silicone-like material on the side that should face up, which retains your bridge foot/bass top fit. Only the wood shows beyond the foot.
Thickness? We measured two of the pickups with our electronic caliper and they are nearly the same thickness. The copper foil unit was approximately .060 inches thick, the wood one about .075 inches — that difference of only .015 inches is about the thickness of four sheets of copy paper. The new wood version has been described as being slightly compressed and tighter sounding, with perhaps with a tiny bit more midrange. But again, we're talking subtle, very, very subtle. If one is Vanilla, the other is French Vanilla.
A Realist Purchase at Gollihur Music Includes FREE Jack Mount Kit
What's that? David Gage specifies in the instructions that you are to mount the jack to the tailpiece using the included plastic loop. The way that's done is, you remove the E string, feed it through the hole on the loop, and reinstall.
We think that's a pain. And it's not good for your strings to remove and reinstall them unnecessarily.
So we've devised a better way. We include, at no additional charge, some low-key plastic hardware that allows you to mount the jack -- in the same place on the tailpiece -- without removing the string. This could also come in really handy if you have to remove/reinstall the pickup frequently.
Just another one of those situations where we're looking out for you! Included at no extra charge.
The Realist™ acoustic transducer was designed by Ned Steinberger (formerly with Steinberger basses, now NS Design) in collaboration with the well-known NYC-based luthier David Gage.
ARTISTS Sound Off on the Realist
"The most natural sounding pick-up I've ever heard. You wouldn't believe the sound of it through my rig. It feels great -- I'm totally into it. I'm really happy with it. It's easy, I love it. I can go from pizzicato to arco without any hesitation."
"The best Arco sound of them all. THE REALIST sounds the most like a microphone without the problem of feedback."
"The Realist is absolutely the best sounding pickup I have ever used. It creates a sound and texture that is very much like the instrument it is on, and you really feel like you are playing acoustically. Yet it can still crank out a lot of sound. Try it."
David Gage on the development of The Realist™:
Recognizing the limitations of microphones and traditional piezo transducers, Ned and I decided that for the working musician things could and should be better. We felt a transducer should be equal in its ability to recreate an acoustic pizzicato and arco sound through commonly used amplifiers.
Furthermore, this pick-up had to be simple, dependable, and affordable. After years of consideration and tests, we have come up with a system that achieves all of these goals.
We understand the hours of practice it takes to draw your sound out of your instrument, and with this pick-up we feel your voice can be heard more accurately through an amplifier. Both recording engineers and professional musicians have been startled by the great tone and even response when playing pizzicato and arco. Finally, you can play both pizz and arco without having to play with your controls.
Ned Steinberger on the development of The Realist™:
This pickup is the result of an intensive collaboration between myself and luthier David Gage. He is one of the first people from the acoustic bass scene to reach out and support my work on the electric upright. It was the piezo bridge pickup in particular that caught his interest because of the full, rich tonality, specially when bowed, that seemed to be missing in other electric instruments. We got to talking about the dissatisfaction so many acoustic string players have with the sound of the pickups that are available. The next thing I know, I've got one of David's prize instruments in my studio, and we are testing all kinds of old and new variations of pickup designs. The result is The Realist™, which is an evolution of the original pickup in the NS Double Bass. Three elements combine to give The Realist™ the exciting tone that has so many players raving. The first is finding the right structure within and around the piezo crystal to respond optimally to the acoustic resonance of the instrument itself. This involves endless comparisons that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy, and we have David's sensitivity and patience to thank for the excellent result. We owe a debt also the many fine players who were corralled into helping evaluate the various options. Second, placing the transducer under the foot of the bridge puts it exactly were the sound is transferred from the strings to the sound board. This is definitely where the action is, and the rich, powerful response, both pizzicato and bowed, testifies to this simple fact. The output level directly from the pickup is unusually high, and as a result the signal to noise ratio is also very high, so no pre-amp or other active, battery powered gear is necessary. Just plug it in! The copper foil sandwich construction is the third key element in the system. It provides total shielding to eliminate hum from light fixtures and other electrical or radio interference. It is flexible enough to conform to the curve of the top of the instrument, so that the full pressure of the bridge is concentrated evenly onto the piezo surface. But all this technical stuff is beside the point when you are on stage or in the studio, the pressure is mounting, and you need your sound to be there. As both luthier and musician, David has plenty of field experience in the ongoing battle for tone.
Need to figure out some of the more in-depth features of this product? Here's a copy of the manual, in PDF format, here.
You may wish to visit the manufacturer's website to see if a more recent version is available.
- Labor: One (1) year from the date of original purchase at retail. New or rebuilt parts in exchange for defective parts for one (1) year from the date of original purchase.
- Parts: To ascertain your eligibility for the warranty, the registration form must be filled out completely and legibly and sent to the address provided within 30 days of initial purchase of the Realist. If the pick-up was bought directly from David Gage, the customer will be automatically registered for the warranty.
This warranty is extended only to the original purchaser, and applies to the product from the original date of purchase at retail. Therefore, if the customer has not registered for warranty at the time of purchase, the owner must furnish proof of original purchase at retail, such as a retail receipt with date printed clearly. This warranty covers failure due to defects in material or workmanship which occur during normal consumer use and does not cover damage which occurs in shipment or failures which result from alteration, accident, misuse, abuses, neglect, or improper maintenance.
The Realist pickup arrived yesterday (Wednesday), and I had some time to install it today. It is as advertised and endorsed. Very nice! Just the sound of my bass but a bit louder. There were some reviews I read which mentioned that the pickup had some feedback issues and I did notice some feedback if the volume was increased dramatically. We have to keep in mind of course that when you turn an instrument as large as a double bass into a giant microphone, some feedback should be expected if the instrument is close to the speakers. As my instrument has a somewhat "soft" sound rather than a "mid-range" tone, the Realist will be ideal. It sounds great on pizz as well as bowed without adjusting the amp and that's great! Thanks for your great communication (now where should I put that BASS sticker, hmmm) ...
Quick message to say a BIG THANK YOU for your help & expertise with regards to my purchasing a Realist pick up for my New Upright bass. Not only did the info you give me help enormously, the Realist (foil one) arrived quickly & safely. The help on your site was extremely good, as this was my 1st time adding a pick up to an Acoustic upright. The Realist sounds fantastic! I play at least once/week- 99% pizz style- playing Jazz, blues & soul styles, & everyone has commented on the lovely tone of the bass. I also have a Fishman Platinum + pre amp purchased from you a couple of years ago(I used for my cheapo EUB) & this also sounds great with the new Acoustic & Realist. So- a HUGE thanks to Bob & the rest of the guys at Gollihur Music. A source I couldn't have found such wonderful tone with, in such a short time, without. Highly recommended & I make sure I tell ALL who ask- that I got my gear & info from Gollihur Music. Even though We're in Tasmania, Aus.
BTW I installed the pickup (Realist wood version) and it works great, thanks for the help today Bob....you guys have the best service and prices...couldn't be happier with any of the purchases I made with you...your knowledge seems endless and helpful!!!