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A little while back, you may recall, I became the rather proud owner of a Shuker Uberhorn Fretless 4 (Serial 001)
Well, its a superb bass. It's build quality is exquisite, it looks utterly incredible, and it plays like no bass I've ever played before (even with my hamfisted attempts at fretless I know it's something special). Here it is on arrival:
Well (and it's a bit of a Jackanory this, so get a comfy chair and a coffee..) I was never really happy with the electrics side of things.
Firstly, the under-board mag Jazz pickup was single coil, and noisy - so that got swapped out for a Nordstrand.
Then, I noticed that it was running an EMG gain boost which was as noisy as anything, and ripped that out.
Then, things went properly south. An odd noise developed from the piezo preamp, which eventually became a not so odd noise, and eventually no noise at all.
Investigation revealed two things - the ghost acoustiphonic preamp had died, and the summing board for the ghost piezo saddles had effectively eaten itself. I tried many a re-solder and extra bit of dabbling before ripping the whole lot out in a fit of Uber-rage. It was just mightily frustrating that I had a bass which looked amazing, played so damn well, but was completely let down by an electronics package that wasn't doing it justice, and if I'm honest, was past it's best at 10 years old.
Now, to be fair to Jon, it was top drawer stuff when built, and it's lasted really well. However, my big problem and frustration was finding a suitable replacement - the options were limited at best, and in reality pretty much nowt at all. Number one option was looking like a new ghost board and replacement preamp. Ugh. I'll be honest - I don't like the ghost board. It requires you plug any mag pickups into it and forces you to separate it all out. It's messy and it just isn't very logical. @ICBM will attest to the sheer levels of frustration - and he's right - mix and match complicated electronics are a bitch.
After some ruminating, kicking chairs and generally feeling rather miserable about the whole thing, in a fit of last ditch desperation I emailed John East and simply said "Can you do anything that might get this up and running again?" (https://www.east-uk.com)
Of course he could. In fact, he said there were options aplenty and I can pretty much have what I want. Sounded spendy - but it really wasn't.
John East is a legend of a man. Apart from being a genius, he is polite, enthusiastic and utterly pleasurable to deal with. I'll say it now in case I forget - if you are thinking of upgrading any electronics, go to him first. He will sort you out. His kit is absolutely the best and it's just so easy to install.
Anyway, we discussed options and I came up with my preferred configuration. John spent a bit of time ruminating, then came back with a "yep - all possible". So he built it, I paid for it, and he shipped it. It came this morning:
I decided to ditch the frankly terrible ghost summing board and soldered them all together to two wires - a hot and a ground. That gave me this:
John's stuff is just so neat and easy to install. Given how much gubbins there is in this bass now (like about twice the amount there was) it's a miraculously tidy install (and just for @ICBM's benefit - it's one system from one manufacturer *bliss*):
And now I have a bunch of new knobs and a lot more stacked ones than before!
So what configuration did I go for? Well..
- The Piezo goes into John's own Piezo Preamp/Mixer which allows you to set gain and sets the right impedance etc, as well as allowing you to have a piezo treble roll off to get rid of any quack. Nice.
- The output from this goes into the Uni Pre 4 - the Mag pickup and Piezo output go into the volume board and allow volume, blend, individual balancing gain for each pickup, and a bunch of other tuning options
- There rest is a standard Uni Pre 4 except for the passive tone, which is also now a piezo treble roll off when active, and I have a mute switch added.
So the knobs are now:
2. Passive Tone/Active Piezo Treble Roll Off
3. Mid/Mid Freq Sweep
and the two switches are:
The real difference (apart from the quality) is the fact that both piezo and mag feed into John's preamp so no matter what the blend I can get the most out of the piezo and set mids, treble, bass, treble roll off etc. as well as have full control over the mag just the same. I also get a passive mode which means I can use it passively and run a booster pedal on a board for more oomph.
The Nordstrand sounds like it should now. The Piezo is just so different - far more full spectrum and far far more tonal possibility - from clanky spiky almost acoustic to a proper dull thumpy double bass sound. The Nordstrand gets me mids till my eyes bleed as well as that traditional Jazz type of sound. Blend them together and it's like a Jazz with a whopping great low down thump from a double bass all in one.
It now actually sounds like it looks. It sounds like it plays. It sounds flipping great and though I thought it sounded really rather good before despite the niggles, I had no idea it would open out like this.