Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Taurus TM-2 Bass Preamp Downstream From Nordstrand P-J Pickups

Here she is, (note to self:  Will you name this one too?), just plugged into the SWR Workingman's 10 up on the file cabinet, ready for about a zillion scales while I listen to the notes.  No string buzz, no playing effort of note, everything as it should be.  Retune.  We have Pyramid black tapewounds on board here.  Nice feel.

The pickup specifics:  npj4SE set.  More information on the Nordstrand page.  Recommended!  Nordstrand stuff is designed and built with great intentionality.  If you are a fan of the P-J array, this is the one you want.   In my opinion?  Succinctly?  The best there is. 

Disclaimer:  I'm no expert on preamps--I have put a couple different ones in Barker Basses and played them for a few months.  Not much experience there for comparisons.  However, the Taurus has a nice feature which will aid in this report:  Pull up on the volume knob and you've got passive signal.  My A-B tests will be against the passive.  The SWR is set all flat.

Volume:  Does as it says.

Pickup Blend:  At the detent, the volume active is very close to exactly the same as passive.  If you move off the detent either way, there is a slight volume drop but not an important one.

Treble:  I don't get much variety with this pot.  The sound so far has too much treble for the particular sound I am seeking.

Bass:  This one makes my feet happy as I start to feel the lower frequencies like I want to.

Mid:  I think this is a scoop.  Lots of treble available here.

Conclusion:  The possibilities seem wider than I have encountered in other setups.  That said, personally I'm not interested in range so much as a certain woody sound for my JazCru casuals.  And that woody sound is very much there with the pre, not so much without it.

More about the Taurus here.

Later that same day, as they say in radio dramas, Craig Brown, first call bassist from nearby Bend, Oregon, came by to do his own testing.  His report:  "Sweet, man!" 

There you are--two reviews for the price of one!

Installing the Taurus Tm-2 Bass Preamp in a Barker B1 Bass

Taurus is to be applauded for their creative thinking in the physical design of this unit.  This image shows the completed wiring!  Wow!  Their idea was the tape-like wire that shows as a red line.  This gray material, of multiple conductors, has plugs attached periodically.  These plug into the pots, in any order.  This gives you terrific flexibility when the cavity space is limited.

The Barker B1four cavity is roomy for three pots, adequate for for, cozy with five.  I could have added two more switches from the Taurus kit if there has been space.  That said, changing a pot for a switch is a simple, no solder process.  Amazing.

I chose the volume, pickup blend, treble, bass and mid pots.  The only soldering was the pickup leads, the output, and the switch.  I chose a button switch instead of the usual switched 1/4" jack.

Here's a shot including the Gotoh two-cell 9v battery box:

And the bass at stringup time:

The neck is Ebony over Padouk.   Here's the front of the headstock: 
Next:  Meet B1four #112!

Discounts Claimed, But Many Basses Still Available

Angela in Brighton, UK and Stephen in New Jersey have claimed the two discounts mentioned in the June 12 post.  Angela bought a custom B1five.

Rhonda has found a new home in a remarkable neighborhood band called The Bottle Openers.   

More basses are making their way to the front of the shop including a B1four with the Taurus TM-2 preamp aboard.  This bass featured in a prior post; progress report coming up!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

And One For The Boss. Maybe Two!

We're all entitled to a certain number of things we think we deserve and someday might get.  Why else would be pick up a copy of Car and Driver magazine at Barnes and Noble and leaf through it.  Or stroll through Dovetails Furniture and stand next to a beautiful dining room table, 8 matching chairs, finished the same color as Grandma's.

It is a privilege to be able to act on that list, at least in the column headed "basses."

I've long been curious about an elaborate onboard preamp.  By nature I'm not a preamp kind of guy though I have flirted over the line a few times.  I have used, and actually enjoyed, the K&K PureBass preamp (made in Oregon, be it noted) as well as the Graphtech Ghost complete with peizo pickups, one per string.  Yet one day my interest would fade and that would be that.

The latest infatuation is with the Taurus TM-2 onboard preamp.  The upside is the modularity of the components which makes it possible to try them out without installing them.  The downside is that you can have up to 5 pots (knobs) and add one or two switches.  One would need a manual to which to refer.

That said, I powered ahead on a Bass For Lee.  Here are some progress images:

The center stripe is, from the center out, cherry, walnut, cherry, walnut, then the cherry bookmatched pieces.  

The back is bookmatched alder with a spiffy little knot pattern in the lower bout.  Center is pau ferro flanked with maple.

Flashy?  Yes.  Will it sound good?  Well:  It depends upon who is playing it!  

Nevertheless, the self indulgence has allowed a number of other bass bodies to get closer to readiness by drafting this one.  It doesn't have a number yet.  Soon.  Oh and one more thing.

Yes it's for the owner.  And in answer to your next question, sure, it may very well be for sale.  I have this other idea for a bass with just one pickup and the unthinkable simplicity of two--Just Two!--knobs.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Cue the Beach Boys! "Since she put me down...."

 It's the only one we ever did like this.  Maple on maple neck, which you noticed on second look.  First look was the body color.  Wow! No wood grain showing at all!  Paint even!

We don't have a name for the color.  Lemon chiffon?  Sweet potatoes en glace?  Canary melon?  Sweet banana pepper?  I'm not sure why all these ideas are food.  Now that I think of it...

Well we're back now, and it was a marvelous snack. 

There is another uniqueness worth noting here:  The layout of the knobs.  Looking back in these recent blog posts you'll see that, on the B1, the three knobs are in a vertical line.  On Rhonda, they follow, artistically, the arc of the shoulder.  This identifies her as an early, perhaps the earliest, cutaway.  Her serial number suggests that as well. 

Everything else is typical B1:  passive Duncans, all that.  What's different here is the Wow factor, and it's notable.  Sometimes when I walk back into the stock area I have to ask the other basses to quiet down.  They're always ooohing and aaaaahing when Rhonda's in the room.

There was considerable extra effort to achieve that automotive finish, but that is canceled by the New Old Stock designation.  She's been around a while.  Not played at all, actually.  We just never got busy marketing her.  So now you get a chance to see and imagine.

MSRP:  $3795
Street:   $2895

Your price:  $2500 plus (continental US)  $100 shipping.

But wait.  As an added incentive to make a purchase of one of these Barker Basses, there's a discount.

[note:  as of 10/18/2013 the discounts described below have been claimed]

The following information applies to seven of the eight basses currently listed in the blog (the exception is the B2 prototype).

Be the first to buy any of these seven, and subtract five hundred dollars ($500) from the purchase price.
Be the second, subtract two hundred dollars ($200) from the purchase price.
This is posted at 11:07 am June 12, 2013. 

Payment will be via PayPal, in full. 

Contact via email or phone, from our web site.  I am generally gone from the office Saturday and Sunday but know the calls will be dealt with in the order they are received, messages included.
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The Venerable One: The B1!

 The Barker Bass that put us on the map:  The B1.  The first production model.  Jazz bass neck width, jazz passive pickups (Seymour Duncans) and the heft and the chambers that dish up that chocolate tone. 

This one is a bit splashy in the showy grain department.  Not enough to snap necks (I hate those lawsuits!) but ample to generate comments about the "beauty of the wood."  (Followup question always is, "what wood is that?")

Cherry.  Always select, always bookmatched on the B1s. 

The rest is likewise typical: rosewood fingerboard, maple neck.  She's just awaiting your hands to bring a sense of purpose to the whole endeavor. 

The numbers:  MSRP.......................................$3795

This is a new old stock bass--it has been in inventory for a while.  It has not been played out, but it is just not, statistically, new-new.  So the price is discounted thus:................................................$2500

Plus shipping (continental US)..............................$100

Your turn!  Feel free to leave a comment if you have played or are playing a B1four.  We'd like to hear....
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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Under $2000 or bust!

 Joel Barker walked into his dad's office and slapped down a yellow legal pad on the desk.  It got my attention, even though the pad was blank.  "We have to make a bass that goes out the door for less than $2000," he announced.

"Can't do it," came the grump from Mr. Positive Mental Attitude.  "We'll harpoon our reputation for quality.  Not worth it."

"Gotta try," Joel said, so right then and there the two of us made lists:  lists of all components of the bass and alternatives which would cost less.  This covered everything from body woods to the endpin and the stand.

It was obvious that significant ground could be gained in the pickup department.  Finish.  Body woods.  Nearly everything had a bargain doppelganger. 

"We'll try it," Lee said, his polarity shifting slightly.

Eight B2 prototypes, as they came to be called, were constructed.  We tried several brands of import pickups in them.  Some of the options we explored were failures.  That's good, when you're prototyping.  One component failing can bring into focus other considerations that might not have presented themselves otherwise.

Here is one of these prototypes.  I have been reluctant to let it out of the yard because, well, it's not the quality of where it led us, the Brio, as well as the B1. 

However.  If it is an entry level bass for someone who would not have access to a Brio, that's a good thing.
$900 plus shipping.  And bear in mind it's a rarity, not a bust.
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