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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Questions, questions, questions.

 Some questions have the nearly chemical ability to keep you awake when your body wants nothing more than the solace of slumber. 

Here's a bass that has as many questions around it as a cheerleader has running backs around her at the prom. 

I'll tell you what I know.  Joel Barker had the idea.  Joel Barker brought a 6 string bass guitar to the shop and he and Lee Barker made a big bass out of a little bass. 

What was the brand of the bass?  Neither remembers.  "Maybe Lyle," offers Joel.  "Beats me," affirms Lee.

Does it play?  Indeed.  Does it sound like a Barker Bass?  Hmmm.  Well, it sounds like a Barker Bass would sound if it had an additional string.  Or two. With an onboard preamp.

$2000 plus shipping.  One only.  Six strings  Five knobs.  Unlimited possibilities.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Meet The Couple! Scarlett and Bart!

 Ever wanted a matched pair of Barker Basses?  Well, you're probably not the only one who hasn't had this thought.  Try it out.

The details:  Scarlett is a fretted four, (both are B1s).  That's a translucent red, so you see the grain of the cherry front quite readily, er, reddily.

Bart is a lined fretless.  The grain is present but it takes a little more attention to note it.  But with red strings and a red (RED!) tailpiece one can be forgiven for not noticing the other details. 

Both sport stock Duncan pickups.  Both give you the incredible sustain and the ergonomic joys of any other Barker Bass. 


A matched set.  His and hers?  Maybe your current gig has an array of styles that could benefit from your doubling with this pair.  Or you're in two bands with differing genres?

Perhaps you're a collector.  There will never be another pair like this, be assured. 

Their serial numbers are consecutive, of course:  She's 101, he's 102.

Contact Lee if you're interested in more information. 541.923.2571. 

Meantime, if you're wanting to experiment with the theme here, try this for your computer wallpaper.  And wonder who copied whom....

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Monday, May 20, 2013

Barker Basses in inventory, ready to find a new home

 Our first example is the value leader, as some folks call the, um, less expensive example of their products.  And this is.  And they're wonderful basses, if I do say so myself.  I own two Barkers, play both regularly, and one is a Brio. 

It's a stock instrument:  alder front and back, alder chambers, with a walnut/alder stripe on the front.  Four strings, frets, and our custom p-bass pickups.  Basic, reliable, fun to play, easy to handle.  The list price is $2595.  Street price $1995 plus shipping. 

And for something completely different (thank you, Monty) here is a B1four, the original Barker Bass, the one that brought the words "quality construction" (or equivalent) into all the early conversations.  Cherry front, alder back, alder chambers.  Side dots for subtle locators.  Strung up with LaBella black tapewounds.  Sweet and expressive.  List is $3895; street price $2995 plus shipping.  It could be on its way to you tomorrow.

There are two ways to pay for a Barker Bass:  Paypal or a check in the mail.  Either works fine. 

There will be more examples of in-stock basses appearing here regularly, plus updates on custom builds (just for variety).
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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

An Afternoon in the Shop with Lily

She's 7--the second oldest of our universe of six grandchildren.  I got to hold her the day she was born.

We decided on a play date the last afternoon of 2012.  Over quesadillas and rice and beans we talked about what we might build or do.  Once we got to the shop, she decided she had an idea.  Ok, I admit it, I posed the picture.

Birdhouse.  You've got to start somewhere.  If she said, "scale model of a Frank Lloyd Wright house" or "prototype air powered elevator" I would take a run at it with her.  Process and time together were everything, product not much.

We did some sketching, which she caught onto right away.  I did the tablesaw cutting and we got into some hand tools.

And learned, in about 30 seconds, how to spread glue.

And how a vise works.
And back to the sketch pad at her improvised desk.

But that's only half the story.  First thing in the shop, she had sat at my desk.  I suggested she was the boss.  That stuck.  So periodically, in the construction/playtime, she would declare a break and go into her office and then call me in for a conference. 

I was taken to task for something that I did that wasn't safe.  I was made mayor of the Carry the Wax Club.  (I had to learn to carry the wax container by the handle with my other hand underneath in case the box fell down.)  I had to demonstrate my competence at this in order to become mayor ("because mayors own the town, you know.").  Later I got to be president and received a special binder clip to wear on my collar as an emblem of my station.

Once I had to come into the office as Lily, talking to the boss.  There were some things I had to learn to do better.   (I've not had a boss or a conference in over 30 years.  This required great imaginative effort on my part!  She seemed quite at home as the boss.)

But back to the shop.  In addition to the obvious hand tools, we also
  • used the drill press in 3 different processes, including  boring with a pilot bit/countersink
  • used two different air staplers
  • cut shapes on the band saw
  • sanded putty with an orbital sander
  • used a screwgun to install the removable cleanout panels and to attach a metal bracket to one of the avian residences
I was amazed.  All this was done with my hands on her hands, or vice versa, but she was very attentive to what was going on.  For instance, with the drill press, she drilled a hole and the bit plunged on through.  That sends three signals:  your ears hear the splitting sound, your eyes see the chuck go down more quickly than it had been traveling, and your hand feels the plunge effect.

Next hole:  she slowed down her rate of feed when she got to what she thought was the end of the hole.  And she was right.

I have taught adults woodworking, and I don't recall ever seeing learning like this.  Quite the contrary, in many cases!

When we started our first bandsaw task, she said, "Grampa, aren't you going to wear safety glasses?"  Before I could concoct a mumbly answer, she was tapping the sticker on the upper wheel housing:  Caution!  Wear Safety Glasses.

We spent over four hours together in the shop on December 31.  As I look at my new wall calendar which shows the entire year on one page, I can see some wonderful opportunities in 2013.