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Old 01-05-2018, 07:20 AM
James Haigh James Haigh is offline
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Default Best Live Preamp for advanced fingerstyle?

I'm no expert on preamps, perhaps somebody on here is?

I play a Lowden F35 Engelmann/Madagascan with a Highlander pickup.
I don't need any special effects just a quality realistic live sound for advanced fingerstyle. But how? So far from my research it would be between these preamps:

- The LR Baggs Venue
- The Tone Dexter
- AER colouriser 2 pocket tool
- Grace design bix/alix

My questions are:

1) which of these preamps (or other) would you recommend?

2) Would it be wiser for me to instead save up for a set up like a 2 channel pre such as the Grace Felix pre to mix say a Gefell M300 with my highlander pickup?
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Old 01-05-2018, 08:09 AM
guitaniac guitaniac is offline
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The Highlander system is an active system which has an onboard premp already. You can take it directly to most any amp or PA mixer without a problem.

If your goal is simply to get the best amplified sound possible out of that particular pickup system, I'd go with ToneDexter. Be advised that it'll require some effort (WaveMap training and experimentation) and possibly some extra expense (for a good training mic) on your part.

With respect to adding an external mic signal, the practicality of that will depend on how loud you need to be.
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Old 01-05-2018, 08:48 AM
KevWind KevWind is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by James Haigh View Post
I'm no expert on preamps, perhaps somebody on here is?

I play a Lowden F35 Engelmann/Madagascan with a Highlander pickup.
I don't need any special effects just a quality realistic live sound for advanced fingerstyle. But how? So far from my research it would be between these preamps:

- The LR Baggs Venue
- The Tone Dexter
- AER colouriser 2 pocket tool
- Grace design bix/alix

My questions are:

1) which of these preamps (or other) would you recommend?

2) Would it be wiser for me to instead save up for a set up like a 2 channel pre such as the Grace Felix pre to mix say a Gefell M300 with my highlander pickup?
The Best? arguably
Pendulum Audio SPS1 and yes the Gefell M300 and the pic up would make a pretty unbeatable system

http://www.pendulumaudio.com/SPS-1.html
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Old 01-05-2018, 09:05 AM
philjs philjs is offline
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If by "advanced fingerstyle" you mean the acoustic sound that you're already hearing from your F35 -- but amplified live -- then a Tone Dexter, hands down. Especially if you already have the Gefell M300 for training the pickup. Nothing else will come close to the acoustic sound of your Lowden.

Phil (go ahead, ask me how I know)
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  #5  
Old 01-05-2018, 09:15 AM
James Haigh James Haigh is offline
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Default Tone dexter

Would you say the Tone Dexter with a gefell to train is even superior to using Grace Felix or a Pendulum SPS-1?
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Old 01-05-2018, 10:00 AM
Vancebo Vancebo is offline
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James, obviously, there is no quick and easy "Right" answer. But I will help as much as I can. I have owned and tested many preamps.

What I use currently are the Grace Alix (3 weeks old) and the Fire Eye Red Eye. I am in a phase of my amplified playing that I am looking for easy. Easy set-up, easy use, and great sound quality. When I owned the pendulum and a K&K/mic combo, I could get that to sound excellent but it was a big hassle. I have discovered the Dazzo Pickup, it needs no mic. Sounds excellent. Needs very little EQ because they are made to be optimized for your guitar's voice and your ear or desire for bass response. It yields such a natural true to life tone that I have hesitated to go the the Tonedexter yet. The Alix is an exceptional unit and if you plan to dual source then go with the Felix. The Red Eye is just easy. My Dazzo needs very little EQ for it to pop through the mix.

Tell us, what you don't like about your current live sound then people can help you more rather than just throwing out gear. If you plan to stick with your Highlander, (it is a good UST) then perhaps the Tonedexter is for you. It fixes the problem UST's generally have but you still have to EQ it to your needs, situation and tastes. Sometimes the Just-like-your-guitar sound is not ideal for the venue. Good luck in your journey.
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Old 01-05-2018, 10:10 AM
Schau_ins_Regal Schau_ins_Regal is offline
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Very interesting question. Would also like to hear the answer.

I am in a similar situation.

My current setup:
PU1: Dazzo
PU2: DPA4061
Preamp: Headway EDB-2

Do you think the Dazzo with Tonedexter will be superior to my current setup or my PUs paired with a Grace Felix?
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Old 01-05-2018, 10:17 AM
James May James May is offline
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We recently had a couple of very accomplished fingerstyle players here in the studio and lab, and they both had Highlander pickups. I had never before heard the Highlander PU under controlled conditions, and my impression was that is was pretty good for an under saddle pickup.

We trained them both right up with a ToneDexter and a small diarphagm mic, and they both were fairly well floored with the improvement in tone and naturalness. Feedback immunity was good, as I would expect from a UST.

It's a good combo in my view.
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Old 01-05-2018, 11:43 AM
lkingston lkingston is online now
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For me, the holy grail is the Tech21 Q/Strip. I went through a number of preamp and modeling pedals before settling on this. I donít know why, but this pedal gives me goosebumps each and every time I use it.
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Old 01-05-2018, 01:52 PM
philjs philjs is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by James Haigh View Post
Would you say the Tone Dexter with a gefell to train is even superior to using Grace Felix or a Pendulum SPS-1?
I've never used either of those, James, so can't really comment. In the past I have used (and have now mostly discarded): Baggs Venue (this has been my mainstay for the past 3 years), Radial PZ Deluxe, Fishman Aura 16, Sansamp Acoustic DI, Boss AD3, AD5, various tube preamps (ART, Presonus) and others I can't remember. Most have been used with passive SBT pickups (Schatten HFN) but older ones (Boss, Sansamp, Fishman, tube pres) with Fishman and Baggs USTs. The Venue held out the longest though for the past year or so I've been dual-sourcing with a AT Pro70 mic (using 2 mixer channels).

The ToneDexter sounds so much better than any of my previous efforts, including the dual-source sound, that I'm finally happy with my live sound. And it's made my setups dirt simple...once trained, plug in, turn it on, play and enjoy.

Phil
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'10 Bouzar (spruce/curly maple), '12 JE Baritone Multiscale (redwood/black walnut) Furch: '17 S22CMc (cedar/mahogany)
Larrivee: '90 J-09 (spruce/EIR) Lowden: '10 O23c (cedar/Claro walnut) Tacoma: '01 ECM38c #5/100 (cedar/mahogany)

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Old 01-05-2018, 03:03 PM
jseth jseth is offline
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It might help if you let us know the system you are suing, primarily, to amplify your guitar. Even if the answer is "available PAs in concerts", that would help to guide you towards the preamp that will work for you.

Highest end I know of (and most highly regarded) would be the Pendulum SPS1, and I believe those are n longer being constructed (?). You can find very clean used examples for anywhere between $1,000 - $2500... least ways that's what I've seen.

As good as a Pendulum is, I don't think it would help all that much with a Fishman Loudbox or the like.
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Old 01-05-2018, 04:57 PM
meb meb is offline
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Vancebo, I see you acquired an Alix since your Mesa Rosette Preamp/DI
review in another thread. Could we get your thoughts on the Alix...particularly
the Alix vs Mesa vs Venue since many of us are familiar with the Venue.
Thanks for your help.
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Old 01-05-2018, 05:25 PM
Vancebo Vancebo is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by meb View Post
Vancebo, I see you acquired an Alix since your Mesa Rosette Preamp/DI
review in another thread. Could we get your thoughts on the Alix...particularly
the Alix vs Mesa vs Venue since many of us are familiar with the Venue.
Thanks for your help.
Tee Hee, I have that one too. I bought that one used a few weeks before I found a used Alix. I wanted to wait and get more experiense with the Alix before I commented. If I canít plug in to AC, I will either use the Rosette or Red Eye. If I can plug in to AC, it is the Alix hands down.

The Rosette and Alix have such similar features that they do an almost identical job with crafting your tone. I havenít had the chance to compare those to back to back.
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Old 01-05-2018, 06:00 PM
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Doug Young Doug Young is offline
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The "best" preamp is pretty hard to answer, and I'm not sure what advanced fingerstyle means in this context? There are "advanced" players out there using all of this gear as well as others.

To me, the ideal for serious fingerstyle is to be playing in a quiet venue with a great PA and a mic - no pickup involved, so that would be my #1 suggestion. In a good venue, with a good PA and sound person, that sound will be hard to beat. On the other hand, you may not be playing in that environment, or maybe by "advanced fingerstyle", you mean the sort of CandyRat style? Those players tend to use pickups, often even on their recordings, for an ultra-punchy sound.

If you must use a pickup, any of these preamps can work well. Mixing in a mic, either via the preamp, or separately, directly to the PA where it can be blended into the sound from your preamp will work well, or you can choose a preamp that supports the mic directly. The Grace Felix and Pedulum SPS-1 are top of the heap in terms of quality, flexibility, and also support mics (Felix supports 1, SPS-1 supports 2). You can also combine an internal mic using Felix or SPS-1, which works very well (and is what many of the CandyRat players do)

ToneDexter is also a great option if you want to use a pickup. None of the other choices you list will do what ToneDexter does. Some of the others, like Felix, will accurately convey the sound out of your pickup and can sound very good. but it won't correct your pickup to sound like a mic, it'll be a good pickup sound. So ToneDexter is basically on another dimension.You can't compare it to a really hi-fidelity preamp like Felix or the SPS-1 - those preamps are designed to be pure and not alter your tone while ToneDexter deliberately alters your tone. It creates a high quality sound in its own way, and in a way that the other preamps can't. You have to try it to see if it's what you want.

For what it's worth, I currently have 2 setups for times when I can't just use a mic. With one, I use Grace Felix with a pickup (I have several different pickups) and an internal mic. Sounds very good to me and the mic makes up for a lot of the pickup sound. The second is ToneDexter, where I skip using the internal mic. Also sounds very good to me, and TD itself "fixes" the pickup sound. Actually, I also have an SPS-1 in a rack, where I also can blend the internal mic and pickup. Mostly sits in the garage these days - it sounds great, especially with the nice TC reverb I have in the rack, but hauling a rack into gigs is a pain. These are all good quality choices in my opinion, just depends. My ideal purely plugged in sound would probably be to be able to blend an internal mic with the ToneDexter's pickup processing. Lacking that, a reasonable option is to use ToneDexter for the pickup, and blend an external mic into the PA when possible.
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Old 01-05-2018, 07:53 PM
BluesKing777 BluesKing777 is offline
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Firstly, print Doug Young's reply and pin it to your wall!......dual source/internal mic.

Next, great Lowden! You don't mention whether you play solo of in a band etc. But if you play solo, there are more options to get a natural sound, I think, and the world of mics live is your oyster if you are prepared to use NO monitors/amps and wear in-ear monitors or headphones. Mics feedback as soon as they see a monitor, even if they are off!

That said, I have been mucking around with dual source setups at home - using my great little 4 channel A&H mixer. (Zed60 10FX)............. great, great preamps for guitar in the channels 3 and 4.

Now I have a Maton SRS808 with the fabulous inbuilt dual source AP5-Pro pickup system, used by TE, Keith Urban etc. It just sounds superb with the pickup and mix flat out! Of course, the only trouble with that is you have to buy a Maton acoustic guitar to get the system.

With your Lowden, you should get a great sound using an Aura Spectrum or a Tonedexter with the inbuilt Highlander pickup.

Now, I have been fiddling with using dual source with undersaddle (piezo), soundhole (magnetic) with internal mic (condenser). I don't like the sound of undersaddles or mags on their own AT ALL! But I have set the mic and added just enough to get rid of the boxy internal mic sound.

So with my trusty Fishman Rare Earth Blend (mag with mic and lead hanging out the soundhole) in the soundhole of my 1993 Lowden LSE1 (mahogany with sitka), I turn the mag part fully OFF, mic full on and ran to 1 channel of my mixer. I then plugged another lead into my undersaddle pickup and ran it to another channel of my mixer.....leads everywhere.

Clear as mud?

So I have the mic on with a good level, using headphones, and then add just enough undersaddle channel to give it a touch of bottom end, making it all 'fuller' and less 'boxy'.

So I did a recording (link below) with the Lowden in Open G tuning and a bit of bottleneck (slide highlights any quack or tone problems, let me tell you!).

First a couple of progessions with 1. the mix of the 2 channels I like most...then I ran through a progression of each with just the 2. undersaddle (yuk), then the 3. mic only (I like it but it isn't as 'full'), then the 4. mag pickup alone (yuk!) and then back to 5. mic AND undersaddle on to finish off on a high!


https://soundcloud.com/bk7-3/mud777



And here is a blues test track on my Maton SRS808 with the AP5-Pro pickup system, u/s piezo full up, mic full up - direct to my A&H mixer, channel 4 (good for guitar), all eq flat, splattering of reverb:


https://soundcloud.com/bk7-3/mud7b-2



BluesKing777.

Last edited by BluesKing777; 01-05-2018 at 09:47 PM.
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