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Old 02-08-2023, 10:11 PM
dilver dilver is offline
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Default Schatten HFN Review

I took a gamble and ordered the Schatten HFN Active for my now Element-less J-45. It’s REALLY good. Here’s a review:

Installation: the provided instructions are adequate. Getting the preamp/jack to the back of the guitar was made easier by passing a small dowel through the endpin hole, meeting and slipping the jack onto the dowel inside the guitar and then pulling it back out the endpin hole. If you’ve ever done this type of install before, it’s pretty easy. I matched the position of the nut on the old Baggs Element preamp jack and it fit perfectly.

Instructions for installing the pickup on the bridgeplate felt a little “random”. You attach the pickup on the bridgeplate directly under the saddle, using either double stick tape or putty (I went with tape). You then have to eyeball the position of the pickup based on feeling where you are in relation to the bridge pins. Luckily my bridge already had two pin holes in the saddle slot from where the stock Baggs Element was installed. With a bright light shining from above, these holes helped me position and line up the pickup under saddle. This seemed to work really well as I got a perfect balance across the strings, first try. I’ve heard some people have to go through trial and error positioning the pickup to get the balance just right, other instances in which they may not have pressed hard enough to make solid contact, and still other instances where the bridge plate wasn’t completely flat, requiring one to sand the feet of the pickup. I had none of these issues. Maybe I just got lucky, but installation was super easy and took about 20 minutes.

I got the active version with volume and tone controls. I was little concerned because in all the photos I’ve seen of this version, you can see the edge of the control plate through the sound hole. Not a good look. But I was able to fit the controls so that just the control wheels show, just like the original Baggs Element VTC. The wheels on the Schatten are a bit larger, but since I just have the very edges visible, it’s not noticeable.

Sound: it sounds awesome - I’m really happy with it. No piezo quack even if I dig in or snap the strings. There’s an airy quality to the tone that sounds very natural and realistic - like a loud acoustic guitar (duh). It can be a bit bright, but this can easily be cut. Interestingly, the volume control acts much like the volume pot in an electric guitar - if you turn it down, you lose some highs. In this instance, it’s helpful. I dial back the volume a touch and keep the tone full up. If I adjust my amp so that I get a good tone with these settings, I then have the ability to increase the volume a bit if I need to, and can cut some highs using the tone control. Between the volume and the tone controls, it’s a bit like having two tone controls. The pickup does pick up finger squeaks when playing fingerstyle. But for strumming it’s really great and it’s exponentially better sounding than the Element.

Volume: I got really good volume levels without feedback. There’s definitely a threshold where you get some howls, but this was only at really high volume and/or when I was right next to the speaker. But I could easily see myself playing a bar gig with this pickup. It’s nice and loud. An eq pedal would probably be really useful to dial out feedback at higher volumes. I don’t know if in a band setting another instrument would make the body resonate and cause feedback.

Value: I’m impressed. I got the active version with volume and tone controls from a Schatten dealer for $145.00 shipped. The K&K Pure Mini (passive) with a volume control runs about the same. I can’t even tell how much the comparable Dazzo is as it looks like the end pin jack is extra. The Schatten is just a good pickup at any price.

Overall Satisfaction: I’m digging this pickup as it meets all of my requirements:
- great sound. That’s really what matters most and this pickup sounds natural, clear and realistic - like a louder acoustic guitar. No quack!
- plug and play - no preamp necessary to sound good
- no supergluing to the bridgeplate
- onboard volume and tone controls
- non UST - I used to think it didn’t make a difference in acoustic tone to have something under the saddle. Once I removed the Element from my J-45, it changed my mind and I couldn’t go back.

The Schatten HFN is a great pickup that I hope others will give a try. I’m a believer!

Last edited by dilver; 02-08-2023 at 10:25 PM.
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  #2  
Old 02-09-2023, 05:22 AM
SpruceTop SpruceTop is offline
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I'm glad you're finding this pickup system sounding good for you. Please, if possible, can you post a direct-to-computer recording made with No Effects, Flat EQ, and No Microphones anywhere in or near your signal chain? I have sound demos of this system here on AGF with just the HFN pickup and another demo with a dual-pickup HFN system. It would be nice to compare what you've gotten with what I have. Thanks.
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  #3  
Old 02-09-2023, 08:04 AM
dilver dilver is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SpruceTop View Post
I'm glad you're finding this pickup system sounding good for you. Please, if possible, can you post a direct-to-computer recording made with No Effects, Flat EQ, and No Microphones anywhere in or near your signal chain? I have sound demos of this system here on AGF with just the HFN pickup and another demo with a dual-pickup HFN system. It would be nice to compare what you've gotten with what I have. Thanks.
I’ll try to do that this weekend. What’s the best way to post an audio file here?
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Old 02-09-2023, 04:58 PM
SpruceTop SpruceTop is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dilver View Post
I’ll try to do that this weekend. What’s the best way to post an audio file here?
Thanks!

Go to SoundCloud and open a free account to which you upload your .wav file(s). Your file(s) will be rendered by their software, stored, and information will be generated that you can copy and paste into your comment here on AGF. Folks will be able to see a Soundcloud sound file that they click on to play your guitar's recording.

Here is a link to my thread for my Larrivee D-40R Sunburst with a Schatten HFN Dual Hybrid in which you can see and listen to a SoundCloud rendering of this guitar: https://www.acousticguitarforum.com/...d.php?t=644266
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Martin D-18/UltraTonic
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Adamas MD80 NWT
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Taylor 717e
Taylor 618e
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Larrivee D-50M/HiFi
Larrivee D-40R Blue Grass Special/HiFi
Larrivee D-40R Sunburst
Larrivee C-03R TE/Trance M-VT Phantom
RainSong BI-DR1000N2
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  #5  
Old 02-09-2023, 08:19 PM
aschroeder aschroeder is offline
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I'm glad the HFN worked out for you. It sounds great in the two guitars I have it installed in. I use the passive version and run it through a Boss GE-7 pedal to boost the signal and EQ the the tone. It's nice they have the option of passive or active for people that want the preamp and controls in the guitar.

I also have a K&K in my Applegate SJ (I just purchased) that came already installed in it. It also sounds great after major EQ cut on the low end. I give the edge to the HFN because it needs less EQ and doesn't require superglue to install.
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  #6  
Old 02-09-2023, 09:09 PM
Petty1818 Petty1818 is offline
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I wish the HFN had worked for me because it was some of the best tones I had ever got with my Taylor. I do sometimes want to try the HFN and a UST. The HFN would be a great pickup to blend, but it does lack low end. The only other issue is that live, I found it really needed a significant boost to cut through the mix. It was natural but lacked something.
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Old 02-09-2023, 09:36 PM
dilver dilver is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aschroeder View Post
I'm glad the HFN worked out for you. It sounds great in the two guitars I have it installed in. I use the passive version and run it through a Boss GE-7 pedal to boost the signal and EQ the the tone. It's nice they have the option of passive or active for people that want the preamp and controls in the guitar.

I also have a K&K in my Applegate SJ (I just purchased) that came already installed in it. It also sounds great after major EQ cut on the low end. I give the edge to the HFN because it needs less EQ and doesn't require superglue to install.
I was on the fence on the Schatten and the K&K, so I’m curious… Do you find one better than the other in terms of feedback rejection or having a stronger signal?
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Old 02-09-2023, 09:39 PM
dilver dilver is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Petty1818 View Post
I wish the HFN had worked for me because it was some of the best tones I had ever got with my Taylor. I do sometimes want to try the HFN and a UST. The HFN would be a great pickup to blend, but it does lack low end. The only other issue is that live, I found it really needed a significant boost to cut through the mix. It was natural but lacked something.
I could see that. The guitar I have the Schatten in is a J-45 that has plenty of low end. But my son has a Taylor is naturally bright.
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Old 02-10-2023, 07:20 AM
Petty1818 Petty1818 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dilver View Post
I could see that. The guitar I have the Schatten in is a J-45 that has plenty of low end. But my son has a Taylor is naturally bright.
Oh it's not the guitar itself, it was the pickup that wasn't amplifying enough low end. It's been discussed on the forum a bit. The HFN has issues with a balanced tone in certain guitars. I know some people have tried sanding own the feet to make it more balanced with no luck. No matter where I placed it or how I installed it, the low E always sounded distant and less immediate than the other strings. I tried three different HFN pickups as well and they all had the issue.
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Old 02-10-2023, 07:45 AM
guitaniac guitaniac is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Petty1818 View Post
I wish the HFN had worked for me because it was some of the best tones I had ever got with my Taylor. I do sometimes want to try the HFN and a UST. The HFN would be a great pickup to blend, but it does lack low end. The only other issue is that live, I found it really needed a significant boost to cut through the mix. It was natural but lacked something.
I suspect that a soundhole mag and the HFN would be a good pairing. I’m referring to the kind of mag that doesn’t have its own top sensing component. No offense to MojoTone, but I still prefer my soundboard pickups to be hidden away inside the guitar, in a location where a clumsy player like myself can’t possibly strike it directly.

One thing in favor of the MojoTone NC series pickups is that they are substantially feedback resistant. I doubt that you could expect that level of feedback immunity from the HFN.
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Old 02-10-2023, 07:59 AM
guitaniac guitaniac is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dilver View Post
I took a gamble and ordered the Schatten HFN Active for my now Element-less J-45. It’s REALLY good. Here’s a review:

Installation: the provided instructions are adequate. Getting the preamp/jack to the back of the guitar was made easier by passing a small dowel through the endpin hole, meeting and slipping the jack onto the dowel inside the guitar and then pulling it back out the endpin hole. If you’ve ever done this type of install before, it’s pretty easy. I matched the position of the nut on the old Baggs Element preamp jack and it fit perfectly.

Instructions for installing the pickup on the bridgeplate felt a little “random”. You attach the pickup on the bridgeplate directly under the saddle, using either double stick tape or putty (I went with tape). You then have to eyeball the position of the pickup based on feeling where you are in relation to the bridge pins. Luckily my bridge already had two pin holes in the saddle slot from where the stock Baggs Element was installed. With a bright light shining from above, these holes helped me position and line up the pickup under saddle. This seemed to work really well as I got a perfect balance across the strings, first try. I’ve heard some people have to go through trial and error positioning the pickup to get the balance just right, other instances in which they may not have pressed hard enough to make solid contact, and still other instances where the bridge plate wasn’t completely flat, requiring one to sand the feet of the pickup. I had none of these issues. Maybe I just got lucky, but installation was super easy and took about 20 minutes.

I got the active version with volume and tone controls. I was little concerned because in all the photos I’ve seen of this version, you can see the edge of the control plate through the sound hole. Not a good look. But I was able to fit the controls so that just the control wheels show, just like the original Baggs Element VTC. The wheels on the Schatten are a bit larger, but since I just have the very edges visible, it’s not noticeable.

Sound: it sounds awesome - I’m really happy with it. No piezo quack even if I dig in or snap the strings. There’s an airy quality to the tone that sounds very natural and realistic - like a loud acoustic guitar (duh). It can be a bit bright, but this can easily be cut. Interestingly, the volume control acts much like the volume pot in an electric guitar - if you turn it down, you lose some highs. In this instance, it’s helpful. I dial back the volume a touch and keep the tone full up. If I adjust my amp so that I get a good tone with these settings, I then have the ability to increase the volume a bit if I need to, and can cut some highs using the tone control. Between the volume and the tone controls, it’s a bit like having two tone controls. The pickup does pick up finger squeaks when playing fingerstyle. But for strumming it’s really great and it’s exponentially better sounding than the Element.

Volume: I got really good volume levels without feedback. There’s definitely a threshold where you get some howls, but this was only at really high volume and/or when I was right next to the speaker. But I could easily see myself playing a bar gig with this pickup. It’s nice and loud. An eq pedal would probably be really useful to dial out feedback at higher volumes. I don’t know if in a band setting another instrument would make the body resonate and cause feedback.

Value: I’m impressed. I got the active version with volume and tone controls from a Schatten dealer for $145.00 shipped. The K&K Pure Mini (passive) with a volume control runs about the same. I can’t even tell how much the comparable Dazzo is as it looks like the end pin jack is extra. The Schatten is just a good pickup at any price.

Overall Satisfaction: I’m digging this pickup as it meets all of my requirements:
- great sound. That’s really what matters most and this pickup sounds natural, clear and realistic - like a louder acoustic guitar. No quack!
- plug and play - no preamp necessary to sound good
- no supergluing to the bridgeplate
- onboard volume and tone controls
- non UST - I used to think it didn’t make a difference in acoustic tone to have something under the saddle. Once I removed the Element from my J-45, it changed my mind and I couldn’t go back.

The Schatten HFN is a great pickup that I hope others will give a try. I’m a believer!
You were probably wise to opt for the active version. I have a passive Schatten Design Dualie soundboard pickup in my classical, but the signal has to be cranked quite a bit to blend it with the passive Baggs Hex pickup in the same guitar. I’m picking up quite a bit of noise, in a 10’ cable, with the Dualie signal.

Eventually, I’ll either get a Schatten Design preamp for the Dualie or replace it with an active HFN.
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Old 02-10-2023, 11:34 AM
aschroeder aschroeder is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dilver View Post
I was on the fence on the Schatten and the K&K, so I’m curious… Do you find one better than the other in terms of feedback rejection or having a stronger signal?
The K&K has a much stronger signal than my passive Schatten HFN. I'm assuming your version with a preamp would be stronger or compare similarly to the K&K.

Because of the boomy low end of the K&K it is more feedback prone than the HFN. Although all soundboard transducers tend to be less feedback resistant that a traditional undersaddle piezo.

As far as tone, it would all depend on personal preference:

The HFN is very articulate (sometimes to a fault) and requires a cut on the high frequencies. I have had no problems with the low end like others have reported. Both of my guitars have plenty of low end and I actually cut at the 200 frequency to reduce feedback.

The K&K sounds great but is less articulate on the high end. And even with a substantial cut on the low end it is still a bit bass heavy. I'm sure it varies depending on the guitar and installation position of the K&K sensors.

I prefer the HFN because it's easier to tame and dial in the sound I want (and again... it doesn't require a superglue installation). I'm actually considering adding the Utra Tonic UTP V3.2-CK to the K&K in my SJ guitar. Many report it gives the K&K a much more balanced signal reducing the boomy low end and adding a more articulate high end.
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Old 02-10-2023, 12:37 PM
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Bob Womack Bob Womack is offline
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Well I've heard of Schatten, but never in the pluperfect subjunctive.

Bob
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Old 02-10-2023, 04:17 PM
jpino jpino is offline
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I wonder how this compares to the wooden pyramid Dazzo’s or the Schertler?
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Old 02-11-2023, 11:10 PM
dilver dilver is offline
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No disrespect to anyone using Dazzo pickups, but I just didn’t have a lot of confidence in Dazzo after seeing the horrible website and really amateur videos of Teddy Randazzo.
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