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Old 12-04-2017, 06:38 AM
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martingitdave martingitdave is offline
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Default “All pickups stink”

I thought that would get your attention... :-)

I have number of local and long distance friends and acquaintances who share my passion (obsession?) with pickups. We have collectively come to the conclusion that all pickups stink.

Now, this may not be a revelation for many of you. In fact, we have, collectively, been told the same by many folks. But, we have nonetheless tried (in vain) to find a pickup system that would provide top notch plugged in tone without degrading the instrument. Tone is subjective, but we have a fairly picky bunch of friends who run the gamut from casual users to gigs every night.

Allow me to disabuse you of the notion that there is a “unicorn” solution out there. There is no internal system that does it all and maintains your guitar’s responsiveness and acoustic volume.

“OK Dave, thanks for nothing. What are we supposed to do now?”

I see two options. And, our fearless leader in spirit, Doug Young, has been telling us this for a long time (we have thick skulls).

Option 1: dual source piezo and microphone systems. If you are using a stage guitar, and don’t care about acoustic sound, you can use one of the packaged systems with preamps, batteries, etc. If you care about acoustic sound, just buy Doug’s book. (Hint: passive pickup(s) and mics with outboard pre-amplification and blending.)

Option 2: passive piezo pickup and a pedal. Yes, you need a pedal. Sorry. There are two variations here too. Some folks like the analog preamp solution for their passive pickup. This works well, but only gives you what the pickup is capable of. In other words, EQ typically is best at taking away, not adding frequencies. The second option is IR convolution. Some call it modeling, imaging, etc. Essentially, it is a digital process that compares your pickup’s signal to a reference microphone, generating an algorithm, and processing your signal respectively. In English: it makes your pickup sound like a guitar amplified through a microphone. Some guitars include these systems from the factory. If you can find a guitar that sounds they way you want it to, and includes this system, more power to you. But, when the pickup eventually fails (they all do) you may be out of luck.

“Where’s the bandwagon?! Take my money!”

We are collectively exploring the IR path. I’ve settled on passive K&K pickups. We’re experimenting with the Zoom AC-2, TC Helicon Play Acoustic (not really modeling), Custom IR, Fishman Aura, and Tondexter. One of us, who actually makes a living at this, is also using the Fishman Matrix undersaddle for higher feedback resistance. Matrix and LB6, or similar hard material pickups do the least to degrade your acoustic tone. They also quack more and require careful processing.

“Huh? I thought you were going to use English?”

The short answer to all of this seems to be a K&K pickup and a Tonedexter. The K&K picks up the strings and the body. The Tondexter makes it sound like a Mic.

“But, we don’t like to do things the easy way. What fun would that be?” ;-)

Stay tuned for another week when we all change our minds and send the bandwagon off a cliff.
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Last edited by martingitdave; 12-04-2017 at 09:13 AM.
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Old 12-04-2017, 07:04 AM
AndyC AndyC is offline
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I've heard rumours about a well known UK luthier (with some very famous clients) who has developed a hybrid dual source system deploying an 18v DTAR Wavelength UST (for headroom) together with the L R Baggs Tru-mic (from a Lyric or Anthem system). Outstanding results apparently.
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Old 12-04-2017, 07:04 AM
guitaniac guitaniac is offline
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But do you really want it to sound like a studio miked guitar? I tend to prefer less ToneDexter "character" and more focus when I hear the guitar sound bouncing back at me from the back of the room.

In my opinion, its the performance environment which often stinks. The pickup is a less-than-perfect tool which helps us make the best of a difficult situation.


FWIW, the rig that I'm working on now will feature a passive Barberi Soloist for one source and an active PUTW #27 (wired to a Fishman Clearwave "barn door" preamp) for the second source. I expect to be using the Soloist with ToneDexter or my Zoom A3 for live performance. I'm hoping that the ToneDexter/#27 combo will be good for home recording. I know for a fact that I prefer the #27 over the Pure Mini.

Last edited by guitaniac; 12-05-2017 at 08:21 AM.
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Old 12-04-2017, 07:16 AM
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martingitdave martingitdave is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AndyC View Post
I've heard rumours about a well known UK luthier (with some very famous clients) who has developed a hybrid dual source system deploying an 18v DTAR Wavelength UST (for headroom) together with the L R Baggs Tru-mic (from a Lyric or Anthem system). Outstanding results apparently.

Andy, I have been experimenting with my own DTAR dual source system. And, it worked well.

I suppose their preamp can power a condenser mic like the TruMic. Though, I’ve never tired it. I use their dual source system (nylon string version) with the built in condenser mic and wire a K&K in place of the UST. Honestly, it’s the least destructive onboard option I’ve tried to date. But it still seems to dampen responsiveness. That might be an acceptable trade off for full time performers.
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Old 12-04-2017, 07:23 AM
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fazool fazool is online now
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I do not perform but am an audiophile and rabid guitar aficionado and player.
I am overly hyper-sensitive to piezo-quack.

I didn't choose to be and I've tried to squash those feelings. But like someone who has acrophobia and can't talk their way out of cold sweats when they stand on the Empire State Building. You can't logic and reason your way out of that.

I think I have piezo-quack-a-phobia.

I try to tell myself "it's not that bad." Meanwhile my ears are bleeding and my brain is yelling at me to run from my favorite performer's concert for I am in mortal danger of hearing QUACK.

I start feeling woozy and my head starts hurting, my pulse is racing but I feel goosebump chills. Panic sets in. I can feel the quack smothering my brain.

Then the pain in my soul starts as I hear those beautiful notes being tortured and mangled out of their natural form. Then, I can't hear the music anymore, just their screams as the notes die leaving no music just the nasal buzz of piezo-quack in my mind.

If only everyone would just mic their guitars.

I'm still hoping to piggyback some legislation to the Arts in Schools funding to outlaw piezo pickups but they keep threatening to call Security if I show up again.

I've tried reasoning with the Piezo companies, asking them to find another line of work for the betterment of humanity but they blocked my phone number.

I was trying a kickstarter to raise money to bribe someone to get piezo guitar pickups declared toxic but I had some very angry people come to my house and that scared Jane our cat.

I can't afford a billboard, warning guitarists everywhere so I'm thinking of resorting to graffiti. I'll get a tag like PQK for piezo quack killer.

I gotta go find a train yard.........
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Old 12-04-2017, 07:26 AM
guitaniac guitaniac is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AndyC View Post
I've heard rumours about a well known UK luthier (with some very famous clients) who has developed a hybrid dual source system deploying an 18v DTAR Wavelength UST (for headroom) together with the L R Baggs Tru-mic (from a Lyric or Anthem system). Outstanding results apparently.
I can see this combo working pretty well. I have the combo of a PUTW I/O UST and a Baggs Lyric in one of my guitars. It takes some considerable EQ for the Lyric, but the blend is very pleasing, though distinctly different from the Anthem SL in another guitar. (The mic contributes some of the low end with the UST/Lyric combo.)
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Old 12-04-2017, 08:42 AM
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martingitdave martingitdave is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fazool View Post
I do not perform but am an audiophile and rabid guitar aficionado and player.
I am overly hyper-sensitive to piezo-quack.

I didn't choose to be and I've tried to squash those feelings. But like someone who has acrophobia and can't talk their way out of cold sweats when they stand on the Empire State Building. You can't logic and reason your way out of that.

I think I have piezo-quack-a-phobia.

I try to tell myself "it's not that bad." Meanwhile my ears are bleeding and my brain is yelling at me to run from my favorite performer's concert for I am in mortal danger of hearing QUACK.

I start feeling woozy and my head starts hurting, my pulse is racing but I feel goosebump chills. Panic sets in. I can feel the quack smothering my brain.

Then the pain in my soul starts as I hear those beautiful notes being tortured and mangled out of their natural form. Then, I can't hear the music anymore, just their screams as the notes die leaving no music just the nasal buzz of piezo-quack in my mind.

If only everyone would just mic their guitars.

I'm still hoping to piggyback some legislation to the Arts in Schools funding to outlaw piezo pickups but they keep threatening to call Security if I show up again.

I've tried reasoning with the Piezo companies, asking them to find another line of work for the betterment of humanity but they blocked my phone number.

I was trying a kickstarter to raise money to bribe someone to get piezo guitar pickups declared toxic but I had some very angry people come to my house and that scared Jane our cat.

I can't afford a billboard, warning guitarists everywhere so I'm thinking of resorting to graffiti. I'll get a tag like PQK for piezo quack killer.

I gotta go find a train yard.........
LOL. Well done.
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Old 12-04-2017, 08:59 AM
Mr. Jelly Mr. Jelly is offline
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I use a K & K and Fishman Aura modeler. It's plug and play. Aren't the words acoustic and pick-up synonyms in some fashion? That's like fresh air and air freshener.
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Old 12-04-2017, 09:47 AM
MrErikJ MrErikJ is offline
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I share Dave's enthusiasm and interest in acoustic pickups but I'm, ultimately easier to please as I have a philosophy of "time, place, player, and guitar."

I find a passive-LB6 used with a good outboard preamp (primarily the Para or Tonebone PZ) and EQ'd properly delivers a a clean and realistic, if not natural, tone when played with a light-touch. For my fingerpicking and thumb & strum style, it delivers great tone and dependability. It handles strumming OK if the intensity is moderate. I have observed that it can sound like a laser if strummed aggressively with a pick. So, the guitar I use it in is my "pickin'" guitar.

My Guild is my "strummer" and I believe the LB6 would be a bad choice for that. I recently acquired a passive iBeam that I'm going to install and give a try. The sound samples are pretty solid but I've heard that the primary issue (as with so many SBTs) is feedback. I'm curious to see how it works with the Para, which has a good notch filter, or the Tonebone's high-pass filter. If it doesn't work, I may try Dazzo, K&K, or even the M1.

I realize these tools don't capture my tone perfectly but my goal is volume and a good approximation of what my guitar's natural tone is and I think that's possible. Beyond tone, my biggest concern is dependability and ease of use. My current set-up allows me to bring two guitars and two Para DIs and with phantom power, I have no concerns about finding an outlet of having batteries in my guitar. I also find that passive pickups allow you to better engage with your preamp as there's less issues with headroom or over-amplifcation/gain-staging. There's less to go wrong and the sound is always toneful.

I look forward to every live performance and I genuinely enjoy plugging in and tweaking my preamp to get my sound. It's always interesting how similar I can get it but also how it differs but that's not necessarily bad. I can sleep at night with that.
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Old 12-04-2017, 10:13 AM
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Trance Audio Amulet? i think both my Martin and Larrivee sound good enough for me. Fingerstyle playing.
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Old 12-04-2017, 10:25 AM
ChrisE ChrisE is offline
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I have a Taylor with ES 1.3, a Martin with built-in Fishman electronics, and a Martin with an LR Baggs Lyric. They all sound different but they all sound "good enough."

I think "good enough" works for me.
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Old 12-04-2017, 02:05 PM
YamahaGuy YamahaGuy is offline
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Yamaha A.R.T.: every sound guy/gal, guitar person, listener in general is always amazed at how natural my A.R.T. equipped Yamahas sounds. (FGX730SC, LLX6A, and former CPX700II-S 12). Doesn't matter whether it's an amp or pa, DI box or not. Always natural sound. Guitars still sound good unplugged. Going on 8 years with the FGX730SC and LLX6A.
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Old 12-04-2017, 02:38 PM
BluesKing777 BluesKing777 is offline
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Best dual source pickup I own is what Australian guitarists have known for years (including the leading bender, TE) - the Maton AP5-Pro. (but the guitar has a hole in the side......). I had heard people say that the only catch is that you have to buy a Maton! Oblivious to all this because I would never have bought a Maton after playing friends' old beater models with strings 50 years old and setup - none ever, until I spied the Maton SRS808 (wide body) using the same woods as my Lowden S35 - Tasmanian Blackwood and Cedar top and it had to be mine! And then I plugged it in later.....OK, they were right - the pickup is fabulous!!!!! Piezo for each string and a condenser mic, and the love/hate part - the preamp in the side of the guitar. Now it is superb - a vol. control for Piezo and another for the mic, a master vol, eq including the biggy- sweepable mids that work beautifully! To be able to back off the 'oinkk' so easily on the guitar is worth everything!

https://maton.com.au/news/the-journey-to-ap5-pro



I have enjoyed experimenting with various pickups and boxes since I played a solo country blues set of 3-5 songs between my electric blues band sets back in the 80s, firstly with the only mic I owned - some kind of Ibanez cheapie...and soon after using Shure SM57s. It sounded superb at a small club, better than the too loud band really and went over very well....but in bigger louder places, that same lovely SM57 picked up everyone yelling "Play the Doors" or whatever..way, way louder than my guitar.

So...pickups....

I have used all kinds of things but started using Aura boxes not long after they came out, and a few years ago, I bought the Martin D18E Retro with Aura onboard. Fabulous! Plug and play. (but the guitar has a hole in the side......)

I have others, but with my trusty Boss VE8 acoustic guitar/vocal special black box, well....I am NOT going anywhere without that, the Maton or the Martin D18e Aura...and of course the Shure SM58 that the Boss VE8 makes usable again!


Edit...... I forgot to mention that having the AP5-Pro with sep vol/mic controls also enables me to turn off the mic and experiment with running a lead to my Aura Spectrum using just the piezo in the Maton 808...guitar (OO deep body size) sounds good with the Martin 00-18 Aura image I have....could be handy if I get a Tonedexter eventually!

BluesKing777.

Last edited by BluesKing777; 12-04-2017 at 06:07 PM.
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Old 12-04-2017, 04:06 PM
Beagle1 Beagle1 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BluesKing777 View Post
Best dual source pickup I own is what Australian guitarists have known for years (including the leading bender, TE) - the Maton AP5-Pro.
BluesKing777.
I agree with this. I basically came to the same conclusion as the OP a few years ago after experimenting with many different after-market pickup systems over the years. They all have their pros and cons, non is perfect. I like the Baggs Anthem the best out of all the after-market systems, but I still think it requires some corrective EQ to get it sounding good and I'm not crazy about the tone of the Element. If Baggs could find a way to combine a better UST with their TruMic, they would really have a winner.

With the Maton on the other hand, it is pretty hard to get a bad sound out of it amplified. Aside from TE, there are many great players who use these guitars live specifically because the pickup system sounds so good (Eric Johnson, Adam Rafferty, Joe Robinson, Keith Urban, etc).

I know many people feel the Matons are purely stage guitars, however, my experience is that they sound really good acoustically as well. The EBG 808 models in particular do not sound like your average Martin OM. They have a pretty dry sound and a unique voicing which might not be everyone's cup of tea. That being said, they also make dreadnought size models, or if you want the basic sound of an OM, they can do that too with their custom shop models -- all with their AP5 Pro pickup installed. I have heard a few Maton custom shop guitars that can hold their own with anything out there in both volume and tonal complexity.

If I had only one guitar to bring to a desert island, it would most likely be my Martin OM LJ model. However, if they had amplification on the island, I might very well pick my Maton!
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Old 12-04-2017, 04:47 PM
BluesKing777 BluesKing777 is offline
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I just recorded a short, fingerpicked track with my above-mentioned Maton AP5-Pro pickup direct to mixer and then ..here. EQ on mixer flat, no reverb (scary, I love reverb), just the pickup set ala TE (everything flat out....but the mids swept!):



https://soundcloud.com/bk7-3/maton-pickup7b


BluesKing777.
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