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Adding an electric pickup to an acoustic guitar
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Post
Kevin Sjostrand

Total Topics: 84
Total Posts: 984
Guys,
I am wondering if the best time to install a pick up system is during the build before closing the box. Seems like it would be easier, and a cleaner install.
What have any of you all done; what are your ideas on this.
See any potential problems or issues one way or the other?
Thanks for your input.
By the way, I have not yet installed any pickup on any guitar yet.

Kevin

Jan 20, 10 | 3:41 pm
DanB

Total Topics: 50
Total Posts: 272
Kevin, I've used the fishman pickup that fits in the sound hole, and all I did for that was drill out my end pin hole and put in the metal 1/4" female jack end pin to fill the hole when the pickup wasn't installed (it had it's own jack on the end of the cord).

It made for easy install, but nothing to scientific or perminant as far as placing goes. It's always a way to go if you don't want perminant pickup.

That's about all I've tried, so not too much input from my end :P

Dan

Jan 20, 10 | 9:34 pm
Woody O'Keefe

Total Topics: 31
Total Posts: 102
Kevin

If you are going to use a under the bridge type like the LR Baggs I Beam or the
K&K pure western mini. yes it would be easier. I've used just about every type of p/u for acoustic guitar and I like DanB have gravitated to the sound hole p/u. I'm now using the LR Baggs M-1 sound hole P/U . I found if I use nickel steel strings I get a real nice acoustic sound. If you are looking for ease of install this is it. You don't actually have to drill a hole for the end pin, unless it is a permanent installation.

enjoy life,

Woody

Jan 21, 10 | 8:09 am
Herman

Total Topics: 38
Total Posts: 480
The pickups I installed were Highlander, Fishman and LRBaggs. All undersaddlepickups. Did it along and after the building. Both methods worked fine. So I would not worry about it too much.

FWIW: I like the LR baggs most, but that is a very subjective statement.

Jan 21, 10 | 11:04 am
Kevin Sjostrand

Total Topics: 84
Total Posts: 981
I am mostly thinking a built in system, and probably the LR Baggs I-Beam to try for starters. I am intrigued with the microphones, but have read there can be feedback issues. I also want to be able to do a clean, orderly install and it seems the best way to accomplish this is the the back off the guitar. I like gluing the back on first, so I can do a good job of cleaning up glue squeeze out, but in this case, it would be better to glue the top on first I think.
I sure wish there was a way to hear all these various after market pickups.

Kevin

Jan 21, 10 | 6:23 pm
Ken Cierp

Total Topics: 58
Total Posts: 2262
This is of great interest to me I wish I had some time to experiment.

http://windworld.com/products-page/electronic-hardware/piezo-films/

Very cool stuff -- very low cost!

Ken

Kenneth Michael Guitars est. 1978

Jan 25, 10 | 7:44 am
Guitar Hack

Total Topics: 19
Total Posts: 41
Ken I have both the LR Baggs I-Beam and a K & K Western Mini Pickup. The I-beam is an active pick up and the K & K is passive but the K & K holds it's own believe it or not.

There is another pick up that is very similar to the K & K called the Artists Series Prestige 330 which is only $50. Looks just like the K & K and installs the same. Not that hard to install.

In my opinion the K & K sounds better than the LR Baggs hands down. If you are using something like the LR Baggs Para Acoustic DI it wouldn't make any difference. Price wise you could buy two of the Prestige 330's and then some and still have money left over.

I've not used the Prestige but have seen good reviews and it looks like it would perform like the K & K.

Jan 25, 10 | 5:27 pm
Bill Cory

Total Topics: 158
Total Posts: 3584
I agree with Guitar Hack -- my fave is the K&K Mini. Even without a preamp it has good volume, no quack that I can discern, and provides a nice natural acoustic sound. I've used the Baggs I beam, the M1 Passive and active, and the Fishman Matrix. My favorite is the K&K, and it's not difficult to install after the guitar is built. Plenty of photo instructions online, and also some in the box.

Naturally, that's all just my opinion -- ears differ.

Bill

Jan 26, 10 | 3:50 am
Kevin Sjostrand

Total Topics: 84
Total Posts: 981
Okay, you guys are helping me out here. Opinions mean alot.
So Hack, what is the difference between a "passive" and an "active" pickup?
I looked at that Artist 330 and it does look like the K & K set up. I have heard alot of people say they like the K & K mini. Do you think there is much hope that this Artist 330 would be similar?
What makes the difference if you have a pre-amp or do not have a pre-amp?
Does the pre-amp help with volume?
I have an amp that is like brand new that was given to me. I will look later at what the brand and model is (this 55 year old brain can't remember the simplest things any more) and see if you guys are familiar with it, and if it will be okay to use with an acoustic guitar.
So, do I need a pre-amp?
Bill, how does the I-Beam compare to the K & K mini to your ears?

Kevin

Jan 26, 10 | 6:05 am
Ken Cierp

Total Topics: 58
Total Posts: 2262
To take full advantage of the pick up you really need a pre-amp (closer to the pick the better) ----- signal degrades and signal loss occurs in a very short distance --- think about it, the pick up are generating a very, very, very tiny electrical current and voltage. The pre-amp boosts that tiny signal so that the signal coming out of the pickup is the same as the signal going into your combo or PA. A pre-amp at the end of the cord at the combo/PA amp boosts the degraded signal $.02

Ken

Kenneth Michael Guitars est. 1978

Jan 26, 10 | 6:34 am
Bill Cory

Total Topics: 158
Total Posts: 3584
I haven't ued the I-Beam -- only the Fishman Matrix. However, I can't imagine a pickup sounding much better (to my own ears only!) than the K&K Mini.

As for the preamp -- sure, for optimum performance, if you are gigging, or playing in a band, etc., and need the volume and power, a preamp is essential. However, for playing in your own home with an amp like I do with my Shenandoah Jr., the K&K without preamp works just totally fine.

BIll

Jan 26, 10 | 6:49 am
Ken Hundley

Total Topics: 40
Total Posts: 2169
For the price, I am tempted to try one. I have been trying to figure out the best way to hook up my jumbo...

Jan 26, 10 | 2:02 pm
Kevin Sjostrand

Total Topics: 84
Total Posts: 981
So I would be tempted to try the Artist Prestige 330 for $50 but it doesn't come with a preamp. I use this guitar at church (small) and will plug it in. We have a fairly decent mixer, but I can't depend on the sound guy to do much. Should I at least get a system with a preamp and a volume control?

Jan 26, 10 | 2:45 pm
Ken Cierp

Total Topics: 58
Total Posts: 2262
Well this is interesting -- I just realize that this Artist Prestige 330 is made by JJB Electronics based here in Bay City Michigan. I'm currently in the process of installing their two sensor system PPS-200 in our KMG OMNS (nylon string) prototype. I also have it hooked to an Artec EPP end-pin pre-amp. I don't have a clue what it will sound like but the specs indicate there will be very little electrical noise so with EQ it should sound good.

Ken

Kenneth Michael Guitars est. 1978

Jan 26, 10 | 3:09 pm
Ken Hundley

Total Topics: 40
Total Posts: 2169
Now even more interesting, I have the parts to make one of those myself! I have a jack, though I would prefer an endpin jack. I have several of my kids toys I would LOVE to retire and remove the piezo element, I have sheilded cable!

I could try making one and doublesticking it to the front of the gutiar behind th bridge just to see if it worked. If so, I'd get an endpin jack and reassemble to be installed inside the guitar....total spent: $13!

Jan 26, 10 | 10:57 pm
Bill Cory

Total Topics: 158
Total Posts: 3584
Kevin -- if you have a guy working the sound board, don't mess with the volume control. (It will be endlessly frustrating for the sound guy. I learned this the 'hard way.') However, a preamp into the DI box will be a good idea.

Bill

Jan 27, 10 | 8:00 am
Kevin Sjostrand

Total Topics: 84
Total Posts: 981
Bill,
I can see that frustration occurring! Okay, now I show my ignorance.
What is a DI box?
I don't mind spending the money for a good pickup, but I really don't know where best to start!

Kevin

Jan 27, 10 | 4:23 pm
Ken Hundley

Total Topics: 40
Total Posts: 2169
It works! Lemme play with it for a bit, then take some photos and post it.

Jan 27, 10 | 11:22 pm
blues creek guitars Authorized Martin Repair Ctr

Total Topics: 52
Total Posts: 1011
there are so many pickup options out there . The I beam is a great pick up . I also can say the fishman and K&K are good ones. Ken has some good advice and in my experience most pick ups are easy after market installs.
I like the fishman eclipse as you don't need to cut a hole in the guitar for controls . You also have the under saddle ( peizo ) and a mic . The preamp lets you mix and blend, There is also a phase button on the fishman.
Grizzly has some stick on pickups, that may not be the best quality but will allow some experimentation to what sound you are looking for.

John Hall
Blues Creek Guitars Inc.
Authorized CF Martin Repair Center

Jan 28, 10 | 5:15 am
Freeman

Total Topics: 27
Total Posts: 668
The lastest issue of the GAL magazine American Luthier has a good article on installing pickups by Brian Michael from Gryphon Instruments. The are installing a Fishman Matrix Blend - a UST with mic, but the proceedure would be about the same for any pickup.

Jan 28, 10 | 6:34 am
Freeman

Total Topics: 27
Total Posts: 668
There was also a good article in AG mag a year or so ago about all the different aftermarket p/u's - you could search their web site (or I could search my basement LOL).

Jan 28, 10 | 6:35 am
Ken Cierp

Total Topics: 58
Total Posts: 2262
I have found (to my ear) the under-saddle pick-ups to be a little chirppy/barky. I'm sure the pick attach of the player has much to do with this -- the film type materials that don't have to be placed exactly under each string like the individual ceramics are more forgiving. I don't really know jack about pick ups (except I think the name brands are over priced) but its the signal to noise ratio that really matters just like all audio equipment.

Another thing that's not mentioned so far is that the Pre-amp not only boosts the signal but also corrects mis-match of impedence, another fidelity killer.

Again pure guessing but logic tells me that the internal type of pick up would have the advantage of actually capturing the internal resonace of the guitar to me this should add to the sound quality.

Ken

Kenneth Michael Guitars est. 1978

Jan 28, 10 | 6:51 am
Ken Hundley

Total Topics: 40
Total Posts: 2169
I tried a stereo setup, usign a stereo endpin jack and two piezo speakers, then tried again with two piezo buzzers. Both worked, though the speakers sounded more like an AM radio....possibly because the mylar of the speaker cone actually contacted the soundboard....may have to play with it.

The quality of the sound from the buzzer piezos was decent, but fairly mid-rangy. then again, I just taped it to the soundboard outside the guitar. I need to pot the piezos in epoxy to protect them better, then cover them with foam, which may do a good job of attenuating some of the stronger midranges.

The sound was smooth and clear, but quiet. I had the end pin jacks, I had some sheilded cable, and bought two piezos at $1.98 each. I am going to play with a slightly different piezo tonite, these were a little more at $3.98, and supposedly had a wider range and a lower noise threshold, so they might be louder.

I also found plans for a pre-amp, and think I can build it for less than $20...I'm definitely going to try it. I might even be able to build it small enough to fit inside the guitar, and utilize a 9v battery for power. This is as much fun as building guitars!

I'll keep taking pictures, and put em up on my blog...they'll get on the new site, but not the current one.

Jan 28, 10 | 12:23 pm
Ken Cierp

Total Topics: 58
Total Posts: 2262
Ken this place sells the pick up material for musical instrumnets and its really inexpensive have you taken a look?

http://windworld.com/products-page/electronic-hardware/piezo-films/


Ken

Kenneth Michael Guitars est. 1978

Jan 28, 10 | 12:41 pm
Woody O'Keefe

Total Topics: 31
Total Posts: 102
Kevin after all this you can see that the choices are almost endless. I started using the Barcus-Berry stickon transducer in the 70's and have probably used over 20 different pick/ups since then. You need to try things and see what works for you and your guitar. for instance the Ibeam will not fit in a 000-28 Martin because the X brace is narrower than in a D-28. And on and on.. eventually you'll find the one you like.

Good luck

Woody

Jan 29, 10 | 7:18 am
Kevin Sjostrand

Total Topics: 84
Total Posts: 981
I am contemplating trying the Artist Prestige 330 piezos and seeing how they work with the Pyle Pro PPG450A amp that I have. I have looked at an external preamp for about $40 that might give me control anyway.
Yeah, I know it makes sense to experiment, but I don't have alot of extra $$ to do too much of that.
What if I just bit the bullet, spent the $200 or $300 for something like the Fishman Matix Blend....would I be plenty happy? What do you think?

Kevin

Jan 29, 10 | 9:16 am
Ken Cierp

Total Topics: 58
Total Posts: 2262
I've been working with Jessie over at JBB Electronics (they make the 330) and we will be offering these and other JBBE products as options with our kits. This is a very customer satifaction oriented organization --- electronic specs are very good --- not finished testing but I am sure they will work just fine and save some bucks to boot.

Ken

Kenneth Michael Guitars est. 1978

Jan 29, 10 | 9:36 am
Ken Hundley

Total Topics: 40
Total Posts: 2169
Thanks for the link, Ken. I had seen that site googling info on this stuff. There prices are definitely good. Still alot to spend for a preamp for me, since I don't perform and hardly record.

So I went to Radio Shack and got some more stuff. I rewired the endpin jack so that inside the guitar, it had 1/8" jack about 8 inches fromthe end block. I then rewired the piezo so there were two disks, one for left and one for right, wired to a common 1/8" stero plug. It all comes down to mono, but using stereo components allows me to use more than one source on the same cable....cleans up the loos a little. It also allows me to do some experimenting.....

I also got some different piezos, these were 3-12vdc piezos, and were wired to a small circuit board. Initially, they didn't sund much different...a little louder perhaps, but still somewhat like an am radio. I pushed the disk onto the surface of the sound board (all on the outside, right now, until I am happy with a design and positioning......sucks to loosen and tighten the strings all the timer!). When I applied pressure, the volume doubled, and was incredibly warm and balanced.

The disk has a small amount of kiquid gasket material that was preventing full contact with the soundboard. The circuit board is also only connected by three hair-thin strands of copper, and can vibrate sympathetically with the piezo and change the sound. I need to pot the discs in epoxy to make them stronger, and to ensure a good contact surface, as well as to protect the circuits and connections on their backs. It will sound much better then.

I also tried to build a preamp. I suck at electronics though, and was getting a ground bleed somewhere, so it didn't work. i also couldn't get the transistor used in the diagram, and may have to increase my power supply from a 9v battery to 12 volts. I can do that with the 9volt battery connected with two AA batteries. I just need to learn how to do that kind of thing better. Anyway, this is kind of fun. I will take pictures, and also record when I have a chance. Sorry, Kev, I hijacked the thread. I'll start another one when I have some pics.....

Jan 29, 10 | 9:48 am
Kevin Sjostrand

Total Topics: 84
Total Posts: 981
Not a problem Ken, I love reading all the info. Can't wait to see what you came up with.
Ken Cierp...I was emailing with Jessie just yesterday asking questions. Great prices. Do you think the 330 is better suited for a dred over the dual or single piezo models?
He suggested the Behringer preamp, which as great reviews, at $40 (from Musicians Friend, free shipping too). So I probably gonna try his 330 set up without the preamp. I would probably still need the preamp when I play at church so will try the Behringer too.

Kevin

Jan 29, 10 | 11:15 am
Ken Cierp

Total Topics: 58
Total Posts: 2262
I like the Behringer line of products --- for my application I am going with the Artec end pin pre-amp just for boost. In the year 2010 pre-amps are all very refined and use one of several different op-amp ic's that are very, very clean
electronically. If you have time a pre-amp is pretty simple to assemble.

I have not actually done much listening to many of the pick-ups and just have some general opinions. Unless the system has balance controls for each element I can't understand how three would be better than two in eight or so square inches under the bridge.

Just another guess -- but I would say that style of play would be more of a factor then size of the instrument. And my logic would be that a strummer's guitar would need less sensitivty than a finger-picker's instrument.

Ken

Jan 29, 10 | 11:38 am
Kevin Sjostrand

Total Topics: 84
Total Posts: 981
Mostly I feel like "Vinnie Barbarino"....."I'm SO Confused!".
How about the GHS Mini internal mic with preamp? These are $50.
Any experience with it?
I hear feedback can be an issue with mics, but I won't be on stage with a bunch of other instruments, maybe one other guitar.

Can the sensitivity be adjusted using a Behringer Preamp?

Kevin

Jan 29, 10 | 1:44 pm
Guitar Hack

Total Topics: 19
Total Posts: 41
The difference between an active and passive pickup is this. All pick up produce a piezo-electric current. (Strike quartz with a hammer and it create a current. The same occurs in a piezo electric current, the sound wave cause pressure on the quartz and it creates a current) The piezo current in an active pick up is increased or amplified. YOu can tell the difference between the two in that the active one has a battery and the passive one does not.

The K & K puts out a sizable amount of current so you do just fine on an amp without pre-amping the signal.

Jan 31, 10 | 6:24 pm
Guitar Hack

Total Topics: 19
Total Posts: 41
I've tried the K K straight into a PA and with an LR Baggs Para Acoustic DI. The DI did improve the sound some but not all that much. The K & K seems to put out sufficient voltage to do the job so I don't think you should have any trouble at church or any other venue. The improvement wasn't enough to convince me to lug the DI around when I perform.

Jan 31, 10 | 6:30 pm
Kevin Sjostrand

Total Topics: 84
Total Posts: 981
Thanks on the "active & passive" explanation. I am now wondering if 3 piezos are really necessary under the bridge. What would the differences be between having 3, 2 or even one? I am so unexperienced on this subject!
JJB will do a 2 piezo with the endpin switch jack for me for $35 shipped.
The 3 piezo is $49.95. Is 3 always better than 2????

Kevin

Feb 02, 10 | 9:41 am
Ken Hundley

Total Topics: 40
Total Posts: 2169
I think (which doesn't mean much these days) that having the third piezo gives you more flexibility in what to pick up. Two piezos, I would have one in a bassy area, and one in a clear treble area. The third would allow you to maybe pickup more midrange, and then allow you to adjust as necessary. I think much of what a third pickup will do for you can be accomplished with shrewd placement of two. With one, I think you need to be VERY selective of where it goes to get thebest balance.

Feb 02, 10 | 10:04 am
Kevin Sjostrand

Total Topics: 84
Total Posts: 981
Hey Kids,
I'm resurrecting this thread because..............I FINALLY got my pickup installed in my first build Palo Escrito Dred. I purchased the JJB Electronics 3 piezo system, wired to a switchjack endpin jack. This is a passive system. I cut a relief into the inside of my endblock about 1/4" using the adapted hole boring tool that Ken Cierp was so nice to suggest and show a picture of. This worked perfectly since my endblock was too thick (from now on they will be 3/4" thick, not 1" thick). Then it was a matter of using my tapered reamer to bring the hole at the outside opening up to almost 1/2". This cut the finish nicely without chipping it. I then used a couple of bit sizes to bring the hole up to 15/16", which accomodated the switchjack with just a little bit of leeway. I took a 1/4" dowel and sanded a taper on the end so I could reach in from outside the hole and insert the jack over the taper, holding it while I pulled the dowel out the hole along with the jack.
The piezos I mounted under the saddle area on the bridge plate, one between each set of bridge pins. I used the same 2 sided PSA adhesive that comes one pick guards. This is very thin and sticks like a champ. The recommendation is to use gel superglue. I couldn't imagine the superglue, with full coverage on the surface would be much thinner than this psa adhesive. It was very easy to fell the bridge pins with my fingers to place the piezos, and my fingers didn't stick to the underside of my bridge plate with superglue!! I strung her back up, and plugged into a Pyle Pro amp someone gave me, and NOTHING! Now I don't know anything about amps. I looked at the back, and the thing was switched for 230 volts. I suppose the kid who had the amp was trying to use it this way.
There is a problem with the amp, it keeps cutting out, but I think it might be the input jack. The cable fits in very loosely, like it worn out. Otherwise, I don't know what would cause this.
Anyway, the pickup works and sound great. It really does sound just like the guitar. I didn't have time to play around with tone controls, but with them flat I was pleasantly impressed with the sound. I do not know that a preamp is going to be necessary.
So for $50 delivered, I think it is a very good way to electrify your acoustic. No controls, but other than the endpin jack, you would never know there is a pickup inside without shining a flashlight inside and looking toward the endblock. So, the end of the saga!
I hope it helps someone else decide what to use and how to install it in their guitar.

Kevin

Mar 22, 10 | 6:03 am
deadedith

Total Topics: 34
Total Posts: 165
I'm glad it is working out for you.
I can't add much to all the other comments except to say that the most accurate reproduction the sound of YOUR guitar - or mine - is still - a microphone. I use the electrovoice 967 - a $200 dynamic mic that is as sweet as it gets. If I absolutely must use a pickup I use the Rare Earth blend - soundhole mounted p/u that allows you to blend the sound of the built in goose-neck mic with the magnetic pickup.

I've tried most all the other types and gotten good sound as well, as long as I had a good eq and a full-spectrum set of speakers. But it is very hard to hear YOUR guitar through a pickup if you are sitting next to the speaker, since by the nature of the case you are hearing the unamplified sound mixed with the speaker sound. If you listen to just the speaker output, maybe with someone playing your guitar around a corner or isolated from you, you hear the pickup only and it is often not that pleasing.

It's one of those eternal quandaries. It comes down to what sounds good to others, if you are playing in public. My $.01
Dave B

Mar 22, 10 | 7:59 am
Bill Cory

Total Topics: 158
Total Posts: 3584
Our ears are all different.

Kevin -- glad you found what you like!

Bill

Mar 22, 10 | 9:46 am
Kevin Sjostrand

Total Topics: 84
Total Posts: 981
I will have to check it out further on another amp....one that will stay on, and at church. That is where I will use the guitar plugged in, so that is what really matters.
I would guess that this pick up is similar in what it puts out to the K & K western as it certainly looks about the same.

Dave, I don't have much to compare to. I understand what you are saying about playing in front of the amp, and hearing both sound from there and the guitar...probably not a true picture. I've thought about taking it down to Guitar Center and trying it out on a few amps there, that is if I can get over the embarassment of them hearing my playing!

Kevin

Mar 23, 10 | 6:01 am
Jim_H

Total Topics: 27
Total Posts: 212
This site has a lot of info on various acoustic pickups
http://www.shorelinemusic.com/

Also, the guys over at Maury's Music did some acousti pickup comparison and shootout work.

http://maurysmusic.com/pickup_shootout

http://maurysmusic.com/pickup_comparisons

Check the menu on the left side of the page for more info.

Ive used PUTW #54 (Pickup The World) D-TAR WaveLength, K&K and the Fishman Eclipse Blend. I liked all of them for different reasons.

The tapastring folks have developed a 'vintage' jack, which fits in a standard tapered hole if you don't want a huge hole in your guitar.

The one downside to this is it sticks out so far, it can be a problem.
http://www.tapastring.com/vintagejack.htm

Mar 23, 10 | 8:30 am
deadedith

Total Topics: 34
Total Posts: 165
For a whole bunch of acoustic pickup tests and mp3's of the results, go to:
www.dougyoungguitar.com and click on "pickup tests". It's a lot of fun, too.
Dave B

Mar 28, 10 | 7:30 pm
deadedith

Total Topics: 34
Total Posts: 165
Also for a great testing site try:
http://www.fingerpick.com/pickups.htm
Lots of tests, videos by Doug Kennedy.
Dave B

Mar 28, 10 | 7:33 pm



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