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Unread 07-09-2003, 10:41 PM   #1
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acoustic pickup problems

I have a Taylor 310 acoustic which I bought in the days of Mars Music for a very awesome deal. It was exactly like that add I've seen. 27.4 seconds was all I needed to fall in love with my Taylor, which included the 4 seconds it took to say to the salesman, "No thanks, just looking." The salesman gave it to me for a very good deal, but I needed it to be acoustic/electric, so I bought a pickup to be installed in it again with a very good deal. I had no idea about acoustic/electric pickups at the time, but the salesman just picked out a Fishman AG-125 passive pickup (although just today I saw on the side of the box on a label AGX-125, which is the 12-string version. If the salesman made a mistake, maybe that could have something to do with the problems I'm about to mention). Anyways, the problem I'm having with it is that the pickup has become weak. When I plug into the PA for my youth group's worship, I barely get a signal, so I have to turn myself up higher than everyone, and still sometimes I'm too low. At the same time, the sound coming out of it is very trebly. I always have to turn my highs way down to get it to sound any good and mess with the EQ a lot, seeing as how I dont have an on board Eq. I KNOW this isnt the guitar, because the natural sound is superb. If I mic'ed it, I'd get the exact tone I want, but thats not always possible, plus we probably dont have the mic's to do the job good. I've had this problem for quite a while now, But I've just compensated by turning myself really high and having to EQ on the board every time. Its beginning to be very frustrating.

I looked in my manual for the p/u, it says if I get a thin or weak signal, the cause is a "weak downbearing pressure due to low string break angle" or an "impedence mismatch." Solutions mentioned are "Observe the 50/50 rule. Ramp the string slots if necessary," for the break angle. For the impedence mismatch, "Match the pickup to the audio input with a buffer-preamp." Ok, I have no idea what any of this is saying or how to fix it. Can anyone translate this to english for me? Is it anything that I can do myself or is it something I have to take to someone?

Here's what the 50/50 rule says in case people need to know what it is: "For adequate coupling between string, saddle, and pickup, we recommend that the saddle slot depth (with pickup installed) should equal no more than 50% of the total height of the saddle."

I'm more of an electric guy, and I have no idea what this just said. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Remember, there is a chance that I have the wrong pickup installed and its supposed to be for a 12 string. The only other problem I've had with the pickup is on the inside of the guitar where I plug in, the jack shielding cap became unscrewed and was completely loose and I had to reach in and screw it back on. Who knows what else was going on in there, but this happened after I had the weak signal, not because of it. It doesnt seem to be loose now, so. Any help will be appreciated. Thanks.

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Unread 07-10-2003, 02:10 AM   #2
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hmm well i've got an L&R active pickup in mine but i think what it said could be correct. it's a ribbon pickup right? meaning its' under the saddle. if so you might wnat to make sure the saddle is sitting all the down on the pickup. if the presure is uneven the sound won't be as balences as it should be. i think tha'ts the idea behind the 50/50 rule but actully i've never heard that. i'm not familiar wiht fishman stuff so i dont know much else to look at other than if the saddle is down all the way ontpo teh ribbon.
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Unread 07-10-2003, 06:40 AM   #3
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your main problem is that the pickup is passive. Piezo crystals are great but the electrical current they induce to the system is practically nothing.

so your obvious best solution would be to add a preamp to your system. it can be internal or external. jut by doing a quick google for your model I found a fishman powerjack or ProEQ II

the powerjack goes inside the guitar in place of the current endpin jack with no apparent controls,
and the ProEQ II is external - you plug into it, then from it to the board and obviously has an Eq on it.

Im not sure how great those are, you have a lowend pickup so I wouldnt recommend spending a lot unless you have a desire to upgrade the PU in the future or right now...

but that hould solve your problems...

JP
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Unread 07-10-2003, 06:57 AM   #4
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I'll give you a brief translation:

Quote:
"weak downbearing pressure due to low string break angle"
Your strings might not be pressing down on the saddle hard enough because the angle that the strings make when they're going over the saddle is too shallow. If this were the case, it would be because of an incompetent installation of the pickup.

Quote:
"impedence mismatch."
This has to do with the mixing board you're (eventually) plugging into. This can be solved by plugging into a direct box, which functions to "match" the electrical impedance (which I'd rather not define for purpose of length) on the output of your guitar with the impedance on the input of the mixer.


Quote:
Solutions mentioned are "Observe the 50/50 rule. Ramp the string slots if necessary," for the break angle.
When some techs install pickups, they re-rout (with a router) the slot that holds the saddle. The 50/50 rule is a "guide" to help them not go too deep. If they go and rout the slot too deep, the string angle in the end could be too shallow...

Quote:
"Match the pickup to the audio input with a buffer-preamp."
A buffer is a transformer. A transformer is basically two coils of wire that are close to one another, but not electrically "touching" each other. A current in one coil induces a current in the other. The characteristics of the induced current, though, are very dependent upon the size/shape of the coils. Direct boxes have a transformer and so do most preamps.

Hope that helps some...

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Unread 07-10-2003, 12:30 PM   #5
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Quote:
your main problem is that the pickup is passive. Piezo crystals are great but the electrical current they induce to the system is practically nothing.

so your obvious best solution would be to add a preamp to your system. it can be internal or external. jut by doing a quick google for your model I found a fishman powerjack or ProEQ II
Ok, I'll look for a preamp and see what prices I can get for them. If I knew I was getting a low end p/u, I woulda told the salesman to get a better one. Heck, I'm getting a Taylor, why would I want to go cheap with the p/u? I dont really have the funds to replace it now as I'm trying to update all of my electric gear, but a preamp might fix things for the time being.

Quote:
This has to do with the mixing board you're (eventually) plugging into. This can be solved by plugging into a direct box, which functions to "match" the electrical impedance (which I'd rather not define for purpose of length) on the output of your guitar with the impedance on the input of the mixer.
I normally always go through a direct box, then either into a snake or into the mixing board. For the most part, this is what I do, but I still got a weak signal with this. So is a preamp my solution?
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Unread 07-10-2003, 12:35 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GMartin2R
hmm well i've got an L&R active pickup in mine but i think what it said could be correct. it's a ribbon pickup right? meaning its' under the saddle. if so you might wnat to make sure the saddle is sitting all the down on the pickup. if the presure is uneven the sound won't be as balences as it should be. i think tha'ts the idea behind the 50/50 rule but actully i've never heard that. i'm not familiar wiht fishman stuff so i dont know much else to look at other than if the saddle is down all the way ontpo teh ribbon.
I'll make sure its all the way down too. Thanks.
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Unread 07-11-2003, 02:01 AM   #7
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yeah np... and if you want to change pickups, mine was a standard active ribbon one and it was tops $110... so i'm a big L&R baggs fan as mine is great...
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Unread 07-11-2003, 09:54 AM   #8
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or you could get my personal favorite:

b-band ust in combination with the b-band a1 preamp/endpin jack
$90 with FREE shipping within the usa at: http://www.samusic.com

i didn't like under saddle pickups until i heard this one..it actually seems to pick up some body too rather than just strings. and it's a hot signal so you wouldn't have any volume worries.
requires a 9-volt battery as it is active. there's a good battery clip included with the preamp that sticks on with a strong adhesive 2-sided tape on the neck block or back of the guitar or wherever. OR you could always opt to get the lr baggs 'battery bagg' if you go active. it's a little pouch that also goes on with 2-sided adhesive and it velcros shut.
costs about 4.95 i think. (stewmac.com). it's more padded, but the b-band battery clip works fine. i've used both.

lr baggs also has the 'element active' system now. but the install is what would keep me from trying that. there's some additional holes/slotting to be done. the b-band is sooo thin you don't even really have to shave any off the saddle when installing it..i didn't have any balance problems wit it either. but i did make sure the saddle was VERY flat, etc..
and of course string break angle over the saddle is crucial to undersaddle pickups.

the active rt system gmartin uses would be another good choice for you. you can also get it at http://www.samusic.com
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Unread 07-11-2003, 11:58 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by guitar2326
Ok, I'll look for a preamp and see what prices I can get for them. If I knew I was getting a low end p/u, I woulda told the salesman to get a better one. Heck, I'm getting a Taylor, why would I want to go cheap with the p/u? I dont really have the funds to replace it now as I'm trying to update all of my electric gear, but a preamp might fix things for the time being.

I normally always go through a direct box, then either into a snake or into the mixing board. For the most part, this is what I do, but I still got a weak signal with this. So is a preamp my solution?
Hold on here...not so fast.

First you need to determine if the pickup is still working correctly.

1) Did you install it yourself or did you have someone do the work for you? If someone else did the work, talk to them...unless it was Mars and then, well, find another good luthier.

2) Try taking the guitar to a store and plugging into an acoustic guitar amplifier. One that is intended to deal with the impedances that a piezo pickup has. If it works there, then maybe a preamp is a good call. The SansAMP Acoustic DI sounds really good with piezo pickups. Many others do not warm up the piezo sound as well.

3) If the guitar has a really good unplugged sound, the downward force is probably not an issue. The whole idea actually translates over to vibrating the guitar top. If you don't have the proper downforce, the guitar would sound weak unplugged too.
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Acoustics: 2003 Taylor 855ce-LTD L1 (Brazilian), 1993 Taylor 810, 2005 Taylor K4 preamp, 2006 ESP XTone PA1 (Sunburst)
Electrics: 2007 ESP Vintage Plus Distressed, 1998 Fender AmDx Fat Stratocaster (Black with EMG SAV + SPC kit), 1997 PRS CE24 (Ruby), 2006 ESP LTD EC-1000s (Sunburst)

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Unread 07-11-2003, 12:54 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trpullen
1) Did you install it yourself or did you have someone do the work for you? If someone else did the work, talk to them...unless it was Mars and then, well, find another good luthier.
Mars did it. If I end up getting my electric bridge p/u replaced, i'll talk to the guy that does it about my acoustic as well, if he does acoustic stuff. Not sure if he does though, but I would think he should.

Quote:
Originally Posted by trpullen
2) Try taking the guitar to a store and plugging into an acoustic guitar amplifier. One that is intended to deal with the impedances that a piezo pickup has. If it works there, then maybe a preamp is a good call. The SansAMP Acoustic DI sounds really good with piezo pickups. Many others do not warm up the piezo sound as well.
I'll try doing that the next time I go to guitar center. Thanks.
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Unread 07-11-2003, 04:01 PM   #11
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Im not an expert but I thought even acoustic amps expected a preamplified signal.

I dont even have an accoustic, but I have an electric with piezo saddles. and I have been trying out accoustic amps to mate to it. I should have noticed a lot of distortion if the amp was expecting a passive system - shouldnt I? obviously I had no such problems.

Also I try my HBs through every amp I try (just to see) and they put out a signal way bigger then piezo - actually the signal is about the same a preamped piezo...

so I would think that saying justgo try an accoustic amp would be wrong.

If you wanna see ifg there is a problem, fo try preamps you can plug into then into an amp. If that works you have your solution.

SansAMP Acoustic DI is nice for $200

JP
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Unread 07-11-2003, 09:51 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by billikenn
Im not an expert but I thought even acoustic amps expected a preamplified signal.

JP
Well....not so.

From the Fishman installation guide:

Musical Instrument Amplifiers
Most musical instrument amplifiers (at least 1 M W input impedance) will yield useable results. Acoustic instrument amplifiers have a 10 M W Piezo input, ideally matching the pickup.

Direct Boxes
You can plug the AG-125 / AG-094 into an "active" direct box (1 - 10 M W input) with very good results. Using a passive direct box will sound weak and thin.

PA / Recording Consoles
Professional PA and recording consoles have a much lower input impedance than what is acceptable for the AG-125 / AG-094 ; you will need an impedance matching preamp. Plugging a passive piezo pickup into a mixer without an impedance matching preamp will sound harsh and thin.

Most electric guitar pickups are in the 6Kohm to 12kohm range. The 1MegaOhm from the piezo is very different...and in fact, when used with most guitar amps, the piezo will "load up" with a charge. That is not a good thing. The preamp really serves two purposes. First, it does enhance the signal. BUT, more importantly, it acts as a buffer for that huge impedance. If acoustic amps were not designed with the front end to accept the higher impedance, they would not really be worth anything. Some amps like the SWR California Blonde will accept either magnetic or piezo and can sense the input impedance and adjust accordingly.

So, all that to say....find an acoustic amp and try your guitar. You stand a much better chance of getting a good setting and testing it than if you get a preamp and do it wrong.
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Acoustics: 2003 Taylor 855ce-LTD L1 (Brazilian), 1993 Taylor 810, 2005 Taylor K4 preamp, 2006 ESP XTone PA1 (Sunburst)
Electrics: 2007 ESP Vintage Plus Distressed, 1998 Fender AmDx Fat Stratocaster (Black with EMG SAV + SPC kit), 1997 PRS CE24 (Ruby), 2006 ESP LTD EC-1000s (Sunburst)

Amps: Orange Rockerverb 50 Head and PPC212 cab


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Unread 07-12-2003, 07:37 AM   #13
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I'm a SansAmp Acoustic DI user and I basically agree with everything Tom (trpullen) has said here.

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