Yet another pickup thread...

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Yet another pickup thread...

Postby benwalker » Wed Oct 20, 2010 9:00 am

Hello all...

I'm doing a large number of gigs at the moment, with my Headway Piezo-equipped Fylde Alchemist. This I run into a GG10 (very old-school...), and the sound is pretty good. A little, dare I say, 'dry' occasionally, but it does pick up dynamic changes well...

I've noticed most people we play with/alongside have Fishman humbuckers - usually into the ubiquitous Martin 00-15. Similarly, the Simpsons, Thompsons, Giltraps of this world seem to favour soundhole blend pickups rather than the piezo system.

Question is, with the current combination of things I have at the moment, would there be any benefit at all to swapping from saddle mounted piezo to fishman blend, if I'm already starting from a good guitar and going into a decent preamp? I know it's horses for courses, but wondered what the reasons for using one system over another are, if (to my ears) it all sounds reasonably good. £200 is a lot of beans to find out whether the mic/hb blend is better for my particular use...

Side thought - does anyone have any opinion on fitting a piezo to an old archtop? I have a late 1930's Gibson L30, which sounds great acoustically, and I've no intention of cutting and holes in it - but asking a sound engineer to (shock horror) place an sm57 in front of an acoustic guitar on stage, and they generally run a mile...!!



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Mike Stranks
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Postby Mike Stranks » Wed Oct 20, 2010 12:35 pm

Hi Ben

Just a few thoughts from me from the perspective of the sound-tech.

I view pickups as a compromise for convience and consistency and the use of effects in live venues. However good the pickup it won't match the sound from a correctly positioned good mic.

As you've mentioned, Gordon uses the Fishman rare-earth blend pickups. Linked to the Fishman 'Aura' these give a very good sound indeed - the best I've heard from a pickup and not too far off a well-placed mic sound.

Only you can decide whether the additional expense is worth it. If you're playing with others in a group in venues with dodgy sound systems then it's probably not worth it. However, if you're playing solo/duo and have some control over the sound after it's left your preamp then it might well be. Any chance you could visit a retailer who'd let you try out a Fshman rare-earth on a similar sounding guitar to let you judge?

As far as retro-fitting any sort of pickup to a valued guitar I have two observations:
1) Get it done properly by a luthier who knows what they're doing
2) If it IS done properly I don't think anyone but an absolute purist would be bothered about the 'upgrade' if you ever wanted to sell.

As a sound-tech I wouldn't be happy about putting an SM57 in front of a guitar! :lol: There are much better mics than that to use. Maybe you might consider buying a Rode NT5 - about £125 - as long as you can guarantee phantom power at your gigs.

HTH. Mike
The older I get, the better I used to be

Trevor Raggatt
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Postby Trevor Raggatt » Wed Oct 20, 2010 12:55 pm

Hey there Ben,

Hmmm... the Fishman Rare Earth Blends are amazingly good pickups. I've got one in my Fylde GG (guess where that inspiration came from!! :wink: ) and it does sound stunning. I guess the real question you need to ask yourself is how happy/unhappy are you with the sound of your Headway pickup? If you like the sound then will the £250 investment in a Fishman really represent value - will you just be swapping one really good sound for another really good (but ever so slightly different) sound? As Mike says, all amplification of any instrument is a compromise and the key is finding a compromise which you are content with between the sound you get, the convenience and usability of the sound and the financial cost to you.

Of course, if every time you play your guitar you're thinking, "I hate that whatever characteristic of the sound. That really bugs me!!!" then the personal value to you in replacing the pickup would clearly be higher. There's always a temptation to look for the greener grass on the other side of the guitar gear hill. I used to play with a guy who seemed to swap his electric guitar every three months or so looking for the perfect one... tele to strat to SG to Les Paul etc. The irony was, of course every time he got a new guitar he liked a certain characteristic of he started missing th esound of his old guitar which then meant that he ended up going right through the cycle again... back to tele, on to strat, back to SG... Must have cost him a packet on resale losses over the time we were playing together!!!

The idea of seeing if you can find a Fishman equipped guitar to try out is a great one - if you can track one down. Might be a tricky find though and be dependent on finding a suitable second hand guitar for sale somewhere.

Ultimately it will come down to your desire for the difference in sound - Headway has such a good reputation I wouldn't refer to it as an upgrade. Only you will know!

On the old Martin, there should be the possibility of getting a pickup with the minimum of structural change. I'm presuming that you will have a floating bridge which isn't attached to the top. There are a number of manufacturers who make replacement pickups which just swap out the whole bridge assembly. Means that the replacement is non destructive. Here's hte Fishman version...

But, yes, think of getting a pro to do any work which involves any sort of real mods to the guitar!


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Russ Gannicott
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Postby Russ Gannicott » Wed Oct 20, 2010 8:12 pm

Hi Ben,
Piezo's will always sound a little brittle but of course you do have the best pre-amp (GG10) to adress this problem. A blend system will 'round off' the sound better for you and give you greater flexablity.
As far as the L30 goes I have two very different suggestions;
1) Shertler bug. About £100, bury it in the supplied putty and find the best place for it. In the case of my 1935 Kalamazoo, as far as your finger can reach behind the lower F hole!!
2) Piezo transducer from Maplin. 99p. Coat the back with blutack and play!!!

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Postby benwalker » Thu Oct 21, 2010 10:16 am

Thanks for the replies - I think the fishman vs piezo train of thought might be a grass is greener topic. I did a gig last night and was asked a) Is that a Takamine? and b) Where's the mic for the guitar? - so will stick with the piezo for the forseeable...

With the archtop, the 99p transducer from maplin sounds like a great way to try and get it amplified! Is it literally a case of blutacking it to (say) the bridge or inside the f-hole, and hooking it up to a 1/4" jack (then into the gg10)?

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Postby benwalker » Thu Nov 04, 2010 8:16 pm

sooooooooooo, i caved in via ebay.

I've done an A/B between the Headway FEQ.1 that Mr Bucknall installs, and the Fishman Rare Earth Blend, both going into a GG10.

Having spent a few days with both, I think the piezo still sounds sterile in places, unless you add reverb. Strumming particularly sounds harsh, but it depends on the place I guess. The Fishman is lovely, but without gigging it properly, how often I can use the mic aspect is yet to be determined...

Anyway. thoughts welcome as always...


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Postby scottj1 » Fri Nov 05, 2010 7:52 am

hi ben
they sound very different don't they.the fishman is a much warmer sound than the headway but they both sound great.i see what you mean about the headway perhaps being a little harsh when strumming but would maybe cut through better live,a tough call but you play so well that anybody listening would enjoy it anyway.

best regards scott

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Postby benwalker » Sat Nov 06, 2010 6:02 pm

hi Scott,

Thanks for the comments. I did one more trial today recording guitar with just the pickup - no external mic. At a risk of spamming, here's what my friend and put together... the guitar was just the fishman into a GG10.

DADGAD capo VI for those of a technical persuasion!

Think I'm sold: next step is to try it out live...

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