Page 1 of 2 1 2 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 12

Thread: Know of a good soundhole pickup for acoustic guitar?

  1. #1
    jeffree is offline 1K Silver Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Posts
    1,094
    Rep Power
    139256

    Know of a good soundhole pickup for acoustic guitar?

    Sign in to disable this ad
    Just wondering if anyone knows of a good soundhole pickup to use with various acoustic (steel or nylon) guitars. My home studio situation means that I can't use a regular microphone, and I haven't been happy with the rather harsh sound of my "hot dot" bridge pickups. I'm looking for something a bit warmer. I see various soundhole pickups out there by Seymour Duncan and others, but I don't have any experience with them.

    Anyone have a suggestion, besides buying a new home?

    Thanks, gang.

    J.

  2. #2
    Blue Bear Sound's Avatar
    Blue Bear Sound is offline Don't feed the bear......
    Join Date
    Jan 2001
    Location
    Ottawa, ON, Canada
    Age
    49
    Posts
    12,897
    Rep Power
    42711
    You won't get very good results with a soundhole pup......

    Acoustic instruments are best captured with a mic........

  3. #3
    maestro_dmc's Avatar
    maestro_dmc is offline Uses Paramedic EQ
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    The I.E.
    Posts
    903
    Rep Power
    214956
    Not only will a pick-up that goes in the soundhole not sound as good as a mic, most of them won't work on a nylon string guitar, except to pickup the strings that are metal wound. The soundhole pickups out there are magnet based, and even the "humbucker" ones are also fairly noisy in my experience. None of them beats a transducer for a live setup either.

    There are one or two that combine a mic with the magnetic pickup and allow you to blend the signals.

    So unless you want to have a 3 string guitar sound, you'll need a transducer for the nylon guitar.

    I can't reccomend a specific brand or model, but once you find something you can check here for reviews of most of the pick-ups out there.

  4. #4
    c7sus's Avatar
    c7sus is offline Disenfranchised Member
    Join Date
    Oct 1999
    Location
    Eagle Winged Palace of the Queen Chinee
    Posts
    6,991
    Rep Power
    21152734
    If you must use pickups there's really only one choice.

    www.tranceaudio.com

    Forget soundhole pickups for the reasons given above.

    The HotDot might sound better with a better preamp, but it's a pretty crappy piezo really.

    The other option is to find an old FRAP (Flat Response Audio Pickup) but those are pretty much collectable pieces now.

    There is one other option, and I never see it presented here, so I will..........

    Countryman Condensor mounted on the backstrip of the guitar. I knew a guy in CA that was using this setup 15 years ago and it worked great. Placement is critical, of course, but once you dial in the sweet spot on each instrument you'll know where it's at. Mounting on the backstrip reduces feedback problems when using it live, and when recording you're micing the guitar FROM THE INSIDE. His was mounted with double-sticky tape. Doesn't get any easier than that.

    The Highlander mic is kinda based on this same concept, but I think the Countryman is a better quality mic.

  5. #5
    scottboyher's Avatar
    scottboyher is offline The King Of Nothing
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Location
    Whiskey River, USA
    Age
    9
    Posts
    1,463
    Rep Power
    14
    Don't record your acoustic through a pickup. I have tried that and it isn't worth the effort. Get a good condenser mic and try that.
    _______________________________
    [url]www.scottboyher.com[/url]
    [email]info@scottboyher.com[/email]

  6. #6
    jeffree is offline 1K Silver Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Posts
    1,094
    Rep Power
    139256
    Now that's what I call response! Thanks very much--you've given me a lot to chew on before deciding what to do.

    Best,
    J.

  7. #7
    Light's Avatar
    Light is offline Born in the Light ofStars
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    Creating saw dust at rapidly increasing levels
    Age
    40
    Posts
    4,716
    Rep Power
    868311
    There are two categories for acoustic pickups these days. Magnetic (soundhole) and piezo (under saddle). There are a few people out there doing other things with piezo, but not many.

    First of all, letís look at how each work. Magnetic pickups are really just electric guitar pickups, voiced for a more acoustic sound. They will have either one (or more) magnet wrapped in copper wire, or a magnet with pole pieces attached, around which copper wire is wrapped. When a metal string vibrates within the magnetic field of the pickup, it disrupts the field, which (if you remember your basic magnetic theory) creates an electrical current which varies according to the vibration of the string, which is to say an audio signal. Magnetic pickups have been around since the 1920s, and the electric guitar was originally just an acoustic with a pickup. The idea of using them as a "soundhole" pickup for flat tops came about in the 1950s and 1960s. The D'Armond sound hole pickups where some of the first aftermarket pickups ever made, and the Martin D-18E was made famous by none other than John Lennon. The technology has advanced a great deal, and there are some very good magnetic pickups these days. The two best these days are the Sunrise (which has been the top of this market for probably 15 years, and is still as good or better than anything else out there) and the Fishman Rare Earth pickups. Leo Kottke has been relying on the Sunrise as his primary sound source for years, though he uses it with a mic. Soundhole pickups can be relatively cheap, and most are easy to install. They can not, however, be used with nylon string guitars, as they require the guitars strings to be magnetically conductive, which nylon strings are not.

    Piezo pickups use piezo crystals, which respond to vibration by making an electrical current. The original versions of the piezo pickups (Hot Dots and Fraps) where small transducers which you would attach to the inside of the top of your guitar. These where very prone to feedback, and did not sound very good. In the early to mid eighties, someone (either L.R. Baggs or Barcus Barry, I do not remember which at the moment) came up with the idea of putting individual piezo crystals under the saddle of the guitar, one under each string. The pressure of the strings on the pickups made them less prone to random vibrations of the top. This helped a great deal with the feedback, but it still did not sound very good. There was an additional issue of placement of the crystals within the pickup. If they were not lined up directly under the strings, the balance between the strings would be inconsistent. The real problem with piezo pickups, however, is impedance. Your typical microphone puts out any where from a few hundred to a thousand ohms. A magnetic pickup puts out around 10,000 ohms. Piezo pickups put out around 100,000 ohms. As a result of this, the signal coming out of them has a very difficult time driving long cable runs, and even short runs are a problems.* The preamps which started coming out in the seventies and eighties were really impedance matching boxes, so the piezo pickup could drive longer cable runs, and to restore the low end of the signal. Additional functions, such as an EQ, a volume control, and a notch filter (to help control feedback) came along as you got more and more expensive pickups. Around the late eighties and early nineties, two things happened. The Fishman company came up with a way to create a piezo electric film, which went the whole length of the pickup. This eliminated the issue of inconsistent balance between strings. Rick Turner (the name amongst names in pickup design for the last thirty years or so) started working on a new way of implementing the piezo pickups. He found a type of cable (used for some purpose by the military) which was very similar to what Fishman was doing. Rick combined this piezo cable with a preamp which was built into the guitar (attached to the endpin jack, in fact). This was the (justly) famous Highlander. Rick Turner has left the company, but the Highlander is still one of the most popular pickups on the market. Both Fishman and L.R. Baggs also make very good pickup/preamp combinations. You would be hard pressed to find a maker who does not use one of these pickups as original equipment on there guitars. Fishman makes the pickups for all Martin, all Gibson, and (until recently) all Taylor guitars which come with built-in electronics. When you see an acoustic guitar player on stage, the chances are good they are using an under saddle pickup/preamp combination. This is also the basic system used for acoustic/electric guitars such as the Parker Fly. Piezo also have the advantage that, because they do not rely on the magnetic conductivity of the strings, they can be used on nylon string guitars.

    Under saddle pickups are not, however, something which can be moved between guitars. They must be installed by a qualified and experienced repair person. It is essential that the bottom of the saddle slot be flat. If it is not, then the pickup will not be under consistent pressure, and the balance of the strings will be inconsistent, and it will also be more prone to feedback. This procedure is also expensive. A Fishman Matrix pickup/preamp combo is about $125.00, with installation costing another $125.00-$175.00.

    Taylor has come out with a new system, called the Expression system, co-designed by Rupert Neve. It is actually an old idea with some new electronics, and a slightly different piezo element. It is what I would call a combination system. These have been used for a long time, and can be implemented in a variety of ways. The most common of these is probably the use of a under saddle piezo pickup with a small condenser mic inside of the guitar. This is (last time I asked Jim Olson) what James Taylor is using. Fishman has out several versions of their Blender system, including one which uses a small Crown condenser with their Matrix under saddle pickup, and another which uses the Crow mic with their Rare Earth magnetic pickup. Probably the most well know example of a combination system was Michael Hedges set up, which was an old three transducer FRAP piezo set up used in conjunction with a Sunrise magnetic pickup. For him, the magnetic gave him the low end response he needed, as well as picking up all of his right hand tapping. The piezo pickups gave him the sparkle and "woody" tone he was after. This is essentially the system which Taylor has come out with. On all guitars with pickups in the 500 and above series come with the new system. It uses a magnetic pickup embedded in the neck/fingerboard extension on their NT necks (a seriously cool innovation for a factory guitar in it's own right, BTW), along with two of what they are calling "dynamic body sensors," which are really just another version of a piezo transducer, similar in concept (though not design) to the old FRAP transducers. These are mixed by a preamp which was designed by Rupert Neve (yes, of the console fame). The system (the one time I have heard it) did not blow me away. It sounded (to me) like a nice pickup system, but nothing all that spectacular. Some people will, I am sure, love it. The big problem I have with the system is that it can not be put into anything but a Taylor, and I am not fond of Taylors (one of the results of having a father who is one of the top small shop luthiers in the country).

    None of these systems will ever sound as good as a good mic on a good guitar, and none of them will ever recreate the sound of YOUR guitar. For my ear, the best system for a reasonable price is the under saddle pickup/preamp systems out there. We put in more Fishmans than anything else, and I am very fond of them as a guitar player, a luthier, and a live sound guy. I would never (barring special effects) want to use one in the studio, however. They just do not sound good enough for that.

    All of this is, I guess, a long way of saying that you can not use a soundhole pickup for nylon strings, and that no pickup will give you the results you want for recording, but can be fine for live work. I guess this way you really just have enough information to think about what you might want to use. If you really can not afford to have pickups installed in your guitars, and you can not use a mic, there are a few "stick on" piezo pickups out there. I would NOT recommend them, as they sound (to be honest) like shit, but they are out there. You might also want to try something like a B-Band pickup, which are quite common for pianos. They are basically an elongated version of the old FRAP and Hot Dot idea, made (I believe) with a piezo film. The thing is, they really need to be installed permanently to, so I don't know how well they would work. You could maybe hook up some kind of 1/4 inch jack to the leads and run them out through the sound hole, but you would still need to remove the strings in order to install it, and you would need to move it several times to find the best sounding location.

    Good god, I talk to much. Three pages in Word when I spell checked it. Sorry.


    Light

    "Cowards can never be moral."
    M.K. Gandhi



    *(Think about it like this. A microphone has no problem driving a hundred foot cable, or even longer. However, an electric guitar sounds noticeably different as soon as the cable gets much above 20 feet. How much worse must it be with a piezo putting out 100,000 ohms.)
    "It's not about who killed my son, it's about what's killing our children."
    [url=http://www.theforgivenessproject.com/stories/aqeela-sherrills-calvin-hodges]-Aqeela Sherrills[/url]

    [url]http://www.theforgivenessproject.com/[/url]

  8. #8
    jeffree is offline 1K Silver Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Posts
    1,094
    Rep Power
    139256
    Light,

    Your explanation is world-class! Not only have you helped me, but I'm sure you've helped others with similar questions and interestests. In fact, I hope you'll consider adding this explanation to a website so that others in the future can find it.
    I conducted a google search before asking for help here, and my search yielded next to nothing--had I found your tutorial (beautifully written like a college instructor would do), I would never have posted the question.

    Thanks so much for taking the time and effort to respond so clearly and thoughtfully. I'm in your debt.

    J.

    P.S. I've decided to restrict my acoustic pick-ups to live performance and purchase a large-diaphram condensor mic for recording. If you or anyone has a suggestion on a good but inexpensive condenser mic, please drop me a line.

  9. #9
    Neil Ogilvie is offline Still Learning.......
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    Isle of Wight or Exeter, UK
    Age
    29
    Posts
    526
    Rep Power
    13
    To record Acoustic guitar the Studio Projects B1 is supposed to be excellent. I've not tried any other Microphones myself, but I've never had any problems with the B1 - as long as the mic placement is right to begin with. In the States I believe this is only $79. We pay £65 in the UK..........

    A lot of people use SD condensors, but I've not had any experience using them, so can't really comment.


    Neil

  10. #10
    c7sus's Avatar
    c7sus is offline Disenfranchised Member
    Join Date
    Oct 1999
    Location
    Eagle Winged Palace of the Queen Chinee
    Posts
    6,991
    Rep Power
    21152734
    Keep in mind if you go with a condensor mic you're gonna need a pre with phantom power (if you don't already have one)

Page 1 of 2 1 2 LastLast

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
A3E sponsorship event box

Check out A3E in Boston!