Mike (HossierHiver)and Tookta over at Mainland Ukes just sent me my Classic Mahogany Tenor and Mike dropped a pick-up in it for me. We don't really need another Mainland review - so suffice it to say it's quality WELL above what I would expect for the price. Incredible player, wonderful tone, just great all around. It's on par or better with anything out there at twice the price. Surpassed expectations on all counts. Wonderful uke, and great company.
Onto the pick-up.
I've played instruments with under-saddle pickups of varying kinds (both passive, and active) for decades. Generally they either fail on one or two counts... Tone (bass and mid-range are hard to get right) or (with all of my other ukes) balance. By balance I mean one side or another is substantially higher in volume and or tone than another. My Pono pick-up and my K-Wave pick-up both have the latter problem so bad as to render them nearly unusable (the Pono pick-up is literally unusable at the moment because of the issue).
The Mi-Si is active (powered), but without the usual battery/EQ/pre-amp housing. It uses a simple capacitor and a 1/4 inch-to-wall plug system that charges the little devil in just a few seconds. That means no battery, no big holes in the uke... Check out RussBuss' installation review here for good pics of the simple install.
Mi-Si claims that 60 seconds of charging gives you 16 hours of playing, and that seems about right. I charged it when it arrived, and have been practicing on my amp non-stop, as well as performing without any issues at all. It's slightly unnerving at first to plug a standard 1/4 into the usual jack, and then pop the other end into the the wall socket - but it works and is darn convenient.
The tone is dead-on-perfect to my ear - nice mids, thumpy bass, and full treble. It seems to grab overtones I didn't know I even had in my strum - in a good way. The balance issues are gone too. All four strings are nice and even and responsive, I don't need to adjust my playing to compensate - it just works.
I will say that I prefer the tone I can put out through a simple PA system over my usual Fender Power Chorus amplifier... this is colmpletly different than my other acoustic pick-ups. Generally, I need the Fender to compensate for the weedy piezio, and model the missing tones. The Mi-Si seems to do MUCH better without it, and in fact it's too responsive for the amp. I find myself cranking the amp way down and backing things off to get a more pure tone, just too much fuss. That's the amp's fault - not the pick-up. I pugged it into a few PAs over the last few days and it absolutely sings. Perfect.
In short - best damn acoustic pick-up I've ever used so far. The only con is the potential to lose the plug. I'm told I can just touch a 9 volt to the outside and inside rings of the 1'4 inch port to charge it in a pinch - so I'll just make sure I carry a spare.
5 stars for the pick-up and 5000 stars to Mainland and Tookta for getting her little hand in there for the install so I didn't have to!
Videos soon - I may pick up a Fishman PA to compliment it first.
Russ' Install Process