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CactusWren
09-08-2015, 01:44 PM
...because it sounds bad.

There is something rotten in the state of UkeMark--the piezo pickup. It is a habit, a thing, a device, that threatens to steal from this beautiful instrument its primary advantage, its major strength, which is its sweet, charming tone. Because you see, the best ukulele, the Moorest Betterest uKamaKoaPineappleSundayKanileLE ever created will sound, plugged in, will sound worse than any run-of-the-mill import mic'ed up with a $50 USB mic or SM57.

I have spent most of my online time on classical guitar and flamenco guitar forums. I have never even heard a single participant in said forums upload a single thing with a pickup, at least not willingly. Such a thing is simply not done. A quick A-B between a mic'ed guitar and a pickerup'ed guitar quickly shows why. A similar test with a uke will prove that, as a uke is basically a tiny classical or flamenco guitar, the same principle applies.

Yes, I know that Jake and Herb Jr and Brittni and James and all the other young players, even Byron and Benny are "doing it". I am a bit mystified by that myself. You do not see serious players of CG or flamenco playing concerts with pickups. Gigs, yes--in the real world, a pickup is a necessity. But when you are on stage and have some ability to control sound levels, things change, and a using a pickup becomes an unnecessary degradation.

Because even when Jake and James and Brittni play with pickups live, it doesn't sound good. Again, a simple A-B test proves it. No pickup has yet been created that can do more than crudely emulate the beautiful sound of an acoustic ukulele.

Look, I love Jake. What a cool dude. But his instrument sounds about 32% of how good it should sound, simply because of pickup:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gJJ3aDif5A

Listen to how bad it sounds when he strums. Not listen to how good you sound when you strum your uke. No, you aren't imagining it, you really do sound better. Let's stop inflicting piezo strumming on the world!

To sum up: If you are gigging often in noisy rooms with terrible acoustics, jet-plane levels of conversation, on noisy stages with drums and bands, by all means, plug that sucker in. But if you are primarily playing at your house or with buddies, save some money and improve the world and do not install a pickup!

That is all.

ksiegel
09-08-2015, 04:42 PM
You do not see serious players of CG or flamenco playing concerts with pickups. Gigs, yes--in the real world, a pickup is a necessity. But when you are on stage and have some ability to control sound levels, things change, and a using a pickup becomes an unnecessary degradation.

You also don't see terribly many classical guitar players moving around when they play.

I'm afraid we'll have to disagree on this - I don't find anything remotely bad about things recorded while using a piezo pickup. I prefer a transducer (K&K Twinspot) with a preamp ( K&K Pure), but that's my opinion, based on how it sounds not only to me, but to the guy who made my custom built uke.

So why shouldn't you use a pickup or up load music recorded with a pickup?

Only because you don't want to.

I think it sounds just fine.

Icelander53
09-08-2015, 05:01 PM
When I play it's not the pick up that's the problem. :nana:

Cfiimei
09-08-2015, 05:09 PM
When I play it's not the pick up that's the problem. :nana:

Agreed! I can pick up my uke just fine. The trouble starts when I start messing with the strings. ;-P

Doug W
09-08-2015, 05:32 PM
I have come to really dislike the sound of pickups in acoustic instruments. I quit using the pickups in my guitar and mandolin. My ears hear the same unhappiness CactusWren is talking about coming from great players with great instruments. I'll take the SM57 any day.

bonesigh
09-08-2015, 05:37 PM
Hmm.............................

Booli
09-08-2015, 05:54 PM
...because it sounds bad....

That is all.

Thank you for your opinion.

[I removed my previous text that was posted here, because in hindsight, after re-reading what CactusWren originally wrote, once again (and for a 3rd time), but after I already hit Submit, I felt that what I wrote was inappropriate. Sorry if I ruffled any feathers]

Please carry on... :shaka:

Icelander53
09-08-2015, 06:05 PM
Nothing to regret there. What a diplomatic response. I like your style. I don't see how anyone could take offense and the fire will burn bright even if you're not fanning them. Plenty of others will. I'm no expert but when I read the OP I had a feeling there was more to it. Usually when someone is that adamant they don't have all the facts.

gyosh
09-08-2015, 06:14 PM
I have a D-TAR Timberline multi source.

LOVE IT!


Lot's of headroom, no "quackiness" and very natural sound . . . only louder :)

OP: sorry you don't like 'em. That's a lot of live acts you won't be enjoying.

Booli
09-08-2015, 06:17 PM
Nothing to regret there. What a diplomatic response. I like your style. I don't see how anyone could take offense and the fire will burn bright even if you're not fanning them. Plenty of others will. I'm no expert but when I read the OP I had a feeling there was more to it. Usually when someone is that adamant they don't have all the facts.

Thank you, but I already modified my post (see above) because I felt that I, was in fact being close-minded and not respecting his opinion.

Please see my updated post above.

However, those folks subscribed to this thread via email will have seen what was written previously.

Icelander53
09-08-2015, 06:22 PM
Well if you say so but that's not what I got from reading it. You made sure you let him know his opinion had value but as stated made further discussion difficult.

Mivo
09-08-2015, 06:38 PM
Well, not in the business of telling people what they should or shouldn't do, if they like what they are doing or not doing, but I'm admittedly not a fan of pickups on acoustic string instruments either. There's a huge difference between inexpensive and costly pickups, though, and there have been advancements. Contact microphones aren't so bad, either (they are somewhat like pickups), but good ones cost a bundle, like this one (https://www.thomann.de/gb/schertler_dyn_uni_p48_contact_microphone.htm) (I have their slightly cheaper Basik Pro model, which I like with my kalimbas, but not with the ukuleles). I'd spring for one of those before physically installing a permanent pickup into an expensive ukulele.

I do object to the comparison of a SM57 to a $50 USB microphone, however! :p The SM57 is an unusually good mic for its price, easily beating much more expensive ones. Certainly never seen a $50 USB one coming even close!

Dan Uke
09-08-2015, 06:48 PM
Wow Miguel, you are a true professional and I'm glad to see you on our forum. I know where you're coming from and I agree pickups don't sound as good as microphones but as you said, many of the performances require pickups. However, most time I listen to music for enjoyment and to be entertained. No matter what amplification you use, a soulful artist will be able to portray his or her passion. Finally, most of us don't have trained ears so might not hear what you hear.

I have a friend who works on many live tv shows and his wife complains they can't enjoy musicals since he's noticing all the technical aspects to make the sound better. Sometimes, it's good to stop and smell the roses or just enjoy the music.

Brad Bordessa
09-08-2015, 07:21 PM
Wow Miguel, you are a true professional and I'm glad to see you on our forum. I know where you're coming from and I agree pickups don't sound as good as microphones but as you said, many of the performances require pickups. However, most time I listen to music for enjoyment and to be entertained. No matter what amplification you use, a soulful artist will be able to portray his or her passion. Finally, most of us don't have trained ears so might not hear what you hear.

I have a friend who works on many live tv shows and his wife complains they can't enjoy musicals since he's noticing all the technical aspects to make the sound better. Sometimes, it's good to stop and smell the roses or just enjoy the music.

^Badabing! Bad live sound sucks. But it's only one part of the picture. Unless it's distractingly bad (which can and does happen with crappy pickups), not many people are going to notice. In a perfect world, people would actually listen to every note. But while one guy is focusing on not spilling his beer on the dancefloor and the next is checking out that one chick (who is wondering why her friend never texted back), I take the opportunity to plug in and assume that they won't notice the difference between a mic and a decent pickup. When in doubt - star power!!!! ;)

Sort of a side note, when I recorded my EP I decided to use a DI track (LR Baggs Five-O for the pickup) as well as the mic (a Neumann KM184). The mic was always higher in the mix because it did sound better and capture more of the "true" sound, but using both allowed for a fuller tone that the mic alone wouldn't capture. Only one - the last - track got only the mic (for some reason or another) and you can tell. I like the combo best.

Hippie Dribble
09-08-2015, 07:38 PM
In 15 years of playing live I would always go acoustic through a mic than with a pickup and a DI when I had the choice. So yeah, I agree with CactusW. You will never get the true sound of an acoustic instrument by virtue of a pick up. It's that simple. Give intimate, raw and real over synthetic any day.

AndrewKuker
09-08-2015, 08:31 PM
Even though I prefer acoustic recording, I have done many videos miking the sound of the room with an amplified ukulele and if you use quality speakers on your end (which is a big factor when comparing tones on you computer) I think you’ll find that the sound is not bad at all. In fact IMO it can sound very beautiful. Here is one of many examples-


https://youtu.be/k6gzGa_DNMs

I heard David Grisman play live with only a mic and it sounded great. But he knew how to use it, and his sound man was awesome, and it was a vintage Neumann KM84, not a SM57. If you are gonna dog on pickups at least use a true acoustic mic. The SM57 is very colored as is any $50 USB mic. If you’re seeking true acoustic tone to put through speakers or record with then you can’t settle for that!

Mivo
09-08-2015, 08:39 PM
His point, though, was that a SM57 will provide better recordings than the typical piezo pickup, not that it is the ideal microphone to record acoustic instruments with. It is more suitable than the average $50 USB microphone. The KM84 (which costs around $1200 more than a SM57) won't produce the best recordings either if the room is not suitable, and may well be a worse choice than the SM57 depending on the environment.

kohanmike
09-08-2015, 08:44 PM
I don't have a problem with piezo pickup music I hear, and I've been a road manager for a singing group, stage director, and also a musician (for 50 years). When I saw Jake perform in Ventura over a year ago, I thought he sounded great, but I actually felt that the bass player was too loud and boomy.

hammer40
09-08-2015, 10:00 PM
I, myself, have never cared for the sound when pick ups are used. I understand that at times it is a necessity, but it makes quite a difference in the pleasure of hearing a performer play live for me.

AndrewKuker
09-08-2015, 10:57 PM
His point, though, was that a SM57 will provide better recordings than the typical piezo pickup.

Well that’s true depending on what are we talking about here. Plugging directly into an interface? Yeah! But the Jake performance he is presenting as proof that great ukulele players don't sound good live because of their piezo is not even recorded well.

I’ve heard Jake's live tone sounding everywhere from not so great to amazing, and it really just depends on the room, the PA, the sound guy and those things. At Blaisdell concert hall his sound was glorious. An amplified uke with a piezo can sound great live if the sound and crew are great. And if it sounds great, then it can be recorded that way with the right setup. SM57’s wouldn’t do it but with the right setup you will hear close to what the listener did in the room and it would sound sweet.

But if Jake used an SM57 instead of a pickup would he have a better live sound? I don’t think so. I used to do live sound for an ukulele show we had once a week along with a weekly open mic night and we had a great sound system and board, but ukes are just hard to get a good sound from when you solely mic in a live setting with speakers and monitors turned up. They are much punchier than guitars with their focused frequency range. In contrast, a good pickup through a good DI into a good sound system with a great player will sound awesome!

I respect Miguel and everyone else here and don’t mean any friction. I agree that mics sound best for recording though I think a combo mic/pickup can sound good too when done right. There's a lot of factors. Brad chose to cut in some of the Baggs on his album for a reason. When Jake recorded his solo albums it was only miked but it’s a 4 high end mic setup and they are running into the best preamps and studio hardware. Live is another beast. He chooses to plugin because it’s the best option.

Papa Bear
09-08-2015, 11:42 PM
The REASON that these top performers use pickups has more to do with the difficulty of using a mic than it does with sound quality.
They are not performing in front of just a handful of people. They also move a lot during performance. It's very difficult to rig a mic to follow you around. Mics are more prone to feedback.
A quality pickup can sound very close to the quality of a good mic.

PhilUSAFRet
09-09-2015, 02:39 AM
Thank you, but I already modified my post (see above) because I felt that I, was in fact being close-minded and not respecting his opinion.

Please see my updated post above.

However, those folks subscribed to this thread via email will have seen what was written previously.

Yeah, would that everyone could be as diplomatic as Booli in these kinds of situations. A real class act.

flailingfingers
09-09-2015, 04:04 AM
Very thoughtful discussion here. I am learning a lot. I have modified my first thoughts as I kept reading. I heard Jake only once live at a very large setting in San Luis Obispo. The playing, of course, was amazing but I was disappointed in the sound. Now I know why. I also now know why he chose to use the sound setup that he did. Not a perfect world. I can always start my day with a few chords played softly on my uke in my home. Then the world is close to perfect.

kissing
09-09-2015, 04:08 AM
As per my personal preference:


-I think for recording acoustic instruments, microphones are the way to go.
Unless you're playing around with effects, or want to achieve a certain kind of sound only attainable via piezo, I struggle to see the benefits of using a piezo pickup for ideal recording purposes.

-I think for performances, piezo pickups definitely have their advantages. They give the player easy and predictable control over how their instrument is going to project to a large audience. Indeed a microphone can achieve great results, and as many have said, will sound more 'natural' than a piezo.
However, I think they also come with their fair share of complications, such as maintaining consistent distance and angle from the mic, other noises being amplified, feedback issues.

The louder you need to amplify, the issues will increase exponentially for a microphone compared to a good quality piezo setup. I think the many factors become more unpredictable and hard to control with a microphone at high volumes.

Hence piezo pickups were invented and are immensely popular among performers.

CactusWren
09-09-2015, 04:16 AM
Thanks for all the opinions and the discussions. Understandably, we will always have our own stance on these things. De gustibus non est disputandum. Booli, I'm glad you pulled your punches there--very diplomatic and a good example for us all. We should be able to strongly disagree on things without it becoming a flamewar, right?

It was over a decade ago when a guitarist friend of mine said, "Pickups have gotten better." Then he shrugged and grinned. "Or maybe I've just gotten used to them." This explains much--with the ubiquity of these devices, our ears have changed. I noticed on the album Masters of Slack Key (or something like that) that some of the performers were using quacky pickups. Somewhat understandable since it was a live performance, but a deal breaker for me. The next big thing was seeing all these pro uke players plugged in. It really does seem that the tech has improved, but I can still hear that sheen of plastic in the attack that claustrophobic boxiness they try to ameliorate with reverb/delay; and they haven't figured out how to make strumming sound real. It's kind of like a chemical taste in bad ice cream or what burning the bottom of the pot sometimes does to an otherwise perfectly good soup.

But our ears do change. Consider the amount of noise pollution most of us are dealing with right now. My computer fan is whirring, family is chattering, cars rumbling past, monitor making a nearly inaudible hum. This stuff ruins the noise floor and robs our music of dynamics. Most of the music we hear is compressed mp3 on Youtube and other formats that squash and disfigure the sound to save bandwidth. A lot of this music is heard via crappy computer speakers, nasty little earbuds, or silly headphones that impose a hiphop EQ curve. We adjust, we still enjoy the music. And get used to the bad sound quality (I read a study that people who grew up with mp3 prefer that sound to the sound of real music).

I do have a USB mic from like 8 years ago that was maybe $100 at Guitar Center. It definitely sounds better than a pickup. In fact, I think the pinhole mic on my phone sounds way better than a pickup. There are $40 USB mics now that will do the job.

To close, let me propose an experiment for the undecided. Go on Youtube and search for Jake Shimabukuro. There are many plugged-in performances, and many of him sitting in front of a mic. Listen to both and decide for yourself which sounds better.

Good article on amplifying an acoustic guitar (http://www.performing-musician.com/pm/jan09/articles/acousticsonstage.htm)

hoosierhiver
09-09-2015, 04:55 AM
I'm surprised no one has mentioned DI boxes.

SteveZ
09-09-2015, 05:32 AM
The pickup is only half (more or less) of the equation. The total sound system (mixer, amps, speakers, connections, etc.) is another matter altogether.

It's one thing to plug directly into a 10-watt or so amp and fiddle with the preamp and/or amp controls. It's another world when that pickup is feeding (wire or wireless) into a top-of-the-line digital mixer run by a savvy sound guy and then going into a variety of speakers sized for the space to be filled. And then there's everything in between.

Pro acts like Jake's operate on a level far beyond the average garage band or busker, so seeing the Jakes of the world using pickups doesn't compare to the average amateur or part-time pro.

I put pickup/preamps/tuners in almost every uke I own, solely for the convenience of having the tuner there without some clip-on extension, and for the occasional time I want to amp up. My set-up won't compete sound-wise with the Jakes and such, but it doesn't have to.

wayfarer75
09-09-2015, 06:54 AM
I do prefer the sound of an unplugged ukulele to one with a pickup, but not in every case. Usually it sounds rather too "digital" to me, and kind of too harsh for the percussiveness of the instrument. But in some applications, esp. for a jazz tune, it seems to work okay. I understand why live performers use a pickup, but I would rather listen to a recording of a uke made with a microphone.

ohmless
09-09-2015, 07:20 AM
Much of this conversation reminds me of audiophiles comparing oxygen free cables to silver cables and such in an ivory tower or a South Park episode where everything in music began to sound like sh*t(their word, not mine). Youtube alterations to the sound, the room, the sound engineer, and most importantly the musician will give many people different impressions of the same music performance given their different perspectives. I think people miss out on listening to the music when they focus on the gear and tech.

After a recent discussion on UU I felt it necessary to take my Risa an hour each way to Elderly Instruments so I could get their more knowledgeable opinion on my instrument since I was fearful of it being "quacky" only to find out they thought there was no quacking and it sounded fine. Also even though I have only been playing for shy of two years, even I can tell the difference in quality between my hundred dollar acoustic mic'ed(blue yeti at home and a SM57 at elderly) compared to my superior hundred and fifty dollar Risa used through my DI box or a Vox amp(at Elderly or GC).

70sSanO
09-09-2015, 12:14 PM
As an interesting side note...

...there is probably at least a sizable portion of a generation(s), since Les Paul and Leo Fender, that believe guitars should be electric; and heavily processed with effects to sound good.

John

CeeJay
09-09-2015, 12:39 PM
As an interesting side note...

...there is probably at least a sizable portion of a generation(s), since Les Paul and Leo Fender, that believe guitars should be electric; and heavily processed with effects to sound good.

John

Or just plugged into a good clean amp and sod the effects.

Music and musical sound is deeply personal.

I find the OP position a little ...over the top ....I don't disagree that you "can" get a better sound from a mic ....but it isn't crucial enough to warrant a lecture to the Uke world at large as to what we should and shouldn't do with our own Ukes....

LDS714
09-09-2015, 01:01 PM
I feel the OPs pain.

While I absolutely hate the sound that comes out of the vast majority of piezo-equipped instruments, I do agree that when handled properly by the sound guy that they can be, uh, less crappy. IMHO, they mask the unique characteristics of the instrument with their own sound.

I used to run a monthly writer's night here in Nashville, catering to acoustic acts. As part of the gig, I would record the acts. When given recordings showing the difference in tonal quality between mic'ed and piezo instrument sounds (one mix all piezo, one mix all mics) returning acts almost unanimously opted for mics only, if that tells you anything.

One thing piezos seem to do well is level the playing field. They can make a $3K Martin guitar sound almost exactly like a $150 Epiphone...

pritch
09-09-2015, 01:07 PM
OK it's guitars but...

When Joe Bonamassa was playing the Royal Albert Hall he saw an unfamiliar, and very ordinary, set of kit on the stage and in response to the obvious question was told it belonged to Clapton. Bonamassa had been of the view that the precise details were required to get a given sound, the right cables, the exact settings, etc. On thinking about Clapton's gear he changed his mind, he decided that, "It's in the fingers".

I'm sure that Cory, Jake, Kalei, whoever, could play my uke, on my amp and make it sound way better than I can. Even if I had an expensive mike.

PhilUSAFRet
09-09-2015, 01:14 PM
pickups vs no pickups. Kind of like mayo, no mayo, ketchup, no ketchup, etc.

CeeJay
09-09-2015, 01:18 PM
I feel the OPs pain.

While I absolutely hate the sound that comes out of the vast majority of piezo-equipped instruments, I do agree that when handled properly by the sound guy that they can be, uh, less crappy. IMHO, they mask the unique characteristics of the instrument with their own sound.

I used to run a monthly writer's night here in Nashville, catering to acoustic acts. As part of the gig, I would record the acts. When given recordings showing the difference in tonal quality between mic'ed and piezo instrument sounds (one mix all piezo, one mix all mics) returning acts almost unanimously opted for mics only, if that tells you anything.

One thing piezos seem to do well is level the playing field. They can make a $3K Martin guitar sound almost exactly like a $150 Epiphone...

Yeah right ...and now the snarkiness starts.....

Sometimes I hate this forum....

Piezo's are easy to use , they are convenient , they don't sound "terrible" and if you are aware that they alter the sound then alter your settings to compensate for the sounds characteristics. Oh ,and you do know that there is, there really is much more music than Classical and similar you know....sorry about that...


Oh yeah ...and piezo pickups are so bad that Line 6 launched their gamble of the Variax modelling guitar by using them....give us a break ..they are a tool ,they are capable of being used perfectly well....a mic in the wrong hands can be just as bad ....

Nickie
09-09-2015, 02:21 PM
I don't see the snarkiness, CeeJay, am I just dumb?
There are many different opinions here. I'm learning. Some of it's over my head.
I don't consider myself a seasoned listener at all. But I've heard the UOGB live, playing into mics, and Jake, live, playing amped up, and yes, there's a huge difference.
But that's the fun of it. If every live performance sounded alike, it would get boring, quickly.
And no, I don't get bored listening to one Classical guitar performance after another.

Ukulele Eddie
09-09-2015, 02:21 PM
Or just plugged into a good clean amp and sod the effects.

Music and musical sound is deeply personal.

I find the OP position a little ...over the top ....I don't disagree that you "can" get a better sound from a mic ....but it isn't crucial enough to warrant a lecture to the Uke world at large as to what we should and shouldn't do with our own Ukes....

CeeJay, I agree with you on this. My guess is in a blind test, most people could not discern pickup vs. no pickup, certainly not with any reliability.

CeeJay
09-09-2015, 03:00 PM
I don't see the snarkiness, CeeJay, am I just dumb?
There are many different opinions here. I'm learning. Some of it's over my head.
I don't consider myself a seasoned listener at all. But I've heard the UOGB live, playing into mics, and Jake, live, playing amped up, and yes, there's a huge difference.
But that's the fun of it. If every live performance sounded alike, it would get boring, quickly.
And no, I don't get bored listening to one Classical guitar performance after another.

No you're not dumb Nickie ...just very nice and I'm just an Old Grump hypersensitive to being told what I should and shouldn't do ....I don't do it ...I don't go up to Classical players and say stuff because I don't get their genre or whatever ... Your examples are actually perfect at defining the usefulness of the two systems.....UOGB sit on their spotty backsides ...Mic ..Good...Jake is ambulatory ...Mic ...not so good...yes there is a pay off ...but not all music is sedentary and
so there needs to be a compromise....I'm not getting "Bent out of shape " but there needs to be a voice of dissent ....otherwise the Popcorn gets wasted:drool:

IF Prickly Plant Small Brown Bird thinks what he does (and I am messing with his name cos I find it amusing to do so, because I am English and it is what we do with no hurt or foul intended) that is fine ...it is his OPINION ..but he is stating it as a fact...and that is not fine ....a piezo equipped uke slapped into an electric guitar amp IS going to lose that, to some, sickly sweet , slightly twee sounding music box character (Some ukulele players, like me, actually don't "get" the Jakes and the Coreys ...Skilled .Talented . But it ain't what I call Ukeing ...perhaps I need to push off ?)
and take on a new and vibrant set of cojones.....and Raaaaaawk:shaka:.... or better still go through an XLR cable and shove it into a PA system with woofers and tweeters and midranges and tweak it ...you can have all the sweetness back ...but loud ...different to a mic ...but hey ...still valid......

I love music ...ALL music including Classical, whether Orchestral or solo instrument ...I also love blues ...acoustic Delta ..Chicago or Texas electric...and boom chikka...I make no distinction...amped , acoustic whichever.....I'm no effing good at any of it.

But I certainly don't tell people how they should or shouldn't go loud.



That's All.


Anyhoo Nicks.How are the Puddies by the way ?...Hey ..You don't know about Bump !!..Little Calico..turned up on the verandah in February...not a year old ....looked pregnant ...hence the name ......Bump ...(it was worms) but she moved in and can be seen occasionally on SOTU vids ...Biscuit was less than impressed ...but has got used to her ....and I am sliding waaaaaaaaaaay off the topic ....sod it ...who cares ...

Nickie
09-09-2015, 03:08 PM
Ha ha CJ....my puddies are fine. Mrs. Hudson is more skittish than ever, spends her time alone in our music room. (I really should go in there more). Goofball took a break with me today, laid on our bed while I wasted time on FB trying to decide whether to get my lazy bum up.

Oh crap I've highjacked this thread....oh well, good luck with Bump.....

CeeJay
09-09-2015, 03:17 PM
Ha ha CJ....my puddies are fine. Mrs. Hudson is more skittish than ever, spends her time alone in our music room. (I really should go in there more). Goofball took a break with me today, laid on our bed while I wasted time on FB trying to decide whether to get my lazy bum up.

Oh crap I've highjacked this thread....oh well, good luck with Bump.....

LOL..Mrs H sounds like Biscuit...happiest on her own...

Catch you on the Flip Flop

LDS714
09-09-2015, 04:29 PM
No you're not dumb Nickie ...just very nice and I'm just an Old Grump hypersensitive to being told what I should and shouldn't do ....I don't do it ...I don't go up to Classical players and say stuff because I don't get their genre or whatever ... Your examples are actually perfect at defining the usefulness of the two systems.....UOGB sit on their spotty backsides ...Mic ..Good...Jake is ambulatory ...Mic ...not so good...yes there is a pay off ...but not all music is sedentary and
so there needs to be a compromise....I'm not getting "Bent out of shape " but there needs to be a voice of dissent ....otherwise the Popcorn gets wasted:drool:
I apologize if I came off snarky. Another old grump here as well, so I can relate. :D

The last thing I'm going to do is tell you what to use, or how to sound (unless you're paying me to produce the session :p ) If that's the sound you're going for or is the sound you like, then they're perfect.

I just stated my opinion. I don't enjoy doing sound and trying to make output from piezos sound like the instruments they're attached to.

CeeJay
09-09-2015, 04:54 PM
I apologize if I came off snarky. Another old grump here as well, so I can relate. :D

The last thing I'm going to do is tell you what to use, or how to sound (unless you're paying me to produce the session :p ) If that's the sound you're going for or is the sound you like, then they're perfect.

I just stated my opinion. I don't enjoy doing sound and trying to make output from piezos sound like the instruments they're attached to.


No need to apologise ...it was the OPs ribs I was having a little tickle and a bit of banter with as well...no you're right , Mic'd up does sound better for the pure Classic uke sound ..but a Piezo'ed / amped up uke can also sound really naughty and dirty and great fun as well...especially if you are wanting a gravelly dirty down and disgusting sound ....which is about where I live ...(I can't do the Clean Hawaiian music , nor the Classical..nor the other stuff..ummm Music ..yeah that's it) ...but I do likes me some some Blues and twangy Country ...and Piezos ....and Pizzas do fine for that...

Cheers Mate ...no Sweat....

Booli
09-09-2015, 05:06 PM
One thing not discussed here is that if you are a recording artist and making a living doing music, and have your stuff on iTunes and Amazon, Spotify, Pandora, etc...that 90% of your listening audience are going to be using tiny transducers, commonly known as 'earbuds', that are being fed with 'just barely good enough' and cheap digital-to-analog-converters (DAC).

What this means is that any discernible difference in the sound of a piezo pickup vs. a microphone is going to be minimized by this listening environment.

Very few non-musician folks actually have studio reference monitors for listening to their music and are even (G-d forbid) easily satisfied with the tinny and TINY speakers in most laptops and tablets, so even if not using earbuds, the subtlety of YOUR music is going to be totally LOST on a huge portion of your audience.

This also has the influence on the recording engineers that ARE using piezos (properly) because they might figure that if you cannot really hear the difference any way, then why bother to make it a 'perfect' reproduction of the natural acoustic sound? (whether using a mic OR a piezo)

Further, the use of your own audio compression when you export your own videos for Youtube (using the AAC codec) is also going to molest the pure sound quality, and then to add insult to injury, YouTube seems to add another layer of miasma to the quality of BOTH the audio and the video that gets served on YouTube as seen in the end result after their 'Processing' is done after you initially upload your video.

Another issue that has been a longtime complaint of both audiophiles, as well as the musicians themselves is that almost everything on old fashioned FM radio (and the newer SATELLITE radio) is so heavily compressed that there is no dynamic range any more, and everything is maxed out to zero db , ALL THE TIME (db=decibels, which is a unit measure of sound pressure, i.e. VOLUME).

This can actually damage your hearing, alter your hearing perception over time, and even cause listening fatigue. You owe it to yourself to look up 'loudness wars' and follow those breadcrumbs. Otherwise your hearing WILL suffer later.

How does this relate to piezo pickups?

I think for 90% of the folks paying attention to this thread, we are kind of (pardon the phrase) 'pissing in the wind' because nobody in the outside world is going to care or have the patience for the explanation of all of the above, never mind appreciate if you actually had a professional sound engineer blend a $5,000 ribbon mic sound properly with your $399 D-TAR pickup sound, or if you duct-taped a $2 piezo buzzer to the bridge and just used that for your recordings.

It's nice to pontificate about all this, but for non-musicians, sadly they just dont care.

For me, it's about using the tools on hand and my own convenience.

In the past, to PROPERLY set up my recording environment with various mics, simply took too long if I was trying to capture a songwriting inspiration 'in the moment', hence my use of a pickup, because I could just plug the darn thing in and hit record, instantly.

Since buying an Apogee MiC for $199, which is both USB and iOS compatible, and also an Apogee JAM (for use WITH a pickup) for $99 which has the same options, I find the barrier to instant recording is totally eliminated.

I've tried and returned the Blue Snowball, all 4 of the various Samson ~$50 USB mics, and was tempted by the Blue Nessie and Blue Yeti Pro, but they are both HUGE in size and not easily portable. All of this is for RECORDING.

Also, as far as stage vs. studio with piezo vs. mic...

In my home environment there is ALWAYS background noise, no matter what or when in time of day.

To get a CLEAN recording with a MIC, something worthy of putting on iTunes, Amazon or Bandcamp for sale, is nearly impossible unless I want to lock myself in a closet with the iPad (and then I cannot breathe)...using a pickup eliminates the chance of background noise infecting the recording (provided there is no EM/RF interference).

[as an aside: Eventually I plan to build a 5'x5' soundproof 'vocal booth' type of space, so I can set up the mics and leave it ready to go, as well as be completely acoustically isolated from whatever environment is around it, but I dont have the cash or the time now.]

Similarly, on a stage using a mic means you are fixed in place, and you need to have a person running the sound that knows how to minimize and mitigate feedback, otherwise you are toast. This is not an intuitive art, and the sound guy needs to understand the physics of sound at the very least. This is not guaranteed.

Using a piezo on stage can also have feedback, but the incidence of such is actually of a much lower occurrence, and plugging in allows one to move around, and using mic modeling and amp modeling technology, which you can now get in both inexpensive pedals and inexpensive software plugins.

(yes ProTools is ALSO used for running the sound on a live show - I recently saw both Aerosmith and Van Halen's FOH mixing board that each was in fact running ProTools for the sound of the shows), and these modeling effects can be had very cheap if you know where to look, and yes, then can in fact fool the ear into thinking it is a MIC, when in fact it is a PIEZO. No, these bands did not use a piezo that I could tell, but I've seen it done for smaller folk acts that most have never heard of.

While this may seem like blasphemy, it's not. It has to do with the way humans perceive sound, and using that as a science to create and PROPERLY apply the technology such as with impulse response curves, typically used in ALL modern reverb effect systems, regardless of manufacturer.

So why am I telling you all of this?

The problem is that most sound and recording engineers do not know how to properly use a piezo to get a good or even a great sound, due to their low expectations based upon the history of such devices, and AS SUCH, have spread this mythology that has become a sort of electric Kool-Aid that everyone else drinks, and believes to be true, because the engineers are trapped in the old paradigms of the past.

The mythology is that all piezo pickups are shite, and can never sound as good as a cheap or average microphone.

This trickles down to almost exactly in it's end result to what CactusWren has written in the original post here, as well as the conversation that followed.

It's nobody's fault and nobody is wrong here, but if you want to blame someone for crappy sounding piezo's, I would say that it is the fault of the 'Old Guard' sound engineers and music 'Producers' who either due to laziness or out of willful ignorance, simply refuse to understand and/or learn how to properly use the available technology to get great sound from using piezo devices.

Thanks for reading. Sorry if this is too long.

Please be KIND to each other, and don't stop making music, no matter what gear you use as your life will be more fulfilling because of it.

Booli
09-09-2015, 05:44 PM
After submitting the above post, I'd like to clarify one point, which is tangential to the topic, but related and might help some folks who dont know about these things...


if you are a recording artist and making a living doing music, and have your stuff on iTunes and Amazon, Spotify, Pandora, etc..

I am referring to the fact that you would be basically doing this all yourself, and not laying prostrate to some evil corp like Sony Records, or Polydor, etc via some recording contract.

I've been researching and learning about this practically my entire adult life, and plan to release my own music ASAP.

To me, the ONLY reason for signing a recording contract would be to make use of their HUGE marketing machine to get the word out about your new music.

Otherwise you can in fact do everything else yourself:

1. Record on your own system, whatever that is, at your convenience and schedule

2. Send in your own Copyright registration, in USA, that's $75 for a 'collection' of songs, regardless how many

3. Register as a supporting member with ASCAP/BMI/SESAC for $99 so that you can track impressions of your music, license it for other uses, get an ISBN# and bar-code, and get paid royalties

4. Hire a mix engineer or mastering engineer to put the final polish on your recordings, and you should never rely solely on your own ears, you need a fresh pair of ears to do this work. You can get individual tracks mixed and mastered starting at ~$150 per song, with such great folks as Lewin Barringer of http://www.garagebandandbeyond.com, who is near Philly, PA. No affiliation, but I plan to try him out myself.

5. Sign up with a service like TuneCore, which distributes your music to both online and physical retailers for as low as $49 per album, or $150/yr unlimited tracks. iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby, EMI, Spotify, Pandora and like a dozen other vendors are partners.

The only thing you do not have here is the marketing to get the word out, and the infrastructure to get gigs, even as an opening act, and there are too many ways, with too many options to list here on this thread, so I'll leave that up to the interested reader to explore.

Another reason to 'DIY' your music recording and distribution is CONTROL. As a new artist on a recording contract, you will likely be subordinate to the interests of the Company, and your 'vision' as awesome as it may be, may not be as important as their objectives to make as much money as fast as possible, with little regard for YOUR artistic integrity.

A last reason to 'DIY' is that you get MOST of the money, but you have to do almost all of the WORK, lots of it NOT music, but business.

Most albums that sell for $15 retail, if you are under a recording contract by some big corp record label, by the time all expenses are paid, you will be lucky if you actually get paid $1 per ALBUM SOLD.

Going DIY, and NOT counting all the other expenses above, going through TuneCore, you get paid ~70% of ALL sales. You will have to figure out the actual income, which is beyond the scope of this post.

Sorry for the tangent, and thanks for the indulgence.

Hope this helps. :shaka:


P.S. - forgot to add that you would likely need to form a business entity as an LLC, as well as have your own web site, between items #1 and #2 above, which I wont get into here.

CactusWren
09-09-2015, 06:44 PM
"One thing piezos seem to do well is level the playing field. They can make a $3K Martin guitar sound almost exactly like a $150 Epiphone..."

That is classic--exactly!

CactusWren
09-09-2015, 07:13 PM
Booli,
I'm glad you decided to rejoin the fray here. I find your experience, knowledge, and opinion fascinating. I don't really think we disagree so much as it originally seemed.

I also doubt most of the music-consuming public minds piezo mics. Half of them are using cheap earbuds, and the other half are using miserable bluetooth speakers. Maybe I notice because I actually did get real bookshelf speakers and a T-Amp for my computer. Writing this, I just realized how weird this makes me!

And I'm aware that plugging in a no-name import into a no-name amp at Guitar Center is not quite the same thing as Carlos Santana plugging in his nylon-string guitar for the one song a concert that uses it. Piezo pickups can sound quite decent in certain situations and for certain sounds. The advantages can be overwhelming. I assume that's why, Herb Ohta Jr decided to record with a pickup at the Kamaka factory. Maybe he just didn't want people talking and sawing things on the upload. If the mp3-buying public is indeed satisfied with direct-to-board recordings, then I can certainly see why artists would operate that way.

Still, Booli...

I have been using piezos for well over 10 years. I will be doing about 200 gigs with one this year, so it must be working to some extent. I am somewhat conversant with the SOTA available to the average person. Zoom came out with an "air" function back in 2003 or so. Modeling can work in certain situations. EQ helps. Reverb and delay help in certain cases. Still haven't heard a decent strum sound or any other kind of aggressive playing. The players I know all mix in about 50-100% of on-board mic _or_ mix in a pencil mic.

So anyway, this has been an interesting thread. I don't get the impression anyone has changed their mind. At least I have found the ones who have good ears (grabs his uke _and mic_ and exits hurriedly)

Booli
09-09-2015, 08:19 PM
Booli,
I'm glad you decided to rejoin the fray here. I find your experience, knowledge, and opinion fascinating. I don't really think we disagree so much as it originally seemed.

Thank you for your kind words.

It seems that this topic (oversimplified of course) as 'mic vs. piezo' can become one of the classic online flame-wars, like

Mac vs. Pc vs. Linux vs. FreeBSD

or

FLAC vs. MP3, etc

as a hotly debated matter online, driven by experience, and enthusiasm.

Personally, I'm glad that it has not become a flame-war. There's been too much rage on this forum lately, and I've done my best to avoid it when possible and attempt to diffuse it when I see some hope for doing so.

No matter what our individual experiences, we all have something to contribute, and all have the right to be confident in our own conclusions, and for me, at least, the UU forum is a place to express them passionately while learning from others.

My new motto is that 'Whatever works for you, is the right thing to do.'

If we all agreed perfectly on everything, life would be so boring and there would be nothing to talk about. Just same, same, same.

I am glad for different opinions and for the opportunity to share them with others, which remains to me, another connected-miracle of the internet for all of us.

Maybe one thing that we should all try to keep in mind is that there are ALWAYS unseen forces operating on our own specific choices that someone on the outside of our personal situation is completely unaware of.

I always try to remind myself of that simple fact.

Even more so lately, since lots of my previous conclusions have been let go over time as I am constantly learning more in all regards, and gaining meaningful experience in doing so.

Hopefully I will be able to effectively apply what I've learned to achieve my own goals, as others have done, even if on a completely different path. One day maybe my experiences can be of benefit to other folks too.

CactusWren, thanks for making this thread, as it's helped me to focus my own thoughts on this matter, and share a few of them here with everyone.

Mahalo.

Booli
09-09-2015, 08:24 PM
I'm surprised no one has mentioned DI boxes.

Actually, if anyone wants to see, there was some discussion of using a DI over in this recent thread:

http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?110167-Preamp-for-Electric-Acoustic

Mivo
09-09-2015, 09:24 PM
FLAC vs. MP3, etc

Are there really people who'd argue that MP3 offers any sonic advantages over FLAC? :uhoh:

Booli
09-09-2015, 11:34 PM
Are there really people who'd argue that MP3 offers any sonic advantages over FLAC? :uhoh:

Yes, FLAC stands for F]ree L]ossless A]udio C]odec, meaning that it does not throw away audio information when encoding from a PCM or non-compressed audio source.

MP3 is by definition a lossy codec, and as such is supposed to 'only' throw away information that is either redundant (as in certain harmonics) or otherwise non-essential to human hearing perception.

The OTHER part of the argument is that anything and everything that uses MP3 technology must be licensed from the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany, which owns the patents on the codec, whereas FLAC was created to be completely and absolutely free, both 'free as in beer' and 'free as in Libre'.

'Free as in beer' (or Gratis) is easy to understand, but some folks would like to use technology that is not controlled by nor encumbered by licenses from Corporate interests, and thus the concept of Libre to represent that topic. The 'Free Software Foundation' is an organization that serves as an information hub on this topic and is run by a very unique person named Richard M. Stallman, whose opinions are quite polarizing for most folks.

see more here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gratis_versus_libre
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_software
https://www.fsf.org/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_Software_Foundation
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Stallman

You can see more details on FLAC and MP3 here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FLAC
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MP3

and for a breakdown and comparison of nearly all available audio codecs:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_audio_coding_formats

The main problem with FLAC, is that very few hardware devices use it, although audiophiles will defend FLAC with a righteous fervor as rendering superior audio quality when compared to MP3.

For most folks, who are listening to music on an Apple or Android device with sub-optimal 'stock' earbuds, they will likely not be able to tell the difference in double-blind listening tests.

Additionally the MPAA and RIAA mafias which control virtually all media globally, need to get their payout on 30+ years of research that went into creating the MP3 codec, so they have insured that MP3 is ubiquitous and have employed various methods of subterfuge to squash any competition, and as such most folks never heard of FLAC, APE, OGG or other 'open' or 'Libre' formats.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motion_Picture_Association_of_America
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recording_Industry_Association_of_America

Big Pharma is the same way, that's why there are many therapeutic drugs for Alzheimer's, AIDS and Cancer but no cure, but I really don't want to open another can of worms...sorry if I did. :)

The Big Kahuna
09-10-2015, 12:19 AM
Are there really people who'd argue that MP3 offers any sonic advantages over FLAC? :uhoh:

Nobody worth listening to. Advantages, yes...sonic advantages, hell no.

FLAC:

Lossless quality, but who cares
Huge filesizes
You can't play it on anything you'd probably want to play it on
People who wear socks with sandals think it's great


MP3:

Lossy quality, but only noticeable to people who claim to be able to hear the difference...but we all know they're full of shit, right?
Pick your bitrate depending on your amount of storage/quality of ears and/or headphones/speakers...96k perfectly adequate for ipod with earbuds/128k fine for almost everything else/320k if you want to show off
You can play it on anything. Next year's toasters will probably have mp3 support

CeeJay
09-10-2015, 01:42 AM
Nobody worth listening to. Advantages, yes...sonic advantages, hell no.

FLAC:

Lossless quality, but who cares
Huge filesizes
You can't play it on anything you'd probably want to play it on
People who wear socks with sandals think it's great


MP3:

Lossy quality, but only noticeable to people who claim to be able to hear the difference...but we all know they're full of shit, right?
Pick your bitrate depending on your amount of storage/quality of ears and/or headphones/speakers...96k perfectly adequate for ipod with earbuds/128k fine for almost everything else/320k if you want to show off
You can play it on anything. Next year's toasters will probably have mp3 support

:agree::music::rofl::old:

CeeJay
09-10-2015, 01:44 AM
Booli,
At least I have found the ones who have good ears (grabs his uke _and mic_ and exits hurriedly)

In other words you are better at listening to music than the vast majority ?

'Kay.

anthonyg
09-10-2015, 02:21 AM
WOW, someone started an anti-piezo pickup flame war and it wasn't me!:D

I'm slipping, or working too hard.

In the electric guitar world your talking about bridge pickups, middle pickups (sometimes) and neck pickups. I like the sound of neck pickups as they are fuller and rounder. Many like bridge pickups but the sound is too hard and harsh for me but it works for many sounds.

An under-saddle piezo pickup is the ultimate bridge pickup as it sits right under the bridge. A hard harsh sound and a lot of it is to do with its positioning right under the saddle. The piezo thump just adds to it, but its not just about the piezo, its the positioning that is critical to the end sound.

I'll take a microphone for performance and I do.

Anthony

Ukejenny
09-10-2015, 04:08 AM
Jeez, I wish I had read this thread before I had pickups installed on my clarinets/flutes. Dangit!

ohmless
09-10-2015, 04:15 AM
One thing piezos seem to do well is level the playing field. They can make a $3K Martin guitar sound almost exactly like a $150 Epiphone...

So anyway, this has been an interesting thread. I don't get the impression anyone has changed their mind. At least I have found the ones who have good ears


These are the two comments I thought had the least aloha spirit I have ever read at UU. One insults instruments that are in the price range that I would argue MOST ukuleles sold are in(give or take 200 dollars), while the other one just insults others.

I do record with a piezo pickup when I want to add effects and when the room is too loud(AC running along with a fan or road traffic). I must have terrible ears then...

CactusWren
09-10-2015, 04:18 AM
Booli,
until you posted, I had forgotten that the kind of speaker built into a monitor or that comes with a computer or phone is so limited that these distinctions are not possible. I wonder how many people actually compared mic vs plugged in Jake clips, or if they think they already know too much? Or perhaps they did listen and the speakers/earbuds are too limited.

We are all musicians here, we work with sound. Reverse snobbery aside, that puts us in a separate part of the Venn diagram. Getting some decent speakers and headphones doesn't have to break the bank, but it can be very informative and enjoyable.

Something like this, for $70, will upgrade 99% of people's equipment and "level up" the sound quality you're getting on your computer.
http://www.cnet.com/news/build-your-own-desktop-stereo-for-under-70/

The Big Kahuna
09-10-2015, 04:25 AM
We are all musicians here, we work with sound. that puts us in a separate part of the Venn diagram.

No we're not, no we don't, no it doesn't.

If you don't earn your living from playing/producing/teaching music, you're just someone who owns a ukulele. That goes for everyone. I own a camera, it doesn't make me a photographer.

The Big Kahuna
09-10-2015, 04:26 AM
And yes, I know you DO make your living from playing, just don't try to include everyone in your statement.

CactusWren
09-10-2015, 04:30 AM
Well, that's ridiculous, ohmless. It was a joke, and a pretty obvious one. This thread has had many participants and why would you assume it was directed at you? I don't know how good your ears are or how discriminating a listener are. How long have you been playing music?

It's true I wouldn't have made that joke had CeeJay not jumped in calling names and making ignorant, incoherent assumptions about me instead of addressing the topic. This is how threads get derailed.

Still, obviously we all have our opinions and these jokes are based in a seed of truth (as we see it). You don't really think $150 guitars sound as good as $3000 Martins? All the people who saved up for years to buy a fine instrument are just... wasting their money? People who invest money in good headphones or spend time searching for good tone are... just dumb?

PhilUSAFRet
09-10-2015, 04:34 AM
:troll: A few of them here........I'll let you guys figure out who they are.

The Big Kahuna
09-10-2015, 04:38 AM
To be honest, you're just coming across as elitist and opinionated. You sound like a "professional classical musician" instructing the peons in how we have been listening to instruments incorrectly all this time.


I don't know how good your ears are or how discriminating a listener are. How long have you been playing music?

Why is this relevant? Unless you are merely seeking to reinforce how vastly more experienced and knowledgeable you are.

ohmless
09-10-2015, 04:48 AM
in the right hands with a set up I would argue it would sound drastically better than a 3000 dollar guitar with someone with less skill. The sound also comes from the musician. I have played music for about fifteen years off and on using multiple instruments including guitar since you find it pertinent(I don't). The player's skill and knowledge is where great music comes from. Ledbelly's guitar looked fit for a woodpile to be burned but still sounded drastically better than my 2000 dollar Taylor I had at the time simply because my muscular dystrophy made it too difficult for me to play. For instance, I challenge you to sound as good as James or Jake or Brittni just by picking up one of their instruments. I seriously doubt it will happen. And no I didn't say it was directed at me or singled me out, but it did make a gross generalization about people who use pick ups.

Think of it this way. Would you go to a surgeon simply because he has better scalpels even though he has less skill as a surgeon? Money doesn't buy you skill as a surgeon or as a musician.

CeeJay
09-10-2015, 05:07 AM
Well, that's ridiculous, ohmless. It was a joke, and a pretty obvious one. This thread has had many participants and why would you assume it was directed at you? I don't know how good your ears are or how discriminating a listener are. How long have you been playing music?

It's true I wouldn't have made that joke had CeeJay not jumped in calling names and making ignorant, incoherent assumptions about me instead of addressing the topic. This is how threads get derailed.

Still, obviously we all have our opinions and these jokes are based in a seed of truth (as we see it). You don't really think $150 guitars sound as good as $3000 Martins? All the people who saved up for years to buy a fine instrument are just... wasting their money? People who invest money in good headphones or spend time searching for good tone are... just dumb?


Ummm, please ,help me out here ....I seem to have once more inadvertantly upset the apple cart .

Cactus , please explain how my "joking" around and play on words on your avatar name is anything other than the "Joking" around that you perpetrated and defended to Ohmless ?? So where did I call anybody names.......

I even wrote don't get offended because it's how we Brits do it.....Cactus ...Prickly Plant...Wren ...Small Brown Bird.....no harm no foul a play on words...

I do think that your position and assertion is over the top...maybe if you had said "I don't like Piezo's and I won't use them and here's why ...you may have got a better reaction and response" ...but nah ....THOU SHALT NOT USETH THE PIEZO ...is all I'm getting ...well CW ...I do use a piezo and I don't care if it messes with the sound ...I'm a hobby muso ...I don't ,won't ,never could probably make a living at it ....certainly not the considered and Classical stuff that you do....but then I don't get up in your face and say ..hey you should put that through a dinglydigitransducing power box with a sub meson amd mcJemmusic Machine cos it sounds like crap to me (Please ,let me assure you that it does not sound like crap...just to be very clear...crystal in fact)

So , I'm not "Flaming " and I certainly am not "Trolling" ...though I have been accused of it in the past ...perhaps I am just a bit too robust,open and honest for some of the gentle souls on this forum....Therefore I shall not apologise for what I have written ,unless you can point out a direct and hurtful unpleasantry
but I shall say it was meant in the spirit and gesture of conversation and a counterpoint to your view.
Not name calling,not anything other than the way I talk and write....My Chief Officer said to me on my first day of Service in HMPrison Albany. Mr Jarvis, you must always be yourself, words I have followed for thirty or more years ....

Booli
09-10-2015, 05:19 AM
Booli,
until you posted, I had forgotten that the kind of speaker built into a monitor or that comes with a computer or phone is so limited that these distinctions are not possible. I wonder how many people actually compared mic vs plugged in Jake clips, or if they think they already know too much? Or perhaps they did listen and the speakers/earbuds are too limited.

The frequency response of all of these speakers/earbuds we are talking about probably cannot reproduce sound outside of 200hz on the low end and 15khz on the high end, and you end up with a sound that is in effect like a band-pass filter.


We are all musicians here, we work with sound. Reverse snobbery aside, that puts us in a separate part of the Venn diagram. Getting some decent speakers and headphones doesn't have to break the bank, but it can be very informative and enjoyable.

I agree. I have a pair of Yamaha HS-5 studio monitors that I got on sale for $150 each like 10 yrs ago that when compared to monitors costing even up to 10x that much did not sound ANY better to my ears, and tried all kinds of program material on it, including my own recordings. Even using a spectrum analyzer during those tests, with a caibrated reference mic, the differences between the KRK, Advent, Genelec, M-Audio and other monitors only differed a tiny amount on the response curves. The HS-5s sounded great then and still do, without coloring the sound at all. Almost perfectly flat response provided your room is also acoustically neutral.

Similarly I have a pair of AKG K240 headphones ($149) that I use when I need to reference something, as well as many other pairs of 'consumer' headphones for different purposes. Nearly ALL consumer headphones add extra emphasis to various frequencies and will color the sound that is not useful for trying to mix tracks that will translate well to multiple listening environments. Eventually I'd like to get a set of the Beyerdynamic 440's but the $400 price is a bit of a put-off.


Something like this, for $70, will upgrade 99% of people's equipment and "level up" the sound quality you're getting on your computer.
http://www.cnet.com/news/build-your-own-desktop-stereo-for-under-70/

YES! Those Dayton B652 speakers and the Dayton take on the Lepai T-AMP, known as the DTA-1 have been a best seller and actually won all kinds of awards, and have been a kind of secret weapon sold by Part Express for quite a few years now.

You can get the bundle for $70:.

See here:

http://www.parts-express.com/dayton-audio-t-amp-and-b652-portable-speaker-system-bundle--300-650

I liked the sound so much that I actually used the kit form of that amp, the DTA-2, as the power-amp stage for a custom stereo guitar amp that I built using a pair of 10" 30-watt Jensen guitar speakers, and it sounds fantastic to my ears.

I also have the 90-watt Pyle brand version of that TDA-chip amp that I use to drive a pair of 4" full-range TOA cube speakers as an alternate set of reference monitors, similar to the Avantone Mixcubes, and it's great for getting a feel for how mixes will translate to the car stereo or to a boom-box.

Tootler
09-10-2015, 05:39 AM
We are all musicians here, we work with sound. Reverse snobbery aside, that puts us in a separate part of the Venn diagram. Getting some decent speakers and headphones doesn't have to break the bank, but it can be very informative and enjoyable.



No we're not, no we don't, no it doesn't.

If you don't earn your living from playing/producing/teaching music, you're just someone who owns a ukulele. That goes for everyone. I own a camera, it doesn't make me a photographer.

I disagree with that last statement. I think Cactus Wren is right, for the most part people who contribute here are musicians. You don't have to be a professional musician to be a musician. I reckon most people on this board are hobby musicians but they are still musicians.

CeeJay
09-10-2015, 05:50 AM
:troll: A few of them here........I'll let you guys figure out who they are.

No, come on enlighten us...or is you Trolling ?:biglaugh:

Booli
09-10-2015, 05:56 AM
:troll: A few of them here........I'll let you guys figure out who they are.

I second this recommendation.

If you don't know what an internet troll is, you can read this link and decide for yourself:

http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Don%27t_feed_the_Troll

buddhuu
09-10-2015, 05:57 AM
Following reports, I'm locking this for review. I hope to open it up again a little later.

Thanks.

buddhuu
09-10-2015, 08:11 AM
...And we're back in the room.

Ok. Interesting discussion but please keep it on track and quit digging at each other.

Tele295
09-10-2015, 08:14 AM
When I record, I use a line for the pickup and a mic on the instrument. Often, a blend of the two gets the best sound, and the pickup can bring in a little extra clarity in the mix.

Live, yes, the pickup is a compromise, but a necessary one when dealing with two percussionists and for adding a little delay. I'm not recording a live record so it's close enough for government work

LDS714
09-10-2015, 09:42 AM
One thing piezos seem to do well is level the playing field. They can make a $3K Martin guitar sound almost exactly like a $150 Epiphone...

These are the two comments I thought had the least aloha spirit I have ever read at UU. One insults instruments that are in the price range that I would argue MOST ukuleles sold are in(give or take 200 dollars), while the other one just insults others.
I honestly didn't mean it as in insult, it's just the way I hear things.

I go to, participate in, and play in shows fairly frequently as well as doing a little bit of recording.

From what I've seen and heard, the vast majority of engineers and performers either really like the harsh, brittle sound produced by piezos, don't know how to fix it or have just accepted it as "that's the way it is."

I was fortunate enough to see Colin Hay (guitarist, formerly with Men at Work) perform recently. Close to the stage, where you could actually hear his guitar, it sounded fantastic. Out in the audience (immediately adjacent to the mixing console, FWIW) the tone of his instrument more closely resembled shattering glass than the wonderful sound of the guitar. This is what has turned me off on piezos. Yes, with some diligence, they can sound quite acceptable, even good - but the vast majority of people I've seen/heard use them don't do it in a way I find euphonic.

I also don't want what I said to be taken as a blanket statement that all piezos suck. They don't. But many things have to be right for them to sound good - physical placement, impedance matching, response of the signal chain as a whole. For example, I happen to really like the sound of the Parker Fly guitar's piezos.

I also don't mean to insult instruments that regular people can afford. I have and play Kalas, Epiphones and other instruments in that price range. I cherish them for what they are and the way that they sound. But make no mistake, they do lack certain tonal characteristics and fit/finish qualities that people find appealing in "higher-end" instruments. However - much like people on a sport bike board debating the handling characteristics of various state of the art motorcycles, I (and most musicians) would benefit orders of magnitude more from refining playing technique than trying to chase 0.1% improvements in the tool.

CactusWren
09-10-2015, 11:37 AM
BooliYES! Those Dayton B652 speakers and the Dayton take on the Lepai T-AMP, known as the DTA-1 have been a best seller and actually won all kinds of awards, and have been a kind of secret weapon sold by Part Express for quite a few years now.

I got a Dayton DTA1 ($30) and two Infinity bookshelf speakers, used (maybe $50?); and plopped them on either side of my monitor. The bang for your buck is huge and it sounds so much better! I have heard great things about the Pioneer SP-BS22-LR , but I am not in the market :)

CeeJay: My Chief Officer said to me on my first day of Service in HMPrison Albany. Mr Jarvis, you must always be yourself, words I have followed for thirty or more years ....
Very well, non-apology accepted!

Ohmless: I agree that the skill of the player is the main thing in the sound, but where I disagree is I feel pickups degrade that sound. That's why I complain that Jake and those guys are using pickups. I also feel that forum people uploading, using whatever uke they have, would sound better using any mic than by spending money on a pickup and recording direct. In this case cheaper is better (in my opinion). Maybe the Epiphone thing was a bit of a cheap joke (and I do own an Epiphone electric), but there is a grain of truth that higher-end guitars do tend to sound better than inexpensive ones, surely?

LDS: I feel the piezos sound fine for a light touch, but when you lean on them or strum them, they show their limitations. When Jake does his big strum thing, that to me is not a good sound. You say shattering glass, I say a punch of pebbles thrown at fiberglass.

ohmless
09-10-2015, 01:51 PM
We are closer to agreement on nearly everything CactusWren. My discussion on guitars was just to bring up that hard and fast rules of all or nothing statements that hold up are few and far between. I think we just disagree with the amount of degradation of the signal of both using a pick up and of microphones.

I don't think the degradation from a piezo is enough to turn most people off from the music a musician makes(people still go to Dave Matthews shows right?) Microphones are highly dependent on the room to cut out ambient noises, vibrations, feedback, electrical fluctuations and such to the point that I think using one in a live setting less desirable the more people and other equipment is around. There is no amount of noise removal software to remove the sound of my sump pump, my dish washer upstairs, the air conditioning, people walking upstairs, and road traffic(I live on a street corner),for instance, that will not degrade the signal either.

Booli, just as an idea to try before making a dedicated sound room, have you seen the Kaotica eyeball? I am thinking of getting one of them after I upgrade my microphone.

PhilUSAFRet
09-10-2015, 02:04 PM
Wow, hadn't heard of Kaotica, cool gizmo

CeeJay
09-10-2015, 02:38 PM
Booli, just as a have you seen the Kaotica eyeball? I am thinking of getting one of them after I upgrade my microphone.

Is it anything like my eyeball after a night supping James Beam's finest ? ...Bleary ...verrry pink and a bit out of focus ...??



Nah, looks intersting though...cool...not my eyeball...the kaotic a one...

CalvinKlown
09-10-2015, 03:03 PM
I have a €125 Brunswick les Paul, and a €260 Kala 8. String. I have spent the last year on a quite exclusive music course, where we were encouraged to train our ears, with particular reference to the compression wars, and poor listening devices. When I record, I would only do so with the kala,using both it's shadow piezo, and a good condenser mic, unless I was wanting a particular boxy sound. I have also spent the last year,and more playing open mics, and happily use both, to various degrees of success, depending on the sound engineer. That's my two pennorth.

AndrewKuker
09-10-2015, 07:27 PM
I complain that Jake and those guys are using pickups.


I have been using piezos for well over 10 years. I will be doing about 200 gigs with one this year, so it must be working to some extent. (grabs his uke _and mic_ and exits hurriedly)

If you look at Jake’s Youtube (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHvWv6d-IWyWquyq_xuFAuQ) you’ll see that he almost always uploads with a mic recording. Other people are recording him live with less than ideal equipment and uploading, but what can he do?

With that said, I've uploaded some strictly microphone recorded sound samples striving for nothing but “true” tone. But as hard as I try, and as much as I spend, it’s still just a representation of what my ears would hear and my body would feel and the whole tonal experience of actually playing. That experience and enjoyment connects us here, no matter the technical skills or experience with music.

robedney
09-10-2015, 09:59 PM
As usual I'm late to the party, but here are some fact-based thoughts to consider:

A piezo is a sensor. An under-saddle piezo is configured as a bar (strip) specifically designed to fit in the saddle slot of the bridge. It's easy and quick to install. Piezos sense movement through a mechanical connection. When you pluck a string, the vibration is transmitted through the saddle, to the piezo and is converted to a variable low voltage signal.

Because of it's location, an under-saddle pickup is not going to sense much more than that direct vibration. On the other hand, an acoustic instrument is vibrating in all sorts of ways, at various times and in various frequencies. This produces -- when fully combined -- what we think of as things like the voice of an instrument, brightness or darkness, resonance, enhanced sustain, etc. In other words, the overall acoustic quality we hear. An under-saddle piezo cannot possibly sense all of that simply due to its location and the overwhelming signal directly through the saddle. Therein comes the argument (fully valid) that a high end instrument will sound much the same as a much cheaper instrument when both are amplified via the same under-saddle piezo. That's absolutely true.

If you look at an instrument's sound board (top plate) when being played using tomography (which allows you to see patterns of vibration) you get the idea. There are a complex array of vibration patterns, even when a single note is played.

Secondly, you can (and we have) mount multiple piezo sensors at various carefully chosen locations in (or on) an instrument, combine the signals and much more faithfully reproduce the acoustic qualities that differentiate instruments. This is obviously a more complex installation, and it requires both time and expertise in choosing the points from which to sample.

Thirdly, piezo transducers have particular characteristics. In other words, the output from a piezo does not match what our ears hear acoustically. Most notably, piezos tend to have particularly screechy high end that needs to be tamed with post-processing, typically in a preamp specifically designed for taming piezos. That's oversimplifying things considerably. The point is that the typical piezo (because of the physics involved) isn't really a "faithful" sensor. It is close enough to work with in various ways, however.

I don't have a dog in this particular hunt. Using multiple piezo elements in specifically chosen locations, then post processing with suitable modelling hardware/software we have created what I would call a visual image that more or less captures the distinctive acoustical qualities of a single instrument. This is, however, somewhat complex, cumbersome and not necessarily cheap.

So, it's absolutely true that the simplest and most direct means of capturing the sound of the total acoustical instrument is to put a suitable quality microphone in front of it. There really isn't any debate about that. If HMS did all their instrument videos with piezo pickups instead of a mic you'd be hard pressed to make a choice.

One suggestion worth considering is -- if you have an under-saddle pickup installed -- don't include an onboard preamp. There are a wealth of external piezo preamps out there, some with very good modelling capability, all of which you can plug the raw signal from a piezo into. If you have an onboard preamp you are stuck with whatever filtering is designed into the circuit.

Just my 2 cents...

The Big Kahuna
09-10-2015, 10:44 PM
Of course, you could always come out into an audio interface, into your PC/Mac, and use something such as Guitar Rig 5/Peavey Revalver 4/Overloud TH2/Amplitube 3 in either standalone or VST form. I use all 4 of those, mainly for electric guitar, but my Islander GL6 with LR Baggs & MiSi sounds great. You can also apply room/cabinet/speaker/microphone modelling, in addition to amp/effects. The speaker impulses that are available separately, or from within packages such as Revalver 4 have to be heard to be believed. If you use an interface with 2 or more channels, you can also buy a relatively cheap, but still decent quality condenser mic such as the Behringer, and add that to the mix.

Ultimately, all of this comes down to the 2 channel audio interface built into the sides of your head. Some are better than others, but those with a high quality set shouldn't wave this in front of those who have to settle for second best. It just aint cool.

CactusWren
09-11-2015, 05:40 AM
BK:Ultimately, all of this comes down to the 2 channel audio interface built into the sides of your head. Some are better than others, but those with a high quality set shouldn't wave this in front of those who have to settle for second best. It just aint cool.

This thread has never been about that. Anyone with undamaged hearing and adequate speakers/amp can tell the difference if they listen carefully. As Booli pointed out, few people have made the investment (and it's only $70 (http://www.cnet.com/news/build-your-own-desktop-stereo-for-under-70/)) to do that. That is the point when it comes down to taste.

Robedney:
Therein comes the argument (fully valid) that a high end instrument will sound much the same as a much cheaper instrument when both are amplified via the same under-saddle piezo.

This has been my experience, to me, my solid-body Teton uke and Jake's $20,000 setup both sound piezo. I have owned guitars ranging from factory solid-body Yamaha silent to luthier-made Spanish, and they all sound piezo. More to the point, a lightly-built, resonant, responsive instrument--what almost all people want--is the most prone to feeding back and causing other sound problems. My gig guitar is dead-sounding acoustically, I say it's half glue. But it helps when amplifying it and it sounds just as good or better than a boutique instrument if you put the pickup in there.

Could you point me to some of the piezo processing units you speak of?

Ohmless:
yes, you can't beat a pickup for silence unless you have a studio built into a bank vault somewhere. For our casual uploads, though, I don't mind ambient noise at all. There is a fellow in Brazil who uploaded lots of his music with birds in the background (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_WrpO3RklRA). Okay, that is a little more pleasant than a sump pump.

kissing
09-11-2015, 12:55 PM
I think it also depends on the musician's priorities I guess.

Sometimes their priority is the song and skills.
They're not there to show off their amazing instrument, but their ability to play a certain song and create an effect on the audience using what they are using, be it a piezo or a microphone.

You're right - a $100 ukulele with the same pickup as a $20,000 ukulele may very well sound the same amplified.
But maybe for a lot of us, that's good news ;) If you know what I mean!

Fleacia
09-12-2015, 11:12 AM
Interesting thread. While I prefer to play acoustically and/or using a mic, I wouldn't discourage others from using a pickup. I just don't happen to like the sound my ukes have made with the pickups I've tried, and it's not a priority to me to find better ones and spend the associated money on them, only to still be unhappy with the output. I know I like going acoustic, so until situations dictate otherwise, that's what I do. There is room for all kinds of music, setups, etc - variety is the spice of life. :)

sukie
09-12-2015, 06:23 PM
Here is one reason pick-ups are nice -- if you love to move around? They are lovely. You gotta stay right in place for a mic. And to be brutally honest? Whose ears are that good they really notice? Pick-ups have their place.

wayward
09-12-2015, 10:07 PM
Thank you to Booli and Robedney: I have learned some interesting stuff from both of you while reading this thread. I had already been saying to our lead ukulele player, before I came across this conversation, that I felt we should be recording him with a mic in future: Booli has given me more to think about as far as that's concerned, with his comments here, particularly since the combined playing experience of the other 2 members of our trio is well over 100 years - which means some of our recording equipment was around long before home computers and home recording (I'm talking ye olde 4-track here :rolleyes: :cool: ;)). Any further thoughts on this would be interesting to me.

When it comes to playing live, though, we will continue to use pickups. We don't have the luxury of a sound man or unlimited funds and we need something that isn't going to cause crazy amounts of feedback (we've had this once - vibrations from a double bass on a hollow stage being picked up by the microphones) and that will always sound worse than the music we play via pickups (no debate on this point, please ;)). As others have said, some of us sing, and then move during instrumentals, as we play (which our audiences want), and a fixed instrument microphone is problematic under those circumstances. Despite the pickup apparently being something of a compromise for live performance, I'm really happy with the sound we're producing when we gig now (btw I think my Roland AC amp + our lead player's Roland Cube is a big part of managing to find the tone we want); as has been pointed out it's as much to do with the DI, leads, amps, pa etc and matching that to the sound and venues.

phil_doleman
09-13-2015, 10:04 AM
I have used undersaddle pickups in the past. If you are playing LOUD then they are necessary. I don't like the sound, but it's a compromise against volume. Nowadays I play into a mic. I can't play quite as loud (good, I don't want to!), but I'm much much happier with my sound and I get people asking about what I'm using and saying how good it sounds.

Now, if you sing into a vocal mic and mic up the uke with a similar dynamic mic, then yes, you're tied to the mic. You can't move around much. However, I use a single large diaphragm condensor. I can move around left and right by a foot or two, and be anywhere from a few inches to a few feet away from the mic. Yes, the sound level changes, but this is good, I can use this to up the volume during a uke solo, then step back a bit when I start singing again. I certainly don't remain still at the mic.

I have, over 30 years of gigging on uke and guitar played and heard many many pickup systems, and I have to agree that the sound coming out of the PA is much much more about the pickup system than it is about the instrument it is attached to. Yes, some pickups are better than others, just as some mics are better than others (and some sound engineers are too!)

I'm hearing more and more ukulele clubs (with maybe 20+ members) adding more and more plugged in instruments. The sound of a dozen plugged in ukes all being strummed through a slightly-too-loud PA sends me running straight for the door. In that situation there's absolutely no need for pickups (some would argue that are large uke group all playing together doesn't even need the PA in most situations!)

Recording? I wouldn't want to listen to an album recorded using a pickup unless maybe it was a live album (OK, I'll concede that a mix of mic and pickup can make interesting sounds, and people like guitarist Adrian Legg have embraced the sound, added effects, and made it his own).

I think that we have all, though the live music we are exposed to, become so used to hearing electrically amplified instruments (and sampled pianos, drum machines, etc. etc.) that they have become the norm. I think that's a bit sad. Music is all about the sound we make. Nowadays we seem to be far more concerned about how loud we can make it at the expense of the quality of that sound.

I actually wrote blog post on my opinions (and remember, they are just my opinions!) on piezo pickups recently, you can read it here.
https://livesoundforhumans.wordpress.com/2015/04/21/piezo-pickups-best-thing-since-sliced-bread-or-triumph-of-convenience-over-sound/ (https://livesoundforhumans.wordpress.com/2015/04/21/piezo-pickups-best-thing-since-sliced-bread-or-triumph-of-convenience-over-sound/)

Steveperrywriter
09-14-2015, 07:44 AM
I have followed this thread without adding to it until now; fascinating stuff, a good, back-and-forth debate with very little snarkiness, and congratulations to the posters for that.

To sum up what I've heard as best I can, in a general way, according to the consensus:

Acoustic instruments, such as ukuleles, usually sound better without amplification.

If you need to amplify a uke, properly set-up microphones screw less with the sound than do piezo pick-ups, unless you have some skill in balancing pick-ups and modeling and such.

If you are in a noisy environment, especially with other instruments in the mix, a piezo pick-up will allow you to be heard when sometimes a microphone won't do, because of such things as feedback. Plus, a microphone needs the player to stay in front of it, so if you are sitting, that's good, but if you like to move around, not so good for mikes.

One apparently uses amplification for several reasons:

If you are recording and you need the sound to go where you want it to go.

If you are playing a venue that is large, or you are in a band full of intrinsically-louder instruments. Which, save for maybe a zither, is most of 'em, you need a boost. (Try bringing your uke to an open-jam. If all nineteen of the guitars dial it down and everybody leans forward, they might be able to hear you; that's the acoustic jam, and most of the time, you won't be able to hear yourself. If it is open to amps? The microphone will scream bloody murder when the guitarist behind you cranks it up to 11, which he will do first time he gets a solo, and the rule seems to be for guitarists, once you turn it up, you neverdial it back down again. Hence the piezo for your uke.

The OP pointed most of this out in the original post, and the subsequent comments mostly stayed in the same realm.

Nice discussion. Thanks.

thejumpingflea
09-15-2015, 05:59 AM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSPsApdrLBw

It'd be tough to hear this one with a microphone... ;)

I do think that microphones sound better, but it's tricky to do. If you are outdoors and there is any wind or other noises it can be distracting to the video. I generally try to use my Apogee Jam (pickup) when playing outdoors, and my Apogee MiC (microphone) when indoors.

PhilUSAFRet
09-15-2015, 06:04 AM
Freakin awesome flea