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bacchettadavid
08-04-2016, 04:31 AM
Fellow UUers:

I've begun learning to sing with the aid of a 30-watt acoustic amp, which really draws attention to my Kala's lackluster stock electronics. I tolerate the shortcomings in the pickup and preamp when I use a 5-watt modeling amp for home practice, but when issued forth from a 30-watt amp, the "Kala quack" is grating on my ears.

The ukulele already has an undersaddle pickup installed, so I would upgrade to a Mi-Si Trio pickup and have the nubone nut and saddle replaced with bone. An unsightly hole would remain in the side of the ukulele where the preamp is currently mounted, but I could call it a poor man's side sound port.

Would these upgrades be worthwhile in a sub-$400 uke? I'm uncertain that such changes would yield much improvement, so I thought I'd solicit you all for your more informed opinions first.

Futurethink
08-04-2016, 05:17 AM
Disclaimer: I have no personal experience with this. Like Will Rogers, all I know is what I read.

I wonder whether the problem you are experiencing can be traced to the specific under saddle pickup your 'ukulele came with. Kissing highly recommends an Artec pickup. See this thread: http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?104467-DIY-First-Time-Undersaddle-pickup-project&highlight=artec+kissing

...and there are other threads, (http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?83263-Amazing-cheap-undersaddle-piezo-GREAT-results&highlight=pickup) or you could write Kissing for his direct opinion.

For an experiment, swapping the Artec under saddle pickup for what's there would be a lot less expensive. If it doesn't help, you're only out about $10 and then can go for the Mi-Si.

kohanmike
08-04-2016, 05:19 AM
I have a Kala with the same preamp and pickup and it sounds good to me on my Crate Limo TX50 50w battery amp. I am considering replacing the preamp with one I got from China that I've used on other ukes because I would rather have the tuner face me when I'm tuning, never could understand why they turn the preamps sideways like that.

bacchettadavid
08-04-2016, 06:27 AM
Futurethink and Kohanmike, thanks for your input. I am still new to the world of stringed instrument amplification and was unaware that the quack could be due to poor pickup installation in my particular ukulele. I hadn't thought about this previously, but it's also possible that I'm simply accustomed to the more lifelike reproduction achieved through microphones.

Assuming the Artec will fit my ukulele, I think I will try the Artec by itself first. Worst case scenario is it doesn't work out and I lose $10.

Hopefully, I won't have to spend the kind of cash the Mi-Si upgrade would require--I'd rather put that money towards vocal lessons.

Thanks, you two!

Tootler
08-04-2016, 07:13 AM
I'd been looking at a Kala Electro Acoustic 8 string but after this, I'll think again. There's a more expensive one without a pickup that I might consider and if I want to plug in, use my microvox pickup.

bacchettadavid
08-04-2016, 09:22 AM
Tootler, I don't if that's what we should take away from this. I'm used to being amplified by instrument microphones, and I may simply have unrealistic expectations of inexpensive pickup systems and preamps. My na´vetÚ is why I came here to solicit others' advice.

I'll be sure to post an update once this issue is resolved.

Booli
08-04-2016, 01:54 PM
...Would these upgrades be worthwhile in a sub-$400 uke? I'm uncertain that such changes would yield much improvement, so I thought I'd solicit you all for your more informed opinions first.

I would not put a limit on the lower price of a uke if it is the one you play a lot, and need to have it amplified. It has been said countless times here on UU, by BazMaz and others, that for say a $150 uke that has an alternate version of the SAME model with an active pickup, for only $20 more, how good of a pickup and preamp do you think you are getting?

I have self-installed a Mi-Si Acoustic Trio in both a $69 Yamaha GL-1 Guitalele (Musicians's Friends 'Stupid Deal' back in Dec 2012) and a $119 Kala KA-T laminate tenor, both with no regrets.

However, ukes that have been purchased later, I have instead installed a custom home-made surface transducer that is PASSIVE and use various different external preamps. I do not dislike the sound of the Mi-Si, but yet PREFER the sound of the surface-transducer and external tube preamp (such as the Behringer MIC-200).

I have found that some under-saddle pickups yield a 'compressed' sound which is further worsened by the typical built-in preamp circuit that is based upon the LM386 chip, or simple JFET circuits (which are MOST of them, since these chips are like $0.75 each in single quantity from US suppliers)...and based upon tech from the 1940s...

Everyone will hear something different, but my own preferences are based upon doing recording since 1985, and DJ sound reinforcement and Front-of-House audio since 1987...as they say - YMMV.

Also, it seems tha Belcat and Joyo have locked up the market on eBay, aliexpress, DealExtreme and Amazon with cheap active and passive pickups, but I have never trusted these manufacturers after having their devices fail on me during performance, and then for Warranty service have to chase down an Asian company with the 13 hour time difference and HUGE language barriers, and my Mandarin Chinese is too rusty now for it to be worth the effort...sorry for the soapbox, but I'd only buy these Asian brands if it's money that you can stand to lose, or dont mind giving away 100 hrs of your time to get a warranty claim satisfied...caveat emptor...

anthonyg
08-04-2016, 02:51 PM
How sensitive are you to the quack? I cant stand it either so I use microphones. A more expensive under-saddle pickup system will reduce the quack but not eliminate it. I've played around with more expensive setups that still quack. The quack is just part and parcel of an under-saddle contact pickup.

Anthony

cdkrugjr
08-04-2016, 03:27 PM
I'm happy with my Kala cedar tenor with stock electronics, played through an LR Baggs Para Acoustic DI, which seems to squelch most of the quack.

It's HUGELY personal though.

bacchettadavid
08-04-2016, 06:50 PM
Haha. As a woodwinds player with no experience using DI boxes, this thread has left me a bit bewildered. :bow down: I'm used to either plugging directly into a console or following the instructions of an engineer--I'm spoiled, I know.

Booli, your passive surface transducer intrigues me, but for now, I'm just setting up a simple rig for home practice that allows me to enjoy learning to sing while learning to accompany myself on the ukulele. Once my ukulele and vocal skills can complement my woodwind-centric arsenal as a paid musician, I'll be sure to bark up your tree about your passive surface transducer design.

Anthonyg and cdkrugjr, thanks for the reality check. I'm going to invest a few hours in listening to pickup and preamp systems. I wish to avoid using a microphone to amplify the ukulele, so I am prepared to learn to love at least a small amount of quack.

I have to digest all this information now and weigh it against what I hear in recordings, so I'm going to close the thread before I become overwhelmed.

Thanks again everyone for all your help. I'll be sure to reopen and update this thread once my issue is resolved.

bacchettadavid
08-07-2016, 06:15 PM
To everyone who wished to offer further input here in the thread, and especially to Kissing, I am sorry for temporarily closing the thread. I just didn't want you to waste your time posting replies that I would be unable to digest.

After spending several hours listening to pickup options over the previous 2 days, I cannot say I'm wholly satisfied with any UST. Like Anthonyg said, all USTs quack, and like Booli, I prefer SBTs. I love the idea of running a K&K Aloha Twin through a good preamp, but that is an expensive upgrade, and I believe I would benefit more from vocal lessons at this time. I will almost certainly go the SBT route down the road when I am ready to add a pickup to my Kanile'a super concert, so I owe a debt of gratitude to Booli and Anthonyg for nudging me in that direction.

Short of spending $200+ on SBT installation and a DI box, the solution that promises the most return on investment is fixing some saddle issues present and taking Kissing's suggestion of switching out the stock UST for the Artec UST, so I'm going to try this route first. Even if the results are less than stellar for accompanying myself while I learn to sing with the aid of a monitor, this route is inexpensive and will not preclude me from trying one of the other more expensive alternatives later.

Thanks everyone for all of your help in this process. I will be sure to post a full write-up of the upgrades in the reviews or tech support section of the forum once all is said and done.

kohanmike
08-07-2016, 08:08 PM
I just plugged in my Kala tenor cedar top to my Carvin MB15 200 watt with 15" neo speaker and I don't get a quack, it sounds great, in fact, I've never heard what I would describe as quack.

kissing
08-07-2016, 09:00 PM
The only pickup I have that quacks is a soundboard transducer on a Clearwater Vita uke.

A good undersaddle doesnt necessarily quack.

I would encourage trying the Artec undersaddle with the existing preamp. This has yielded results that match (or in my opinion is BETTER) than the quality of much more expensive systems, including the Mi-Si and various Fishman active systems.

It's really the cheapest and simplest modification, and one that can possibly give a better result than a more complicated setup.

anthonyg
08-07-2016, 09:06 PM
I just plugged in my Kala tenor cedar top to my Carvin MB15 200 watt with 15" neo speaker and I don't get a quack, it sounds great, in fact, I've never heard what I would describe as quack.

"Quack" is an imprecise term used to describe an imprecise sound.

Compared to the sound of an instrument being amplified or recorded through a good microphone, the sound of an instrument being played or recorded through an under-saddle piezo pickup is,

percussive, i.e, a loud attack with reduced sustain, boxy mid range tone and limited dynamics.

Kind of like a Ducks quack.

I used to play electric guitars. On electric guitar you have the bridge pickup sound and the neck pickup sound. I've always preferred the neck pickup sound as its sweeter and smoother. The bridge pickup is hard and bright by comparison. This is all to do with where the pickup is placed in relation to where the strings are anchored with the bridge pickup being closer to the string anchor point.

An under-saddle piezo pickup is a bridge pickup on steroids and understandably so as its directly under the string contact point. Given that the piezo pickup is "listening" to the strings at this point then the only thing that surprises me is that the sound they make isn't WORSE than it is. There are SO many aspects to an instruments sound that an under-saddle piezo pickup simply can't hear.

Anthony

phil hague
08-07-2016, 10:19 PM
Hi, I don't understand what you mean by "Quack". I play my Kala through a Roland acoustic amp and it sounds good to me. Also on occasions through a PA and it sounds good then. I am no expert with these things but you have got me wondering what this quack is. I read your comments above but I don't get a quack on my uke.

anthonyg
08-07-2016, 10:34 PM
Hi, I don't understand what you mean by "Quack". I play my Kala through a Roland acoustic amp and it sounds good to me. Also on occasions through a PA and it sounds good then. I am no expert with these things but you have got me wondering what this quack is. I read your comments above but I don't get a quack on my uke.

The best way I have to demonstrate this is to link to one of my own video's on You tube,



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wT4CDIHmqd8

EDIT: The "Quack" sound (piezo pickup)starts at 34 sec. The microphone sound starts at 3:19.

This is a demonstration video for my Roland AC-33 amplifier. First up I am playing my Kala 8 string tenor ukulele through the standard Kala piezo pickup. The sound isn't horrible but this is the "quack" sound we are talking about. The standard Kala pickup system isn't renowned for being the best and also I am sending the sound from the AC-33 directly into the mixer which exacerbates the quack a little. After listening to this you can go forward a little to where I play the exact same ukulele through a K&K Sound Meridian Pro Microphone and then into the AC-33. The difference is quite stark.

Anthony

cdkrugjr
08-08-2016, 01:45 PM
I recall seeing an acoustic amp with separate mode selections for passive, active, and piezoelectric pickups. Fishman, perhaps.

anthonyg
08-08-2016, 02:53 PM
I recall seeing an acoustic amp with separate mode selections for passive, active, and piezoelectric pickups. Fishman, perhaps.

The Roland AC-33 I am using should already be setup for active Piezo pickups as this is what's most common. An acoustic amplifier by default is deigned for piezo pickups. Because I used the direct outs on the AC-33 and sent the signal into the direct inputs on the mixer the sound is a little hard but that is an accurate rendition of what an under saddle piezo sounds like. Alternatively you can let the sound be played through the speakers and then put a microphone in front of the amp and record that sound. The sound being transmitted through a diaphragm, passing through the air and then being received by another diaphragm will moderate the quack but then again this is being less accurate.

You can get some improvements from high quality electrical components but fundamentally the problem isn't quality. The problem is physics. An under-saddle piezo pickup is listening to the strings from directly under the saddle at one anchorage point of the string. The sound that can be heard from this point isn't the sound a person hears from in front of the instrument.

I believe that you can get setups that use "modelled" sounds which sound better but again this isn't the sound of the instrument.

Anthony

anthonyg
08-08-2016, 03:37 PM
And another point. Under saddle Piezo pickups sound better on Steel string guitars than they do on nylon strung ukuleles. I listen mostly to guitarists, one of my favourites being Chris Smither. Chris plays guitars with built in pickup systems including under saddle piezo's. Honestly I prefer to hear him play through a microphone but I've heard him play several times live through pickups and it was OK.

There is a modern trend towards systems with both under saddle piezo's and microphones and then blend the sound together. Cole Clark guitars used a system which blended an under saddle piezo with another piezo which was under the soundboard closer to the sound hole. On steel strung guitars it sounded better but I still didn't like this system on nylon strung ukuleles.

Anthony

PereBourik
08-08-2016, 04:21 PM
Taking things in a different direction . . .

Consider geting a Behringer ADI21 digital interface. This will let you tune out the quack and it isn't terribly expensive.