View Full Version : Pickup for a laminate Concert

12-26-2017, 12:11 AM

I've been playing my Kala KA-C for a few years, and am thinking of fitting a pickup, probably end pin under saddle active.

The obvious choices for good pickups seem to be the likes of LR Baggs or MiSi, however my question is whether these would be wasted on what is essentially a budget laminate. The pickup would cost more than the instrument.

Given the lack of solid wood etc, would I notice a difference with a budget Chinese type pickup, or given plugged in is 'less resonant', will that narrow the gap in sound quality between laminate and a higher quality solid?


12-26-2017, 02:32 AM
I wanted to fit one of my ukes with a pickup to get more volume when our group played monthly in a noisy tavern with no PA. I found the best bet was to find a cheap but decent uke on eBay with a pickup installed. Got a Makala concert for $70. I replaced the tuners ($15) but haven’t touched it otherwise. You might consider that since it requires no fiddling by you and you have another uke!

Croaky Keith
12-26-2017, 03:21 AM
I would ask what you need more volume for, it wouldn't be cost effective putting an expensive pick up into your KA-C.

Another option to obtain more volume is a microphone & amplifier - or even just using a plectrum.

12-26-2017, 03:46 AM
Your Kala with a quality pickup will probably sound just as good as anything else when amplified. The sound is going to be transferred directly to the pickup from the strings, through the saddle to the pickup. A bone saddle might be a good investment too. If you like your Kala, just do it!

12-26-2017, 05:24 AM
I've noticed from listening to instruments (mostly guitars) with under saddle pickups that the pick up tends to create something of a samey sound for all instruments. I've also seen it suggested not to bother fitting an under saddle pickup to your best instrument but to buy a decent midrange instrument for playing plugged in.

On that basis why not fit a decent quality pickup to your Kala and use it as your Ukulele for plugging in. That way you get a decent plugged in sound without excessive outlay.

12-26-2017, 08:00 AM
Thanks all. So a bit more digging and I came across a Headway Snake 3 pickup, which seems to retail for near the price of the expensive pickups, but this listing was about half the price, so hopefully a decent pickup (looks more like the thin LR Baggs type transducer rather than the fat cheap ones), but at a good price. I like the idea of not butchering an expensive UKE, and if this sounds decent plugged in then it leaves the way for a more expensive solid all acoustic down the line :)

12-27-2017, 03:43 AM
Good luck! I don't know much about pickups, but the big difference I see is the Baggs and Misi use a coin size battery, the Headway uses a 9 volt? You don't have to "butcher" your uke, a good install won't even be noticeable.

12-27-2017, 11:32 AM
Yep the battery is the downside, but on paper the pickup style seems on a par with Misi/Baggs and list price is similar, but as I paid 50% (assuming it turns up!) I'm OK with the compromise.

I'm assuming the volume let's you turn it off so you don't have to disconnect the battery every time which would be annoying, but I will be sure to do a review as I've not seen much on this (though the make gets a lot of good pressure in guitar circles).

12-27-2017, 11:35 AM
Most pickup systems seem to have an on/off switch built in to the socket where you plug it in so plugging in the jack turns it on and removing it turns it off.

04-06-2018, 04:31 AM
I realised I didn't update this, so in case any one else is looking into the same pickup this what I did. So I bought the "Headway Snake 3 pickup", which looked to offer similar features to the MiSi/LR Baggs setups with a flexible under-saddle piezo pickup, with the only obvious downside being the battery (required 9v PP3).

In the end I sent it back. Whilst on the face of it it seems similar, the issue is that the pickup isn't a thin ribbon like the LR, it's circular in cross section and a good couple of mm in diameter. So whilst with the LR you can shave a little off the saddle and still have it sat secure in the bridge, once the "Snake" was sat in the bridge, there wasn't enough meat left to secure the saddle. What this meant in practice was that I would need to rout the bridge slot down a little over 2mm to ensure the pickup sat low enough to leave enough support in the bridge for the saddle.

That would require equipment and skill I don't have, and in fact looking at my bridge it would have taken it below the level of the "surround" of the bridge.

Obviously the "proper" way to fit LR/MiSi is to also rout the bridge, but as it's thin you can (and I believe many do) get away with just sitting the pickup and sanding the saddle. That is not the case with the Snake, at least it wasn't with my Uke.

I now have an iRig Acoustic Stage (http://www.ikmultimedia.com/products/irigacousticstage/), which whilst a very different sound to an under-saddle, I think gives a nice Acoustic sound. I only play at home, not on stage so can't comment on how it performs in a noisy environment, handling feedback etc, but it works well for what I need, and means I can easily transfer it to any future Uke's I may procure.

Hope that's of use for anyone researching the Snake.

04-06-2018, 05:18 AM
Thanks for your update.

For sake of research, I don't think being a laminate top ukulele makes any difference to how the ukulele sounds like with a pickup.
Pickups use mainly the vibration on the saddle for most of its tone, and a solid top would not make a big difference.
Fully "electric" ukuleles don't even have a top-wood, and are literally just chunks of wood - and they sound the best through an amp.

On an inexpensive uke like a KA-C, I would have gotten this pickup:

Pair one of these ARTEC undersaddles with an endpin jack on just about any ukulele, and you'll have a decent passive pickup option.

You can pair these with a preamp + batteries as well, but that makes the project a bit more complicated.

This Headway Snake brand pickup is an interesting find. I may keep it in mind for future projects :)