PDA

View Full Version : Salvaged an inexpensive acoustic-electric uke!



kissing
03-27-2011, 04:17 AM
Hi folks,

I picked up what seemed to be a bargain acoustic-electric soprano ukulele.
http://www.gtp.com.au/pksmusic/largeimages/SU40E.jpg

I actually just walked into the local music store to buy some strings, and noticed it.
It's a Sanchez brand uke. Hadn't really heard any reviews about this company, but it sounded good in the store, it had electronics (rare on a soprano), and upon inspection of the soundboard top at the hole, it seems to be a solid top too (solid cedar)

It was $159 AUD, which is an exceptionally good price for an acoustic-electric ukulele at Australian shop prices, considering we have a great markup in instrument prices here locally. So I emptied my pockets and purchased it totally out of impulse.

Went home, changed the GHS strings to Aquilas and all seemed fine.. til I plugged it in to find that the G string doesn't get amplified at all!. But then again, for this price, what do I expect?

I kinda tried to convince myself that this was OK... for a beater..
But then I decided to mess around with the undersaddle pickup to see if it's something I could fix by moving the piezo's. Clearly enough, the pickup itself was shifted more towards the E end, so there was hardly any strip at the G end. So I tried to shift it down to the G end (with a bit of force using a bent paperclip) and I managed to snap the copper shim that lay on top of the pickup :(

With a bit of panic, I put the saddle back on, only to find that the pickup doesn't work anymore. So I frantically reopened the saddle and inserted the copper on top to find that it is essential to have that metal there for the pickup to work. But what good was the pickup, if it only amplified 3 strings? Under the copper shim, I noticed that there were 4 small rectangular strips, which must've been the 4 individual piezo crystals for the strings. I lined them up the best as I could with the strings (though the pickup itself was too short to perfectly cover both the G and E tips). And recalling back to highschool chemistry that all metals conduct electricity, I thought outside the square and got some aluminium foil from the kitchen, cut it into strips, and inserted it on top of the piezo where the copper shim was. And it worked! Then to try and get the balance of the string volumes right, I inserted small folded bits of the foil under the saddle where G and E strings are, to give them extra contact.

After an hour or so of fiddling around, I ended up getting the balance pretty good! The strings sound a lot more balanced. It's not 100% perfect, the G string is still a tiny bit quieter (though hardly noticeable unless you're fussily conscious of it like me), but it's probably as good as it can get as the undersaddle piezo strip isn't long enough to cover all the strings anyway (cheap manufacturing). But after almost losing hope, I'm very happy with the results. And kudo's back to highschool chemistry reminding me that all metals conduct electricity.

So what started off as a hunt for a bargain, ended up being a good bargain. The pickup sounds great now - very good for what I paid (after the fixup). It's one of those passive PS900 pickups with tone and volume control. I think I've seen it on another brand of uke before... but can't remember which.
http://image.made-in-china.com/2f0j00FeSEMfUogrqY/Guitar-Equalizer-EQ-PS900-.jpg



Some questions I have are:

-The saddle seems to be made of some cheapo flexible plastic material. I imagine it's not a great material for conducting vibration. Would there be a significant difference if I replaced it with a more dense, harder saddle?

-If I wanted to replace the undersaddle piezo altogether, say by purchasing something like this (intended for ukes that is)
http://di1-2.shoppingshadow.com/images/pi/50/4f/fd/53588693-149x149-0-0_Grizzly+Grizzly+H6060+Artec+Piezo+Pickup+Classic al.jpg
I see at the end of the cord, there is a plug/jack of some sort.
Is it simply a matter of pulling out the existing undersaddle strip from the bridge, unplugging it, and plugging in the new one?

greenway
03-27-2011, 04:41 AM
From what I know I think you just have to mount the new piezzo under the saddle and plug it in to the on board pre amp.

Gmoney
03-27-2011, 04:52 AM
From what I know I think you just have to mount the new piezzo under the saddle and plug it in to the on board pre amp.

IF that "on-board" preamp actually has a plug. Most likely, the existing p/u terminates in bare wire soldered to that preamp. The mini-plug versions of UST usually are mated w/a matching jack at the "inside" end of the end-pin jack. But, you've got the general idea. The Fishman AG-UKE p/u is pretty low $$ & has to be soldered in that manner.

On the saddle composition - a bone, Tusq, or even corian material might give you more "bite" if that is what you are looking for rather than the plastic saddle you apparently have.

kissing
03-27-2011, 04:52 AM
From what I know I think you just have to mount the new piezzo under the saddle and plug it in to the on board pre amp.

So there's a hole in the bridge where the cord from the piezo goes into the body.
I haven't tried it yet, but, if I pull the undersaddle piezo out.. the cord that attaches to the pre-amp should come out also? :D
If it's that simple, I may eventually change the piezo to one that would get a perfect balance across all the strings.


ps: Great to see you here :D


edit (just noticed):

IF that "on-board" preamp actually has a plug. Most likely, the existing p/u terminates in bare wire soldered to that preamp. The mini-plug versions of UST usually are mated w/a matching jack at the "inside" end of the end-pin jack. But, you've got the general idea. The Fishman AG-UKE p/u is pretty low $$ & has to be soldered in that manner.


Oh dear... I hope it isn't soldered.. that complicates things >_<
I may have to take it into a tech.. which means $$

But at least the pickup as I have it set up now works fairly well... it's just that 5% away from the perfection my better acoustic-electric ukes have.


a bone, Tusq, or even corian material might give you more "bite" if that is what you are looking for rather than the plastic saddle you apparently have.

I guess I'll have to look around for a saddle that would fit it. I wouldn't mind a stronger bite

Gmoney
03-27-2011, 04:55 AM
So there's a hole in the bridge where the cord from the piezo goes into the body.
I haven't tried it yet, but, if I pull the undersaddle piezo out.. the cord that attaches to the pre-amp should come out also? :D
If it's that simple, I may eventually change the piezo to one that would get a perfect balance across all the strings.


Don't just "pull it out"!! w/o seeing how it is attached! It is most probably soldered instead of terminated in a mini-plug. You may be able to remove the slider panel carefully & get to that inside end of it that way to see how it is attached first. A small "inspection mirror" like you can find in automotive parts stores comes in handy for peering inside a uke.

kissing
03-27-2011, 05:08 AM
Thanks for the caution! :D

greenway
03-27-2011, 07:59 AM
ps: Great to see you here :D


./wave Good to be here :)