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View Full Version : Passive Electric Solid Ukes (Risa Solid) - PEDALS & IMPEDANCE?



claudios
06-13-2011, 02:41 AM
:confused:
I have a Tenor Risa Solid uke. It has a passive piezo pick-up.

I have started looking at plugging this into various other things like pedals, mixers etc for gigs. Some questions:

Some Instruments offer either a high impedance or "line" level impedance (Z). I think passive has high Z and active tends to have "line" level Z of around 100-200 or 1k Ohm ??? (I guess the pre-amp outputs at "line" level.

Having studied Transmission and Electrical Eng at uni, I don't have a technical problem understanding balanced versus unbalanced and impedance matching. I just don't have any experience choosing or using this stuff - I'm lost.

The main application for this is to play in a band where I need to plug my uke into a mixer.

I don't think I need to worried about "balanced" signals like the XLR because I don't have a long cable run - Might do later in the year at a festival though.

Questions:

DI Unit:
When do I need a DI unit? I think most mixer inputs are line level and I should therefore maybe present a "line" level signal to it?

Stomp Boxes:
What happens when I insert an effects pedal in this? Pedals don't tend to mention impedance much.


Or is this a load of rubbish and crack on regardless?

Cheers,
Claudio

patico
06-13-2011, 07:42 AM
hi there,
i also want to know the same.

what kind of pickup fits better with analog pedals like delays, chorus n others???

i've been lookin a Mainland Tenor w/pickup (MiSi), would it fit well with the pedals??

thanks

gioconbrio
06-13-2011, 12:30 PM
I did not study electrical engineering and so I really don't know what you're talking about. However, I do own a Risa uke stick and I think I can help answer some of your questions.

1) I may be wrong, but as far as I know, the mixer is the "DI unit." DI means direct input, i.e. plugging into the PA system, which basically covers everything except miking your instrument or plugging it into an amp onstage. Do you mean a pre-amp, which boosts your signal before it goes into an amp or mixer? The general thought is that pre-amps do improve your sound. However, I've never used one so I wouldn't know.

2) It works fine with pedals. Pretty much all of my effects sound just as good with my uke as with my electric guitar. The only exception is my distortion pedal which uses both an actual amp tube and digital distortion, the guitar sounds better with the tube while the uke sounds better with the digital. That may have something to do with the magnetic pick up versus piezos, not sure. Most pedals have an output dial that boosts or diminishes your volume if you're concerned about overpowering.

3) In general, magnetic pick ups work best for effects, but these are only available on a few steel string models such as the Konablaster and Risa LPs. However, they sound like electric guitars when you play them clean, unlike the uke stick which still sounds kind of ukey. There also aren't that many analog effects being made now, most are digital, unless you're looking at the high end "boutique" pedals like Electro Harmonix. In any case, digital and analogue pedals work equally well with the same pick ups.

As far as effects pedals go, the uke stick is my favorite. It has the nicest sounding piezo of any other electric I've played (I would like to know what brand of pick up Risa uses). The small, one-piece body reduces feedback and improves sustain (the soundboard of an acoustic instrument w/ a pickup can start to resonate from the speakers, especially if using distortion, giving you the occasional screech). In short, it's a pretty versatile instrument that shouldn't give you any troubles regardless of what you're plugging into.

In case you're curious, this is what my standard effect chain looks like:
Boss Compressor: I use this to increase sustain on solos or to "simplify" my signal when using synth effects. You probably won't need this.
Boss octave: This can be used to play bass lines, although I use it mostly to add a little low end to what I normally play. I'm still not completely happy with this pedal, but it will do for now.
Rocktron Silver Dragon: this is the tube/digital distortion pedal I mentioned and I really like it. It's probably worth getting a decent distortion pedal, something with two or more tone knobs, since ukes can sound really tinny. I used to use a Boss DS-1, but this sounds so much fuller.
Digitech delay: it sounds great, if I had to choose just one pedal to buy, it would be delay.
EHX chorus: I don't use it often, but it's fun. This, by the way, is the only other analogue pedal I have besides the tube, the rest are digital, they all work fine with the Risa.

And here's what it sounds like. Unfortunately, I turned the gain up too high on my distortion pedal rather than just turning up the volume on my amp so there's a lot of fuzz.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBasokGoVeE

patico
06-13-2011, 01:19 PM
hey nice!!!!
i have some analog pedals which i want to expiriment with, but first need the uku with pickup.

i think Mainland appears to be the option.

claudios
06-13-2011, 01:37 PM
Thanks for the insite so far. The youtube clip was cool. Seems like a DI box is not essential when plugging a piezzo passive pickup into a mixer. I haven't found anyone who bothers yet?

OldePhart
06-13-2011, 02:47 PM
Most guitar pedals are going to be fairly high impedance and expect a fairly low level signal (far below "line" levels). If your cable from the instrument to the pedal isn't over ten feet you'll probably be fine with a simple cord. If the run is longer, you really should consider a preamp - one of the small preamps with volume control that is designed to plug directly into the jack on the instrument works great and isn't too expensive. I bought one for ~$20 several years ago.

Your best bet going to a mixer, even if the run is fairly short, is to use a DI box. Fortunately with uke even a fairly inexpensive passive DI will work fine because you don't have to worry about the transformer limiting bass frequencies (in fact, I've found you often need to cut the bass frequencies some anyway to avoid the dread "thuddiness" from the piezo pickup).

You probably never really want to push a "line" level signal to anything other than a rack-mount FX unit designed to work with line-level signals (i.e. stuff like the Digitech "Studio" series processors). Although, if for some reason you do have a line level signal, you can inject it at most mixers by going to a jack marked "line in" or "inject" on the mixer channel strip.

John

claudios
06-13-2011, 10:54 PM
Hi,

I got this response from Rigk Sauer at Risa (He did good the Blues workshop videos on their YouTube channel)

The same rules apply as for any guitar with a passive pickup, because we use a standard SH-095 Shadow passive guitar pickup. A DI box or pre-amp or effect box with pre-amp is recommended if cable length becomes more than 3 m.

So it seems that the low level high impedance signal from a passive pick-up is OK for short standard unbalanced cable runs. For anything longer, use a DI box which will:
- Pre-amp (to drive the signal over distance)
- Impedance match (to preserve the level and frequency response)
- Balance the signal to protect it from noise induced on the cable

Much clearer now :)

Cheers,
Claudio

knadles
06-14-2011, 05:10 AM
Piezo pickups are extremely high-impedance. You can experiment, but all things being equal, you're likely to get your best sound with a short cable (<15 ft., 10 ft. is better) from the instrument to a DI. Longer cable runs will result in a capacitive rolloff of the higher frequencies, increasing with the length of the cable.

Ideally, the DI should be solid state, not a transformer type, because the input impedance of a transformer is much less than the source impedance from the piezo pickup. The solid state DI will be a better match. The best DIs I know of without getting outlandish are the Radial JDI and the Radial J48. (I have no ties to Radial.) The JDI is a passive style with an excellent Jensen transformer; the J48 is an active, solid state unit that takes phantom power from the mixer. For this, you want the J48.

You probably already know this, but once you come out of the DI, you can run the low-impedance, balanced cable as long as is reasonable--hundreds of feet or more with negligible signal loss.

-Pete

kissing
06-14-2011, 05:18 AM
It has the nicest sounding piezo of any other electric I've played (I would like to know what brand of pick up Risa uses).
They use Shadow Nanoflex pickups.



As for DI-boxes and such, you would need one to plug any passive instrument into a large PA system, including a mixer.
That's because the piezo signal gets lost through the cable a lot more than active ones do. Passives are fine for plugging straight into an amp, but it loses too much signal in a PA system.

A great solution I've found for any passive instrument is the Behringer V-Tone active DI's.
They serve as both a DI box and a pre-amp for electric instruments. They come in 3 versions, one for acoustic-electrics, electrics and bass.
For the Risa Uke-stick, I'd probably go for the one designed for electric. It has several controls and different amp modes (ranging from clean to distortin). When activated, it serves as a great electric guitar pre-amp. With it deactivated, but still plugged in, it serves as a neutral active DI.

http://www.synthtopia.com/news/05_01/images/Behringer_V-Tone-GDI-21.jpg
They are quite cheap! Check'em out.

23skidoo
06-14-2011, 05:58 AM
If you use an amplifier, you could just run a line out of the amp to the board, especially if the amp has an effects loop for your pedals, etc. Not an expert, but don't think you'd need a preamp of any sort unless you just wanted to cut the amp itself out of the line.... Don't have a electric uke (yet!), but I use a Fender modeling amp for guitar, so all my effects are onboard - cuts down on all the pedals and you can control onboard effects with a variety of foot switch options. Using a Mustang III amp and it has an effects loop for my wah and anything else I need not easily accessed with the foot switch.

claudios
06-14-2011, 08:33 AM
Knadles,
I'll check out those devices. Yeah I guess I could run balanced cables far beyond what I'd need to go to. Currently, I have 2 x 10' (unbalanced) phono cables in and out of my stomp box (with bypass). For small gigs I guess I could either use short cables or use a balun out of the stomp box and run balanced into mixer. The message I seem to get is a DI won't make much difference in a very short set up.

kissing,
You are the Ocarina+Uke guy I follow on YouTube!
Yeah I looked at that Behringer. Someone told me to steer clear of their products but this looked like a good simple solution to my problem. I bought the CoolCat Transparent Overdrive V2 and now I'm thinking that transparent isn't what is ideally wanted. As you say, a DI when [OFF] and some amp/distortion/overdrive widgets when [ON].

23Skidoo,
The set-up is this:
- About 8-14 ukulele players in a band.
- 2 players have passive solid RISAs (not a natural uke sound but no feedback which is great)
- 1 or 2 players have active pre-amped pickups in accoustic ukes (feedback can be a problem)
- Remaining players are pointing their accoustic-only uke sound holes towards 1 mic between 1 or 2 players.
- 1 mic for the singer (band is KaraUke by the way)
- All cables go into a mixer

I have wondered about having a seperate amp but maybe for our group it doesn't make sense because there are so many of us.



Cheers,
Claudio

23skidoo
06-14-2011, 10:07 AM
Wow, sounds like quite a set up!

Only suggested the amp for a few reasons-

-when you run a line out of a combo amp (the kind with a speaker in the cabinet) it turns off the speaker, so you're really just using the amp to drive the signal to the board - no issue with an extra sound source to deal with.
- if you don't already have all of your pedals, you can save tons of money buying a good modeling amp. Like I said, I've got a Fender Mustang III, around $300 US - that's the cost of a couple of pedals, but you end up with a solid 100watt amp with a built in effects loop and 10 classic Fender amp models. You basically have a dozen pedals at your disposal, way more than I'll ever need. The larger modeling amps have programmable footswitches which allow you to access the effects (like a pedal) pretty easily.... you can also design you own presets and line them up in the amp's memory and just toggle through them with the footswitch, so once you decide on the sound you want for each tune, just line them up in the order of your set list and you've got one-button switching.

I play with a piano, fiddle, and another guitar every week and run my amp right into the PA.....I just like that I've got everything in one 'box' and can access everything with just a few footswitches. If you're just looking for a clean line in, a preamp or DI will be your best bet, but if you plan on using lots of effects on different tunes, the modeling amp with footswitch might be worth taking a look at - works great for me and is an incredibly simple set up.

claudios
06-14-2011, 10:24 AM
.I just like that I've got everything in one 'box' and can access everything with just a few footswitches.

You can access your effects by having foot switches plugged into your amp?

23skidoo
06-14-2011, 12:19 PM
You can access your effects by having foot switches plugged into your amp?

Yep, it's pretty cool. There is a caveat.... Not sure how familiar you are with this stuff, so hope I'm not overexplaining.....

The interface is based around modeled presets. You can choose from 10 or 12 classic Fender amps, dozens of effects... you can really tweak it and get just the sound you want. You then save this preset, give it a name. There is room on the Mustang III for 100 presets. You can easily put them in any order you want.

The amp comes with a 2-button footswitch. There is also a 4-button switch for $50-60 US. You can plug both in and have six switches in all. They are compact and sturdy.

You can tell the amp to use the switches in a variety of ways. The simplest use is just to toggle up and down through the presets once you have them in order.

To access the effects with the switch, all you have to do is set up the given preset with the effect you want. It doesn't even have to be 'turned on'. You can then tell the amp to let the footswitch turn the effect on and off. Does that make sense? You don't have unlimited access to all three dozen effects - they have to be used on the given preset and you are limited by the number of switches.... does that make sense?

The ideal set up is to have both switches ( the 2 and 4 button) and use the two button switch for up/down toggling. Then the four button switch can do everything else.... it has a button that allows you to easily change between uses for the four buttons - you can quickly go from using it to turn effects off and on to having quick access to you favorite three presets. There are several different options for set up, lots of flexibility.

I'm certainly no expert with regards to this stuff - this is the equipment I have and it works well. Several companies make good sounding modelling amps, but the Mustangs seem to have the most versatility and ease of use.... the most bang for the buck.

One other cool thing - you can USB into your computer and make all of your preset adjustments there so you don't have to use the knobs and tiny screen on the amp - although they work pretty easily in a pinch. You can also plug in an aux audio source with an 1/8in jack - I play to backing tracks with my iPod, plug in my metronome for running scales.... I've only had the amp a few weeks, but it's pretty great. A guy I play with has an old Fender Twin Reverb tube amp (one of the amps modelled for the Mustang) for his Rhodes Piano and the Mustang sounds pretty dang good next to it.....

Sorry to be so long winded.... probably more than you wanted to know.....

claudios
06-14-2011, 12:38 PM
Gosh! I had no idea! As I said I understand the physics but I have never used this gear.
I've only ever played accoustic and the recent band stuff has forced this wizardry on me.
That's cool - Thanks for the insite!

23skidoo
06-14-2011, 12:44 PM
No problem..... I'm in the same situation. Always played acoustic guitar, just started playing electric a few months ago. It's been kind of a steep learning curve, but this stuff is great fun to experiment with. Good luck with it.....

kissing
06-15-2011, 02:02 AM
Yeah I looked at that Behringer. Someone told me to steer clear of their products but this looked like a good simple solution to my problem.

Yeah I've heard that too. I think it's a case of widespread guitar-gear snobbery.
Behringer is one of those "cheaper" brands when it comes pedals.

But then again, not necessarily. They do have some high-end stuff of their own.
The only products I've used from them so far are the Acoustic-DI and the Electric-DI.
Some of my best purchases I've ever made. It is very convenient being able to plug in any uke I want to the PA system and have my own controls and modelling at my disposal in front of me.

knadles
06-15-2011, 07:15 AM
Knadles,
I'll check out those devices. Yeah I guess I could run balanced cables far beyond what I'd need to go to. Currently, I have 2 x 10' (unbalanced) phono cables in and out of my stomp box (with bypass). For small gigs I guess I could either use short cables or use a balun out of the stomp box and run balanced into mixer. The message I seem to get is a DI won't make much difference in a very short set up.

I started to write an Electronics 101 explanation of cable capacitance and impedance, and realized I was going to put everyone to sleep. :)

I'll just say this: if you always plug directly into the same console and everything works, you're fine. Be happy. That can and does happen, and I wouldn't sweat over it. Especially if you're playing smaller rooms like coffee houses.

If you plan on doing this a lot and in a variety of venues, I'd strongly recommend investing in a good DI of your own. No one wants to be be told to spend more money, but every carpenter needs a tool box and it's a good idea for every musician to carry with him or her the basic necessities as well.

I know a bass player who shelled out for his own Avalon DI because he wanted to be sure of what he was plugging into. Now...he's a pro and I wouldn't recommend a $600 DI to us weekend warriors, but if you play out a lot, you're going to run into a lot of crazy setups (and crazy sound people...I know 'cause I'm one of 'em). The last thing you need is to discover there's a problem and the only cure (10 minutes before you go on stage) involves a run to the local Guitar Sinner. Trust me on this.

I run sound at a local church and I work with guitarists who don't even own their own cables. They can get away with it because I've made sure the church invested in quality cables, DIs, etc. But in my musician persona, I cover the same bases, because I don't know where I'm going to end up next.


Yeah I've heard that too. I think it's a case of widespread guitar-gear snobbery.
Behringer is one of those "cheaper" brands when it comes pedals.

Sometimes, what is perceived as gear snobbery is a simple attempt at preventing others from making the same mistakes. :)

-Pete

23skidoo
06-15-2011, 08:28 AM
Not to hijack the thread, but....

Like I said upthread, I'm pretty new to the whole audio thing, so I was hoping to pick the brains of some of the more experienced folks posting here....

Is what I'm doing (using my modelling combo amp for effects and as a preamp) completely impractical? I only suggested it because it works for me in the small scale jams I do where I run a line out to a PA - and for a $300-400 investment, I get all of the effects, the signal amplification, and a pretty decent stand-alone 100W amp to boot. Is this ever done in a more professional environment? I've got it set up so that I feel like a have a comparable level of flexibility (at least for my needs) to a multi-switch effects board, preamp/ DI, etc. but I'm just wondering if there are any obvious cons I'm missing in light of my limited knowledge of the pros.

Any insight would be much appreciated.....

OldePhart
06-15-2011, 04:09 PM
Not to hijack the thread, but....

Like I said upthread, I'm pretty new to the whole audio thing, so I was hoping to pick the brains of some of the more experienced folks posting here....

Is what I'm doing (using my modelling combo amp for effects and as a preamp) completely impractical? I only suggested it because it works for me in the small scale jams I do where I run a line out to a PA - and for a $300-400 investment, I get all of the effects, the signal amplification, and a pretty decent stand-alone 100W amp to boot. Is this ever done in a more professional environment?

The only really hard and fast rule is do what works for you. I design and build tube guitar amps - last weekend I was gigging with my tenor uke (unusual, I usually play bass in a band) and I used a silly little Danelectro Nifty-Fifty 8" guitar amp that I converted to run off batteries. It was convenient and met my needs for that gig. I probably wouldn't take it into a studio... :)

That's my long-winded way of saying - use what you have until you start running up against limits. With a uke, playing clean, what you've got is probably all you'll ever need (Jake went through a phase where he used a ton of effects, then got back to "simple ukin"). On the other hand, if you ever want to go push the envelope with distortion, etc., you may find that your current rig just doesn't run with the big dogs when it comes to overdriven tone.

John

23skidoo
06-16-2011, 02:41 AM
John - thanks for the info, and you're right if it ain't broke..... just looking ahead to the point where I want to play out a bit more, which is a definite goal. I'll burn that bridge when I get there......

gioconbrio
06-16-2011, 10:03 AM
Wow, I've definitely learned a lot from this thread.