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View Full Version : Kala active pickup - not so active



Wagster
02-03-2013, 06:14 PM
Some years ago I picked up a Kala acoustic/elec spruce top concert uke from MGM. Best $200 I ever spent. It's aged wonderfully and has become as comfortable as an old pair of jeans. Put a set of Worth clears on it and it practically plays itself. But when it comes to the electronics.... well, I wouldn't say they suck, but I would say they blow. It's always a struggle to get some decent sound from the pickup. It has very little gain.

So, as much as I like this uke you would think I'd be willing to spend $150 on a decent pickup for it. Think again.

My first thought was to bypass the onboard preamp and connect the pickup directly to the end pin. But, I have no clue if you can get a usable passive signal from an "active" pickup? But I'd give this uke a pickup-ectomy in a heartbeat if it will work.

My second thought was to replace the preamp. Think again. Garbage in...garbage out.

My third thought was to seek advice. If I do replace the pickup I would prefer to go with something passive. They just seem to be more cooperative. And if I could do this for around $50 then I can tell the wife that if cost $150 but it included $100 worth of beer. Ukuleles and beer go well together. Um, The Shadow pickups seem to be a good candidate.

So, my question is, what kind of beer really compliments a spruce top? I'm leaning towards an India Pale.

ricdoug
02-09-2013, 11:49 AM
Aloha e Wagster.

Many ukuleles with active pickups are powered by watch button batteries and won't get much volume out of some amplifiers. Too boost their output:

http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?74603-Behringer-ADI21-active-DI-preamp&highlight=adi21

Wagster
02-16-2013, 06:15 PM
Aloha e Wagster.

Many ukuleles with active pickups are powered by watch button batteries and won't get much volume out of some amplifiers. Too boost their output:

http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?74603-Behringer-ADI21-active-DI-preamp&highlight=adi21

Hi Ricdoug,

I do thank you for the heads up on this. The Behringer ADI21 does look like a piece of gear I can use. But I still need to address the Kalas (lack of) electronics.

I have a BBE Acoustimax preamp that I use when recording and certainly it does help, but compared to my other acoustic instruments, the Kala uke is still lacking. After I ran out of beer (oh, Blue Moon compliments a spruce top very well, btw) my head cleared a bit and I think I really should invest in a decent pickup for it. I have a KoAloha I would like to put a pickup in as well and getting the Kala up to par would be a good stepping stone in that direction. I'd hate to fubar my KoAloha!

Thanks again for the tip.

ricdoug
02-18-2013, 08:22 PM
Wagster, every ukulele I've tried that uses a low voltage watch button battery for power puts a weak signal into many amplifiers. The ones that use a 9 volt battery, like the http://www.musiciansfriend.com/folk-traditional-instruments/applause-uae148-acoustic-electric-tenor-ukulele , have plenty of output for amplifiers. Ric

Wagster
03-09-2013, 04:38 AM
Well, it would be a disservice not to elaborate on my Kala adventure. It's been a fun ride...

I've been spending some time shopping around for a new pickup to put in this uke. Reading reviews, checking prices, etc. Y'all know the drill. While taking a break to pop open another Blue Moon, it occurred to me that before I buy something new, it might be a good idea (ya think) to give the existing pickup a close inspection. Things like, check the pickup and saddle for proper fit. Make sure the wires are making good contact and plugged in securely. Make sure the battery is installed correctly...

SAY WHAT!

Make sure the battery is installed correctly? Shirley there is no way to have the battery in BACKWARDS?

Yes, it is so. And don't call me Shirley.

I pulled the battery to make sure it still had the proper voltage and just for fun, I flipped the holder 180 degrees and it slipped right in. Plugged in the uke and it almost blasted me off my stool! Loud, crisp and clear. All this time I have been wrestling with this thing and the freakin' battery is in backwards! (slap forehead here).

I'm sure no one else will EVER run across this same problem, but just in case, I consider it my duty to the ukulele community to pass on this bit of embarrassment. I wouldn't want a fellow uker to suffer as I have.

Now, if the uke fairy would replace the tired, old strings on this thing I might actually be able to make a decent recording with it. I wonder if the uke fairy likes Blue Moon beer?

Brad Bordessa
03-09-2013, 07:16 PM
It's all good. At least you figured it out. My guitarist got up on stage today in front of like 400+ hungry people at a lu'au and found out his battery was dead (even though he said it was "only two weeks old"). Yeah. He was salty. He had to stand up there and play acoustic for an hour while we blasted over the PA :). But I bet he learned his lesson (and I bet you will always double check your battery polarity)! Good times.

Wagster
03-10-2013, 05:53 PM
Hmmmm.... 400 hungry people + 1 salty dude = long pork jerky


I bought that uke from MGM. I suppose he "could" have been the one that put the battery in backwards, but I'm more inclined to think it came from the factory that way. It was my first ever acoustic/electric experience and I had no notion of how it should sound. It did work like it was, weak as it may have been.

Well, you are correct that the battery polarity in my ukulele will be high on the priority list from now on.

Now, if someone would please pass me that bowl of jerky and grab a Blue Moon from the fridge I'd be all set. Good times, indeed!