View Full Version : Amazing cheap undersaddle piezo = GREAT results

07-15-2013, 05:21 AM
My Luna Baritone's cheap undersaddle pickup left more to be desired.
It hardly makes a tone when plugged in and is very unresponsive. Not surprising that the stock pickup is the cheapest, crappiest variety in existence.

I found this inexpensive ARTEC pickup for ukuleles upon a search on the internet. I had previously heard of this brand, somewhat well known for its guitar pickups, and they seemed like good quality. Here is where I bought mine for $12 and a bit of shipping:

Now, I'm not a great tinkerer at all, in fact I'm more of a destroyer.
But even with my feeble skills and lack of specialised tools I was able to replace the flimsy stock piezo with the Artec one. It did require a bit of modification on my particular uke:

-The hole on the bridge where the piezo enters the body was not large enough for the new piezo, so I had to make it a bit bigger using a mini flathead screwdriver like a barbaric chisel (a needle file or power-drill/drillbits would have been ideal, but I didn't have one)

-The saddle needed to be sanded down a bit as the new piezo gave more height

-I had to trim a tiny bit of the piezo bar off the end as it was about 2mm too long to fit in the ukulele undersaddle.

These steps may not be necessary for some ukes, depending on the dimensions, etc.

After about an hour of tinkering, this project is a raving success!
The ukulele went from sounding like plugging a potato into an amp, to a professional quality tone that competes with much much more expensive pickup systems such as Fishman or Mi-Si. The tone became FAR more rich, sustaining and pleasant to play and listen to.

I suspect that the Artec pickups are the OEM for pickups that are sold far more expensively when under other brand names, such as Dean Markley.
They have shielded wiring and the actual piezo undersaddle bar is securely encased on copper(?) and a rigid metal casing.

If you're looking for a GREAT quality, affordable undersaddle piezo with mini-jack end, you gotta try this!
My only criticism is that shipping was a bit slow. It sends from Hong Kong, and it took about 2 weeks for it to arrive in Australia.

Sorry I didn't take pictures of the installation process.. I wasn't intending to make a detailed guide.

But here are some pictures of the pickups I took:

1. The original flimsy piece of trash that is stock with the UK-2000/Belcat pre-amp systems. The undersaddle part isn't even rigid! It's just a bit of wire covered in a bit of plastic which I suspect has a tiny bit of piezo inside?!
http://i4.photobucket.com/albums/y121/pactio_kiss/pickuporiginal_zpsf24927a3.jpg (http://s4.photobucket.com/user/pactio_kiss/media/pickuporiginal_zpsf24927a3.jpg.html)

2. This is how I received the Artec pickup in a bubble wrap bag.
I even get a free mini plastic container! (which I will use as a medicine box or something):

http://i4.photobucket.com/albums/y121/pactio_kiss/pickupartec_zps8bc6aa7e.jpg (http://s4.photobucket.com/user/pactio_kiss/media/pickupartec_zps8bc6aa7e.jpg.html)

07-15-2013, 12:47 PM
Hey Kissing, I've been meaning to do something like that as well on my bari, did you run into any complications while installing?

Rick Turner
07-15-2013, 12:54 PM
The pickup you replaced CAN deliver fantastic tone...IF it's installed correctly AND it is coupled with good on-board electronics. It is a coaxial pickup in which the piezo material is a polymer either wrapped around or extruded over a center conductor and then overspun with a braided copper shield. The lack of rigidity is irrelevant to either it's performance or how it affects the instrument.

We've installed literally thousands of similar pickups, but coupled with really good electronics, in everything from six string basses to soprano ukes. They work great...IF you know what you're doing with the installation.

But it's great that you're getting good results from what you put in. However, I would be very very cautious about cutting a piezo saddle to length; the danger of destroying the pickup or compromising shielding is very high.

How is the hum level? Do you get less hum if you touch the metal housing or strap button of the jack?

With the right installation, you should hear absolutely no difference in the noise level whether or not you are touching the jack or metal part of the cable plug housing.

07-15-2013, 02:52 PM
Hi Rick, thanks for your great information.

In this case, the only change I made in hardware was the undersaddle pickup, and there was a definite before and after effect.
The previous "co-axial" pickup could hardly call itself a pickup from how it was performing. Not sure how differences in installation could have made it work.. it was simply resting under the saddle and connected to the pre-amp, like any pickup would be.

Maybe trimming the end of the pickup was a bad idea :( - I may order another one for $12, and perhaps modify the bridge a little bit so the pickup fits, rather than barbarically slicing a bit of the pickup off. I didn't really want to cut the "meat" of the pickup. There was a bit of the metal casing only that was portruding beyond the pickup body that stuck out like a sore thumb. But I was pretty clumsy with my pliers.

I do hear a little bit of hum that goes silent when I touch the metal housing of the jack.
Perhaps I have compromised the shielding when I cut the pickup?
Otherwise, it could also be the cheap UK-2000 pre-amp which I have not replaced.

I'll order another undersaddle pickup and install it without chopping it to see if it makes a difference.

Overall, I'm happy with the changes. This is my beater uke, and previously I would not have been able to make any usable sound from plugging it in.
Now it is actually playable plugged in.

edit: That being said, my Gretsch tenor with factory-installed Fishman active pickup/pre-amp exhibits the same hum.
Would you say that a little hum is expected with some systems, or are they actually faults that can be corrected?

07-15-2013, 03:04 PM
Hey Kissing, I've been meaning to do something like that as well on my bari, did you run into any complications while installing?

The main complications was that the dimensions of the pickup did not match the dimensions of the ukulele perfectly.
The "hole" at the bottom of the saddle where the pickup threads inside into the body was not large enough for the new pickup, so I had to widen the hole a bit.
And the new undersaddle piezo unit was a little bit longer than what would fit.

But you can get lucky and have everything fit. Otherwise, some modifications to the uke may be necessary (do at your own risk!!).
I would not attempt such things on a uke that is valuable. I only did it because the Luna is my beater uke that I don't mind experimenting on.