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View Full Version : To pick-up or not to pick-up? Sound is the question.



Luke El U
01-12-2014, 02:10 PM
I have an incredible tenor made by the folks here in China who used to make Ponos before the company moved operations to Indonesia. It is in every sense a perfect Pono, minus the name on the headstock. With Aquila Lo-g Reds on it, the sound, action and feel are superb. I'm considering having an L.R. Baggs 5.0 installed in it, but I'm a bit worried that might significantly diminish the acoustic sound. Should I be so worried? A little worried? Not at all?

kissing
01-12-2014, 02:16 PM
Not at all

bunnyf
01-12-2014, 03:19 PM
I have a misi pickup in my LoPrinzi and if the is any detrimental effect on sound, I can't hear it. I'm sure some techies will weigh in with more informed opinions.

frukmana
01-12-2014, 03:21 PM
Hi Luke. I know this is off topic, but do you have any pics of your tenor ? Would love to see it.

Ferry

Luke El U
01-12-2014, 03:33 PM
Hi Luke. I know this is off topic, but do you have any pics of your tenor ? Would love to see it. Ferry
Funny you should ask, I almost included one in my original post. Hope this works. 62929. It's the best picture of it at the moment, my wife playing it before the Aquila Reds were put on it. I can post better pictures of it, if you want, after I get home today. I got it the Chinese equivalent of NAMM last October

frukmana
01-12-2014, 04:13 PM
That picture will do! Thanks, that uke looks real nice bet it sounds great too.

Newportlocal
01-12-2014, 04:23 PM
Not at all

This.....................

ranilus
01-12-2014, 04:49 PM
Just curious:

I have heard somewhere (might be Pono's website), out of the "pono" ukes made in China, only ukuleles actually commissioned by Pono says "hand crafted in China, with final set-up in Hawaii" (on the sticker inside the ukulele), because those were the ones that were shipped to Hawaii for the final set-up and then distributed by Pono.

The "ponos" that one factory in China made without being authorized by Pono/Ko'olau does not say "final set-up in Hawaii".

What does yours say?

hucklelele
01-12-2014, 04:52 PM
Almost all direct sound comparisons I've ever heard of acoustic instruments that have had a pick-up installed-
usually seem to indicate a superior sound achieved with a good mike otherwise
and of course there are many varibles to miking an instrument- as opposed to an electric pickup

but usually the nuances and resonance of acoustic instruments is lost by the pick-ups

if you are gigging live concerts- the pick-up might be the way to go

If you're recording, you have to judge the other equipment you may or may not have access to and each situation

but for pure sound
you're better off with a well miked uke

Luke El U
01-12-2014, 09:19 PM
Just curious:

I have heard somewhere (might be Pono's website), out of the "pono" ukes made in China, only ukuleles actually commissioned by Pono says "hand crafted in China, with final set-up in Hawaii" (on the sticker inside the ukulele), because those were the ones that were shipped to Hawaii for the final set-up and then distributed by Pono.

The "ponos" that one factory in China made without being authorized by Pono/Ko'olau does not say "final set-up in Hawaii".

What does yours say?

Mine has no sticker. No name. It's not officially a Pono. They no longer make ukes for Pono. they make them for Chinese people. Actually, i bought four different ones and gave one to my boss. Anyway, whoever set them up here in China wouldn't need anyone to mess with it in Hawaii. The set up is damn near perfect and was a fraction of the price it would cost in the States. What do they really mean when they (and other brands) say "final set up in Hawaii/mainland"? Interestingly, the rep from the Chinese company said he wouldn't sell them to vendors in Thailand because "they will sell them for 10 times the wholesale price" and he didn't feel that was right. I guess if your values are based more on Socialism, this attitude might make more sense. From a profits at all costs Capitalist mentality this guy might seem stupid.

Five Ways
01-12-2014, 11:43 PM
Hi Luke a while ago i had the same worries as you about installing pickups in my ukes, since then i have installed three misi pickups in my tenors a big island a kanilea and a koaloho all sound amazing with no effect on the acoustics of the instruments, to my ears anyway.
Good luck which ever way go.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
01-13-2014, 04:53 AM
I can't believe that sandwiching a flexible braided UST between a hard bone saddle and the bottom of a saddle slot would have no impact on the sound. Whether you can hear it with your ears or not though is a different matter. In my experience the difference, if any, is insignificant but that may also depend upon the installation. Still, if you are a sound purist you are always going to be better off with a mic, if practical.

kohanmike
01-13-2014, 05:29 AM
I have pickups in all six of my ukes, five came with them, three of which I replaced with better ones, and one I added from scratch (still have to route out the bridge to fit the piezo and the saddle, not sure how to accomplish that). I found that a couple of them had the wiring anchor attached to the inside of the top, so I moved it to the side so would not affect the vibration.

Luke El U
01-13-2014, 05:21 PM
Thank you all for your input!

Luke El U
02-21-2014, 02:43 PM
Okay, in part this is a message for Skinny Money McGee wanting to notify him of a very late PM I just sent to him. Now the other part is to say that I did have L.R. Baggs 5.0s installed in my "Ponos" by the good people at Baan Ukulele in Bangkok. Baan did an excellent job and the pick-ups sound great through my Fishman Loud Box Mini.
Unfortunately, I do notice a somewhat diminished acoustic sound, most probably for the reasons given by Chuck Moore above. The instruments still sound very good, but, acoustically speaking, they have lost a bit of the responsive "liveliness" they once had. I'm okay with that though, because Baan re-set up the action and intonation to the original fine standard and, like I said before, these high quality instruments are relatively inexpensive for me to replace here in China. I would not have done this on my expensive KoAlohas/KoAlanas.

Warbulele
02-21-2014, 03:06 PM
I agree with Hucklelele regarding decent mics sounding better than pickups - very noticable.

And I agree with Chuck regarding the impact on sound - of course it will impact the sound, but you personally may or may not be able to notice.
I hear much smaller differences than most people, so I would never put a pickup in an acoustic instrument. Ever. To me, it's worse than trying to "have your cake and eat it too", because you basically get: A) a worse sounding acoustic, and B) a worse sounding method of amplifying than regular mic.
Sure, most folks will say there's no difference, but remember how many people (even luthiers) will try to tell you that the choice of tonewood is irrelevant. Ludicrous. It goes back to how varied human hearing is. Taste is the same, some folks have ~11 tastebuds per square centimeter, while others have 1,100.

sukie
02-21-2014, 03:38 PM
I, personally, don't want an ukulele without a pick-up. It's an extremely useful tool to have. I don't play plugged in very often, but I prefer the ability to move around. Everybody is different

OldePhart
02-21-2014, 04:09 PM
I can't believe that sandwiching a flexible braided UST between a hard bone saddle and the bottom of a saddle slot would have no impact on the sound. Whether you can hear it with your ears or not though is a different matter. In my experience the difference, if any, is insignificant but that may also depend upon the installation. Still, if you are a sound purist you are always going to be better off with a mic, if practical.

This, exactly. If you remember your college physics it's simply impossible that putting any device that works on compression (that's what generates the signal, the piezo material being microscopically compressed by the vibration of the saddle against the top) is going to have zero effect on the acoustic response of the top. However, like Chuck says, it's debatable that a human ear can distinguish the difference. I suspect if it's possible at all it's probably by .0001% of the population, in ideal listening conditions.

But, to say that there isn't any affect at all just because most can't hear it is like a blind man saying that the ceiling light doesn't produce light when the switch is on. :)

All that said, the output of every UST I've ever used does exhibit some compression, noticeably more than a good condenser microphone or even a good under soundboard transducer. So, if you're looking for the most natural recording or amplified sound, go with a microphone (though a pickup is way, way, way more convenient).

EDIT to add: I have MiSi pickups in three of my ukes. I thought they were pretty natural until I did an A/B recording where I ran the pickup into one channel and a new condenser microphone I was testing into the other. I was amazed by how much compression the MiSi had, even though it sounded pretty natural.

That said, I still "believe in" UST pickups - I just ordered a custom Boat Paddle with a MiSi pickup. :)

John

Luke El U
02-21-2014, 07:13 PM
So, if you're looking for the most natural recording or amplified sound, go with a microphone (though a pickup is way, way, way more convenient).
John

And I totally agree. BTW, some people are starting to ask me for the contact for this company. If you order, you may need to have them remove the tuners that say Pono on them. That may be the only copyright infringement that may cause trouble. Here in China, few, if anybody cares, but it may well be an import problem on the US side. You want to ask for Peggy, as she speaks some English. Here it is:

Shanxi Jizhi Musical Instrument Co., Ltd.
Huang Tao
Address: No.247, Old Jinci Road, Taiyuan, Shanxi, China
Mob: 0086-13520628775
E-mail: joshua_sugar@163.com
收件人:"sxjz-168@163.com" <sxjz-168@163.com>
抄送:"joshua_sugar@163.com" <joshua_sugar@163.com>

If you send me your email, I'll send you their 2013 Price list with pics.

Warbulele
02-21-2014, 09:26 PM
I appreciate Sukie and John's opinions about how handy pickups can be. I haven't had to set mics up at shows, so it's easy for me to say "mics sound better" without knowing what that entails.
I am very wary of anything that even MIGHT diminish sound quality though, so I won't add one to my Uke, but my guitar came with one installed by the previous owner, and I'm not about to remove it to make the guitar sound better. (It does take batteries though, what am I supposed to do, loosen all the strings and reach in there?)

John - I believe it was your video on youtube that I listened to that helped me hear the difference between mics and pickups. The right and left audio channels made it easy to switch back and forth to compare.
I was shopping for a uke, and had narrowed in on the mainland mango, so I listened to your vids where you played it, one of which was the tutorial of how you installed the soundboard pickup.
It's interesting you say the soundboard pickup interferes less with the sound, good to know.
[p.s. to John: Your opinion on the mainland mango was really helpful, since you obviously had heard a lot of ukes, it helped me feel confident in it, and I ended up getting one and love it, so thank you! And your great playing helped a lot too, so I could really hear the Uke]

OldePhart
02-22-2014, 02:18 PM
Ahh shucks, @Warbulele - you're gonna give me a big head and then I'll have to buy new hats... :)

Seriously, I'm glad my vids were able to help. I consider myself a pretty rudimentary player but what really matters is that you have fun and your time with the uke rewards you with happiness...so far I'm batting 1000 in that department!

John