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View Full Version : Request for advice re: installed electronics VERSUS add-on electronics



bellgamin
07-24-2014, 10:12 AM
I want an acoustic-electric baritone uke. I will only use that uke for electronic performances.

My tech guy told me that I should NOT buy a uke that comes with its own electronics. Reason: most acoustic-electric ukes use relatively cheap/lousy electronics.

My tech guy said I would be better off to buy a mid-priced uke & let him install HIGH-end electronics separately. Rationale: most of the amped sound is from the electronics, NOT the wood from which the uke is constructed.

Request #1: Please let me have your comments about the guidance I received from my tech.

Request #2: If you agree with my tech, please give me your recommendation of high-end electronics that would be well-suited to a baritone uke.

Newportlocal
07-24-2014, 10:18 AM
If you are getting a uke at a lot of decent places or from a custom builder you can have them install it. Places like HMS Hawaii Music Supply. I would trust their install.
http://www.theukulelesite.com/
LR Baggs five o is a good pickup.
http://www.theukulelesite.com/ukulele-pickup-installation-5-options.html
Hope that helps.:D

Rllink
07-24-2014, 11:45 AM
I was at a music store yesterday and had the same conversation with the guy there. He had a Fender Koa Concert Uke and when I asked him if he could order the same thing with a pickup, he said that I would be better off having them put a "Fishman" in it. I don't know what a "Fishman" is. I looked it up last night, and I'm still not sure what it is exactly. I'm not sure if it is active or passive, or how it even works.

kohanmike
07-24-2014, 12:19 PM
Fishman is a manufacturer, they make both preamp active systems and passive pickups. I used to have both in my various ukes, some I installed myself, some came with the uke, but I never liked the passive lower volume, so I have all active systems now. I've also installed those so called "cheap" Chinese preamp systems and they sure seem to be the same quality as the Fishman's I have.

To me the most important thing is how well the pickup is installed under the saddle (the off white part sitting on the bridge that the strings cross over). The space under the saddle has to be perfectly smooth, the pickup element has to sit flat under the saddle so that all the strings resonant at the same volume. The hole drilled through the bridge for the pickup wire has to as small as possible and as far away from where a string sits as possible.

Kekani
07-24-2014, 02:04 PM
A poor quality 'ukulele amplified is basically a louder poor quality 'ukulele.

A good quality 'ukulele poorly amplified is exactly that.

You get what you pay for. In the end, all my pickups are add-ons, whether the client orders them initially, or has it installed later.
You may get more out of the stickies in Tech Support.

BTW, to the OP, I agree and disagree with your tech. Depends on the builder, and what pickup he or she installs.

Jim Hanks
07-24-2014, 04:07 PM
Here ya go: http://shop.mainlandukuleles.com/product.sc?productId=64&categoryId=7
Done

anthonyg
07-24-2014, 09:22 PM
The tech is right in that MOST ukuleles with electronics already installed have low quality electronics. K&K Sound, Fishman and LR Braggs (EDIT: Mi-Si) all make good quality systems for ukuleles. I have a preference for microphones and use a K&K Sound Meridian Pro microphone system which clamps on to guitars and ukuleles. K&K Sound also have a twin spot system which sticks onto the inside of the soundboard. I really don't like the sound of underside piezo pickups, even good ones.

If this is for electronic performances only then you should consider going for a solid body instrument.

EDIT: Also, cheap electronics poorly setup just sound like the cheap electronics that they are. The point of more expensive systems SHOULD be to amplify the sound of the instrument.

Anthony

Kekani
07-24-2014, 10:44 PM
Add 1 - Kamaka makes Baritones, and I'd be confident in the pickup they'd install at their shop. Kanilea makes 'em as well, and Ko`olau has one in their Pono line. I'd imagine these are going to get close to the lower end of high end instruments, especially after you have them install a pickup. Again, I'd be confident in the pickups installed in them.

Or, just as your tech said, get one of those and let him install one, price would probably be the same, or could end up being cheaper, depending on what they charge compared to what your tech charges. The pickup itself will determine price I'm sure.

Not sure how much solid body's you'll find, but I know Ko`olau has made one in the past. Of course, that's now going to probably reach into the high end because it'll probably be a custom job (I saw a tenor on their site).

Booli
07-24-2014, 11:18 PM
Not sure how much solid body's you'll find, but I know Ko`olau has made one in the past. Of course, that's now going to probably reach into the high end because it'll probably be a custom job (I saw a tenor on their site).

Actually there are a few solid-body nylon string ukes now:



Godin - MultiUke
Magic Fluke Company - Fluke SB
Risa - solid stick, uke'elle
Bugsgear/Eleuke - several models
Pono - TE
Sojing (Japan) - several models
Aileen (China) - several models
VOX -VEU5


Many reviews and discussions of the first 5 in the list above can be found here in the UU forum.

A few threads about the Sojing.

Fellow UU brother bazmaz has an excellent and in depth video review of the MultiUke on his web site and video on his YouTube channel, where he rates it a 9 out of 10:

http://www.gotaukulele.com/2013/08/godin-multiuke-tenor-electro-ukulele.html

HMS has a few demo videos of Corey Fujimoto playing both the MultiUke, as well as different models of the Pono, on their site (theukulelesite.com) for each uke in their for sale page in the online store, and also on their Youtube and Vimeo channels.

and solid-body steel string ukes that I know of are:




Blue Star Konablaster
Risa LP, Bean
Kamoa LP
East-Start


All of which have discussion threads here on the forum as well.

:)

Booli
07-25-2014, 12:00 AM
Request #1: Please let me have your comments about the guidance I received from my tech.

Yes, I agree. Most decent active pickups START at about $100 for the pickup (I know of 3 sources for the Mi-Si Acoustic Trio that has it around this price), and then unless you install it yourself, you will pay labor to have it installed for you.

Having said that, for the sake of example, if the 'uke with factory pickup' is like ~$150, you are getting a cheap instrument, with cheap electronics, and if you want to gig with this AND have decent sound and reliable electronics, I'd say you are not getting it in this scenario.

A cheap uke may not be braced well enough to handle the rigors of gigging, and cheap electronics may not only sound bad, but also may have minimal shielding and poor grounding (a problem I've encountered myself).

Also, if you are going to have a pickup installed you are going to be asking someone to cut holes in your instrument, and do you want to be installing some cheapo $15 Belcat UK-200/UK-3000T that you ordered from some faceless vendor off ebay that takes 3 weeks to ship from China and has no warranty you can use, or do you want to get something that if it develops a problem, you can get in touch with the manufacturer and get support?


Request #2: If you agree with my tech, please give me your recommendation of high-end electronics that would
be well-suited to a baritone uke.

I have installed the Mi-Si Acoustic Trio in 3 different instruments myself (Epiphone LP concert, Kala KA-T tenor, and Yamaha GL-1 guitalele) and I am very happy with it in each case.

The Mi-Si uses an L.R. Baggs under-saddle pickup ribbon and instead of a battery, it has a 'super-capacitor' that you recharge with the included cable in 60 seconds, that lasts betw 8-16 hrs before needing a recharge.

The Mi-Si does not require a large cut-out hole (there are no on-board controls in the stock version - but you can add the volume and tone controls separately), only the endpin jack hole ~3/8" or 10mm, which is where the preamp sits inside the uke, and then two 2.5mm holes (one at each end) of the saddle slot for the pickup ribbon

I've also heard good things about Fishman and the L.R. Baggs Five-O as well as the B-Band pickups, but have not used any of these myself.

The B-Band uses a PVDF piezo film for the under-saddle element that is about half a millimeter thin, and as such you should not have to route out any slot for the element in the instruments' bridge, and maybe only have to shave a hair off the bottom of the saddle if the action is ever-so-slightly raised and bothers you...

There are also many passive options (all less than ~$70), which also let you use an EXTERNAL preamp, so keep in mind that whatever you choose, you may find it better to have a different setup.

With a passive under-saddle pickup, I've used both dedicated external solid-state as well as vaccum-tube preamps and find benefits with both for different scenarios...but it is more equipment to gig with, more wires to hook up and depending upon an external preamp is not really conducive to just walking out on stage and start playing right away...(like for an open mic night performance)

Hope this helps,

Booli

Jim Hanks
07-25-2014, 12:46 AM
Actually there are a few solid-body nylon string ukes now:

None of which are baritone like OP requested. I don't know of a solid body baritone except the steel string Konablaster.

But your recommendation of the MiSi meshes with my suggestion of the Mainland bari.

Booli
07-25-2014, 01:17 AM
Actually there are a few solid-body nylon string ukes now


None of which are baritone like OP requested. I don't know of a solid body baritone except the steel string Konablaster.

Yes Jim, you are right. Sorry - it seems that most of the makers that I mentioned have a tenor solid-body nylon string though, but like you said the OP asked for a bari.


But your recommendation of the MiSi meshes with my suggestion of the Mainland bari.

Also, yes, Mainland Ukes is one of the vendors I know of for the Mi-Si (I bought two of mine from them), the others are Kala (via their amazon storefront), Elderly and Blue Star Music. When Mainland did not have the Mi-Si in stock and I needed/wanted it right away, I found that Kala had it for a few dollars close in price.

The great thing I've experience with Mainland Ukes is that when I ordered on a Monday, I received the items on, or by Friday of the same week.

Those were Happy Weekend Projects! :)

Also, compared to what the other available active pickups with preamps are, they all seem to have lots of 'fiddly-bits', while the Mi-Si has the least of jangly parts and fewest of holes that need to be cut into the instrument for installation.

However, I do not have a Mainland Uke myself yet, but overall response here in the forums is that owners are quite happy with them, so this could be a good thing for a nice instrument with a good pickup if he goes with Mainland for the whole deal of both a new uke and pickup together, with the bonus of any support for both coming from the same vendor.

Kekani
07-25-2014, 07:18 AM
My tech guy told me . . .

Who's your tech?