Difference between cheap and expensive piezo pick ups?

GF2

Member
Joined
Sep 6, 2021
Messages
43
Points
8
Hi all - I was considering installing a passive under-saddle piezo pick up on a ukulele, and wondered if anyone had any info on the differences between the cheap and the expensive options?

I've struggled for info, but piezo science seems firmly established, and I can't see anything to suggest more expensive options use better quality piezo crystals.

There seems to be a range from 5 pound/dollar unbranded options from the likes of AliExpress, up through well-regarded options like the 15 pound/dollar Artec PP-404U, up to the 100-150 pound/dollar options from Fishman and Misi.

Has anyone owned more than one, and can comment on the differences?

Thanks a lot.
 

anthonyg

Active member
Joined
Oct 13, 2012
Messages
2,128
Points
38
In the interests of full disclosure, I don't like piezo pickups at all, I use microphones yet others here claim that the Artec is actually as good as they get. Where you do need to spend money though is on a top grade preamp. They do make a difference. You can fit a basic passive piezo to the instrument and then have a top quality preamp on a short cable, and then run a longer cable from the preamp to the mixer/amp.
 
  • Like
Reactions: GF2
Joined
Apr 27, 2020
Messages
211
Points
18
I prefer Dazzos, but the difference seems to be more in compression ranges than anything else.
 
  • Like
Reactions: GF2

Sporky

Active member
Joined
Dec 16, 2020
Messages
142
Points
28
A friend of mine likes to tinker with electronics and made a piezo from scratch with a homegrown crystal. Very amusing watch:
 
  • Like
Reactions: GF2

KohanMike

UU VIP
UU VIP
Joined
Sep 15, 2013
Messages
5,652
Points
48
I've used both the AliExpress ribbon/copper pickups, and the Artec ones with individual sensors on a solid stick. It all depends on how flat the bridge slot is, especially for the ribbon, so that the strings put even pressure on the pickup. If the bridge slot is not perfectly flat, it's necessary to use shims under the pickup to make sure each string has equal volume.
 
  • Like
Reactions: GF2

GF2

Member
Joined
Sep 6, 2021
Messages
43
Points
8
In the interests of full disclosure, I don't like piezo pickups at all, I use microphones yet others here claim that the Artec is actually as good as they get. Where you do need to spend money though is on a top grade preamp. They do make a difference. You can fit a basic passive piezo to the instrument and then have a top quality preamp on a short cable, and then run a longer cable from the preamp to the mixer/amp.
Thanks, Anthony - I'm just starting out and experimenting at the mo, so will probably start out with a Behringer ADI21 as a pre-amp.

I prefer Dazzos, but the difference seems to be more in compression ranges than anything else.
Thanks - I'll have a look at those.
A friend of mine likes to tinker with electronics and made a piezo from scratch with a homegrown crystal. Very amusing watch:
Wow! That's impressive work.
I've used both the AliExpress ribbon/copper pickups, and the Artec ones with individual sensors on a solid stick. It all depends on how flat the bridge slot is, especially for the ribbon, so that the strings put even pressure on the pickup. If the bridge slot is not perfectly flat, it's necessary to use shims under the pickup to make sure each string has equal volume.
Thanks for the tip. Does a compensated saddle cause any issues?

One thing I don't really understand is how/whether an under-saddle pick up picks up any of the sound from the tonewood of the soundboard. I don't really understand how it can.
 

Peter Frary

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 21, 2019
Messages
1,064
Points
48
The tone wood influences string vibration, and that vibration is picked up by the bridge piezo. I can certainly hear a difference in sustain, dynamic range and timbre from my various instruments with piezo pickups, albeit not as pronounced as when played acoustically.
 
  • Like
Reactions: GF2

Kenn2018

UU VIP
UU VIP
Joined
Jun 13, 2018
Messages
3,599
Points
48
Thanks, Anthony - I'm just starting out and experimenting at the mo, so will probably start out with a Behringer ADI21 as a pre-amp.


Thanks - I'll have a look at those.

Wow! That's impressive work.

Thanks for the tip. Does a compensated saddle cause any issues?

One thing I don't really understand is how/whether an under-saddle pick up picks up any of the sound from the tonewood of the soundboard. I don't really understand how it can.
I haven't found any issues with compensated saddles affecting the under-saddle piezo pickup. As long as there is enough material to the saddle to shave enough off and still seat properly on top of the ribbon in the slot, there shouldn't be a problem.

That being said, there are a few saddles that have a lean to them towards the sound hole. I have zero idea if they can be fitted with an under-saddle passive piezo. I think I'd opt for a twin spot stuck to the underside of the soundboard if the instrument had that kind of bridge/saddle.

I have only a sample pool of 8 ukuleles with a mix of passive and active pickups. Undersaddle and spots. I'm there are others with more pickup knowledge and experience than I.
 

Brad Bordessa

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 23, 2007
Messages
1,852
Points
48
You're not just buying the UST when you spend $150. You're usually buying an optimized, tuned active preamp to give the UST its own voice and power. The MISI, Fishman, and LR Baggs pickups are all quite different in how they process the signal. They all sound good - just different.

The Artex doesn't look like it does anything on its own and will need some additional hardware - even just a simple endpin jack. Then you will certainly need a preamp. Even the "cheap" pickup will cost a minimum of $60 ($15 for the UST + $10 for an endpin jack + $35 for a Behrenger ADI21) for a decent sound. Plus you have to cut, strip, and solder it all together.

Once you factor in the lack of support for a DIY job like that and the big question mark of what it will actually sound like, you might as well just get the good pickup, IMO. Your plugged in sound is only as strong as your weakest link and you'll always wonder if it can sound better.

FWIW, the Artex looks very much like the passive Pono pickup so perhaps I've used it. If so, I took it out and put in a MISI.
 

GF2

Member
Joined
Sep 6, 2021
Messages
43
Points
8
You're not just buying the UST when you spend $150. You're usually buying an optimized, tuned active preamp to give the UST its own voice and power. The MISI, Fishman, and LR Baggs pickups are all quite different in how they process the signal. They all sound good - just different.

The Artex doesn't look like it does anything on its own and will need some additional hardware - even just a simple endpin jack. Then you will certainly need a preamp. Even the "cheap" pickup will cost a minimum of $60 ($15 for the UST + $10 for an endpin jack + $35 for a Behrenger ADI21) for a decent sound. Plus you have to cut, strip, and solder it all together.

Once you factor in the lack of support for a DIY job like that and the big question mark of what it will actually sound like, you might as well just get the good pickup, IMO. Your plugged in sound is only as strong as your weakest link and you'll always wonder if it can sound better.

FWIW, the Artex looks very much like the passive Pono pickup so perhaps I've used it. If so, I took it out and put in a MISI.
Thanks Brad. I must admit I didn't look into the Misi that closely and thought it was another under-saddle pickup - Really I was after views about the different quality of the different manufacturers of that one type, as opposed to a comparison of different pick-up types.

I'm fairly new to the ukulele, and there seems little point in sticking a £100+ pickup into a £40 ukulele... on the other nahd, I'm not that nervous about sticking a £15 model in myself, and I can always offload the ADI21 if the endeavour doesn't achieve what I want.

You are spot-on, though, when you say "the big question mark of what it will actually sound like" - that is really what I am trying to ascertain at this point - is it worth it!
 

Brad Bordessa

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 23, 2007
Messages
1,852
Points
48
I must admit I didn't look into the Misi that closely and thought it was another under-saddle pickup
Oh, right. They do have the "AIR" model, but supposedly it sucks. I was thinking of the Uke Trio/Acoustic Trio which is a UST.

I definitely understand the situation better if you only have a £40 ukulele. Some of the best advice I was given was to NOT get a pickup when I bought my first uke in that price range. This from the guy at the music shop who would probably have made a commission. He encouraged me to wait until I really had a purpose for the pickup and in the meantime just become a better player. I'm very glad I did. The time I spent practicing on that uke went way farther without the time suck of electronics to distract me.
 

M3Ukulele

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 20, 2013
Messages
1,471
Points
48
What Brad just said. I’ve been tempted to buy a pickup……..research it’s all…….but I don’t have a need. I eventually bought a very good K & K twin spot knock off and never installed it. Maybe Someday when I have a need To play louder. It’s. Huge rabbit hole, pickup, or mic’s, pre amps, chords Andy then the acoustic amps.
YMMV, get one if you want.