Lithium internal batteries in instruments (eg: Electric ukulele)

kissing

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I was in the market for a fully electric nylon string guitar, and came across the likes of Godin Multiac series (about $1500-2000 price range), Yamaha Silent guitar series (about $600-800 price range).

And then I discovered that a company I am familiar with for electric ukuleles do guitars too (Eleuke):
https://www.eleuke.com/product-page/bugsgear-bluetooth-silent-guitar-mf-cl65

And it's a winner for price at a mere $320 with free shipping, and I went ahead and ordered it. I have had favourable experience with the Ukulele variety using the same electronics. (Yeh I know the piezo pickup itself isnt as space age fancy as the Godin or Yamaha, but I dont require such advanced gear)

But I note it uses an internal rechargeable Lithium battery, like we have for our phones and laptops. And this powers the pickup as well as the Bluetooth features of the guitar.

And this really made me wonder on whether I want a guitar/uke to have a rechargeable Li battery instead of a standard 9V or AA battery like the Godin or Yamaha.

Rechargeable Li Battery

Pros:
-No need to keep replaceable batteries. You just recharge after use. 1-2 hours recharge = 10-20 hours play time.

-Can power extra features like Bluetooth capability. More powerful and consistent power source than regular alkaline batteries.

Cons:
-What to do when the lifetime of the Li battery is over and it no longer holds a charge?

-Will replacement Lithium battery always be available like standard batteries?

Standard Alkaline 9V or AA Battery

Pros:
-They have been around for decades, and pretty much always will be available at any local supermarket

-You can choose between rechargeable and disposable varieties

Cons:
-When the battery dies, you need to replace. If you don't have a spare, then you are stuck without power


Passive pickup

Pros:
-No battery needed ever

-Less things to go wrong - pickup system will last a lifetime with no maintenance or replacement parts.

Cons:
-Less features and options as standalone instrument for signal strength and tone shaping. May require external preamp to get usable tone for PA systems.


---------

An issue I would like to highlight is, guitars with passive or traditional battery options tend to last the test of time. Standard batteries like 9V and AA will be available virtually indefinitely since so many household items rely on them. You can own such instruments for decades and they will keep working.

With Lithium batteries on the other hand, are we introducing an inevitable redundancy? Eventually the Li battery will no longer hold a charge.. and if the specific battery is unavailable, is the instrument now useless?

Upon an enquiry to Eleuke about this dilemma, I was advised that replacement Li batteries are available:
https://www.amazon.ca/AOLIKES-Replacement-Lithium-Polymer-Battery/dp/B00IEUMAYM

However, this appears to be a somewhat niche battery with no guarantee it will still be around in say 10, 20, 30 years time (but I expect regular 9V and AA batteries will still be around).

I consider every uke/guitar I buy to be something that can potentially last a lifetime. But with Lithium batteries, are they limited in lifespan like how we inevitably replace phones and laptops once they are obsolete along with their battery life?

Or are Lithium batteries the future of amplified instruments, and Eleuke are ahead of the game?

Other future options:
--Replace Eleuke electronics with a passive-only pickup or some other Active pickup like a Mi-Si. The tone and volume knobs will be redundant though.


Or am I overthinking on a $320 instrument..just buy another when the battery for it dies and is no longer available?

Given my "preparedness" mentality, I have a few spare batteries on order to keep just in case. Not sure how much Li batteries degrade from unused storage time though.
 
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Larry Usselman

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Regarding long-term storage of Li-ion batteries, I found this recommendation:

"The batteries should be stored at room temperature, charged to about 30 to 50% of capacity. We recommend that the batteries be charged about once per year to prevent overdischarge."

Looks like this would be a task that needs to be added to your calendat, like replacing your smoke detector batteries.
 

kissing

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Regarding long-term storage of Li-ion batteries, I found this recommendation:

"The batteries should be stored at room temperature, charged to about 30 to 50% of capacity. We recommend that the batteries be charged about once per year to prevent overdischarge."

Looks like this would be a task that needs to be added to your calendat, like replacing your smoke detector batteries.

Thank you for that advice.
I guess the challenge will be figuring out how to charge the batteries.

I suppose one way is if I cycle through the spare batteries in rotation in the instrument.

My biggest hope is that this type of battery will be commercially available in some form long term. Hopefully its a somewhat "standard" type of internal battery used in other Bluetooth devices in general, so there is a commercial demand to keep them in stock
 

kissing

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I note that the suitable replacement battery recommended by Eleuke is 3.7V and 250 mAh.

I am not an expert on batteries and electronics, but does this mean I can theoretically use any Lithium battery as long as it is rated 3.7V and has the same connector (and appropriate dimensions to fit)?

From my understanding, the mAh affects the capacity of the battery, thus the bigger that number the better.
 

KohanMike

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I note that the suitable replacement battery recommended by Eleuke is 3.7V and 250 mAh. I am not an expert on batteries and electronics, but does this mean I can theoretically use any Lithium battery as long as it is rated 3.7V and has the same connector (and appropriate dimensions to fit)? From my understanding, the mAh affects the capacity of the battery, thus the bigger that number the better.

You probably already know this, but unplug the cable from the uke when you're not playing it, as long as the cable is plugged in, the preamp is on and draining the battery.


This is Michael Kohan in Los Angeles, Beverly Grove near the Beverly Center
9 tenor cutaway ukes, 4 acoustic bass ukes, 12 solid body bass ukes, 14 mini electric bass guitars (Total: 39)

• Donate to The Ukulele Kids Club, they provide ukuleles to children in hospital music therapy programs. www.theukc.org
• Member The CC Strummers: YouTube: www.youtube.com/user/CCStrummers/video, Facebook: www.facebook.com/TheCCStrummers
 

kissing

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You probably already know this, but unplug the cable from the uke when you're not playing it, as long as the cable is plugged in, the preamp is on and draining the battery.


This is Michael Kohan in Los Angeles, Beverly Grove near the Beverly Center
9 tenor cutaway ukes, 4 acoustic bass ukes, 12 solid body bass ukes, 14 mini electric bass guitars (Total: 39)

• Donate to The Ukulele Kids Club, they provide ukuleles to children in hospital music therapy programs. www.theukc.org
• Member The CC Strummers: YouTube: www.youtube.com/user/CCStrummers/video, Facebook: www.facebook.com/TheCCStrummers


Yes I am aware :)
You're one of the few people here who has owned the equivalent or more amount of electric ukes as me
 

Peter Frary

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I own many cameras and audio recorders that use the Li-ion rechargeables and life seems to average 4 to 5 years before they're useless. I've also had two fail and overheat and swell up, getting stuck in the device (Canon and Olympus DSLRs). A third actually exploded and melted my Tascam recorder (and made a big black mark on the floor). On the other hand, I have many guitars and ukuleles with pickups and most use 9v, AA or AAA. I use Eneloop AA/AAA and they seem to last forever (claims 2500 recharges) and not one has leaked or exploded on me (and I own many!). And I keep charged spares in my case in case I need them, and they stay charged for years, unlike Li-ion rechargeables. For 9v, I use Energizer rechargeables. While not as impressive as Eneloop, they work fine and yield a couple hundred hours of pickup use. If given a choice, I'd stick to 9v or AA/AAA for a pickup. AA/AAA and 9v rechargeables are really good now and replacements are everywhere. Specialized Li-ion rechargeables have short life spans, are harder to find and can be dangerous.

The only gotcha with Eneloop is you need to buy a smart aftermarket charger (they often have discharge and conditioning modes for restoring older batteries). The Panasonic chargers are utter crap.
 

kissing

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I own many cameras and audio recorders that use the Li-ion rechargeables and life seems to average 4 to 5 years before they're useless. I've also had two fail and overheat and swell up, getting stuck in the device (Canon and Olympus DSLRs). A third actually exploded and melted my Tascam recorder (and made a big black mark on the floor). On the other hand, I have many guitars and ukuleles with pickups and most use 9v, AA or AAA. I use Eneloop AA/AAA and they seem to last forever (claims 2500 recharges) and not one has leaked or exploded on me (and I own many!). And I keep charged spares in my case in case I need them, and they stay charged for years, unlike Li-ion rechargeables. For 9v, I use Energizer rechargeables. While not as impressive as Eneloop, they work fine and yield a couple hundred hours of pickup use. If given a choice, I'd stick to 9v or AA/AAA for a pickup. AA/AAA and 9v rechargeables are really good now and replacements are everywhere. Specialized Li-ion rechargeables have short life spans, are harder to find and can be dangerous.

The only gotcha with Eneloop is you need to buy a smart aftermarket charger (they often have discharge and conditioning modes for restoring older batteries). The Panasonic chargers are utter crap.

Thanks for that, I'm a big fan of Eneloop batteries which I use with a Fujitsu smart charger.
Great for small amps that run on AA's and other household items like shavers and flashlights
 

kissing

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As for ongoing availability of replacement batteries.. upon some research I have discovered that they are relatively common batteries used in them quad-copter/drones and other RC applications.

As long as those are quite popular, maybe I'll have a steady supply of battery availability afterall

https://www.jaycar.com.au/spare-battery-gt4196/p/GT4197
 
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Kenn2018

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The MiSi Pickup claims it has a battery-free powered preamp. That requires only 60 seconds of recharge for 18 hours of use.

I assume it has a capacitor of some sort that stores a small charge and circuitry that uses a very small amount of power to operate the LR Baggs undersaddle element. (Great pickups. I have them in two tenors and they work great.)

The biggest reasons I don't like standard 9v powered pickups is the weight of the battery and the difficulty of getting to the battery to change it. (Even more difficult are the pickups that use the CR2032 wafer batteries that are usually placed somewhere difficult to reach through the soundhole if you have big hands.)

I too have had Li-ion camera batteries swell and jam my Nikon camera. They were not Nikon batteries, but less expensive replacements. Lots of YouTube videos online that show what happens when the battery is punctured and the Lithium is exposed to the water in air. That's why you should never throw Lithium Ion batteries in the trash.
 

UkeStuff

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Regarding your original post about a passive pickup--my understanding is that the use of a passive pickup absolutely required a preamp to make sure that the tone was useable by your amplification system and also that the tone was to your personal liking/preference. And it turns out that many electric players with active pickups also use an external preamp!

I was looking at preamps the other day, and was surprised to see how expensive they were. There's a Donner preamp for $40, but is that good enough?

I'd like to ask what preamps people use with ukulele and/or other electric instruments (mandolins, etc.)
 

Peter Frary

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The 2032 driven pickups can be humbug if the installer put the battery cage in a difficult to reach place. I had one installed in a TT6 on the Spanish Foot and it's as easy to change as dropping a coin in a slot:

Romero_CR_TT6_FT2_1576sm.jpg
 

DaveY

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I'd like to ask what preamps people use with ukulele and/or other electric instruments (mandolins, etc.)

Right now I use either a Baggs GigPro or a Zoom G1 FOUR (multi-effects pedal)...or one of my Allen & Heath mixers. I don't know if all of these technically qualify as preamps, but they seem to work, for me.

I also have a Baggs Para DI that was way too much trouble for my simple mind, so it is retired/for sale.
 

kissing

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Regarding your original post about a passive pickup--my understanding is that the use of a passive pickup absolutely required a preamp to make sure that the tone was useable by your amplification system and also that the tone was to your personal liking/preference. And it turns out that many electric players with active pickups also use an external preamp!

I was looking at preamps the other day, and was surprised to see how expensive they were. There's a Donner preamp for $40, but is that good enough?

I'd like to ask what preamps people use with ukulele and/or other electric instruments (mandolins, etc.)

A preamp is not an absolute necessity for decent quality passive pickups plugged into an instrument amplifier. For example, my Risa Uke-Solid electric with passive Shadow pickup sounds just fine without the need for a preamp. However, when it comes to a larger sound system, such as a PA, to perform in front of hundreds, it may benefit from a preamp to boost and control the signal to the levels accepted by the sound system.

I have an inexpensive Joyo AD-2 Instrument preamp.
Works just fine for all sorts of instruments, both passive and active.

JY-AD-2.jpg
 

dwizum

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The real problem with a passive piezo pickup is not inherently the
signal strength or eq shape, it's the incredibly high impedance. Some instruments will sound ok plugged into some downstream equipment, but other situations will sound terrible (thin, quacky). Having an inboard preamp solves the impedance mismatch as close to the pickup as possible, which is important to avoid signal loss across a long cable (if you're plugging into a DI box 50 feet away with a passive instrument you'll notice the signal loss). Many onboard preamps also have some gain and some have an eq but those aren't really "important" to the main issue at hand.

Personally, I really dislike having a big plastic panel on an acoustic instrument, so I like a minimal buffer preamp hidden inside, just for impedance matching, then use a pedal or rack mount EQ like that one to get tone shaping.

Just commenting because I feel like some people assume the preamp is there just to make things louder or to give you tone controls, when (for a piezo) it's much more about the impedance.
 

casualmusic

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I went though this when checking out instruments with rechargeable Double Acoustasonic effects (Enya, Lava Me).

Your link to the replacement battery shows:
a. LP502030and 3.7V printed on the casing
b. lithium battery with wire leads


a. An Internet search for "battery LP502030" returns many sources amongst battery suppliers. This is a stock item used an a wide rage of products and should be available for a long time.


b. If the LP502030 eventually becomes unavailable it would be easy for a good electric guitar tech to obtain a different lithium battery(s) and wire it into the circuit.

Or even remove the charger plug and wire in some standard AA or 9V batteries with a voltage limiter to achieve 3.7 volts (3.0 volts might work).

For DYI a hobbyist electronic parts store will give you good advice.

Be careful not to reverse the positive and negative in case the circuit is not protected. I'd add a zener diode for circuit protection.


Cheers

.
 
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Kenn2018

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My Boss Acoustic Singer amp has a built-in pre-amp. Works great with both passive and active pickups.

Our uke club has a PA system, but my passives work well with it as well.

I bought a Boss DI box. But so far, I've never had to use it.