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Thread: Confused about Uke electronics (pickups)

  1. #1

    Default Confused about Uke electronics (pickups)

    Hello all. I am narrowing down my list of tenor ukes I would like to buy.

    Iíve been thinking about the pickups, if I go electric. When I look at the descriptions I find each manufacturer appears to have a different definition of what the electronics are.

    What I think I need is a passive system ( so no wires, batteries, less weight ). So this then comes to the question should I be looking for a brand name .....thoughts.

    I also would like to hear from those who just use a mike with an acoustic uke as Iíve been leaning towards a Fluke in this regard as just using a mike might be the easiest solution...again thoughts.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
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    Pickering, ON, Canada
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    Your application will greatly determine which way to go. Are you looking to do live performances on stage, if so a pick up is much more hassle free. If you are looking at recording your playing a mic will give best results.

    I have ukes and guitars with both active and passive pick up. I also own microphones, mostly for singing but I have used them to record. I greatly prefer the easy plug and play of an active pick up. Most passive pick ups need a separate pre amp to boost the signal to usable levels from instrument to PA speaker/ amplifier. Ask any questions you want to.
    Currently enjoying these ukuleles : *LdfM tenor, *LfdM 19" super tenor. *LfdM baritone, *I'iwi tenor , *Koolau tenor, *Webber tenor, *Kimo tenor, *Kimo super concert, *Mya Moe baritone, *Kamaka baritone, *Gianinni baritone, *Fred Shields super soprano, *Kala super soprano, *Loprinzi super soprano, *Black bear ULO concert , *Enya X1 concert, *Enya X1 pineapple soprano, *Gretsch tenor, *Korala plastic concert

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by DownUpDave View Post
    Your application will greatly determine which way to go. Are you looking to do live performances on stage, if so a pick up is much more hassle free. If you are looking at recording your playing a mic will give best results.

    I have ukes and guitars with both active and passive pick up. I also own microphones, mostly for singing but I have used them to record. I greatly prefer the easy plug and play of an active pick up. Most passive pick ups need a separate pre amp to boost the signal to usable levels from instrument to PA speaker/ amplifier. Ask any questions you want to.
    Hello Dave ( if I may ). Not looking to record, but will do the occasional playing in front of a group of people: pub, seniors home, that sort of thing.

    Iíve played some electric guitar years ago, so Iím wondering about feedback with either system. I get the active, but can additional wiring and such cause buzzing.. While Iíve had my heart set on the MultiUke, the rise in its cost gives me pause. So Iíve been looking at the Gretsch and also the Kala Thinline. Both have different named systems. But I am wondering if the Fluke near a mike would really suit my needs better. All are about the same money.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2019
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    Honolulu
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    I prefer active—Baggs Five-0—but the factory installed Pono pickup is one of the louder passive designs I've tried.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2015
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    I have five ukes with pickups, all but one is the K&K Big Twin. The previous owners either chose to have this pickup installed when they ordered the uke, or they had it installed later. The one exception is the Duke 10 banjo uke, and that seems to have a Schatten Design LP-15.

    https://www.kksound.com/products/bigtwin.php
    Too many ukes, but I can't stop buying!
    https://www.catskillukulelegroup.com/

  6. #6
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    Peter Kun Frary above makes some good points. A friend has a Pono with a Pono passive pick up and it is good straight in. It boils down to how much you want to spend. Active systems don’t causes buzzes or any more problems then a passive. Just gotta change the battery now and then.

    How much do want to spend.
    Currently enjoying these ukuleles : *LdfM tenor, *LfdM 19" super tenor. *LfdM baritone, *I'iwi tenor , *Koolau tenor, *Webber tenor, *Kimo tenor, *Kimo super concert, *Mya Moe baritone, *Kamaka baritone, *Gianinni baritone, *Fred Shields super soprano, *Kala super soprano, *Loprinzi super soprano, *Black bear ULO concert , *Enya X1 concert, *Enya X1 pineapple soprano, *Gretsch tenor, *Korala plastic concert

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2017
    Location
    Utah
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    I have active MiSi pick-ups in 2 of my 4 ukuleles. I chose the MiSi pick-up because it doesn’t use a battery, so no extra battery weight or need to change a battery. MiSi uses a rechargeable capacitor. I play plugged into the PA system at church every Sunday. Other than that, I play plugged in to an amp or unplugged into a mic at my monthly uke group meetings. Plugging in is quicker & easier than adjusting a mic to capture both the uke & vocals. I’ve not experienced buzzing or feedback while plugged in. When I first started playing at church, my uke didn’t have a pick-up, so I was playing into a mic. Maintaining a consistent distance from the mic so that I could be heard clearly was a challenge for me.
    My ukulele family.....
    KoAloha Koa concert - circa 2006
    aNueNue Moon Bird concert - Spruce & Rosewood - 2018
    Blackbird Clara - 2019
    Kanilea KCS-SSP super soprano - circa 2016

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by DownUpDave View Post
    Peter Kun Frary above makes some good points. A friend has a Pono with a Pono passive pick up and it is good straight in. It boils down to how much you want to spend. Active systems don’t causes buzzes or any more problems then a passive. Just gotta change the battery now and then.

    How much do want to spend.
    Pono uses Artec ukulele piezo pickup (passive).
    They cost about $15-20 on eBay. Good quality stuff, but it can be obtained and installed for cheap with OEM knowledge


    To address the original question,

    There are many different brands of passive and active, and thus different quality outputs.
    It also depends heavily on what kind of systems you intend to plug into.

    Passive pickups (no battery or electrical power) are indeed lower maintenance, less parts and weight.
    But good output tone depends heavily on the amplifier you are plugging into. Some instrument amplifiers have great built-in preamps that can shape the sound to be more pleasant, whereas some amp systems (like PA) won't do that and passive pickups will sound either too harsh or too weak.
    You can also buy an external pre-amp or DI (eg: LR Baggs, Behringer) to have the "active" components exterior to the instrument to shape and boost the tone.

    Also, you gotta be picky about what brand passive. Unless they have brand names (eg: Artec, "Pono", Fishman, etc) assume that cheap piece-of-crap ones that cost $1-5 on eBay are used, and the output + BALANCE between strings amplified will be horrible.
    Also, in my experience, passive systems are more prone to hum, even when coupled with an external pre-amp (hum could be generated between the passive pickup and preamp)


    Actives are generally better, as the preamp is built-in and will shape and boost your tone to usable form in whatever amplifier system you plug into.
    Same logic with "Brands" exist here.

    However, if your uke comes with a no-name, generic (eg: "Belcat") active system, the preamp component is usually not bad.
    You might be able to replace the undersaddle piezo component itself to improve the overall system (undersaddle piezo competent is the same part that passive uses).



    Other options:
    Good quality transducer pickups that you stick on to the sound board, either internally or externally.
    Examples: K&K and Peterman.
    Peterman has a nice model "external" transducers, which don't require any installation.
    You can simply stick it onto your instrument's soundboard using a putty. Sound output is amazing relative to its simplicity.




    Microphone.
    Good option. But disadvantage is that it might be difficult to get a clean and focused ukulele tone, as the mic picks up ambient noise and is prone to your constant distance from the mic and other noises such as knocking it, etc.

  9. #9
    Join Date
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    The Pono passive was $60 at HMS two years ago. However it is strongly recommended that your ukulele have a deep slot for the saddle. Shallower slots have had problems seating the piezo strip and holding the saddle. There are wires from the undersaddle piezo to the jack. I haven't had a problem with hum or feedback with mine. I often use it with my Boss Singer amp. It has a built-in preamp.

    I like the LR Baggs 5.0 active pickup on two of my ukes. The only sound adjustment is a volume control. No tone control. It uses a 2032 battery, which is a pain to reach and change.

    I have a K&K active in another uke. It likewise has only a volume control. To me, it sounds just as good as the Baggs. But I haven't done a critical comparison.

    So far, the MiSi pickup in my one uke has worked perfectly and sounds equally good as the battery powered ones.

    I understand the aNueNue Air Air has an under saddle piezo and a microphone that work in combination. With a separate volume control for each so you can balance them to give you a preferred sound. Output to a single jack. But it runs about $225. Great reviews though.

    There a ton of other quality pickups available. And a lot of cheap knockoffs.


    All of the pickups can cause feedback if they get too close to a microphone. Like your vocal mic.

    With a passive the person operating the mixer/soundboard has to set the volume. With an active, you can adjust the volume, somewhat, yourself. If your pickup includes, it you may be able to change the tone a bit.

    A lot depends upon the installation of the pickup. How good is the jack is it properly installed so it doesn't loosen up right away from a strap? Is the excess wire well secured? Are the controls at an easy access position. Is the battery?

    TheUkuleleSite.com (HMS) has a couple of excellent comparison videos of 5 different pickups. PLus, a great video about installing a Baggs 5.0 active pickup in a tenor ukulele.

    I am more than willing to pay to have a professional install a pickup. Rather than struggling to do it myself.

    Good luck.
    There is a subtle yet profound difference between the learning of something and the knowing of that thing.
    You can learn by reading, but you donít begin to know until you begin to try to do.

    óLou Churchill, Plane & Pilot Magazine

  10. #10

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    Thanx to all for your help. I think I have a better understanding now.

    A further question if I may. The MiSi sounds like the answer. Just wondering as these have a charge f I plug my headphone directly into my Uke with this type of pickup, will they work? I’ve looked on the web but I’ve only gotten “in theory” answers. For those who have them, such as RafterGirl, do they work?

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