Undersaddle Passive Pickup and Saddle Problem - Please Help

Gcow55

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I recently purchased a Pono PTS-E, which contains a passive undersaddle pickup. The overall volume of the pickup is low (which I expect due to the lack of preamp). However, the problem is that the pickup is not balanced. Mainly, the high g is about half as loud as the CE and A strings when plucked at the same intensity. I think the problem may be due to how the saddle was installed. **See picture**

It looks like the saddle was installed crooked, on a slight angle. It leans towards the sound hole, rather than being perpendicular with the soundboard. Could this be the reason for the unbalanced sound coming from the pickup? Can this be easily corrected?

Second, I've tried to remove the saddle to take a look at the pickup's positioning, however the saddle won't budge. I tried using a pair of pliers (covered with cloth) to pull it out, and the thing still wouldn't budge. I gave up, because of my fear of cracking the saddle. What do you recommend I do to get the saddle off?

Any help or input at all would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
 

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I have the same issue. Very likely the saddle is not flat - either due to poor seating, or uneven sanding/filing.

No advice on how to get it out of there, but if you snap it - saddles are pretty cheap.

I’m tackling mine this weekend or next, I’ll see if I can make a vid of how it goes.
 
I have the same issue. Very likely the saddle is not flat - either due to poor seating, or uneven sanding/filing.

No advice on how to get it out of there, but if you snap it - saddles are pretty cheap.

I’m tackling mine this weekend or next, I’ll see if I can make a vid of how it goes.

Good advice Grump,
Be careful you don't tear up the bridge trying to pull out the saddle. From the sound of it, maybe it's glue muffling the sound and making it uneven.
Good Luck
 
I have the same issue. Very likely the saddle is not flat - either due to poor seating, or uneven sanding/filing.

No advice on how to get it out of there, but if you snap it - saddles are pretty cheap.

I’m tackling mine this weekend or next, I’ll see if I can make a vid of how it goes.

That would be amazing. Let me know how it goes. Also, do you have any problems with the pickup?

maybe it's glue muffling the sound and making it uneven.

Is it normal for them to put glue in the saddle?
 
The angle that you see from the saddle is a common problem when installing pickups, even when not. Physics will tell you that a force on the top of the saddle will pull the saddle towards the soundhole. It happens. This effects compounds itself when a UST is installed.

This is why LR Baggs recommends that the saddle is cut at an angle at the bottom to match the resultant pull angle. This is also why I throw in a 7 degree back angle on the saddle on all my instruments. Its a little trick among a number of guitar builders - Rick Turner created this a while ago. This process is described in an article off the Fishman site. Unfortunately, most people will view a back angled saddle as a mistake, just as most people will view the front pull as something wrong.

Don't get me wrong, I don't like the front pull, and there are fixes for it, but, its extra work.

-Aaron
 
The angle that you see from the saddle is a common problem when installing pickups, even when not. Physics will tell you that a force on the top of the saddle will pull the saddle towards the soundhole. It happens. This effects compounds itself when a UST is installed.

This is why LR Baggs recommends that the saddle is cut at an angle at the bottom to match the resultant pull angle. This is also why I throw in a 7 degree back angle on the saddle on all my instruments. Its a little trick among a number of guitar builders - Rick Turner created this a while ago. This process is described in an article off the Fishman site. Unfortunately, most people will view a back angled saddle as a mistake, just as most people will view the front pull as something wrong.

Don't get me wrong, I don't like the front pull, and there are fixes for it, but, its extra work.

-Aaron

So are you saying that the "front pull" is nothing to be worried about, and doesn't effect the pickup? What about the action?

Also, is there a diagram of what a back angled saddle looks like somewhere on the web?
 
So are you saying that the "front pull" is nothing to be worried about, and doesn't effect the pickup? What about the action?

Also, is there a diagram of what a back angled saddle looks like somewhere on the web?

I wouldn't say the front pull is nothing to worry about, but it may not be the cause of your balance problems. Of course, all else being equal, if the bottom is flat, it may be. Frank Ford's site goes into this.

From a geometrical standpoint, yes, it could affect action, but probably not so much that you'll notice. I would be more concerned about intonation when the saddle pulls forward, and the strings going sharp.

As for back angled saddles, although known among builders, its not so mainstream that everyone else knows about it. There was an article a LONG time ago, but I can't find it anymore.

OTOH, here is a link to LR Baggs site and the manual for the Element Active UST. Look familiar?
http://www.lrbaggs.com/manuals/element_active_manual.pdf
 
Unbalanced sound from the undersaddle pickup is quite possibly due to uneven pressure from the bottom of the saddle on the pickup element. I once corrected the balance on my Fluke by wiggling the saddle and putting a little bit of thumb pressure where the weaker sound was. Voila - balanced sound!
 
Unbalanced sound from the undersaddle pickup is quite possibly due to uneven pressure from the bottom of the saddle on the pickup element. I once corrected the balance on my Fluke by wiggling the saddle and putting a little bit of thumb pressure where the weaker sound was. Voila - balanced sound!

That might work, except sadly my saddle won't move down or up. It is stuck in place.
 
I would imagine that the problem should be covered under warranty. Even if it isn't I'd take it to a luthier. If he cracks the bridge or saddle trying to fix it it's his job to fix that too.
 
The fact that your saddle is stuck in the slot is probably the source of your problem. The saddle has to be snug enough so as not to allow too much of a lean angle when the uke is strung, yet loose enough to be able to move freely in the slot so that it can make positive contact along the element's entire length.
Remove the saddle with a pair of pliers, the jaws being wrapped in a cloth, and sand one side of the saddle a bit. Also make sure the saddle slot is clean and that the saddle is not getting hung up on any goobers (fancy luthier term.)
 
Can any Pono players chime in with their experiences? Was your saddle glued in or hard to get out? If so, what did you do to remedy the problem?
 
UPDATE.... I did manage to get the saddle off. It took a little bit of force, but it slid right out. So, no, Pono did not put glue in the saddle (thank God). Anyway, from the looks of the saddle, it appears that whoever installed it did not sand it down after installing the pickup. There is a pencil line drawn on it, indicating, what I assume, is where the saddle should be sanded down to, to compensate for the pickup. I am actually thankful for this, because it allows me to get the action I want. I took it down a hair and restrung it, but it may need to be sanded a little more next time I restring. As for the pickup, it looks like it adequately covers the entire space where the strings are. So I am still not sure of why there is a volume loss with the g string. As for the lean, I didn't have the guts to "back angle" the saddle, so the lean is still there. Although, it is not as dramatic as before. All in all, it doesn't look like this will be a big issue after all. I'll update you on the pickup's performance when I get the chance to mess around with it.
 
Cool - let us know how it goes. I opted to drink beer instead of fix my uke, but it's still at the top of my weekend project list for next week.:D
 
Cool - let us know how it goes.

I had a chance to really test out the pickup today. I tried it out plugged into a guitar amp, as well as plugged directly into Garageband. In both cases, the sound was still unbalanced.

The g string is still at a low, almost inaudible volume, and very thin and shrill sounding. The C string is overwhelmingly the loudest. It is full and bright. I wish they all sounded like this. The E string is also quiet, although not quite as quiet the g, but close. The A string is loud and bright, however, to my ears, not as loud as the C.

My guess is that the saddle must not be completely level. However, I would have figured, if this were the case, that the pickup would be unbalanced towards one side, such as the G and C being loud, and the E and A being quiet gcea (or vise versa). However it alternates gcea. It's weird.

Can anyone chime in on this, or offer any solutions?
 
At this point, any number of things could be the source.
If you've sanded the bottom, there is the first place you should look - change the saddle and make SURE that its flat - especially since you already suspect this.
Chuck already mentioned goobers.
Is the saddle slot flat?
Change strings?
Preamp setting?
Is the Element damaged?

I guess we should've asked this first: What kind of pickup? What kind of strings?
 
Pickup is a passive Pono undersaddle pickup. No preamp. I've had on both Pro Artes and Ko'olau golds. Same results on each. The saddle stands on its own, and I can't with my untrained eye notice if it is completely flat or not. What is the best way to do this?
 
I'm wondering if the hole for the pickup wire is drilled too close to where the G string lays, maybe it was drilled too far in and isn't picking up the G well for that reason.
 
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