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View Full Version : Who has the absolute best live acoustic/electric tone and what are they using?


McStrats
07-14-2010, 08:03 AM
I'm actually looking to upgrade the Fishman UST in my Martin D-1 ( which is used with a Fishman Pro EQ). So rather than writing a thread asking for pickup recommendations, I figured I would ask instead who has the best a/e sound **I do realize that "best" is highly subjective btw**For me "best" is a tone that is a good acoustic electric tone...as opposed 'the sound of my Martin only louder'. The latter works well in a parlour but turns to mush in a noisey environment....Good A/E tone is what I'm after.

For me it's Tommy Emanuel, but his use of a pair of condenser mics is highly unpractical for me. I mainly gig in crowded bars where I set up a small PA and need something that is fairly plug n play friendly. I've had decent luck with the Fishman Matrix, but the plasticky quack I get on the treble strings has to go. Money is not an issue btw, I am also considering buying a dedicated acoustic electric guitar.

Things I'm considering:

Baggs Anthem (real anxious to know more about this)
B Band
McIntyre
Sunrise
Fishman Aura Pedal
Fishamn Infinity

**Bug transducers like K&K and the I-Beam are too prone to feedback and therefore not an option.

Thanks.

wilblee
07-14-2010, 09:29 AM
My favorite gigging acoustic - in a noisy environment (which it is 90+% of the time) - is an Ovation 2007 Collectors series with a OP-Pro Studio preamp swapped in for the stock VIP preamp. The OP-Pro Studio is seriously misnamed, IMO. The VIP is actually the far better recording preamp while the OP-Pro Studio is the better performing preamp. It has the great sound of the regular OP-Pro preamp while adding a built-in compressor and exciter, both adjustable.

Just for reference - my favorite recording acoustic is my Larrivee LV-09E with the Baggs iMix preamp. I'll mic the Larrivee on a couple of tracks, using condensors (or sometimes ribbons or sometimes both) in a Blumlein configuration and run the Baggs output to another track, then mix and master as required. I've played both of my Larrivee's out live and loved 'em - in a quiet environment, but in a noisy environment the Ovation rules.

Getcha either a 2005 or a 2007 Collectors series. They both have very nice spruce tops, LX bracing and the contour back. This combo gives a beautifully balanced sound with the contour back also making it easier to hold on to seated. The 2005 has a more traditional single sound hole, while the 2007 has multiple sound holes. There are several other spruce-top models with LX bracing and contour backs. These are just my favorites. Then add a OP-Pro Studio preamp (it's easy. Just pop out the VIP like you were changing the battery and pop in the OPS like you were done changing the battery) and you're on your way.

You can usually pick up either of these guitars on eBay for well under a grand and the OPS will set you back about $200, new.

McStrats
07-14-2010, 10:10 AM
Thanks Wilblee...thats something I had not thought of. What do you think of the Standard Elite with OP Pro?

derekd
07-14-2010, 11:29 AM
I really was impressed with Andy McKee's tone when I saw him at the Montreal Jazz Fest a couple of weeks ago. He was playing only Greenfield guitars, which are very expensive. Not sure what electronics he is using, and his site didn't seem to offer any answers.

Catoogie
07-14-2010, 11:40 AM
Neil Young, he has stereo Fraps in his guitar but they don't make them anymore. Apparently the closest thing to them are being made by http://www.tranceaudio.com/

slowth
07-14-2010, 12:25 PM
anthen might be an exciting trial for you.. read impressive stuff

hazel-rah
07-14-2010, 04:53 PM
The "absolute best tone" would only come via microphone(s).

wilblee
07-14-2010, 11:43 PM
Thanks Wilblee...thats something I had not thought of. What do you think of the Standard Elite with OP Pro?

The 2778AX is a great guitar that gives you just about all that the '05 and '07 Collectors give you. What you get by going with the latter two models is:

- better top wood
- ebony fretboard and bridge instead of rosewood (personal preference for me. You may like rosewood better)
- nicer cosmetics (IMO)
- XLR and 1/4" outs
- made in the US

The OP-Pro Studio is basically an OP-Pro with a built in compressor and exciter. This allows you to dial in killer tone with controls all on your guitar. I have gigged with the OP-Pro, the VIP and the OP-Pro Studio and the OP-Pro Studio is easily the best of the three for live applications. This really came home to me when I lent it to my partner, who plays an '05 Collectors with its standard OP-Pro. The OP-Pro is a wonderful preamp that doesn't need to apologize to anyone and he and I both have used one for years with no complaints. But when I tried the OP-Pro Studio it was just that much better. Anyway I lent it to him to try out, so he could see if he wanted one. I had a heck of a time getting it back (He'll be buying one shortly). In the time that he had it I was able to listen to it without the distraction of playing through it and was convinced of its superiority to anything else in my arsenal, including the Baggs iMix on my Larrivees, for live playing in a club type environment.

Now, having said all that, if you get the 2778AX with the OP-Pro you will, right away, have a great guitar for what you're looking for and may never feel the need to upgrade. If you do upgrade, the biggest improvement would be to get the OP-Pro Studio.

For more info (and more opinions) stroll around the Ovation Fan Club site (http://www.ovationfanclub.com). Do a search in the General Posting section for OP-Pro Studio.

Happy hunting.

Pietro
07-15-2010, 07:23 AM
These are amazing. (http://andersonguitars.com/product_information/models/crowdster_family/crowdster_over.cfm)

The best plugged in acoustic sound I've heard might be James Taylor. What does he use?

drive-south
07-15-2010, 08:16 AM
James Taylor seems to change his rig frequently. A few years back he was using the Fishman Aura, the large programmable model. He actually sent his Olson guitar to Fishman and they created a special image of his guitar. Fishman will do this for anyone for a price. Last I heard JT was using something else now.

The best acoustic tone I've heard was Richard Thompson. He amplifies his Lowden acoustic with a Sunrise soundhole pickup, and an internal mic. He plays them through a very esoteric preamp called a "Gas Cooker" preamp.

The best acoustic tone generally involves using a dual element system with a pickup and mic. The pickup gives you volume without feedback, and the mic adds the natural tone of the guitar to the mix. I prefer to use an external mic on a stand in front of me. I've never had good luck with internal mics. I good mic on a stand can be used with multiple instruments when needed.

Another great pickup is the Schertler DYN-G. This is actually a contact mic that attaches to the guitar with soft putty. They're not cheap, selling for ~$500.

The Trance Audio stuff is supposed to be the best out there. It's not cheap. Plan on spending close to $1k to amplify 1 guitar. If you are like me and play several guitars, the cost is prohibitive.

I've heard good things about the Highlander coaxial pickup. A lot of people love them incuding David Crosby. These are difficult to install and have to be set just so to sound good. Highlander also makes pickups for Resophonic guitars including Tricones, biscuits, and spiders.

drive-south

Jazzydave
07-16-2010, 12:34 AM
I'm currently using a Baggs M1A in my Martin HD-28 Custom...love it.

Someone that immediately came to mind was Leo Kottke - I'm not sure as to what he's currently using but he always sounds great!

Mitchell
07-16-2010, 02:51 PM
James Taylor seems to change his rig frequently. A few years back he was using the Fishman Aura, the large programmable model. He actually sent his Olson guitar to Fishman and they created a special image of his guitar. Fishman will do this for anyone for a price. Last I heard JT was using something else now.

The best acoustic tone I've heard was Richard Thompson. He amplifies his Lowden acoustic with a Sunrise soundhole pickup, and an internal mic. He plays them through a very esoteric preamp called a "Gas Cooker" preamp.

The best acoustic tone generally involves using a dual element system with a pickup and mic. The pickup gives you volume without feedback, and the mic adds the natural tone of the guitar to the mix. I prefer to use an external mic on a stand in front of me. I've never had good luck with internal mics. I good mic on a stand can be used with multiple instruments when needed.

Another great pickup is the Schertler DYN-G. This is actually a contact mic that attaches to the guitar with soft putty. They're not cheap, selling for ~$500.

The Trance Audio stuff is supposed to be the best out there. It's not cheap. Plan on spending close to $1k to amplify 1 guitar. If you are like me and play several guitars, the cost is prohibitive.

I've heard good things about the Highlander coaxial pickup. A lot of people love them incuding David Crosby. These are difficult to install and have to be set just so to sound good. Highlander also makes pickups for Resophonic guitars including Tricones, biscuits, and spiders.

drive-south

Yes, Richard Thompson, his Lowden, sunshine and mic and his live sound mixer-- It’s great, possibly the best live amplified acoustic sound. However, his hands, his touch, his genius and what he is playing are very big factors (perhaps the biggest factors) in why he sounds as he does IMHO. If a mere mortal like me picked up and played his guitar immediately after he played it without anything at all being changed, I think (know) it would sound entirely different from him. It would sound just like a mere mortal playing a very good guitar through very good gear. D’ya notice that the “best” acoustic guitar sounds (electric too) are usually, if not always, made by the best guitarists?

Whatever p.u. Martin put in my ’92 D-45, through an old Crate (out of issue) 100W acoustic amp with the graphic E.Q. in an extreme mid-cut smile, with a little Jangle Box II compression with no treble boost, is magic. It almost makes me sound good.

A-Bone
07-16-2010, 03:00 PM
Richard Thompson was my first thought, as well.

zenitB
07-16-2010, 03:13 PM
The "absolute best tone" would only come via microphone(s).

+1

I'll also mention that some guitars sound a little boomy when miked. When I hear one that is really balanced and natural sounding I notice that it is
often a mahogany body (like a Gibson LGO); they record well too.

walterw
07-16-2010, 03:24 PM
**Bug transducers like K&K and the I-Beam are too prone to feedback and therefore not an option.


they also sound better than USTs, so don't be so quick to rule them out.

a dual-source system combining this type of pickup with something more feedback-proof is a good idea to explore.

lamenlovinit
07-17-2010, 01:50 PM
Drop the two grand and get one of these. Good mic, and an awesome personal amp. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOC2ViSeGfE

rollingdam
07-17-2010, 04:38 PM
If you want a dedicated guitar-get a Cole Clark

John Thigpen
07-17-2010, 11:29 PM
Martin Simpson sounds very good live, and he uses (or used to) Highlander.

John

wilblee
07-18-2010, 06:29 PM
Remember guys, Eamonn didn't just ask about good live sound. He asked about good live sound that will cut through a noisy environment. Yeah, James Taylor's rig is awesome, but when I (and I suspect, Eamonn) play I'm not on a stage with a rapt audience dying to hear every note I play. I'm in a corner of a noisy club hoping that I can cut through with my sound enough that people can hear it, like it and leave fat tips.

EricatWillcutts
07-19-2010, 11:22 AM
I have no idea what he's using, but Jackson Browne gets a beautiful acoustic sound live.Anybody know?

Neer
07-20-2010, 11:53 AM
I have a Highlander IP-2 with an internal condenser mic and a piezo saddle pickup in my Michael Dunn Rhythm Futur. I do not use the piezo, but connect the internal mic to a good outboard preamp and the sound is the most natural reproduction I've ever heard.

McStrats
07-20-2010, 03:47 PM
After a lot of research I decided to go with the DTAR Multi Source. Thanks for all the recommendations everyone!!!..I'll post a review once I take it out for a gig :)

jamison162
09-08-2010, 01:23 PM
Any updates on the Dtar Wavelength System?

melven62
09-11-2010, 02:46 PM
David crowder's anderson crowdster sounded really good last night.

Ocelot
09-16-2010, 11:40 AM
I have no idea what he's using, but Jackson Browne gets a beautiful acoustic sound live.Anybody know?

As of 2006, JB was using the Lens system from Trance Audio. Not sure if he's stuck with it or not.

A440
09-16-2010, 12:11 PM
Pendulum preamps used to be the one to get.

On a budget, I'm thinking of getting a Fishman Aura 16 pedal :)

I agree, JT has some of the best live acoutic tones. Michael Hedges too

The Kid
09-16-2010, 12:30 PM
Leo Kottke - I'm not sure as to what he's currently using but he always sounds great!

+1000

apitakos
09-16-2010, 12:45 PM
David Crowder has a great acoustic tone, he is the guy whom the Tom Anderson Crowdster is named after

disguiseglasses
09-16-2010, 02:35 PM
The "absolute best tone" would only come via microphone(s).

I unequivocally agree.
Still, I realize the impracticality.

I've tried (just about) everything.
Sunrise, I-Beam, M1, Feather...

My solution as of late has been
a blended signal using a cheapy
(though decent quality)
AKG Perception 200 condenser
and the K&K PWM- 60% mic, 40% pickup.
My little "trick" is having a volume pedal for the K&K
to add a little more pickup tone for fingerpicking/solos, etc.

Best of luck.

ABKB
09-16-2010, 04:07 PM
Can end the thread here ;)

fcFBBimDUpE

clemduolian
09-16-2010, 05:31 PM
Dual source pickups THROUGH a DTAR Solstice preamp...for the win! I've used it with Highlander/magnetic; I-Beam/Magnetic; Duncan Mag/Mic; condenser mic/Sunrise. Solstice is a great preamp/blender (almost as good as my old Pendulum rig, but way easier to use and smaller (non-rack).

BoThomas
09-23-2010, 10:01 AM
Just my two cents... I have had several combinations of acoustic guitars and pickups and still the best live sound I have ever had is with my 2001 Taylor W12CE. It has the Fishman Prefix Stereo Blender and I run it straight into my TU2 then Countryman 85. No frills, no Baggs DI, nada. Numerous times I have been told by FOH engineers that it is one of the best acoustics they have ever heard. On big and small stages alike I rarely get more than a smidge of the mic in the blender before I am dialing out a hum or feedback, so I typically stick to the bridge. Just so you know I am a bit of a gear nut, like most on this board, so I definitely feel weird saying that I run such a stock set-up. My second best acoustic sound is from my D28 clone custom build that only has an older Baggs Element and I use a Baggs DI with it. Unfortunately for me, over the last nine years I have been playing tons of quick and greasy gigs with my acoustics and haven't had the luxury of low stage volume or in-ears. If I get back to that level I think I want to try a Baggs iMix and really do it up.

http://i579.photobucket.com/albums/ss239/toddr156/backstage.jpg

zombywoof
09-23-2010, 12:33 PM
I am a great admirer of David Lindley but while I would love to have one of those Manzanita Weissenborn copies he plays, I somehow don't think it has much to do with the gear.

The Kid
09-23-2010, 02:17 PM
Just my two cents... I have had several combinations of acoustic guitars and pickups and still the best live sound I have ever had is with my 2001 Taylor W12CE. It has the Fishman Prefix Stereo Blender and I run it straight into my TU2 then Countryman 85. No frills, no Baggs DI, nada. Numerous times I have been told by FOH engineers that it is one of the best acoustics they have ever heard. On big and small stages alike I rarely get more than a smidge of the mic in the blender before I am dialing out a hum or feedback, so I typically stick to the bridge. Just so you know I am a bit of a gear nut, like most on this board, so I definitely feel weird saying that I run such a stock set-up. My second best acoustic sound is from my D28 clone custom build that only has an older Baggs Element and I use a Baggs DI with it. Unfortunately for me, over the last nine years I have been playing tons of quick and greasy gigs with my acoustics and haven't had the luxury of low stage volume or in-ears. If I get back to that level I think I want to try a Baggs iMix and really do it up.

http://i579.photobucket.com/albums/ss239/toddr156/backstage.jpg


I'm with you on that. I have a Fishman Onboard Prefix Blender system and it sounds killer. I get compliments from people all the time on my acoustic live sound.

I have the blend set right in the middle and use the notch filter and semi parametric mids to shape the tone. I used to play with a guy that had the pendulum and he loved it, but it wasn't always easy to dial in and often, I'd actually get a better sound than him.

The condenser mic does a great job with capturing the guitars tone and the piezo gives a little punch. I roll some highs off the piezo so I don't get that plastic quacky sound. As a result, my guitar sounds very natural and woody.

I run it through a Korg Pitchblack tuner and an Aphex Acoustic Guitar Exciter pedal into a QSC K10. The guitar is an old Washburn Timber Ridge Custom (It's a Martin D41 knockoff... probably close to 25 years old.)

There are obviously better systems out there, but I like the fact that I can get a good sound through any PA with that setup. I do use a rubber sound hole cover to reduce feedback.

sksmith66
09-24-2010, 07:59 AM
I really was impressed with Andy McKee's tone when I saw him at the Montreal Jazz Fest a couple of weeks ago. He was playing only Greenfield guitars, which are very expensive. Not sure what electronics he is using, and his site didn't seem to offer any answers.
andy mckee uses a K&K trinity mini and a sunrise magnetic pickup. and according to him he mixes them about 80% trinity 20% sunrise. not sure how he mixes the trinity mic and transducers. Andy says Don Ross uses an identical setup.

thkyle
09-26-2010, 12:22 AM
The dude is the best ny far....:bow

stratmansblues
09-26-2010, 10:32 PM
I'm kind of partial to this tone.. looks like a Seymour Duncan pickup of some sort. Kind of wild to hear acoustic with overdrive and it actually sounds good.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HxzOdpgx874

By the way, I currently use a Fishman Matrix Infinity and usually get a good sound directly into my pa system.

stephenT
09-27-2010, 09:19 AM
I'm always disappointed w/ everything else so I slapped my trusty Sunrise into my new Recording King/Schoenberg "O". It's the only acoustic pickup that works for me.

http://i50.photobucket.com/albums/f335/talkovich/DSC_0007-3.jpg

74vibrolux
09-27-2010, 01:49 PM
I used a Sunrise for quite a while before switching to my K&K. The Sunrise is great for that acoustic electric tone. I ended up preferring a more natural sound.

stephenT
09-27-2010, 02:11 PM
I used a Sunrise for quite a while before switching to my K&K. The Sunrise is great for that acoustic electric tone. I ended up preferring a more natural sound.

And I prefer a usable pickup,..I've removed the K&K from two guitars, for me they were unusable.

(The K&K was woofy, mid range heavy, needed extensive EQ and very prone to feedback.

Not a fan of the K&K, (i should add) I play acoustic in duo, trio and band settings and have a need for decent headroom before feedback.

OOG
09-28-2010, 03:02 PM
If not a mic
a Sunrise
both is even better

Lindley and Kottke both use Sunrise
these two might have a clue what works;)

stephenT
09-28-2010, 08:21 PM
If not a mic
a Sunrise
both is even better

Lindley and Kottke both use Sunrise
these two might have a clue what works;)

Keith, Emmylou, Richard Thompson, Alvin Youngblood Hart, John Doe, Ben Harper, Lyle Lovett, Michael Hedges,....

Sleepless
08-31-2011, 06:18 PM
I really was impressed with Andy McKee's tone when I saw him at the Montreal Jazz Fest a couple of weeks ago. He was playing only Greenfield guitars, which are very expensive. Not sure what electronics he is using, and his site didn't seem to offer any answers.


Definitely. He's got a perfect tone. I saw him live a few months ago. I saw Tommy Emmanuel as well and I think I prefer Andy's sound. Yet it might just be depending on the venue...

Andy uses A K&K Trinity Solo with a D-Tar Solstice preamp then PA system... Andy is absolutely brilliant. He plays scary beautiful things that are hard to plays as hell, and he just looks like he's playing a stupid, easy A chord... HE just kills me :messedup

PedalFreak
08-31-2011, 06:28 PM
The "absolute best tone" would only come via microphone(s).

:agree

But if you must use a pickup, the best I've heard was a Sunrise Pickup into a Demeter Tube DI. Sounded perfect :)

Redrum
08-31-2011, 07:55 PM
ABKB -

Great Keaggy link! I love that stuff. The dude is absolutely fearless.

Thank you.

arthur rotfeld
08-31-2011, 08:23 PM
Very happy with the K&K (mic and under saddle pickup)....excellent tone and I don't have feedback issues, at least nothing unreasonable.

pickaguitar
09-01-2011, 09:34 AM
whatever James Taylor uses...wish I had it

archtopjazz
09-01-2011, 04:06 PM
Can end the thread here ;)

fcFBBimDUpE

Amazing

McStrats
09-02-2011, 07:37 AM
I ended up going with a Fishman Aura 16 pedal that I use with a Martin 00016RGTE Premium. From a plug and play stand point it is very user friendly and set up is a matter of a few minutes. I have learned not to over use the Aura blend knob though. About 40% live and a hair more in the studio.

Thanks for all the great suggestions!

Bananafist
09-04-2011, 01:00 PM
Many people say Richard Thompson has a superb acoustic sound live. Well, I saw him 6 months or so ago in the UK, and it sounded like he was using rubber bands for strings, with some fuzz.....just awful.
Martin Simson sounded good twice, third time not so good.
All this means is that anyone can have a bad night/soundman and it doesn't matter what you spend, necessarily.
Most consistent I've heard was Claptons Martin sound, but it wasn't a great sound, just good and consistent over three years and three different venues. He uses a very costly bug, the name of which escapes me as I'm VERY OLD!
:bananafist

McStrats
09-05-2011, 11:11 AM
RT is one of my all time favorite guitarists. When I saw him I thought that his live sound was great but not all that acoustic , or *acoustic/electric* sounding. It sounded more like a hollow body with a mag pickup. Still a great *sound* though.

HeeHaw
09-05-2011, 12:49 PM
I like the sounds that David Crowder gets live with his Anderson guitars.

Loki
09-06-2011, 12:42 PM
I want to throw in John Butler who has an amazing live sound. I'm sorry, i don't know anything about his gear but some other guys here might know.

bbrunskill
09-16-2011, 09:44 PM
John Butler uses a Sunrise and a Piezo.

IMO, the best live acoustic guitar sound is a Cole Clark. Their pickup system is phenomenal. Basically, it's a piezo 'bug' for the high frequencies, and a UST for the lows. Combined with a basic but good sounding EQ.

I miss mine . . .

paaes335
09-19-2011, 01:42 PM
I opened a couple of shows for Leo Kottke in the 90's, the first show he was using Sunrise pickups in his signature Taylor 6 & 12 strings run into Pendulum preamp straight to the board. His sound was huge and just amazing (well of course it's mostly in the hands and fingers with him) and mixed with some mic from the stage. He told me he preferred most of the sound to come from the Sunrise. The second show I opened for him was about 2 years after and he was using LR Baggs Dual Source pickups. Told me he was trying them out, I remember thinking after hearing him that night the sound was nice but not as full as the Sunrise. I read shortly after that he had gone back to Sunrise. Not sure what he uses these days.
I've also opened shows for Adrian Legg, Alex Degrassi, and Chris Proctor, Kottke had the best amplified acoustic tone of all.
From the Kottke experience I put a Sunrise in my Larrivee L09 and have been using it for about 15 years now. I can play in the noisest bar situations and have no problem turning up without feedback worrries. The Sunrise also works well with most effects.

Nuclearfishin
09-22-2011, 01:44 AM
The DDSM is phenominal. It has a Baggs system that is custom made for that guitar only. Six hand-made individual brass saddles made by a little old lady at Baggs and whatever else they have in it makes for a great acoustic tone. Google and listen if you haven't heard it.

alexanderplatz
09-24-2011, 11:50 AM
Maybe not the answer you're looking for, but Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings do not use any pickup system at all but rather use external mics.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7c/David_Rawlings_and_Gillian_Welch.jpg

twoheadedboy
09-24-2011, 11:05 PM
Cole Clark's system is the best I've heard (at least for what I do), and I've tried most of what is out there right now.

orogeny
09-24-2011, 11:24 PM
mics are always my favorite (using one tomorrow), but I still have the best acoustic sound i've ever heard.

petillo pickup. . . .

http://www.petilloguitars.com/pickups.php

other than that, i really love hearing a good fishman blend. . . i like the soundhole with the bucker and gooseneck. . .

Bobryan66
10-13-2011, 10:48 PM
I have a Martin 000-28EC and I had someone install an AER pickup system that is absolutely beautiful. I'm not a techie so all I can tell you is it has an undersaddle pickup and a mic inside the box, with a volume roller and a blender roller at the edge of the soundhole. The blender lets you dial in just the right mix of undersaddle vibration and open, mic tone. And it gets a LOT louder than the fishman undersaddle that's in my Martin Dread.

Never heard of AER before that but it was a good way to go.

Oh, and I think the best acoustic tone I know of live is David Wilcox. Not sure what he's got going but it's amazing.