pickup shootout!

Discussion in 'Acoustic Instruments' started by kludge, Nov 2, 2019.

  1. kludge

    kludge The droid you're looking for Silver Supporting Member

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    I haven't assembled a proper YouTube video of it yet, but at least I've done the recording for a pickup shootout and drawn my initial conclusions.

    Conclusion: The Schertler A6 + mic is an excellent, low-hassle pickup solution that beats some top-quality alternatives.

    The shooters:
    - Miked acoustic guitar (using a Stedman N90 large dynamic that I often use for acoustic guitar)
    - Schertler A6 active magnetic with its attached mic
    - Schertler A6 active magnetic without mic
    - K&K Pure Mini
    - Dimarzio Angel passive magnetic
    - K&K + Angel, mixed in preamp

    All tracks were recorded using my 2005 Running Dog mini-jumbo, an excellent guitar. All pickups were run through a Red-Eye Twin DI. The K&K + Angel was run through both channels of the Red-Eye and mixed about 50/50 using internal gain on the Red-Eye. All tracks were normalized afterwards to limit volume differences. No eq or compression was applied (yet), but I plan to apply individual eq/compression to each track to try to get maximum performance from each. The miked recording was done for reference purposes, with the mic about a foot away from the neck, pointed toward the neck/body joint at about a 45 degree angle (my default recording spot).

    Notes:

    The Schertler + mic was the overall winner, and it wasn't very close. Great pickup. However, the mic was probably louder than the magnetic pickup part, and this might not be realistic in stage conditions, when you wind up turning down the mic for feedback reasons (I know, I've been gigging this combo for a couple of years now).

    For pure magnetic, the Angel was significantly better than the Schertler. This makes me think the Angel + an internal mic might be better than anything I tried.

    The K&K was WAY hotter than the magnetic pickups, both active and passive. It took a lot of adjustment to match gain with the Angel. The K&K sounded kind of muddy relative to the magnetics, and clearly needs some eq. I had the Red-Eye treble control halfway up; I suspect more treble would make a big difference in clarity. Still, I strongly preferred the Angel to the K&K. I was about 50/50 on Schertler vs K&K (without the mic, that is).

    The K&K/Angel combo wasn't as great as I'd hoped. It was better than either one by itself, but not that much better than the Angel alone. Then again, I didn't put any real effort into dialing them in.

    Conclusion:

    If you want a great-sounding, low-hassle solution for your acoustic guitar, the Schertler A6 + mic is well worth the expense and the wait to get it. It's easy to install (you don't even need to drill holes, and it tightens with thumbwheels rather than screws), and has a very good active preamp so you don't need to bring your own DI. When you factor in the cost of the kind of outboard gear required to get others sounding this good, it's a bargain.
     
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  2. stephenT

    stephenT Member

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    I've used The Angel, Sunrise and Fishman Blackstack soundhole pickups plus a bunch of others including the Schertler. I've found the Fishman Blackstack to be my choice after years of using a Sunrise. More acoustic sounding than the sunrise, more open and detailed than The Angel.

    You're right, the Schertler by itself is underwhelming, but I love my Schertler Jam 400.
     
  3. gmajor7th

    gmajor7th Member

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    Thanks for your findings @kludge! Been thinking of picking up The Angel.
     
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  4. ThePK

    ThePK Member

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    Yes, thanks for sharing your results :) Seems like I need to give the Schertler a try at some point.
     
  5. kludge

    kludge The droid you're looking for Silver Supporting Member

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    I'm starting to think about the Duncan Mag Mic as well, as a significantly cheaper entry point to "magnetic + mic with onboard preamp". The three products like that on the market that I know of are Schertler, Fishman, and Duncan, but the Schertler and Fishman solutions are $300+ each. The Duncan can be found for $170 or so.
     
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  6. feet

    feet Supporting Member

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    as a guy who has been saying this for a long time now, i feel vindicated. the schertler with the mic is awesome. i've gotten some surprisingly good, (loathe to say it, but) studio-quality direct recordings with it. and with the mic rolled back or all the way off, you still get a decent, usable magnetic sound. still better than a piezo.

    i've heard nice things about the angel line, but i've never been a dimarzio guy. i eventually picked up a duncan mag mic as a cheap dual source, mag + mic option and it is solid. the controls are a different than the schertler and i prefer the schertler in all ways, but the duncan is a good lower-cost option. i got mine for about $130, but i think i was lucky.
     
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  7. kludge

    kludge The droid you're looking for Silver Supporting Member

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    I kinda hate the controls on the Schertler. I really wish it had volume controls that were easy to reach. That's about my only complaint about it, tho. I was interested in seeing if the Angel/K&K combo could be as good, and it clearly isn't.
     
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  8. Scottone

    Scottone Member

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    I've been using the Black Angel with my vintage J45 and J50 and have been quite happy with it. I just use the included cable and loop it out of the sound hole, through my Son of Kong pedal (in DI mode) into the PA. I don't want to modify the guitars so am limited to sound hole models....seeing StephenT's post is making me want to try the Blackstack.
     
  9. Crowder

    Crowder Dang Twangler Silver Supporting Member

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    Interesting, thanks!

    I have the K&K Trinity in my Collings. I have loved it until recently. The mic side seems to be intent on generating runaway low end. I'm not sure what's causing it, but it's a new problem so I'm not necessarily blaming the mic right away.

    One likely suspect is the Hosa stereo-to-mono splitter I have been using in front of my Red Eye Twin to split the pickup and mic signals. Hosa products have questionable quality and this one is one I had laying around when I got the Red Eye. I'm thinking there may be a bad connection on the mic side. I've ordered a replacement for that component.

    I also re-read the K&K instructions for mic placement. They recommend that the mic be quite close to the strings, like 3/8". I made that adjustment recently expecting an improvement. I didn't have it that close before. Based on this issue I'll move it back further from the strings and deeper into the body. That worked pretty well before.

    I only dial in enough of the mic to complement the pickup. The pickup thru the Red Eye sounds pretty good on its own, but just a little mic can go a long way toward making it sound more natural. I haven't been able to add that "just a little" recently and want to get back to that.

    I'd like to try the Schertler, if only to have access to *some* controls on the guitar itself.

    I've done a few gigs recently where I left the Red Eye at home and just used the K&K beltpack. It sounds pretty good actually, but the hassle of having a short cable to the beltpack and then another cable from the beltpack to the house system is just very awkward. A lot of the gigs I do involve getting plugged up and unplugged multiple times and it becomes a pain to deal with the beltpack. I always feel like I'm tangled up in the system rather than in charge of it.
     
  10. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

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    recording pickup shootouts are cool but are really only half the story, maybe less than half. all they tell you is how close the pickup comes to sounding like a true acoustic guitar.

    if you think about it for a second, by that criteria the best "pickup" by far will be a condenser mic on a boom stand!

    the other half of any acoustic pickup test should be setting it up in front of a loud PA speaker and seeing how well you can get it to behave at volume, maybe a "dBs reached before feedback" test or a "how many bands of EQ notching needed to tame it" test.
     
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  11. kludge

    kludge The droid you're looking for Silver Supporting Member

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    Depends on how loud you play. I never deal with venues where stage volume is so loud that I can't control an acoustic guitar with a pickup. Besides, such things are intensely room-dependent, because feedback can happen from bass buildup in a room, unless you're testing on big stages.
     

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