Sustainiac for my PRS, what neck pu?

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by Stenson, Sep 13, 2006.

  1. Stenson

    Stenson Member

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    I'm taking the step to let my guitar tech install a sustainiac system on my PRS CE24. The sustainiac driver is a single coil sized driver that allows space for an additional mini-humbucker in the neck position. What neck pick-up would you recommend me?

    In the same process I'm installing a McCarty styled 3-way toggle switch on the PRS, so the pick-ups will be coil split (although I'm not expecting wonders as I'm aware of the down sides). Anyway, my preference is Hendrix-y single coil neck pu sound, and I plan to use it alot with my Captain Coconut 2. Sustainiac does not recommend a single coil next to the sustainiac driver, so I guess I'm looking for a mini-humbucker that'll sound like a single coil or at least sound good coil split. Any ideas? :messedup

    Thanks,
    Martin

    (this message was edited after reading about coil tap and coil split differences on the seymore duncan site)
     
  2. Jerrod

    Jerrod Silver Supporting Member

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    I have a Duncan mini in the neck of my Tylerbastar. It's not super Hendrix-y, but I suspect it might work well with the bridge humbucker in your PRS.
     
  3. philtone

    philtone Member

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    I've installed a few Sustainiacs. I recommend using the Strat sized Duncan Cool Rails neck PU. However - if you are using the PRS 5 way rotary switch awith one PRS PU and one Duncan PU, the Duncan must be wired differently - please see post #15 for clarification.

    Dimarzio makes some nice Strat sized offerings as well.

    Another note: the neck PU cavity on a PRS, particularly the -24s is very shallow, so not all PUs can be used in there without modification to either the cavity (bad idea in some ways) or the PU.

    Another thought: The last Sustainiac I installed, I didn't attach the neck PU to the driver plate, but rather drilled holes for its regular adjustment screws in the HB ring. Some PUs don't mount very well on the driver plate, although that may be only a cosmetic concern you and your tech may not consider important.

    Best of luck with the mod!
     
  4. Jon Silberman

    Jon Silberman 10Q Jerry & Dickey Gold Supporting Member

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    Remember: "You can always trust advice from Philtone (Phil Jacoby)." :D

    [​IMG]
     
  5. Stenson

    Stenson Member

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    Thanks everyone for advices! Philtone, I'll be using the PRS 3-way switch, this will alow the combination of a Seymore Duncan neck pickup and my original PRS pickup right? My guitar tech (sounds like I have one employed or something, not the case) recommends me the Seymore Duncan Parallel Axis Stack (PA-STK1n stack), does anyone have any experience with this? I'm allways suspicius when someone recommends me something they happends to have in stock... Compared to this one, what would be the advantages of the Cool Rails, Philtone?

    Cheers,
    Martin
     
  6. philtone

    philtone Member

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    Thanks for the plug Jon! (I've done a lot of work for Jon and he still likes me!) ;)

    Stenson, it's been a long time since I have experienced the Parallel Axis Stack so I can't really comment on it. Although if your tech has it in stock, it may just be because he really likes and can thus confidently recommend this particular unit. I do the same thing from time to time; if something works well, it's good to have it around.

    I like the Cool Rails neck PU as it does a decent, not overbearing neck HB tone in series and a nice Single Coil-esque tone in parallel (not exactly like a Strat, but still definitely SC chimey and shimmery). The CR plays well with other PUs. It is a good choice for a versatle rig, one not locked into any particular tonal obligation, ie "vintage" or death metal etc. The CR will handle jazz, rock, Americana etc equally well for a neck PU. IMO a neck PU should never be too hot as it will loose bandwidth and articulation in exchange for power (which isn't necessary as the strings move more at the neck pos compared to the bridge pos, generating a large, easy to manipulate signal). A neck PU that only does a Strat style tone foregoes the possiblity of taht gooey neck HB goodness.

    If you are using the 3 way, aka McCarty, wiring, you can mix Duncans and PRS PUs without rewiring the Duncan (see post 15; observing phase relationship between the PUs).

    I always feel like choosing a PU is like choosing the right tie for the shirt, suit and shoes - cahnge one element and you have to rethink the tie. The same PU will sound differently in different guitars. All you can do is install the PU and give it a good trial in your real world application and observe the results. So YMMV.

    As I said above, Dimarzio makes a lot of models in the Strat size as well and they are worth considering too.
     
  7. Orren

    Orren Member

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    Funny I run across this thread now; I just commissioned a custom guitar to be built with a sustaniac stealth plus inside. Keep in mind that the two advantages of the stealth plus are that the driver can be used as a pickup (you can either have it voiced as a hot single coil, or a humbucker), and that the Stealth Plus offers two variations on the MIX mode, while the Stealth only offers a single MIX mode--and it's an option, not automatic. You can also get the driver to be humbucker sized to fill the whole humbucker cavity.

    Personally, I went for a sustainiac stealth plus, with the single coil driver voiced as a hot single coil style. I think you might want to consider using the Sustaniac as your neck pickup, if nothing else, it will look better. ;) (IMHO of course--I think shoving two pickups in one mounting ring looks a bit "hodge podge" but of course your opinion may be different).

    HTH,
    Orren
     
  8. Stenson

    Stenson Member

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    First, thanks a lot for your input Philtone!

    Second, Orren, funny thing is I was originally decided on the Stealth plus, but the swedish Sustainiac dealer told my tech the Sustainiac didn't have a tone of its own and that I needed a separate pickup (even though they specifically advertise that they supply the plus version and nothing else) and I wasn't in the mood to argue with him although I knew he was wrong. It's better to go with a well known pickup I thought and I couldn't find any reviews on how the Sustianiac plus sounds in off position.

    And yes, Fripp uses a Seymore Duncan mini-humbucker with his Sustainiac so I can't go wrong right? [​IMG] Seriously though, I don't think I'll mind the looks, but thanks anyway!

    Cheers,
    Martin
     
  9. karma1

    karma1 Member

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    I recently installed a Sustainiac Stealth Plus in my PRS Santana SE. I also added a Duncan Custom Custom w/3-way switching in the bridge and a Roland GK2A synth pickup, which is awesome with the Sustainiac. I was originally going to go with the regular Stealth pickup and use a Duncan Little 59 in the neck, but after speaking with Alan at Sustainiac who strongly advised me to go with the Steatlth Plus, that's what I did - and I'm very happy with it. Neck pickup tone is important to me and the Stealth Plus sounds excellent with a tone that is between a humbucker and a single coil - kind of like a fat single coil - very nice! Alan also told me that if you want, you still have the option of installing a mini humbucker with the Stealth Plus. The bottom pickup cover on it is a dummy and can easily be removed and a mini humbucker put in. I was planning on doing that, but I'm satisfied with the tone of the Stealth Plus by itself, at least for now. Maybe in the future I'll do that since I'm always into hot rodding my guitars.

    I was told by Sustainiac that they are discontinuing the Stealth because the Stealth Plus has newer technology and is a superior product. I would seriously consider checking it out. The tone as a neck pickup is excellent and you can still add another pickup to it if you choose. I don't think you could go wrong with it. You should call or e-mail Sustainiac and talk to them - they are very helpful and responsive. Their website has tons of info as well. One more thing to anyone considering installing one - it's a big job. My friend who installed mine is an electronics engineer who previously installed one in his own guitar, so he is not a novice. It took about 8 hours of work all together and required some routing of the control cavity to accomodate the circuit board and battery. It's not just like dropping in a regular pickup. But it can be done and is worth the effort - it sounds amazing. I had a Fernandes Sustainer guitar before this and the Sustainiac is definitely better.
     
  10. philtone

    philtone Member

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    Yeah, the Sustainiac install is involved.

    The last one I did was for an Ibanez RG 321 and the Sustainiac was done simultaneously with a Graphtech Ghost system. I recommend installing a battery box for these kind of mods...
     
  11. uberpict

    uberpict Member

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    They work with the three way McCarty toggle he's installing, the SAS comes stock with the SD Vintage Rails. He could mix them then I'm sure. ;) Beat me to it. :D
     
  12. Orren

    Orren Member

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    Hi Philtone,

    Ok, now you have me interested: a sustainiac and a Ghost system? The acousti-phonic, hexpander, or both? I have a Ghost/Hexpander system in my Koll Tornado, and it's a great MIDI ready system. I'd not really thought much about the combination, thinking that would be "too much electronics" in one guitar.

    Do you (or Karma1) have any thoughts on how the sustaniac effects the MIDI tracking? How about battery life?

    Thanks!

    Orren
     
  13. karma1

    karma1 Member

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    The Sustainiac Stealth Plus and the Roland guitar synth (GR33) work well together. I haven't experienced any tracking issues as a result of using the Sustainiac. Most of my guitar synth usage is in ambient electronic music involving pads, atmospheric sounds, and occasional flute or synth leads. The Sustainiac has added a whole other dimension and level of expression to my guitar synth playing.

    As far as battery life, I haven't had it installed for that long (a couple months), but so far the batteries seem to last fairly long. I've only replaced one once and that was just because I was doing studio recording with it and wanted a brand new battery in it. The old one still had some juice - so no complaints so far. You do need to remember to turn off the Sustainiac every time you are not using it or it will drain the battery (it's easy to forget). Also, I believe some Sustainiac models need to have your guitar cable unplugged from the guitar when not in use or it will also drain the battery. The Stealth Plus, however, comes with a special jack that you install to prevent that, so you can leave it plugged in.
     
  14. Jim Collins

    Jim Collins Member

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    What makes you say that you can't mix Duncan and PRS pickups with a five-way?
     
  15. philtone

    philtone Member

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    In answer to the folks curious about mixing Duncan PUs and PRS PUs, they won't behave as we expect when wired for operation on the 5 way rotary switch without rethinking the PU. I ran into this once trying to install one Duncan in a PRS with the rotary. Duncan also had a blurb about it on their website somewhere but have since updated it to tell how to mix the two, so I had old information. I will edit my above post to reflect the new info. Thanks Jim for making me dig for it. For those that don't know, Jim Collins is an electronics guru. I've had the pleasure of seeking his advice before, good folks he is!

    Here is the cut & paste from Duncan's FAQ:

    Do Seymour Duncan pickups work with PRS 5 way rotary switching?
    Yes Seymour Duncan humbuckers are compatible with the PRS-type 5 way switching. If you are replacing the bridge pickup, the magnet will first need to be flipped to correct phase issues related to the parallel wiring and series coils between two split humbuckers that is utilized in the PRS 5 way switching. The Seymour Duncan humbucker will also need to be wired differently from the way it is usually wired into a guitar. The hot lead will be the white wire from the Seymour Duncan humbucker, the black and green wires will be connected together and the red lead will be ground. PRS wiring is white=hot, red=split and black=ground so use these codes to install your Seymour Duncan pickup.
     
  16. philtone

    philtone Member

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    In reply to the inquiry regarding using MIDI and the sustainer, one of my clients with the modded RG321 (Sustainiac and Ghost - I've done two of these this past summer) has a Roland GK PU mounted and reports that it works fine. He is thinking of installing the MIDI board for the Ghost, which I don't think will be a problem.

    I have a Sustainiac with Alan's neck PU/driver in stock, but haven't installed it, so I don't have any impression as to what it sounds like. I tried them at NAMM a few years back, but NAMM is such a cacophony (at least to me!) that it is tough to make a real accurate tonal observation in detail. I would like to hear what it sounds like. Alan is a good guy and I appreciate his product.

    My next Ghost project is installing the MIDI and piezo option in a left handed PRS CU22 trem. Should be fun! This will be for use with the Axon system. Apparently, the Axon doesn't like metal bridge saddle transducers as used in the RMC systems (Godin, Brian Moore - actually retrofitted a Brian Moore last spring).

    I prefer the Ghost's piezo tone over the Fishman or Baggs; the Ghost sounds more natural to me.

    Sorry for the derail; thought I would add some Ghost/MIDI input.
     
  17. philtone

    philtone Member

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    They can work together, but I didn't want to have them share the same battery, so I modified the battery box (Allparts EP 0929-023) to accept two 9V, one for each system. IIRC correctly, the Sustainiac lit encourages separate batteries - I'll have to double check that.
     
  18. Orren

    Orren Member

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    Thanks for all your thoughts Philtone! I really appreciate them!

    I wanted to add a couple of things:

    How interesting--I'm a lefty too. :) You can see my Koll Guitars "Lefty MIDI Tornado" in this thread: http://www.thegearpage.net/board/showthread.php?t=142880

    In years past, I had a Fernandes Native (included Sustainer) that I had the RMC pickup system installed, and used it with an Axon. Actually, I had no problem with the metal bridge transducers--the tracking was really excellent.

    For Electronic Musician magazine, I recently reviewed the Axon AX100mkII (the review should appear in the December 2006 issue). One thing that you should know when installing the Ghost Hexpander for use with the Axon is that there is a tiny internal dip-switch to change its response curves to match Roland or Axon converters. I believe it comes factory set to Roland curves. Be sure to flip that--and you might want to leave it relatively accessible, so the user can flip it as he changes gear. I'm letting you know this, because it bit my ass--I was getting really crappy tracking from the Ghost on the lowest strings until I remembered about the switch.

    Ok, to bring this back to the Sustaniac, the reason I asked this is that the combination of Fernandes Sustainer and RMC Poly Drive (their MIDI system) was far from ideal. I also used two seperate battery boxes, but it still seemed that the batteries were being eaten up left and right. And the worst part was, both the Fernandes Sustainer and RMC system kill the output if the batteries loose power. I believe that both the Sustaniac and the Ghost system kill their own circuits, but not the outputs, if the batteries run dead. To me, that is a far cooler method of operating.

    Also, in my case, I didn't really need an acoustic preamp option, but you can't "decouple" the acoustic preamp from the hexaphonic system in the RMC like you can with the Ghost. In fact, with the Ghost, you can add a hexaphonic system and nothing else--no dials, no switches, just a 13-pin output. I have a switch and volume knob for the Ghost Hexpander, but as I use it, I realize I keep the switch set to ON all the time, and use a footpedal for volume anyway. If you add the Hexpander with no Acousti-Phonic system, the Hexpander gets all its power from the 13-pin cable, no need for a battery.

    It's too bad more guitarists aren't into MIDI--the technology is really getting good! Personally, I'm an industrial metal guitarist, so I'm not into prog rock or ambience, so much as really synth-y rock from hell. It's lots of fun!

    Ok, hope that wasn't totally off topic! I did mention the sustaniac in there... ;)

    Orren
     
  19. philtone

    philtone Member

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    Thanks Orren, I appreciate your thoughts on the Axon etc. I don't use the Axon or really any MIDI gear at this time personally. I do install all kinds of stuff, whatever clients request (I'll figure out a way to make it work). I'm planning on cobbling up a rig for myself in the near future, but it's primary use will be in conjunction with composition/notation software (probably G7). I'll do it in my free time...;)

    It was a client serving in some capacity with or for Axon to introduce the products into the contemporary worship music scene (they want tones and versatitily, but have to control volume for lots of instruments) that requested the change away from metal piezo saddle tranducers to the Ghost for better tracking. Some of these folks are really interested in MIDI (just completed an internal Roland install on JEM style partsocaster build, the GK3). Apparently a metal string on a metal saddle can evidence some high frequency artifacts that impact the tracking with the Axon according to my client. Since he uses and promotes the Axon, I figure he'd know.

    Regarding the instruments with both a Sustainiac and a piezo saddle system, I haven't heard any reports yet of short battery life. On these particular installs, I kept the circuits completely separate including separate output jacks. I could have used the 9 pin jacks which would entail the use of a stereo Y cable, but I don't care for the 9 pins as they aren't as sturdy as the typical TRS Switchcraft and the systems were to be amplified separately by the clients. Time will show the positive and negative of the systems together, just like any other work.
     
  20. Stenson

    Stenson Member

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    This turned out to be an interresting thread! But I'd like to return to something karma1 wrote about the possibility to also add a pickup with the Stealth Plus (which is the one I'm getting now by the way). With the 3-way McCarty switching system on my PRS, which includes a push-pull pot on the volume knob for splitting pickups, would it be possible to have the Stealth Plus driver (humbucking) sound in the "push" mode and the second pickup (SC sound) in "pull" mode?

    Cheers,
    Martin
     

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