For those of you who use a pickup, which do you prefer?

April 22, 2019, 10:13 PM · I'm about to segue from my Fishman V-200 pickup due to it killing tone when playing acoustically.

I'm kinda looking at the LR Baggs bridge, with the piezo inside the bridge.

I'm not a "fine" player, so not sure I really need a clip-on mic.

For those of you who have need of an electric pickup, what do you use?

Replies (24)

April 22, 2019, 10:19 PM · Hello,
This past Christmas I got a Meyers pickup (the Feather) and a Fender Acoustasonic 15 amplifier. I know practically nothing about this sort of thing but with some research this is what I got. I love it!
April 22, 2019, 11:02 PM · Once in awhile I am in a situation where I need a pickup, but I wouldn't want some permanent thing on my violin because I only need it a few times a year. A few years ago, I did a gig where the opening act had a fiddler who used an odd pickup called "The Band" that wrapped around the violin body behind the bridge. It was held together with velcro, so it was completely removable, but it really delivered the rich natural sound of her instrument. So I bought one. It works great for me.
April 22, 2019, 11:03 PM · So, it's a condensor mic? Do you get any microphonic sound, like bow noise, finger noise on fingerboard, etc?

I tried an Acoustasonic and didn't like the sound. I was told that the Fishman Loudbox is supposed to sound pretty good, and did at the store, but when I got home to my house with the vaulted ceilings and metallic reverb, it sounded like crap.

There's an "Electric String Players" group on Facebook you might be interested in.

April 22, 2019, 11:18 PM · David, was that question directed at me? The Headway Band is not a condensor mic and it doesn't have the metallic sound problems or extraneous bow noise, etc., of many pickup systems. There's no battery--just a 1/4" phono plug. They are a little coy about what exactly the pickup element is, but I have had no problem with feedback, and it does convey the natural sound of my violin.
April 22, 2019, 11:24 PM · Sorry, not directed at you Paul. Your message had not shown up yet when I asked that of Cammi.
April 23, 2019, 4:56 AM · I've got a cheap piezo from China. I wedge it under the tailpiece.
April 23, 2019, 5:20 AM · I bought one of those. By the time I got around to trying it, it was dead, but I could not return it. Only cost $10 though.
April 23, 2019, 6:36 AM · I use the Fishman V200. I don't find it to be the tone-killer that you describe, and even so, I can remove or attach it in two minutes flat.

I bought my daughter the corresponding C100 cello pickup so that she could experiment with a looper pedal. The issue there is that the little part of the bridge where the pickup is supposed to go has been decoratively carved, so I had to fashion a small chip of wood having a little gap (carved out with a chisel) that clips onto the bridge to receive the pickup. The clip is a medium-sized binder clip (works great) but this does really kill the acoustic tone. I wish I had gotten the one that drills into the bridge (C200 or V300 are the Fishman model numbers). Still, the pickup is easy enough to remove. On the cello it just slides out of its holder, no tool necessary.

April 23, 2019, 7:31 AM · Hi Paul,

Do you insert the V200 tang on the treble or bass side?

Edited: April 23, 2019, 9:40 AM · You can have the best pickup in the world but without a proper preamp, nothing will sound good.

I had V200, pairing with the fishman pro EQ pre it sounds really good - rich, warm yet focused and clean. I now use mic on my acoustic and if there's a need for amplified sound, YEV 105 does the job well when pairing with acoustic preamp.

As for the pickup killing the sound due to the pickup muffling the bridge vibration, why not remove it temporarily?

April 23, 2019, 10:45 AM · That's a sensible idea. I was caught up in diagnosing why my violin sounded so bad.
April 23, 2019, 10:54 AM · A few years back, I purchased a Kremona pick-up from Electric Violin Shop. Paired with a Fishman Loudbox Mini amp, I think it works pretty well. I don't have any other reference point to compare it against, however. Here is a video recording of me playing with it.
April 23, 2019, 11:09 AM · I could be wrong but it sounded like it was distorting on some of the double stops, which is a problem with a single piezo element to handle all four strings.

I've got some background noise over here though, so I could be hearing wrong.

Edited: April 23, 2019, 1:35 PM · I'm fairly happy with my Baggs. Much better since I acquired a vintage Trace Elliott acoustic amp and used the preamp on that. Baggs are fairly punchy without being overly bright. Reasonable price.

Other pickups I tried:
Fishman - ouch!
The Band - Okay at a pinch - not for loud volumes. Can feedback easily and sound muddy. I keep one as a spare in case my pickup breaks down.
Itchaca Strings - Nice system, somewhat costly, pickup itself had a fairly flat response as far as I could tell. Option to combine with microphone. Jack built into chinrest.
Realist Sound Clip - Well made, good implementation - easy to take on and off - altered my acoustic sound too much, fairly feedback prone.

Preamp makes a big difference and usually you will need one. I used to use Baggs preamps but have now switched to vintage Trace Elliott (not the new one - not good on violin). The original guy that made Trace Elliott now has a company called Ashdown and he confirmed that they are based on the old Trace preamps. These are cheaper than Baggs and if they are like the old preamps they are sure to be good:

If you want to hear how different pickups compare then I recommend where you can (for a small subscription of about $10) hear a library of pickups and compare them side by side.

April 23, 2019, 2:55 PM · I have already subscribed to PickupTest. In fact, I believe I subscribed twice, forgetting I had the first time.

Thanks for the Ashdown link. Will check it out.

April 23, 2019, 3:51 PM · "You can have the best pickup in the world but without a proper preamp, nothing will sound good."

I'm rather skeptical about the whole preamp thing with violin pickups. The good folks at Fishman (and at the dealers) would like nothing better than for us to believe that our pickups will sound their best when "paired" with their preamp, and that their preamp preforms some kind of magical "sound treatment/conditioning/coloring" functions.

As far as "pairing" with your violin pickup is concerned, I was kind of surprised that the preamp Fishman recommends for violin (the Platinum Pro EQ, $300 at Sweetwater) has a switch on the front called "EQ mode" that allows me to choose only between "guitar" or "bass". I suspect the switch changes the range of the high-pass (low-cut) filter, but I'm not sure.

In general, preamps provide gain, sometimes with equalization, filtering, and more recently, compression. You can get clean (that is, distortion- and noise-free) gain fairly inexpensively. To be fair, it is convenient to have all the other functions within one device, but you can get individual stomp boxes (or rack slabs) that will offer a lot more control -- for example a 31-band graphic EQ is going to do a lot better than the high-mid-low knobs on the Fishman.

The preamp manufacturers try to make their products more attractive with features you don't need (because you already have them elsewhere) like built-in tuners (really? you'll use that?), and marketing language like "signal-chain" and "impedance matching" and "acoustic headroom" and other stuff that's pretty much pure BS. (Who needs headroom if you're going to be compressing anyway?)

My brother has marketed a successful, inexpensive preamp for string bass players. He made me a violin version which I have used on many gigs and pretty much got the sound I wanted just by playing with the tone knobs on my Fender Passport PA. (The violin version is not market-ready yet, and I don't know when that might happen.)

April 23, 2019, 5:08 PM · Pre-Amps also employ impedance matching, which is important based on the type of amplifier you are using... there is quite a bit of difference between the output impedance of the pickup {piezo etc] and the input of some amplifiers.... especially guitar amps or keyboard amps.... same with many microphone mixers.
April 23, 2019, 9:08 PM · Well, a preamp with e.q. is pretty essential imo . If the Ashdown is as good as the vintage Trace preamps then the more expensive model is pretty inclusive with e.q., a boost switch, ability to blend a microphone and a reverb. Some acoustic amps like the Fishman and Trace Elliot/Ashdown, have all of this on the amp. Most pickups will sound very thin and weak without a preamp.
April 24, 2019, 9:54 PM · If you buy a Fishman Loudbox Artist amp to go with your Fishman pickup, do you still need a Fishman pre-amp? Or can you plug your pickup directly into the main amplifier?
April 25, 2019, 1:25 AM · The Fishman Loudbox Artist has an input impedance of 5MOhms, so you don't need an external preamp with a passive piezo pickup like the Fishman V-100/V-200. I'm not sure, but I'd think it would be reasonable to assume that the other 'loudbox' models have a 5MOhm input impedance too.

Until very recently I had five removable piezo bridge pickups in my possession. The Fishman had the most powerful signal output, but, in my opinion, the worst tone of the five. I've been selling off most of those pickups recently, and the ones I chose to keep are the Kremona and the Mi-Si. The Mi-Si is a Kremona sensor with a capacitor powered preamp built into the Carpenter jack.

April 26, 2019, 11:31 AM · Paul (Deck),

It probably doesn't sound all that different with or without preamp...Until you play in a band.

Without preamp the sound just doesn't cut and hold a place in the mix. With a preamp - not necessarily fishman pairing with their own preamps, it makes a huge different. Fishman preamps provide input impedance up to 10M Ohms if my memory served me correctly.

YAMAHA YEV is passive electric violin too and while it doesn't need the highest impedance input, pairing it with high impedance input preamp saved me tons of effort to be heard in a loud band.

I'm not sure what's the technical data behind all these little boxes but surely they worked very well.

Edited: April 26, 2019, 1:25 PM · Next to a preamp, I virtually never play without reverb if I'm plugged in. Sounds pretty raw without.
April 30, 2019, 9:53 PM · I have a V200, and I combine it with a Line 6 POD500X multi-effects guitar pedal (which I also use for my guitars). My fiancĂ© and I have tailored tones from scratch using the bazillion different choices of simulated amps, preamps, pedals, cabinets, etc. We found a really nice tone for it, albeit a bit bassy, but that can be fixed when we mess with it again.

Even playing acoustically, I don't notice any difference in tone with it on vs off.

May 1, 2019, 9:10 AM · I have to admit I've been wondering about a pickup lately, I recently picked up a Reuss WE-01 Muzzbomb pedal which I'm interested in playing around with.

I've got a couple of Vox AC30 tube amps and a Korg A3 gathering dust in the spare room. Should fire them up sometime.

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