View Full Version : Pickups, amps

Apr-18-2004, 2:53pm
Hey yall-
I need a pickup/amp so bad! i play with the people in my band, who all use electric guitars. my mandolin and I seldom get heard~but, im sooooo confused on what kind of pickup i need, what the heck it is, you know, im totally new to this. im ususally an acoustic gal!

Allyson http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/mandosmiley.gif

John Rosett
Apr-18-2004, 6:29pm
it is really confusing. there are many options, and it all depends on the instrument you use, the application you use it for, and how much money you want to spend. i play in a band with drums and electric instruments, and a pretty loud monitor mix. i have a mcintyre feather pickup inside my mando, an older fishman preamp and a fender acoustisonic amp. i need the amp to hear myself on stage, as we only have one monitor mix. as it is, the acoustisonic with it's 40 watts isn't really powerful enough. when i can afford it, i'm probably going to get a baggs para acoustic di preamp and a genz benz 100 watt amp. you can see these and many other products like them at elderly instruments website. another thing i'd like to check out are the michael kelly mandolins with the built in pickup system, but there are none around where i live to check out.(anyone using one of these?)
so, if your band situation is anything like mine, i'd suggest a high quality pickup like the mcintyre or pick up the world, a good preamp, and an acoustic amplifier with about 100 watts.
i'm sure there are as many opinions on what to use as people using amplification. there are pickup/microphone combinations with outboard mixers all the way to solid body electric mandos, and people that swear by all of them. i've been playing amplified mandolin for 20+ years, and i'm still looking for something better than i have.
good luck, john

Apr-18-2004, 7:19pm
if everyone else is playing electric (not amplified acoustic), then for the same money as a good pick up (125ish), installation(depends???), and a preamp(100-150), you could prob. get a 4 string electric mando. check in with the folks in that section of the cafe......

Apr-18-2004, 7:37pm
I found the investment in a contact microphone (2 to choose from), reinforce the acoustic tone, it is treated like a microphone, in most any mixer,and has an accurate representation of your acoustic sound, it is portable, servicable on better and better instruments.

Apr-18-2004, 7:56pm
okay, ive seen mini amps that people clip to their instruments and then they can clip them onto a belt loop or something....what? a "pre"amp? ack! so confused!

Apr-23-2004, 7:10pm
Don't worry, it'll all make sense soon...

Pre-amps and mini-amps are entirely different things, and you can forget about the mini-amps. They're basically stocking stuffers. A pre-amp will the the first thing you plug your mandolin into, and then you'll run from the pre-amp into the amplifier. The pre-amp will boost the signal, and improve the sound quality of your passive pickup (if you're playing an acoustic instrument with a Fishman, Baggs, Mcintyre or any other similar style pickup, it's passive as opposed to active.) Most people, myself included, think of preamps as necessities.

On the subject of amplifiers, I prefer the sound of a good tube amplifier with an acoustic instrument, and it's nice to have when you move over to the dark side and start playing straight electric (join ussss, join ussss...) OTOH, some people really do prefer the sound of the solid-state acoustic amps, play a few of each and make up your mind. Bear in mind that under all but the strangest circumstances and with all but the best pre-amps, I don't think you'll ever need or be able to use more volume than a 30-watt amp will put out. Feedback is a much bigger issue with acoustic instruments than it is with electrics, and you can't play with it the same way...

Good luck!


Apr-24-2004, 1:46pm
Last month I invested in a Fishman bridge pickup and use it here in Slovakia at home with just a small 15 watt amp and it's been amazing. I'm just a pub player and when playing with a small group (electric guitar and keyboard) with a bigger amp I can hold my own. Without the pickup I just didn't have the muscle.

Apr-27-2004, 1:03pm
Hi Allyson

I'm not sure what your budget is but.....After alot of searching for something that would make my Cascade sound like my Cascade only louder, this is what I purchased.... LR Baggs para-acoustic pre-amp, around $300 Canadian plus a Yorkville AM100 acoustic amp (100watts). The amp I found a year old and got it for $350 Canadian. The mando already had a McIntyre feather pickup in it. It is great for all the venues I play and is much louder than I will ever need it. I am never disappointed with the sound quality.

Chris in Canada

Apr-28-2004, 8:44am
Boy, I really have to question the need for a 100w amp for a mando...

I guess the question I would have is: in your performance setting, are all of the instruments amplified? are you competing with drums? what is happening with vocals?

IF the vocals are going into any sort of reasonable PA system with a good mixer on the front end, you should be able to just mic your mando - in any event, a small tube amp could also be mic'd into the PA, putting your mando in the vocal mix as opposed to attempting to use brute force (ie: 100 watts) to compete.

Apr-28-2004, 11:33am
I fully agree. #Stage volume can be achieved by most amps from 15 watts and up, 100 watts is enough to fill a room for 1,500 people. #50 watts would do the same, but you wouldn't be able to get clean tones in the upper reaches of output, we electric players call that phenomenon headroom. #Anyway, I don't believe that anyone could get their 100 watt amp past "4" if they're playing a hollow-body acoustic/electric instrument. #Unless you fill the thing with spray foam ;) #

My solution? #15w Fender Pro Jr. (tonetonetonetone,) and if it's not loud enough, then run it through the PA...


Tom C
Apr-28-2004, 11:52am
I'm new to the electric stuff myself so I just got the most expensive. A Shertler.
I'm very happy with it soundwise and there no obstruction of the right hand.
And when my friends plug in, I can still play softly and not really dig in to be heard. I do not have a pre-amp yet but somebody from the other band will do sound or I will be close to the mixer.

John Rosett
Apr-28-2004, 1:35pm
gary and christian-
yes, i really do need that much power. in my band, the drummer is right in the middle, and so the monitors (vocals, acoustic guitar, and bass) get turned up quite loud. i'm basically standing right in front of a monitor, and the drummer is about 5 feet from me. i'm currently using a mcintyre pickup through a fishman preamp and into a fender acoustisonic amp which is rated at 40watts per side stereo. i have it turned up to 9 just about all the time just to hear myself above the band and the crowd. the fiddle player has a peavy nashville 400 amp (250 watts) and she has plenty of headroom and a great sound.
i think in amplifying an acoustic instrument, it's alot better to have too much power than not enough. of course, alot depends on your situation. if yo're playing in a loud dancehall/bar with electric guitars and drums, your gonna need lots of juice. if you're playing in an acoustic band and in a more acoustially friendly enviroment, you won't need so much.

Apr-28-2004, 5:11pm
Wow! #That must be one helluva loud drummer. #You're a lucky dude http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif #I used to play with a former Hardcore drummer (double kick, the works) and never had my old Crate above 7 or so, that was a 120w more volume, less tone model. #What do you do about feedback? #You must fight it all the time at those kinds of levels... #I actually took masking tape to my F-holes which helped quite a lot, and didn't seem to damage the finish at all. #Of course, I have a pretty shitty acoustic, so I'm not too worried about it; those people out there with nice instruments might want other solutions http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

John Rosett
Apr-28-2004, 5:30pm
he is pretty loud. it's aso that he's right by the singers, so the monitors are really loud. i'm playing a weber yellowstone, but i don't have much feed back trouble. for one thing, i'm not in the monitors very much, so i don't have my own sound in my face. i use the amp my monitor. it has a "feedback control" that seems to work pretty well. we also have a feedback buster in our pa rack that really works well.

May-02-2004, 3:20pm
haha well, i need a moderately not expensive amp. Im relying on the fact that allowance is all i get...im at the mercy of my parents. And since i cant drive, i have no job, so......something for me to save up for but that wont take 50 years to get the money! HAH. ah, the life of a teen. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif
i gues...15w? i dont know. ill just have to go to a place that sells them...(guitar center?) and try some out and talk to some people.
but thank you very much for the help. I still feel like a little league player around a bunch of Yankees...(or Red Sox...whatevr):D

May-03-2004, 11:11am

Again, what do you need it for? Are you playing with a drummer? If not, you'll be able to get something much smaller. Will you be playing in places where the amp will have to put out all the sound, or will you be able to mic the amp, and run the sound through the PA? If you don't have to worry about filling the entire room from just your amp, and you don't have a drummer to contend with, then you can go with something lower in power, 15-30 watts, for example. If you have to fill a room or contend with a drummer, I'd look at 30 watts and up, but you I would suggest that you don't really need to go above 50 watts. Now, I'd also *strongly* recommend a pre-amp, even Fishman's cheapest model, it will help a lot.

If you can spend in the neighborhood of $300 (I know, it's a lot,) then there are a lot of options open to you. Go to Guitar Center and play a bunch of different amps, I'd suggest playing some acoustic amps, and some small tube amps. If you live in a town with a store that sells used amps, head there and see what they've got on the floor as well. Play with the knobs, try different volume levels, and don't worry too much about the bells and whistles, pay attention to whether or not you like the sound it produces. It will be hard to get a feel for this now as you're buying your first amp, but when you get to the right one, it's going to be love. It should feel responsive, steady and powerful, and above all it should just feel *right*. You'll know the one when you get there.

Have a blast :)


May-04-2004, 7:50am
taboot -
I'm curious about your suggestion/experience using the pro jr. for mando - tell me more! I'm in the market for a smallish tube amp for electric guit - if it'd not sound bad for mando that'd be a plus. Also considering the more versatile blues jr. I like both amps, different beasts..

We already have a 100w Peavey acoustic amp - how do you think the lil fender tubes compare tonewise?

Christian (too)

May-04-2004, 10:24am
It'll come down to your preferences ultimately, but I prefer the warmth and solidity of tube sound to solid-state acoustic amps. When I play my hollow-body mandolin through an acoustic amp, it sounds plastic and thin to me, I get a much fuller sound through the tubes. I personally love my pro jr, but it's been customized a bit; the stock speaker was replaced with a 12" Celestion, built into a larger cabinet and the tubes were upgraded. I think a lot more people would move towards tube amps for acoustic/electric situations if only they gave it a shot. As always, YMMV :)


London Al
May-10-2004, 6:20pm
In the early 90's I did over 600 gigs in folk\punk band playing mandolin. I soon discovered the way to be heard was to use an electric solid bodied instrument. I still use the Musicman 2x10 valve combo which never let me down. With that sort of set up you can just plug in and go! (at whatever volume required). Even playing outdoors in the Welsh hills at -12 degrees C !
"Theres good stuff in little bundles"
Go for it sister!

May-11-2004, 9:21am
Yeah, I should say that a 2x10 Musicman wouldn't let you down, lucky ####### :) Keep on rockin...


London Al
May-11-2004, 1:21pm
Quality second hand amps are usually a good deal. Especially if they are not a currently fashionable brand The trick is to have someone who knows about amps with you when you buy it. If you know people in the local music scenes, maybe put the word out your looking for an amp. The bargain amplifiers in this world are are gathering dust in the backs of cupboards etc.
A young lady mandolin player with a classic amp should get treated with loads of respect by any sound engineer, and never have to carry the thing anywhere!

(Oh & by the way Taboot, I only feel lucky when I'm listening to my amplifier, not when I'm carrying it.)

Good luck

May-18-2004, 6:36am
Trace Elliot makes a combo that is great for acoustic, I have the preamp from the TA100R which is the whole deal. It's a 100 watt amp with bose speakers and the pre-amp built right in. You can find used ones for a decent price. I personally have the pre-amp and a yorkville 200 watt acoustic amp (which is collecting dust now) and I was always happy with it. I had a fishman bridge pickup. I'd also say the pre-amp is the most important part of the collection. But that's just me. Someone just starting out with amplification would be better served with the combo amp too.