• ZETA Announces Launch of the "Stage" Model Mandolin Line

    ZETA Announces Launch of the "Stage" Model Mandolin Line

    BELGRADE, MONT. — Steve Carlson, owner of ZETA Violins and founder of Flatiron Mandolins (1980-1993), as well as 7 years with Gibson resurrecting their mandolin line (1987-1993), has announced the launch of ZETA's "A" Style mandolin, the "Stage," bringing to the market the first of its kind, a fully acoustic mandolin featuring ZETA's proprietary Strados® bridge pickup technology.

    The result is noise free amplification of the true mandolin sound and tone, ie., no boom box effect common in all other mandolin pickups. Presented in a traditional format in both look and feel, ZETA's new bridge is intended to please even the purest die-hard traditionalist. Combined with convenience of internal preamp, signal balancing and 1/4" jack, ZETA's acoustic/electric offering is "Stage" ready both plugged-in and unplugged. Photo above shows ZETA's Strados® retrofit bridge/pickup with 5-pin bayonet connector conveniently tucked into the treble f-hole when not in use. Easy connection to the external belt pack powers stage worthy amplification and is available for installation on any mandolin.

    Carlson, with over 10,000 mandolin builds already to his name, told us, "I'm very happy to once again be building great mandolins in the Gallatin Valley of Montana. ZETA's pickups are world-class and I've been working to marry that technology to a great mandolin for some time now. It's been a bit of an effort to get it right, and of course that is ongoing and part of the mystique or appeal. Combine that effort and the technology available with the great staff we have and you have a pretty good formula for some awesome instruments."

    "This project has been especially pleasurable given the experience and expertise of some very dedicated friends and artists that have worked with me for a long time. This includes: Helen Beausoleil, building and detailing instruments since 1984 (currently in setup); Bob Weiman, in finish since 1987; Doug Schlender, in parts and pickups, formerly Neck Shape and Neck Fit (Flatiron/Gibson 8 years); Bruce Weber, Jr. in assembly, detailing and parts, building since 1999; Justin Smith (5 years), and Don Rodgers (10 years) both in parts, sanding, etc. and Maxine Carlson, cheerleader, sounding-board, shipping, office (40 years). That's more than 145 years combined building experience. What a crew!

    "We intend to produce over 100 mandolins in 2020, and while most of those will be 'A' models, we are already in the final stage of production tooling and fixturing for our line of 'F' model mandolins with tentative release date as early as this summer."

    ZETA's "Stage" A model mandolins will retail between $3,000 and $3,600 depending upon electronic configurations and will include a soft/hard, form fitted rectangular ZETA carrying case. They will be appearing in retail soon with Elderly Instruments, Carter Vintage Guitars and The Mandolin Store already announced as dealers.

    About the Strados® Mandolin Pickup System

    Each of the signature Strados® bridge support "fingers" of the mandolin pickup saddle dedicate dual piezo elements to each individual string course. Responding to the flex of the pickup "finger" rather than the vibration sensitivity common to most piezo and transducer pickup systems, the Strados® Mandolin pickup system is able to respond with a true acoustic string tone that is resistant to the sound vibrations that cause feedback at high volume levels. The special composite construction of the Strados® bridge pickup (made by ZETA) allows for maximum string sensitivity and torsioned pickup gain, resulting in a beautiful acoustic tone with warmth and clarity even at high amplification levels.

    ZETA's proprietary internal active preamp system increases the power of the pickup signal from each individual string course, leading to separate internal gain controls (user adjustable) to provide for even string balance. This state-of-the-art system delivers a wide range of amplification flexibility, supporting a variety of tonal characteristics adaptable to diverse playing techniques and styles of music. While polyphonic in its nature, output is analog only but provides full clarity of individual string tone. An internal 9-volt battery provides over 1,000 hours of service on average.

    A detailed feature list and specs on instrument builds is available from the ZETA web site.

    Additional Information


    ZETA Announces Launch of the "Stage" Model Mandolin Line
    Comments 11 Comments
    1. Jan Skovajsa's Avatar
      Jan Skovajsa -
      “The result is noise free amplification of the true mandolin sound and tone, ie., no boom box effect common in all other mandolin pickups.“

      Mentioning ALL other mandolin pickups in the article, I don't think the BB Hot Dot pickup + ChardStuff AcH 104 Acoustic Instrument Preamp that I use suffer from “boom box effect“.. Anyway, I'm very pleased with this new creation by Zeta :-) I'm looking forward to trying it on my own.
    1. Steve Carlson's Avatar
      Steve Carlson -
      Is a tap on your mandolin body amplified though the amp or P.A.? I've not played any mando pickup, especially hot dots, that doesn't turn the mandolin body into an amplified drum.

      S Carlson
      ZETA
    1. Canoedad's Avatar
      Canoedad -
      Sounds exciting. I haven't stumbled across any prices yet.
    1. rnjl's Avatar
      rnjl -
      From the website it seems you can order these mandolins as acoustic instruments without the pickup system- thank you for that option. I hope to get to play one someday, and really looking forward to seeing the F models. It's like my 83 Flatiron has young offspring!

      Are there any clips on the website or Youtube of these being played?
    1. Steve Carlson's Avatar
      Steve Carlson -
      Offspring . . . Nice!
      Videos on our Facebook (mandolin) . . .
      You can listen to 'Halloween Rehersal' and 'Squirrel Hunters' . . . Tom Murphy playing an earlier prototype (plugged-in) at Big Sky.
      Also . . . Scott Tichenor and J.P. Cormier playing 'Lady Be Good' at NAMM 2020. Scott is plugged in, J.P. is acoustic only.

      S Carlson
      ZETA
    1. Elb2000's Avatar
      Elb2000 -
      Outstanding, the 1984 Flatiron A5 was my best tone mandolin.
      I can’t wait to try a ZETA Stage.
    1. Jan Skovajsa's Avatar
      Jan Skovajsa -
      Quote Originally Posted by Steve Carlson View Post
      Is a tap on your mandolin body amplified though the amp or P.A.? I've not played any mando pickup, especially hot dots, that doesn't turn the mandolin body into an amplified drum.

      S Carlson
      ZETA
      Dear Mr. Carlson,

      I see your point. I tried most of the pickups available on the market over years and was unhappy with the results.

      Basically speaking my system is based on the way of amplification used by Sam Bush during the late NGR / post NGR era. The Hot-Dot is just inserted between the two pieces of the mandolin bridge in between the E and A strings. The mandolin is set-up in a way that the pressure on this side of the bridge fully lies on the Hot Dot. It seems to be necessary for a good performance of the Hot Dot.
      See the photos here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/wyPquawxUmz53Du38

      The signal path goes directly into the AcH 104 preamp (into imput on the left front side of the preamp). I go to the P.A. through the XLR output at the back side of the preamp. Sometimes I use also original rack BBE 802 Sonic Maximizer in the system.

      The result is a very responsive electrified instrument with concrete semi acoustic tone (still very natural sounding), that is feedback resistent and works just perfect for solo, accompaniment and percussive sounds. As I said it reminds closely to the Sam Bush's late NGR - post NGR sound (definitely not the amplified sound he has these days).

      I use it for semi-acoustic band setting (the other instruments are Nord Stage piano or acoustic guitar with pickup and active electronics and the upright bass using electro-magnetic pickup).

      Btw: I also have a Polytone Mini Brute amp that I sometimes use as a stage monitor. If I go directly into the amp without using the pre-amp it suprisingly works fine too.




    1. Steve Carlson's Avatar
      Steve Carlson -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jan Skovajsa View Post
      Dear Mr. Carlson,

      I see your point. I tried most of the pickups available on the market over years and was unhappy with the results.

      The Hot-Dot is just inserted between the two pieces of the mandolin bridge in between the E and A strings. The mandolin is set-up in a way that the pressure on this side of the bridge fully lies on the Hot Dot. It seems to be necessary for a good performance of the Hot Dot.
      Thanks for your feedback Jan. Interestingly enough . . . at present I'm installing one of our Strados® pickups on a mandolin, replacing it's current 'hot-dot' installation. Of note is that while the amplified sound of the instrument is not bad (better than most pickups) . . . it is still a boom box . . . meaning all ancillary (and usually unintended) touches/taps of the instrument body are amplified through the pickup. Boom box is probably a misleading term but is how I describe the effect.

      While your specific setup no doubt sounds good as you demonstrate . . . the free floating saddle of the Strados® bridge system provides fast easy string-action adjustments up or down with torsioned (ie, 'pinch-less', 'pressure-less') piezo response . . . all of which are unique and were paramount in it's development.

      It's not new . . . ZETA developed this years ago and their Strados® pickups have long been sought after for their 'natural' amplified tone, be it bass, cello, or violin. I've been intrigued with it since purchasing the ZETA company in 2012 . . . and actively pursuing it's implementation in a mandolin format since early 2016. So it's not new . . . just new to mandolin.

      S Carlson
      ZETA
    1. Mike Romkey's Avatar
      Mike Romkey -
      Quote Originally Posted by Steve Carlson View Post
      It's not new . . . ZETA developed this years ago and their Strados® pickups have long been sought after for their 'natural' amplified tone, be it bass, cello, or violin. I've been intrigued with it since purchasing the ZETA company in 2012 . . . and actively pursuing it's implementation in a mandolin format since early 2016. So it's not new . . . just new to mandolin. S Carlson ZETA
      Hi, Steve. Really like all the ZETA instruments. If I were more of a fiddler I'd have to have one tricked out with a synth pickup. I looked at your website for information about the bridge pickup system for mandolins but wasn't able to locate much about the outboard bridge pickup I've seen in pictures. (Here's the page: https://zetaviolins.com/mandolin-acoustic . There's a picture on the web, which I can't find at the moment, of a mandolin with a ZETA bridge with a wire tucked into the bass F hole.) Are ZETA bridges w/ electronics currently available for installation on other mandolins? I'm interested in more info.

      Best of luck to you and ZETA.
    1. Steve Carlson's Avatar
      Steve Carlson -
      Quote Originally Posted by Mike Romkey View Post
      There's a picture on the web, which I can't find at the moment, of a mandolin with a ZETA bridge with a wire tucked into the bass F hole.) Are ZETA bridges w/electronics currently available for installation on other mandolins? I'm interested in more info.

      Best of luck to you and ZETA.
      Thanks Mike . . . the ZETA 'Stage' retrofit pickup will be available shortly to order from any of our ZETA Mandolin dealers. Dealers currently have no information as I am working on the final artwork, packaging, etc. I'll be updating the ZETA site as soon as I finish pictures of the full retrofit unit. Should be another week or so.

      Functional Retrofit perspective:
      'The bridge feet will need to be fit to your mandolin . . . just like any other retrofit bridge or bridge/pickup. The pickup 'pigtail' (5-pin polyphonic) tucks away nicely into the treble f-hole when not in use. The retropak cable end is a slick bayonet style 5-pin connection with short 1/8" cable running to a belt-clip pack which: fits nicely in your pocket; clips to your pocket; or belt; or strap, etc. Either a wireless or cable connection from the retrofit pak [which contains the preamp and battery (1/4" jack out - analog)], then feeds to your DI and then to amp or PA. The retropak has 4 easy access gain pots for balancing the output level from each course of strings, plus a master gain pot.'

      Pictures of the retrofit on a very nice Gibson Sam Bush model and a review can be found on the cafe here:
      https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...=1#post1754489

      I'll keep you posted on shippable status, pictures and pricing as it becomes available.

      S Carlson
      ZETA
    1. Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
      Mandolin Cafe -
      Well, that took awhile. We can thank the pandemic for putting a serious delay in this new model. This is the first one we're aware of in retail, at Elderly Instruments. Last I visited with Steve Carlson he said he'd used the time to make some big improvements to it, sounds even better. His words.