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Thread: Need advise on how to tone down mandolin and banjo pickups

  1. #1

    Default Need advise on how to tone down mandolin and banjo pickups

    Hi,
    the band I'm in played our first gig last night and also, first use of our PA so still getting to grips with the setup, which wasn't all that great last night.

    I'm playing mandolin and banjo and the issue I have is that, however much I turn down the treble and midrange, they both still sound too bright and tinny.

    The hardware is:

    Mandolin : Loar VS700 with Schatten Bridge pickup
    Banjo: Vega #2 with Schatten under bridge pickup

    Both go into a 4 way mixer (No controls other than volume), so I only have 1 lead into the amp.

    Amp: Mackie PPM806
    Speakers: Peavey 12" speaker. Can't remember the actual submodel.

    I turned the bass right up and treble and midrange down, but both instruments still sound far too bright.

    To get to the point, I'm after a cheap solution that will dumb down the tone so that they sound more natural. I could mike up, but that's not a practical option at the moment.

    Would a Roland EQ pedal do the trick maybe? Or is there a better (again, cheap) alternative?

    Thanks

    Frank

  2. #2

    Default Re: Need advise on how to tone down mandolin and banjo pickups

    you might need to go through a pre-amp first if they are piezo, they prefer a 10 megaohm resistance which your board probabaly does not have. the para di by brags or others are designed for this, or I have had very good luck with the fishman loudbox directly. good luck , I am sure others have ideas also.

  3. #3
    Destroyer of Mandolins
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    Default Re: Need advise on how to tone down mandolin and banjo pickups

    Hi Frank and welcome to the Cafe,

    I've not used those specific pickups but my first gut reaction is that you have an impedance mismatch. Often what we mistake for excessive treble is really 'piezo quack', an effect that happens when the impedance of pickup and amplifier are too far apart. It's common in piezoelectric pickups and is normally solved with an impedance matching preamplifier or DI box. There are a number of popular models discussed here and I'm sure others with direct experience with those pickups will talk about their best successes. Since the sub mixer you're using is a simple four-channel 'mic mixer', it does not do anything to the signal except attenuate each channel, that is, other than adjusting volume they don't do anything else. You may need another widget between it and the PA amplifier.

    Oops! SJB beat me to the draw. Typing at the same time. Since he mentioned the Baggs para-DI I'll say that I've also used that in similar situations (but with different pickups). It matches the impedance of the pickup to the amplifier's requirements, has an excellent set of EQ controls, and features to help manage feedback. Very popular around here. You would place it between the four-channel mic mixer and the PA input. None of these preamplifiers are particuarly 'cheap', but you didn't mention a budget. Is under $200 OK? Here it is:

    http://www.musiciansfriend.com/acces...-di-and-preamp

    Here's a more advanced model that has a boost feature for solos, a tuner, pretty much everything you could ask for. A bit more expensive but a lot of good stuff for the money:

    http://www.musiciansfriend.com/search?Ntt=baggs
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    Default Re: Need advise on how to tone down mandolin and banjo pickups

    Baggs makes good products and have been for many years. Yeah you are Quacking. Put a preamp in between your micro mixer and main mixer amp. Ther are several out there in music land which will work in your case. Fishman and Art also make good products. I like those with a tube for warmth, but that is personal taste. But you definately need to match up your impedance. Check out one of the Big Box music stores online to look at your options..... Luck.. R/
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    Default Re: Need advise on how to tone down mandolin and banjo pickups

    There's also one called the Tone Bone that gets really high marks for mandolin. You might want to look that up too. Lots to choose from.
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    Different Text eadg145's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need advise on how to tone down mandolin and banjo pickups

    Yep, that sure sounds like piezo quack to me. I'd definitely try something upstream to match impedances. Can you borrow something first, to see if it solves your problem? (Sounds like you're on a tight gear budget.) if you end up buying something, I'll toss in my own recommendation. The Tech21 SansAmp Bass Driver DI is a box probably everyone should have. It'll match impedances, it's built like a tank, and it produces great sounds to boot!

    I've made my own impedance matching preamp for a friend with a travel guitar that used TI quack. It fits inside an Altoids mint box and is based on the design you'll find here. If you're handy with a soldering iron, you can put this together in a relatively short time. This works like a champ, and your friends will all want you to make one for them!

    Good luck!
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  8. #7

    Default Re: Need advise on how to tone down mandolin and banjo pickups

    Thanks for the replies so far guys. It does sound like the piezo is the problem. Never thought of that. Doh!

    At the moment I'm on a budget, so really going for a fancy DI box is out. Also, the band is only just getting going, so might not pan out and I'll end up spending a lot of money for something that might end up in the gear box unused for months/years.....

    I'm quite happy to use the amp controls for tone, so really all I want is a simple in/out DI box that will do the matching thing. To respond to previous post, I'm no good at all that practical stuff. Will probably end up spending more and then giving up and ending up buying something anyway.

    Definitely looking under 100 (Sterling) but cheaper the better, certainly for the time being. I can upgrade eventually, assuming i even manage to get another paid job....

    Thanks

    Frank

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    Default Re: Need advise on how to tone down mandolin and banjo pickups

    Well, we've all been in your shoes at one time, so good luck. But remember that this problem isn't going away. You've installed the pickups but they are actually two-piece affairs that require the preamp. Because preamps are sold separately it leads many players to think they are just a nicety that they don't need, when in reality they've only purchased half the set up. Consequently this topic is a common one, so do tuck this information away for future reference and best of luck!
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    Default Re: Need advise on how to tone down mandolin and banjo pickups

    I don't go along with the "quack" being an artifact--it is the natural result of a contact pickup with lots of high frequency sensitivity. I say this because I deal with it fine by merely finding the right EQ. That said, the Para DI is a very flexible system and very helpful.

    Matching is not really an issue these days, but you need to compensate for the raw tone. I found no problem going into a Boss GE-7 with a 5 megohm Barbera violin pickup. The problem is you need a lot of treble reduction, and the amp may not have enough boost/cut. Also, it is important to address the right frequency bands.

    The problem is that the response of the pickup is unnatural compared to the acoustic sound you need to reduce the treble, and the mids even more, mainly the 1K-1.5K range. That gets rid of the quacking tone, and rolling off the higher stuff takes away the unnatural brittle tone.

    Contact pickups are not a microphone and rarely sound natural. Assume you need dramatic EQ, not a tiny tweak. I find even professionals using expensive gear (Brad Paisley's guitar on Prairie Home Companion, for example) sound lousy because they did not use enough compensating EQ to get rid of the excessive midrange and brittle highs. They sound toylike, not sweet, from the piezos being too direct in tone.
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    Registered User Toni Schula's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need advise on how to tone down mandolin and banjo pickups

    I just saw on http://www.schattendesign.com that they sell their own preamp for 65$. But it appears not to have an eq.
    It has 10 MOhm input impedance, so this is what I would look for in an alternative preamp.

    By the way, the preamp must be the first device in the chain after the pickup, otherwise impedance matching won't work.

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    Default Re: Need advise on how to tone down mandolin and banjo pickups

    more mass on the bridge?.. like Violin mutes do..

    a sponge under the banjo head at the bridge..
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    Registered User almeriastrings's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need advise on how to tone down mandolin and banjo pickups

    Quote Originally Posted by harleyfrank View Post
    Definitely looking under 100 (Sterling) but cheaper the better, certainly for the time being.
    This:

    http://www.gak.co.uk/en/behringer-ad...FXMRtAodsRcAvQ

    30.

    Pros:

    Cheap (very)
    Input impedance to match passive piezo transducers
    9v battery operated (no wall wart)
    True balanced XLR and unbalanced 1/4 outputs
    Surprisingly effective EQ
    Sounds very good, taking the price into account
    Well made, solid build.

    Cons:

    The much hyped "modeling" is nothing like what you get on a Fishman Aura (at 30 it would be a miracle if it was)
    Ditto the claims about "tube and microphone" emulation. Take with large lump of salt.
    XLR output is at mic level, rather than line level.
    Will not run from phantom power - but not harmed by phantom, either
    Self noise is somewhat higher than a Baggs PADI, Fishman Aura or Headway EDB-2, but certainly not too intrusive.

    In short, it works, sounds decent, is solidly built and is cheap (did I mention cheap before?)

    My wife has one and uses it for the passive transducers in her mountain dulcimers. She's quite happy with it.

    As you are in the UK, this is another option:

    http://www.studiospares.com/di-boxes...VBMST=DI%20box

    I have not used one, but Studio Spares own brand stuff is usually pretty decent and it has some good reviews.... still under 50.
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  15. #13

    Default Re: Need advise on how to tone down mandolin and banjo pickups

    Thanks everyone for the responses.

    As we've got a gig Friday night and I haven't got time to go check out DI boxes in the shops this week, I thought I'd take to chance and get one of those Behringer boxes suggested by Alemriastrings.

    Did the trick nicely. OK, the sound won't be perfect, but then we don't have the best PA in the world either so as long as I can get a rich sound form both instruments, for the time being I'm happy with this. For 30, can't complain at all, and it's certainly a well built unit.

    Another thing I thought of doing was to tape an SM57 inside my open back banjo (sorry, going slightly off topic here), which I know a lot of people do, so that only leaves me the mando to worry about.

    Anyway, problem sorted for now.

    Frank

  16. #14
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    Default Re: Need advise on how to tone down mandolin and banjo pickups

    Well done Frank. Good on you for a usable fix (and good advice from AS). As time passes and your success increases you may wish to look at more advanced models with additional features, but for now pick long and prosper! Again, welcome to the Cafe.
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  17. #15
    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need advise on how to tone down mandolin and banjo pickups

    I've also had good results with the Behringer DI ADI21. I now use and recommend the K&K Pure. Nice to have tone & volume right on my belt.

  18. #16
    Registered User Tavy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need advise on how to tone down mandolin and banjo pickups

    All the suggestions above are great. Hard to beat the Beringer on price too.

    If you want a really really cheapy option look out for a second hand BOSS EQ pedal - they're built like tanks, will act as a preamp and give you EQ as well. Oh and they sell for under 10. I used to use a 30 year old one with a fishman bridge pickup and it sounded better and cleaner than some of the modern pedals...

  19. #17

    Default Re: Need advise on how to tone down mandolin and banjo pickups

    I bought a BOSS G1XN guitar pedal which supports a lot of different effects.
    The best effect for mandolins / guitars happen to be NO EFFECT (i.e. EFFECT OFF).
    Whatever inside the box in this mode, makes the cheap sticked on piezo sound good and make the "under the saddle transducer + preamp" sound great. I use this box in this mode to play guitars in various gigs.
    Everyone loves how this sound.
    Yesterday, I just installed an "under the saddle transducer + preamp" on a Yamaha classical guitar I bought for 50$, and it sounds nearly as good as the classical guitar with built in electronics. The difference is in the electronics, the built in is of higher quality.

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