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Thread: Help with terrible sounding K&K Twin Mandolin Pickup

  1. #1

    Default Help with terrible sounding K&K Twin Mandolin Pickup

    i recently purchased a almost new eastman 614 mandolin (the one with the oval soundhole). it came fitted with the factory standar pickup which I believe is a K&K Twin Mandolin Pickup . One of the reaons I purchased it was because the reviews where so good. The mandolin itself is great, but plugged in it sounds absolutely terrible. very boxy and muddy, a bit like a cheap car radio! We use lots of other acoustic instruments in the band and they all sound great, the pickup is definitely the problem.

    i suppose my question has anybody else had the same problem?
    also would a K&K preamp improve the sound? I dont want to spend even more money if the preamp wont change the sound drastically!

    thanks everyone!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Help with terrible sounding K&K Twin Mandolin Pickup

    I'm by no means an expert on the electronics side of things, but general consensus is that most of this type of pickup require a preamp. I use the LR Baggs Venue DI with good results, though usually with a Baggs soundhole pickup on Guitar. I generally play at church, so a mike usually suffices for me.

    If you bought from TMS, Folk Musician, Elderly, etc, you should call to discuss with them, possibly even while you're plugged in so they can hear the problem. Of course, others with far more experience will chime in as well.

    Hope you find a simple and relatively inexpensive solution! It's frustrating when you want plug and play simplicity and don't get it! As Pat McManus said, "it's all about sequences."
    Chuck

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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help with terrible sounding K&K Twin Mandolin Pickup

    You got the K&K preamp as the next thing in the signal chain? You don't say. If not try that.

    Others have said they like other makes of Piezo input preamps, in prior posts.. check out those postings.
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  5. #4

    Default Re: Help with terrible sounding K&K Twin Mandolin Pickup

    I have the mandolin plugged into a BSS DI box, then straight into the mixing desk. so no preamp yet. i always assumed (probably wrongly!) that all a preamp did was make the signal louder?? would it affect the tonal quality at all?

    thanks for all the help so far!

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    Registered User Andrew Faltesek's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help with terrible sounding K&K Twin Mandolin Pickup

    Reach inside and make sure the transducers are firmly bonded. K&K T is passive but should play well with an acoustic amp without preamp. For PA via direct box or other amp a preamp would be advisable.

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    texaspaul texaspaul's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help with terrible sounding K&K Twin Mandolin Pickup

    I use a LR Bagga Para DI which has several features to shape the tone. I use it with a banjo also which requires a very different setup on the Para DI.

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    Registered User Freddyfingers's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help with terrible sounding K&K Twin Mandolin Pickup

    Got the k and k in a Loar 600. Straight through a Schertler amp it sounds fine. I also have the k and k preamp, which through other systems helps to boost it a bit and lets you configure the sound to your liking. How ever, they did take a bit of getting used to. Prior to that I used guitars with the under saddle pick ups. Which through the Schertler sound great. I was expecting the k and k to work the same, but they are different beasts. They can be very percussive, since they are mounted to the sound board, any tapping while picking comes through clearly. Took a while to correct my playing.

    I would like to think that the folks at Eastman do so many of these installations that they put the pick ups in the right spot. I guess it's possible that they might have placed the, a bit off from where they should be, or maybe one is not adhered as well as it should be. I would plug it into a few systems and play with the gain and eq. If it doesn't correct it, have them service it.
    Its not a backwards guitar.

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    Registered User rockies's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help with terrible sounding K&K Twin Mandolin Pickup

    Piezo type pickups are very high impedance so to go through a passive DI and into the PA will result in very low quality sound, You require a high Z input preamp such as the Para-DI to make the impedances match. Good preamps do much more than amplify. I use K&K in both of the mandolins I use in the country band I play in and really like them.
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    Default Re: Help with terrible sounding K&K Twin Mandolin Pickup

    Yes, as Dave said, preamps help match impedences/frequencies and allow EQ prior to anything the board does. One of our band mates has a guitar with an onboard preamp. It sounds pretty decent, my venue allows me to really dial tone in where I want it...
    Chuck

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    Registered User almeriastrings's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help with terrible sounding K&K Twin Mandolin Pickup

    I depends on which BSS DI it is. If a passive one (transformer based) - no, it won't sound good. These have an input impedance only in the 50K range. Most of the 'active' ones (including the AR133) should be OK as they present around 1M which is normally fine with K&K's on mandolin.
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  13. #11

    Default Re: Help with terrible sounding K&K Twin Mandolin Pickup

    Quote Originally Posted by texaspaul View Post
    I use a LR Bagga Para DI which has several features to shape the tone. I use it with a banjo also which requires a very different setup on the Para DI.

    OP: I concur with texas paul, rockies and almeria. I have a Rigel with piezo/transducer type pickup (I believe that's what it is-its what Rigel supplies stock), and it has a low output signal and sounded very boxy and had a high end shrillness, which simply didn't sound "natural". I would best describe it as unnaturally harsh, microphonic. I presume it is what is referred to as an ultra high impedence out put.

    Yes, the tone difference is huge with a good di, imho.

    After an inquiry here, just a couple of weeks back, I tried my friend's LR Baggs paracoustic di (the small brown box version) , and then,

    bought the nicer Baggs Venue, same as above but with boost and tuner/mute ( and sparkly cool green tuner lights-LOL)-holy moly!!! what a difference these make.


    here's why, imho;
    a you can boost gain if signal is low, as in mine. (This low signal was nice into my 5E3 with its either low at "2" and full blast at "3" and beyond volume control, but otherwise a disaster.)

    b you can adjust volume, from the stage since you don't have a vol knob on the mando I presume.
    c you can adjust bass, two ranges of mids, treble and high treble, as well as having an adjustable freq specific notch filter to avoid feedback. this is the essence of the thing, because you can get that acoustic fullness without too much treble, and, adjust bass to avoid feedback howling. This is where you shape the tone and it is huge. It took away all the box and shrillness, that overly bright percussiveness too from my Rigel.
    d you can mute when tuning (the display is brilliantly bright, if a bit slow to respond to a mando-i still prefer my headstock tuner, but the mute is great)
    e it works with acoustic/electric guitars too as well
    f you have some control from the stage re volume , boost and mute. really nice if youre into an amp instead of having a soundman, or, the soundman is an idiot or asleep.
    g the boost, simply a higher volume level, is adjustable, so you can do just a touch for solos, barely noticeable, but more forward in the mix. not eddie vanhalen.
    h the Baggs had a phase inverter, which, simply, in one position or another, sound better-one will sound a bbit thinner than the other in any given PA.

    so, you say, how can I be sure?
    take your mando to Guitar Center, along with 9v battery, and

    1 try out the baggs DIs, also,
    2 try your mando into an acoustic amplifier, and experiment with the tone controls and notch filter.
    this is really important, as the eq is essential, and, changes with each instrument, venue, etc.

    why the amp suggestion? well, simply the Baggs are 150-250 respectively, and a decent used acoustic amp can be had. (fwiw I bought my Roland cube 80x for my jazz guitar, for $200 delivered, as it sounds like a Roland Jazz Chorus amp tone is pretty neutral and clean-like a warm twin, and is portable, pretty damned loud, good headroom, and good to great with acoustics too).(this from a tube amp devote').

    otoh, the Di boxes are also great into an PA board. since, depending on circumstances, I play both ways, street festivals, lousy bars, beer gardens, or nicer venues, I bought the Baggs, instead of another dedicated amp.

    yes the Baggs DIs are pricey. As much as the pickup, an amp, or, a small upper quality pencil type instrument mic. I bought my Baggs Venue used and saved about 35% from discounted new retail, from guitar canker. I guess I liked the fact that the Venue was flat and wide and could be reliably in front of me, face up, over the brown version, which really is a box and not really a pedal (but Velcro ould fasten it-the latters controls are pretty tiny too compared to the venue-harder to read or adjust on the fly imho.

    In looking to buy the Baggs , used, on reverb.com, amazon, and fleabay, used prices I saw were not a super deal, but were indeed less than new, but not less than GC (which is good about returns).

    I am delighted that I took the plunge, as it really helps when going into a portable amp (my most used is a Roland 80x) or PA. My mando sounds nice. that simple. it didn't before.

    the K and K preamp is also great, I understand, matched, but with a too easily moved loose volume control I have read, and I know GC carries the Baggs. Not likely the K and K. the ohm difference of the respective DI boxes, (k and K 1ohm , Baggs 10ohm) apparently to my ear, makes little/no difference, if any running the K and K pick up (1ohm) into 10ohm.

    no I didn't compare to the K and K preamp, cos, I couldn't try before I bought, and folks here said they were about the same.

    Go try one and youll know.
    Last edited by stevedenver; May-29-2017 at 1:11pm.

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    Registered User Chanmandolin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help with terrible sounding K&K Twin Mandolin Pickup

    Preamp is a MUST! My pickup sounds very bad without my eq preamps I use. Plus if your running through an amp as well I'd look at upgrading that as well.
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    Default Re: Help with terrible sounding K&K Twin Mandolin Pickup

    Yes, let me join in the chorus here. Passive DI is not enough. You need the preamp. You don't have to spend a lot of money though. For 29.95, I find the Behrenger AD121 does just fine. Buy this at Musician's Enemy or Teenage Wannabe's Playground, aka Guitar Center.
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  16. #14

    Default Re: Help with terrible sounding K&K Twin Mandolin Pickup

    wow thanks everyone for a wealth of information. BTW the DI I use is the active one , not the passive one. but i think i will invest in a good preamp. hopefully it will get rid of the awful boxy midrangy sound! I also have a friend with an acoustic amp, so will try borrow that too!

    Just out of curiosity has anyone else used the MISI pickups? i have one in my 1991 Flatiron festival mandolin and it sounds beautiful!

  17. #15
    Quietly Making Noise Dave Greenspoon's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help with terrible sounding K&K Twin Mandolin Pickup

    An active preamp is pretty critical for a passive piezo. The other night I was at an open mic playing through the house pa. The person running the board asked if my p/u was passive or active; I told him passive, he set the system, and my Rigel has rarely sounded as nice gigging out.

    FWIW, even a basic preamp will do. I love my Baggs Venue DI for all sorts of reasons, but you don't need something that extensive. Clearly the K&K preamp is a great choice, but start around $100 for a non-XLR option. One inexpensive solution is to find an old Fishman G II online that will work well enough and then some.
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    Default Re: Help with terrible sounding K&K Twin Mandolin Pickup

    I thought the Eastman 600 series came with Schertler pickups.
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    Registered User Tom Wright's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help with terrible sounding K&K Twin Mandolin Pickup

    Let's all agree that any pickup is very unlikely to sound natural on its own, as it is not a mic from 3 ft away, etc.

    In my experience nearly 100% of pickups benefit from a midrange cut. I have the Baggs Para DI, and I pull 1.2K Hz down all the way, occasionally shifting a bit higher or lower frequency, depending on the speaker and/or PA. I also pull the treble down a lot. And this is for not a piezo but a magnetic pickup, although I found nearly the same curve worked well for a Barbera-bridge fiddle and an Ithaca Strings electric viola.

    While the impedance question is not trivial, it is far from the complete solution, as with perfect matching you still do not have a natural sound, by definition. And the speaker and amp being used adds more color that may not be appropriate. So EQ is essential, and it can be dramatic. Caution not necessary, try large shifts to see where the sound you like resides.
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    Default Re: Help with terrible sounding K&K Twin Mandolin Pickup

    If you are getting a really bad sound from an active BSS DI, I'd carefully check the rest of the signal chain and EQ setting on the console. BSS are a high grade DI and usually work just fine with K&K transducers. Test the signal chain if possible with some other instruments that have passive transducers, and also check your mandolin straight into a acoustic amp for comparison.

    Whether you need a preamp with onboard EQ is largely down to how good the channel EQ is on the console. If it is good, you really just need a buffer amp/DI to provide a suitable input impedance and convert to balanced. Any EQ (including parametric and notch filtering) can then be done 'in console'. If you only have basic EQ on your console, then a full fledged EQ option on a preamp/DI is probably essential.
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    Default Re: Help with terrible sounding K&K Twin Mandolin Pickup

    I have been through the same issues with kk pups.
    They are great natural sounding pups. But should
    Not be plugged into anything that does not have
    A 1mohm 1 megaohm input impedance. You will
    Have to research your bss di to see what that is.
    The baggs stuff i beleive is all 10mohm. Which
    Will sound ok but not as good as 1mohm.
    This is why kk preamps match so good with kk
    Pups. I once had it explained to me this way.
    If you take a firehose and try to force the water
    Through a garden hose your going to lose alot
    Of water..like stuffing a 10 lb pig in a 5 lb sack.
    Once your impedance is matched you can work
    On the eq to dial in your sound. I have a twin in my ellis a and plugged directly in sounds terrible.
    But through a 1mohm set felix preamp its wonderful.. i also play it through the kk pure xlr preamp at times and it sounds good as well.
    Going from line level (1/4 inch jack) to mic level
    (Xlr cable) helps immeasurably.. good luck .After
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  22. #20

    Default Re: Help with terrible sounding K&K Twin Mandolin Pickup

    I use my other mandolin, a flatiron with a MISI pickup as well as my martin 00018 with a highlander pickup and they all sound great through the same System. I tried EQ the mandolin but to no avail, so it must be the KandK pinkup. It seems the preamp is fhe solution so will give that a go! Thanks for the info

    - - - Updated - - -

    Thanks varmonter, that explanation actually makes perfect sense!��

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    Default Re: Help with terrible sounding K&K Twin Mandolin Pickup

    Quote Originally Posted by eelcobeckers View Post
    I use my other mandolin, a flatiron with a MISI pickup as well as my martin 00018 with a highlander pickup and they all sound great through the same System. I tried EQ the mandolin but to no avail, so it must be the KandK pinkup. It seems the preamp is fhe solution so will give that a go! Thanks for the info
    I am not sure about the highlander, but the MISI already has a preamp and is designed to go into the P.A.
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  24. #22

    Default Re: Help with terrible sounding K&K Twin Mandolin Pickup

    The highlander has a preamp too, so the reason The mandolin sounds bad must be because the the K&K has no preamp. Time to start saving up again!

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    Registered User almeriastrings's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help with terrible sounding K&K Twin Mandolin Pickup

    Not necessarily.

    We need to understand the terminology being used here.

    Mixing desks have preamps built in. That is what pre-amplifies the mic level signal before additional processing (EQ then power amp). This is normally on a balanced XLR. The problem is that K&K's put out an UNBALANCED signal and also require a very high impedance input. Mic level XLR's normally offer only around 600 Ohms. Your pickup is looking for at least 1 million Ohms (1 Meg).

    So - directly incompatible.... however... if you use a DI box that has a 1 Meg input impedance, this a) Matches the transducer nicely and b) Converts from unbalanced to balanced output. Result: now compatible. All the gain you need is available from the preamp on the mixing desk....

    I do not use anything other than 'simple' DI boxes for passive transducers. Mostly Orchid Electronics or Triton Audio, though I have a couple of Radials too. The Orchids are 1 Meg, the Triton is a whopping 7.5 Meg (but is not necessary in most cases). The output from these goes into the XLR's of my consoles. All the EQ is done there.

    Your active BSS DI is 1 Meg so should be fine. If it is not, there is a problem somewhere. Faulty transducers, bad install, faulty DI box... needs to be tracked down.
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  26. #24
    mandolin slinger Steve Ostrander's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help with terrible sounding K&K Twin Mandolin Pickup

    I have K&K twin installed in my American FF that I run directly into my Fishman Loudbox Artist. It sounds great. It sounds OK through my Blues Jr but not as good as the Fishman.

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    Registered User almeriastrings's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help with terrible sounding K&K Twin Mandolin Pickup

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Ostrander View Post
    I have K&K twin installed in my American FF that I run directly into my Fishman Loudbox Artist. It sounds great. It sounds OK through my Blues Jr but not as good as the Fishman.
    Yes - because your Loudbox Artist has a high impedance preamp built-in that is specifically designed to accept piezo's directly. It also has 'acoustic' configuration speakers (woofer + tweeter, as in a hi-fi cabinet).

    The Blues Jr does not, and is designed to accept magnetic pickups. It also uses a single loudspeaker.
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