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Thread: Pickup or microphone?

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    Default Pickup or microphone?

    Iím looking to amp my mandolin but Iím on a budget. Until I can afford something more professional would I be better off getting a microphone or a pickup? I know if I go with a pickup Iíll also need a preamp, is that true for a mic as well? Iíve been looking into a kna ap2 and boss acoustic preamp pedal. What are peopleís experiences with either of those? What microphone would you recommend?

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    Default Re: Pickup or microphone?

    Since you're on a budget, you might have luck finding a Shure SM81 for under $100. If you go the pickup route, you can find a JJB piezo for $40.
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    Default Re: Pickup or microphone?

    Bottom line a mic produces better tone but will not always work in the space where you are playing. A transducer will always work but if you don't buy a well made one you will have problems. I have had good experiences with K&K transducers and using them with an Art tube preamp. Save up some more money and buy a small diaphragm condenser mic like an AKG C1000S and you will be good to go.
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    Default Re: Pickup or microphone?

    +1 on the AKG c1000s I've been using one for gigging for a while now. I use it in hyper-cardoid mode for mandolin and fiddle.
    The band are two electric guitars, or plugged in acoustics, bass & drums, with me doing fiddle & mandolin.
    I place it above right pointing down at about 45deg towards the instrument.
    Great off axis rejection, just watch out for the rear lobe picking up reflections from low ceilings in bars.
    If you're aware of it it's easy to steer the mic away from that feedback hazard.

    In terms of playing it's a cinch. I treat it as an acoustic spotlight and walk in closer for solos, then shift back for accompanying.
    The positioning means it works really well for swapping fiddle & mandolin.
    I think one particular thing like is it's easy to sort out with an unfamiliar sound crew & they tend to leave mics alone more than a DI'd source.
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    Default Re: Pickup or microphone?

    Generally, a part of the question of what to use depends on the output impedance of your mic or piezo, and the input impedance of your amplifier. If you're not using a combo amp, you also need to be aware of the output impedance of your amplifier and the input impedance of your speakers.

    Pre-amps are good options if you also need EQ, gain, volume and potentially other adjustments. If you don't need those adjustments because you already have them available on your amp, it is possible to do impedance matching and/or impedance bridging without a pre-amp for a mic or a piezo system. There are inexpensive inline impedance matching/bridging transformers that provide this function; they are typically stand alone and do not offer EQ, gain, volume or other adjustments. So it really depends on what you need in your signal chain.

    Aside from impedance, feedback, background noise and phantom power can be serious issues with condenser mics, feedback and background noise can be a (lesser) issue with dynamic mics, and tone can be a serious issue with piezos...

    Sometimes it's handy to have more than one option, for example having a piezo system for amping or personal-montoring, and also having a mic for a clean signal for feeding into an FOH. Then you can also use the mic with your amp if volumes are low enough that feedback and background noise are not an issue, or your can also use your piezo to feed into an FOH if high volume is needed. Plus then for the adventurous, there's also the option to mix and/or blend the two signal channels from both the piezo system and the mic.

    Like many things, the optimum signal chain combination depends on the instrument and equipment, the genre, the acoustics of the venue and the tastes of the player and of the audience. What to get is somewhat of a subjective decision, where often cost becomes a primary deciding factor.
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    Default Re: Pickup or microphone?

    ...
    FWIW, this is the Impedance Matching Transformer that I typically use (NFI):

    Audio-Technica CP8201
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    Default Re: Pickup or microphone?

    Ive been looking for something to use for looping practice and got some good info in a thread I posted a few weeks ago. I decided to go the mic route and am considering the Myers Feather mic. I haven't bought it yet as I'm working thru a few other things before I am able to set my music area up for looping.
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    Default Re: Pickup or microphone?

    the Meyer feather is nice although somewhat delicate, and I was always a fan of internal pickups, mostly because we were playing in noisy bars, I picked up a Sure SM81 uni-directional mic and it works quite nicely, even in a band mix - I have them set the gain higher than needed and just move closer to the mic as needed, my mando is pretty loud as is my octave, the mandola I have to get right close.
    The Sm81 does need phantom power and a pre-amp helps but is not always required.
    A pickup will have less "room noise" and a uni-directional mic helps instead of a condenser which is better for group ( omni-directional ) recording

    I used the Boss RC-20XL looper for many years and it is very easy to use and can handle many layers and some long durations.
    The only thing I don't like about looping with pickups through the BossRC-20 is after a few layers ( above 3) it starts to sound muddled and machine like.
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    Default Re: Pickup or microphone?

    This is a good question, one that every one who plays live has to face at some point. I would first ask you what kind of music are you playing and in what settings?

    For instance, if you're playing in folk rock type of band with electric instruments in noisy settings, I would definitely recommend a pickup.The limitations of most pickups is that they tend to sound artificial or quacky. You can reduce that a bunch with pre-amps and other devices but then you're adding more money.

    On the other hand, if you are playing with an acoustical group that just wants to amplify a bit above the crowd noise, then a mic might be a good choice. It takes practice to be able to play exactly in the right spot with a mic, and they are more prone to feedback it you turn them up too loud.
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    Default Re: Pickup or microphone?

    We have used both. Our band is the "acoustical group that just wants to amplify a bit above the crowd noise" category. I prefer using a mic - I have an SM57 that plugs directly into our PA system. If you are interested in reproducing the acoustic sound, it's really hard to get it just right with a pickup. There were a few bands at Wintergrass last weekend that were using pickups for the instruments, and while the performances were fantastic, the sound of the instruments themselves for those bands was not as natural as I prefer. On the positive side of having a pickup though, is the ability to move around and not have to worry about how close to the mic you are.
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    Default Re: Pickup or microphone?

    I’ve found that when it comes to amplification, there is no true low budget solution. I’d buy an SM 57 which will still work thirty years from now while I’d save for a Tonedexter and a pickup. Also, the louder the band, the less tone matters.
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    Default Re: Pickup or microphone?

    Quote Originally Posted by Br1ck View Post
    Iíve found that when it comes to amplification, there is no true low budget solution. Iíd buy an SM 57 which will still work thirty years from now while Iíd save for a Tonedexter and a pickup. Also, the louder the band, the less tone matters.

    Very good advice. I've played with an internal K&K pickup through a Baggs Venue DI box into the mixer for quite a while now. This is in a choir setting for a 300 seat church. We usually have 2-3 electrified acoustic guitars, plus a trumpet, recorder and 10-12 voices. I've always felt that I was loud enough, but I never really liked the tone.

    I just bought a ToneDexter, look for recent threads in this forum. So far I'm very happy with the tone, it is much better than the results with the Venue. I even had someone come up and complement me the first time I used it. All she said was that I sounded great that day, but I took that to mean my tone was much better than usual.

    But I completely agree with you about no such thing as a low cost solution. But the good thing about your advice to buy the mic first is that you'll need it to train the ToneDexter anyway.
    A quarter tone flat and a half a beat behind.

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    Default Re: Pickup or microphone?

    I've used a Microvox close mic system for bothe mandolin and banjo for many years, works great on both.

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    Default Re: Pickup or microphone?

    Might be a bit more up front , a dent on the credit card, Schertler passive Dyn M is like a contact dynamic Mic..

    so with an impedance matching transformer you can use a guitar amp ..

    Acoustic amps are often 2 channel , the mic channel will have a preamp in it,
    as will a channel on a house sound board or small sub mixer..




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    Default Re: Pickup or microphone?

    Pickups tend to have a strong attack (which mandolins do in general anyway), require a good preamp to sound good, and are harder to regulate your volume on. I prefer a decent microphone that I can move in and out on for those reasons.

    SM-57s are the workhorse of the electric music world and are indestructible. Because they're built for mic'ing amps and drums, they have little dynamic range and must be set close to the source. Condenser mics are designed for capturing instrument sounds and sound great from 6-8" away. They can get very pricey but I've found this one to work well on mando and guitar. More than a SM57 but a whole different level of sound and made in Japan.https://www.amazon.com/Audio-Technic.../dp/B0002YLBRK

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    Default Re: Pickup or microphone?

    I did a Grass Talk Radio podcast episode on your question:
    http://www.bradleylaird.com/podcast/...how-notes.html

    That is my two cents worth.

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    Default Re: Pickup or microphone?

    I use a John Pearse transducer with a Behringer ADI 21 (or even just a simple EQ pedal).

    It's an inexpensive solution and the amplified sound is pretty accurate IMO.

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    Smile Re: Pickup or microphone?

    In Mics, Rode has 2 battery powered condenser, end addressed Mic models..
    a condenser powered by a 9v battery..

    and so it too, with an impedance marching transformer, can use a guitar amp..


    ... of course if on a dried Beans & Rice budget , Musicians's Friend/Guitar center has some very affordable mics..
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    Default Re: Pickup or microphone?

    Tell us about the venues that you expect to play.
    In my experience a noisy bar room calls for a piezo pickup. It's simpler to manage feedback free sound levels in that loud environment.
    In a quiet auditorium a piezo pickup will reveal everything about how you handle your mandolin. E.g. Strap squeaks, finger drags and not so clean fretting.

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    Default Re: Pickup or microphone?

    Quote Originally Posted by Consecon View Post
    Tell us about the venues that you expect to play.
    In my experience a noisy bar room calls for a piezo pickup. It's simpler to manage feedback free sound levels in that loud environment.
    In a quiet auditorium a piezo pickup will reveal everything about how you handle your mandolin. E.g. Strap squeaks, finger drags and not so clean fretting.
    Perfect statement and covers my experience of thirty years of gigging in various setting. Great advice all over the place here.

    So I tried many ways: pickup, pickup/mic-dual source, attached mic, external mic. I ended up where I once started: A condenser mic on a boom stand.
    Mandolin amplifies much easer than guitar, so in 90 % of my gigs it works for me.

    Reasonable priced mics with great results: Shure SM81 used (condenser), Beyerdynamic M 201TG (dynamic)
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