Any updates on pickups and pre-amps?

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gillo
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Any updates on pickups and pre-amps?

Post by gillo » Wed Oct 26, 2016 5:52 am

Hi all, we see more and more instrumentalists using pickups on instruments and it's been awhile since I looked into this stuff so I'm wondering what the latest options are and what people are having success with. I'd hope that big improvements have been made in the last 5 or so years since I last looked into it.

In particular, can anyone recommend a good pre-amp for pickups like the Dyn-E (which has an xlr out)? Some people say you don't need one with this into a good desk but I'm sure there must be something that helps in an amateur setting.

My purposes are amateur live scenarios using a blend of transducer (I have a Dyn-E) and mic (such as Rode NT5). I'm thinking that the pickups are particularly useful in giving the artists some monitor sounds keeping the risk of feedback down but also in giving some more body to the mic for the room.

Niladri Kumar seems to have one on here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXsZtLDsVIE

thanks

CheesecakeTomek
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Re: Any updates on pickups and pre-amps?

Post by CheesecakeTomek » Wed Oct 26, 2016 1:26 pm

AKG C 411 is a great mic. Does not break the bank and does a very nice job overall. It gives me a balanced sound in a band setting and of course gives me that presence in the monitors without risk of feedback. Been using it for years and have found it to be very reliable.

I've had good luck with going right into the board, but I have heard good things about the ART Tube preamps. Starting $40 for a single input, you could do a lot worse, and my good friend who is an angineer has been vouching for them for a while as being a solid choice, so I've been meaning to give it a shot.

barend
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Re: Any updates on pickups and pre-amps?

Post by barend » Wed Oct 26, 2016 11:38 pm

Any piezo mic/pickup needs a preamp. It is best to use a 10Meg ohm preamp. It makes a lot of difference. Don't go directly from your pickup to an amp or mixer. It doesn't sound good. Also exact pickup placement might be even more important than which pickup you use. You have to find the hot spot on your specific instrument for it to sound good. It makes all the difference.

For a (louder) band situations a mic is useless and will result into uncontrollable feedback. For classical music a mic is the best.

gillo
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Re: Any updates on pickups and pre-amps?

Post by gillo » Thu Oct 27, 2016 12:15 am

Thanks for the comments. I do use mics for classical and have been generally happy with the sound but having seen the uptake of pickups in India and elsewhere and the decent sound coming from them I wanted to know if anyone had recent experience with new tech that they thought was really good. A friend who plays guitar recently bought a Fishman Aura Spectrum pre/DI for his guitar and it makes a huge difference to the sound compared to my basic tube pre so i'm wondering if there is anything else comparable for xlr input.

I have also experimented with pickups but, while I only use them where the situation demands it, I'd like to use them more. Mixing desks with xlr in have preamps for the AKG and Schertler types and so it seems ok to go straight in with these pickups (certainly Schertler say this) and the sound I have had like this has been fine. The AKG (also with xlr) has been around for awhile and seems to be much liked. Over the years, I have had both types and the pickups with a 1/4inch jack definitely need some help with sound but the xlr not so much. My experience with basic pres (i have a studio projects tube pre) with the DYN-E (xlr output) is that they add a little but not much over the preamp in my mixer.

Anyway, I'm not an expert and just blunder my way through with trial and error, thanks for the comments.

barend
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Re: Any updates on pickups and pre-amps?

Post by barend » Thu Oct 27, 2016 8:56 am

As I said in my previous post I would advise to bring your own (10Mohm) preamp at all time. So you always know you have the best possible sound and no impedance mismatch which will result in a thin sound. Also with a preamp you have your hands on volume control and EQ'ing which is very handy. The ART tube is not 10 Mohm by the way.

I don't think using 1/4 jack or XLR will make any difference in sound.

I never tried the Shertler because I think these are way too expensive and overpriced. They must be good because RS was using it and Anoushka is still using it. And she plays a lot of louder gigs and can afford any pickup she wants. But I am not sure if the Shertler is much better than say the AKG or a Barcus Berry. If someone have compared them I would like to know!

gillo
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Re: Any updates on pickups and pre-amps?

Post by gillo » Thu Oct 27, 2016 11:18 am

barend wrote:As I said in my previous post I would advise to bring your own (10Mohm) preamp at all time. So you always know you have the best possible sound and no impedance mismatch which will result in a thin sound. Also with a preamp you have your hands on volume control and EQ'ing which is very handy. The ART tube is not 10 Mohm by the way.

I don't think using 1/4 jack or XLR will make any difference in sound.

I never tried the Shertler because I think these are way too expensive and overpriced. They must be good because RS was using it and Anoushka is still using it. And she plays a lot of louder gigs and can afford any pickup she wants. But I am not sure if the Shertler is much better than say the AKG or a Barcus Berry. If someone have compared them I would like to know!
ok thanks, any particular pre-amp you can recommend or refer me to (the studio projects that I have is 2Mohm with only a HP filter and no other eq)? It's information like this that can make all the difference, thanks again.

I was lucky to pick up the Schertler years back when the A$ was very strong against the US$ so it was worthwhile... still not cheap though!

edit - just checked the schertler and it is 600ohm output - does the 10Mohm advice still apply?

barend
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Re: Any updates on pickups and pre-amps?

Post by barend » Fri Oct 28, 2016 7:52 am

gillo wrote:
I was lucky to pick up the Schertler years back when the A$ was very strong against the US$ so it was worthwhile... still not cheap though!

edit - just checked the schertler and it is 600ohm output - does the 10Mohm advice still apply?
I guess with 1 or 2 Mohm you should be fine but I am not sure. Depends on where you plug it in. There will be a mismatch if you plug a low impendance device (such as a piezo) in a high impedance device (like mixer or amp). But I don't know about the exact numbers and how it works. To be safe I always use my Fishman Platinum preamp. I have the bass version which works fine for guitar and sitar also.
Here you read some more about pickups and impedance:
posting.php?mode=quote&f=2&p=84643
http://www.award-session.com/pdfs/Imped ... tching.pdf

Can you tell me more about the difference in sound quality between the Shertler and the AKG or any other pickups that you have tried? Is it a big difference? and which Shertler model do they use exactly for sitar?

gillo
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Re: Any updates on pickups and pre-amps?

Post by gillo » Sat Oct 29, 2016 7:38 am

Thanks Barend for the further info and the link to the article. I think this has all been clarified for me now, I have also had some emails with some other experts and I think the conclusion is that not all pickups need DI or a preamp (other than one in a mixing desk). The key is to know the device as, unlike many piezo/transducer pickups, the DYN-E and the AKG C411 fall into the low impedance pro mic category in the article that you linked to and so don't need separate preamp/DI but can go directly into the desk. But other types of piezo/transducer/pickups (like the stick on black buttons with 1/4" jack) definitely need the DI device to switch impedance and can benefit from the preamp to boost the signal (although once a DI lowers the impedance and balances the signal then a preamp in a mixer will be ok). I'm not sure what pickup you use Barend.

Via emails today, Schertler have said that the DYN-E is like a low impedance dynamic microphone and the best situation is to have a mixer with good preamps, the sound then being able to be tweeked with effects after (although what you mentioned Barend, having some control via a personal preamp, can help the artist if the mixer or sound person is not very good). The signal out of the DYN-E is already low impedance and balanced and so does not need DI or preamp before a mixer.

Ian from Leon Audio (makes the DI box shown in that article linked to and also lives a few km from me) also confirmed that if the signal is low impedance and balanced then there is no need for a separate preamp and sound colouring is best achieved using an insert point in a channel (this just means having to buy more gear!).

The AKG I think is like a low impedance condenser microphone, it requires phantom power and also goes straight into the desk. Pt Sanjoy Bandopadhyay uses the AKG C411 and he just told me that he is very pleased with it straight into the mixer. He also says that he had the DYN-E and was very happy with it until it malfunctioned (he replaced it with the AKG).

The important thing is to know your device and importantly, as Barend says, know what the impedance output is. High impedance pickups need DI to lower the impedance and balance the signal. What a happens after that in terms of preamp etc etc is personal choice!

So, if I can rephrase my question from the start, in an amateur setting and putting aside the DI/preamp issues, what effects do others apply as channel inserts to make sitars sound best. I usually just use a small Allen and Heath Zed10FX and have never used channel inserts (just onboard presets) and the sound has mostly been ok. But i am now wondering if a small rack of eq, compression and reverb would be a smart move. Perhaps this is a question for a tech forum...

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rex@sitar.co.za
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Re: Any updates on pickups and pre-amps?

Post by rex@sitar.co.za » Sun Oct 30, 2016 10:10 pm

This is my current advice:

http://www.sitar.co/#softwareandgear

gillo
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Re: Any updates on pickups and pre-amps?

Post by gillo » Mon Oct 31, 2016 12:32 am

Thanks Rex, I hadn't really considered the MD421 live but I have used it before for recording and agree the sound is really good. I remember when the small diaphragm SM57/58 was standard for concerts (probably still used a lot) but I always had trouble with the amount of gain needed to get a decent signal out of it and having to have it so close to the instrument that it was not easy to use. Condensers are much easier to work with.

For live situations, how is the gain out of the MD421 and how much does it have to be pushed (comparable to the SM57) to get a loud sound? Being a large diaphragm mic I'd be sacred of pushing it into feedback territory.

barend
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Re: Any updates on pickups and pre-amps?

Post by barend » Mon Oct 31, 2016 8:58 am

rex@sitar.co.za wrote:This is my current advice:

http://www.sitar.co/#softwareandgear
I wouldn't use a mic for live unless you play classical or in a very low volume ensemble. For fusion stuff a mic is out of the question and will result in too much feedback.

Which MD421 do you use exactly? I have a MD421-U4 but I prefer my Rode NT1000 for recording sitar. Never used that mic live.

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Kirya
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Re: Any updates on pickups and pre-amps?

Post by Kirya » Tue Nov 01, 2016 8:41 pm

I have had good luck with the Myers little gooseneck mic that you stick onto the tabli and place the mic element right under the main bridge where it also picks up taraf harmonics (though the pads make a mark on the finish) -- http://myerspickups.com/myerspickups.html

It is a mic + very basic pre-amp but it produces a very definite acoustic sound that is louder and amplified -- not trance band loud but good enough for most times when you play with electric guitars. It plugs directly into the mixing board and they do have to turn you up higher. I am told that adding a real pre-amp would give me better tone and more ability to shape tone. And the Myers guy said that XLR is better for volume than the regular jack.

I really do not care for the tone that Niladri has on his sitar in the original reference on this thread -- it is an electric sitar tone to my ear. A good acoustic instrument will have layers of harmonics and overtones that his instrument setup completely kills. One can barely hear a taraf response. These harmonics to me is what makes a sitar a sitar so special and without these "artifacts" the sound can be replicated to a great extent by a lot of electric guitars.

Anyway if you want as real an acoustic sitar sound as possible I would recommend the Myers .. Mr Myers also made me a special thing to hold the mic in place Having said that, I have not tried the options discussed above so they may all work as well. But Myers will get you 95% of the way for $150

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/12418271/myers.jpg
Kirya
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rex@sitar.co.za
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Re: Any updates on pickups and pre-amps?

Post by rex@sitar.co.za » Tue Nov 01, 2016 10:24 pm

gillo wrote: For live situations, how is the gain out of the MD421 and how much does it have to be pushed (comparable to the SM57) to get a loud sound? Being a large diaphragm mic I'd be sacred of pushing it into feedback territory.
For live, the gain is perfect. Position the head of the mic a few inches from your strings and it's all the gain you'll need.
I haven't had any feedback problems using the MD421 in live classical shows, or even with the small acoustic fusion group I sometimes play with (https://rakkatak.bandcamp.com/track/heliosphere)
I find SM57/8s have unusably low gain for sitar unless you run them through a Cloudlifter.
(.. and even then they don't have the subtle depth and range that you can charm out of the MD421.)

Barend, I'm actually not sure which MD421 I have :D
It was a recent new one that I purchased about 2 years ago.
I used to use Rode mics for studio recording for years as well, but - purely subjectively - I now find them harsh-sounding next to the MD421.
Its the only mic I've used that doesn't require extra EQ or reverb to make the sitar sound good - just record flat and it's perfect.
And, yes, you do definitely need a good transducer in your back pocket for hard-to-mic live acoustic shows, or fusion/rock.

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Kirya
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Re: Any updates on pickups and pre-amps?

Post by Kirya » Tue Nov 01, 2016 11:16 pm

This overview by a music scholar (Deepak Raja) is very interesting discussion about how amplification to let more people hear you clearly versus getting so much volume that you are effective shouting at the audience

Lots of little anecdotes about how different Indian musicians deal with amplification and recording

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zMsFwD0duZs
Kirya
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gillo
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Re: Any updates on pickups and pre-amps?

Post by gillo » Wed Nov 02, 2016 12:07 am

Kirya wrote:I have had good luck with the Myers little gooseneck mic that you stick onto the tabli and place the mic element right under the main bridge where it also picks up taraf harmonics (though the pads make a mark on the finish) -- http://myerspickups.com/myerspickups.html

It is a mic + very basic pre-amp but it produces a very definite acoustic sound that is louder and amplified --

I really do not care for the tone that Niladri has on his sitar in the original reference on this thread -- it is an electric sitar tone to my ear. A good acoustic instrument will have layers of harmonics and overtones that his instrument setup completely kills. One can barely hear a taraf response. These harmonics to me is what makes a sitar a sitar so special and without these "artifacts" the sound can be replicated to a great extent by a lot of electric guitars.
Those Myers look great - the website doesn't give the tech specifications though. It looks like a small diaphragm condenser omni microphone (which will work great close-mic'ed like you have it) but it has a preamp and DI(?) with 1/4" out and they call them 'pickups'. Which model is yours?

I have also used small diaphram condensers close-mic'ed clipped onto a holder on the tabli which have worked well - http://www.leonaudio.com.au/lsm.htm#Top

I agree about the tone of Niladri's sitar. This is why I am exploring options for a mixed sound where it helps. I'm not sure where the audio feed came from for that video, maybe straight out of the desk which often sounds 'electric' even with microphones. They do have another mic present but I suspect it was just for a recording, it's not clear. Perhaps, also, at that gig the pickup was his choice because of other limitations a the venue.

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