I have a beautiful Avalon 12string that sounds awesome, but would like some advice on sound hole pickups & strings please.
Currently, the guitar is fitted with my preferred 80/20 bronze strings and a Fishman “Rare Earth” active sound hole pickup.
The issue I have is that, being a 12 string, when plugged in, the plain steel octave strings ring noticeably louder than their wound bronze pairings.
I realise the Fishman is a magnetic pickup, so I have tried nickel wounds which subdues the imbalance to some degree but I just prefer 80/20 bronze for acoustic sessions.
Also, I really don’t wish to go down the under saddle transducer route, not least of all because the Avalon (like Lowdens) is built with a split/offset saddle.
Any advise on how to get the bronze wounds and steel strings to a consistent volume (when plugged in), would be greatly appreciated.
If you use pure nickel wound strings , the result would be about the same as bronze . Steel wrap nickel plated is the way to go (standard electrics) . This is pretty obvious , just so there's no mistake .
Personal experience only:
Consider a K&K Pickup. the piezo transducers adhere to the bridge plate rather than under the saddle(s). They sound very natural and there's a choice of the contact transducers alone or mixed with a mic. I have the transducer-only version in a flamenco guitar and it sounds great. I have another in one of my mandolins and it's great, too. It's a passive system; it needs a DI or preamp to plug into a PA which is what I use.
Another choice is a Baggs Lyric system--an active mic system with preamp that attaches to the bridge plate, controls just inside the sound hole and a preamp built into the end pin plug. I have a flattop with a Baggs Anthem which combines a similar internal mic with a UST and it's great--but I have the UST balanced to nearly silent, so if I did it again I'd probably just get the Lyric. Downside: the battery is inside the guitar which means loosening the strings to reach it unless it's mounted somehow on the exterior of the guitar--a bigger issue with a 12 than a 6 string for sure although it doesn't come up often. I check and replace once a year but if gigging a lot it may need to be done more frequently. I always check the battery when I change strings.
There's lots of good pickup systems out there. Those with more experience that I probably have better recommendations as well.
I've used DR Zebra strings on my acoustic archtop with magnetic floating pickup. the windings alternate phosphor bronze and nickel so the mag pickups work as intended with more PB flavor in the acoustic sound. I'm not sure they make them in 80-20 or 12 string sets, though.
The "ne plus ultra" of sound hole pick ups is the Sunrise. People don't need to string up with electric strings. I do not have personal experience with these but a lot of people use them. I have been told they are heavy which raises concern when flying (as if flying were not a concern to begin with) because of kinetic energy. They are also expensive.
fyi you can't balance the baggs anthem for the UST to be "nearly silent", it's always there no matter what.
the beauty of the system is that the UST only covers the low end while the mic handles all the mids and highs, you get decent acoustic "character" with decent feedback resistance.
i suppose if you dimed the mic trim it would overwhelm the UST, but then you'd have a sound with nothing below about 250Hz, where it crosses over from one to the other.
Thank you for your replies, interesting.
The sunrise looks promising, also, I’ll take a look at “stick on” body transducers and the type that are actually inserted and fixed into the the bridge (similar to the new Taylor system).
Thank you for your suggestions; plenty to think on!!
Hi Brian. You've probably already sorted it all out. I was going to suggest an LR Baggs standard ole soundhole pickup. The individual magnets are adjustable for exactly the problem you seem to have. Besides they give a good sound.
I haven't tried it myself but I recently heard a Brazilian acoustic band (Choro Das 3, Brazilian Choro music) that was using stick-on AKG pickups on their acoustic guitar and mandolin (bandolim in Portuguese). The sound was very realistic and the bandolim sounded very good in particular. I have a Bandolim (and have had several others) and like most of them, it's got very bright upper strings with lots of sustain across the board which makes it hard to use with a pickup or a mic but their rig just sounded great. It's worth exploring. Very broad frequency response.
Comes with an XLR cable but it would be easy enough to use a 1/4" converter if necessary. Requires phantom power.
Thank you all for your help and suggestions.
I tend to be using my Guild Starfire 12 string more now, with a multi fx pedal with which I can get a pretty acceptable "acoustic" tone when required; easier on my fretting hand too!!
The Avalon remains an excellent guitar that I just use for pure acoustic sets now.
seconded on the K&K pure mini, it'll give you a nicely balanced more "acoustic" tone with decent feedback resistance for lower volume gigs, and since it's reading the soundboard rather than the magnetic cores of the strings it'll be balanced between the main strings and the octave strings.
you could likely also go with a UST special-ordered for your split saddle; the result will be not quite as natural as the K&K but would stand up better to fronting a loud band and would also be balanced fine between the wounds and the octave strings.