I am amateur both in repair and playing skills (Though I have taken an extensive repair course, and have most of the tools, circumstances and a bit of laziness keep me from doing as much repair work as I would like to. (I have been lurking here almost daily for years and spend way too much time reading what the experts say here rather than actually doing, I am constantly humbled by the expertise freely given by the resident masters of the trade.)
I have a problem I've not seen addressed though I suspect it is not uncommon. One of my guitars (Ibanez AW with Ibanez sst/Fishman PU) produces a very loud thump with even the lightest tap on the strings. When finger picking the thump can be heard clearly when the stings are first contacted and can be very distracting/ annoying. A solid hammer on or Palm muting can sound like an over amplified kick drum. Tapping the saddle confirms the PU as the source. Rolling off the bass on the guitar eq and amp doesn't make a big difference.
I have used Martin FX silk and phosphor stings for years and they are changed regularly. The noise has developed and become stronger over the last three string changes. Have I got an unusually sensitive PU or are there other possible causes?
Solutions, recommendations and laughter all happily accepted and anxiously awaited.
Fred, if I may give some advice. The Fishman style undersaddle pickup is absolutely ancient (1960s tech) in it's design. There are quite a few problems with all of the UnderSaddlethinlines, and among them is your problem. I hope the day comes soon when they are relegated to history and the 'new' versions come in. (Rant over now) Sio what I would do if I were you, is buy and install a K andK Mini system. It seems to be THE pickup most used by the 'high end guitar Audiophile' crowd, and there are plenty of reasons for it too. You may even be able to still use your onboard preamp too. You 'thump' problem will be history, and sonudpeople will ask what in the world is in your guitar for a pickup...
Thanks Kerry, and you certainly can give some advise :-)
And good advise it is, I guess I'll have to step out of the dark ages and adopt the new tech
I took a quick look at K&K and will be ordering one.
Piling on: I have K&K's in a mandolin and a guitar and they both sound great through a PA or acoustic amp. I'd use that if I were to do another. I put a Baggs Anthem SL in one of my guitars a few years ago and it also sounds great, but... it uses a battery for the preamp, and that can die at a gig. Been there, done that, so it takes some attention. I keep a battery tester in my gig box anyway but using it is a must before important gigs. The Anthem uses a combo of an under-saddle pickup and a specially designed mic on the bridge plate. The preamp mixes the two to get the lows of the UST with the natural sound of the mic. With this particular guitar, my experience is that I have the UST dialed back to almost zero, so if I repeated this approach, I'd just go with the Baggs unit that just has only a similar mic, the Lyric.
K&K has one system that mixes the soundboard transducers of the Mini with an internal mic. This might be a good approach but again, there's a battery and internal preamp/mixer involved and the Mini works so well by itself that I'm not sure it's worth the extra bother.
It's probably not a design problem as these cheap braid covered flexible pickups work fine mostly regardless of player personal preferences - they have been around for ions and are cheap to replace.
The uneven thump you talk about can also be associated with a saddle making poor contact with the UST for a variety of reasons: a tight wedged saddle can do this as it only responds to the string vibrations when they are played and it becomes percussive as a result. An uneven saddle bottom or deformed saddle bottom slot on the bridge can give similar results and we will generally attend to (machine level) these two things immediately we have problem of this nature.
The other area which is common enough is that of having a wire broken (output jack is a good place to look) which is just resting on the contact point/solder joint and makes contact in accordance with the vibration put into the guitar by playing a string.
Primer on UST's: the older Piezio based UST (and others) pickups are known for their "quack and percussive" nature. Most modern co-polymer ribbons (including the current Fishman Matrix/Infinity family etc) used for UST do not have this problem as do not the under-bridge mounted units referred to in this post. UST's get a bad rap because of the piezo prejudices of the 60's which for the main are not present in modern (last 10-15 years) upper market systems.
Most problems with UST's come from poor installation or distortion in the saddle area (including height to depth ratio of the saddle in the bridge which is important to string balance and tone and the use of the correct saddle material).
Unfortunately many repair guys do not have the proper saddle slot machining jigs to ensure an optimum performance and end up with notable sting balance problems or uneven volume which they blame on the equipment. Hence the reason that the glue on under bridge transducers and the "feather" style which only require a tube of superglue to install often perform better.
For the record, I like the stick-ons and use the feathers often, especially for exotic instruments and instruments with limited space available (never had a bad McIntyre Feather). But equally, I still do a lot of UST/Mike onboard preamp installations. Batteries last for 6000 hours in the modern pre-amps - I don't get the prejudices against powered systems but it's a free world. Batteries cost a couple of bucks and I change them as a matter of course when an instrument comes in for a service unless otherwize directed. Non on board buffering and EQ (or stand alone DI/Preamps) means the Board or house amp will have to do your stuff where you are playing and this can be a problem on the night.
Thanks also Rusty and Larry for your input, I should have been paying more attention to the advances being made and to the other factors mentioned above that effect the UST pick ups.
I'm going to check and trouble shoot through the system as now installed just to try to determine the exact reason for the problem (wedged saddle, output jack etc.) just for the learning value, but will after that exercise install the K&K mini system, that does look like the way to go.
I love this board, Thanks Frank!
I'll second everything Rusty said.
Kerry, K&K pickups are the same as the contact transducers (ie: FRAP) we used in the 70s until the early under saddle pickups came out. Although they work well there is nothing cutting edge or modern about K&K.
Not sixties tech: The material for the film style of pickup that Fishman uses today didn't exist until the eighties. The SST system is a relatively new Fishman/Ibanez product.
I've had some amazing results from under saddle pickups and some really poor results from contact style pickups. You can't paint them all with the same brush.
I make a system that uses a contact transducer with a FET pre amp, it works very well. It's essentially sixties tech however the pre amp is modeled after the preamp in some modern condenser mics and the battery is charged using a micro USB cord, so that part is new.
The point is that, not everything new is actually new and old tech is sometimes as good or better than new.
The K&K pickups work well but they're just another doorbell buzzer in a new box.
I like to install K&K pickups for customers, not only because they work well but they're consistent in their quality. It also doesn't hurt that they're made right here in Oregon and should I ever have an application problem (like with oddball zithers and the ilk) they're a phone call away and they bend-over backwards to help out.
Sure, they may not be cutting-edge... but dependability, fair prices and good basic sound counts for a lot in my book.
Lots of good advice & options have come your way. Aren't these folks GREAT :)
I've worked on a couple dozen Ibanez instruments with that PUP, and have one in my "$300 (everywhere) Orange colored Ibanez Nylon string A/E".
The only other fixes you may wish to investigate are your battery (make sure it's fresh) and the output board. If the output assembly is the 1/4"/XLR combo, those are well known for crummy solder joints and poor battery terminal connections. Before I discovered those issues, I had a show completely ruined by the intermittent performance of the assembly, which included audio disconnects AND that pop you mention. I re-flowed and or repaired all solder connections and shimmed the battery terminals and... the gremlins went away.
Best of luck with your guitar :)
I seem to have a lot of problems with battery box terminals on customers guitars, often retensioning them or removing obstacles does the trick.
For uneven contact under the saddle leading to uneven string output, the best fix I have found is to cut the saddle into three sections, each holding only two strings. It instantly resolves many issues and I have not found any downside.
what a great idea jeff
John, you and I have argued about the K and Ks before, and I don't agree with you. They are not anything like the old Hot Dots. K and Ks all by themselves are the loudest piezo pickup made, without any kind of a preamp, which is why so many cheep folks don't buy the preamp. I know you have installed the K and Ks too . You are the only Luthier I have yet heard who doesn't at least, kinda like it. Many Luthiers swear by them. Enough said. You are allowed your opinion, just as I am mine.
"God is in the details" is the old saying, and K&K seems to have addressed those very well, regardless of the initial origin of the basic technology. Many successful new guitar designs tweak features first developed in the 19th century (e.g. X bracing) but that doesn't make the new designs less successful. The same can be said of 20th Century tweaks, like prewar Martin designs. I agree with you, Kerry--"new" for the sake of "new" often isn't all it's cracked up to be.
OTOH, Speaking of K&K and "new," has anyone experimented with K&K's polymer based pickups for guitars with movable bridges? If so, what say ye?
PS: My K&K fitted instruments can go directly to the PA board. I have a DI/preamp that I hardly ever use because of that.