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.
Larry, you raise some useful perspectives here which hopefully will explain the different views about this and that. Most of my colleagues find something they like and stick to it, same goes for installers. This doesn't mean the "chosen one" is good or bad, it's just what we are comfortable with.
For example Tommy Emmanuel uses a Maton AP5 pickup and preamp in his guitars which is "out of the arc" but it suits his sound and technique and he is obviously happy with this setup......I'm not a fan of this system which is problematic to maintain from time to time, but for a player with the accuracy, speed and touch that he has it's a great choice - for an basic strummer it's nothing special.
But on the other hand I'm working with this sort of stuff a lot and see and hear a lot of different systems that customers have taken a liking too - things just get popular from time to time because of the websites the masses tend to frequent and worship.
My experience tells me that most systems are comparable and a lot of both the older and the modern ones are just re-badged and re-engineered versions of the original theme. Bit like overdrive and distortion pedals....they all had the same mother back in the time of Maxon OD 808s..which was the progenitor for the Ibanez Tubescreamers, Boss SD and OD and a million subsequent pedals with the same DNA.
Furthermore, if one is playing a solo gig in a quiet coffee shop there is a different performance dynamic and feedback rejection/response requirement to say, playing on a 100 Db sound stage.......where UST's thrive in overbraced factory customs that look like the one on the showroom floor but are hybrids in reality. A bit different from the pristine surrounds of a studio and a couple of thousand bucks worth of condenser mikes etc. It's a different system for a different environment.
I also note the fact that K&K, like a lot of the more modern producers have a polymer option, which is what I mentioned in the first place as a good option for all round stuff ....different strokes but deserving of equal consideration.
My comments about having onboard buffering/preamps stands for the traveling or performing musicians who are at the mercy of the house/recording equipment - if you do not have a conditioned output you are at the mercy of the "house" inputs, which can be good or can be bad. I recommend choice. Nothing like finding that "Redneck Joe's Bar & Grill" front of house/monitors are out of phase with your baby to make you appreciate the phase switch.
Similarly, preamps are there to help match output impedance with input impedance and select an appropriate line level - all the 'loud" under the sun from a Piezo output (or any output for that matter) won't overcome a "bad" mismatch. Which is why everyone has a spare DI somewhere in their travel kit.
What I see with this seeming endless discussion about preferences is that we start looking at stuff half way down the fork in the road rather than checking out the map before we start. Different destination require different roads.
This is difficult stuff as it's not my specialty....David Collins, are you out there?
The Hot Dots were imbedded piezos which is another style of piezo, ie Fishman and Schatten Archtop and mandolin pick ups. And various string instrument pickups.
I'm writing fact not opinion. The original Takimine pickup and the Dean Markley SST have a much higher output than the K&K or any other contact piezo. That's not opinion it's physics. The combination of size and the fact that any pressure on a piezo increases its output dramatically, means that a contact pickup even three of them can't be as loud.
Here's another thing, the less mass you attach to a piezo (any type of housing, think Schaller Oyster or EPM beercap, adds mass) the more output you get. The K&K are a lightweight housing epoxied to the bridge plate. It's the best case scenario for a contact transducer. This is why I said twice they work well, which would imply that I "kinda like" them. The part of them I really don't like is epoxying pickups to the bridge plate. I've had to replace a faulty element twice, it's a nuisance job.
What Rusty said about buffer pre amps is important, bringing a ten meg ohm load down to six hundred ohms helps them play well with others. Personally I like FET style preamps or buffers for this because they tend to be more forgiving about impedance than opamps. The loading issues associated with piezos have to do with output and length of cable. A higher output piezo with a short cord will need a preamp less than the opposite scenario.
Manufacturers know that historically most players buy what their repair tech/luthier recommends. They also know that systems that are easy to install and systems that don't come back for adjustments and problems get recommended by guitar techs/luthiers.
Undersaddle piezos with large crystals generally require rerouting saddle slots and can have string balance problems that are sometimes chronic. This is what paved the way for the much lower output style of under saddle pickups we see today. Easier install with fewer problems.
The K&K pickups work well, I anticipate a day when a much better bridge plate transducer comes along and a bunch of guys are wondering why anybody would epoxy something to the bridge plate.
"Manufacturers know that historically most players buy what their repair tech/luthier recommends. They also know that systems that are easy to install and systems that don't come back for adjustments and problems get recommended by guitar techs/luthiers."
Ain't that the truth - guilty as charged!
My K&K's are attached with the supplied two sided tape. Works fine and much less destructive than epoxy.
It does help to clamp them for a day or so and avoid hard knocks for a while after installation so that the adhesive can harden up. One "dot" came unglued on my first install but after reattachment, it's been fine for several years.