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Hi guys, I thought I'd post my newest findings from my experimentation in the acoustic/electric amplification of these crazy harp instruments we are all addicted to. Of course every player demands unique circumstances for their style, so the content of this post will be somewhat biased for my own needs.

I have always liked the magnetic soundhole pickups for their thicker low end presence (fishman rare earth, Sunrise, LR Baggs M1 etc.) but it is difficult to non destructively mount any kind of humbucker under those sub bass strings on the acoustic harp guitars to blend with this signal. I thought about winding a custom humbucker that was flatter, could mount to one of the soundholes, and hover above the top sheet but under the bass strings. I have not abandon this idea, but for sake of time and resources, i have resorted back to my original pickup configuration using the crystal type piezo pickups under the saddle for the sub bass strings. Using these types of pickups on the guitar is sometimes undesireable; since we tend to have more technique involved on the guitar strings we hear the undesirable "quack" of the crystals over-vibrating. They do, however, work very well under the bass string bank providing more sustain than the ribbon and contact type pickups (in my opinion).

Both ribbon and crystal type piezo under saddle pickups suffer from high impedance making it difficult to blend with magnetic signals. In the past i wired each pickup to its own jack, using their own internal preamps with batteries, and 2 patch cords. This has the desired sound i was going for but was not convienient having to find 2 direct inputs to the various house sound systems. I wanted both signals to go out a single mono jack and have a little bit of blend control.

So instead of butchering a premade switchjack/fishman piezo preamp I found a guy in Seattle that builds preamps for electric bass guitars. His simple buffer design also gave me a trim adjusting variable resistor to turn the piezo signal down and i was able to wire both this output and the output from the rare earth magnetic to the tip of the endpin jack! Now the rare earth volume is a blend control for both pickups!

Finally I have a properly buffered piezo signal for the bass strings, and a preamped humbucker under the guitar strings that are blended to a mono jack! Of course this preamp doesn't have all the tone and eq control of the LR Baggs iMix preamp ($210) that does this same function, but there was enough bass boost in this preamp to not need those extras, and it was only $49. The artec crystal piezo is $15 on Ebay, and the Rare Earth humbuckers are around $130 (i think). So that's my story, I thought I'd let you know my findings for other future questions that may arise. You can buy this preamp from the guy in Seattle directly by contacting him off his website:


Dave Powell
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