alright, piezo pickups, dump all knowledge on them

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by Anonymous7, Nov 5, 2012.

  1. Anonymous7


    Oct 21, 2012
    Literally any knowledge on them, like how they work on electric basses, if they could be a third pick up on a bass with two other pickups, or if said idea would be crazy or possibly really inventive, where to buy/how to make these pickups, wiring them, controls, anything else I failed to mention. 3,2,1 go!
  2. FunkMetalBass


    Aug 5, 2005
    Phoenix, Arizona 85029
    Endorsing Artist: J.C. Basses
    A piezoelectric element is placed under the bridge, which picks up the strings vibrations and converts it into an electrical signal. Impedance is considerably higher than that of a magnetic pickup, and so it requires a buffer to sum the signals and give comparable volume to the piezo pickup.

    It is not a new or crazy idea to add piezo bridges to basses with multiple pickups (Carvin and EBMM do this regularly), and it can be done with a buffer like those offered by Bartolini and Fishman.
  3. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    Cafe Walter PZP-1. Good quality buffer for 50 clams. I have one installed, and another ready to go into my next fretless.
  4. Anonymous7


    Oct 21, 2012
    so wait, is the buffer the piezo itself? or just lectronics for it? cause i kinda want to know where to get a piezo pickup, just if anyone knows
  5. 1958Bassman


    Oct 20, 2007
    A buffer, by nature, is middle ground, so it goes between one thing/place and another. It isolates one thing from others- in this case, it keeps one part of the circuit from interacting unfavorably with the other. If they weren't buffered, the regular pickups would act as a load for the piezoelectric pickup. The piezo (or any high impedance load) will have little affect on a regular pickup.

    Barcus-Berry was one of the first with their Hot Dot- google it and you should find several types- you'll need something specific to this instrument in order for it to work best.
  6. Anonymous7


    Oct 21, 2012
    '58, I aprieciate the knowledge, but another question would be, do you know if 5 string bass piezos exist, and could any piezo work on a hipshot 5 string tremelo bridge
  7. Graphtech, and probably others makes piezo saddles for Hipshot bridges.

  8. Durden26

    Durden26 Supporting Member

    Mar 19, 2012
    H-town, Texas
    I've been rocking one in my main bass for the last 10 years. It's an EBMM5 H+piezo. It adds so much to the sound its amazing. That pickup is my secret sauce when I need to cut through. My next 'Ray will also be ordered with the piezo.
  9. Janis K.

    Janis K.

    Sep 17, 2006
    I have RMC piezo saddles in my JP Plume 7-string, combined with a buffer and electronics by John East.
    I believe they make different versions of these saddles, fitting on most popular bridge designs.

    My opinion/experience:
    They sound incredible! The tone from the RMCs is so natural, clear and "airy" (but with massive bottom end) it's unbelieveable. If I want I can make the bass sound like an acoustic guitar/bass. Fantastic upright-like tones can also be achieved.

    However I'm not sure if a piezo under the bridge could sound as amazing.....I tried (and owned) different basses with such a configuration and wasn't too impressed. :meh:
  10. Mehve


    Jun 2, 2012
    Kitchener, ON
    Every piezo-equipped bass I've owned has, at one point or another, had volume issues due to the piezo not being seated properly/coming loose. And it might just be coincidence, but every piezo has also defaulted towards a strongly scooped output.
  11. FunkMetalBass


    Aug 5, 2005
    Phoenix, Arizona 85029
    Endorsing Artist: J.C. Basses
    I think that's kind of how piezos are going to work. When you think about it, it's picking up the strings vibrations directly under the saddle. Vibrations there have minimal amplitude, and so it's predominately treble frequencies. As well, body vibrations play a role, but the lower frequencies are the ones causing the most noticeable body vibrations, so they are also strongly picked up. The mids lie in this in-between state where they are contributing to both, but are not dominating in either.
  12. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Banned Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products
    Very nice buffer amp.

    Piezo pickups have a very high impedance. With conventional pickups, running them into a lower impedance gives a dull lifeless tone, with less high end. You can hear this if you plug your bass into a low Z mixer input.

    Piezos are the opposite. If you load them down, they get thin and clanky sounding.

    So the buffer presents them with a very high impedance load to preserve the full bandwidth of tone, and gives a low impedance output to drive you amp better.

    You also need a buffer with a mixer front end to blend magnetic and piezo pickups.
  13. Piezo pickups have flat response.
    Magnetic pickups lack lows, cut off highs and (due to placement) comb filter everything in-between. Somehow you got used to that and perceive piezos as scooped.
  14. oerk


    Oct 16, 2009
    Good post. Just wanted to add: how well a piezo works depends entirely on placement and how it interacts with the following circuit (i.e. how well it is buffered).

    You won't get flat response out of a piezo with bad placement and a bad or non existant buffer.

    And, the technical limitations of magnetic pickups add to their charm - it's just how we think electric guitars and basses are supposed to sound. Same thing as with tube amps, really.
  15. PB+J


    Mar 9, 2000
    arlington va
    coming from the double bass side, mostly, I have some experience with piezos. Also I used to have a e-bass with a piezo pickup.

    They work by sensing changes vibration--a physical change in the crystal material they are made of. They often have to be under some pressure to work well, like under the saddles of a bridge.

    Unlike a magnetic pickup, they have an extremely wide frequency response and so they get much more of what the string is doing. More lows, more highs. That's the main reason why they are used much more in acoustic instruments.

    Downside is they havehave, to my ears, a nasty "quack," a hard to describe and hard to get rid of timbre that shouts "piezo" right away. You can minimize this--see below

    They also have a high impedance. The long and the short of it is if you plug them directly into your good old bass amp, they will sound ear bleedingly awful. You need a preamp in front of them, almost always, and a preamp with a high impedance input. For double bass, I have a preamp which has switchable input impedance. A lot of double bass player use this nifty device:

    It's designed to work well with high impedance piezos.

    Getting the impedance matched right is in my experience the single most important thing with piezo pickups. If it matches well, you still can tell it's a piezo pickup, but it's not so offensive.
  16. 4Mal

    4Mal Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    Columbia River Gorge
    Love my piezo's. The only bass that I own using both mag & piezo is my Barker. I gave the Graphtech / Hipshot and Acoustiphonic preamp/buffer/blend setup on that one. Fantastic, I blend in a little of the split P on that bass for mids. The piezo setup on that bass is a little dark, very woody. Absolutely no quack or anything like that. Not cheap but a really good setup.

    I also have a Godin which is piezo only. That one uses an under bridge saddle and premp from LR Baggs. It can be very bright but it is controllable using the 3 band EQ on the pre. Mostly I run with the Bass flat, vary the mids according to the tune and keep the treble very low... LaBella tapewounds on that bass.

    And a Boulder Creek ABG with some no name electronics. Stock. fretless. TIJF's ... Sounds great. I'm all over modding and tone seqrching. That one I'm not messing with. In spite of it being relatively a cheapie, it's fine as is. I would prefer a Taylor but... Not going to drop the dough on one...
  17. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Banned Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products
    Part of the "piezo sound" is the fact that it's only sensing what's happening right under the string. The ton from an acoustic instrument is different, in that it's produced by instrument's soundboard and body cavity. That filters the tone. So you are not directly hearing the string's attack, which is that quacky tone. You can hear a bit of that on an un-amplified electric bass by pressing you ear to the body and plucking a string.

    One thing that will help is one of the convolution modeling preamps, like the D-TAR Mama Bear or something similar. They don't offer any upright models, but you could get a more acoustic flattop tone from the piezos. Other companies like Fishman and Yamaha make similar preamps.
  18. Steve Dallman

    Steve Dallman Supporting Member

    My first piezo bass pickups were a set of Shadow replacement saddles for a P or J bass in 1983. They came with a preamp that plugged into the bass jack, and had a volume and tone for the piezos, and blended the magnetic and piezos together. It was a great system. I had to add a series cap with the piezos to filter the low end some to match the piezos with the magnetic low end.

    A piezo ideally needs 5-10 meg input impedance. Into a lower impedance, the volume and low end suffers. Many of the "piezo quack" complaints are due to the piezos being plugged into 1meg or lower impedances. Into the proper impedance, the low end balances the other frequencies, and the "quack" disappears in the full frequency response.