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Old 08-22-2014, 11:53 AM   #1
theogonia777
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Acoustic Preamp

I recently got a Fishman pickup put in the banjo, and it's neat and all, but there is no preamp and so the output is way too low and I have to turn everything all the way up on everything to get a loud enough sound (which is annoying when trying to quickly switch from banjo to guitar, steel, or keyboard, and without any sort of pedals or amp, I can't get enough to run directly out.

So naturally I'm looking to get a preamp to fix all that jazz. For banjo, any mounted sort of whatever in the instrument isn't a great choice since, even if I wanted to be drilling holes and all, there is not really anything that can be drilled since it's all metal except for the head and a tiny bit of exposed rim, and the head and rim certainly shouldn't be drilled.

This means that going with some little external preamp is the best bet. I was wondering what stuff to look into. I've heard good things about Fishman and LR Baggs, but I don't really know about different models and what features I do and don't need, since the latter for example has a few different external units that range from $99-$299.

Being young and lacking any real financial responsibilities, cost is really not a major concern, but I don't want to pay $299 for something if I don't really need it. I could certainly afford that much though, and I also get discounts from working at the old GC, so I save maybe 20-30% on most stuff.

I'm mainly looking for something to give me some volume and EQ for tone shaping, but having basic chorus, delay, and reverb would be nice since it would give me the option of leaving the Boss Multi-FX home.

I don't plan on definitely playing live much in the immediate future, but it's definitely a possibility, and I certainly am planning on doing some recording and whatnot. Gotta get out that first serious solo album eventually, I suppose.

Thanks.
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Old 08-22-2014, 01:15 PM   #2
Captaincranky
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Ostensibly, you could use a 25 dollar Berhinger, "Booster Preamp". When you're not using built in, (on board), equipment though, the stomp box has to be really close to the guitar. Every inch of cable too much, adds more noise to the system. This is partly the reason I always recommend built in electronics, even for beginner's guitars.

As for the FX, I use a row of Berhinger stomp boxes. They're cheap and clean, (digital). I don't think high end analog FX pedals are quite the right match for acoustic, since they're fairly noisy. With electrics, the analog noise gets lost in the amp clipping, and half the time you're adding almost raw noise, when you're using distortion boosters.

Many of the acoustic amps you might consider will have reverb, chorus, and possibly delay built in.

I have a Peavey eCoustic E208, with "spring reverb", and, "genuine analog chorus". However, both of those effects are almost unusable, due to extremely poor SN ratio. Enter the Berhinger pedals.

Berhinger also makes a line of acoustic amps with those FX built in. I've heard Berhinger amps called, "the worst amps ever made", by electric players. I suspect the Berhingers are too clean for their liking. You would have to audition any of their acoustic amps to corroborate or dispute my assumption, as I don't have access to them.

Here's the Berhinger "Booster Pre-amp", http://www.zzounds.com/item--BEHPB100

This is in the same vein as the MXR, "Micro Amp", but for way less money: http://www.zzounds.com/item--MXRM133

Since we're talking in terms of a banjo, I guess there's no convenient way to hide an onboard pre-amp, as you would in your basic dreadnought...

Last edited by Captaincranky : 08-22-2014 at 01:20 PM.
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Old 08-22-2014, 01:27 PM   #3
kndavid
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Check out the LR Baggs Gigpro Acoustic Guitar Preamp. Belt attached or could sit on a desk has trim/gain basics with a DI out. It's around a $100 but it gives you the flexibility if you want to gig down the road or not. It doesn't have effects built in and that's a good thing because all too often with the combo pre+ effects your stuck with whatever they give you. This way you can use the extra money you save and get effects you really like and not have it packaged with the pre. I've used a gigpro a few times on live gigs only and it worked great - I was sitting in with someones guit setup and I had no issues. I've also used something similar to the LR Baggs Para Acoustic Guitar DI and Preamp though at the time it was called something else maybe.... it's a stage version DI out with some basic gain controls.

I've had nothing but good experiences with those but again, both are in live performance situations, not recording / studio or home use.
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Old 08-22-2014, 03:13 PM   #4
Tony Done
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I had a Baggs Mixpro that worked well, so I assume the Gigpro is good too. The Baggs Paracoustic DI has been around a long time as ann industrly standard and is still going strong. The Red Eye is the one that gets rave reviews these days. You can always mount a preamp designed for installing in a guitar into a little black box for use remotely.

Just remember that you should have a short cable run between the piezo and the preamp to avoid signal loss through cable capacitance.
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Old 08-22-2014, 03:36 PM   #5
theogonia777
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Originally Posted by Tony Done
Just remember that you should have a short cable run between the piezo and the preamp to avoid signal loss through cable capacitance.


Don't know if it makes any difference, but the pickup I have on it is actually not a piezo pickup. It's actually a humbucker that detects the motion of a small metal shim that is attached to the underside of the head.
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Old 08-22-2014, 05:22 PM   #6
Tony Done
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Quote:
Originally Posted by theogonia777
Don't know if it makes any difference, but the pickup I have on it is actually not a piezo pickup. It's actually a humbucker that detects the motion of a small metal shim that is attached to the underside of the head.


Cable run wouldn't be a problem with that. Also, you could use any electric guitar preamp or stomp box that had some sort of level control - a digital delay or reverb might be nice, for example, to give some room ambiance.
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Old 08-22-2014, 07:12 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Done
Cable run wouldn't be a problem with that. Also, you could use any electric guitar preamp or stomp box that had some sort of level control - a digital delay or reverb might be nice, for example, to give some room ambiance.
I'm not so sure about that. It's doubtful that a "humbucker" such as this, has anything near the output of a "PAF" or similar.

That said, acoustic guitarists are a bit spoiled with the high output levels of onboard, active electronics.

As I said earlier, the Berhinger "Preamp Booster", is a quick, cheap, and not dirty solution.

I do grant, the other solutions offered are perhaps more elegant.

However, the booster, (or MXR "Micro-amp"), is a 1/4" to 1/4" solution which doesn't require XLR. (For better or worse, I suppose).

Anecdotally, my Epi EJ-200's electronics are quite a bit different from standard piezo types. They seem to require more gain at the amp. Its preamp is powered by (2) 2032 Coin type Lithium batteries.

Last edited by Captaincranky : 08-22-2014 at 07:13 PM.
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