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Kirya

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Reply with quote  #1 
I have looked through the forum and I saw there were some discussions on this mostly centered around the $500 pickup that Anoushka Shankar uses.

For those of us who really prefer an acoustic sound, but may have an occasional need to play with electric instruments, what lower cost options might exist?

When I look at what acoustic guitar players prefer I see that K&K is a preferred choice http://www.acousticguitarforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=150299 and the K&K site says
Quote:
We recommend the Big Twin for the sitar.

The pickups are attached to the instrument with the double side adhesive film supplied. One pickup is positioned near the main bridge. The other pickup should be located in a center position to pick up the sympathetic strings. Cables have to be secured with scotch tape to avoid mechanical vibration noise.
I also took a look at what Lars offers but it is really hard to tell from just a description of the hardware and so I wondered if some of you have used these transducer pickups would share your experience on what works well or not?

What plugs straight into a PS system?

Does a John Pearse system work at all?
Do you have to have a pre-amp?

Is there any kind of value point? Does it make you recordings better?

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JazzMathias

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Reply with quote  #2 
Have you considered the DPA clip microphones?

http://www.dpamicrophones.com/en/Microphone-University/product-info/live-instrument-microphones.aspx
http://www.soundonsound.com/pm/jun09/articles/dpa4099mics.htm

I believe they are used for tabla here, but haven't seen them on sitar yet:



/Mathias

Ps. But you would have to live with the bass boost, here's the proximity effect exhibited by DPA 4099:
http://www.dpamicrophones.com/~/media/Tradelink/Varebilleder/4099V/Diagrams/DM04726.jpg
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CarbonSitars

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Reply with quote  #3 
With transducers, the key is using a preamp. Without one, the signal is much too weak to go feed directly into anything. It will create a very thin sound, weak volume, and distortion, especially if you later try to boost the signal to compensate. To get a good sound out of any mic, or electromagnetic or piezo pickup, the level coming into the board or amplifier must be "line level." This is the pre amp's job for these devices. The transducer itself is only one half of the required equipment. Proper gain staging is a crucial element in obtaining good audio.

But I'll stay out of the discussion about which devices sound best. That's highly subjective.
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rex@sitar.co.za

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Reply with quote  #4 
Hi!

The best transducer I've used or heard for sitar is the Shatten AD-01

http://schattendesign.com/ad.htm

It's a monster!
I have mine installed on the underside of the tabli (An experienced luthier did this for me.)
It should work just as well under the bridge or on outside of the tabli.
Unlike any other transducer I've used, it sounds great without a pre-amp.

Here's a short sound sample:

http://www.sitar.co/audio/40.mp3

(No EQ, slight compression and a bit of reverb. The sitar is plugged directly into a computer with a Apogee Jam)

A close second would be the McIntyre ST-08 and the Schertler DYN-E

http://www.raincitymusic.com/sitaramplification.htm

I've used both, and they sound equally good to my ears you might as well go for the cheaper McIntyre.
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JazzMathias

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Reply with quote  #5 
Wow it sounds really good !
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CarbonSitars

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Reply with quote  #6 
Lovely job with the recording, Rex.

However, I fear the recording betrays the statement that it sounds good without a preamp. I would like to politely say that while the playing was nice, the sitar track contains all of the telltale signs it was a piezo used without a preamp: rolled off highs and lows, grainy, and lacking presence. I would also guess that if the sitar were soloed and normalized to 0 dB, it would contain a low signal to noise ratio, i.e. noisy.

While the topic appears to have been discussed at length here, when I went back and read through them, there seemed to be a great deal of misinformation presented. It's not really a matter of sitarists specifically not understanding piezos and preamps, but that it is widely misunderstood by most musicians. Manufacturers and retailers are partly to blame, as many sell piezo pickups and their required preamps separately, making it appear that the pre is optional, but the intention there is to give the customer the option of purchasing another preamp which they might prefer. It is still required even if it does not say so. One can contact any of the makers such as Pick-up the World and they will tell you the same.

The reason a piezo* pickup (*It's specifically called a piezo, not a transducer. All pickups and microphones are generically called transducers. A transducer is simply a device that converts one form of energy into another.) needs a preamp is because it is an extremely high-impedance transducer. That means the energy coming from the piezoelectric plates is a tiny, tiny trickle of electricity compared to other pickups. This energy needs to be converted into a form which is usable by the board or loudspeaker.

This is done within the preamp by something called a buffer amplifier. The purpose of the buffer amplifier is to transform the impedance of the piezo sensor from high to low impedance (this is called impedance matching), and to correct the irregularities that arise from the high impedance, such as the missing high and low end. This will give the piezo pickup the correct frequency response from the instrument. Once it goes through the buffer, the signal can be amplified and then EQed, if the player likes. Sometimes a preamp contains all three of these functions: buffering, amplifying, and EQing.

Because the piezo has such a tiny output, the buffer amplifier needs to be as close as possible to the piezo sensors so that as little distortion as possible is introduced into the signal before going into the amp or board. This is why many of these preamps are designed to be onboard the instrument. That's not always practical with the sitar or instruments like a violin, so the preamp is often a small unit that can sit on the floor next to the instrument.

When a piezo pickup is used without a preamp and with a long cable going to an amp or PA system, the output will be extremely low, it will lack a nice flat frequency response, and will contain a noise that gives the instrument a gritty, coming through a telephone speaker sound. That's because the energy from certain frequencies did not make its journey from the pickup to the speaker. They died somewhere along the way. The preamp takes all of these weaker signals, makes them equally as strong as the others, and then shoves them on down the line where they can go into an amp. Without a pre, one will need to really crank up the gain to hear it at the same perceived level as the other instruments which is what introduces and amplifies the line noise along with the signal.

In short, piezos [i]do[i] require a preamp. Yes, it will work without one in that one can hear a signal coming from the instrument, but it will not sound as nice as a microphone in the same setting. When used properly, it can give a very realistic image of the instrument's frequency response. If price is an issue, get a good microphone. There are tradeoffs between each solution, so it really comes down to what makes the most sense to the user, and what sound they prefer. However, I will say there's bias against piezos, as chances are the were never used correctly (with a pre) in the recording.
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fossesitar

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Reply with quote  #7 
A very inexpensive pre-amp/buffer is the "Art Tube MP" which you can own for 30 - 40 bucks. It does have a 12AX7 preamp tube run at very low voltage and it does give line level output and a good sound especially considering the price.

Eventually all efforts to boost the output of acoustic instruments run into feedback issues, this has been the case since the late 1940's when the first efforts were made to amplify the acoustic guitar. The laws of acoustic physics have not been repealed so the same limitations apply today.

As I have said before, perhaps the best amplification for a classical acoustic sitar is a quality microphone with a quality PA. If one uses an omni-directional mic the proximity effect one gets with a cardioid (directional) mic is nullified. The EV (Electrovoice) 635A has been the standard for a reasonable cost omni mic for decades, it does have a "presence" rise. If one is auditioning mics use either a very high end set of headphones or a superb PA. Even with a mic, the Art Tube MP can be a nice addition.

To go beyond the limitations of amplified acoustic feedback is why solid body guitars with magnetic pickups were developed, opening a whole new range of musical tones which could not have even been imagined by Rickenbacker and Leo Fender in the late 1940's. Musicians will always create new and inspiring sounds from what is available and especially from what is new. GF
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barend

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Reply with quote  #8 
Quote:
Originally Posted by "rex@sitar.co.za"
Hi!

The best transducer I've used or heard for sitar is the Shatten AD-01

http://schattendesign.com/ad.htm

It's a monster!
I have mine installed on the underside of the tabli (An experienced luthier did this for me.)
It should work just as well under the bridge or on outside of the tabli.
Thanks for the tip on this pickup never saw it before Do you have a picture of how you have mounted the pickup and input on the sitar?
Placement of the pickup and finding the hot spot is crucial. If not placed on the hotspot even the most expensive pickup can sound like crap.

I have tried a few pickups. Only pickup that I was satisfied with is the Barcus Berry pickup.
Quote:
Originally Posted by "fossesitar"
A very inexpensive pre-amp/buffer is the "Art Tube MP" which you can own for 30 - 40 bucks. It does have a 12AX7 preamp tube run at very low voltage and it does give line level output and a good sound especially considering the price.
Not sure if the ART is the right pre-amp for piezo pickups and transducers.
What is important is the input impendance. For piezo this has to be 10 Meg-ohm. Think the ART is 1 or 2 Meg-ohm. That is why I use a Fishman Platinum Pro pre-amp for my sitar and double bass.
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Lars

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Reply with quote  #9 
Quote:
Originally Posted by "rex@sitar.co.za"
Hi!

The best transducer I've used or heard for sitar is the Shatten AD-01

http://schattendesign.com/ad.htm

It's a monster!
I have mine installed on the underside of the tabli (An experienced luthier did this for me.)
It should work just as well under the bridge or on outside of the tabli.
Unlike any other transducer I've used, it sounds great without a pre-amp.

Here's a short sound sample:

http://www.sitar.co/audio/40.mp3

(No EQ, slight compression and a bit of reverb. The sitar is plugged directly into a computer with a Apogee Jam)

A close second would be the McIntyre ST-08 and the Schertler DYN-E

http://www.raincitymusic.com/sitaramplification.htm

I've used both, and they sound equally good to my ears you might as well go for the cheaper McIntyre.
That sounds really nice actually! Looking at the Schatten is seems to be a ceramic disc like the McIntyre is that correct? Sounds like Mr. I. Tablapro too....

Lars

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