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I'm thinking about getting pickups again.  To my knowledge the K&K pickups are the only ones commerically available at this time.  In my area of northern Jacksonville there aren't a lot of places to play gigs but there are some jam sessions.

My question is if anyone has plugged straight into a house PA system - and lived to tell about it!  :-)

I always had an amp with me when I had either pickups or mics so I never actually tried it.  Any input (pun intended) would be appreciated.

Thanks, Jerry


Randy_Sutin Wed, 06/05/2024 - 12:12

K&K pickups are piezoelectric mics, I believe (If I'm wrong about that, please somebody just tell me to be quiet...). Given that, the output can certainly be run to a PA system, but you will likely find there are impedance mismatches and gain staging issues. You will likely be able to get over those issues (albeit with slightly degraded sound), but if you want to not have that problem, you should get a decent DI box.

Radial makes several good ones that are affordable. I have those and I like them.

However, I do have a favorite that I LOVE!!!... Rupert Neve Designs RNDI-S Stereo Active Transformer Direct Box. I've never used it with K&K pickups, but I do have a different instrument that uses piezo pickups and the difference between that DI and every other one I've ever tried is night and day. Well worth the extra money.

Jerry Weir Mon, 06/10/2024 - 15:16

Randy, I'll check into the DI. My gut feeling is that the direct-to-PA sound will be coarse and lack of EQ may make it rather intolerable to listen to - if the venue doesn't allow me or someone to make adjustments.

Here in Jacksonville there is one weekly jam session that is on the second floor of a commercial building and there is no elevator. I hate to sound old but I don't think I can carry my vibe (in the cases) and still be able to play it once I do. So, I'm just thinking out loud about if I leave the resonators at home and just plug in the rails and go with it. I may just have to try it once and find out.


Randy_Sutin Mon, 06/10/2024 - 16:01

In reply to by Jerry Weir

The quality of that connection, if you provide them with a decent signal (which is why I recommend the DI box rather than just running long unbalanced cables to an input on the PA) is entirely dependent upon the quality of the entire PA system. If it has great preamps, you'll get past that stage; If it has decent processing, such as EQ, Compression, phase shift (to simulate the vibrato Mike Manieri style) you'll get past that. If the sound is bad at that point (headphones directly into the board), then the place to start is with gain staging. Is the trim on the input of the preamps set to a good level that allows the peaks to go through without distortion? Is it so low that you have to run the fader on the channel all the way up? Is the main fader set so high or low that it limits what you can do in individual channels?

In my experience, the one element that is the hardest to conquer with sound from the vibes (my experience is mostly with microphones, but the concept is the same with the pickups) will be the speakers... only high to extremely high quality speakers will comfortably handle what a set of vibes throws at them. If the location has crappy Mackie speakers or the low end EV or Yamaha, don't expect things to sound great. The higher end EV stuff, QSC, or even Alto will probably give you an acceptable result.

Happy trails. We all want a good electric axe to play on if we can find one and make it sound musical.

wyndorps Wed, 06/12/2024 - 11:47

Hi Jerry,
everything Randy writes is correct, but you should just test it with simple means first. I have been using my self-made pickups for years, all connected in parallel to only one logarithmic 100M Ohm potentiometer on the frame and through a TC.electronic chorus/flanger directly with the 6.3 mm jack plug into the local PA or a suitcase amplifier.
Since I sometimes use my pickups mixed with leftover K&K pickups, I can say that there is no difference in sound.

If you don't have the confidence to solder cables to the pickups, you can also use prefabricated pickups with cables.…

If you don't like the sound result then you can always spend more money on technology. You'll have to decide for yourself whether that makes sense for sessions.

Jerry Weir Thu, 06/13/2024 - 13:21

Wyndorps you gave me an idea - Aside from my original question. A couple of decades ago I made my own pickups but then found the piezo's difficult to find and got tired of soldering. HOWEVER, I think I may still have my old Ayotte rails buried somewhere in my equipment box. I can start from scratch and use the Ayotte rails and purchase the pickups you are recommending at the DigiKey website. Not sure if the pots will work with the piezo's you are recommending but if I can find those rails I will find out! At least it's a major piece of the hardware already complete.

Great ideas folks

IndianaGlen Tue, 06/18/2024 - 17:07

I got (and installed) a K&K a couple years ago for playing with some local big bands and it works great. I made an electronic only set that has no resonators. (There are pics and sound examples somewhere on here on VW) I run the output from the K&K box into a fishman amp that I basically use as a monitor. The house picks up the xlr on the back of the amp post mix. I promise the sound person I won’t turn up the amp during the gig (but usually I do in small increments, yeah my pants are on fire). I love that I don’t have to worry about the drummer’s pounding getting into my mix. Does it sound as good as a mic’d acoustic, nope, but playing with a big band it still sounds like a vibe and in a loud situation everybody is happy, and I can be heard. I have a tremolo stomp box that I use for ballads. If the sound person is um, less sophsticated, I have them close mic my amp.

I considered doing a setup by scratch per Windorps directions but at the time I didn’t have the cycles to build everything. Maybe in my retirement…

Perhaps you know this already, It is possible to measure the pots with a VOM to see if they are the correct value and taper, that will work with the digikey pickups. I’d sure like to hear how this turns out for you. As a clarification, I’m assuming that Prof Windorps term “Logarithmic” pot is the same as an “audio taper” pot. I’ll defer to Paul, he knows more about building from scratch than I.