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Thread: Element ... lost half my string signal

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  1. #1
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    Element ... lost half my string signal

    I have a Bagg Element pickup installed in my Gibson CJ-165 ... I have suddenly lost the output on the low E, A and D strings, G B and E strings appear to be okay. (i am basing this conjecture because my DI gets a tuner signal from the high three strings but not from the lower three.) This may have coincided with a recent string change, but the bridge itself was not disturbed. Any troubleshooting tips?

  2. #2
    Hi rp,

    You may have answered the question in the asking. During a string change, the saddle may not move MUCH but, if you take all the strings off at the same time, it might lift a little and the undersaddle pickup can shift slightly and change its installation conditions.

    I recommend checking the transducer's position under the saddle, be sure the saddle seats all the way onto it without binding in the slot or being too loose.

    Also, never take all the strings off at the same time without laying a piece of painter's tape across it to hold it down onto the pickup.
    Last edited by Bryan McManus; 07-26-2011 at 10:59 AM. Reason: grammar

  3. #3

    Element Loses Signal Strength

    Quote Originally Posted by Bryan McManus View Post
    Hi rp,

    You may have answered the question in the asking. During a string change, the saddle may not move MUCH but, if you take all the strings off at the same time, it might lift a little and the undersaddle pickup can shift slightly and change its installation conditions.

    I recommend checking the transducer's position under the saddle, be sure the saddle seats all the way onto it without binding in the slot or being too loose.

    Also, never take all the strings off at the same time without laying a piece of painter's tape across it to hold it down onto the pickup.
    I had the same problem after changing strings, but the cause was a bit more elusive. Per the installation instructions, I had drilled a hole at the High E end of the saddle slot. This is to ensure proper placement of the Element to capture treble sounds properly (even though it's biased towards bass frequencies). During a string change, the Element was accidentally forced into this hole a bit too much and was pinched on its posterior end, enough to interfere with the signal. I pulled the Element out of the hole, restrung the guitar and, viola, the wonderful tone and strength of output was restored! I won't forget that little excursion anytime soon, as restringing 5 times in a row, dismantling the amp, checking all the wires, battery, connections and True Mic to Element trim took most of my afternoon. Not to mention the slightly ill feeling you get when equipment fails and the paranoid mind seeks to blame the manufacturer first. Glad to say it was due to operator error.

  4. #4
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    I'm having a very similar issue with the low strings and have had the saddle checked out but with no noticeable change. The low E and A strings are very weak and thin sounding. What else might cause this?

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by nozkcb View Post
    I'm having a very similar issue with the low strings and have had the saddle checked out but with no noticeable change. The low E and A strings are very weak and thin sounding. What else might cause this?
    When tone is affected, it suggests uneven contact between the saddle and pickup. Is the saddle fairly loose in the saddle slot, so that it leans toward the neck under string tension?

    If so, it is often beneficial to put the angle of lean on the bottom of the saddle, beveled so that the saddle makes as much flat contact with the transducer as it can. If the bottom is square and the saddle leans, it can mean that less than the full bottom surface of the saddle is contacting the pickup.

    If the saddle does not lean, is it made of bone? Certain bone saddles can cause a string-to-string imbalance due to the varying grain density of its organic nature. Shaping a new saddle of a different piece of bone will often remedy that.

    What pickup are you using? Depending on what it is and whether it's passive or active, there may be an explanation for the thin sound other than installation.
    Last edited by Bryan McManus; 07-28-2011 at 08:42 AM. Reason: wording

  6. #6
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    Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Bryan McManus View Post

    If the saddle does not lean, is it made of bone? Certain bone saddles can cause a string-to-string imbalance due to the varying grain density of its organic nature. Shaping a new saddle of a different piece of bone will often remedy that.
    Concerning the density of the bone saddle and it's suitability, is this something that a manufacturer would ascertain as part of their QA process? I briefly had a Gibson Hummingbird Pro with the bone nut and saddle and the G & D strings seemed very unresponsive. I considered this a problem, but didn't concen myself with it due to the fact that the guitar was discovered to have a deep scratch and was due to be swapped out with a replacement from new stock upon arrival. When I got the replacement Hummingbird Pro and auditioned it through my amp and PA system, it seems that the E & B string now are the unresponsive ones. I can compensate somewhat with EQ, but it's quite noticeable.

    Should I contact Gibson or is this simply a characteristic that I have to endure? Of course, I know one optin would be to upgrade the pick-up system, but I'm not a working musician and can't really afford to invest too much beyond my initial purchase (which was fairly substantial IMHO).

    Thanks,

    Scott Harrison

  7. #7
    Hi Scott,

    Since wood is organic and each piece of wood is different from every other, guitars are much like fingerprints in that no two are identical in responsiveness and tone. This is not likely something you have to live with because, as I have learned not long ago, guitars can be very sensitive to what the saddle is made of. Undersaddle pickups can be more sensitive to how the saddle conducts string energy into the pickup.

    I can cite two recent instances in which saddle material greatly affected string balance or overall output from the pickup system.

    One involves a Taylor T5, into which a guitar shop was installing an LR Baggs iMIX system to be used along with the stock system. The Element transducer was getting a very hot response to the low E string and it seemed that nothing they did would improve the balance. They even shimmed between the saddle and the pickup to the point of creating a space between the saddle and pickup under that string and the low E was still way hot.

    Side note - our pickup department head, Bo Radis, has performed innumerable installs of nearly every pickup LR Baggs ever designed and he can't stress enough how quirky and particular some installs can be, how much of an impact something like saddle material can have on string balance, output and tone.

    Continuing, that installer was reluctant to believe that saddle material could have such an impact and it took them a while to substitute the stock bone saddle with a different material. I should mention that they put in a different piece of bone in the meantime that had no effect on the balance. When they were sure they had exhausted all avenues with the installation and bone saddles, they installed a saddle made of corian and called to say the string balance was completely corrected, even across the board. They were surprised to say the least but it highlighted for them how sensitive some instruments can be to how the saddle conveys string vibration into the pickup and the soundboard.

    In another case, two players who know each other had the same system installed in their guitars - the Anthem system - and one was concerned that his guitar's plugged-in output was noticeably less than that of his friend's. We did electronic testing to confirm his preamp was working properly and returned it to him with some info about saddle material and its fit in the slot. He got back to us a few days later to say he changed the saddle to a man-made bone alternative and the output, both acoustically and amplified, had increased and is now comparable to that of his friend's guitar. He even commented on an improvement to the tone. He said the guitar had more life, both acoustic and plugged-in.
    Last edited by Bryan McManus; 12-01-2011 at 08:51 AM. Reason: content, grammar

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