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Schertler DYN-G: First honest review?

V-dubV-dub San Francisco, CA✭✭✭✭
First, let me make clear that I am not really a gear guy and I never have been. When my fellow guitarists start going off about the wattage of their amps, the kind of tubes, what brand pickup they use, etc. I am usually baffled about how people can tell the difference.

I do however, know when something "feels" right. When I played my old guitar teacher's Dell Arte D-Hole for the first time, I knew that guitar was exceptional, especially when compared to the 1980's saga I was beating on.

That being said, I haven't had such a flattering experience with my new $350 schertler. It doesn't "feel right" to me. Is it just me, or are all the glowing reviews not all theyre cracked up to be?

I attached the pickup to one of the commonly suggested locations: at the base of the bridge and plugged it into the first amp I had access to. My fender hot rod deluxe (tube amp+acoustic=faux pas?). Immediate feedback. The volume was barely on 2. After regaining my hearing, I tried again at a lower volume, about 1.5. The sound of the guitar was very muffled and muddy. I could still hear a constant hollow ringing as if the amp wanted to start feeding back but found some sort of compromise to keep me from smashing it.

It was more acoustic sounding than say, a telecaster, but it didn't sound anything close to what my guitar sounds like without amplification.

I removed the pickup and tried to move it elsewhere. To my suprise, a putty "donut" marking was left behind. This was removed by dabbing at it with the more putty. I stuck the pickup in another location: some arbitrary spot on the lower body of the guitar. With two quick pompes the pickup popped off and fell to the floor (hardwood). I soon found out that in order move this thing around I needed to roll another putty "donut" from scratch each time, otherwise there wouldn't be enough "stick" to it. Now these quibbles don't have anything to do with the functionality of the device, but they sure are inconvenient.

I experimented with different locations on the guitar (on the treble side, bass side, lower on the body, behind the bridge, etc), but nothing really impressed me or made a huge difference in tone or feedback. I decided to try this on a PA instead of an amp. I plugged it into a peavy PA that I had in my basement and was hit with a 10X more deafening blast of feedback. That PA was still plugged into microphones in the room that were set at twice the volume and none of those were feeding back, but my pickup was. I finally found a volume that worked, but it was so miniscule that I might as well not play plugged in at all. Even then the tone was, in a word, horrible. Very muddy, and mid-rangy. Still with that brooding hollow "almost-feedback" noise.

That was yesterday in my first hour of experimentation, but I was not impressed to say the least. I haven't given up yet. I will try it with my ParaAcoustic DI EQ tonight. I bought the pickup for two reasons (in order of importance): to be able to crank my guitar without feedback, and to get passable amplified acoustic tone. So far, it has failed at both.

Like I said, I don't know a whole lot about gear. Is it that this device is "good" or is it simply "good enough" when compared to current acoustic solutions? Because if this is the best in acoustic amplification, then I'd hate to hear the rest! Are most people in denial because they just dropped $350 on something that doesn't sound much better than a $50 equivalent?

Any comments and suggestions are welcome.
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Comments

  • djangologydjangology Portland, OregonModerator Dell Arte Hommage
    Posts: 887
    1 .
    With two quick pompes the pickup popped off and fell to the floor (hardwood)

    Your impression of the stickyness of the putty is completely false. I could hang a small monkey from my Schertler because it sticks on so tight. I busk out on the street and Ive played gigs with it for over a year and NEVER have I had the slightest problem with the putty.

    2. the Schertler is supposed to be powered by a 17v power source. your amplifier is probably giving it 32v ... which is why it seems overpowered and seems to feedback. my guess is that the feedback characteristics are due to not using a Schertler amp or a Schertler preamp, which would feed it a much smaller voltage and the pickup would probably sound better. i still havent proven this theory... i wish someone could do it for all of us and report back.

    3. its true that because of my comment above that you have a hard limit on how high you can turn up the pickup. using a Schertler requires patience but its well worth it. first of all you need to make sure your guitar and the amp are pointed in the same direction. you say "That PA was still plugged into microphones in the room that were set at twice the volume and none of those were feeding back, but my pickup was". this coment proves to me that your guitar and amp were not aligned correctly and i am not surprised you had feedback. second of all, i can get at least 2x - 3x the natural volume of my guitar with this pickup, which so far has been plenty for any given situation that I have been in.

    Hopefully the "honest" review that you claim to offer will not scare away other guitar players who would otherwise benefit from the utility and tone of this pickup. Seriously, I think there is no better alternative than this pickup at this time. Before you steer people away from this one, and into the hands of random lesser technology, you should at least so some research and find a pickup which works better.

    I dont mean to be harsh with you and so forgive me, but a harsh comment deserves a harsh reply. Nothing personal is directed at you as a person. I understand your frustration. Keep an open mind, pull out the pickup once again and give it another go.
    ---
    "I want to party like its 1939!"
  • V-dubV-dub San Francisco, CA✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 265
    Hopefully the "honest" review that you claim to offer...

    Now just a darn minute, here. I'm to the best of my knowledge giving my honest first opinion and hoping people will be able to help out and/or share their experiences. If you are claiming that I am dishonest, that is a personal attack and beyond the scope of this argument.

    I am not trying to steer people away from this product, or slander the fine folks at schertler. I am simply giving a report of my first hour of tinkering with this device. I am suprised that no one else reported the same frustration as me and I was hoping to get other opinions and wisdom.

    I have admitted that I am not a gear fanatic and as such, my opinion may not mean a whole lot to a lot of folks. That was my disclaimer.

    Moving on....

    As for the comment on the stickiness of the putty, I was referring to the fact that if you stick it somewhere, remove it, and stick it somewhere else it is way less reliable. You have to re-roll the batch into a nother donut before you attach it again. For me, its an inconvenience, not major a complaint. This is particularly true when you are experimenting with placement. Having to re adjust the putty every time is an inconvenience. If you don't believe me on this, well I don't know what to say. I wish I could demonstrate what I mean.

    As for the PA, I didn't mention this since I assumed it was obvious, but I did indeed experiment with speaker/guitar alignment. I have done live sound for major venues in the Bay Area so I know a bit about this stuff. I pointed the guitar in every direction imaginable and still had the same problem. I went behind the speakers, pointed my guitar towards the opposite wall, pointed the speakers away, and so on. Still feeding back.

    If I am reading correctly, the proposed solution is for me to purchase a Schertler Pre-amp or amplifier, or equivalent device. Is this what everyone else is doing? Are all the people who are having a good experience using additional hardware that I don't have?

    Here is the problem I have with that: this is not a cheap device. It costs $350 dollars. The schertler pre-amp is another $300. A bottom-of-the-line schertler amp is $800. This is quickly becoming a far more expensive ordeal than I had planned.

    If this pickup doesn't work right (and in my experience, not even adequetely) without the purchasing of additional expensive hardware, I'll just stick to microphones.

    Now, I want to make it clear that I want this thing to work. I want to be as satisfied with it as others have been. If anyone can offer me some advice without scolding me, that would be nice. Thank you.

    I will spend some more time with the schertler when I get home today and will give an update of my progress.
  • Archtop EddyArchtop Eddy Manitou Springs, ColoradoModerator
    Posts: 589
    As someone who has used a Schertler DYN-G for about three years and continue to use one to this day, and as someone who prefers the Schertler to a Bigtone, let me say the following: It doesn't sound as good as using a mic.

    If your goal is to get the best amplified acoustic sound from your guitar, then stick with mics. However, I believe most people asking about Schertlers (or Bigtones) are seeking ways to amplify their guitars without the inconvenience of using microphones. Schertlers are less inconvenient than microphones; and Bigtones are less inconvenient than Schertlers (since you don't have to "install" them each time you use them.) These choices present trade-offs. In this case, using a pickup comes at the cost of acoustic tonal accuracy.

    Also, the Schertler DYN-G lets me use a pickup without having to conduct "surgery" on my guitar, or having to buy multiple pickups for multiple guitars. Since I don't want to drill holes in my Favino, the Schertler is the appropriate pickup choice for me.

    I use my Schertler DYN-G on my Favino and Shelley Park guitars with AER amps and/or a Mackie PA system and it works fine for me. No, it doesn't sound like a pure acoustic guitar; no, it doesn't sound like a guitar in front of a good mic, but for my needs, it works just fine.

    (P.S. -- You might consider taking your guitar and Schertler to a local music store and trying them out on an "acoustic" guitar amp. While I can understand you may not want to invest in another amp, at least you can determine if the problems you've noted are related to the amps you've tried using.)

    A.E.
  • V-dubV-dub San Francisco, CA✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 265
    Spent another couple of hours with the Schertler. Some interesting results, but as a whole, my opinion hasn't changed much: Feedback.

    I found that it helps to point my guitar perpendicular to the speakers, but I still hear a distracting hollow ringing that quickly escalates to feedback at medium volumes during playing. Even when I mute the strings, the feedback occurs. It sounds like the transducer is capturing the very subtle idle resonance of the guitar. When I strum, I hear extremely bassy puffs of sound paired with some feedback. It doesn't sound very musical. EQing doesn't make any noticable difference.

    I tried a different acoustic guitar (a folk guitar). The feedback was noticebly less, but it was still there and the guitar tone was very low end and boxy.

    I tested with a SM58 microphone I had in the studio. To my amazement, I could crank up the guitar louder on the microphone than the pickup and not feed back. When I compared the two techniques, there was no comparison. The SM58 sounded like a nice clear balance between high and midrange, while the schertler was a bassy feedback mess.

    Running low on ideas I started trying some more experimental placements. I first stuck the pickup on top of the tailpiece. This immediately made the most notable difference in tone that I have experienced yet. It was a much more acoustic tone: mid-to-high range sound. I could still hear a high frequency ringing when I played. I next tried putting the schertler on the headstock. Similar results, more mid range, but sort of a "dead" sound with little depth. I found an almost passable tone by sticking the pickup on the back of of the guitar. It was in between the bassiness of the earlier placements and the higher range of the tailpiece placement.

    The second I place the pickup on the guitar's top, I hear instant feedback. When I stick it to less resonant areas of the guitar, it goes away to an extent, but I still hear a high fequency ringing. Either way, when I compare it to the microphone it's far, far behind in clarity.

    I am starting to really regret this purchase. I'm trying to be as forgiving as possible, but so far my experience has been extremely poor. Please, if anyone has any more tips let me know.
  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    Posts: 5,768
    The problem here is clearly the amp. As mentioned by a few other folks, an electric guitar amp is a total mis-match for a schertler pu (or any transducer meant to amplify an acoustic). Electric guitar amps are designed to "color" the sound of the guitar. They use massive eq to do so (huge boost in the bass and treble.) Try turning the bass and treble all the way to 0 and the mids all the way to 10 and you'll get something closer to a flat response. But you'll never get a good sound unless you use an acoustic amp which by design has a close to flat response.

    I've always had excellent results with the Schertler through a PA. Even Peavys which are about as harsh as you can get. I plug straight in without a preamp and never get feedback.

    What sort of space are you doing your tests in? If it's a small room with reflective surfaces and no other people (absorbing sound), then you've created a recipe for feedback. That's a totally unnatural situation..on the gig you'd be in a bigger space and there would hopefully be lots of people.

    Regarding feedback, the reson control which is on both the preamp and the schertler amps will dramatically reduce feedback. I can crank my Unico/DYN to ear splitting volumes without feedback.

    The thing about the Schertler pu is that it requires some experience by the user. The Bigtone is just plug and play, but doesn't sound that great. The Schertler is far more sensitive, and for that reason requires more care. If you use a Schertler amp it's pretty easy...but with other amps you have to spend some time with it. With an electric guitar amp you're pretty much guaranteed terrible results.

    Also keep in mind Schertler has a long list of professional acoustic musicians who endorse the DYN. Most notably John Jorgenson, who sounds awesome with the DYN and Unico. Why would all these people use the DYN if it didn't work?

    Hope that helps...good luck!

    -Michael
  • V-dubV-dub San Francisco, CA✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 265
    I took Michaels suggestions and moved my PA into a larger space today. The largest I could find was my living room.

    Let me tell you, the difference was immediate and amazing. Now I can see what the fuss is about with the schertler. My practice space I was previously using is a very narrow room. It is padded with carpeting to deaded in as much as possible, but the pickup is so sensitive that it was getting feedback from the sound of my guitar reflecting back into the soundhole. Since these gypsy guitars are quite a bit more resonant than other acoustic guitars, a narrow room causes a lot of unecessary sound.

    It sounds amazingly rich and full. Like Eddie mentioned, its no microphone as far as tone goes, but its pretty darn close! Furthermore, I couldn't get the thing to feedback at all. My ears were starting to hurt at the volume I was playing since I was turning it up so loud.

    So to future buyers of the schertler, don't make the same mistakes as me. Now that I think about it, its pretty obvious stuff:

    1. Don't plug the thing into any old guitar amp and expect it to sound good. Use a PA or an acoustic amp.

    2. Make sure you play in a large room otherwise you will be far more likely to feedback.
  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    Posts: 5,768
    Great...I'm glad it's working for you! I hope it serves you well...

    'm
  • PetimarPetimar SeattleNew
    Posts: 9
    I use this pickup on mandolin and violin and I had to spend a LOT of time experimenting to find good locations for the pickup. Once found, I'm very happy with the sound. Not a mic, but very usable, especially where other players are plugged in as well.
    Pete Martin

    Private and Skype lessons, recordings and instructional material for mandolin and fiddle
    http://www.petimarpress.com

    www.jazz-mandolin.com
  • djangologydjangology Portland, OregonModerator Dell Arte Hommage
    Posts: 887
    hey V-dub... im also glad its working for you. I didn't mean to sound like I was attacking you personally... I was actually just shop-talking like they do on that "choppers" show where there is no bullshit... I wasnt trying to be personal or anything.

    but I do know what your talking about. using my Crate Taxi amp, if I dont set the EQ "just right" then sometimes I will get a feedback sound similar to playing inside a toilet bowl... but after I adjust the EQ it sounds much better usually. of course it depends on the room and the amp, just like Michael says...
    ---
    "I want to party like its 1939!"
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