By Steven Stone
February 2004, Stereophile’s Guide to Home Theater
About nine months ago I reviewed a new Martin D-16RE with a built-in Schertler Bluestick pickup system. Since I play a lot more mandolin than guitar, after the review I asked Schertler to send me their DYN-M pick-up which is made specifically for mandolins. I’ve been meaning to do a short review for several months now, but kept putting it off, primarily because once I finish the review I must either send the pick-up back or buy it. The DYN-M pickup system is decep-tively easy to use. Merely attach it to your mandolin and plug its XLR output jack into either a Schertler’s Pre-A II pream-plifier, onstage DI box, or directly into a mixing board microphone input. It attaches to the top of a mandolin with special putty that leaves no residue, but stays put.
The pickup is a miniature moving-coil condenser microphone that works just like any microphone – it picks up sound waves. The trick is that the putty cre-ates a seal around the DYN-M so it is isolated from extraneous sounds; it only hears your mandolin. The DYN-M’s physical de-sign makes it very resistant to airborne feedback.
Finding the right placement spot requires a bit of trial and error, but with most mandos somewhere slightly below and behind the bridge works nicely. In the last couple of months, I’ve only had one chance to actually use the DYN-M on stage. Since my group plays using a single-mic setup, most times I haven’t needed to have a direct feed for my mando, yet when I did use the DYN-M onstage, it worked great. I plugged into a DI box, which ran into the mixer. The sound man had no problem getting ad-equate gain, and the final result was I sounded like I usually do, only louder. I’ve used the DYN-M at home on several high-end mandolins including my Gib-son F5 fern, Hilburn F, and Weins F5. In every case, the resulting sound was very close to the way the instrument sounds without a pickup, and when I removed the DYN-M there were no signs of its presence on the mandolins’ finishes.
You could use the Schertler DYN-M on an acoustic guitar, but Schertler has a special version called the DYN-G specifically designed for guitars. The DYN-G looks identical to the DYN-M, and the principle is certainly the same; perhaps only the name has been changed to protect the innocent.
The retail price for the DYN-M mando pickup is $395. While not inexpensive, it accomplishes what no other mandolin pickup can – supply good sound along with easily installation and clean re-moval. With a DYN-M, mando players can be assured they’ll be heard in any stage situation. And unlike other fine pickups (i.e. the Pick Up The World), one DYN-M will suffice for any number of mandolins, as long as you only play one at a time!
My personal debate is whether I need a DYN-M enough to spend $395 for some-thing I’ll only use once in a blue moon. I’ll probably buy one, just because when I do need a mandolin (or guitar) pickup, the DYN-M can do the job so elegantly.
Steven Stone is a contributing editor to Stereophile’s Guide to Home Theater.