Piezo Pickups: The Heart of the Matter

A few blogs back I talked about all the things that James Tyler brought to our new custom bridges. In parallel, Lloyd Baggs and company (of L. R. Baggs) spent an incredible amount of time and effort perfecting the piezos.

First-gen Variax® players helped us identify some of the features they wanted to see in the bridges of James Tyler Variax guitars. The big ones we looked into were eliminating clang-tone and maximizing reliability.

What is clang-tone? Clang-tone, or wolf tone, is a sound inherent in a vibrating string. A string vibrates in three modes: Torsional, Longitudinal, and Transverse. Torsional vibration does not produce a sound wave – it is the string just twisting like a drive shaft in a car. Longitudinal vibration is what the magnetic pickups on a guitar are “hearing” and reproducing. Transverse vibration is a wave going up and down the string as it is stretches and relaxes longitudinally. Magnetic pickups do not reproduce Transverse vibration, but it is the type of vibration that a piezo pickup “hears,” and it produces the clang. Some describe its sound as a “ping” or “plink.” It is there even on acoustic guitars.

Numerous times Lloyd and his crew met with a Line 6 team that included Line 6 co-founder and chief technology officer, Michel Doidic. We showed Lloyd and his people what we were up against and they took the bull by the horns to help us tackle it. They did a great job. Between Lloyd and Michel’s work on the clang-tone issue, and some slick DSP algorithms by our engineering and sound design guys, clang-tone has been essentially eliminated. (Big kudos to Lloyd and Michel for spearheading this.)

With respect to reliability, these new piezos are built like tanks. We put them through accelerated strenuous lifetime abuse procedures to ensure that they can take all the punishment you can dish out. To ensure the highest level of quality, reliability and tone, the piezo saddles are being made by Lloyd in Nipomo, CA. They will be shipped to the bridge manufacturer to be inserted into the bridges.

6 Responses to “ Piezo Pickups: The Heart of the Matter ”

  1. metalkrapo Says:

    Great article. This is precisely the kind of things i want to know about the JTV until i can have one of my own. Please keep writing about it! I want to know everything :)

  2. acerboni Says:

    I think be useful and sound better by eliminating the Clang, but it would not hurt to have an adjustment for each string at least by SW some variax have different level in each string. I wish I had also a sensor on the body for acoustic emulations.

  3. MerlinFL Says:

    Fascinating that a string on any acoustic instrument goes through all of those vibrations. I appreciate the physics lesson and look forward to more tech stuff. Thanks for the detailed explanation.

  4. my_jesus_saved_me Says:

    So, I’m wondering. Does the test that you guys put it through include this issue:

    I’ve found that when doing a lot of palm muting, especially in high temprature situations such as playing out doors or such, my hands will sweat a little bit, and the Piezo’s would cut out on some strings and become very “flakey”. Was that a global issue, or was that just something that was an issue with the way I was doing it?


  5. Line6Renken Says:

    Thanks guys, I will keep them coming.

    The palm muting sweat killing the piezo issue has been addressed. We figured out what was happening and that has been addressed with the new piezo and bridge saddle.

  6. Line6Renken Says:

    Hey acerboni, your idea has been submitted on our website through the feature request link. I personally love the idea and would like to see it happen when we revamp Workbench. Thank you. Peace, Rich

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