Into the vibe

Saturday, 19 August 2017 07:13

Pickup system

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The vibraphone pickups

It's already more than 10 years or so that we produce an audio pickup system for vibraphones, of which since 2012 also midi (see earlier articles). What are the pros and cons of the pickups compared to miking a vibe?


All comes down to the fundamental part of the pickup system: the piezo pickups themselves. These thin and tiny parts contain a small layer of ceramic material damped onto a copper round carrier, making a 10mm diameter round disk of just 0.5mm thick.
The ceramic piezo material has the ability to convert change of shape into a voltage. And as change of the bars shape is what produces the vibraphones' sound, the piezo disk is the perfect tool to pick up the sound generated by the vibraphone bar.

To pick up the sound, it is best to glue the pickup at the nodal point on the bar, which is the position of the cord. This nodal position is the center area where the bars changes shape, while the position itself is not changing. So putting the pickup disk there means its mass has no effect on the vibrating of the bar.

Opposite of microphones, the piezo pickup does not pick up the acoustic sound of the bar, but the actual change of shape. Ergo, it will  not pick up the influence of the resonator tubes on the bars. And because of this, it will not pick up the "boosted" fundamental tone, and the vibrato effect caused by the fans. This means the sound "coming from the pickups" has a different character, with less fundamental and thus the higher harmonics more noticable. Due to this, you need to use an external equalizer to boost the mid frequencies. 

To avoid influence of the pickup to the bars vibrating, we have to keep the mass as low as possitble. A big issue is the wire that connects the pickup to the collector rail. I have seen pickup system where the wire just is too thick and not flexible enough. We have our wires and plugs specially made for us: they are thin and extreme flexible, due which they will hardly interfear with the vibrating of the bar. Not having this is a big drawback I have seen on other systems. 

With over 10 years of experience in pickup systems, I am proud to say that 80% of our vibraphones are equipped with them, making the vibraphone a very versatile instrument for the vibist.

Stay tuned!!

Read 2677 times Last modified on Wednesday, 10 January 2018 11:55