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I need to put a pickup-system in my Gallagher Doc Watson so I ordered a K&K pure western mini along with a K&K pre-amp today. I´ve heard nothing but good things about this system. Any thoughts from you guys playing bluegrass?

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Hi Steph,

I'd be interested in reports on the K&K as well. I understand it is a passive system and has to run thru a preamp

And they are cheap at $70-85US. here

I installed the K&K pure system in my Collings D2H about two months ago. It's been a learning experience ever since. I tried to do it without a preamp at first, thinking that a proper acoustic amp should be able to accommodate a piezo pickup - it's nothing unusual after all. First of all, the K&K pickup elements are HOT even without the preamp but the tone, for me, is another thing. I think it will vary quite a lot from one guitar to the next, and even the type of strings you use makes a big difference. I bought a new Genz Benz Shenandoah 150LT thinking it would be a great choice, and truthfully, I haven't gotten an acceptable sound since I bought it. I ended up buying a K&K preamp and that helped alot, but I still can't get a "warm" or "musical" sound from the amp ( Note: I get a pretty nice sound into my recording deck.) The amp has a resonant peak around 500-600 hz that takes every bit of midrange compensation to try to tame it. To me, the only way the amp sounds good is when I use external speakers. It's like they got the amp right, but screwed the pooch on the speaker/enclosure design. That's ironic, since Jeff Genzler made his bacon by designing and building custom speaker cabinets. If I dial in a tone that I'm happy with, it seems to go to hell when I try to play my backing tracks through the other channel. It just turns into some cardboard-sounding mess that has no aesthetic appeal to me whatsoever. And get a load of this: All those guitar amp manufacturers brag about having "phantom" power on their XLR inputs. The problem is, it's only around 13 volts (not 48 volts). None of the mics I own will work with it. I have to go out and buy new mics on top of everything. One thing I found out that can help is a sound hole cover. (I found that out by taping a CD over the sound hole as an experiment.)It addressed a constant low frequency resonance I was getting. The other thing that has helped me is adding satelite, or extension speakers to the amp. I discovered that by adding my powered studio monitors via the line outs. Having discovered that, now I'm probably going to end up spending more on speakers than the amp cost me (the Genz Benz was over $700). I think if I had it to do all over again, I would forget about the acoustic amp idea altogether, and put together a small PA system. One or two powered cabinets with 8", 10", or 12" speakers (maybe powered monitors?) and a small stereo mixer would cost about the same as a good acoustic amp and give much more flexibility as far as number of channels, playing MP3 tracks, having true stereo separation, and/or the ability to use a nice condenser mic to add space or depth to the sound of the K&K pickups. I can't say much for the "help" I've been getting either. Salesmen sell stuff - they don't necessarily know what really works. You might get lucky and hit it right on the head, but my journey has been pretty frustrating so far.

The bottom line is that the K&K pickups are as good a place to start as any. They might work for you right out of the box. When it comes to piezo pickups, I think that a dead sounding guitar is sometimes better than a guitar that has great acoustic properties. Hell, I may end up stuffing hand towels into my Collings before it's all over! If I had more money to throw at it, I'd definitely try one or more of the active magnetic soundhole pickups that are out there. They may be the lesser of two evils when it's all said and done. Who knows... I wish you luck.

I'll go check out the Collings forum. It can't hurt. BTW, I called K&K direct before I made my purchase and their technical folks told me I didn't have to buy a preamp... They say they have plenty of folks who run direct - "It's mostly for impedence matching." That's why I started out without a preamp. I should have called you first! Speaking of preamps, which one should a person buy? K&K has quite a variety and there are lots of preamps out there by many manufacturers, all claiming to have the best one. As consumers, we're faced with many choices, but few answers. My experience with the pickup thing so far is kind of like buying the guitar itself. Again, the K&K is a good starting point but there are many variables to consider. As far as amplification goes, at this point I'd personally like to throw the Genz Benz out a ten story window and start all over. Too bad I've already spent a lot of money. I'll try to follow up with more info as I continue my quest for the right sound.

I installed the K&k mini in my d28CW a couple years ago.. Plenty hot without the pre amp, but using it helps shape the sound . I play it thru a Bose L1 .. no complaints.. I also use the vintage jack , so no endpin hole reaming .. other than to remove slight ridges in the hole..



I don't like my K&K mini (and K&K preamp). I wish I could say I did, but I don't. It sounds flat, lifeless and mid-rangie. Folks rave about them on the Collings Forum, but I don't. Make sure you use the double-sided adhesive to trial fit them in your guitar before you decide that you love them enough to super-glue them to the bridge plate... I didn't, and I'm sorry now.
All three elements are working just fine. All three elements are glued in just fine. Plenty of bass response - in fact I only need a little bit of bass bias to have plenty. Lots of posts mention the midrange emphasis - no secret there. I can't add any midrange at the preamp, no matter what preamp I try. It is what it is. 


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