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What Is A Piezo Quack? Is That Why Playing Hard Sounds A Little Off?


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#1 clay-man

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Posted 18 September 2013 - 01:33 AM

Is a piezo quack really bad sounding, or does it influence the sound of the Variax?

 

I noticed when I start to play hard on the Les Paul model, it sounds a bit unnatural. Is that the pickup's fault?

When I play hard it starts to sound more thin and bright and looses the warmness. My SG doesn't do that when I play hard on it. 

 

Would getting the ghost system fix this, or do I just need to not play that hard?


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#2 Leftzilla

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Posted 18 September 2013 - 03:56 AM

I have had problems with the acoustic models breaking up or sounding distorted and quacking on certain strings when I really dig into the guitar.  I have a feeling it may be related to fret buzz feeding into the piezo since I keep my action very low.  If I back off of the guitar it doesn't seem to be a problem.  I am also going through Workbench HD and backing off on the string volume as some other posters have suggested.


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#3 clay-man

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Posted 18 September 2013 - 04:43 AM

I have had problems with the acoustic models breaking up or sounding distorted and quacking on certain strings when I really dig into the guitar.  I have a feeling it may be related to fret buzz feeding into the piezo since I keep my action very low.  If I back off of the guitar it doesn't seem to be a problem.  I am also going through Workbench HD and backing off on the string volume as some other posters have suggested.

 

That's what I've done, but I'm wondering if the LR baggs piezos are also attributing to the snappy strat-ish sound on the LP models. When I play hard on my SG, it has the same characteristics as not playing hard, but louder and compressed.

On the Variax, it gets snappy and almost sounds like a luke warm strat when I play hard. I was wondering if that's also considered a quack, or if it's just when the piezo output is so loud that it makes a distorting weird sound.

 

I know what you're talking about, trust me, I've had that problem, and yes, backing off the string volume in workbench made it go away.

 

I'm wondering if 1) The bright, snappy sound is a limitation from using piezos or 2) That's how a LP is supposed to sound and my SG is weird.

I know an SG is a bit different, but it's very similar. I don't have a LP, but I don't remember them doing that either.

 

I'm a type of person who likes to play hard when the notes call for it, but I suppose I have to adjust when using a Variax. Not too bad with distortion, but without sounds kinda weird.


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#4 Charlie_Watt

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Posted 18 September 2013 - 05:36 AM

I have my action way too low to be aggressive with it.  The acoustics sound good when I play like an electric but you can't play aggressively like you can on a real acoustic with heavy strings.


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#5 Leftzilla

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Posted 18 September 2013 - 07:09 AM

Clay-man you are talking about the original VAX 700 correct?  I never had an issue with mine but the quacking I am hearing is coming from my 89F which has the graphtec piezos.  However I again think my problem is mainly due to how low my action is and not the Graphtec piezo.


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#6 Charlie_Watt

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Posted 18 September 2013 - 07:19 AM

I converted my 500 to Graphtech Ghost piezo saddles and the output greatly improved.  It sounds much more natural to me.  I had to reduce the string volumes down to 50% to get roughly the same output. 


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#7 clay-man

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Posted 18 September 2013 - 11:44 AM

Clay-man you are talking about the original VAX 700 correct?  I never had an issue with mine but the quacking I am hearing is coming from my 89F which has the graphtec piezos.  However I again think my problem is mainly due to how low my action is and not the Graphtec piezo.

 

600.

 

I'm not sure if it's a quack, but it just starts to sound too bright when I play loud. It fits the tele and strat sound, but definitely not the LP sound or other warm guitar models.

 

First guitar is the Variax in LP bridge. Second guitar after the long pause is my SG.

The Variax sounds a bit quacky when I play hard.

 


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#8 arislaf

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Posted 18 September 2013 - 12:15 PM

Yes, that is quack.Also, i would recommend to check the intonation on your SG


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#9 arislaf

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Posted 18 September 2013 - 12:16 PM

....... :P by the way, the signature you have is the marilyn manson's mickey mouse version?


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#10 clay-man

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Posted 18 September 2013 - 12:31 PM

....... :P by the way, the signature you have is the marilyn manson's mickey mouse version?

Radiohead bear.

 

Yes, that is quack.Also, i would recommend to check the intonation on your SG

So that's part of the piezo quack? I heard Graphtech Ghosts kill the piezo quack. I might look into buying them but I'm not sure how I'd install them.


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#11 arislaf

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Posted 18 September 2013 - 12:44 PM

I have the G tech instaled in the 700.It is really worthy.Instalation is a bit difficult...you will mostly need soldering machine, iron solder, and a good paper knife for begining...If you will need more instructions, let me know.


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#12 clay-man

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Posted 18 September 2013 - 01:09 PM

I have the G tech instaled in the 700.It is really worthy.Instalation is a bit difficult...you will mostly need soldering machine, iron solder, and a good paper knife for begining...If you will need more instructions, let me know.

Your 700 gets none of that quacky attack with the graphtech?

 

I love the Variax, but it's been a thing that's been bugging me lately.


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#13 Charlie_Watt

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Posted 18 September 2013 - 01:10 PM

The install on my 500 required very careful trimming and soldering.  The 500 has a flex circuit attached to the bridge.  The wires have to be very short.  I was fortunate to have 100% success but they sound much better and I was having intermittent connections to the strings with the originals.


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#14 hurghanico

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Posted 18 September 2013 - 01:55 PM

Is a piezo quack really bad sounding, or does it influence the sound of the Variax?

 

I noticed when I start to play hard on the Les Paul model, it sounds a bit unnatural. Is that the pickup's fault?

When I play hard it starts to sound more thin and bright and looses the warmness. My SG doesn't do that when I play hard on it. 

 

Would getting the ghost system fix this, or do I just need to not play that hard?

 

I haven't any quack problem with my 700 still with its original 100% working LR Baggs

I usually play with a medium strenght touch, because I prefer the resulting sound and also to leave some room to accent certain notes or passages, I love dynamics too much.. it is the magic ingredient that makes the music alive

.

IMO every guitar including the Variax sounds better if you don't use a too much aggressive taken to the limit touch

also the Variax responds very well and a bit differently to the finger picking, some nuances are impossible to achieve with a regular pick

 

and experimenting with different picks you can get also different results

 

that said it is quite obvious that best advice I can give is:

turn up the volume and play less hard


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#15 arislaf

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Posted 19 September 2013 - 03:28 AM

Your 700 gets none of that quacky attack with the graphtech?

 

I love the Variax, but it's been a thing that's been bugging me lately.

To be honest i don't know.After installing the Gtech, the output increased too much, that i had to reduce the pickups from the workbench and i decrease my picking strength.I didn't push it so hard again, so i can not tell you...In about 1 month that I will be home, I will try it and inform you (if not someone else tell u up to that time)


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#16 clay-man

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Posted 19 September 2013 - 10:45 AM

To be honest i don't know.After installing the Gtech, the output increased too much, that i had to reduce the pickups from the workbench and i decrease my picking strength.I didn't push it so hard again, so i can not tell you...In about 1 month that I will be home, I will try it and inform you (if not someone else tell u up to that time)

Thanks. Their description of the ghost pickups says it has "natural compression to eliminate the quacking of a piezo"

Perhaps lowering the string volume helps, but I've tried that with my normal pickups and can't really get rid of the strat-esque quacking no matter how low I set them.

 

Like I said, sounds good on a tele and strat, sounds bad on an LP.


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#17 Charlie_Watt

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Posted 19 September 2013 - 10:51 AM

The Ghost saddles have the piezo potted into them rather than spring loaded against the strings so the vibrations are transmitted to the piezo through the plastic.  There is nothing that can move around which I think is an improvement.  The sting volume needs to be reduced due to the much higher output from the piezos.  If you don't reduce the string volume, there is clipping in the Variax hardware / fw that sounds terrible.  I have mine set at 50% on my 500.  I did not have a real good way to compare old and new volumes so the 50% is somewhat of an educated guess.


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#18 clay-man

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Posted 19 September 2013 - 11:33 AM

The Ghost saddles have the piezo potted into them rather than spring loaded against the strings so the vibrations are transmitted to the piezo through the plastic.  There is nothing that can move around which I think is an improvement.  The sting volume needs to be reduced due to the much higher output from the piezos.  If you don't reduce the string volume, there is clipping in the Variax hardware / fw that sounds terrible.  I have mine set at 50% on my 500.  I did not have a real good way to compare old and new volumes so the 50% is somewhat of an educated guess.

 

Any way you can fast record yourself playing the LP model hard?


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#19 Charlie_Watt

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Posted 19 September 2013 - 12:15 PM

Nope


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#20 Charlie_Watt

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Posted 19 September 2013 - 12:16 PM

Sorry - not set up for recording.


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#21 clay-man

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Posted 21 September 2013 - 04:06 AM

No one have a ghost equipped Gen1 Variax they can record playing hard on the LP setting for me?


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#22 frenchfries

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Posted 26 September 2013 - 09:10 PM

600.

 

I'm not sure if it's a quack, but it just starts to sound too bright when I play loud. It fits the tele and strat sound, but definitely not the LP sound or other warm guitar models.

 

First guitar is the Variax in LP bridge. Second guitar after the long pause is my SG.

The Variax sounds a bit quacky when I play hard.

 

 

 

A few answers from someone who owns a Variax 500 since 2003...

 

-IME, "LP sound or other warm guitar models" DO quack: it's one of the prominent features of PAF pickups and one of the reasons why vintage Gibson are considered as unique sounding VS modern ones. I've tried many PAF replicas and only a few of them are able to reproduce this tonal feature, BTW.

 

-That said, yes, the Variax quack exists and is not exactly the same than a "vintage PAF quack". On a frequency chart, it appears as a narrow peak around 1khz, typical of piezo transducers...Personally, I've solved it by stoping to use modeled sound with overdrive (I've mounted mag pickups in my Variax for that and I use the Variax models with  clean tones only).


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#23 clay-man

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Posted 27 September 2013 - 12:25 AM

A few answers from someone who owns a Variax 500 since 2003...

 

-IME, "LP sound or other warm guitar models" DO quack: it's one of the prominent features of PAF pickups and one of the reasons why vintage Gibson are considered as unique sounding VS modern ones. I've tried many PAF replicas and only a few of them are able to reproduce this tonal feature, BTW.

 

-That said, yes, the Variax quack exists and is not exactly the same than a "vintage PAF quack". On a frequency chart, it appears as a narrow peak around 1khz, typical of piezo transducers...Personally, I've solved it by stoping to use modeled sound with overdrive (I've mounted mag pickups in my Variax for that and I use the Variax models with  clean tones only).

 

So it's a combination of A & B? 

 

I remember the LP model says it's emulating PAF pickups in the manual. It's nice to know though. I assume that a ghost system would reduce the piezo quack unless I got a bad set or installed it wrong.

 

I would still appreciate if someone did hard picking on a generation 1 Variax with a ghost system though.


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#24 Jstimers

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Posted 04 November 2013 - 08:21 PM

Charlie,

Do you have any other details on installing the Ghosts in a Variax 500?   Should arrive in the mail in a week or so, was hoping to do the installation myself. I read that it's possible to connect the ghosts to a white connector on the circuit board. Will that work? or is there no way of getting around the soldering and splitting of the wires. Seems pretty tricky.

 

Thanks


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#25 Charlie_Watt

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Posted 05 November 2013 - 06:10 AM

I cut the cables and soldered them to the flex circuit at the bridge.  It was not easy to do and if you do not have lots of soldering experience and the right tools I don't recommend it.  The wires are long enough to run back to the board but the connector at the board on a 500 is a flex connector.  There are no wires on a 500 to splice into.  The later Variax models had a white connector with wires and that is much easier to modify.  You could try to find a flex circuit that matches that connector or you could very carefully solder the wires to the connector pins but that is not easy either because it is a surface mount connector.  I opted to do it at the flex rather than risk damaging the traces on the board.  The original piezo's only had one wire and no ground.  BAD!  The Ghost piezo's have two wires.  You have to make sure you ground the correct wire. (I think it was the one with the blue tracer)  I scraped away the insulation on the flex to make room to ground each of the second wires on each piezo.  The difficulty is that the wires have to be very short so you need the right tools to split the wires and strip the insulation without breaking them.  I removed the whole bridge / flex assembly to work on it.  This is easy to do on a 500 because it's a hard tail.  You also have to be careful not to have the wires get pinched when you reinstall the bridge.

    That being said my install worked fine first time and it's reliable.  I had grounding issues with the original piezos.  It would lose volume and get noisy every once in a while.  Never happens with the Ghost piezos.  Each one is individually grounded.  This is a very worthwhile mod.  I am a soldering expert - build my own amps and boards and I have the right tools.  I would take pix for you but I am in Arizona and my 500 is in Colorado at the moment.  I only brought my JTV 69 with me.


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