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.