Installing Electronics in an Acoustic

Oldguitarguy

Squier-holic
Gold Supporting Member
Mar 2, 2019
2,242
Nj
I have an acoustic Hoyer 12 string that I would like to electrify. A picture of the bridge/saddle is below. Has anyone added electronics to a purely acoustic guitar? Any tricks to it? Can anyone recommend a good but affordable preamp unit to install? Should I use a piezo? Does the unit affect the acoustic sounds? Any difference between a piezo for a 6 & 12 string? Anything you can tell me would be helpful. Thanks.
 

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willhowl

Squier-holic
Dec 19, 2011
1,686
Houston Texas
DoctorBB is right.....The K&K route is a better, more modern option........If you search, you can find K&K clones for much less money, if that makes a difference to you. I read all the reviews I can find, and if there is like a 75-25 split on good vs bad, over50+ reviews, welll, they must be OK.........

The K&K route is really pretty easy to install, although I've never done one......watching some videos, I'm not afraid to try....:eek:🤔

And, a piezo style undersaddle pick-up, shouldn't matter, as far as 6- string vs 12.....as long as it fits the saddle slot correctly....and with Hoyer (a good brand, but an "off-brand"), the slot dimensions might not be "normal"

I say K&K type is the way to go..........................willhowl
 

DoctorBB

Squier-holic
Mar 2, 2016
1,230
Beaumont, TX
DoctorBB is right.....The K&K route is a better, more modern option........If you search, you can find K&K clones for much less money, if that makes a difference to you. I read all the reviews I can find, and if there is like a 75-25 split on good vs bad, over50+ reviews, welll, they must be OK.........

The K&K route is really pretty easy to install, although I've never done one......watching some videos, I'm not afraid to try....:eek:🤔

And, a piezo style undersaddle pick-up, shouldn't matter, as far as 6- string vs 12.....as long as it fits the saddle slot correctly....and with Hoyer (a good brand, but an "off-brand"), the slot dimensions might not be "normal"

I say K&K type is the way to go..........................willhowl
I’ve done the $10 knockoff from Amazon too and it ain’t bad. The pads are larger and don’t all fit on the bridge plate so I put the two outside ones on the guitar top just off the plate.
 

Oldguitarguy

Squier-holic
Gold Supporting Member
Mar 2, 2019
2,242
Nj
I’ve done Piezo under saddles and K&K mini under bridge plate. Either way requires drilling a half inch hole at the end pin, unless you get a vintage model that uses 1/8” jack, which you plug an adapter into. The K&K is easier and sounds better IMO.
@DoctorBB @wickedtools @willhowl - Where could I find the K&K mini to buy? Also, I saw a highly rated Joyo piezo for about $25. Any thoughts on that one? 71B9381B-8E5C-4C40-9EDF-5B9CF92FC119.jpeg
 
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radiotech

Squier-Axpert
Apr 23, 2014
11,443
Freedonia
I’ve added or installed a couple things on acoustics, soundhole pickups, 3 button Piezo kit (not bad, but needed a pre-amp, and one under saddle piezo (did for someone else.
Rather than lower the saddle for the bridge, I just cut them a bone blank I had laying around to the same height as the original saddle, this way if he changed his mind, he could pull out the element at a string change and put the original saddle back in.

Piezo’s are nice, but don’t really sound like the guitars actual tone. Sound hole pickups sound a bit more like it, if only because they respond to picking dynamics more, a mic is really your best option for duplicating the tone of the guitar. There are a few kits with decent mic’s/preamp’s, but they tend to be real cheap, or real expensive.
 

Toddcaster64

Squier-holic
Gold Supporting Member
Apr 1, 2013
1,703
Ventura
I’ve contemplated going the whole nine yards on this, and basically, with the quality and affordability of guitars today, much like electrics, you’re better off just buying a new guitar with much higher quality components built in. Or, as suggested, get a sound hole pickup - some are pretty great. Unless you really like the tinkering experience, I don’t find this cost-effective, if you’re going to do it right. My two cents.
 

Oldguitarguy

Squier-holic
Gold Supporting Member
Mar 2, 2019
2,242
Nj
Thanks. I like to tinker. I have a Seymour Duncan “woodie” sound hole pup but it seems to get in the way and not work great. I like the idea of a permanent, microphone based system, but have no idea which one works well for a reasonable price. Any thoughts all?
 

AxelMorisson

Squier-Nut
Nov 15, 2021
812
Fagaras, Romania
Ok.. then you can go for a very low risk approach. get a piezo bridge for electrics! And build a kit, a simple diy kit and put that in as the only pickup... that could work. I did and the results are here on this site, search for something called "Squire zero" , I mean like so :
that is built by me on a Harley Benton "strat" kit base- I put a Brenner PiezoOne in there, I got rid of the kit electronics and wired it directly to the output. And yes I bought a plain pickguard (no holes no pickups no nada) to help with the looks, I only made a small hole to thread the pickup's wire through it. You can hear its sounds on the recording- I don't "play" it there, I only play WITH it so that you can hear the natural response to short bursts, its resonance / sound persistence,and intermodulation, I exemplified it well there.
If you still want to mod your guitar, you need the following: (don't go for integrated preamps, they require you to cut a large square hole in the side of the guitar, can get messy, and it is not necessarily better), so: one under-saddle piezo (wire) pickup, they look like pieces of coaxial cable but a bit thicker... and one output jack for electro-acoustics- these look like a thicker endpin and replace that, but they are thicker and have an incorporated jack. So to do this, first measure your bridge height... then carve (ouch!) a deeper channel below the "bone" riser in the nut- that's where the piezo pickup will sit. At one end of the channel make a hole, through the body of the guitar! (ouch again) - small hole, 0.7 mm or thereabouts, to pass the wire. Then you will need something akin to a larger reamer, remove the endpin, and install the endpin jack- AFTER you soldered the wires from the piezo of course. Plenty of Youtube videos on that. Then put everything back together- and re-place the riser onto the pickup, the strings on the riser, string'er up.
For this to sound any good- and believe me, it can! you will need a PIEZO PREAMP. These things are specially made impedance adapters- they match the piezo and amps better. Or get an acoustic amp, that one's got the piezo pre inside. So if not, get a piezo pre and then use your amp/amp sim plus interface or what have you.
Why like this? Well because piezo preamps are rather large, cumbersome to fit inside a guitar- yes, you can but, there's also the battery ... and a lot of wires..all hanging on thin wood sides...eating up space and contorting the box so kiss that beautiful acoustics goodbye, you'll be making holes and putting plastic boxes in the resonance chamber- baaaaaad juju. Better keep it light, minimally invasive and you can: choose whatever preamp you want, change them anytime, use pre or direct to acoustic amps, keep the guitar acoustics virtually unchanged (* just a bit..). Good luck! Youtube has lots of resources- for all and every electric path you may take- including the butchering but artfully- the guitar to stick batteries and piezos and whatnot. If so, steel your nerves, find a good surgical blade, and a little dremel-type tool... make sure you have extra steady hands, work cautiously...and BRACE THAT HOLE! (i had one guitar that "exploded" on me because I did insist a bit with the wood screws .. and the side plate thickness was of 0.7 mm or thereabouts, of unfortunately soft "hard"wood.... ) So make a template from thicker cardboard or something and glue it in around the hole like a grommet... give those screws something to bite into and use plenty of glue to secure everything together when dry. Of course, the acoustics is [email protected]'d at this point.
 

spellcaster

Squier-Meister
Nov 25, 2010
372
Duncan, BC Canada
I've only tried the piezo thing once and it was a failure that happened very early in my guitar-modding days. It was an eBay kit that included a preamp, volume and EQ controls and a battery box all mounted on a plate that was designed to be cut into the upper bout. There was a piezo element that was designed to replace the saddle piece on the bridge. I bought it mainly because the guitar (a Fender F-65) had some crudely carved messaging ("Paul is here with a bottle of beer") carved into the spot that would be cut out when the preamp plate was installed. That part of the operation went fairly smoothly and covered the vandalized part of the body. However, when I tried to execute the installation of the piezo under-saddle element, I realized belatedly that the element was too long and wouldn't fit between the screws that raised and lowered that part of the bridge. When I look at the picture in the original post, it also appears to have screws on either side of the channel that the saddle or piezo element would sit in, so I'd check that dimension before you take any other irrevocable steps. It wasn't the end of the world on my beater Fender, but if you really value your acoustic, look before you leap.

tczZda.jpg
 

AxelMorisson

Squier-Nut
Nov 15, 2021
812
Fagaras, Romania
wow/ouch. That's not... the point.. /looks special /sounds unique I guess. Piezos, especially wire piezos, are flexible affairs nowadays. Yes they used to be a bar that continued with a wire, today they got smarter and made the piezo element into the wire end itself. So you just adjust by pulling as much of it as you need in the channel and let the rest hang down with the rest of the wire, then you go for the output jack. In the case with a preamp onboard, if the wood is secure and does not crack, it can still be ok.. nice preamps let the user install a second microphone (yes it's a condenser microphone, but very small) and have a blend knob, for more under-the saddle or mic sound.. Blending them makes the guitar sound full .Mixing piezos and magnetics..possible, sure, but connect them such as the piezos go to the blend/selector after the preamp,or in other words, put the preamp output on the selector not the piezos themselves, and don't pass the magnetics through the same preamp.
In the pic the top looks like it is ready to pop off? Anyhow- must electro-acoustics : don't have a full resonance body (exceptions exist of course) - but have a solid center part on which the pickups and electronics are; most have a sound hole or a sound -escaping orifice (sometimes even an f-hole) ; their bridge is somewhat more adjustable than most acoustics, and they use lighter gage strings. Usually they do not combine piezo and acoustic with full electric, it's a three way hybrid and you know these are dangerous (mentally unstable and can bite you).
Jokes aside, that thing .. has only one more chance to live- drop that Tele .. on a Tele body, make a beautiful Nashville , and yes, you can put piezos on that too. Re-do the top - or have a luthier do it for you- and go with the newer under-the saddle and microphone systems.. usually mic and piezo is enough to get that nice woody sound. If you combine with electric all is lost.. it will sound most like a sick electric puppy ( don't ask me how I know, hehe). Piezo and acoustic, or electric, solid body and piezo, are the tried and true ways to go.
 

Oldguitarguy

Squier-holic
Gold Supporting Member
Mar 2, 2019
2,242
Nj
I've only tried the piezo thing once and it was a failure that happened very early in my guitar-modding days. It was an eBay kit that included a preamp, volume and EQ controls and a battery box all mounted on a plate that was designed to be cut into the upper bout. There was a piezo element that was designed to replace the saddle piece on the bridge. I bought it mainly because the guitar (a Fender F-65) had some crudely carved messaging ("Paul is here with a bottle of beer") carved into the spot that would be cut out when the preamp plate was installed. That part of the operation went fairly smoothly and covered the vandalized part of the body. However, when I tried to execute the installation of the piezo under-saddle element, I realized belatedly that the element was too long and wouldn't fit between the screws that raised and lowered that part of the bridge. When I look at the picture in the original post, it also appears to have screws on either side of the channel that the saddle or piezo element would sit in, so I'd check that dimension before you take any other irrevocable steps. It wasn't the end of the world on my beater Fender, but if you really value your acoustic, look before you leap.

tczZda.jpg
Cool project!
 

AngelDeVille

Squier-holic
Jan 29, 2017
1,287
ABQ
Years ago I installed a piezo in my 64 Bard.

Outboard EQ pedal and I am golden.

If I had to do it today, I would just use a sound hole pickup, they have come a long way since then.

I would never install one of those crappy control panel/tuner pos things in any guitar.. a good one still sucks.
 

radiotech

Squier-Axpert
Apr 23, 2014
11,443
Freedonia
I would never install one of those crappy control panel/tuner pos things in any guitar.. a good one still sucks.

Honestly, they are not bad, it’s just that piezo’s just can’t get all the nuances of an acoustic guitar performance, only a mic can. Hook one of those acoustic pre-amps to a regular pickup (or mic), they sound decent.
 


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