Hey kids, Has anyone tried any of the 20.00 dollar Artec onboard tone mods available at GuitarHeads? I was a sworn passive until I heard and saw 4real's Tele.... holy cow!!! ...but the sustainer is a bit pricey for fixed income me... ...
I'm glad you liked the tele and can answer any questions. All my guitars are totally passive and that is a big difference between my DIY sustainers and commercial units. The battery is only used to run the sustainer and it is off when not in use and the guitar works as normal with out it.
Active tone controls and preamps are a completely different thing to a sustainer and may be incompatible with them. As I say, my tele is a passive guitar completely, power is only to drive the strings when switched on.
$100 is not bad for a sustainer, compared to effects boxes or even an ebow...but they are very tricky devices to install or to get going and frustrating, building is possible but you do have to have a bit of tenacity. I do support the project in a basic form by email...but it is definitely not for everyone. Definitely not 'plug and play' and not like a preamp or effects type of thing.
I helped a guy recently who was corresponding in part by video and just got his sustainer going...but it took a few frustrating months to get right. The problem was a very noisy guitar and a cheap single coil bridge pup sending the signal to the sustainer. The thing worked in the end by changing it for a rail HB improving the sound and helping the sustainer. A noisy guitar is only going to put noise into the sustainer, given that it amplifies to perhaps 200x and the noise is all high frequencies, it is not going to like that.
He liked the result and even played it live the day after completion...I still think it could do a bit of tweaking. As I say, months of fiddling around (though he is young and not done this kind of thing before) but he got there in the end with a bit of hand holding from me. But many don't have his tenacity so, well...I am a bit wary of supporting everyone on these things these days. It can get enormously time consuming and frustrating for me after all. I may even post his completed working vid some time.
It is true that the parts are cheap and winding a coil not as tricky as some might think and can be made from a cheap single coil as is usually the case and looks just like a a conventional pickup. The tele's driver is exactly the same, but made with difficult and expensive epoxy and methods. I built it like that to be very compact and to be able to show exactly what is in it, being transparent. Basically a magnet with a steel rail and a coil of 0.2mm wire around it is my basic design. This is driven by a basic amplifier with the signal from the bridge pickup. The bypassing switching and such requires a lot of thought and a heavily modified guitar is going to be tricky...and noisy guitar is going to be impossible to get working decently.
I have tried a couple of artec/GFS type things, not been that impressed.
The tele was originally going to have an on board tremolo effect in it, but it turned out to be very hissy. But, generally they can be very good and have been considering them again for my strat as a tone control...but now thinking not...this might change. I have a bit of nutzy wiring in that guitar and I'd have to loose the phase options I think as the guitar uses push pull pots...but some seem like a good idea and turning active adds some zing to things...see some of JohnH's preamp ideas and clips. I am considering this for my LP perhaps with a bypass switch on the backplate as I don't like to be committed to a battery. Still, most preamps for active guitars will last months!
Some actives though can add noise which I really do try to avoid and if there is any noise in the guitar an active system will likely multiply it. The 'quieting the beast' and other mods here are something of a pre-requisite IMHO and should be considered first.
Ash's costs are not far off for parts I guess...if you have the tools and knowledge to say build effects boxes and such and can go the distance in time and frustrations. Many people have failed though, so it is not 'easy' to do, very different from guitar wiring or effects boxes as you are driving the physical string and in that way unique. Many people fail with the commercial units and I have no personal first hand experience installing them.
The circuits are very simple, my original ones were made from generic kits from electronics places and very cheap...the tele has essentially this kind of thing in it using an LM386 type circuit.
The problems tend to be with the guitars and workmanship. The biggest consistent error seems to be cutting corners and not testing the device before modifying anything on the host guitar...and over confidence perhaps. One should make a suitable circuit and coil and test it over the strings before even thinking about modifying the guitar. The worst you would lose then is time and about $20-30 and if the sustainer too much, the circuit can be attached to a speaker for a battery practice amp instead.
The easiest way is to 'block up' a single coil to a 3mm space and glue wind a coil to that, run a guitar with only a quiet HB pickup and it should be fine. Any additional pickup will greatly complicate things, tricky wiring may simply not work at all. They also tend to use a bit of power and drain a battery reasonably quickly, so you need to have battery access and prepared for that.
Used sparingly, and my tele is very efficient and a more advanced version, mine has lasted months. Use it all the time as a sustainer guitar and you could kill a battery in a day LOL, you are running a power amp after all. But this is common to all sustainers. The commercial units though are active all the time so when the battery dies, so does the guitar!
My systems work perfectly well without the sustainer and I tend not to use it much and treat it as an 'effect'. On my tele I can get to the battery in a flash with two screws...I would never consider a battery under the scratch plate of a standard strat though.
Ok...so there is a bit of background.
Active systems are ok, might be worth a shot. There are a lot of great ideas on this site though for basic wiring mods that will give you a heap of different sounds out of a guitar and be good preparation for something more adventurous.
Getting your guitar quiet and being confident with that, and making basic circuits are a pre-requisite for making the sustainer, so if that seems daunting, I wouldn't recommend it and it could perhaps not be the cheapest option.
The DIY things are basic and the results a different sound again from the commercial units which can be very good. Mine was conceived kind of like a fixed six string ebow and works on that kind of principle with a lot of dynamics and varying tone. If you are after a more even less dynamic device that relies a bit less on technique to control it, the commercial units are a great option. Typically the driver doubles as a neck pickup too and doesn't sound 'bad' and the whole guitar becomes active. Sustainiac seems to have good support for their system and their web site gives details on requirements and installation which can be very complicated. Getting it professionally install would cost a lot as it is very complicated and always takes hours!
Thanks for the compliments again, am working on recording things lately, so no doubt the sustainer will soon make a reappearance in that medium, so more sound clips may soon be forthcoming .
The tele is however passive in all respects and you too could do that kind of thing sans sustainer for the cost of some wire and switches. It does feature a 1meg volume for extra high end, kind of a direct sound, a 500k conventional tone control, a phase switch on the neck pickup in the volumes push pull, and a gibson style 3 way selector. It does kind of have an 'active' sound, lots of high end, as a result of the volume control. There is not treble bleed, so turning the volume down a notch gives a more conventional 500k vol passive sound.
PS...online support is restricted due to a particular troll across forums and even here, so...well, you can probably see the kind of character the guy is...life is too short to have to deal with his obsessions and abuse. Any sustainer thread attracts him and many threads are started by him, clearly has some issues!