Review of Schertler vs. Radio Schack hack

djangologydjangology Portland, OregonModerator
Me and 2 friends here in Portland got together last weekend to compare two distinct but similar pickup configurations. The first is my well worn and well used Schertler plugged into a Crate Taxi amp. The second is a homemade saran-wrapped Radio Shack pickup plugged into the exact same input with the exact same levels.

The result is that both pickups were generally equal volume but needing slightly different EQ setup. The Schertler tended to be a warmer sound. The difference in sound was large but both pickups did tend to give a nice acoustic sound to them.

It seems to be that having both setups could serve a purpose when you need a certain pickup in certain situations. I want to still experiment with playing rhythm with the homemade pickup for a whole gig and see what the differences are.


  • Josh HeggJosh Hegg Tacoma, WAModerator
    Posts: 622
    I have made about 5 of the "Radio Shack" pickups and here is what I have found.

    The smaller the pezio disc the smaller dynamic range. The is the easiest way to say it I think. The larger disc just seemed to have fuller sound but not enough to really make a larger disc necessary for construction. EQing takes care of this.

    Also Using a pezio in conjunction with a mic is the way to go in my opinion. One can achieve a cleaner sound this way. However it does take more set up and equipment to do this... If you like equipment this is a good thing!
  • djangologydjangology Portland, OregonModerator
    Posts: 1,018
    hey Djosh, can you post instructions on how to make one?
  • Josh HeggJosh Hegg Tacoma, WAModerator
    Posts: 622
    Good idea!
    Here is a link

    If you need further explanation please post. I will tell you all I know!

  • ChadChad Bellingham, WashingtonNew
    Posts: 45
    I have seen the homemade pickup before, I am wondering where to get a high quality piezo with a better response like the Schertlers. Anyone have a good idea?

    Wholly Man
  • Josh HeggJosh Hegg Tacoma, WAModerator
    Posts: 622
    I found some good ones here:
    Fire Alarm (big but usable)
    electric metronome / tone tuner (good size, good tone)
    house alarm (too big, maybe if you used it on the inside)

    Some alarm clocks have them as well. But don't get new. Thrift store is a good place to look. Any electronic device that has an alarm is a likely candidate. I even found a coffee maker with one in it but it was too small for what I wanted to do with it.
  • Josh HeggJosh Hegg Tacoma, WAModerator
    Posts: 622
    OKay so after this post I went out and gat all the stuff to build another pick up. This with the idea that I would use along side of my mic. I made it stringer and better looking this time. Let me say that I really like the sound with the pick up and the mic. So much more room to adjust. Here is what I did... I ran my mic to a small mixing board. And the pickup to another channel on the board. Then I took the mono out to my amp. I used the board as a pre and set my amp where I like it for my arch top. The sound was really nice. I got all the highs I wanted from the pickup while the mic took care of the mid low and low end. the best part... No feed back and plenty of volume. I even had to turn down a bit! That is a first for me. Normally I get feed back before I was loud enough.

    So.. there's another thing to talk about. The only down side was how many cords I had to deal with. 2 going to the guitar was odd but not too bad once I got used to it. The sound was worth it.

  • V-dubV-dub San Francisco, CA✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 325
    Okay I went and built one of these this weekend. It look me way longer than it should have. This is probably because I spent a lot of time trying to come up with a sturdy housing for the piezo element. I tried coke bottle caps and milk caps without a whole lot of luck. In the end, it still looks like hell but it works! Here is a picture:


    Construction: You can actually probably build this with stuff around the house. As mentioned before the piezo element can be found in old alarm clocks and the like. It is a black circular thing with a small hole on one side (it is NOT the same thing as a speaker!). Getting the piezo out of the casing is a pain. I actually sliced my ring finger on my left hand in doing so last night. I have a gig today, lets see how that liquid bandage holds up!

    When you get it out it is a very thin copper disc. In my picture its the coppery thing in the middle.

    I used an old broken guitar cable for the cabling. I just sliced off the broken end and stripped it. Then I soldered the wires directly onto the piezo. The main contact wire goes to the middle of the piezo on the back. The other shielding wires go on the copper part (usually there is an outer ring of it exposed on the back.)

    Since I assume nobody here wants to install one of these cheapo pickups inside their guitars, You need to find a way to stick it to your guitar. I made a plastic "donut" out of old plastic to house the piezo. I stick putty to this part to affix to the front of the guitar. This was hot glued to the back. I then hot glued the hell out of all the wires so that they dont get yanked out. I finally wrapped the back in electrical tape.

    Sound: It is suprisingly decent. I don't know if I could use it live, but I dont see why not. I found that I had to really crank the volume to get a good signal compared to my schertler. I don't know if this was because of the cheap components I used or if thats the way they are.

    The sound quality was far more tinny and high-end than the schertler. It definitely does not translate the fullness of sound that the schertler does. At one point I tried both at the same time. The schertler on the bass end of the bridge and the radioshack piezo on the treble side. It sounded really great. Both sides of the frequency spectrum were covered.

    Conclusion: I think that this is a very worthwhile project for anyone who has been trying to come up with an amplification solution. Of course, the schertler kicks its butt, but the fact that it is even remotely comparable to is impressive.


    -1 radioshack piezo buzzer: $2
    -1 Old broken guitar cable: $0 (already own)
    -1 Hot glue gun + sticks: $4
    -Soldering iron and solder: $0 (already own)
    -Electrical tape: $0 (already own)

    A useable acoustic pickup for $6 bucks! cant beat that
  • V-dubV-dub San Francisco, CA✭✭✭✭
    edited October 2005 Posts: 325
    More pictures:

    putty ring around the piezo:

    attached to my axe:
  • V-dubV-dub San Francisco, CA✭✭✭✭
    edited October 2005 Posts: 325
    Okay I recorded some Mp3s of the pickup in action. The sound quality is pretty low, but my sound card blows, so go figure. You can get a decent idea of how it sounds. I recorded three tracks, rhythm, bass, and lead and mixed them in cool edit. The song is called "Pepito's Swing" and I think its by Jimmy Rosenberg.

    The first test was done with my $330 schertler DYN-G placed about a centimeter from the back of the bridge on the treble side. I did not use the ParaAcoustic DI. The EQ levels were more or less flat on the PA. I mic'ed the PA with an SM57.

    The second test was done with the $6 radioshack pickup placed 3 inches behind the bridge running into my ParaAcoustic DI box into the PA. The DI box had flat EQ levels. In all fairness, I shouldn't have used it but I forgot I had it plugged in. Same PA and mic placement.

    I found the results shocking, but you be the judge:

    $330 Schertler:

    $6 Radioshack:
  • Josh HeggJosh Hegg Tacoma, WAModerator
    Posts: 622
    This is just great! Thanks for all the work and the run down. The problem I have with the home made jober is there is 0 low end. All high and harsh. It sounds to me like the Schertler has taken care of that. Again thanks for all the hard work.

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