I read about this new preamp technology on another forum and thought people here might be interested in checking it out. It was designed by a couple of acoustic guitar musicians that are involved in electronics in their day jobs. The idea was to make acoustic instruments with piezo pickups sound natural when amplified. The way I understand it you plug both a good quality condenser mike and the instrument pickup into the Tonedexter box and set it for learning mode. Then you play for about 10 minutes. The box makes a tone map the compares the mike output to the pickup output. The box then stores the tone map and uses it to adjust the pickup signal as it is fed to an amplifier or PA. The box stores 20+ tone maps if you have more then one instrument. Keep in mind if you have poor tone the box will adjust the pickup to give you poor tone. I first thought it could be used for making electric fiddles sound acoustic or a poor instrument sound like a good one. I am told the technology will not work for that. If you are interested there is quite a bit of discussion about this device on the Unofficial Martin Guitar Forum and the people there seem to really like it. The company also has an interesting web site with demo videos. I have no financial interest in this product and it is not cheap ($400) but it still may be of interest to some.
There was a discussion not long ago about the Fishman Aura pedals which work on a vaguely similar principal (Fishman won't say exactly what their process is). Though you can pay Aura to map your own instrument, their boxes provide 'images' that you can match with your instrument.
The discussion is here:
and there are some sound clips so you can hear what the device can do. It can make an electric fiddle (in this case a Yamaha YEV) sound more like an acoustic. I don't know if it can make a bad sounding violin better but I am sure it could make it sound different.
I just looked up the price of the Tonedexter and it is priced as one would expect of advanced technology. The Aura pedals plus updates can be had for under $100 if you search and are patient.
One possibility is that these preamps are using similar techniques to those used for convolution reverberation:
The general idea being that you measure an input (piezoelectric transducer) waveform, an output waveform (microphone) and determine transformations between them in the form of an impulse response or associated filter. Once you have a filter, you can play just the input back through the filter to simulate the sound that would be measured with a microphone. That general technique is widely applied.
Even if that's what they're doing, there's probably a lot of secret sauce to make it work well.
Why not just use a high quality pickup with an equally high quality piezo preamp, plus whatever EQ and effects are wanted or not wanted for the sound desired? Many fiddlers can not even get this one straight.
Edited by - illinoisfiddler on 04/12/2018 22:16:13
I think the reason the Tonedexter is popular with Martin guitar owners is many people have the fairly inexpensive K&K pure mini pickup in their guitars. They say this device makes them sound natural amplified. It also allows them to have a plug and play device that requires little adjustment when switching instruments at gigs. They do seem to advise using something else if your are looking for special effects.
I don't really have an issue with this technology, there needs to be more R &D in new pickup and preamp methods for acoustic instruments. But I also find many players don't even using the existing technology very well, such as not using a good buffer preamp with a piezo pickup. Properly buffered, many pickups can sound much fuller and richer, albeit not exactly the same sound as the acoustic sounds.
I'm the same as Steve, I don't get it.. people buy all these expensive things for there fiddle when the answer is so close to them. For a nice natural sound all you need is a pre amp and an amp. That's it. You don't need a lot of things going between your fiddle and the amp unless your trying to sound like Jean Luc Ponty anything other will destroy your sound. But as usual I might as well be talking to a dead chicken
I heard one of these a few days ago, I’m sold. Most natural sound I’ve heard from a piezo (Baggs bridge). I thought the fiddler had a mic mounted on her instrument.
That does look like an interesting product. Not sure how you would use it with a wireless, unless it was at the end of the chain like a DI. But that might defeat the purpose.
I got one of these a few weeks ago and have used it for a couple gigs. Initial impression is extremely positive. Appears to be very solidly built and durable. I need to spend some more time with it and really dial it in, but it makes my fiddle with the Headway Band sounds like it is mic'ed. Built in tuner and mute, and adjustable boost switch. Headphone out and fx insert. You can blend in as much of the pickup sound as you want, but not sure why you would want to. It automatically compensates for feedback and has a notch filter if you need to fine tune. You can save up to 22 Wave Maps, so you can have different flavors of mic sound, or use it for mandolin or guitar too (not at the same time, and would need an external A/B switch if you didn’t want to switch out cords). And Steve, it is a preamp/DI with a balanced xlr out. I use a Line6 G10 wireless system with it. Line6->tonerite->soundboard. I’ll try and put up some sound samples when I get a chance.
It's pretty amazing technology... I had considered one.
You can blend in as much of the pickup sound as you want, but not sure why you would want to.
I believe this is to get a bit of the of the directness of pickup sound; crisper transient attacks; perhaps a bit of tone/cut of electric sound. This is useful in noisy environments and other instruments timbre, esp as it gets louder; as acoustic sound tends to be smoother, can get lost or washed out in the mix... it's not just volume, but tone/attack... the pickup sounds less natural but might work to stand out in the mix a bit better.
It's similar to the difference in between distant micing and close micing... distant sounds more natural, provides air and smoothness; close is a more presence "in your face" sound. Usually the sampled modeling setup, (like with guitar version presets expensive guitar, expensive mics in a studio) uses distance... to capture that natural smooth sound. But it isn't always best for the mix, esp in noisy live playing.
(perhaps another discussion)
That makes sense, "realistic" doesn’t always work the best for a given situation and being able to blend in more direct sound isn’t a bad thing.
Bottom line review: When you can't or don’t want to use a mic but you want to sound like you are using one, this is what you want. If you are in the audience and are able to tell the difference in a live situation between a mic and a tonedexter, you have .01% ears. Very much worth your consideration if you are not satisfied with your current setup.
What did you use to record the baseline sample (mic, distance, type of room)? Seems like that would be very important.
I used an AT4051 small diaphragm condenser (they recommend using an SDC, but the instructions are somewhat geared to using a guitar). One sample was over my shoulder about 18” away, and a second one in front of me maybe 3’ away. Both in my basement, which is semi-treated, but according to the manual the room isn’t terribly important, the 1’s and 0’s are able to filter out room sound somehow.
The further mic’ed one sounds a little better to me, a little more airy. The close one is a little more pinched, SM57-ish sounding. Both sound far better than the pickup sound alone.
When I get a little time, I need to experiment with some other mics (Sm81, KSM32, 4033, maybe a ribbon too but it sends phantom power so maybe not), distance, polar patterns and locations to see what the differences are. Interested to see what it might sound like recording in the shower, or distance micing in a church or something.
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