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Frequently Asked Questions
The Highlander FAQ page provides information that is specific to Highlander products as well as providing answers to some of the common questions our customers have asked over the years. We hope that you will find the information on the Highlander FAQ page to be useful and beneficial for your acoustic amplification requirements. Any questions?
What's the difference between Highlander pickups and other brands?
There are several differences between Highlander's pickup and other brands. Our pickup is coaxial with an omni-directional pickup pattern which, when combined with our advanced installation technique, senses every subtlety in the vibration of your instrument while responding perfectly to the power and dynamics of your performance. During installation the pickup is imbedded in the bridge, intimately coupling it to the the guitar.

There is no 'Highlander Sound'. Our job is to faithfully reproduce the pure, unique sound of your guitar.

Our matching preamplifier makes a substantial contribution to the clarity and silky smooth, full bodied, quality of the sound. It's unique, class 'A', discrete design delivers low distortion, super low noise, wide dynamic range and long battery life unparallel in the industry. Our discrete design does not use typical general purpose audio chips. Instead, we ingeniously combine the best quality 'discrete parts' to form a truly audiophile preamplifier. Our designer has been dedicated to the development of high quality, pro audio and recording studio equipment since the 1960's, there is no substitute for experience.
 
YOU CAN RELY ON A HIGHLANDER for more on our background and experience click here...
Who Uses Highlander Equipment?
Worldwide, there are thousands of musicians from every walk of life who use Highlander Equipment. They play every type of music in every venue imaginable and there are more connecting with us every day.
Will the installation of your pickup change the acoustic tone of my guitar?
No. If the pickup is installed correctly there is no change in the acoustic tone of the instrument.
Can I use the Pro Acoustic Mix Di (PAMDI) with bass?
Absolutely! The extended frequency response of the PAMDI is ideal for bass instruments. In fact the Low Eq Band is sweepable down to 25Hz. That's lower than most bass instruments but very useful in certain situations. It's all the Owner's Manual that comes with the PAMDI, check it out...
How does the Dynamic Range of a Highlander 9 volt system compare to systems that operate from 18 volts?
Dynamic Range defines the limits of signal level that an amplifier can reproduce.
 
The upper end of this range is limited by ‘clipping’ which, in turn is limited by two factors, the supply voltage and the efficiency of the amplifier design. Some systems that run from 18 volts clip at substantially less than 18V especially if the systems are based on low power audio chips. Our discrete (no audio chips), class ‘A' design is very efficient and signal levels can almost reach the supply voltage before clipping. With a typical acoustic guitar having an average signal level of -12dB, the headroom is a healthy 25dB.
 
Supply voltage is just a part of the story, only the upper end of the dynamic range is affected by the supply voltage.
 
The bottom end of the Dynamic Range is limited by the noise that is inherent in the preamplifier and pickup. In this area our preamplifier and pickup excel with a noise floor below -100dB. This is quite an achievement for a high impedance pickup and preamplifier considering that the preamplifier uses so little power. The battery lasts for over 1000 hours (of plugged in, playing time). The less batteries we discard the better.
 
How much is enough? The dynamic range of a full symphony orchestra, on a good day, is approximately 100dB. the dynamic range of a modern CD is around 90dB. The dynamic range of a Highlander pickup is more than 110dB. This is a substantially greater dynamic range than an acoustic guitar can produce.
What type of amplifier works best with under saddle pickups? Can I use a keyboard amp?
The complex nature of acoustic guitar sound requires a good hi-fidelity amplifier or amplification system to reproduce the original tone faithfully.
 
Electric Guitar Amplifiers are typically not suitable. A good electric guitar amplifier is designed to provide "color" and "excitement" to an otherwise dry electric guitar sound, and the cabinets typically have a open back which causes feedback.
 
Some keyboard amplifiers may work very well; let your ear be your guide.
 
Look for a hi-fidelity amplifier designed specifically for acoustic instruments that suits your style and pocket book. There are several on the market.
 
Combination systems comprising of a high quality mixing unit (like our PAMDI) and a good quality 'Power Speaker Cabinet' deliver really high performance.
What types of acoustic guitars can I amplify with Highlander's under saddle pickups? Is string spacing a problem?
Virtually all types of acoustic guitars can be amplified with our under saddle pickups. String spacing is not an issue, in fact, custom pickup lengths are available.
 
Successful installations in flat top, classical, twelve string guitars and acoustic bass guitars are carried out regularly. Check our installation information for details of exactly what is involved in an installation.
Can I combine a Highlander pickup with a microphone or another pickup?
Yes, check out our iP-2. It can be combined with a variety of active and passive pickups including 'magnetic sound hole pickups' and 'contact pickups'. It can also be used with a variety of microphones including our Internal Microphone. Use our Pro Acoustic Mix DI (PAMDI) to mix them and much more...
I have had the pickup installed for a while now and it's always sounded great. I just got my guitar back after my guitar tech did some work on it, and it just doesn't sound right anymore, it sounds thin and the output is low?
If the guitar tech had to remove the strings, then it's possible that the saddle is binding in the saddle slot. Check the answer below for information on how to change strings without the saddle binding. If the guitar did not have any work done directly on the pickup then it is possible that it was not plugged in and tested on completion of the work.
I just changed my strings and now the sound is really different, it sounds thin and the output is low?
Avoid removing all of the stings at once whenever possible. With all under saddle pickups it is possible for the saddle to bind in the saddle slot when changing strings. Binding prevents the saddle from making proper contact with the pickup.
 
The solution to this is to change strings two at a time, start with the 'G' and 'D' (3rd and 4th) strings.
 
If all the strings have to be removed, re-string starting with the 'D' (4th) string. When tightening the string make sure to press the saddle down and towards the back of the saddle slot to counteract the string pressure, which can cause the saddle to bind.
How do I know when the battery is running low?
The battery life for our iP pickups is over 1000 hours. When the battery is close to the end of its life, the high end will start to sound dull, this means there is still about 2 - 4 hours before the battery runs down completely (see power).
What kind of saddle material is best used with a Highlander?
Bone or Fossilized Ivory sound bright and can add a lot of life to the tone of your guitar. The density of these natural materials is inconsistent, which can lead to string imbalance. To help avoid string balance problems your installer needs to check for variations in the density of these materials. One easy way to do this is to hold the saddle material up to a light (like a desk lamp) and look for variations in the color of the light shining through. A suitable piece will have consistent color with no light or dark streaks or spots. If you like a bright, lively sound you may enjoy a good Bone or Fossilized Ivory saddle.
 
Micarta is also a good saddle material. This is a synthetic material with really consistent density. String balance is usually not an issue with Micarta saddles. It sounds warm, a little mellower than bone.
 
Some of our customers have reported that Corian and Tusq tend to have a dull or muddy tone, for this reason we don't recommend them. In fact many of our customers have replaced Corian or Tusq with either Bone, Fossilized Ivory or Micarta.
Do you make a pickup for a split-saddle guitar?
Yes, the iP-1 and the iP-2 both have the split-saddle option. These systems are supplied with two pickup sensors connected to one preamplifier, specifically for split-saddle guitar. (There is an additional charge for the second pickup).
Does the Highlander pickup hum if the amplifier does not have AC ground?
No. Our coaxial pickup and preamplifier are specially shielded so that even without a ground the pickup will not hum. Some of our customers live or perform in countries that do not have AC ground. They are very happy to report that Highlander pickups are exceptionally clean and perform perfectly all over the world.
The Magnophonic Pickup for the National Tricone is a magnetic pickup (not one of our coaxial pickups). Under certain circumstances this pickup may need to be plugged in to a grounded amplifier to prevent hum.
I play a lot of small clubs and cafes. How can I prevent feedback in these venues?
Resonance
Any discussion of feedback must begin by examining resonance. This phenomenon often plays a large role in the generation of feedback. One definition of resonance is: increasing the intensity of sounds by sympathetic vibration. In an acoustic guitar the resonance of the top and body cavity help create the sound by ‘acoustically amplifying’ the string vibrations. If the overall resonance is ‘even’ across a wide range of notes, the loudness of all the notes will be even. A resonant peak is a note that, due to uneven resonance, is louder than the other notes. If the instrument, loudspeaker, room or stage floor have ‘resonant peaks’, feedback will occur prematurely. If a speaker cabinet has a resonant peak around ‘A 440’ (and everything else is ‘flat’), then ‘A 440’ is the note that will feedback first, as you turn up the volume. Some resonant peaks in instruments are part of the character of the instrument, and it is usually desirable to maintain them, however, resonant peaks in loudspeakers and rooms are generally not desirable and should be avoided.
 
Instruments
When choosing an instrument you want to amplify, listen carefully for any obvious resonant peaks. Also, consider that large instruments with lots of surface area ‘hear’ the speakers more efficiently than smaller instruments (an upright bass will probably feedback at lower volume than a ukulele). Responsive guitar tops ‘hear’ the speakers more efficiently than ‘stiff’ guitar tops, so in general stiffer tops feedback less. Feedback occurs when the sound coming from a speaker excites the top of the instrument to the point where the top of the instrument feeds the sound of the speaker back to the speaker (via the pickup or microphone).
 
Loudspeakers and Loudspeaker Cabinet Design
Loudspeakers and the cabinets that they are installed in can have a significant effect on the threshold of feedback. Most loudspeakers have a characteristic known as ‘free air resonance’. The cone of a speaker is kind of springy and prefers one particular frequency to all of the others. This ‘resonant peak’ can be dampened by good speaker cabinet design (the air trapped in the cabinet acts as a brake on the speaker cone). In a Fender Deluxe ‘electric guitar’ amp the back of the cabinet is open, this is great for electric guitar but causes feedback at low volume with an acoustic instrument because the resonance of the speaker has not been ‘dampened’ by the cabinet.
 
In order to make speakers more efficient (and thereby use less amplification) some speaker cabinet designs incorporate ‘tuned ports’ or ‘folded horns’. Although this does improve efficiency, if the design is less than optimum it may lower the volume before feedback because of decreased dampening on the speaker. A well designed, fully sealed cabinet (sometimes called infinite baffle) tends to have the highest volume before feedback but also requires the most power. Using tuned port for PA and infinite baffle for monitors may be the best of both worlds for the acoustic musician.
 
It is impossible to generalize in this area, there are excellent tuned port systems and infinite baffle systems on the market today, therefore, it is advisable to listen carefully to a new loudspeaker system for ‘even loudness’ of every note on your instrument (no resonant peaks). At low volume, try running a number of scales and listen for any notes that ‘jump out’ more on the speaker than they do on the guitar.
 
Loudspeaker Cabinet Placement
Ideally, PA Speakers should be placed so that they are in front of the performer and above the head height of the audience, pointed down at the audience.
 
If your amp is your monitor and your PA, try placing it at your side, a little behind you (so you can hear it) and point it at the audience. Try to keep your amplifier up off the floor, position it at audience head height or above if possible. Experiment with speaker placement, sometimes moving a speaker a few feet to the left or right can have a profound effect on feedback, especially in odd-shaped rooms.
 
Room Acoustics
The shape, furnishings and size of the venue have a significant effect on feedback. Hard surfaces and low ‘hard’ ceilings increase the likelihood of feedback. Parallel walls and ceilings that are parallel to the floor can lead to the production of a standing wave. (A standing wave is a particular note that bounces back and forth between the parallel surfaces producing a ‘peak’ that can lead to feedback). Loudspeaker placement relative to your position in the room and the volume at which you play become even more significant if the room is working against you.
 
There are a few things that can help. For example, try to avoid pointing your speakers at hard reflective surfaces (or the bartender). Avoid placing your speakers (or yourself) in the corner of a room. If you find yourself in a small club having to turn down (because of feedback) to the point where the people in the back cannot hear you, try running a spare amp or speaker right out into the room. Reasonably priced, powered extension speakers are available. This method covers a larger area with less volume and can increase audio fidelity, (in bigger venues, it can lead to audio-delay problems). If the stage floor is ‘boomy’ then it becomes all the more important to try to keep your amp and or speakers up off the stage, perhaps on a chair with something soft like a cushion between the chair and amp. If you play upright bass try to ‘de-couple’ your amp from the stage floor. If your amp is heavy, some thick, soft rubber feet may be a good investment.
 
Equalization
EQ can be very effective in eliminating feedback, but like most things there is a trade off. With acoustic instruments too much EQ can produce an ‘artificial’ or ‘processed’ sound. Continually comparing the ‘amplified sound’ to the ‘acoustic sound’ of your instrument when making adjustments to EQ will help preserve the true sound of your instrument.
 
Before attempting to reduce feedback with EQ, place your guitar and speakers in the position where they are to be used (preferably with someone holding the guitar). Be ready to mute the sound incase any feedback takes off uncontrollably. Turn up the volume to just before the point of feedback. Sounds that are louder than a loud conversation, over time may damage your hearing.
 
Removing ‘resonant peaks’ with a graphic equalizer: Slowly turn each frequency control up and then down, if any of them cause feedback then dip the level of that frequency. 10th octave graphic equalizers are preferred (to 3rd octave) for feedback control. 10th octave means that there are 10 controls for each octave, as there are 13 notes in an octave, you can turn down almost one single note without affecting the adjacent notes very much.
 
Removing ‘resonant peaks’ with a parametric equalizer: For each band (low, mid, high) set the notch width to fairly narrow, gradually boost the level while sweeping the frequency, if a particular frequency causes feedback then dip its level. Experiment with the width control to achieve the narrowest notch possible without affecting the sound quality (in some equalizers really narrow notches can adversely affect fidelity).
 
When dipping the level of a feedback frequency, basically turn down that frequency until the feedback stops, continue (turning down) until you hear the EQ effect the instrument’s tone and then back up a little.
 
For more information on using EQ to help control feedback download the Owners Manual (PDF) for the Pro Acoustic Mix DI (PAMDI). Using the PAMDI's tunable EQ to deal with feedback is on page 15. There is a 'Frequency to Pitch' chart on page 16 that helps determine exactly what pitch the feedback is at.
 
If all else fails, don’t forget the old tried and tested sound hole plug, it may get you through a gig that would otherwise be lost to the dreaded feedback.
Can a Highlander be plugged directly into a recording console?
Although you can plug a Highlander directly into some recording consoles, for the best results we recommend the use of a professional, studio quality 'DI' box. The Highlander Pro Acoustic Mix DI features a 'balanced' or 'DI' output as well as many other cool features.
The Magnophonic Pickup in my Tricone is feeding back at moderate volume levels. The feedback is at a 'low mid' pitch. It seems to stop when I press on the back of the guitar. What can I do?
With some Tricones, adjusting the bracing between the neck-stick and the back of the instrument can reduce feedback. The back of the Tricone is braced by wedging specially design wood blocks (they look like upside down mushrooms) between the neck-stick and the back. When these blocks are moved towards the center a little, the feedback stops.
 
In other Tricones, adding a new block between the existing blocks positioned towards the center of the neck-stick can dramatically reduce feedback.
 
Some experimentation may be necessary to achieve optimum results.
Are gold plated plugs on my guitar cable better than nickel plated?
Gold plated plugs can actually cause problems. When plugged in to a regular nickel plated socket, the dissimilar metals can create distortion (through a slight diode action). The real benefit of gold plated connectors is that they do not tarnish, but they must be mated with gold sockets.
 
Regular nickel-plated plugs and sockets can be cleaned every 6 months with a good contact cleaner like DeoxIt. Take care not to spray contact cleaner anywhere near your guitar, it may damage the finish.