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I found this at another forum...Ultimate Guitar - remote power idea


basically the same as was discussed a little while ago, uses a stereo lead but also allows for an internal battery as well...could be rigged up to charge a battery too I imagine.

I got a little bit of a concern though...is there any risk of frying the pickups or anything (huge thump through the amp) when the lead is plugged/unplugged? It seems as if the plug came half out the tip would connect to the power...any opinions / solutions?

Speaking of batteries, I would be changing the battery every gig if used a fair bit. I just changed mine recently but with regular use only lasts a couple of days till the LED starts to dim with use and response drops off. A lot of tricks and tunes rely on a fairly consistant response (quickness to become a harmonic, consistancy of sustaining notes across the fretboard) and remote power holds the promise of full response at all times. It also eliminates the need to find space for the battery internally and to allow the sustainer to be left in idle mode eliminating any "pop" problems...pete... :D

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Hello again...just looking in after moving to my island...getting a bit chilly down here! Good to see the thread continues the tradition of long threads! Still...the computer didn't survive the mov

Excellent... This will be great, and I hadn't thought about that but the 4 ohm coils would take half the time and be easier to wind....alowing the use of quick epoxy like this...hope you wore rubbe

I got a little bit of a concern though...is there any risk of frying the pickups or anything (huge thump through the amp) when the lead is plugged/unplugged? It seems as if the plug came half out the tip would connect to the power...any opinions / solutions?

All my active basses (6) are wired exactly as above (except that they don't have the circuit bypass switch). Popping/thumping/pickup frying hasn't ever been an issue. :D Of course, I usually don't unplug mycord from the axe while the amp is turned on (except when I step on the cord).

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Well that sounds like a perfect sustainer solution then. I'm pretty sure that with the circuit remaining on in idle mode the question of pop would not be a problem, and other than that, my sustainer is working pretty darn well!

This kind of mod removes the problem of fitting a battery into the guitar. The circuit as we have seen from recent examples can be made exceptionally small and the concept is pretty adaptable to various guitars. We have yet to see a humbucker replacement driver idea and I'd like to see some of these "experiments" turned into actual playing instruments like mine.

Meanwhile, in my (errr) "circumstances", I can't do a lot of practical work with a soldering iron, or I'd be on this like a flash. What I am looking at doing is doing a proper schematic of my circuit and developing a circuit board. Not quite sure the size that would be most appropriate or a universal switching option to suit a range of guitars.

I'm also fairly keen on the pickup/driver combo of mine. Potentially one could have a neck and bridge driver that switched with pickup selection if that's what rocks your boat. But practically speaking, by combining the neck pickup with the driver you get good height adjustment and no comprimises on either driver or pickup placement. Got to like that!!

Hope to see some more sustainers being built...the thread is getting enough visits, especially by visitors...so lets be seeing them...pete... :D

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What you're trying to do is some kinda phantom power??

I think that's a good idea, but i'd think the best thing to do is to find an amp that consumes less power...

I actually thought about that some. The LM386 is a Class AB amplifier... look at National Semiconductor's datasheet. But I'm not sure what all the stuff on the input side is doing. It seems like you might be able to build a discrete amplifier from two transistors biased to operate almost Class B. Crossover distortion probably isn't much of an issue here, so an amplifier designed specifically for this application could probably take advantage of the power effeciency of running almost class B, or even purely class B.

I got my pickup to driver conversion working. I ended up using 30AWG because I got some for free from work. I'll post picks probably tomorrow. I haven't installed in the guitar yet (because it's still being painted), but I tested it by holding it over the strings of other guitars. On the electric I tried it with first, I had trouble sustaining any of the unwound strings, but I think I was having pre-amp problems since I used a different booster. But then I tried it with my Acoustic, which has an onboard preamp, I connected directly to the 386. It seemed to be working fine. I also wonder if maybe the neck humbucker of the electric was causing problems. I'm going to mess around with the amp circuit a little bit (still breadboarded) to see if I can get any improvment. And if I'm still not happy with it once the guitar is done, I'll just wind a new driver with 0.2mm.

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Crossover distortion probably isn't much of an issue here, so an amplifier designed specifically for this application could probably take advantage of the power effeciency of running almost class B, or even purely class B.

I got my pickup to driver conversion working. I ended up using 30AWG because I got some for free from work. I'll post picks probably tomorrow. I haven't installed in the guitar yet (because it's still being painted), but I tested it by holding it over the strings of other guitars. On the electric I tried it with first, I had trouble sustaining any of the unwound strings, but I think I was having pre-amp problems since I used a different booster. But then I tried it with my Acoustic, which has an onboard preamp, I connected directly to the 386. It seemed to be working fine. I also wonder if maybe the neck humbucker of the electric was causing problems. I'm going to mess around with the amp circuit a little bit (still breadboarded) to see if I can get any improvment. And if I'm still not happy with it once the guitar is done, I'll just wind a new driver with 0.2mm.

That's Great jbm222

I'm sure there are many alternative amplifier circuits. The LM386 is pretty small and foolproof. I think that most of the power is lost in the driver...it is the nature of the beast...just like a battery powered practice amp, it will eat through the batteries a bit. I have had an interest in D class switchmode amps but they only seem to come in SMD packs but some really interesting products by National and others with extremely high efficiency, more power, popless switching and no earthing of the driver coil. They also dont need the large output capacitor of conventional amps.

Phantom power would allow a constant supply, more power (with a different circuit perhaps) and removes the need for finding room for the battery. You could do a combination where you install a battery that recharges when used with the phantom power...

Holding the driver over the strings is a good tester but not conclusive. Sounds like there may have been some magnetic cancellation from holding the driver over the neck pickup. Mounting it next to or instead of the neck pickup will avoid this problem.

I believe the wire guage is fairly crucial. It may be something to do with resonant frequencies, power potential or the driver design...a combination of these and other factors...but lack lustre results seem to have come from deviating from this. Potting is also crucial. But the wire isn't too expensive and wouldn't be too hard to strip off and try again...unless you set it in epoxy as Tim did ;-)

But that is not to say it wouldn't work...

As for the preamp, this has always bugged me. I don't actually use the Fetzer/Ruby circuit and I suspect I get more output and a better filtering with my 2 transistor version. I'm consulting with someone at the moment about developing a circuit board and parts kit for this project based on my well tested prototype.

Would this be of interest to people here? I am also considering constructing pickup/drivers in a single coil pickup. What I have in mind is a stacked alnico strat type pickup with a blade driver set on top...very similar to the one on my guitar. Anyway...I'd like some feedback on this prospect as developing a neat board and such will be a little much work for my use alone.

It's really good to see this coming along...I think this is the first pickup looking dedicated driver so it should have a wide interest to a few who want that look and don't want to build their own bobbin. The sustainer thread has been a little quiet though I see there have been quite a few visitors. I'd encourage anyone checking this out or simply lurking out of interest to participate in this extraordinarily long thread!

good stuff...pete

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Oh...and in addition to my last post...

I just noticed that the latest Guitar player (Feb 06 page 161) has an article on installing a Fernandes Sustainer!

This is a custom mod into a telecaster. They require quite a bit of routing and this is all illustrated and you get a good basic idea of how they do it. They suggest allowing up to $400 for a full installation, they also suggest the guitar is completely active and wont work at all if the battery goes flat (I would have thought it would be just the active neck pickup).

Hmmm...this is interesting as it makes our DIY option and anything I could offer for pickup conversion an interesting proposition. My guitar is totally passive until the sustainer is engaged and the circuit is way smaller than the Fernandes system with few guitars requiring this kind of routing...with phantom power likely none at all!!

The tricky part would be finding switch room...but I hear the fender S1 switch is actually a 4pdt...just the kind of switch I use on my strat with three passive pickups...if you can get some and could afford the cost this would be an outstanding "stock" option.

By the way, I know trems are out of fashion at the moment, but the "tricks" you can do with the sustainer really lends itself to this kind of guitar. Also, a bright guitar with shorter sustain seems to be really good for this device...just what you find in a cheap guitar...my tests with a naturally sustaining guitar like the Les Paul was a little less dramatic...but maybe that's just me!

keep sustaining...pete

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I have had an interest in D class switchmode amps but they only seem to come in SMD packs.

Have you seen these yet? class d opamp :D

They require something like 10- 14 v though; actually most class d circuits seem to be around the 15v mark. (probably why fernandes uses 2 9v batteries??)

The external battery idea is pretty cool, I've always liked the idea of having a battery "pack" to power piezo's, emg's, fretlights, sustainer etc... so If you need a box for it, lemme know :D

anyway, I'm still checking this thread, I'll be back with more once I finish my @*#! exams


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Hi Tim...I thought that was what you were up to...good luck on those exams...

Well that amp is designed for TV's and stereos and puts out a stereo 10 watts! If people recall my first post about experiments many, many years ago now...

Many years ago I wound a crude coil and ran the guitar output to both my amp and a trashed hi fi amp. The output of this went directly to the coil placed beneath the strings. It worked!!!!!!!!!!!! However some notes better than others, but still it worked!!!!!!!!!!!

Only one drawback. Within minutes the coil heated up like a bar radiator and proceded to melt the electrical tape holding it together. The strings really heated up and the whole thing threatend to catch on fire! Still it worked!!!!!! I've got some recordings somewhere to prove it. Would make a great stage act!

With the LM386 we are putting out about 1 watt (even then the driver coil gets warm). That heat is a sign of energy loss and that is where the power's going, I suspect there is no way around that with this device...just as with practice amps driving a speaker or an electric fire (also simply a coil of wire!)

There are suitable D class amps and these are typically used in devices such as mobile phones and computers where space and energy savings are at a premium. Typically they are SMD devices aproximately 2mm square or less!!! They generally run off about 5volts. But you will still need a preamp, and how do you prototype something this small, let alone make it!

Anyway, as I say, the power loss is in the coil not the circuit and power consumption will always be an issue I suspect. Remember, unlike a stompbox that only modifies a signal, this device has to physically move the strings continuously. Whether an internal or extrenal battery box, the thing will still consume a bit of power...the phantom power thing is cool because the device will be able to always run at a consistant performance, no need to find room for the battery inside the guitar...lot's of people like myself, already have power at the end of their leads running effects anyway...there just needs to be some kind of adaptor to supply the guitar as well.

The interest in D class amps (which run like a switch mode powersupply in a computer) is that they are not only very efficient, they require very little additional components to make them work, the driver is isolated from the earth and they offer advanced switch on and mute capabilities to address issues like "pop" and idle running (making switching the thing potentially easier). The fact that they are so small would be an extra benefit if it weren't pretty near impossible to hand solder something little bigger than a flea and it is not something that you will find down at a typical radio shack! (BTW...I did do some experiments with SMD LM386's but with no success...they were just too small. I had more luck with SMD capacitors and in more typical amps these are the big bits anyway.)

Looking at the Guitar Player Article mention in my last post...the skill and risk of routing out the control and battery compartments (to within 1/8" of the guitar top and making the back plates to conceal them) will take far more skill and risk than our DIY version. The circuit is considerably larger and the switches are mounted directly to the board (neat but not versitile...see the Kramer install link on this).

I do think the fetzer/ruby circuit could use some work though. I haven't personally tried it though it will surfice, but I suspect my slightly more sophisticated and little larger circuit is superior and requires no trim pots at all.

So again...would people be interested in a circuit board based on this working prototype? And if so, what kind of dimensions could people accomodate in their guitars and how would people organise switching?


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Well that amp is designed for TV's and stereos and puts out a stereo 10 watts! If people recall my first post about experiments many, many years ago now...

Yeah i know it's 10 watts...I just figured one might be able to tone it down some (well a lot). The thing is they're either smd and around 1 watt or your regular op-amp size and 10- 25 watts. you'd might be able to use the smd ones be reflowing a pre-manufactured pcb (I was checking expresspcb If they'd allow such finnicky details and it seems possible). Not exactly your everyday diy stuff though :D

on a more realistic note, I've been working on an enclosure for the driver, something that would mount on the pickup ring mounting screws and it 'd be fairly 'one size fits all' at it. It might be even better to go for your driver-pickup combination though. How do you suppose the pickup sound would change if you'd put my driver with the internal magnet on top of a single coil? Say there weren't any weird side effects to the magnetic field...

you'd have a design that could work as a standalone driver for one-pickup-guitars, or as a pickup-mounted driver for multi-pickup-guitars.

There's some more ideas to come, have to hit the sack now,


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Hi exafro...welcome to PG and the infamous sustainer thread.

OK...that's one expression of interest. I have various things in mind. One problem with this thing is there is so much that people need to work out for themselves and a bit that is left up to experimentation and some things that are unique to each guitar or peoples requirements.

So...as far as a kit thing there could be several options. The simplest for me would be just to tidy up the circuit and provide a list of parts and maybe some instruction...not quite a kit, but easier than perf-boarding it, etc.

So here are a few options that could be possible

1. Produce a circuitboard only

2. Produce a circuit board and supply electronic parts

3. Produce a circuit board and assemble it as a module

4. options 2 or 3 plus wire and parts to make the driver

5. options 2 or 3 plus pickup/driver constructed

There are probably other options too and some other ideas I had as well or that you guys could suggest.

Each guitar is different. You propose a one pickup guitar which is pretty simple. No pickup bypassing so simple DPDT switching. My strat required a 4pdt switch...fairly large underneath (looks like a standard toggle on top). However...your driver is going to have to be independant. Will it sit in a pickup route or be thin enough to surface mount. You will require a magnet, is this to sit under or be an internal magnet. Some people will want a 7 string version...or perhaps for bass...the variations are endless!

What a few people have found is that it is hard to get the parts and wire, etc. Now, this stuff is not uncommon but it all depends where you live and what suppliers you can locate. So, if I were to invest in a small order of circuit boards and parts this would make the whole thing a lot more approachable for a lot of people. Also, it is a lot easier and compact to make something from supplied parts on a circuit board than to shop around to get what you need and then plan and wire it up on perf-board.

What this idea is really about is the development of a simple "standard" working circuit so people can concentrate on building the driver and switching to their needs. The circuit board would be pretty compact (not sure what size, shape, etc that would best suit) and have connections for signal, power, switching, optional LED and the driver. So, other than putting the circuit together you would need to wire it up. select your switching options and build the driver. This still leaves roome for experimentation and variations to suit different applications. I'd like to be able to distill mine and our collective knowledge into some fairly clear instructions as well.

Readers should note that the heart of this DIY sustainer is not the circuit. This is simply an amplifier, it's the driver design that allows such a simple circuit to operate as effectively as it does. Fernandes and Sustainiac have other more "sophisticated" circuits and drivers based on pickup design and active neck pickup replacement. This means that their circuit is mauch larger and the adaptability of their systems are limited.

No sustainer is a simple drop in device...it takes some planning to nut an installation out. At least with the work here, there is scope to work around things for your own application. No one makes a 7 string sustainer now for instance! Mine is the only passive pickup/active driver that I've heard about other than Sustainiacs driver next to a mini humbucker option. Of interest in that GP article was that they specify that the bridge pickup "must be a humbucker" and their driver/pickup is in a humbucker size.

As for cost, I really don't know. It would be cheaper if you have the stuff to perf-board it out. Making a driver is more difficult from a production point of view but if I were to make 50 boards and associated parts there is some economy of scale. But then there is postage and the like to deal with...at present it is an idea but it certainly should be little more in cost than seeking all this stuff out yourself, plus cost of handling and postage, putting together instructions and organising everything. If you wanted me to actually solder the thing together...well there's a cost there!

As for making a driver...that is a whole different kettle of fish. I can see a way to make a stacked strat sized pickup modified with a driver for far less than a quality pickup. But we are looking at a fairly generic pickup...not bad, but...no seymour duncan. There are certain design requirements of the basic pickup that lend themselves to this modification...I happen to have my eye on one that is actually the model that I use in my Strat in the bridge postion. It will be a little deeper than a standard pickup and may not have quite the "look" from the top as a standard pickup.

All in all, the DIY option would be far cheaper, not much more complicated than an installation of a commercial system (i found that the trickier part with my strat) and far more adaptable and a reasonably reversable modification.

Anyway...will take a bit of planning and consultation and quite a few expressions of interest before it could become a reality. It just seemed like a good idea at this point and would allow more people to get involved that otherwise might not...pete :D

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ahh...that last post took so long 2 posts came in while writing it... B)

OK...a political statement...i was brought up on inches and feet down here in OZ but then we went all metric. Imperial measures are great if you are building a house, but for small tiny measures in multiples of 10, you just cant beat metric! Additionally, the USA has a whole host of "standards" in everything from spelling to wire guage that differs from the rest of the world...so there is always going to be confusion. That's why I specify in mm. jbm222 posted the following table...

but...bear this in mind...

AWG= American Wire Gauge

B&S= Brown & Sharpe

SWG= Imperial Standard Wire Gauge-(British legal standard)

and it's not always clear what the label on the reel is measured in.

Also, I am in Australia...so my suppliers are not going to be a whole lot of use to most people. That is why I'm thinking that perhaps it would be easier to just supply the wire with the circuit to give a head start...afterall, the postage would be minimal on something this small and inexpensive...even from here to just about anywhere...

So...here I'll do a bit of a search...it would be a bit hit and miss to order on line as there are so many opportunities for there to be a misunderstanding over the order and the product. It wouldn't surprise me if you orded AWG but the USA supplier has imported SWG or metric wire and supplied the wrong thing. Then there's all that postage...

I have bought wire from places such as Dick Smith (our Radio Shack), Radio Parts (melb), Altronics and Jaycar (both who are pretty good). However...that may not be of much help...and I've found stuff in store that isn't easy to find in the catalogue (got no idea why that should be)...anyway...

Here's a link to Dick Smiths suitable product...Winding Wire SWG 36 = 0.2mm...for instance.

You seem to be right about Radio Shack...surely there are other suppliers of electronic stuff than them and the big online companies that will bite you for the delivery and stuff up your order to boot?! There's a project for you guys to let me know how hard it is to locate stuff, where ever in the world you are. This wire is known by a range of names enamelled or insulated (copper) wire, magnet wire, crossover wire, inductor wire, choke wire, winding wire! And remember the confusing guage problems...here is another chart that has metric AWG and SWG standards compared...Wire conversion table AWG - SWG - Metric - Inches

As you can see it is possible to get 85metres (think yards) for $7 Australian ($5-6 US) from places all over the place where I live. Of course if I were to supply it, theres postage and handling, etc... but still, you can make at least 2 drivers from a small reel like this!!! If it really is that hard over there, perhaps it lends more to my kit idea...if wire is tricky, I'd hate to have to locate all those parts peice by peice...something is bound to go wrong... :D

Let me know what you can find or what you think...pete

Tim...you sleep and I'll address that stuff later and when we both have a little more time... :D

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After searching for about 30 minutes and avoiding all the sites I've already searched, I finally found this site: www.bulkwire.com that sells 1/4 pound spool of 32 AWG (very close to 0.2 mm) for about $7.50, but then the charge another $7.75 for shipping.... which is way more than it needs to be. It takes less than 100 ft to get 8 ohms, and the 1/4lb spool is about 1200 ft. So at least 12 drivers worth of wire for about $16. You get a better cost/foot if you order larger spools. Unfortunately I still can find a place that sells small quantities with reasonable shipping rates.

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psw, thanks for the quick answers. Even if you just provided a circuit board and the layout that would help me immensely. I can solder but my last electronics course was in high school 6 years ago. I have no clue on how to use the perfboard, I dealt with acid etching. The only thing that is holding me back from making one of these is the actual circuit. I'm sure I can wind the driver. I would probably purchase more than one as well, I have a fretless guitar that I'm working, and one of these would complement it nicely. A sustainer coupled with my whammy pedal, a match made in heaven.

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Ok guys...there is a little interest...and I have been looking into it for a little while.

I'm going through some major life changes at the moment as some of you know otherwise I'd just go ahead and just do it. But...I am in discussion with someone here tossing up some ideas on how to do the kind of things I'm describing and it sounds like if people generally have to stuff around to just get the bits that I can obtain reasonably easily, plus the Australian Dollar is 30% less than the USA and postage for something like this would be pretty cheap, it would be cost effective for you guys to buy from me...even if I am on the other side of the world...hehehe With Ebay paypal transactions and such the whole thing should be able to be done fairly securely too...the world is getting smaller in so many ways.

BTW...being in Australia I'm 10 hours ahead of most of the USA and with summer down here the days are long...hence my replys should be quick, ay! I notice the time says almost 4am but it's actually already almost 8pm in the evening....been a nice day BTW, sunshine and all, not so hot (had a bit of a heatwave lately, kind of jeans and a t shirt weather...hope you enjoy!

So...I'll see what kind of thing I can mock up size wise for the circuit board. I'm looking at no sensitivity control and probably no trim pots just to keep it all simple, small and cheap. The preamp would be based on my set up which is a two transistor thing with a fair amount of gain and filtering and a typical LM386 circuit. I'd be looking at off board switching so you could work it out yourself, or maybe I'd have some suitable toggles as extra. It sounds as if wire too would be better off supplied since it seems hard to get and would add little if anything to postage if you were getting this stuff sent anyway...hmmm...very interesting.

I all seems a little odd that it is difficult to obtain things like this. Us foreigners kind of expect there to be an electronics store in every little town in the USA. I was travelling last year and found shops in tiny little country towns in Australia that had or could get just about everything for this project...just goes to show, what you don't know...perhaps the big mail order guys have made the little guys uneconomical, it all seems a little odd...but if it helps me and helps you...sounds like a plan...I'll work on it!...pete

Oh yeah...bulkwire...gee you only want a little of the stuff...there has to be a better way of obtaining it...I don't see me winding off a large reel or anything but 1200 ft...that's a lot of drivers...sheeesh.

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Firstly can I say WOW at the previous 77 pages!

I'm interested in taking part in the sustainer project but I have a very simple question.

Why does the sustainer "pickup" have to be a the neck position? I'm planning on a using the sustainer in the middle position on a H-S-S configuration. I love the sound of my neck pickup and I only use either the neck or bridge pickups so I probably wouldn't bother if I couldn't use the sustainer in the middle position.

Many thanks inadvance and many thanks for the previous pages....I feel that I'm much more informed due to all your comments

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Welcome to the Sustainer Thread Monster stevenhoneywell :D

Why does the sustainer "pickup" have to be a the neck position?

OK...Pickups detect distrubances (or changes) in their magnetic fields. Ideally, these are caused by the movement of the steel strings which in turn generate a voltage in the coil through which the magnetic field passes giving us the guitars signal...

Right...the driver is much like a speaker coil that is trying to move the strings caught in it's magnetic field, much as the speaker moves it's cone.

So...the effect of the driver being to close to the (bridge) pickup is the same as putting a microphone right in front of a speaker...runaway ocillating feedback, or squeal...not what we want. SO, you need adequate distance between the two devices.

Clearly...the driver is putting out a fair amount of electromagnetic energy to move the strings and a pickup will sense this as a distrurbance to it's magnetic field, far more than that caused by the strings.

Also...there are other reasons to have the driver nearer the centre of the string (but from my experiments not as crucial). These are that...towards the ends of the strings the harmonics of their vibrations get closer together and that there is more "throw" (amount of movement in the string) near it's centre than elsewhere (the bridge, nut or fretted note being stationary).

However...it can and has been done, but not with this device. Sustainiac have a patent for such a proposal but never went into production with it, but a member (here and from Aron's Stompbox forum) created one on this model (you can hear it in the sustainer sounds thread...Sustainer Sounds) This uses a "bilateral" driver (bit like a humbucker to help neutralise the EMI from the driver) and complex (and secret) circuitry to address phase differences.

Now...other approaches could be to block EMI with a magnetic sink...say a large piece of steel absorb EMI (electro-magnetic interferance), to build in deflectors to direct the drivers and/or pickups magnetic fields or, as I was doing, additionally making the driver incredibly small and using novel balanced magnetic fields).

But...the mid pickup driver idea has not been fully explored with this design of driver. It could just work, but I wouldn't bank on it! Dizzy's driver can not do that harmonic tric but gets similar effects by his selection of bridge or neck pickups to driver it. From what I have tried there just isn't enough space between the pickups...especially when the pickup is a humbucker which is twice the size of a single coil.

This D.I.Y. Sustainer Design...has been dubbed the "thin driver concept" and is at the heart of it's success. It draws directly from my hex design phase (seeking in part to make the thing smaller and surface mounted) and the reduction of EMI by making the thing smaller in size and shape and, the concentration of electromagnetic energy close to the strings to accentuate operating speed and efficiency. It is deceptively simple but effective. One advantage is that in addition to working it is quite compact. Another is that complex circuitry is redundant as the device will work fast enough not to be hampered too much by phase differences.

My Sustainer-Strat...addresses the problem of neck pickup loss by building the driver directly on top of the neck pickup coil. This allows the guitar to operate completely passively and as normal when the sustainer is off...but then switch to bridge pickup and driver when the sustainer is on (it will not work with the mid pickup on). This is a unique but effective approach that has quite a few benefits to it.

Another approach...on some guitars such as Strats, is that there is probably sufficient room between the neck pickup and the neck to mount the driver as a byproduct of it's "thin" design. It can be made slightly narrower than a Strat pickup and sit next to the neck pickup either on the pickguard or in it. A strat has some advantages in that the neck could be shimmed up slightly to create more height to fit the device in and/or the scratchplate be modified to make a few mm's of extra space.

Ingenuity...that is the key to getting your solution to work for you. This driver design can be made to work and still allow for the use of the neck pickup when not in sustain mode. It requires the builder to devise a solution (such as internal magnets to decrease size further, or building the driver on top of the pickup) to make it happen for their particular instrument.

Evolution...this thread is so long because...well my posts are pretty long, but...everytime someone has a go at this, they advance the concept a little further and find some more approaches, questions and solutions for their particular guitar and using their range of skills and ideas.

Encouragement...I see that this thread has just topped 35,000 visits! Surely the most watched topics around and been going now for almost two years. Most of those visits have been in recent times, with a thousand being in the last month and a hundred I see virtually overnight. I often look at what members and guests are looking at and there is almost always someone watching this thread at any time...hi to all those "lurkers" out there (feel free to join in btw)...which is pretty phenomenal...and certainly I keep coming back...so it is also a little addictive I suspect!

Anyway...I'm sure that answers your simple question which is often asked so I thought a fuller explanation and exploration was warranted. (I can always recycle it for the next time it is asked, and I think I am getting better at explaining it each time). The present incarnation of the DIY Sustainer here is pretty cheap and easy to build and can be tested completely separate from the guitar with no modifications before you fully commit to it...as an practical and interlectual exercise alone it is worth doing...and is a great introduction into electronics and how the electric guitar works.

Fun...most of all, the Sustainer Guitar is unlike anything else. It is not an "effect" like a stompbox, it doesn't really change the sound but the way the instrument plays and what can be played on it. It's not even just about "sustain", the harmonic mode greatly increases the range of the instrument and there is a whole world of new techniques to be discovered with it. It will produce characteristic feedback effects without the "need" for distortion or volume in a very controlled and predictable fashion and opens the door for more compositional approaches in the hands of a talented player. Most of all, the thing is just a fun thing to play...and that is what it is all about really, is it not. Even following this thread is a bit of fun in it's own geeky kind of way!!!

Welcome aboard stevenhoneywell you are already a part of the DIY Sustainer Thread epic...pete.... :D

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Wow Pete...many thanks for a clear and detailed explaination.

This would be "crazy" on a bass!!!!!...which brings me to another question. I've no intention of doing it but I would thought I would throw it into the "melting pot"

If you used a pickup cover like the old jazz basses, would that make the sustainer more effective by ensuring the field is more contained.....apologies if this doesn't make much sense

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At your service steve :D

Well, the Jazz bass cover might help a bit...


but i don't see people wanting something like this over the strings!!!

No, as far as deflecting the field, fernandes once had a coil built on it's side which helps but you can't get the core directly close to the strings this way because of the coil around it...even with those fins they used.

What does work a bit are metal fins that are magnetised opposite the cores polatity up the sides of the coil. This will tend to attract straying EMI to them before they reach the pickup...but not completely. A large pioce of steel will have a similar effect. But, the driver puts out a magnetic pulse and this pulse through the strings and can travel along them to the pickup anyway.

I did make my hex drivers set in an epoxy/iron composite and they were of a radical design. I did get it to work within 2cm from the driving pickup (between the bridge and middle pickups) but this took a lot of careful work (not really DIY) and ultimately had too be aligned so carefully...bending strings for instance would have odd effects...and would have to be carefully made for each guitar and location...not really practical...doh!

As for the bass. Sustainiac do make one. I did try it out with mine...but my fretless bass has a split P-bass style pickup so that the higher and lower pairs of strings are reversed in phase to create it's humbucker effect. So, some strings would drive in harmonic mode!!! It does work, though you'd probably have to redesign the coil a little I suspect. The thicker strings are far easier to drive...the high strings are the real problem...and they vibrate much slower and under less tension. There is almost always room to fit everything on the surface of a bass too as the strings are much higher and the (often single) pickup, due to the scale length, provides more than enough room for separation between the driver and the pickup!

Generally "covers" of any type over the driver are to be avoided though you could coat it in epoxy to look like an EMG for instance. I use a blade design so that the drive is consistant with bent strings and i don't have to worry about alignment of the poles. In many ways it is easier to make too so, that's my excuse. Many people however would like the driver to look just like a normal pickup...probably possible but we are looking at aesthetics over functionality here...not always compatible! I think my driver/pickup actually looks ok... :D

Anyway...iteresting...I imagine you could suspend the driver over the strings with a Jazz style cover lol!!!


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Hi and thanks Pete,

My mind started wondering. I had an idea years to "take an pickup which had it's own circuit into a buzzer which would vibrate at the same pitch as note being played and mounted onto the guitar body to try and resonant at the same frequency" I never worked it any further as I thought it wouldn't work on multiple notes unless I had multiple pickups with their own buzzers.......and I quickly knocked that idea on it's head.

One day a good idea may come out of my crazy thoughts :D

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hehehe :D

Well...besides my incredibly long and frequent posts...this thread is really about all things sustaining and no idea is too far out. I must say, I have not fully documented here my amazing array of far fetched ideas, let alone my ridiculous number of failures when putting some of them into practice.

Actually...there has been some private correspondance over things like the Hex driver that suggested that, because I woudn't say exactly how it worked, it was little more than an aluminium shell with LED's in it!!! Oh well, cant please everyone. The truth is, no one seems to yet know precicely why this "thin driver" seems to work as well as it does...but there are plenty of theories...

My mind started wondering. I had an idea years to "take an pickup which had it's own circuit into a buzzer which would vibrate at the same pitch as note being played and mounted onto the guitar body to try and resonant at the same frequency"

This is what is known as an "Acoustic" Sustainer...typified by Sustainiac's original Model C device that is still in production. You can simulate the effect by pressing the guitar's headstock against the speaker baffel so that the vibrations are transmitted into the guitar itself. What Sustainiac do, is have a powerful vibrating Transducer mounted to the headstock to vibrate the whole guitar, just as you suggest!

Now...a couple of key things. It does take a quite bit of power (their's is mains operated) and the headstock keeps the inevitable EMI well clear of the pickups, plus provides quite a bit of leverage with the neck which is easier to vibrate also, than the body of a solid bodied guitar.

We did look at this here. One idea is to cut the cone out of a small speaker, run it through an amp circuit like we are using to vibrate the guitar (there is a link somewhere on this in the thread). I tried mounting one in the spring cavity of a strat and on the trem block itself...but the EMI is far too great at the power levels required...nice try though. I also, cut up piezo buzzer elements and mounted them in the saddles to physically vibrate the strings (kind of a reverse acoustic pickup)...hmmm, nope! (but it took forever to get something together to prove myself wrong, it's harder than it might sound to do)

The ebow is perhaps the most elegant device. It has a very simple internal pickup and driver with a LM386 circuit and can be moved to exactly the right spot to get the best efficiency! The problem of course is that you have to hold it in your hand (restricting technique greatly) and is largely monophonic (one string at a time) and difficult to cross strings. It is also not cheap to buy, though you could make one...it has been done... :D Best of all, it is the ultimate, no mod device!

The good thing about electromagnetic sustainer driver concept is that it works silently and seeks not to try and shake the whole guitar (quite a bit of energy there) but just the strings. I have cut the cones out of speakers and got some effect...but, they do tend to be a bit noisy and the whole guitar is going to vibrate in your hands!

The electromagnetic string driver does use the resonance phenomenon to great effect...but there are issues of "phase". Resonance can break a wine glass for instance...ultra-sonic techniques are used in medicine to break up gall stones and the like without any surgery now. One potential problem is that the guitar strings are physically moving...say up and down (though it's more complex)...and the driver is trying to continue this motion. But there is a lag between the pickup getting the signal, amplifing it and then charging up the electromagnetic device and the strings responding too it.

This effect is more marked the higher in frequency you go and hampered by the high strings being thinner and having less mass to work on and a higher tension. Typically, people can build sustainers but have trouble driving these strings and high frequencies (see GalagaMikes sustianer tutorial). The commercial units try to address the problem with frequency detirmined phase compensation circuits that delay the signal in an attempt to get the device to remain in phase.

Now, Lovecraft here, after listening to me fretting over this for sometime in the early part of this thread, very astutely suggested I work on the driver design and stop reading patents and worrying about the circuitry. How right he was...and that's exactly what I did. Of course it was mainly due to me not having the skills and ability to actually put such a circuit together anyway, despite knowing what I wanted it to do! So you could try and compensate for phase...or, develop a driver fast enough that it wasn't so much of an issue...that is what we have here i think.

I never worked it any further as I thought it wouldn't work on multiple notes unless I had multiple pickups with their own buzzers.......and I quickly knocked that idea on it's head.

A wise man! Here you have hit upon some, including mine, elusive dream sustainer device. The sustaining of all strings equally. My Hex (six driver) device was an effort in that direction. Sustainers fit between being polyphonic and monophonic devices. The reality is with a monophonic signal and monophoic driver, the lower notes will inevitably win out over the higher ones in the frequency spectrum of a chord. The fact that the lower strings (due to their size) are easier to drive, just accentuates this.

But it's not like an analoge octave divider effect that goes into audio spasms if it tries to process more than one note at a time...the chord will ring through. And for single note lead lines...of course that note is the lowest note, so no problem. There are also some interesting compositional effects of this too. In harmonic mode, the lower string will disolve from it's initial note to a harmonic well above the rest of the chord...A fifth fret Aminor chord for instance, the low a on the low e string actually sounds the note two octaves higher (a note on the high e string) often producing notes impossible to play otherwise.

So although you cant sustain all notes of a chord equally forever, the desire to do so may be more interlectual than actual...otherwise, take up the organ!!! To be truely polyphonic in sustain you will need six pickups and six drivers and six amp circuits...plus they need to be very small...but there's more to the problem. We discussed in the last post how the EMI from the driver can influence other magnetic devices like a pickup. Now...say you can build a driver only 1cm wide (which i have), the EMI from one will influence the one next to it...doh! So I devised a scheme where in each driver would be triggered independantly from the others in quick succession...ohhh, that way lies death... It is all just so complex it's not funny, but even if you could do it, would the reward really be there? I suspect not! And practically, it would be expensive and radically change the instrument that we love...it would become something else entirely. I think I have decieded to leave this pursuit and I should have realised it sooner...though you got to admire a dreamer... B)

For now...I'd just like to see some more of the practical ideas being put into practice. This device does work and is great to play...bottom line. I'm sure it can be improved upon and some will make better versions than others...but it is only when more people actually get the thing onto a guitar and actually using it that progress will really be made I'm sure.

So, I'm still looking into the circuitry and such to make this a more approachable proposition, but as it is it is pretty darn cheap and easy to experiment with...and does work. You will learn a lot from having a go, participate in some interesting debate, as here, and have a unique musical tool that will hopefully lead to some fantastic new sounds and music...

I really do think that this "thing"...like brown being the new black, or orange being the new pink in fashion...has the potential to be the new "distortion" in the right hands. Just look at the things Hendrix was hinting at with his crude equipment as far as the use of feedback...I don't believe that he was ever able to exploit this to it's full effect in his music...nor has anyone I know of come close to using this powerful and uniquely electric guitar effect to it's full extent...

Anyway...enough of the stirring words...lets get building...pete

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Hi all...and welcome to protective1 who has been reading this thread for while now behind the scenes and is thinking of building...

I have been studying my guitars sustainer circuit. Compared to the Fetzer/Ruby my preamp has a lot more gain and some filtering. It is a bit more sophisticated and I think that the mamouth amount of gain that my preamp produces does a few things that contribute to my device working as well as it does.

A little history...I have never made the Fetzer/Ruby...this circuit first emerged as an option in GalagaMike's Sustainer Tutorial thread and has been made by quite a few, if not all, those trying this project out.

What is the effect of a very high gain preamp?...well, obviously I am overloading the input of the LM386 causing compression, clipping and a very hot loud signal to it's input...effectively an overdrive. Now, of course you don't hear this signal, as it only goes to the driver, but it does account for some of the effectiveness of my circuit compared to others. I am assured that the Fetzer/Ruby will work in this project, but will it work as well...possibly not.

This only lends itself further to me developing my circuit ideas a little further along the lines I have been discussing lately. I'm not sure if even what I have, which works well, is ideal. Several have thought that the input impedance is still too low, though it does not appear to load down my pickups, so I would still like to make improvements.

Unfortunately, when things get a little too technical like this, my eyes glaze over. Due to circumstances beyond my control at present, I am unable to experiment, which is my usual strategy to overcoming these problems. As I have said though, I have approached a few people who are more knowledgable than I in these matters to lend a hand.

So, if anyone out there would like to examine and discuss circuits or have some ability to draw up circuit board designs for a fairly simple circuit like this...I'd be keen to make contact. I can be contacted via email on psw1@dodo.com.au and can forward details of my current design and mod ideas. I am trying to learn Eagle, but if people have experience in circuit layout software like this, this could also benefit the D.I.Y. Sustainer Project.

Anyway...there still seems to be a fair number of visits to the thread and general interest and a few people going to embark on this project in 2006...look forward to seeing what comes up this year...pete

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I also have a messed up life, welcome to the club brother! In between jobs and all right now. But I'm wondering about improvements along the lines of containing or focusing or partially shielding/directing the waves in such a way as to allow closer placement of the driver to the pups. I only read the last several pages, so sorry if this has already been covered.

As stevenhoneywell said, he would not use one if he had to sacrifice the sonic benefit of using the bridge and neck pups. I'm of a similar mindset, but I would love to eventually have such a unit, even with the neck pup restriction, but if that restriction remains, then it would go on maybe my 3rd guitar, and that's years away for me.

You said

Right...the driver is much like a speaker coil that is trying to move the strings caught in it's magnetic field, much as the speaker moves it's cone.

So...the effect of the driver being to close to the (bridge) pickup is the same as putting a microphone right in front of a speaker...runaway ocillating feedback, or squeal...not what we want. SO, you need adequate distance between the two devices.

Focused Shielding

There may be essentially four kinds of shielding that we could consider. Those can be grouped into two categories, proximity and type. Proximity would be one set of shielding for the outgoing emi(?) local to the driver, and the other shielding local to the pups. Then there's type which also has two kinds, deflection and absorption, I'm thinking of materials like lead for absorption and steal for deflection.

An implementation idea, or mandate (chuckles), is to have these customized reflector shield's designed to just clear your strings. The goal is to inhibit or redirect the field generated by the driver in such a way as to focus it on the strings (good side benefit) instead of toward the pups, and thus restrict the horizontal plane field activity that is the problem for your pups.

What material works best for shielding/absorption?

What material works best reflection/deflection?

What shape(s) works best for deflection for the driver and pups?

Thanks for your contributions, obviously there is much interest, but the process will likely be a lengthy one as some would not buy for some years to come, but in the mean time, you have a twinkle going on in many eyes! Keep up the good work!

Edited by 1Way
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