Under Saddle Pickup Problems [Reason & 7 Way to Fix]

Under saddle pickups are a popular choice for acoustic guitarists and other stringed instrument players who desire a versatile and natural amplified sound. These pickups are placed under the saddle, which is the small piece of material that raises the strings off the guitar’s body. However, like any electrical component, under saddle pickups can encounter issues that affect their performance and sound quality.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore common problems associated with under saddle pickups, delve into the root causes behind these issues, and provide effective solutions to troubleshoot and resolve them.

Under Saddle Pickup Problems

Under saddle pickups can encounter several issues that may impact their performance and sound quality. There are some of the common reasons behind these problems:

Reason of the Under Saddle Pickup Problems:

1. Loose Connections:

Loose Connections

There can be a loss of signal or intermittent sound when the pickup is connected loosely to the preamp or amplifier. This issue may result from worn-out cables or poorly soldered connections.

2. Dead Battery:

Under saddle pickups equipped with onboard preamps require power from a battery. If the battery is dead or depleted, the pickup may produce no sound or a weak signal.

3. Saddle Slot Depth:

Saddle Slot Depth

The depth of the saddle slot is critical for maintaining balanced string height. If the slot is too shallow or deep, it can lead to uneven or unbalanced output across the strings.

4. Saddle Material:

The material of the saddle can affect the pickup’s tone and string balance. Different saddle materials may produce varying levels of brightness or warmth, leading to tonal imbalances.

5. Pickup Sensor Misalignment:

If the pickup sensors are not correctly aligned under the saddle, certain strings may be favored over others, resulting in uneven output levels.

6. Feedback and Noise:

Under saddle pickups can be prone to feedback and unwanted noise, especially when used with high-gain amplification or in live performance settings.

7. Grounding Issues:

Improper grounding can introduce unwanted noise and interference into the pickup system, negatively impacting the overall sound quality.

8. External Interference:

Under saddle pickups can be susceptible to picking up external electromagnetic interference, leading to buzzing or hum.

9. Inadequate Preamp EQ Adjustments:

Onboard preamps often come with EQ controls that allow players to fine-tune the pickup’s tone. If these controls are not adjusted correctly, the pickup may produce a thin or harsh sound.

10. Poor Instrument Resonance:

Sometimes, under saddle pickups may not fully capture the natural resonance and tonal characteristics of the instrument, leading to a less vibrant and authentic amplified sound.

11. Improper Installation:

Improper Installation

Incorrect installation of the under saddle pickup can result in sub-optimal performance and sound quality.

It is essential to identify the root cause of any under saddle pickup problem before attempting to fix it.

Effective Way to Fix: Under Saddle Pickup Problems –

Fixing under saddle pickup problems can vary depending on the specific issue encountered. Here are some effective ways to address common under saddle pickup problems:

a) No Sound or Weak Signal:

Check the cable:

Make sure the pickup cable is securely connected to the amplifier or preamp. Replacing a damaged cable is the best solution.

Check the battery:

Check the battery

If your pickup system includes an onboard preamp, verify that the battery is not depleted or has expired. Replace it with a fresh battery to see if it solves the issue.

Check the connection:

Inspect the wiring and connections within the pickup system. Loose or disconnected wires can cause signal loss, so re-solder any loose connections carefully.

b) Uneven or Unbalanced Output:

Saddle Slot Depth:

Adjust the saddle slot depth to ensure each string sits at the correct height. A luthier can help make precise adjustments to achieve balanced output.

Saddle Material:

Saddle Material

Experiment with different saddle materials to find the one that provides the most balanced output. Materials like bone, synthetic bone, and certain types of plastics can affect the tonal balance.

Pickup Sensor Alignment:

If the pickup sensors are misaligned, carefully reposition them under the saddle to achieve an even output across all strings.

c) Feedback and Unwanted Noise:

Feedback Suppression:

Use a feedback suppressor or sound-hole covers to minimize feedback issues during amplified performances.

Notch Filters:

Notch Filter

Some preamp systems come with notch filters that allow you to cut specific frequencies prone to feedback. Experiment with these filters to find the best setting for your setup.

Isolate Grounding Issues:

Ensure all connections are properly grounded to eliminate potential noise sources. Double-check the grounding connections and, if necessary, seek professional assistance.

d) Thin or Harsh Sound:

EQ Adjustments:

EQ Adjustment

You can use the preamp EQ control to adjust the pickup tone. You can also adjust the treble, bass and midrange that help the more difference in the sound.

Acoustic Feedback:

To enhance the overall sound, consider installing an external microphone or a soundboard transducer alongside the under saddle pickup to capture more of the instrument’s natural resonance.

e) External Interference:


Add shielding to the pickup and preamp compartments to reduce the pickup’s susceptibility to electromagnetic interference.

f) Poor Instrument Resonance:

Combination with Other Pickups:

Consider using a combination of different pickup types, such as a soundboard transducer or magnetic sound-hole pickup, to capture a broader range of the instrument’s tonal characteristics.

g) Proper Installation:

Proper Installation

Proper installation of an under saddle pickup is essential to ensure optimal performance and sound quality. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you install an under saddle pickup correctly:

Tools and Materials Needed:

– Under saddle pickup
– Sandpaper or file
– Thin, flexible ruler
– Soldering iron and solder
– Wire cutters/strippers
– Double-sided tape or adhesive putty
– Drill & screwdriver (if necessary)

Follow the Installation Guide:

1. Prepare the Guitar:

Remove the strings: Loosen and remove the strings from your guitar to gain access to the saddle slot.

2. Clean the saddle slot:

Make sure the slot is free from debris and dust. Use a thin, flexible ruler or a suitable tool to clean the slot thoroughly.

3. Select the Pickup:

Choose the appropriate under saddle pickup for your instrument. There are various types and sizes available, so ensure that the pickup matches your guitar’s saddle slot dimensions.

4. Fit the Pickup:

Test-fit the under saddle pickup into the saddle slot. The pickup should sit snugly and flat against the bottom of the slot.

5. Adjust the Pickup Length (If Needed):

If the pickup is longer than the saddle slot, trim it to the correct length using sandpaper or a file. Ensure that the pickup fits entirely within the slot.

6. Install the Pickup:

On the bottom of the pickup, apply only a little bit of double-sided tape or sticky putty. Make sure that the pickup is centered and in line with the strings before carefully inserting it into the saddle slot.

7. Wiring (If Applicable):

Some under saddle pickups may require wiring to connect to a preamp or output jack. If your pickup has separate wires, solder them to the appropriate terminals on the preamp or output jack. Follow the manufacturer’s wiring diagram for proper connections.

8. Secure the Pickup (If Needed):

Some under saddle pickups come with small screws or brackets to secure them in place. If your pickup has these components, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to attach and secure the pickup firmly.

9. Reinstall the Strings:

Once the pickup is securely in place, restring your guitar. Make sure the strings are properly seated in the saddle slots.

10. Test and Fine-Tune:

Plug the guitar into the amp and test the pickup output. Adjust the pickup tone to using the pream EQ controls.

11. Check for Proper Functionality:

Strum all strings and play at different positions on the fretboard to ensure that the pickup accurately captures the full range of your instrument’s sound.

Seek Professional Help: If you are unsure about how to install or troubleshoot the under saddle pickup, it’s best to seek assistance from a professional guitar technician. They have the expertise to handle the installation properly and diagnose any issues accurately.

Under saddle pickups are valuable tools for amplifying acoustic instruments, but they can encounter various issues that affect their performance and sound quality. By understanding the root causes of these problems and employing the effective troubleshooting techniques provided in this comprehensive guide.

Musicians can resolve under saddle pickup problems and enjoy a natural, balanced, and clear amplified sound, elevating their musical performances to new heights. Remember that some problems may require specialized tools and skills.

So, don’t hesitate to seek professional help if you encounter complex issues with your under saddle pickup. Proper maintenance and regular checks can also help prevent potential problems and ensure optimal performance in the long run.

Last Updated on August 19, 2023 by Perry Garner

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