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Post new topic Dobro For Live Gigs........Pickup/Aura or Mic?
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Author Topic:  Dobro For Live Gigs........Pickup/Aura or Mic?
Jim Fogarty


From:
Phila, Pa, USA
Post  Posted 2 Apr 2019 4:10 pm    
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I have an acoustic duo tour coming up, and the artist (Iain Matthews) wants me to play a little dobro, now that I'm working on it a bit.

So....my choice:

I have a Gretsch Bobtail which sounds ok, but nothing special....BUT it has a Fishman Nashville pickup in it, and I have the Fishman Jerry Douglas Aura to go with it.

I also just bought a Recording King Phil Leadbetter model, which is a huge upgrade acoustically (and aesthetically), but has no pickup, so I'd have to use a mic. I prefer playing this one, but it's not a deal breaker.

Installing a pickup in the Leadbetter isn't an option in time for the shows this week.

I'll also be playing mandolin, which I could do either with (plugged in or mic) and an acoustic guitar, which I'll plug in.

What would you do?
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Mark Eaton


From:
Sonoma County in The Great State Of Northern California
Post  Posted 2 Apr 2019 5:02 pm    
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I'd probably lean toward using the mic with the RK Leadbetter model, but it sort of depends on the venue.

But the cool thing about the Gretsch is that with the Fishman Nashville pickup run through the Aura, it takes it out of the "entry level" guitar neighborhood and makes it something bigger than it is. I just don't like that way those Gretsch guitars "feel" while playing. Unless it has received a good aftermarket setup, it's hard to describe, but to me they play kind of soft or spongy.

Iain Matthews is a big league dude - you of course want to be on your "A Game."

I have yet to play the new RK Leadbetter in person but from all the reviews and videos I've seen, it's getting glowing reports. Seems to be a really nice resonator guitar for the money.

All that said, these days when I'm playing out somewhere with my Clinesmith, whether it's a small place or a larger venue, I usually plug in with the Aura combo and forego the microphone. I'll go direct to the board with it, and after the Aura I usually boost it with a preamp and sometimes use an effect or two like for example a little bit of delay. One of the reasons Jerry Douglas was the main guinea pig for the technology years ago was that he was tired of being "invisibly tethered" to a microphone. It's even taken hold with Rob Ickes. After he left Blue Highway going on four years ago and formed his duo with Trey Hensley, he pretty much exclusively plays his Scheerhorn plugged into an Aura setup.

The "larger venues" I typically play in are during church events in some fairly big buildings, so it's easier for me to plug in than use a mic.

The purists will usually say that your best sound is into a good mic, and I don't disagree - but the audience can't tell the difference 90% or more of the time.

Occasionally I play at a winery gig where it might be an event for their tasting club members - some food is served - and a lot of wine is poured.

These people are definitely not paying attention like they would to one of the founding members of Fairport Convention.
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Jeff Mead


From:
London, England
Post  Posted 3 Apr 2019 10:11 am    
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Are you travelling with your own sound guy? If so, I'd ask him if he prefers plug in or mic.

If you are using the house engineer at each venue, I think I'd go with the simpler option (plug in).

I agree that 90% of the audience wouldn't be able to tell the difference.

BTW - I own a Fender dual pro steel that used to belong to Gordon Huntley (pedal steel player in Matthew's Soutnern Comfort).
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Jim Fogarty


From:
Phila, Pa, USA
Post  Posted 3 Apr 2019 10:23 am    
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Jeff Mead wrote:

If you are using the house engineer at each venue, I think I'd go with the simpler option (plug in).

I agree that 90% of the audience wouldn't be able to tell the difference..


This is how I'm leaning, for now. I can always change after a show or two, as my house will be our base.


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Jim Fogarty


From:
Phila, Pa, USA
Post  Posted 8 Apr 2019 12:25 pm    
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Thanks, all..........I went with the Bobtail/Fishman/JD Aura setup. We're two gigs in and it's gone very well so far. Just needed to tame the low strings a bit with my EQ pedal.
The deciding factor was the wide variety of venues we'd be playing, with anything from pro soundmen to having to deal with the system ourselves.
So, now I'm committed to getting a Fishman Nashville pickup in my RK Phil Leadbetter. Anyone know where I can get a decent price?
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Howard Parker


From:
Clarksburg,MD USA
Post  Posted 8 Apr 2019 12:35 pm    
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I've never seen the pickup discounted. Retail currently is $209.

Don't forget to factor in setup/installation and possibly a spider replacement to facilitate the install. (highly recommended)

ymmv

hp
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Howard Parker

03' Carter D-10
70's Dekley D-10
52' Fender Custom
Many guitars by Paul Beard
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gary pierce


From:
Rossville TN
Post  Posted 8 Apr 2019 3:28 pm    
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FYI, although a great pick up. the Fishman Aura does take away some of the acoustic properties on some reso's. I know this first hand, and removed it in one of my better reso's.
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Mark Eaton


From:
Sonoma County in The Great State Of Northern California
Post  Posted 9 Apr 2019 10:03 am    
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gary pierce wrote:
FYI, although a great pick up. the Fishman Aura does take away some of the acoustic properties on some reso's. I know this first hand, and removed it in one of my better reso's.


Gary, which one did you have in the guitar? The one shown in the upper photo with the black cap is the most current version of the Fishman Nashville pickup. It has been out for quite some time. Fishman has made various tweaks to the pickup since it was first introduced around 11 years ago. The original version in the bottom photo with the white cap had sort of a metal "bar" sandwiched between the cap and base. Many players complained that this was effecting their unplugged tone. That would make sense.

Fishman and Paul Beard worked on solutions and in 2013 a new version came out, the upper photo with the black cap. No metal bar sandwiched between cap and base, just a very thin piezo electric element.

The current version (black cap) is what I have in my Clinesmith resonator, mounted on a Schoonover modular spider. I suppose if I pulled it out and put an acoustic only saddle back in and did an A/B test, I might be able to tell the difference - but it would be really subtle. I don't believe it would be noticed in a blindfold test by almost anyone.

Whoops - sorry about the size disparity of the photos, but I'm going to leave as is - don't want to go back and try to figure out how to fix it right now.

For anyone purchasing the pickup, you want to make sure to avoid the old version containing the metal bar. Dealer should not even be selling the old version anymore, but I have heard a couple stories in the past few years when someone had been shipped the old version.






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Jim Fogarty


From:
Phila, Pa, USA
Post  Posted 9 Apr 2019 10:18 am    
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Mark,

My Bobtail has the metal piece, but with a black top.......which I guess is some intermediate version between the two you posted?

Electrically, it works great. Acoustically, I don't know, as it's not exactly a premium reso.

Thanks.
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Howard Parker


From:
Clarksburg,MD USA
Post  Posted 9 Apr 2019 10:30 am    
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Jim Fogarty wrote:
Mark,

My Bobtail has the metal piece, but with a black top.......which I guess is some intermediate version between the two you posted?

Thanks.


Actually a first gen. There's no practical difference between the light & dark colored insert material.

h
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Mark Eaton


From:
Sonoma County in The Great State Of Northern California
Post  Posted 9 Apr 2019 11:35 am    
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Jim Fogarty wrote:
Mark,

My Bobtail has the metal piece, but with a black top.......which I guess is some intermediate version between the two you posted?

Electrically, it works great. Acoustically, I don't know, as it's not exactly a premium reso.

Thanks.


Jim, you must have one of the early Bobtails if it still has the metal bar in the pickup, color of the bridge cap aside.

If one needs a dobro for the occasional plugged in gig, then yeah - the Gretsch Bobtail is a decent solution.

The same guitar w/o the Fishman pickup (Boxcar) goes for about $360 - so that puts it in the "entry level" category. This makes the Bobtail a good deal, since as Howard pointed out the pickup alone as an aftermarket item goes for over $200 retail, and then you have one of the preferred spiders at additional cost (Schoonover Modular or Beard Adjustable), and if you don't have the experience in successfully installing the unit it's best to suck it up and fork out the money to have a pro do it rather than risk the trial-and-error approach.

It's apparently the buying power of the long arm of Fender/Gretsch that they are able to add the pickup to the Bobtail model for what is essentially only a $140 up charge over the no pickup Boxcar version.

I guess it depends how serious one is about upgrading the dobro portion of their instrument collection and what one can allow for the budget.

I have yet to play one of the new Recording King Leadbetter models but in the few videos I've seen they sound good, and the reports from a number of players have been positive. And like a Gold Tone/Beard, they are a nice looking guitars. Actually, I think for a an imported dobro I prefer the looks of the Leadbetter over the entry level Gold Tone PBS.

If I were in your shoes Jim and lived in Philly - here is what I would do: I would plan a road trip to Hagerstown, Maryland to the Beard shop. I had to look it up - depending on traffic it's a 3+ hour drive to Hagerstown. I would set up an appointment and have them install the pickup in the Recording King. You might even go for a Beard Legend cone while you're at it - they sound great! And you will be getting any setup tweaks needed while you're there to bring the RK up to its optimum level. You will also be able to check out some of Paul's fine guitars while you're at it, and perhaps purchase any needed accessories.

Then I would turn around and sell the Gretsch to recoup some of the costs of the expedition, unless you feel you really need to keep it around as a backup.
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gary pierce


From:
Rossville TN
Post  Posted 9 Apr 2019 2:06 pm    
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Mark, mine was the early version, so I might have to try the new, and improved one.
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Mark Eaton


From:
Sonoma County in The Great State Of Northern California
Post  Posted 9 Apr 2019 2:54 pm    
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Were I a betting man, I would have put money on it that you had the early one.

It's why I went into the elaborate spiel above - without that information it leaves out some important details.
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gary pierce


From:
Rossville TN
Post  Posted 9 Apr 2019 6:03 pm    
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I have to say, my Shertler, and LrBaggs Pari sounds pretty fat, but has a tendency to feed back if the monitors are to loud.
Thanks for taking the time to explain the new Fishman.
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