A violinist friend of mine is planning to buy this pickup, Fishman V-200, for his acoustic violin.

Can it be hooked directly to a mixer for recording or live performance? Or, do we have to add a preamp/DI box to the chain to get a rich, full tone?

I'm familiar with standard electric guitar setups like miking the amp and DI box->Amp model.

What will be the standard setup for violin with this piezo pickup?

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According to the user guide, the manufacturer recommends a 10M ohm impedance preamp. That's a very high impedance, which might even exceed the guitar/"instrument level" input on some mixers (contrast with "line level" and "microphone level").

The short answer is that unless your mixer has a matching high-Z input, then the violin is going to sound thin in a manner very similar to your experiences with electrical guitars. It'll work in the sense that you can get a signal from the violin pickup, but you probably won't like the result. Updated: A regular DI unit might not have a high enough impedance, since electric guitar pickups are in the 20K to 40K range. For maximum flexibility, your friend should consider getting a DI unit with an input impedance that matches the pickup.

Here's a good overview of impedance in relation to sound recording. According to this, the Fishman V-200 is a high-Z source. It's okay to connect a low-Z source to a high-Z input, but the opposite has consequences:

If you connect a low-Z source to a high-Z load, there is no distortion or frequency-response change caused by this connection. But if you connect a high-Z source to a low-Z load, you might get distortion or altered response. For example, suppose you connect an electric bass guitar (a high-Z device) into an XLR-type mic input (a low-Z load). The low frequencies in the signal will roll off, so the bass will sound thin. We want the bass guitar to be loaded by a high impedance, and we want the mic input to be fed by a low-impedance signal. A direct box or impedance-matching adapter does this.

(emphasis mine)

I don't have any experience with the Fishman V-200 pickup, but trying to plug in electric guitars and basses into low-Z inputs is a pretty common problem that a lot of musicians have run into at some point. Without the Internet, or some knowledge of electrical engineering, the result can be pretty baffling :-)

  • Thanks Kim, for the detailed info. There's a possibility that acoustic instrument piezo pickup might produce a more usable output than electric guitar/magnetic pickup as we know. I'm only guessing, haven't tried yet.Fishman suggests its G II preamp, which has a 1/4" input and a 1/4" output. Its manual says the preamp can be connected to an Amp or DI (why again? Should I get one to use with this preamp), or mixer (unbalanced Mic input). Or there's another more expensive preamp with XLR output. I couldn't decide whether to suggest one of these (volume/tone control!) or a DI. – Ananth Feb 27 '11 at 19:30
  • The recommend 10 million ohm impedance really stood out to me, though. I've seen the impedance of electrical guitar pickups quoted around 20K to 40K ohms. I think the low end of a violin doesn't come anywhere close to the deep E string on an electric guitar, but still, I imagine there must be a fairly significant roll-off in the low end when connecting to a low-Z input with this pickup. I guess your best bet is to try before you buy? – Kim Burgaard Feb 27 '11 at 19:38
  • I just looked at the G-II product page. It transforms the impedance from 10M to a much more usable 3.5K, but the output is still not balanced. So I think they're just saying you have the option of using the G-II together with a DI unit to get both; the impedance step-down as well as running the signal into the mixer through a balanced connection. A regular DI unit will probably have an impedance lower than 1M, so that's why you need the G-II even with a DI – Kim Burgaard Feb 27 '11 at 19:45
  • Try before buy- not possible here :( I have a DI (samson s-direct), will run some tests. "...you need a GII even with a DI"? I was wondering do I need the DI if I get G-II. Unbalanced -> mixer, not good? – Ananth Feb 27 '11 at 20:00
  • G-II -> mixer should work great over shorter distances and if you don't have problems with hum – Kim Burgaard Feb 27 '11 at 20:06

I use a Fishman v100 with their 3 band eq/preamp. Plugging the preamp directly into a Fender guitar amp hiZ input (1/4") is not giving me good sound. It is "crackling" or "glassy" for want of better words.

Using a DI box (passive) and going directly to the mixer works well.

I want to try the new Fishman Loud Box amplifiers though. I think that might be the best solution. I've heard a guitar played through the smaller one and it sounded great, but I havn't yet tried the violin. We'll see.

Friday 11/4 I tried the Loud Box mini amplifier. It was terific (I bought it). Very clean sound and more power than most will ever need. I would recommend this set-up to anybody looking for faithful reproduction of their violin's sound. Incidentally, the V-100 pickup is the same as the V-200 except it has a 1/8" jack compared to the V-200's Carpenter type 1/4" jack.

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