Considering a Fully Portable Modular



I have never been satisfied with the levels I get out of my instruments. I find that I always have the level on the pickup dimed, then when I turn up the Apogee audio interface I get an unhappy amount of background through the mic’d instrument. I always find ways to tweak things and make it work, but it does make me wonder about switching from an audio interface designed for guitars to an interface that simply has an input. Part of the reason I built the compressor pedal was to get a little more punchy sustained signal, and it worked really well. I almost built a clean boost pedal also. If I were to build another guitar I would probably put electric pickups in instead, in order to get a grittier, more full sound out of my pedal chain. All in all though putting acoustic pickups through a fuzz circuit does create a unique sound.

Yeah, so there must be a major difference between the world of interfaces that sell on the basis of their preamps and an interface that is built to deal with control voltages.


There isn’t really. A lot of interfaces use the same converters. It can make a difference if the power is coming directly from the iPad like your Apogee might vs a grounded power from something like the ES-8. Power from iPad will be dirtier and the noise floor will be higher.

So you can either use a booster pedal before entering your interface to make the signal louder, or you can just amplify it inside Audulus using x*100 or something to get it near -1 to 1.

EDIT: I think I misread. Do you have one of those combo Apogees that have a built in electret/condenser mic and that’s what you’re talking about with noise? Because the ES-8 does not have a headphone output to monitor your output you’ll need an external headphone mixer. You can get a small 4hp one if thats what you want.


Do you have an active preamp designed for an acoustic pickup between the pickup and the Apogee? The instrument input on most interfaces is designed with magnetic pickups in mind and doesn’t really work that well with a piezo element. I have another dulcimer with a plain acoustic pickup and no preamp, and it doesn’t work nearly as well as the Fishman running into any of my interfaces


I tried passing the signal through a mic pre but I wasn’t able to get more out of the sound without increasing the noise, no matter how I fiddled with the gain staging. The pickup on the acoustic guitar is passive, whereas the pickup on my acoustic bass is active.


It’s hard to get a read on exactly how dirty/clean the signal is you’re talking about. It’s impossible to amplify a signal without also increasing the noise. It sounds like the pickup might be the part that’s introducing the most noise. I take it your acoustic bass has less noise?

Passive pickups in particular are very susceptible to the high frequency noise that both electronics and the connectors between them produce. I have to sit at a 90 degree angle to my laptop with my electric guitar when I record.


I found that when I placed my bare foot on my compressor pedal after I had all my gear wired up, the noise dissipated so much that I tend to touch my leg to it when I want to record into Beatmaker 3. :joy:


Yeah that’s almost certainly a combination of the pickups being noisy themselves and the ungrounded connection between the interface and iPad and guitar. An active pickup will probably solve this problem for you.


Any other ideas? I am not about to refit the pickup on the guitar any time soon. I mean it is all workable as it is, but not quite running like the Ferrari should.


If you’re using the same chain for your guitar and bass and the bass isn’t as noisy, it’s almost 100% the pickup you’re using on the guitar, and the only long term solution is replacing it. In the short term, just continue to touch your pedal when you play I guess?


I also was happy with the Klevgrand Brusfri but the damn AUv3 eats CPU like hell.


That’s a cool plugin! Thanks for the tip.


What you really need is a preamp designed for a piezo acoustic pickup. There are a bunch on the market depending on your price bracket. I like the Fishman products, but like most anything you’ll find a lot of different opinions. Mic preamps aren’t really designed for a piezo. The impedance matching is a bit off and piezos generally require some tone shaping for the best results. This is an example. It’s designed to be worn on your belt to keep the signal lead as short as possible. An internal one is even better for noise since you minimize the noise pickup, but is a bit more of a hassle to fit. This one gives you treble, bass, an adjustable mid-range, phase invert and a selectable DI output. It will also run on 48v phantom power or battery. My internal runs on a 9v and the battery lasts for months.


I am always slightly shocked by your range of knowledge. We are lucky to have you here. Btw, I have made some patches with those super awesome micro modules you made for creating intricate sequences. I just don’t share much because I want things to get to a certain level of interest. Makes me think that Audulus may be a superior sequencing platform compared to the Nerd Seq in more than a few ways.

Regarding the pre; I build instruments with my Dad and he has a habit of ordering cheap parts from China to put into his beautiful designs. I guess to his mind, he can then just build more instruments. Me, I am a sucker for buying expensive gear. But for the particular guitar I mentioned, I checked out the Fishman pickups and they are about $400. Then you send it to a $150 pre? The pickup I have is about $25. :grin:

So if the idea is to go pickup --> pre --> audio interface, then what I really ought to do is switch out the pickup itself before buying an expensive pre. Right?

On another note, it would be super awesome if there were some good pre’s as Eurorack modules. This would seem to fit next to the ES-8 rather nicely wouldn’t it?


Fishman has an internal active model (Presys +) including the pickup for about $190. It would however, require cutting a hole to fit it into your instrument.
There are some preamps that are designed to fit inside the body of the guitar that have no controls, but they don’t offer as much flexibility. LR Baggs is another very well respected brand and they have an internal active system for $90
This one is a bit different in that, rather than a typical under-saddle installation, this is designed to attach to the underside of the top directly under the saddle. Peel and stick. It has a class A FET preamp and uses a 9v battery. Not as much control but much easier to install.
There are a lot of pedal style acoustic preamps available as well. The problem with the pedal type is noise. As you have discovered, the signal from a passive piezo pickup is pretty low level and requires high gain to make it useable. By putting the preamp at the other end of a long guitar cable, you are amplifying any noise picked up by the cable as well as the signal from the pickup. Ideally, you want to keep the cable between the pickup and the preamp as short as possible to minimize the noise. That’s why the external Fishman I posted earlier has a belt clip and most high end pickups are active and have a preamp inside the guitar. A short cable between the pickup and preamp and the long cable after the signal is boosted.
Anyway you go, I think you’ll find that some sort of acoustic preamp is going to be your best solution. The external Fishman has the advantage that you wouldn’t have to mod the guitar at all, and it could be used with more than one instrument. It also has a bass position which could come in handy. You can always change your pickup if you aren’t happy with the results. Internal is probably the best for noise performance and minimizes cables, boxes etc. Even if you replace the pickup, a passive system won’t perform as well as an active one, so you’ll be better off with a preamp regardless of which option you choose.


I noticed there are a few tiles offered by Pulp Logic, who make the Lunchbox case.

Any thoughts on these that might be useful to pick up when ordering the case? A few I use in Audulus. Are some better to have as hardware – slew, sample and hold, etc?

Or, are there some nice modules that could fit in this row instead from other companies? Like these 1U from intelijel (if you scroll down the page).

Anyone know if the case is waterproof?


Does this mean I should go with the V88 external battery and just leave it outside the case, instead of choosing one of the options on the Pulp Logic list?

"We have tested the LBZ54 with a few off the shelf battery solutions which are listed below:

Talentcell Rechargeable 6000mAh Li-Ion Battery: Unregulated no-frills 12V rechargeable battery pack. Simple and inexpensive.

YCPower MP-S2300 Solar Charger: This seems to be a generic import that is sold under a number of name brands. The solar panel is useless, but it looks cool.

Anker 2nd Gen Astro Pro2 20000mA: Nice compact package and reasonable play time. The USB port is handy for powering an external sequencer.

GOAL ZERO YETI 150 SOLAR GENERATOR: Total overkill for the Traveler. With the solar add-on your LBZ would play until the end of time.

12V UPS Sealed AGM: These are typically used in uninterruptible power supplies and are inexpensive and readily available. Many DIY charging solutions or just trickle charge from a DC power supply."


Wow, that is some nice research on the rechargeable batteries! I would definitely have an external battery, it just gives you a lot of latitude to switch out and move around the modules you decide upon. It is a very rare modular set up that stays the same for very long. Each time I think I’ve reached the final form, something comes up that makes me reshuffle the arrangement or sub something out.

Man, I really want that YETI though. Looks like something that will be highly prized after the inevitable zombie apocalypse.

edit: regarding the pulp logic tiles, I think they are pretty simple intentionally, I think the cyclic skew looks the most useful on a regular basis, but if you have audulus and an ES-8 you need almost none of these.

Cyclic_Skew_Back|180x180Cyclic Skew Switch|180x180Cyclic-Skew_S|180x180

Cyclic Skew


Of course, that is just the list I pasted from Pulp Logic’s website. I am partial to that Voltaic V88.

The 1U modules are interesting. [This pedal interface from intelijel, for example]


Ah, just a heads up about Intellijel’s 1U tiles, they use a different power cable/source than the pulp logic and are a little shorter. Basically they are designed only for Intellijel cases (which are very nice) and pulp logic has been adopted by a few other outfits, like Synthrotek, and are considered to be more DIY friendly.

But yeah, a line level to modular interface is super handy, up until a few weeks ago I had 3 such modules in 2 cases :stuck_out_tongue:


Well feel free to make a blanket statement about 1U tiles.

This was an interesting read.

From what I gather the tiles are mostly just cute, because you can’t really do much with that kind of space. Then I look at the Synthrotek lunchbox – waterproof. 84hp instead of 54. $525 instead of $250. Bigger – which, in my world, is inhibiting. But then I see they make a “power lunch,” coming in at $184. I have moved from looking at the Pulp Logic case to looking at the Synthrotek one, not that I have any idea which would best suit me.

I wish I could see them in person and be able to say either “yeah, there is more room in this case, but I don’t want to have to carry it,” or “considering this case is about the same size, I might as well go for it so I can add a few extra modules in the future.”