If you have been playing guitar for quite some time, you must have come across the sustainer pickup, which is not a typical system in the guitar community.
You must have wondered what these pickups were and why so many professionals were so crazy about them.
So if you are here to explore sustainer pickups, then you are at the right place. We have created a simple yet detailed guide that will help you to know about sustainer pickup.
We have tried to cover all the essential aspects of our guide, so you have an in-depth idea about this pickup type.
So before getting into the vital part, let’s understand;
Sustainer pickups are a unique and different from neck or bridge pickup system whose main job is to deliver sustain sound while playing varied solos.
Unlike normal sustainers, they treat you with unlimited amounts of sustains, whether you are playing solos or with your band.
Although a sustainer pickup limits your tonal range and allows you to concentrate on specific genres, it also opens up different kinds of new things for you to explore.
Usually, this kind of pickup system is always coupled with other pickups, so you can also use it to play notes in a normal manner.
However, sustainer pickups are not used on a broader scale, and only a limited amount of professionals and enthusiasts use them for their solos.
If you are a big fan of Steve Vai and would love to explore the way he incorporates sustain in his solos, then this pickup is ideal for you.
The major drawback of this kind of pickup is that you can’t switch it off like a standard sustainer device that would come into play when you will use the device.
Now, let’s go through its working;
How Does the Sustainer Pickup Works?
Sustainer pickup works in a mysterious way, and the whole system is quite different from what you see in a regular sustainer pedal.
Basically, the coils inside the sustainer pickup develop a magnetic field, so when you play a note, it causes the string to vibrate in an indefinite manner.
This vibration synchronizes with the bridge pickup, and ultimately it creates the sustaining sound. Since the strings are close to the pickup so they get excited by the magnetic field, and they start vibrating indefinitely.
Unlike other pickup types, you are greeted with an unlimited sustain whenever you play the guitar. Plus, instead of picking up the vibration from the string, these pickups cause the string to vibrate through its EM field.
However, if this pickup type doesn’t come inbuilt in your system, then they are challenging to install.
You will have to take them to a luthier who will carve your guitar to place the pickup along with other pickups in your guitar.
Most importantly, this is a risky process, and it incurs vast costs based on the pickup and your guitar model.
Apart from electromagnetic methods, some sustainer pickup also utilizes electroacoustic processes to create the sustaining sound.
However, pickups that use this kind of method are quite heavy, and they are generally installed in the headstock of the electric guitars.
It follows the same working process as the electromagnetic method so that unlimited sustain won’t be a problem for you.
Surprisingly it has more popularity than electromagnetic sustainer pickup systems because you can easily install it in your guitar without needing to make any adjustment.
If your guitar doesn’t come with inbuilt sustainer pickup, then the electroacoustic system is a good bet because you don’t have to take your guitar to a luthier to place it.
You can simply clip it in the headstock and enjoy the sustain. The Sustainiac Model C is the most popular electroacoustic pickup available in the market.
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Alternatives For Getting Unlimited Sustain
Apart from using a sustainer pickup, there isn’t any proper and reliable method that will help you to boost the sustain of your guitar.
Many people have used distortion pedals and compressors as an alternative way to create an unlimited sustain, but nothing could match the performance of sustainer pickups.
Nowadays, certain brands are coming to the market to provide unlimited sustainer, but none of them offer practicality for long term usage.
Plus, they aren’t cost-effective and require you to have a proper electric guitar setup.
However, if you are keen to explore unlimited sustain like Steve Vai has done in most of his solos, especially ” For The Love Of God,” then going old school would be the safe bet.
The process is straightforward, and you just have to play your guitar as loud as possible.
While playing the guitar in the loudest volume, you just have to go near or face your amp, and it will ultimately do the trick.
So when facing your guitar toward the amplifier, it produces a lot of feedback, and this feedbacks paves the path for almost unlimited sustain.
Most importantly, it transforms all your notes into an ear soothing harmonics that can make a significant impact in your music-making. Like others, they aren’t a practical option as it is not possible to play the guitar at a high volume all the time.
Another option you can go for is the eBow option, which is not very popular among guitarists due to the clumsiness it offers.
You can get them at a cheap rate, but you won’t be able to play your electric guitar fluently while using the eBow.
Some Popular Manufacturers of Sustainers
Nowadays, the market is filled with numerous manufacturers producing varied versions of sustainers for their customers.
Despite so many manufacturers, there are only two companies that still dominate the market are Fernandes Sustainer and Sustainiac.
They offer a wide array of top-notch sustainer pickup that offers not only unlimited sustain but also provides incredible longevity.
Even though both the manufacturers provide the same pickup type, but both of them have their signature style on delivering the sustain.
However, the most favored sustainers are from Sustainianc, and their pickups are always on high demand in the market.
Sustainiac is a U.S based brand, and it is operated by the popular Maniac Music Inc. Popular guitars like the Lamborghini green Keith Merrow and Schecter Hellraiser C-1 features Sustainiac pickups so you can understand the reliability and performance they offer.
The organization is also known for its Stealth system that is widely used by many guitar brands, which includes likes of Schecter but mostly in top-tier models.
Sustainiac also offers Model C to its customers, which is an electroacoustic based sustainer pickup, but it is not as popular as other pickups in their lineup.
Moreover, the Stealth system serves as a better performer and practical option than the Model C. However, Model C allows you to easily get unlimited sustain by merely attaching the guitar’s pickup.
This is the reason many enthusiasts and beginners often opt for Model C rather than the other models that require carving.
Fernandes, on the other hand, also serves as a big brand that has numerous electromagnetic sustainers pickups under their belt.
What makes them different? They offer some unique modes that you won’t find in any Sustainiac pickups in the market.
- This brand is widely known for their natural model that makes the strings of the guitar to vibrate continuously until the string is muted or the player switches off the sustainer.
- Another popular pickup in their lineup is the harmonic mode, where every note the player plays will start rising until it reaches the 5th natural harmonic and treats you with a unique output.
- Like the natural mode, the harmonic model is also constant, and it will keep on delivering natural harmonics until you deactivate the system.
- Another mode that has Fernandes a popular choice among many professionals is their mix mode.
- Basically, the mix mode is the combination of natural and harmonic mode, and when you play any note, it treats your ear with a nice harmonized feedback effect.
- The best part of using their pickup is that you can easily install them with their custom kit that allows you to use the sustainer pickup without requiring any carving.
- They even have their own lineup of guitars that contains those pickup systems, and most of them perform really well.
Which Pickup System You Should Buy?
Well, the pickup system you want to buy entirely depends upon your tonal requirement and preferences. Many professionals and enthusiasts are mad about the Sustainiac pickups system as they offer outstanding performance, durability, and reliability.
However, we have come across many experts and experienced guitarists who prefer Fernandes’ system over Sustainiac , you can find it in the Online Stores.
So if you want different modes offered by the Fernandes system and bring uniqueness in your music composition, then we would suggest going with this system.
Making significant modifications is always a challenge, and even the slightest mistake would ruin the whole guitar. So if you don’t want to take the risk and use their kit for sustainer, then it would make a great choice.
Sustainiac systems are known for their effective output and reliable performance; thus, many professionals prefer them. Although the installation system is quite challenging, the end is gratifying, and it would always provide you with consistent performance.
But the installation system is quite costly, so the best cost-effective solution is to opt for Sustainiac loaded guitars that are readily available.
If you aren’t entirely confident that a sustainer pickup would be handy for your music composition, then we would suggest you buy a cheap guitar with a preloaded sustainer.
Apart from Sustainiac and Fernandes, you can also go for many affordable alternatives, but you shouldn’t expect much from them.