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Monday, February 6, 2012

A little DIY - How to make your own Sustainer

I've received a request for a better explanation on how the sustainer works.
Well it's pretty simple really. At leas my version is at any rate.

All you need is a handful of parts and it can be made for less than $20

Ideally you'll have a strong magnet. I've used old strat pickups, but Alnico Bar Magnets are available on Ebay pretty frequently.
The Bar magnet will probably give you a better result.

Apart from the pickup, my sustainer was built from stuff readily available from the local electronics store.

The thinnest enamel coated wire that I found is .25mm, a bit smaller would be better (tighter coil), but this was all I had to work with. On the strat pickup with the orignial wire removed I wound a coil to 8 ohms. I think it was 160 turns of the pickup. There is a handy turn calculator online here where you input your wire gauge, magnet size and desired resistance.

Incidentally the 33awg roll from Jaycar is 16 ohms +- an ohm.

To power it all I used a simple 386 chip based circuit that can deliver 1/4watt at 8 ohms.
It comes in kit form and usually costs less than $9

Simply connect the tip of your guitar jack to the input of the circuit and the sustainer coil to the speaker terminals.
If it doesn't do anything, try reversing the speaker wires as there may be a humbucking effect.

Every coil I've made has been different, some strings will feedback more than others depending on how sloppy the wire wrapping has been done.

Unfretted Forum Thread

Jagmaster Sustainer Guitar

Gretsch Sustainer Project

Original
Updated


2nd half of this song shows my first sustainer in action.

35 comments:

  1. I received a post from Anonymous today. Accidentally hit delete instead publish. Sorry Anonymous.

    Comment was "keep Blogging!"

    Thanks Anonymous :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anyway I don't have any plans that involve stopping. Just been busy designing & building a workstation for my music rig.

    ReplyDelete
  3. i love this blogg great job!!

    do you have any sound clips of the sustainer project?

    seems like the only thing missing from a fantastic DIY project

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks!

    It's barely edited, so I'm glad it makes at least some sense.
    Anyway I've uploaded an old clip which was recorded with my old erm.. current? band "the Fallen Tides" we never broke up, but we never manage to get us all under the one roof at the same time.

    ReplyDelete
  5. So for what I believe... in fact it's a little preamp who made a feedback on the strings, no?

    ReplyDelete
  6. I've found the website where i can order it tnx. But the coil in photo where do you put this? Or do you use it as an e-bow?

    ReplyDelete
  7. Correct, it's just a little feedback loop.

    The coil goes in place of/or around the neck pickup.

    Good luck :)

    ReplyDelete
  8. I've received a request from a student re: help on this project.

    I'm happy to answer any questions via the blog, so that others may learn as well.

    I have updated a link for the coil wind calculator as the old link was dead and have added a link to Unfretted Forum which covers this topic in depth.

    My solution does work, but is not the most elegant way of going about it.

    Your mileage may vary (no two builds have been the same).

    ReplyDelete
  9. Ok. But where is the circuit schematics?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Which schematic are you referring to? The Champ?
      They come with the kit, but should be available in Silicon Chip magazine back issues.

      Delete
  10. I dont find any difference between the normal pick up and sustainer driver???do I really need to rip away the already wrapped wiring??can't I use an existing pick up do the thing

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The driver coil is 16 ohms where a regular pickup could be anywhere between 3000 & 11000 ohms. At best the 386 will do nothing to a regular pickup, at worst, it'll melt the pickup wires.

      There are other ways to do it, you could place a bobbin on top of the pickup and wind your coil there. I didn't have any luck with that method though.

      Wrapping the wires around the exiting pickup coil will have two issues. #1 it will make the pickup too big for the average guitar #2 the coil will be too far from the magnet, which will prevent the sustainer from working.

      Delete
  11. so this circuit doesn't have the harmonic option, only the fundamental note?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not that I recall, possible maybe?
      I put this "design" together after going over the forum posts, it's pretty basic and not optimised for the job, but it does work. Just not nearly as well as the real-deal.

      I no longer have any of the guitars I built these into, so I can't do a video. I do have parts for another kit and an old guitar to put it into, but have become time-poor due to life stuff.

      Delete
  12. hello ! that's really a good work but I don't understand why you have to join a coil (on the right up ) to the driver ? could you answer me please ? thank you and congratulations
    (sorry for my English , I'm french ...)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Nicolas,

      Sorry for the late reply. I didn't see your message until now.
      The coil image is a place-holder for the coil that would be wound around the magnet of your old pickup bobbin.

      Think of the driver as a cone-less speaker in the shape of a guitar pickup that replaces your neck pickup.

      Delete
  13. hello ! congratulations for your work that's awesome but I just want to ask you something , why is there a coil on the last pic ( up right ) , I understood the rest of the pic but not this ,could you explain me , thanks you

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    Replies
    1. Hi there,

      The picture is a place-holder for the driver coil which is wrapped around a magnet/pickup. I figured two pickups might look a little confusing.

      Also the coil photographed is of the spool of wire that I use for my projects.

      If that doesn't make sense, I blame just having woken up and not yet consumed coffee.

      P.S. I really should get around to building another one of these things!

      Cheers
      TAPOR

      Delete
    2. Ok so if I understand (sorry I'm french) I start from the neck pickup , go to the jack , pass trought the lm386 circuit and go to an other pickup ? Am I right ? thanks you for answering

      Delete
    3. Hi Nicolas,

      another morning post before coffee....

      The bridge pickup feeds your guitar amp and the sustainer circuit.

      The driver coil is placed near the neck (or in place of the neck pickup) as it will more easily vibrate the strings at that point.

      *Observe when you strike a string with a pick, the string has more freedom of movement away from the bridge.

      Keep the questions coming.

      TAPOR

      Delete
    4. Updated the graphic to better illustrate the circuit.

      Delete
  14. What do you mean by
    "Simply connect the tip of your guitar jack to the input of the circuit and the sustainer coil to the speaker terminals.."
    What speaker? Isn't this self contained within the guitar you're installing it in?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The 386 circuit is designed to drive a 1/4watt speaker. The driver coil replaces the speaker component/function of the circuit.

      Delete
  15. Finally ordering the parts to build one. Only I'm designing mine to be attached to my hand instead of replacing an existing pickup.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm too ham fisted to make anything elegant & small enough. Post a link of your build :)

      Delete
  16. Will the pickup still function as a pickup once the conversion is done? With the sustainer off of course. I want to put one in my fretless bass, and I've heard that the driver will function better if it is directly under the 24th fret harmonic node. So in addition to the 2 J-bass pickups already installed I would install the driver closer to the neck. So in essence would this function as a third pickup with the driver switched off as with a sustianiac or fernades type, or does it lose all functionality in that regard?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unfortunately the way I got it to work required the destruction of an existing pickup.

      I have read that you can create a bobbin to sit on top of the existing pickup, but the wire I was able to source was too thick & requires a large bobbin.

      Delete
  17. Hi,
    Thanks for the instructions, they are very helpful. I am building this circuit, but I am having trouble because the input voltage is very low. I even connected the guitar to a pre amplifier that feeds the champ amp. Even like that the output voltage is still very low (around 3V) and is barely enough to make the sustain effect in some strings. Do you have any suggestions?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Francisco,

      Sorry, I never measured the voltage, but one thing you might want to try is reversing the polarity of your coil, this worked for me on at least one occasion and turned a low output coil into a coil that was a little too loud.

      Delete
  18. Excusme
    How to add harmonic sound?
    Thank you

    ReplyDelete
  19. Sorry, I couldn't figure out harmonic mode.
    Ended up buying an ebow instead.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Hi guys.. can I use piezo pick up for this project

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't see why not, the LM386 has a ridiculous amount of gain. Location would be important and depend on hollow or solid body construction.

      Ideally you'd want a guitar that has a lot of natural sustain.

      There are Piezo saddles available for a number of bridge types. These might work better, but they are kind of expensive, so one may as well just buy a real sustainer kit.

      Delete
    2. That said, I'm sure that the cheapies for acoustic guitars on ebay would work too. Most likely better than the disc types that I have in my kit.

      I like this idea. It'll have to wait until I finish studying.

      Delete

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