Inside the Takamine Palathetic Pickup

Inside the Takamine Palathetic Pickup

A cross-section of the Takamine Palathetic pickup while mounted. Illustration courtesy of Gerry Haze at Haze Guitars (hazeguitars.com).

When most people think of Takamine Guitars, they think of the artists who play them, including some of the biggest names in the business, along with the all-time classic songs that have been written and performed on them. So how did this little guitar company from Japan become such a big favorite with world-class artists? Considering it was Ry Cooder who helped develop their first acoustic-electric, and Glenn Frey and the Eagles who road-tested them, the high-performance gene would appear to be deep in Takamine’s DNA.

For 26 years, Jon Bon Jovi has been playing the same EF341SC he bought in New Jersey. Glenn Frey’s ’92 EF360 was his number-one guitar for 24 years, and of course there's "Horse", the war-worn NP15 (P3D) that Glen Hansard only recently retired after 28 years of selfless service. It clearly paints a picture of a much-beloved guitar brand. Factor in the uncompromising likes of Toby Keith, Blake Shelton, Hozier, Garth Brooks, Bruce Springsteen and Sean Rowe, partnering with their respective EF250TK, P5DC-WB , P3NY, GB7C, P6N-BSB, and P3DC, year after year, tour after tour, and you begin to get the picture.

So what is Takamine’s secret? Why is it that the world's most respected and best-selling players turn to Takamine and never turn back?

World-Class Designs with a Special Secret
It starts with some of the finest woodworking artisans on the planet, from a centuries-old culture of exacting craftsmanship. They create their craft in a a state-of-the-art factory that serves their artistry, and allows them to build world-class acoustic instruments with the unique ability to project as readily to the upper deck of a sold-out stadium as well as they can to the last pew of a church. But the final touch that pushes Takamine past the abilities of other brands is our proprietary Palathetic pickup, an under-saddle acoustic-electric system so well conceived and implemented prior to its introduction in 1978 that it has remained virtually unchanged ever since.

A photo of some of the components in the Takamine Palathetic pickup.

Great Sound, Less Feedback
Let's face it; real musicians who get out and play live know what's truly important. When you plug in, you want the great sound of your acoustic guitar represented honestly... not with some big difference between it's natural tone and what people hear coming out of the speakers. Perhaps every bit as important is having your guitar be resistant to feedback. Nothing will kill an otherwise great show than an acoustic guitar starting to howl through the mains! The Takamine Palathetic pickup has a very unique design that allows for both great sonic representation of the acoustic sound of the guitar, and yet is coupled to the guitar's soundboard in a way that gives you that great sound without worrying about feedback.

How Does It Work?
Employing six individually shielded piezo elements, one for each string, the Palathetic pickup is not your typical under-saddle pickup (USP). In fact, Takamine’s proprietary design employs over 10 times the element mass of your average USP. Those six elements penetrate the bridge plate, soundboard, and bridge to make direct contact with the saddle, creating a true sonic link from soundboard to string. The result is the individually articulated voicing of each string’s harmonic content as generated by the entire guitar, for a full, complete and accurate acoustic guitar tone at the highest sound pressure level with unrivaled reliability. This allows Takamine guitars to offer excellent dynamic range compared to most acoustic-electric brands, handling everything from a soft finger-picked performance to the most rowdy big, loud strums. Also, one aspect you never want in a finely-crafted acoustic-electric guitar is added noise, and the shielded, grounded design of the Palathetic pickup helps minimize both electromagnetic and radio frequency buzz and hum. 

Leaving the output of the Palathetic pickup, the excellent signal is then routed to one of Takamine’s versatile preamps, which can provide stealthy operation (TLD-2 Line Driver), simplicity with an onboard tuner (CT4B II), tube electronics and dual-sourcing with tuner (CTP3), or full dual-source blending with tuner (CT4-DX).

An exploded illustration showing the components of the Takamine Palathetic pickup. Illustration courtesy of Gerry Haze at Haze Guitars (hazeguitars.com).

All of this adds up to a guitar that can go to the stage and leave musicians filled with confidence instead of concern... and there's no putting a price tag on the great performances you get when you don't need to worry about your guitar and only have to focus on being the best you can be. It could be said that performing artists choose Takamine guitars because like themselves, Takamine embodies the finesse of a thoroughbred -- and the heart of a workhorse.

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