Which one is better - Piezo or Magnetic hex PU?

Started by fredo, March 24, 2008, 12:36:34 PM

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Hi all,

Those of you who own both a GK-2/3 and an Piezo (RMC or Graphtech) equipped guitar, how would you compare them ?

I now have both a Godin LGXT (with RMC) and an Hagstrom Ultra Swede with a GK-Kit (https://www.vguitarforums.com/smf/index.php?topic=572.0 ). I made some A/B compare this afternoon, and to me, there is no room for debate : the GK-Kit does the job way better...
Acoustics are more realistic (which is strange since piezo usually give a more acoustic sound, but I guess it is all about how it is used by the VG to re-model the sound); distorted sounds seem sharper and brighter, with no palm muting issues; and GR 300 sounds become usable !...
And just in case you wonder, yes I have 1.04 firmware installed and used Piezo-R setting for the Godin ;-)

I am about to GK-Ready my Parker Nitefly M, and was wondering whether to install a GK-Kit or a Graphtech Ghost System... OK GK-Kit is uglier, it also is much cheaper (119 euros here in Europe, compared to 260 euros for the Graphtech Hexpander without saddles and acoustic preamp).

What do you guys think ?!



Others share your opinion


Quote from: rudi rudolf on August 31, 2018, 05:03:18 AM
;)Hi everyone, after 7 years I tried those patches once again...and I still like them! They are played best with a hexaphonic pickup like the Graph Tech Ghost midi pickup ( for example found in godin guitars)....I found out, that Roland gk pickups are a bit too slow for midi conversion...but Roland pickups work better with modelling guitars in the gr-55, where hexaphonic pickups in my ears sound a bit too clinical and lifeless...
Well, after 7 years still loads of fun...thanks everybody for loading down those patches ;D ;D!!!

Actually  both GK-3 Mag Hex and the Piezo Hex Pickups
( RMC, Graph-Tech) move electrons in their corresponding Analog signal path at similar speed /latency
(Explains why the fastest tracking Guitar to MIDI System today ( Fishman Tripleplay) OEM models (Godin) employ either Magnetic or Piezo Hex pickups for detecting Strings. 

And a well setup GK-3 installed per Roland's specifications (rare), which is then Wax potted after initial installation  (to prevent the GK-3 PU Radius Adjust moveable parts from rattling ) will provide equal or better tracking speed to any competing hex 13 pin hex pickup system. ( Piezo, Atlantis Lightwave optical pickup, etc)
Explained in this area of the forum

GK 13 pin interface Top things to Know


 Is there any difference in the way that they work with an Axon? That could be a crucial question for some people.


Don't know about the Axon, but I just compared the Guitar-to-midi feature of the 99 with GK pickup and RMC system, and again, the GK pickup is doing better...
While midi is more than usable with the GK pickup (fast tracking and no ghost note if you play "clean"), with the Godin LGXT, I have to lower the sensitivity a lot, and still, I have a lot ghost notes, especially when I put my right hand on the bridge...

Anyone else had a chance to compare Magnetic and Piezo Hex pickups ?


I haven't done an in depth or analytic comparision, but I have

1) Godin LGXT SA
2) Godin ACS SA
3) Fender American Standard Strat w/Joe Barden pups and GK2a

I got the VG-99 for the synth capabilites and put the GK2a back on the Strat to compare them. For synth models and midi I really don't hear much difference, it's just a matter of setting them up properly. I have a little preference for the ACS for bass models, but overall I like the LGXT because it's cleaner/more convenient - the strat doesn't fit in it's case with the GK2A attached! I haven't A/B'd the guitar models with the LGXT and Strat yet, they do sound different, but I can't say I prefer one over the other, I can tweak the patches to sound good with both. At this point I wouldn't recommend one over the other. I had a GK1 on an old American made BC Rich ST that I like, but the strings are higher off the body and the way the hex pup is designed it's uncomfortable, but since you can turn the hex pup 180 degrees with the VG-99 I might try it again with the GK2A.


I have several different setups. I currently own a Godin/Baggs, and a Brian Moore/RMC, along with a Roland Ready strat/GK-2A, Gibson Les Paul with an external GK-3, and a small run, boutique Exotica, with an internal GK-3. Generally, I have found the following to be true. With Roland VG units, including the VG-99, the GK series pickups offer better performance. The sounds appear to be truer to the intended models. For midi tracking on Roland GR units, the Baggs and RMC units performed better. I have not had enough experience with the guitar to midi feature on the VG-99 to offer an opinion of performance with various pickups and that feature.


I've just tested a Godin Freeway SA (tele style guitar) which has a GraphTech Ghost Piezo Pickup.
Together with the VG-99 I found the Sounds to be very very good! (I didn't test midi)
The Acoustic Sounds perfect, the electric Sounds perfect!

I've got a Godin Steel SA with the rmc piezos, changed it to the GK internel Kit,
because I found the E-Guitarsim to be better, but this Freeway is really superior!

The only reason why I don't buy it is, that the neck is not wide enough, I like the
1 11/16 inch nut.

Fender Stratocaster Eric Johnson, GK-internal,  VG-99 fw1.04, FC-300

Kevin M

I have both a Godin and Brian Moore RMC-equipped guitars.  After reading some of the posts regarding the GK3, I added a GK3 external to my Variax.  I immediately noticed an improvement in the quality for the acoustic models and my rock/metal models when using the GK3.  I am currently working on a tune that uses a baritone patch and could almost always hear 'artifacts' when playing through my Godin; and this was after much setup tweaking.  It seems to be a lot 'cleaner' when using the GK-equipped Variax.


Hey guys,

There's been a thread on this topic over at the Carvin site:


Carvin uses the Graph Tech setup, and there's been some interesting finds about settings for the Graph Tech and settings for the VG-99 that make them work much better together.

Is this pretty common knowledge here? If not, it seems like this could help greatly improve the results with the Graph Tech system.

- Carl
ES Les Paul, internal Roland GK
Boss SY-1000, Valeton Coral Amp pedal
Morningstar MC8 & MC6
QSC CP8 powered speaker


ight out of the box, the VG-99 String Sensitivity was set to "65" - which was way too strong - made Acoustics sound all compressed, and results in poor MIDI tracking .

I now run things around "25" with my GK-2A

More details here:

Setting Sensitivity
Knowledge Base ID: 104726
Product: VG-99

Setting the sensitivity for the divided pickup is crucial for optimum playing results. Use the following steps to adjust the pickup sensitivity in the VG-99:

1. Press the SYSTEM button.

2. Press the PAGE left or right buttons to select page one.

3. Press the F3 button (GK).

4. Press PAGE left or right to select page 2.

5. Press F1 repeatedly to select the type of pickup that you have - GK-3, GK-2A, PIEZO.

6. Press PAGE right twice to select page 4.

7. Play the high E string repeatedly with moderate force.

8. Turn the F1 knob while playing the string to adjust the sensitivity value so the box appears at the right side of the display.

9. Adjust the sensitivity for each of the remaining strings using the F2-F6 knobs.

Tip: For additional details about further adjustment of the GK settings, refer to pages 21and 22 in the VG-99 manual.

10. Press EXIT twice when you re finished.

* If the level meter registers in excess of the maximum level, it means
the level is set too high. Lower the sensitivity setting.
* Depending on the guitar you are using, the level meter may move to
the maximum level even when the sensitivity is set to the minimum
setting. If this occurs, adjust the clearance separating the divided
pickup and the strings so the distance is slightly greater than
11. Check the volume balance of the six strings.
Play the sixth through first strings with the normal amount of
force; if any string sounds particularly loud, lower the
sensitivity setting for that string, and keep adjusting until the
differences in the strings' volume levels are minimal.
12. Press [EXIT] several times to return to the Play
* Making these settings is necessary whenever you install the divided
pickup on a new or different guitar and when the divided pickup
height is changed. Once the settings are completed properly, they are
saved when the power is turned off. Afterwards, you need not make
the settings each time you play the instrument.
For more information on other parameters in the GK
Settings, refer to "GK SETTING" (p. 166).


So sounds like old-hat news around here.

Well, I'll definitely be working the built-in setup to the best that I can get it. Apparently the Graph Tech PUs on the Carvin have a switch to go between the Roland vs. the Axon inputs, don't know if that's new or not.

After amplitude differences between the two pickup types, I'd imagine the next would be spectral. I'd think the piezos would have a lot more high-order harmonics. Perhaps the VG-99 tracks better if the fundamental is more pronounced - a possibility as to why the magnetics seem to do better.

- Carl
ES Les Paul, internal Roland GK
Boss SY-1000, Valeton Coral Amp pedal
Morningstar MC8 & MC6
QSC CP8 powered speaker



This is my first post here on V Guitar Forms and I would like to say hello and Merry Christmas to All, I'm new to the guitar just starting to learn and I bought a VG-99 synth on fleebay for $700.00 ( I thing I got riped) one of the legs on the gk3 pickup was broke off when I got the setup but everything else looks new and all I have is a cheep guitar that needs some work so I thought about buying a guitar with the pickup installed, what would be a good guitar to buy, something reasonable priced maybe something on fleebay ;D I just don't really know should I buy a guitar and install a pickup or just buy one with it already installed, I was going to get a Freeway buy I read here that thy don't track very well? any advance would be great.


I suggest a used Roland Ready Strat

These can be had for $450-$500 range on Ebay

Or Roland GK-3 mounted to a stable well intonated guitar.

Its a common misconception that the underlying guitar type the GK hex pickup is mounted on makes no difference in your final Roland COSM Modeled guitar sound. Even Roland Sales Reps misrepresent this as "fact".

Let me confirm that the type of Guitar (and its fret job, setup, action, string type, etc) you choose for use with COSM hex Modeling "V-Guitar" systems plays a crucial role in your final output tone from these Roland systems. Other important aspects are your Guitar's intonation, action, String type and gauge,  and playing technique - Piezo or Mag hex pickup type all make a big difference in your final output tone with your VG-99 or GR-55, GP-10, SY-1000

Need to also compare different piezos and know the year of production

To my ears the 2011 or newer RMC piezos are less shrill compared to other piezos during COSM Guitar modeling. 

For playing Rock/ Blues guitar modeling Still prefer the tone of a GK-3 everytime -not even close.

Most Piezos deliver an ice pick spike high end and  low rumble and hiss noise anomalies on high gain COSM  patches on VG-99, GP-10, GR55. SY-1000

More here


QuoteI'm expecting better midi tracking ( with Piezos
Thats the claim
 - but unsupported in practice compared to a properly installed GK-3 , which only a few persue and accomplish.

I can say most GK-3 installs are done poorly and become the basis for the reports of piezo superiority for MIDI tracking

Learn how to setup your guitar here

Also while taking about differences in guitars  - I find it odd most users of Godin MultiAc Nylon String Guitars with Piezos have a hard time grasping why many VG/GR/GP-10  patches created by a Strat with GK-3 sound very different when used with a 13 pin Nylon String guitar. Remember on the Roland hex COSM Modeling systems the String is the source oscillator. If your nylon string guitar has typical Classical guitar characteristics of rapid note decay and poor sustain, indeed the VG COSM Rock Guitar Patch will also have poor sustain. 


I'm a fan of Godin guitars. You can find some nice used Godin guitars with the SA option (Synth Access) for a good price.
Godin Session & Montreal FTP, LGXT, LGX SA, Redline, ACS, A12, A11, A10, A4
Danoblaster Baritone w/GK-3
Gretsch Nashville, Viking
Fender Strats
Fret King Supermatic
Larrivee DV03RE
Parker Midi Fly
Seagull, S&P 12
VOX Phantom XII
GR-55, 33, 30, 20, GI-20, RC-50, US-20, VG-99, VP-7
Sentient 6
Cyr 7


Can the RMC board still be bought for the VG-99? :o also I read a post where they said on a [Godin] Freeway SA guitar (with Ghost Piezo) you had to jumper a wire or reground something I don't remember to make the freeway work right because the freeway didn't have all acoustic part of the hex pickup installed?


Has anyone use a Godin Freeway SA with the VG99? how do thy work together vs the Fender Roland Ready?


QuoteCan the RMC board still be bought for the VG-99?

RMC sells many separate versions of the Input sub frequency blocking filter for GR-55, VG-99, VB-99 , Email them for price and availability.

Remember Roland designs this gear (VG-99/GR-55)  to work best with its own pickup - the Magnetic hex pickup based Roland GK-3 pickup.

Owners of Piezo pickup 13 pin output guitars ( RMC, Godin, Breedlove, Carvin) may experience noise anomaly issues on some VG-99 / GR-55 patches  - notably the Roland GR-300 "Pat Metheny" emulation tone.

An optional RMC subsonic filter board, mounted inside either the VG-99 or GR-55 can solve these noise issues

VG-99 Sub Noise filter

GR-55 Sub Noise filter

and other third party 13 pin Gk sub filters now exist too
find them here:


QuoteHas anyone use a Godin Freeway SA with the VG99? how do thy work together vs the Fender Roland Ready?

The Godin Freeway SA uses a Graphtech Ghost Piezo bridge PU with the Ghost electronics.

Having played and owned most all the guitar pickup types which work with 13 pin systems, I have my own opinion on what works best. 
Piezos in general will impact the overall VG-99/ GR-55 tone on every patch. While Piezos may be good for acoustics and some swear the RMC Piezo pickups work best for MIDI triggering, I much prefer the "VGuitar DSP Modeled tone" of the GK-3 Mag hex PU over Piezo hex PU's anyday, since I tend to play more classic rock / blues type stuff. To my ears, piezos always have this brittle top end - sounds like plugging an old "Glenn Campbell Ovation Piezo pickup acoustic guitar into a Marshall stack - it sounds wrong! It results in a very brittle tone when using overdrive rock tones - yes I'm talking the COSM Modeling Guitar and AMP tones - piezos hex pickups sound VERY different than the GK-3 type. Piezo pickups also add a lot of low frequency "boom" to the presets,  Once you hear it - you will know what I'm talking about.

I'll add at the other end of the frequency spectrum, the extended Piezo PU  high frequency response can clobber you too  -  I've worked with a few folks who thought the "ice pick" tone was due to a bad speaker ( or COSM Cab Sim "Fizz"), but in fact we traced this to the piezo bridge pickups.

If you can arrange it - try out a Piezo equipped guitar and GK-3 equipped guitar and A/B them and play and listen to each before spending the money.

Also if you play heavy metal and chocking palm muting rhythm techniques - just the physics of how piezos sense the string pitch directly at the bridge - and no where else - means piezos flat do not work in that situation without major change to your playing technique. Read the Variax boards for more descriptions of these complaints with piezo bridge systems when used for old school rock guitar palm muting playing techniques.
Add the similar Piezo Bridge "plink" Variax issue

What also comes to mind is trying to duplicate Eliot Easton's rhythm guitar tracks to anything off the Cars 1st album using a piezo guitar. (Elliot Easton "Just what I needed". Its going to be a lot easier to nail it with a GK-3.

Also most piezo pickup tremolo bridges will suffer various anomalies:

*  Strings will cease to sound midway through dive bomb tremolo activities, because of a loss of downward string pressure on the piezo bridge saddles

* Because piezo pickups have a much wider frequency response,  Low Frequency Rumbles are heard from your speakers anytime you rest your hand on the guitar bridge. This can actually harm speakers anytime you touch the tremolo, and the factory preset patches will all sound a bit too "boomy", with too much energy at the lower frequencies.

* On some Piezo saddle bridges,  a mechanical cross-coupling of the adjacent vibrating string bleeds energy into the adjacent piezo bridge saddle , and creates horrendous COSM Alt tuning mistracking, and MIDI mis-tracking errors. 

I vote for a well setup guitar with properly adjusted GK-3 pickup as the ideal type to own.

EDIT March 2013:  As a footnote to the above "rant" from 2011,  I must add that Richard McClish at RMC pickups read this post above and responded by making updates to the RMC pre-amp Electronics.
I should re-state that bulk of my low opinion on hex piezo pickup tone was based back in 1998, with hours of playing Aure Prochazka's RMC Equipped Les Paul feeding a Roland VG-8. That experience is best described as "ice pick in the ear" city, with buzzy Metal patches. Later on in 1999 when I got my own VG-8 and used the same patches with my GK-2A, I heard smoother rock tones, the high frequency "ice pick in the ear" tone I first heard in these same patches  was tamed down dramatically using the GK-2A Magnetic type hex pickup. 

Fast Forward to December 2012, I buy a Godin xTSA with RMC Piezos pickups and pop the rear cover to discover updated new RMC PolyDrive- X electronics with a new 2011 PCB board. Using this new Godin guitar with my old VG-8 and the old Heavy Metal patches (which delivered Ice pick in the ears with 1998 era RMC electronics), now delivers much smoother tone, closer to the GK-2A type sound. Richard at RMC is a skilled engineer, and listens to his customers, and is continually making improvements and changes in the PolyDrive preamp circuit. The 2012 era RMC preamp circuit design (to my ears) is  much improved and different than the old 1998 RMC designs. 

QuoteI wouldn't recommend the graphtek ghost mod for your guitar. I have them in a Carvin guitar and they don't work as well for the the GR-55 as the GK-3 on my Tele does. The graphteks also needed the RMC OPT-100 installed in the GR-55 for improved results - still not as good as the Gk-3. 


Quote from:  Elantric
Many GR-55 users with Godin Piezo guitars also must budget the purchase of the RMC OPT-01 sub harmonic Input Filter board.

I have a Godin LGXT and an A4-SA bass, both have been used with my GR-55 without a problem. It was my understanding that the filter addressed a problem with the GR300 PCM Tones and/or the GR300 patches.

Please correct me if I'm wrong.
Godin Session & Montreal FTP, LGXT, LGX SA, Redline, ACS, A12, A11, A10, A4
Danoblaster Baritone w/GK-3
Gretsch Nashville, Viking
Fender Strats
Fret King Supermatic
Larrivee DV03RE
Parker Midi Fly
Seagull, S&P 12
VOX Phantom XII
GR-55, 33, 30, 20, GI-20, RC-50, US-20, VG-99, VP-7
Sentient 6
Cyr 7


Primarily the RMC OPT-01 Input filter addresses the low frequency hum and Noise that occurs when piezo pickup owners dial up the GR-300 COSM patch on the GR-55. Also Tremolo Arm movement creates rumble noise with most Piezo systems

The OPT-01 input Filter also helps MIDI tracking for piezo pickup owners - see this thread for more details:

It does not address the high frequency "ice pick" tone tendencies of Piezo pickups.

By contrast a Guitar with a GK-3 provides smoother distortion tones with the COSM Guitar / Amp modelling  - without the need to always grab the EQ and roll off the high end EQ to tame the harsh piezo pickup tone. 

But hey - everyone's fingers, playing technique, Amplification system and ears are different.

There are exceptions.
Case in point - Steve Steven's seems to do OK using a stock Godin with RMC Piezo pickups feeding a stock GR-55 feeding a pair of Roland JC-120 amps here.

While other Godin / GR-55 Owner's have a battle with low frequency rumbles and MIDI mistracking.



Thanks Kenact, and Thanks Elantric for the very in-depth answers to my questions that has helped me very much, I think I will get the Roland Ready Fender and give it a try, I will post my results, although it would help if I could actualy play the guitar :-[, but that will come in time (I hope) :)


Quote from:  kenact on December 23, 2011, 08:27:11 PM
I have a Godin LGXT and an A4-SA bass, both have been used with my GR-55 without a problem. It was my understanding that the filter addressed a problem with the GR300 PCM Tones and/or the GR300 patches.

Please correct me if I'm wrong.

I'm also getting excellent stock GR-55 play with only my Godin Freeway SA (with GraphTech Ghost Piezo PUs) and an hour or so tweaking the GK settings for optimal performance. It would be nice if Godin and Roland provided some better configuration info for the combinations of their GK products. I'll try to capture mine and post them ASAP. Maybe it can help someone else. There are some settings shown in the getting started thread, which got me going in the right direction. Lido's to the authors. I would have been lost without that.

To do a fair A/B comparison though, you would also need to include the correct GR/VG settings configuration in the GR/VG for each controller pickup type. I'm not a classic rock specialist, more all around player. Pop, rock, folk, jazz, etc, so I'm not the tube freak,while I acknowledge their amazing sound, warmth,etc. Basically, you can't just unplug one and plug in the other and expect to fairly hear the differences. I'm pretty sure that if the GR/VG were set up for piezos and you simply swapped to a guitar with a GK, it would not perform at its best either.  When you walk in a guitar shop and demo one or the other, most folks don't have time to go through the trouble and most shops don't have personnel willing or able (time, skill, knowledge, interest, equipment, whatever) to set up for a valid comparison. Usually, if they even have a demo unit of any kind, it's not set up right either. Most often, at the stores, you're on your own.

As Elantric points out so well, there are many factors involved, but it boils down to what your needs are and what your ears tell you is good (and bad).

All that said, I am considering the mod myself. WTH, I own most of the other GR stuff made. Why not this? ;)

SY-300/BeatBuddy/VoiceLive 3/GR-55(v1.50)/33/1/50/700/VGA-7/V-Bass, Yam-G10, GPK-4, DIY X-Bee HighlyLiquidCPU "Cozy-Lil-Footie", FCB-1010, other MIDI stuff, Godin Freeway SA and various other GK equipped controllers, Sonar X1, Audacity, KXstudio, Misc devices


Thy would be great if you could post the settings that would give me a great place to start also, I have a VG-99 buy the parameters are probably the same?


When I was evaluating the VG-99 in a retail environment I kept coming back to the same store and they had a Brian Moore guitar with piezo as the demonstration guitar. 

I found it good enough that I still wanted to buy the VG-99 and even though I am running a Gk3 equipped guitar now I think I could make a piezo equipped guitar work with careful programming on the high end of any distortion tones.

My music projects online at http://www.aliensporebomb.com/

GK Devices:  Roland VG-99, Boss GP-10, Boss SY-1000.


Just ordered a Fender Roland Ready guitar from Musicians Friend for $754.00 with 2 year warranty and 4 payments, Hope it's a good one, how should I go about setting up the action can I make it low? also what kind of strings works best with the Roland pickup? I read some where that deferent metals would affect the pickup?