Had a rather unusual email from a blog/advertisement reader. This guy wanted me to show him the steps I take to install the JJB Prestige 330. So I took the opportunity to document the installation on my old, trusted and favourite dreadnought.
Louis is an entry level solid top Alvarez AD30. No one would take a second look at him. But when put up against many guitars that are much more expensive, he is no slouch. When strung with Elixir 80/20 12s, he is loud, bright, sweet and chimes just the way I like.
On to the installation. The JJB Prestige 330 has a huge following on guitar forums and even YouTube. It is a passive under bridge plate transducer pickup that leaves almost no footprint when installed. Apart from the endjack, you wouldn’t even notice there’s any pickup.
Test the pickups
I started by testing the set I received from Jessie of JJB. This guy is really great and very helpful.
Plug in the pickup to an amp and gently tap the transducers to check if they are working. If there is sound coming from the amp when you tap, yes it is working.
Making a jig for the transducers
Having a jig will be very useful when attaching the transducers under the bridge plate. I used some hard card from the cereal brochure I got from the supermarket.
Cut out a small section that I needed.
Got a nice shape that fits the bridge.
I poked through all the bridge pins holes using a wooden toothpick. Use a wooden toothpick because a sharp metal object may damage your bridge if you mess up or slip.
I also used two bridge pins on both E string slots to act as anchors during installation later.
Next I traced out the saddle line and put X on the spots I want to attach the transducers. As you can see, the three transducers are positioned between E and A, between D and G, with the last transducer slightly closer to the high E. This is the latest recommended positioning (by K&K) for best pickup performance.
Drilling the hole for end pin jack
The endpin jack requires a 12mm hole. I used the initial small hole for the endpin as pilot.
The 12mm hole was done using a step bit to prevent any damage to the guitar. I also used tape to prevent chipping or scratching the wood.
We got a nice 12mm hole.
Fixing the end jack
I made a “fishing line” using a 1/4 inch jack and a thin cable I found lying in my drawer. The line will go in from the base and exit at the soundhole.
At the sound hole, I plugged it my fishing line to the end jack. Then I carefully guided the end jack nicely into position.
Lots of patience required here. And it’s in position. The ideal amount of thread exposed is shown here. The thicker part is just shy of being flush with the base of the guitar.
Carefully screw on the end cap. I hand tighten here using a small grip plier. No excessive force unless you want to crack or chip the base.
Attaching the transducers using super glue
Using the jig I have prepared, I can now glue the transducers easily.
The is the same picture shown earlier.
By putting the bridge pins from the other side of the cardboard, I have the perfect tool for hitting the correct positioning of all three transducers.
I used this thing called Blu Tack to mount the transducers onto the jig.
This jig is so useful I didn’t even need a mirror because I know that once the two bridge pins are slotted in, the transducers must be in the right places.
You’d probably need a few dry runs to make sure you get the movement and sensing spot on. I think I did for more than ten tries just to make sure I won’t slip at the crucial moment.
OK, we’re ready to glue it. I use gel superglue (as recommended) for this job. Gel form is better because it is less runny and probably has a longer time before it hardens.
Apply generous amount of glue on all the transducers. Yes, it’s the gold shiny side that needs to be glued. Be careful not to drip any glue onto the guitar.
Let’s glue on those transducers.
As mentioned earlier, if the bridge pins go nicely into position, the transducers must also be in the right places. So it’s good when you see this.
Press the jig firmly against the underside of the bridge plate for about 30-40 seconds for the glue to set. Guitarbear doesn’t take chances so I probably held on for a minute. 🙂
Once the glue sets, I peeled off the cardboard jig. It doesn’t matter if some of the putty/blu-tack is still stuck. The important thing is that the transducers are fixed.
TLC for guitar – Bearclaw Special
Before putting the strings, I took the time to give Louis a Bearclaw Special.
Fret and fretboard conditioning with lemon oil and steel wool treatment. Cookie came out to inspect.
Then came the usual pencil lead on nut slots and guitar polishing.
I dropped in a new bone saddle because I actually find the existing one too low and gave some buzzing. I’d like to mention that Alvarez guitars have this really clever bi-level bridge. You get plenty of saddle height and still very low action. Brilliant design.
Finally put on fresh Elixirs.
Tuned up and sound check. All good! Plugged in sound is quite impressive compared to the under saddle piezo types.
Happy guitar, happy player!
*credits to Rob Di Stefano for the original tutorial.