D-Tar Wave-Length Review
by Maury Rutch
Not every acoustic-electric guitar player knows everything, but we all
know "quack". That nasal, plastic, brittle, annoying sound that most under-saddle pickups can make when pushed too hard. USTs can be a "necessary evil" in a loud stage setting or in a busy mix, and their compressed quality does
come in handy for soft finger style . but once you dig in with a heavy hand - forget it. You might as well be strumming right across the saddle itself. All tone is gone
Last winter, I left the NAMM show with a big smile. I was flying home to PA ready for our first shipment of Mama Bears
- D-Tar's new modeling preamp, which breathed new life into our guitars. It took our USTs and removed all traces of quack and that sterile string attack. My guitar was feeding it a primitive signal, but Mama made the best of a bad source. Well now D-Tar is here for "round two", and this time they've fixed the source too. To put it another way - Mama was the tune-up, and Wave-length is the brand-new engine!
The heart of the D-Tar Wave-Length is the 18-volt preamp borrowed from last year's Timberline pickup system. Most other USTs have a 9-volt power source and they clip and distort when pushed hard. This results in that nasty quack we all hate. The Wave-Length gives us double the headroom of typical USTs and that alone makes for a world-class improvement. Now you can play the way you want to. Get quiet. Get loud. Dig in when you want to. The response is there. Your instrument was meant to be played dynamically and with _expression. We no longer have to "behave" because we're plugged-in.
Along with the super-high headroom, the D-Tar Wave-Length packs a fat, robust, musical tone. The midrange is completely musical. Remember when we had to cut the mids? Now you no longer have to sacrifice strong fundamental midrange notes for a warm but hollow rhythm sound. I'm extremely impressed with how good this sounds with all the controls set flat. Treble and Bass trim pots are included, but after experimenting at 3 different gigs, my scalloped-braced rosewood Martin OM-28V sounds best with these trim pots set flat. If you play a thin-sounding guitar, this bass boost can certainly fatten things up nicely.
Maybe the best thing about the Wave-Length is its installation. With the Timberline, the install was bulky and for full-effect it was recommended that the saddle and slot be coved to "hug" the pickup on the sides as well as top & bottom. The Wave-Length doesn't require such an invasive installation. I was afraid this would mean a dry, sterile tone but it sounds remarkably similar to the Timberline . and that's a good thing! As a matter of fact, it sounds like a UST blended with a bit of soundboard transducer. It's so sensitive to top movement that you can hear your hand when tapping the pickguard. Try that
with the other under-saddle pickups.
If you're looking for a pickup, there are many choices out there and your playing style/environment will dictate which type of pickup might work best for you. A good soundboard transducer can sound extremely accurate in low-to-mid volume situations, and soundhole pickups will almost always be around as long as players want a temporary installation. But if you know your search will
include an active under-saddle pickup system, consider your search over. I can't think of any other single-source undersaddle solution that beats the D-Tar Wavelength. Seriously.
Click here for a brief sample the D-Tar Wave-Length.