This is the #1 question I get. Sustainiac pickup fixes may seem complex, but it is easy! People often over complicate the issue, and today we are going to walk you through the whole process.
Sustainiac Pickup Fixes: We Get This Question All The Time!
The first thing we need to get across here, is what a Sustainiac actually is and how it works! If you have never seen one of these before, then you are in for a treat. How it works, and what it does can be a huge tool and open up all kinds of doors to creativity. So we will go over what the Sustainiac Pickup does first, and then talk about common issues.
A Sustainiac Pickup is almost always installed in the neck position of your guitar. What it does, is it acts sort of like an Ebow Device. The Sustainiac Pickup Sustainers make controlled feedback sustain. It’s like playing in front of a loud high gain amplifier: If you hold your guitar near the speakers, the intense sound will blast the vibrating strings of your guitar.
Then, instead of the string vibrations dying out like they naturally do, they often keep vibrating. Sometimes they break into interesting harmonics if you hold the guitar in the right position. You can see this in live videos from the 80’s. Guitarists would sometimes end the show by holding the guitar up to the amp speakers to create the sustain.
But a Sustainiac pickup works by: First, the pickup signal is processed and amplified by the Sustainiac circuit. Then, the processed and amplified pickup signal is connected to a patented driver system. This driver acts like an amp speaker, which is attached to the guitar, turns the amplified guitar note into vibrational energy. This vibrational energy is then fed back into the strings. The string vibration becomes more intense. And so on. A played note will actually last forever.
It’s a pickup that makes your strings vibrate, and there are usually 3 modes to most Sustainiac systems. These are controlled by a three way toggle switch, along with a two way toggle that turns it off and on:
- Just the note
- Blend of Harmonic and The Note
The best way to explain it, is to just show you. This is a great video that shows Schecter Guitars with Pete Thorn doing the demo and explaining how the Sustainiac pickup works. He shows you the different modes, and all of the cool tricks that you can perform with this pickup. Schecter Guitars make the most guitars that come stock with the Sustainiac pickup installed, and they are the #1 brand that has this feature for budget prices!
Lots of guitarists use the Sustainiac Pickup, and they all use them in different ways. Someone like Steve Vai uses them in his “FLO” guitar to lightly accentuate his solos, and also crank up the harmonics when he lets a note ring out. He often will blow on the guitar strings as he hits the switch, and this little trick makes the crowd go totally wild! He also uses it for his famous “liquid legato” style runs that are a signature part of his sound.
The Sustainiac Pickup is not a one trick gimmick.
Kenny Hickey from Type O Negative also had a special edition custom Schecter that he had made in the early 2000’s to tour with. These models are super rare, as they were not very popular when Schecter first released them. They sell on the used market, but new ones have not been made in quite a while. If you can find one of these models, scoop it up! Even if you don’t want it, you can sell it to me!
Usually, you only see a Sustainiac Pickup on a guitar that has a Floyd Rose bridge, since the possibilities of that combo is huge. But the KH Schecter model had a fixed bridge, and special green inlays. It also had a Duncan Pickup installed in the bridge to help the Sustainiac under high gain tones that Type O Negative was known for.
Sustainiac Pickup Fixes: It May Be Easier Than You Think!
The topic of Sustainiac Pickup fixes comes up a lot, especially on guitar forums. Unfortunately, the questions rarely get answered properly. Today we are going to take a look at the most common problems that the Sustainiac Pickup can cause, and go over the solutions. I searched the internet for the answers, and I came up empty handed minus the official manual.
Most of these fixes are things you can do at home with nothing but a screwdriver. But just like any advice that we give here, if you are ever uncomfortable with working on the guitar yourself never be afraid of taking the guitar to a professional tech. But even some professional techs may not know the Sustainiac Pickup fixes that we are going to go over today, so save this article!
Let’s start with the obvious ones, that you may not have thought about or just looked over on accident. But the last tip, is one that I have rarely seen talked about and this might be the fix you’re looking for! Again, if you are not comfortable working on your guitar, take it to a professional!
Sustainiac Pickup Fixes: The Obvious Answers!
1. Check Your Battery/ Battery Wiring
This may seem like a no brainer answer, but I have been guilty of this more than once myself!. The Sustainiac Pickup can run down a 9V battery pretty fast. This can happen from just normal, everyday usage without you even noticing. I have found you get about 10-15 hours of off/on use out of one battery. There are a few battery rules you need to follow to ensure that you never have an issue:
- Always use a regular alkaline battery, by a known manufacturer. Do not use a rechargeable battery for the Sustainiac Pickup. It does not provide enough electrical current.
- Always unplug your guitar when you are done playing. Like active pickups, the circuit for the pickup is activated when you plug up the guitar. You can easily leave it on and not realize it!
- Make sure the battery compartment is fully closed, so the battery is making full contact with the terminals.
If you have done all of this, and the Sustainiac Pickup is still not working, you may need to take the plastic battery compartment out and make sure that the wires are properly soldered. I have had mine come loose before, and it was a quick fix for the guitar, but I completely overlooked the battery casing.
Check/Adjust Your Pickup Height
This one seems like a no brainer too, but you would be surprised! Most of the Schecter Guitars come from the factory already set up, and this includes the pickup height. But everyone makes mistakes, and this can easily be overlooked. There is unfortunately no exact measurement for the Sustainiac Pickup, as everyone is different when it comes to taste.
The bridge pickup and the Sustainiac Driver BOTH contribute to the actual intensity of the sustain, especially in harmonic mode. The general consensus for setting the height is to adjust the driver pickup closer to the high E string. Get it as close at possible without touching. If you find that this is too much, or that you are fighting with the guitar, then lower the pickup. Go about a millimeter at a time, until you hit the sweet spot.
If your pickup is too low, you will get no response at all. If the pickup is too high, you will get a lot of unwanted noise and have a tough time controlling the sustain and vibration. So you have to find a sweet spot. I like mine pretty high, as I use the pickup a lot when I am playing solos. I am constantly turning it on and off. Below is a picture of my pickup height, but it works best just a little lower if you ask me. Usually, this is the end of Sustainiac pickup fixes, but there is another that is HIGHLY overlooked…
The Inside Controls: Opening The Back Panel
If you open the back panel of your guitar, you will see this blue plastic coated circuit board. Sometimes, I have also seen them in clear plastic. But they all have one thing in common: They have 3 blue/black screws. These screws may be the key to all of your Sustainiac Pickup Fixes. I was surprised that this is almost nowhere to be found on the internet! This is an easy fix… if you know what you’re looking for!
Each one of these screws, I have marked for you in the picture above. These screws all control the output of each metric, and it will depend on what your current problem is. If you have too much harmonic output for instance, you would need to adjust the “harmonic screw”.
If you notice that you have very little gain from your pickup with the Sustainiac function turned off, then you need to adjust the “gain screw”. But the gain screw also controls the overall amount of output that you get whether the Sustainiac is engaged or not. This also controls the basic intensity of the Sustainiac System. If you have raised your pickup and you still do not have a working sustain feature, this is your problem. This is the most common fix.
The “volume screw” is just for the overall volume, and I would not mess with this one too much. If you adjust this one too high, you will have a hard time trying to balance the two pickups. So unless the volume is absolutely the issue, I would not adjust this one at all.
Important! When you go to adjust these: Have your guitar plugged into your amp, or an amp sim after you have opened the back panel. Turn on your Sustainiac Pickup on a clean channel, so you can hear the changes easier and clearer. Turn the screws 1/4 turn at a time, and no more. The blue screws are very sensitive to any adjustment, so go very slow while you try to optimize the tone you are looking for.
*Clockwise will raise the value. Anti-clockwise will lower the value.*
I was blown away that this fix with the blue (sometimes black) screws is not listed very often. This is usually the problem if you are pretty experienced and have already tried all of the usual Sustainiac Pickup fixes. I myself, have had some issues on and off with my Schecter Hellraiser, and I found this out the hard way after taking it apart and reinstalling the pickup.
The Schecter Hellraiser is one of the most popular models that come with the Sustainiac Pickup system installed. This is personally my favorite guitar for recording solos, and one day the Sustainiac pickup just decided not to work properly. I did everything listed here, until I just did a full new install. While this may have been hell for me, now we know the biggest of the Sustainiac Pickup Fixes!
The ultimate shredder's axe! This is the best of the best when it comes to Schecter Guitars! This guitar has a proper Floyd Rose, and EMG 81 pickup in the bridge, and the amazing Sustainiac system. Featuring a thin and modern C-shaped neck that plays itself, and beautiful abalone binding and inlays.
Sustainiac Pickup Fixes: Wrapping up…
Well, like many things on this website, my pain is your gain! Had I not taken my Hellraiser apart, I would have never found the “blue screw” fix. Sometimes though, the problem is just something easy that makes you feel pretty silly after you find out the fix. Like replacing the battery of all things.
As I stated earlier, Schecter Guitars usually sets the Sustainiac Pickup system so you don’t have to. Schecter Guitars are all “Set Up To Play” even though these guitars are usually made in South Korea. Once the guitars are shipped from overseas, they hit the Schecter office in California and get a little bit of special treatment before they are sent to the customer. But there is sometimes human error.
Hopefully this guide gives you one of the Sustainiac pickup fixes that you needed! I know that this can be frustrating since there is very little info on this if you do no not read the manual. Good luck out there, and keep rocking!
What are the Sustainiac Pickup Fixes?
Check the battery
Adjust The Pickup Height
Fix The Internals, using the screws in the rear cavity of the guitar
I Have No Sound From My Sustainiac?
Check your battery first, and make sure you have a fresh 9V alkaline. Do not use a rechargeable battery in your Sustainiac. Also, check for cold solder joints in the battery compartment.
Can I Adjust Sustainiac Pickup Parameters?
Yes. open the back panel of your guitar and locate the Sustainiac circuit board, usually shrink wrapped in plastic. There should be three screws that adjust the gain, volume, and the harmonic resonance.
Harmonic Mode/Blend Mode Does Not Work On My Sustainiac Pickup?
This is usually easily fixable. Locate the Sustainiac circuit board in the back of the control cavity of your guitar. The harmonic value control is usually at the bottom/top on the unit. Turn clockwise to adjust the value higher.
Who Makes The Most Sustainiac Guitars?
As of 2021, Schecter Guitar Research makes the most guitars that have the Sustainiac preinstalled. These are usually found in the Diamond Series, but they also come in the Schecter USA Custom Shop guitars as well!
Christoper HortonChristopher has been playing guitar and piano for 27 years. He has been active in the professional music industry for over two decades. He has toured for years with several bands and music projects. He worked in LA as a studio musician and engineer working with bands like IAMSOUND, Baroness, Kylesa, Black Tusk, Reflux, and Tripping Daisy. In between giving private lessons, he is recording a solo album for 2022-2023. Christopher plays Schecter guitars, BOSS amplifiers, and uses STL Tones in the studio.
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