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Thread: L.R. Baggs Voiceprint DI Pedal Review and Thoughts

  1. #1

    Default L.R. Baggs Voiceprint DI Pedal Review and Thoughts

    Gear used: Martin D35 Dreadnought Acoustic guitar with Baggs Lyric pickup; Prucha F5 Mandolin with K&K internal Pickup; Fishman Loudbox Performer Acoustic Amp; Google Pixel 6 Android phone

    I recently purchased this pedal to try and improve the sound of my Martin acoustic and Prucha mandolin through the Loudbox amp. Iím generally pleased with the results and will continue learning as time goes on. I have not yet used the pedal/app for live performance (next step). The pedal and Acoustic Live phone app can be futzy and non-intuitive and I have some general thoughts in hopes this may be helpful for others and solicit comments!

    The pedal/app delivers much improved sound for both the guitar and the mandolin through the Loudbox amp. Running the signal through a full PA instead of the amp should sound even better.

    First and foremost, creating a complete users guide and some Ďmodelí set up examples for the VPDI pedal could flatten the learning curve substantially and save new users hours of trial and error. I brought this up during a call with Baggs.

    As with many pedals and amps, increasing gain and volume with VPDI at any point in the system creates distortion and significantly compromises the effectiveness of the VPDI. There may not be any way to overcome this although going through a PA should help considerably.

    Out of the box, it took multiple attempts and several hours before the Bluetooth connection stabilized between the pedal and phone. Iíve seen this problem before on other Bluetooth pedals and not sure why it happens, but it does. Pretty sure itís not my room setup. Inquiries with Baggs did not shed light, and there could well be a phone issue (noting that the VPDI was developed for iPhone and later added Android phones, I have Pixel 6Ö). Seems to be stable now.

    My guess is that this pedal will yield the most improved results for piezo/undersaddle pickups that have inherently poorer tone IMHO (although some folks really like the piezo toneÖ) than other pickup types. The VPDI did wonders to improve the internal K&K tone on my Prucha mandolin.

    The Advanced voiceprint option did not yield significantly better results for either guitar or mandolin than the Default setup (to my ears). I discussed this with Baggs and they concurred that the Default setting should be adequate Ďin many or most cases.í I also inadvertently overloaded the Advanced setup several times with too much data, crashing the app before I cut WAY back on the number of input steps. This is contrary to the Baggs instructional video claiming unlimited samples are possible for the Advanced setup, not true. Not sure what the advantage of the advanced setup is but maybe others have ferreted this out, especially for mandolins?

    What did yield better results for both guitar and mandolin was using a fairly inexpensive AT 2020 external recording mic instead of the phone mic. I ran the mic signal through a powered mixer with EQ then output to the USB C port on my Pixel 6 (need an adapter to do this from a standard 1/8 in audio jack). The mic placement and input level are critical, as any recording engineer would say. There is a good YouTube demo of external mic use with the VPDI (Red Hat Review https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHhRf6AUOI0). I also found that using the external mic with mixer EQ minimized additional EQ needed in the Acoustic Live app.

    I got my best results (especially for the mandolin) by dialing the Q setting way down on the EQ controls of the app, setting the Voiceprint/Pickup ratio to about 80 percent, and setting antifeedback in the 25 range. Depressing EQ levels further (to control signal noise), increasing the voiceprint/pickup ratio, and increasing the antifeedback will kill the signal strength considerably. Compensating by turning the amp volume up increases undesirable signal noise and is not a good solution.

    The combinations of Presets, Voiceprints, and phone vs pedal loading took me a while to figure out through a lot of trial and error. Bottom line for me, and I suspect many people is to stick with one Voiceprint per Preset per instrument and you are less likely to get screwed up. Maybe others need dozens of different Voiceprints, Presets, and Playlist combinations, but this seems like overkill and a recipe for potential chaos. At some point other factors for live performance become much more important than relatively minor subtleties in instrument voiceprints and output, again in IMHO.

    I tried additional voiceprints with another mandolin and mandola using a Baggs Radius pickup mounted externally on each. The results were inferior to the voiceprint for the mandolin with the K&K internal pickup. The Radius pickup introduced significant signal noise (not a phase or ground lift issue) by comparison. I have yet to hear a Radius pickup reproduce good mandolin tone in any live playing situation including professional players with high-end instruments. The exception Sierra Hull where she uses the Radius on her mandolin in older Baggs YouTube videos that I suspect might have been further post-processed, or when she also uses a clip on F-hole mic in addition to the Radius on her Gibson F5.

    Rick from Sisters

  2. #2
    Registered User Mando Esq's Avatar
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    Default Re: L.R. Baggs Voiceprint DI Pedal Review and Thoughts

    Great review, Rick.

    I don’t have this system (using a simpler Radial acoustic DI) but I am quite intrigued by the concept.

    Thank you for all the details.
    Eastman MD515 mandolin
    Eastman E20om guitar
    Vega Little Wonder tenor banjo

  3. #3

    Default Re: L.R. Baggs Voiceprint DI Pedal Review and Thoughts

    Amplifying mandolins without a microphone is notoriously difficult. I think it is a good product and potentially a game changer for live performance (can't wait to try it!). Just be prepared for some 'rabbit hole' sessions to dial it in with whatever mic/pickup, amp, or PA system you may be using. There are lots of variables to consider in addition to the voiceprint pedal settings. And...the $399 price tag.

  4. #4

    Default Re: L.R. Baggs Voiceprint DI Pedal Review and Thoughts

    Conceptually is this pretty similar to a ToneDexter? So far I’ve been really happy with my TD and just curious if this is similar. (Perhaps more available on the market.)

  5. #5

    Default Re: L.R. Baggs Voiceprint DI Pedal Review and Thoughts

    Good question, don't know as I haven't tried the TD. What kind of pickup system are you using with TD (for mandolin or guitar?) Like so many of these gadgets the only way to really test is to do a side by side comparison. Plug for Sweetwater, they offer full return policy. So one way of testing would be to purchase the VPDI pedal from SW and compare to the TD...

    I'm actually really curious how the VPDI compares to more traditional preamps in terms of signal strength quality....The VPDI did not do well creating a voiceprint with the Baggs radius pickup on my mandola and external mic. This is a difficult instrument to reproduce and I probably wouldn't try to do that live anyway, it this was mainly an experiment. But I wondered if using a good quality preamp (or maybe even a Baggs DI box?) upstream could have improved the quality of the mandola signal into the VPDI pedal to get a better voiceprint. Another rabbit hole to explore...and I'm not a sound engineer. Response from Baggs was 'yeah try it and see'

  6. #6

    Default Re: L.R. Baggs Voiceprint DI Pedal Review and Thoughts

    I run straight into the TD from a K&K on three mandolins and a JJB on one. I think the JJB has the most accurate map but my two favorite mandolins have K&K and they all sound pretty good.
    I used an inexpensive MXL condenser mic to train the TD. I’m sure it would be better if I bought or borrowed a nicer one.

    I like the fact that I can switch easily between instruments and wave maps.

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