Integrated Pickup: Revisiting Action Setup

In a weird coincidence, I’ve had comments and emails with integrated pickup questions in the few days I’ve had an integrated pickup ‘variant’ through the workshop. So let’s take a look at this guy.

A while back, I talked about piezo pickups and spent some time on Takamine’s ‘integrated pickup’ Click that link if you need a recap. I’ve also included my diagram below showing you how the Takamine version is generally constructed.

The Takamine (mostly) integrated pickup/saddle

The Takamine (mostly) integrated pickup/saddle

While you’ll most often come across these in Taks, you will sometimes find variants in other instruments.

Like this Epiphone version.

An Epiphone variant of the integrated pickup

While the general construction is mostly the similar, there are a couple of things worth pointing out.

First off, the whole thing is a little less ‘solid’ than the Takamine version. The Epiphone saddle, in particular is thinner and a bit more flimsy. Instead of those notched castellations of the Takamine saddle, the Epi has some long cuts. Combining these cuts and the thinner material makes for a relatively fragile feeling saddle.

To be honest, some of that feel is down to the fact that this particular saddle has been lowered at some time in its past. Someone shaved the saddle top to lower the action, not realising they might find shims underneath the pickup housing.

You can see those shims in the photo. They’re just two strips of binding plastic and, combined with the moulded plastic housing, are probably not the most tone-friendly shim material.

That black plastic housing is the other big difference from the Takamine pickup. Epiphone’s pickup feels a little like it was originally specced too lightly and the housing was required to try solidify things after the fact.

Anyway, I’ve touched on action… The entire unit, in its black plastic housing, can be lifted from the saddle slot and you can check for shims. Remove or swap as appropriate and slide the whole thing back into the slot.

A word of caution (for this and all piezo USTs). Be very careful of the point where the hook-up cable connects to the pickup. This can be a delicate spot so don’t stress it when moving the pickup.

Be careful of the cable on any piezo pickup. They can be delicate.

This cable is actually a little more robust looking than most and even looks like it might be repairable in the event of problems. Not all are so forgiving so take it easy with them.

In the absence of shims, the saddle top can be filed or sanded down to lower the action. With a saddle like this, there’s a real chance of breaking it. It’s thin and has a heap of cuts most of the way through, so you don't want to be too roug.

As it happened, whoever worked on this before me left the saddle top with an uneven radius and I had to do a little sanding to make it consistent again. You better believe I was careful when working on this.

Bottom line is that this Epiphone pickup works just fine but is, mostly, a little more delicate than the Takamine unit (despite the black plastic housing making it seem sturdier). The principles are pretty similar, though and you deal with adjusting the action in the same way — check for shims and/or remove material (very, very carefully) from the top of the saddle.

That’s it for this week. I can’t spend all day chatting to you lot. I’ve got work to do.

And possibly some tea to drink.

Revisiting the integrated piezo pickup/saddle

This article written by Gerry Hayes and first published at