I’m leaving the rants of the last couple of weeks and getting back to some actual guitar stuff. Of course, I’ll almost certainly get my soapbox back out at some point but, for now, guitars…
Taylor’s Expression System preamp mounts incredibly neatly into the side of the guitar. Instead of a massive hole cut in the side of the guitar to mount a plastic box, Taylor just has three small holes that house knobs for the volume, bass, and treble controls. This makes for a nice, sleek look and is one of the benefits of “controlling the whole widget”*.
For other builders that wanted ‘sleek’ but didn’t make their own preamps, Fishman offered an OEM, wonderfully integrated, version of their Aura (the F1) that could be mounted in a similar fashion. Almost nobody used it as it’s much cheaper to hang a plastic box in a hole, but Martin did install the integrated Aura on some posh guitars at one point. I’m pleased to see that Fishman are now offering a similar style of mounting for their Flex Series. I haven’t investigated in depth but I hope it’ll be more economical for builders to integrate.
How do these preamps mount?
Years ago, I had to remove a Taylor ES (Expression System) preamp and was momentarily stumped. When I pulled the three little rubber knobs from the pot shafts, I found three low-profile bushings. No hex-nuts or anything like that. What to do?
Ah… Each bushing had a two small notches, one 180º opposite the other. Now we can get things moving.
But, no. The pot shafts protrude past the top of the bushings so you can’t just use a wide flat-bladed screwdriver to turn these like a big screw.
I’ve learned that many people, when faced with these bushings, place a screwdriver blade in one notch and tap or push the bushing around to loosen it. I don’t need to tell you that this is pretty risky. A slight slip and you've got a gouge in the side of your guitar (or worse, someone else’s guitar).
What I did was to modify a steel rule to become a ‘Taylor screwdriver’.
I used a round needle file to make a notch in the end of the ruler. The notch allows the ruler to clear the pot shaft and ‘span’ the bushing. Then it’s a relatively easy and safe job to unscrew the bushings.
If you’re a Taylor certified tech, you can get a dedicated tool for this job (actually, maybe anyone can get this tool; I never thought to ask – sorry). From the look of the hasty welds holding the bushing-gripping part to what’s actually a Philips screwdriver, I suspect this tool isn’t widely/commercially available. I kinda like the idea that Taylor has to mod a screwdriver to make this. 😉
Anyway, the dedicated tool is pretty handy but my modded steel rule works almost as well. And, if you have a steel rule, it doesn’t cost you anything. Bonus.
Your modded ruler should work for that Martin Fishman Aura too. I haven’t seen the new OEM Fishman Flex preamps in the wild yet so I can’t speak for them. I expect it’s similar, though.
Steve Jobs reportedly said that, in order to make a product great, it was necessary to control the whole widget. Being in charge, end-to-end, means you don’t have to make compromises in your product just to integrate something you have to source from a 3rd party. Like a plastic box hanging in a hole in the side of a guitar*.
**Am I sneaking towards ranting again? 😉
This article written by Gerry Hayes and first published at hazeguitars.com