Stickups vs. ACTV-2 vs. PASV-4.

Let me start of by saying that I have a hard time deciding what I like best. Each of the pickups has their own strengths and characteristics.

The Stickup provides the archetypal Stick sound - the one that most of us fell in love with. I think it has the most “acoustic” sound of the SE line of pickups. I have it mounted on my Cherry Grand Stick with light gauge strings. I like the simplicity of the controls - just one volume knob per pickup. The sound in general is great, particularly the bass, although to me the high end feels a little thin. Still, there is nothing my SP13 cannot compensate for quite nicely. I like using this Stick particularly when accompanying myself singing folk songs.

I have an ACTV-2 on my Padauk Grand Stick with medium gauge strings. This is a little more “electric” sounding than the Stickup. The controls are easy and convenient, a volume and tone control for each string group. Plus there is a little slide switch that selects stereo or mono output. It is a very convenient option to have. I wish the Stickup had that feature also. With the tone control on the treble turned down a little, it has this great mellow sound, like that of a hollow body jazz guitar. I love the sound of this pickup! The one thing I am not fond of is that it is an active pickup, and as such needs a battery. I cannot leave it plugged in all the time for fear of depleting the battery. Having said that, the battery consumption is minimal, a single 9V battery lasts well over a year.

I have a PASV-4 on my Graphite 10 string, medium gauge strings. Unlike the other two, there are 2 sets of pickups per string group. Each has a bridge and a neck pickup. This pickup allows for all kinds of sound selections. You can choose between using the neck or the bridge or a combination of both. Of course the controls are discrete for each string grouping. This pickup sounds even more electric than the ACTV-2. Each pickup has 3 knobs, a volume, pickup selector and a tone selector. There is also a toggle for stero/mono selection. The range in sounds goes from a fat “humbucker” type sound to a funky “single coil”. In particular, I love the Telecaster-like sound you can get from it. This is my favorite Stick and for the most part when I play out, I use this one. I’m not sure it is due to the pickup, though.

After years of playing Grand Stick, I suddenly realized that 10 string is more ergonomically suited to my finger length, etc and thus it is easier for me to play. Add to that, the rails on the Graphite make it such a joy to play.

The one peeve I have with the PASV-4 is that the instrument cable (tip/ring to string group) is reversed over the other two pickups. This is only an issue if you have other Sticks with other pickups and switch from one to the other. You have to remember to change the toggle setting on the SP13.

In conclusion, all things considered, I love ‘em all and am glad I don’t have to choose only one! It’s hard to go wrong, no matter which one you get. They all sound great in their own way.


What are the different pickup sounds of the PASV-4?

As far as what’s on stick.com ... yes, it would be nice to have more sound files I think. Currently, there is a nice page featuring MP3s of all the different sounds you can get out of the PASV-4 pickup module at:


PASV-4 controls - click for larger view :pasv4_pickup.jpg :pasv4_pickup_inside.jpg


Some opinions on the PASV-4 vs. the ACTV-2 pickups

I’m about to get a SB-8 from the Chapmans and want some advice on which pick-ups to get. I have had a ten string in the pass with standard picks, but am not reall familiar with the two newer “block” options. If anyone has an SB-8 with the Passive-4 or Active-2, I’d love to hear what you think of it. Does the Active-4 give the SB-8 more of an NS/Stick sound? Can the Passive-4 cover all the sonic ground of the Active-2 plus more? I’d REALLY appreciate all input.

Qua Veda has just revised (1-20-03) his cheat sheet on the PASV-4 pickup. You can find it on the Links|Downloads page at Stickist.com. SEI’s site also has some sound samples of the PASV-4 at http://www.stick.com/instruments/pickups/pasv4/samples/ Hope this helps a little with your decision.

The ‘cheat sheet’ diagram I made up simply illustrates the purpose and functionality of the controls on the PASV4. Hope its useful to some folks. Regarding mono mode, note that the combined mono signal outputs through the melody channel only. Depending on how you route your signals, this may account for why your bass sounds softer (lower volume) than melody. I’d be curious to know if this is the case in your setup.

My 10 String has the PASV-4 and I love it! I have only played the other block pickup on Kent Rytting’s Grand, and it has a great sound, but not too many options to choose from. The PASV-4 has a ton of combinations to choose with a wide variety of sounds, so I feel it is very versatile. The only complaint I have with it is that in the mono mode, the bass side sounds a little softer than the melody, which is annoying when playing with just one amp. Other than that, I am exstatic with it, and am so glad that I spent the extra money to get it.

I have the PASV-4 on my SB-8. All Jonathan’s comments apply for me too, except I haven’t witnessed the bass/melody level difference–maybe not an issue on the SB8. My only complaint is that the active volume/EQ controls in mono mode are on the ergonomically-disadvantaged treble side. I’d definitely order the PASV-4 on my next (Grand 10-string) Stick.

When the volume cut occurs is when I just plug the melody side of the split cable into an amp with the mono switch on. I never use the mono switch when I am using my full stereo setup.

There is more to it than that. I’ve noticed that on the rare occasion that I flip the switch to mono mode, the whole instrument gets noticeably “thinner” (for lack of a better term). Both the melody and bass side is affected. I’ve meant to ask Emmett about this but I really don’t use the pickup in the mono setting enough to worry about it. The only reason I would have for ever using mono mode would be on the occasion that I want to feed bass into my looper and I accomplish that by flipping the pan on my bass SP 13 channel over to the other side.

It isn’t usually a problem for me except when I have to take just one amp to play with someone. (I don’t have a car right now, and have to rely on others and I usually don’t want to lug all my stuff around.) But in those occasions it is kind of annoying. If Emmett is listening, is there anything we can do about this?

Are “The Block” pickup and the “PASV-4” pickup the same size? I have a Grand with “The Block” pickup, but I was considering purchasing a “PASV-4” and swapping them out from time to time...

From what I understand, they are the same size, so you should be able to swap it out without a problem! (I would highly recommend it, I love the PASV-4!)

As I understand it, “The Block” is the casing both ACTV-2 and PASV-4 are built into.

The Block housings for the ACTV-2 and the PASV-4 are the same size, so they are interchangeable, but the holes for the anchor screws are in different locations. SE can drill the new set of screw holes for you, so you can swap out the housings as you like.

If my PASV-4 model is any indication, I’d advise keeping module swapping to the calm confines of home rather than at a gig or whatever. That is, presuming home is calm–not in my case with a 3-year old around! :>

The reason: Presuming the grounding systems on either Block (and other Sticks) is the same, there’s a tiny coil spring that makes a connection between the Block and the tailpiece and strings. It’s located near the jack-side bottom wall of the channel. I don’t know if the spring is captive–I didn’t try to find out. If it isn’t, there may be a chance it could indetectably jump out of there, never to be seen again. Also, my PASV-4’s back plate is not mechanically attached to the housing–it’s not really in one piece like it looks. The pressure of the mounting screws and height adjustment setscrews holds it there. Again, your Stick may vary, but on my instrument the pressure of back-plate to housing is an integral part of the grounding system. Nasty buzzes and hums can ensue otherwise.

Interesting. I always liked the fact that with the original pickup, the strings were not grounded, so you could never get a shock through them. I don’t know about the needs of the PASV-4, but the ACTV-2 uses EMGs and EMGs don’t need the strings grounded. Can anyone verify if the ACTV-2 is grounded to the strings? Just curios ...

If you plan to run in mono mode much of the time, the ACTV-2 has an advantage in that it provides separate volume and tone controls for the melody and bass sides when in this mode. The PASV-4 just assigns both sides of the instrument to one volume pot and one tone control while in mono mode, but still lets you select pickups independently for each side. Other than that, the PASV-4 is the better pickup. It doesn’t need a battery, is much louder, and offers many more sonic options.


During a rehearsal and playing through my bass amp, I found the pickups to be noisy and that it amplified noise that was not from the strings. The pickup is the original one in the ironwood case.

As far as my knowledge goes, the older pickups didn’t have rubber isolation between the mounting screws/adjustment screws and the pickup. Therefore, vibrations of the instrument itself will cause sounds via the pickups. Another problem was a fairly high amount of crosstalk between bass and melody side. It would probably be a good thing to call Stick Enterprises and ask if it’s possible to exchange the current mounting screws with rubber tipped ones, and if it’s possible to adapt the housing so that the rubber rings beneath the mounting screws can be put in. (this may not be possible; I don’t how the older pickups where attached). If you use a leather belt to wear the Stick, some noise can be caused by the belt hook rubbing along the belt. Putting something soft between the hook and the belt can take that away.

I had a polycarb (up until recently) that had the original (plastic, not wooden) pickup in it. Besides the mounting differences, the older pickups really were quite a bit more microphonic than newer pickups. Technology has marched on in the intervening years, and Emmett has taken full advantage of it with pickups that are just as sensitive, if not more so, to the vibrating string and less so to movement of the instrument, besides also making design improvements such as the rubber-tipped mounting screws to further isolate the pickup. You can easily tell the difference by having an older pickup and a newer pickup side by side (as I did), removing them from the instrument and knocking on the housing with equal force. The rubber-tipped mounting screws do indeed make a difference but it’s not the whole difference.

That having been said, the original pickup was every bit as full-ranged as the newer pickup and perhaps its more microphonic nature might account for some people’s perception of the polycarb instruments as having more sustain. I dunno, I only know I loved my old Stick and I love my newer ones too. :-)


Is the Pasv-4 available for 7+5 Grand Stick?

It looks like the PASV-4 pickup is available on all Sticks; SB-8, 10 & 12 strings, wood and graphite. Contact Stick Enterprises, Inc at www.Stick.com for more specific availability info regarding 6+6 or 7+5 configurations for the Grand Stick.

You can see the various configurations of Sticks and pickups, along with their pricing, at Stick Enterprises, Inc’s website. The specific link to the config/pricing page is:



Does anybody know how the stereo output is wired: which is bass, tip or ring?

On the Standard pickup (Stickups) for a 10-string, the melody is on the ring and the bass on the tip.

Geez. I don’t remember off hand which is which. I can tell you, however, that the PASV-4 is the opposite of the standard pickup. I don’t know about the ACTV-2.


Bass Volume vs. Stick Volume

I’m noticing that the Bass guitar is MUCH louder than the Stick at the same volume level on the Bass Amp I’m using. Is there any way to sort of “work” around this problem such that when I switch instruments, I don’t have to jack the amp volume?

You need something like a Boss LS-2.


Click on the owner’s manual download so you can see the many things this pedal is designed for. One of them is to act as a mini active mixer for people with two instruments that share and amp.

I’ve noticed that one of my guitars is much louder than my Stick. ~John

I use an A/B footswitch (home made) in combination with a simple multi effects pedal (Digitech BP50, 100 euro or so). Advantage: you can use one patch (with the appropriate volume AND tone AND effects settings) for the bass and another one for the Stick.

So, if I change instruments I hit the A/B switch and one of the switches on the Digitech. Takes half a second. Even though the BP50 is limited compared to the more expensive units, it does have usable effects like the fretless simulator, compression, octaver, bass-mid-treble controls, auto wha etc. I have a very small “effects board” with the BP50 and it’s guitar equivalent RP50 for the melody side (see photo at Stickist.com - I hope the link works)

Regards, Jaap

Hello all,

I’m in pretty much the same boat as J. Scott Tury (Ironwood Stick and fretless bass).

I just stumbled upon this on google when I typed “mono mini mixer” as the key words: the Nady MM242 mini mixer: 9-v battery powered, $35 (it’s switchable between mono and stereo): http://store.yahoo.com/efunctional/mm-242.html

I suppose one could have everything hooked up with the proper volumes, so no extra steps would be needed when swapping instruments. I wonder how well it would work with passive bass and Stick pickup signals?

On the other hand, reviews of the Boss LS-2 ($80) are good. They say that that unit does not introduce any coloration. It looks like one would switch between instruments A and B via the footswitch, which to me is advantageous because it would eliminate the possibility of rumble/feedback coming through the instrument that’s not in use at the time. But $80 seems just a little steep for something like that.

Michael Yoder

Hi all - I have dealt with this problem another way. I use an Alesis 12R (12-channel rack-mount) Mixer as the first unit in my signal chain. I have a different channel for Active Bass, Stick Bass, Stick Melody, Passive (fretless) Bass, Acoustic Bass, Synth, etc. I am currently using Stick, two basses (an active 6-string and a passive 4-string) in our show. I set each channel so that each instrument outputs the same level out of the mixer. This makes it real easy to just pick up an instrument, change patches, and play. The next most critical devices in my chain are a pair of Boss VF-1s. I have different banks of patches for each instrument type, so for Stick, for example, I use banks 4 and 5 (40-59). One press of the patch changer (FCB-1010) selects both VF-1s with the desired patch preset for both bass and melody. Of course you have to tweak the settings of each patch to the desired volume level. If you are only using one effect processor and don’t want different patches for each instrument, then the mixer will really work well to gain stage the input signal to the processor. ~Barry

On the other hand, reviews of the Boss LS-2 ($80) are good. They say that that unit does not introduce any coloration. It looks like one would switch between instruments A and B via the footswitch, which to me is advantageous because it would eliminate the possibility of rumble/feedback coming through the instrument that’s not in use at the time. But $80 seems just a little steep for something like that.

Your assessment is correct. I’ve been using an LS-2 for a few months now. I process each side of my Stick separately and then send both sides into an amp with only one input. The LS-2 lets me mix and sum the two signals.

The pedal is very clean with no noise (unless you crank the levels way up, in which case you get gobs of extra volume). My application and the one you mention above are only two of the many things this box can do. If you’ve read the reviews, you know it’s considered a Swiss Army pedal. Eighty bucks is peanuts for what it does – if you want that versatility. ~John

My understanding is that the Stickups aren’t particularly “hot” pickups, and when you couple that with the fact that tapped strings simply don’t vibrate as energetically as plucked strings you’re pretty much guaranteed the output from the Stick is going to be a lot lower than a bass.

Behringer makes a box called a TUBE ULTRAGAIN MIC100 (also MIC200).

It’s a little preamp with a 12AX7 tube in it for about $50.00 USD!

I’d be tempted to go this way and bring the output of the Stick up to the level of the bass, as opposed to dropping the bass signal down to the level of the Stick. I know that virtually every guitar pickup on the planet has a different tone when you turn down the volume on the guitar. Most players keep the volume at 10 all the time unless they are balancing between two pickups, in which case one of the volume knobs will be at 10. Actual volume is control is done at the amp.

What I’m not sure about is whether the same effect happens when you use a volume control as the first step in a patch chain. I’ve never had a volume pedal, so I haven’t experimented with this. Also, I’m not sure how pronounced the effect is on bass.

Anyways, if I was using one of these boxes, I’d leave the Stick plugged into the input 100% of the time, when switching from bass to Stick, I’d unplug the patch cord from the bass and plug it into the output of the preamp. ~Dave Barrett


Thanks for the idea about the Boss LS-2. I’ve had mine for a few days now and am pleased. You are definitely correct in describing it as a “Swiss Army pedal.” The two separate effects loops open up so much flexibility without having to re-route things. One can have two separate strings of effects and switch between the two, blend the two, etc. Not to mention blending or switching between two signals on the front end (like blending the two Stick signals, or switching between Stick Bass and bass guitar.) It’s very clean and introduces no coloration of the sound that I can tell. To test it for extreme volume cases, I plugged in my bass with the hottest signal and the bass with the weakest signal (weaker than the passive Stick bass-side pickup in my ca. 1983 Ironwood), and it works just great. I know it can do even more than what I’ve figured out thus far. It’s definitely worth the $80 typical street price. ~Michael

Hi, Michael.

Glad it’s working out. The LS-2 is quite the sleeper pedal, especially considering it’s a Boss. As much as I love it, I just took it off my board for now. I’ve been revamping things lately and discovered that I don’t really need it for my new rig. Of course, I will keep it, as it’s so useful. I have used its dual loops for A/B pedal comparisons, for example, when I wanted to compare pedals in pairs or other combos. It’s former daily duty was to simply mix and sum my two Stick signals into a single-channel amp. It works great for that as long as you don’t need more than a two-channel mixer. But the simple feature I already miss most is its ability to turn everything off at the pedalboard with a single stomp. Then you don’t have to worry about accidentally unplugging your cables or clonking an axe on something as you’re taking it off, then hearing it bong like Big Ben through the speakers.

On a distantly related topic, if you ever want another Swiss Army pedal, the Boss DD-6 delay is remarkably versatile. It can do about two dozen different things, but wouldn’t you know, the one thing it won’t do is what I want it to do. I have one gutted on my kitchen counter right now, and a quick mod should have it just perfect soon. Man, I should have been a Boy Scout.

Happy Swiss Army pedaling. ~John


pickups.txt (2459 views) · Last modified: 03/02/2010 11:47