In this Sustainiac Pickup Review, we will take an in-depth look at this infinite sustainer pickup and discuss whether it’s practical for you as a musician.
Unlike compression pedals or EBows, Sustaniac is designed to replace the neck pickup on your guitar directly. This means that you’d be sacrificing a ‘normal’ neck pickup in lieu of the Sustainiac. But should you really worry about that?
We spent a lot of hours researching, testing, and interviewing musicians who use it a lot, and it’s safe to say that most people are loving the endless sustain and harmonic whammy fun that comes with it.
Given the likes of Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, and Synyster Gates using it in some of their solos, it speaks for itself.
So what is it that makes the Sustainiac so addictive and fun? Let’s find out!
What is a Sustainiac Pickup?
We won’t overwhelm you with all the technical details (yet).
Sustainiac is a sustainer device developed by Maniac Music Inc. It makes feedback sustain by directly putting vibration energy onto the strings.
Unlike other effects (like reverb, delay, chorus, etc.), which take the pickup signal and output a processed signal, a sustainer operates directly on the strings. This makes the strings vibrate indefinitely without being affected by room acoustics or amp volume.
It’s different from the usual amp feedback, where you hold the instrument near the amplifier speakers to achieve the same effect. Think of Sustainiac like a similar feedback system but installed where a typical neck pickup would go.
This means you can have those cool sustained sounds in an enclosed environment where you don’t have to crank up the loudspeaker and sit in front of it.
How Does a Sustainiac Pickup Work?
Here’s how it works. When the Sustainiac is turned on, it takes the signal from the bridge pickup, amplifies it, and then uses that to drive the driver instead of a speaker. The driver then generates an electromagnetic (EM) field around the strings causing them to vibrate.
As the strings are placed very close to the driver, it causes them to move indefinitely thus resulting in an infinite sustain. So, unlike a regular guitar pickup that “picks up” the vibrations of the string, it does the reverse, i.e., “adding” vibrations (or energy) to the strings.
If you are wondering whether or not you can use a regular guitar pickup as a driver – No, you cannot. The reason being a conventional pickup has very high DC resistance (around 5K – 20K) and impedance. Amplifiers typically work around a load of 4 – 8 ohms, so you must make the driver somewhere around that range.
A question you have to ask yourself is – Do you really need your guitar to sustain for days, or at least until the battery runs out?
Sustainiac Pickup Review
Build and Design
The sustainiac pickup is made of metal and plastic, and has a rectangular shape with four screws and a wire.
The pickup consists of two parts: the driver and the circuit board. The driver is the part that generates the electromagnetic field and interacts with the strings. The circuit board is the part that amplifies the signal from the bridge pickup and controls the sustain mode.
You get three modes: fundamental, harmonic, and mix. The fundamental mode sustains the original note played by the string. The harmonic mode sustains the natural harmonic of the string. The mix mode sustains both the fundamental and the harmonic.
The sustainiac pickup has a switch to turn it on or off, and a potentiometer to adjust the intensity of the sustain.
We actually loved the Sustainiac. The possibilities of mad squeals and endless dive bombs make it extremely fun to use, to the point that it’s more than just a metal player’s swank. Just make sure the guitar tuning and intonation is spot on.
Yes, the pickup needs precise tuning to be able to produce desirable results. It’s nothing exhilarating otherwise. This is something you need to remember at all times, especially when using a fixed bridge.
The Sustainiac makes it so easy to achieve those infinite sustain leads compared to other methods. It gives more controllable and predictable feedback that helps achieve those tones at regular volumes while saving your hearing.
The results are interesting with clean tones as well, where you can get magical ambient sounds analogous to a big hall reverb.
However, that faded away quicker than we expected.
As much fun as it is, it quickly turned unexciting where we didn’t use it all that often. Sustainers usually function as a ‘standard’ pickup when turned off. So is the case with the Sustainiac, and after a few moments of fun, we pretty much played it like any other guitar with an active neck pickup.
Fortunately, the tone when it’s turned off is just like any good neck pickup – relatively bright, clear, and balanced.
Keep in mind that when the actual ‘sustaining’ function is turned on, it will chew through your batteries. We suggest you avoid using it all the time, or you’ll find yourself constantly looking for fresh batteries.
We believe that if you’re someone with quite a bit of experience with floating bridge techniques, you’ll absolutely love it.
The installation is actually quite long and painful. Here’s a video I found that goes into the complete installation from scratch on a Strandberg OS6.
The sustainiac pickup needs a battery to operate, so a battery compartment has to be added to the guitar body. It also needs a switch and a potentiometer to control it, so additional holes have to be drilled on the guitar body or pickguard.
The pickup then has to be connected to the bridge pickup, the output jack, and the battery. The complete installation process of the sustainiac pickup is not very user-friendly and may require professional help.
Sustainiac Pickup Review: Pros and Cons
|Infinite sustain elevates your playing.
|Investment required; not the cheapest upgrade.
|Endless dives and squeals.
|Installation may require professional assistance for some players.
|No need for amp feedback.
|Needs battery to operate.
|Fat and warm sound.
What is the Sustainiac Stealth Pro Kit?
The Sustainiac Stealth Pro Kit is the entire bundle needed to install the pickup onto the guitar. The kit includes:
- A driver transducer that replaces your neck pickup. You can choose between 6-string or 7-string versions, humbucker or single-coil sizes, and black or white colors.
- A circuit board that processes the signal from your bridge pickup and sends it to the driver. The circuit board also has an active pickup mode that lets you use the driver as a regular pickup when the sustainer is off.
- A set of controls and wiring harnesses (zip ties, heat shrink, etc.) that let you switch the sustainer on and off, and select between fundamental and harmonic modes. You can also adjust the intensity and balance of the sustainer effect.
Who Makes the Sustainiac Pickup?
Maniac Music Inc., Indianapolis, Indiana.
Can the Sustainiac Pickup Replace One of My Pickups?
Yes! The driver of the Sustainiac system looks and functions like a regular guitar pickup. When turned ON, it functions as a magnetic string driver. But when you turn it OFF, it acts as an active neck pickup.
Will the Sustainiac Stealth PRO Sustainer Change My Tone?
A little bit. The Sustainiac won’t change the actual guitar signal which gets to your amplifier or other effects from the pickups. However, as the strings are caused to vibrate more intensely, this will result in a fatter sound usually.
Can I Use Sustainiac Sustainers on My Bass or Acoustic Guitar?
YES. You can use the Sustainiac on any instrument that has steel strings and works with a pickup. The Sustainiac Model C is more suitable for acoustic guitars, and will produce mostly harmonics when used on an acoustic/bass guitar. The Stealth PRO is a better option for bass as it can produce all the fundamental notes on a bass.
That was it for our Sustainiac Pickup Review. It’s an amazing piece of gear and can take your creativity and fun to the next level.
When you don’t use the Sustainiac, it functions as an active neck pickup. It’s certainly expensive, but that’s the price you have to pay for special tech like this.
Let us know your thoughts on the Sustainiac Pickup. And as always, thanks for reading!
I’m Pranshu. I’ve been a passionate guitarist, keyboardist, and music producer ever since I got my hands on a keyboard as a small child.
With Harmonyvine, my goal is to share tips and knowledge about music and gear with you. I also enjoy recording music and guitar covers, which you can check out on my Instagram page.