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Alex Lifeson Axcess


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Hello friends.


First a little background in that I am quite new to these boards ... (FIRST POST!) I am a proud new owner of an AL530 in Crimson Red. I have been a strat and PRS player most of my life but a couple of years ago picked up a Les Paul and quite frankly I never went back. The Les Paul is my primary axe for my needs. Being a huge Rush fan, my wife, while in New York, spotted a very slightly used (in fact it looks new to me) AL 530 and picked it up for my birthday. What a steal of a price... She let me take care of the logistics of shipping it back to Toronto etc. but my lovely lady foot the bill.


I need assistance with understanding the piezo aspect of this guitar. If I run one mono jack out of the normal output and into my rig, Am I correct that I will have access to the regular pickups (either paralel or split) by using the pop of knobs?


Also, if using the "normal" output jack, if I turn the magnetic pickup volume knobs to zero and turn up the peizo knob, should I not be hearing the piezo pickup because I am not. I can't get the piezo pickup to function on its own. I noticed the 9 volt battery wire disconnected from the connector (I started a thread on this in repair section) but even when I manually held the wire on the leads, I can't get the piezo to function. Is this a manufacturing defect? If anyone can assist I'd appreciate it.


How then can I get the piezo in it's own using the one output jack? Do I turn the regular volume kobs down and turn up the Piezo? What does the popping up of the piezo do and why can't I seem to get a nice crisp sound coming out of the guitar when wanting to utlize the piezo? In essence, what is the best way to get the cleanest and as close to acoustic sounding tone out of the guitar using the regular output jack?


Secondly, is ther a benefit to using both jacks and if so, I currently use a Line 6 G50 wireless set up .. into my pedalboard and into my Vox AC30. I understand stereo out can be utilized by using both output jacks at which point I would need another amp (which isn't an issue because I've got a few amps lying around) but being a strat guy all my life I've never used a two output guitar nor have I ever run a stero configuration. I've certainly never used a guitar with a built in piezo.


I really hope someone understands what I'm trying to ask. I'm sorry if my questions come across as conveluted.


In essence,


1. Using the regular output jack .. how do I get the most out of the peizo on it's own and how do I blend? What does the push pull piezo knob do?


2. If I wantd to use the two outputs in stereo, can somone offer me assistance as to how I would wire the guiar into my pedal board using two jacks? What cables would I need, extra stomp boxes (amp switcher?) etc.


Any video links that you might know of would be of great assistance.


Thank you all in advance if you do take the time to reply. I'm so glad I gave Gibson another try .. I love the guitar and I want to make sure I am getting full use out of this beautiful model that has everthing I need but unfortunatey, I don't have the technical wherwithall to ensure I use it properly.


Much thanks again. I hope I can get some helpful replies.




DrFever .. but you can call me Dan. [thumbup]

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Dan, quick points:


- Assuming the prior owner left it in factory condition, plugged into the regular jack, you should hear Piezo only if you turned both mags down to zero and the Piezo up (and best all the way up). But there must be a battery connected. It sounds like you are not hearing it that way. It was not clear to me what you were saying about the battery, but you need a battery connected and it needs to be wired correctly.


- Though you didn't mention this, know that, in factory condition, if you plug into the Piezo jack only, there will be no sound. To use the Piezo jack, there must be a connection in the regular jack.


- When using the Piezo, you will need to pull UP on the Piezo volume control and have it turned up (this is the knob on the bottom toward the back). If it is pushed DOWN, that is a "Piezo Kill" setting -- it kills the Piezo entirely. This is the mod that Gibson did on all guitars after AL99 to address a problem with the Piezo signal bleeding in when blending from the regular jack even when the Piezo was at "0" on volume. THIS MAY BE THE SOURCE OF YOUR TROUBLES IF YOU'RE NOT AWARE OF THIS.


- Are you getting any signal from the Piezo jack with a plug in the regular jack? Check that, because if not, there is probably something wrong with your wiring or a battery issue. The battery is for the Piezo, so if that is the problem, then you wouldn't get any Piezo sound out of the Piezo jack either (again -- you MUST have something plugged in to both jacks to test that).


- One note re battery: It may be for the Piezo, but in a factory setup, taking the battery our (or it dying) saps the tone of the mag pickups. You need a good battery in at all times.


- As to stereo use, all I can say is that, with two plugs in the guitar, the sound is split and you control the volume separately. Again, the Piezo volume must be pulled out to get signal from the Piezo at all. You can run them to two different amps, or to one amp and one mixing board, or to two different effects racks, etc. The possibiities are endless.


- Some popular mods to explore on these message boards: (1) Piezo volume knob mod -- switches it around so the Piezo is killed when the Piezo volume is up instead of down; (2) "McDLT mod" -- re-wiring to separate the "hot side" (mags) from the "cold side" (Piezo). With the latter mod, there is no blending of mags in Piezo. Mags are separated from the internal circuit board and wired like a traditional Les Paul. Benefits of this are: (1) No concern about Piezo bleed or need to use kill switch option; (2)no effect on tone of mag pickups by circuit board or battery; (3)can plug into the Piezo jack and use Piezo without anything plugged into the regular jack: and (4)potential gain in reliability: this mod has solved problems some users had with excessive noise. The downside of McDLT is no more blending in the regular jack.


I was the first person to dare to do the McDLT mod, and swear by it. No regrets at all. I don't really care for the blending feature -- I would rather blend at the mixing board, DAW, or multiple amps depending on configuration.


I hope this helps. Report back on whether it solved any of your problems, and enjoy your AL. Greatest Les Paul ever in my humble opinion.

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Rock 2112


Thank you for the fantastic reply.


I'm the first owner of the guitar. I'm quite shocked this guitar slipped through Gibson's quality control.


As for my main problem ... I called Graph Tech and they were outstanding in their customer support.... not like Gibson who only offered "ship it to one of our USA waranty centres" as their reply. Graphtech spent an hour on the phone with me ... we took all the plates off the back of the guitar and it turned out, each piezo pickup is wired into this little connector block. The wires are almost a translucent blue but one of them when rotated is a bit more "silvery". Blue is up is all I remember .. lol .. and if those individual piezo wires are not into the connector block properly, then the main piezo when pluged into the pin on the ghost board, won't work. After the Graph Tech agent made me unplug everything and re-assemble, it still didn't work until we went over to the connector block....ONE PICKUP plug was upside down .. that is, all the string pickups were pluged in with the more bluish wire up and the silvery one down ... I reversed it and voila!!! We have SOUND. I was so relieved when we got this solved. I sure learned about the innerds of the guitar and how the wiring is set up.


I don't blame the store. They had it in house for 3 days and they offerred to ship it with a complete set up but I preferred to do my own set up so I'm sure all they did was plug it in and they got power from the mags and didn't bother to test the piezo functionalit. I made a lot of calls to various guitar shops and many guitar techs aren't too familiar with piezo systems.


However, thanks to the great folks at Graph Tech, they saved me from having to ship the guitar from Canada to a USA warranty centre and thankfully we got it working. I cannot say the same for the customer service department of Gibson.


If I may correct you on one thing, my guitar is piezo with the pot down and pulling it UP acts as the kill switch .. this is confirmed in the Gibson information card that shipped with the guitar. Mine is an AL530 .. can it be that earlier versions shipped reversed and they later changed to make the piezo kill in the pot UP position?


I am not familiar with soddering so I would rather not fool around with any of the pot mods although I do like the idea of having the Piezo kill switch when in the UP POSITION on the pot as factory shipped... I bought this model to do a lot of blending so I like to get various tones ... I do a lot of aggressive strumming and picking and I would hate to have the piezo activated in the up position and then acidentally killed by pressing it during my aggressive playing so I like it the way it is.


I am sort of intreagued by the McDLT mod but I like the idea of blending for some tunes. My intent is to probably forego the life-o-sound output and run an ABY and switch so when I want to go 100% piezo I will switch to my acoustic amp that has onboard delay and reverb the way I like it and then go back to my AC30 when going blended or pure mag.


I can confirm the guitar is noisy and I attribute this to the fact that my guitar and perhaps all of the AL models failed to receive any SHIELDING THE CAVITIES .. THAT PIEZO pickup wire runs pretty hot and if you notice, you simply have to rub against the wiring plates at the back and you get static. I theerefore conclude that the noise has to be due to the fact that the cavities are not shielded. I am quite shocked that Gibson didn't shield the cavities... especially for a guitar at this price-point. I have cheaper guitars factory shielded .. so that is one thing I will be doing soon.


All in all, the guitar is working which is the important thing.


I want to thank you Rock 2112 for your fantastic assistance and suggestions. I truly appreciate the time you spent to reply.


Cheers and rock on!! Absolutely loved fooling around with the piezo last night with some different phase, chorus and delay thrown in. This guitar really can do SO MUCH.





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Dan, I was happy to help and hope I did. On the point you mentioned about your Piezo being killed in the up position, I could easily have just remembered that wrong. When my tech did the McDLT mod, he deactivated the kill aspect of the Piezo knob, because bleed was no longer an issue and there was no need for it (one less thing that can go wrong in the future, too). So it's been a long time and it is more likely that my memory is bad than that Gibson changed that around.


I'm glad to hear you sorted out all your problems and love the guitar. It's really too bad this guitar has needed so much tech love for at least some segment of owners, because it is so ridiculously awesome when it's working right. On your noise issue, I think the McDLT mod cannot help but make the guitar quieter, as it completely removes the circuit board and battery from the mag pickup signal chain. But it sounds like you will use and enjoy the blending option, so getting the shielding fixed up will hopefully give you everything you want.


Happy playing - Rock2112

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  • 4 months later...

On my AL 792 the Regular jack puts out a magnetic/piezo blend signal with a TS plug. Using a TRS plug the tip provides the magnetic and the ring the piezo signal when the Life-O-Sound jack is left alone. Interestingly this stereo operating mode is not mentioned on the manual card that came with the guitar. I had bought a split cable in order to connect my AL to the TRS plug that I use with my Fender Nashville Power Telecasters and meanwhile with my SG Supra, too, and with all my electrics leaving the ring without signal. But by trying I found out that this stereo cable works with the Alex Lifeson Les Paul Axcess model, too!


If there is a plug connected to the Life-O-Sound jack, the ring of the Regular jack provides no signal.

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