A tube-driven pickup? Yes, that’s been a thing for a while now, although it’s not something you’d stumble upon that often. Back in 2019, a company called Ruokangas came out with what they referred to as the “only tube-driven electric guitar pickup in the world.” Appropriately named Valvebucker, it has now gotten its new MK2 version, reports Guitar World.
To those not familiar with the company, Ruokangas is a Finland-based guitar maker, one of those that you could refer to as “boutique.” What you should bear in mind, however, is that these pickups are more than just pickups. They’re designed to fit Ruokangas guitars. So you cannot just cram them into your backup Squier Bullet Strat.
Another thing to mention is that you cannot just put them into your custom-made or modified instrument. They are only available if you order a Ruokangas electric guitar, or an electric bass since there’s also a bass version.
Finally, we should also point out that this is not exactly a cheap pickup system. In fact, these could easily be the most expensive pickups ever made. Guitar World also names Seymour Duncan Zephyr humbucker set as the runner-up with its price well over $900. But Valvebucker MK2 goes way beyond that, reaching a price of $2,200. And that’s $2,200 in addition to the price of a guitar.
Of course, this is obviously not for everyone’s tastes and preferences. And it’s definitely not for a budget-friendly setup. However, you should also bear in mind that this is a very innovative and delicate setup and requires a specially designed instrument. Essentially, it’s a guitar built around its pickup and electronics.
Heading over to its specs, the pickup is designed in such a way to be super dynamically responsive. And it’s also designed to show that recognizable tube glow. The pickups is, of course, an active one. But at the same time, it doesn’t get things sound too compressed or sterile.
The pickup also comes with an external power supply unit in the form of a pedal. You connect the instrument to it using an XLR cable. This power unit has two outputs, one for amps and pedalboards and the other one for mixing boards or audio interfaces. The power unit has 12 volts and comes with an adapter.
What’s also interesting is that this pedal can technically serve as a DI box. If you’re into simpler “all-in-one” setups, this guitar can serve as a preamp with genuine tube-driven tone and response, allowing you to go straight into a mixer, be it in the studio or for live settings. There’s also a regular input in the power box pedal that lets you plug in a conventional guitar and just bypass it all.
The guitar itself has very specific controls. Aside from master volume and master tone controls, you have two more switches. There’s one for a 6dB output boost and the other one that helps you utilize the pickup system in different ways to achieve different voicings.
Photos: Roukangas website