The M System

An Acoustic Amplification System by True Tone Sound

Please Note: This page summarizes some information I gleaned about the True Tone M System while giving a workshop on acoustic guitar amplification at the Northeast Regional Folk Alliance Conference in November, 1996. Doug Moncrief, a representative from True Tone Sound, was on the panel and demonstrated the system in a Breedlove custom guitar. This page is not run by True Tone Sound, and the information here is neither an official presentation of their product specifications nor a commercial. Please contact True Tone Sound for official product information. I was impressed by the product, and offer this site for information purposes only. You can reach the creator of the True Tone system, Chris Grener, at Although True Tone products are not currently available from True Tone, Chris continues to offer support for past True Tone customers.

True Tone Sound, based in Syracuse, New York, was created by Chris Grener. Chris has training and professional experience in physics, live sound, and luthiery, which puts him in a unique position in regard to approaching the problem of amplifying acoustic guitars. He has spent several years researching and designing amplification systems, and a number of world-renowned acoustic guitarists use his custom-designed systems (contract obligations do not allow their names to be used as an endorsement, but the list is impressive; trust me!).

Chris has finally settled on a system for general use called The M System. I heard it at the Folk Alliance Conference in what was admittedly a non-critical setting (in the busyness of a workshop held in a movie theater with a somewhat scavenged sound system). While I may not go so far as to say it sounded as good as a well-mic'ed guitar recorded in a professional studio, its sound was very impressive. Coupled with the reasonable cost of the system ($450 list, I believe), its simplicity, and the ease of installation, I think there is much to recommend it to anyone considering investing in a multi-sensor system such as the Fishman Matrix/Crown mic/Blender setup, the Baggs Dual Source/Duet system, or the Dana Bourgeois system (these are similar in sophistication and price). A major, highly respected guitar manufacturer has licensed it for factory installation in their guitars (just as they licensed Fishman transducers under the Thinline name); this may be considered a further recommendation. The following information was gleaned from their presentation at the Conference and from their somewhat sketchy brochure.

The system itself consists of 6 parts connected by cables, all of which mount non-invasively inside the guitar. "Non-invasive" here means that the only modification required is enlarging the endpin hole for the endpin jack (and their representative said they were working on that problem, too, trying to find a small-diameter jack that would not require drilling).

The six parts are:

The vibration sensor is a proprietary piezo pickup with a very even, flat response; it provides the basic sound. The two mics resemble the Crown mic used in Fishman Blender setups in appearance, but are actually two different models whose characteristics suit thems to their complementary duties. Their positions have been chosen based on laser measurements of top vibration in over 100 different guitars to separately optimize pickup of the high and low end of the guitar sound. They are mounted in small wedges of very low density foam. The battery drawer allegedly allows easy one-handed battery replacement with the strings on. The control module has thumbwheel knobs that allow the three transducer signals to be balanced; I believe there is also a shelving EQ adjustable with a single knob. Versions are also available with external mixing/processing on a belt-pac, or with wireless capability. The M system is available as a single sensor setup (presumably just the piezo); the triple sensor setup I've just described is the M-3. A photo of the installed system appears in the True Tone Sound advertisements that are starting to run in Acoustic Guitar magazine.

What impressed me most about the sound was the clarity of the top end. Their representative told me this was due to their proprietary piezo vibration sensor. Whereas most piezo pickups produce a top-end tone that I find somewhat harsh, twangy, or nasal, the M-3 nicely reproduced the clear, bell-like tone of the upper registers of the Breedlove demo guitar.

"True Tone Sound" and "The M System" are trademarks of True Tone Sound. They also offered custom instruments (electric and acoustic); the "ChromaTone" line of hardwood pickup rings, volume knobs, pickguards, etc..; and "HumBuster" acrylic based conductive silver EMI/RFI shielding paint.

Tom Loredo /