Before we get into things, let’s quickly show you what a sustainer does (scroll down for the article):

What is a Sustainer?

Sustainers are a pickup system that do exactly what they sound like they do – give you virtually unlimited sustain.  If you’re looking for crazy Steve Vai levels of sustain, then you definitely want a sustainer.  Now, there are other ways of getting more sustain, but they work differently from sustainer pickups.


How do Sustainer pickup systems work?

Popular sustainers essentially work using witchcraft.  Ok, well maybe not quite witchcraft, but this is close to it!  They work by creating a magnetic field that forces your strings to vibrate.  This vibration gets picked up by your bridge pickup and leads to unlimited sustain. This is method I just described is the electromagnetic method.

There’s another method too, which is electroacoustic, like the Sustainiac Model C.  This sustainer is pretty bulky and mounts onto the headstock of your guitar.  The concept basically works the same way as the electromagnetic method.  The reason people go with the electroacoustic system is because you don’t have to carve your guitar up and go through a truly painful (and costly!) installation process.  


What Other Methods Can I use to Get Unlimited Sustain?

There aren’t really any other practical methods you can use to increase the sustain your guitar has.  

You can try using a compressor or distortion pedal, but it won’t really work that well.  

The tried and true old school method is to play loud…really loud.  When you’re playing that loud and face your guitar towards your amp, you end up with loads of feedback.  This feedback gives you a ton of sustain, and notes tend to turn into harmonics that can sound awesome.  The limitation here of course, is that you have to be playing really loud which isn’t practical for most guitarists.

The last option is using something like an eBow.  They are cheap, but you can’t play guitar normally if you’re using one.

Let’s dive into the two most popular companies currently making sustainers…


Who Makes Sustainers and Which One Should I Buy?

There are basically two reigning systems for getting unlimited sustain.  One is the Sustainiac, and the other is the Fernandes Sustainer system.  Both are similar, but offer their own unique twist on delivering unlimited sustain.

The Sustainiac is the most popular of the two, and found on guitars like the Schecter Hellraiser C-1 FR-S and the Lamborghini green Keith Merrow model.  All Sustainiac products are made in the U.S. by Maniac Music Inc.  

They sell the Sustainiac Stealth system, which is what is found on the aforementioned Schecter models, and also have the Model C.  The Model C is an electroacoustic system that means you don’t really have to carve your guitar up.  While the model C is a nice system, the Stealth is more practical.

If you want more information on the Sustainiac, you can read through their website straight out of the early 1990s.  It’s kind of hard to navigate, but there is probably more information than you would ever reasonably want about the Sustainiac there.

The second system is the Fernandes system, which is electromagnetic and also allows for a few modes that the Sustainiac does not.  

The first is the natural mode, where the string keeps ringing until the sustainer is turned off or the strings are muted.  The second is the harmonic mode, where after activating the system, the notes you pick will go up until they hit the 5th natural harmonic.  The last mode is the mix mode; this mixes the aforementioned modes and gives you a cool harmonized feedback type of effect.

Fernandes sells a kit that lets you equip your guitar with their sustainer system, and also sells their own guitars that come preloaded with these systems.


Sustainiac VS. Fernandes Sustainer, Which One is Right for Me?

It really depends on your situation.  I prefer the Sustainiac system personally but a lot of killer guitarists love the Fernandes system.  There’s nothing wrong with either!  The additional modes on the Fernandes system are cool, but I find the Sustainiac is stronger and works a little better.

If you want to try a sustainer out, the most cost effective solution is to buy a guitar loaded with one, like the Schecter C1 FR-S or Lambo KM7.  Fernandes has their own line of guitars, but they aren’t very popular for a reason.  

If you intend on installing a system, keep in mind that it isn’t a quick or cheap thing to do, and you might end up spending a lot more than you planned.  This is why I recommend grabbing a cheap guitar loaded with one first to see if you even want a sustainer.

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