Best Acoustic Guitar Pickup

Quick Answer: The LR Baggs Anthem stands out as the best acoustic guitar pickup, offering a natural, full-bodied sound and ease of use.

Key Takeaways:

  • Acoustic guitar pickups are essential for amplifying the natural sound of the guitar without losing its quality, especially useful in live performances or studio settings.
  • Different types of pickups, such as soundhole, undersaddle, microphone-based, and piezoelectric, offer varying tonal characteristics and installation methods to suit different playing styles and preferences.
  • When choosing a pickup, consider factors like your music genre, the acoustic qualities of your guitar, whether you’re playing casually or professionally, your budget, and the desired sound quality to find the best match for your instrument and needs.

Table of Contents

Understanding Acoustic Guitar Pickups

When you strum the strings of an acoustic guitar, you create music that’s meant to be heard. But what if you want to share that sound with a larger audience? That’s where acoustic guitar pickups come into play. These clever devices capture the vibrations of your guitar strings and turn them into electrical signals. These signals can then be amplified and sent through speakers, filling a room with your music. This is especially useful during live performances where the natural sound of an acoustic guitar might not be loud enough.

What Is an Acoustic Guitar Pickup and How Does It Work?

An acoustic guitar pickup is like a translator. It takes the language of your guitar – the vibrations from the strings – and translates it into something an amplifier can understand: electrical signals. This process is known as transduction. Imagine plucking a string. It moves back and forth, creating a vibration. A pickup near the string senses this movement. If it’s a magnetic pickup, it does this by detecting changes in a magnetic field. If it’s a piezoelectric pickup, it uses the piezoelectric effect to turn pressure from the string vibrations into an electrical signal. This signal then travels down the signal chain to an amplifier or a PA system.

The Role of Pickups in Acoustic Guitar Sound Amplification

Pickups are the secret to making your guitar heard in live settings or in the studio. They give you the power to crank up the volume without losing the quality of your guitar’s sound. You can also connect your guitar to effects pedals and amplifiers to shape your sound even further. Whether you’re playing a cozy cafe or a big outdoor festival, a pickup ensures your music carries and connects with your audience.

Different Pickup Technologies and Their Impact on Tone

There are several types of pickups, and each one colors your guitar’s sound in a unique way. Magnetic pickups tend to add a warm, rich tone. Piezoelectric pickups offer a sharp, clear sound. Microphone-based pickups can capture the true acoustic sound of your guitar but can be prone to feedback in loud environments. Your choice in pickup will depend on the tonal characteristics you prefer and the sound you’re aiming for.

Soundhole vs. Undersaddle vs. Mic vs. Piezo: A Comparison

Each type of pickup has its own set of characteristics that can influence your decision:

  • Soundhole pickups are easy to install and remove, and they offer a sound that’s close to the natural acoustic tone. They’re a good choice for players who want a simple, no-fuss option.
  • Undersaddle pickups sit under the bridge of the guitar and pick up sound directly from the strings. They’re known for their clear, crisp sound and are less likely to produce feedback.
  • Microphone pickups capture the most natural sound since they work like a mic placed inside your guitar. They’re great for recording but can be tricky in loud live settings.
  • Piezoelectric pickups are installed beneath the saddle and turn the pressure of string vibrations into electrical signals. They’re durable and consistent, making them a solid choice for gigging musicians.

Each type has its place, depending on your playing style and the sound you’re after. Whether you’re fingerpicking softly or strumming hard, there’s a pickup that will match your needs and help you sound your best.

Choosing the Right Acoustic Guitar Pickup

Selecting the best acoustic guitar pickup is a journey unique to every musician. It’s about finding that sweet spot where your instrument’s natural voice is amplified without losing its soul. Whether you’re a coffee shop singer-songwriter or a gigging professional, the right pickup can elevate your sound from the background to the forefront.

Factors to Consider Before Purchasing a Pickup

Before you dive into the sea of pickup options, let’s anchor down some key factors:

  • Music genre: Are you strumming country tunes or fingerpicking through a folk melody? Your style of music will influence your choice.
  • Acoustic qualities: The wood and construction of your guitar shape its voice. A pickup should complement, not overshadow, these qualities.
  • Casual vs. professional use: Weekend warriors might have different needs compared to touring musicians. Consider how often and where you’ll be using the pickup.
  • Budget: How much are you willing to invest? Sometimes, a few extra dollars can mean a leap in quality.

Keep these factors in mind as you explore the different types of pickups available.

Sound Quality and Tone Preferences

Every guitarist chases a sound that resonates with their musical identity. Pickups play a pivotal role in this quest. They can either color your sound or amplify it transparently. Here’s what to consider:

  • Natural sound: Do you want to maintain the acoustic tone of your guitar or add a new dimension to it?
  • Tone preferences: Whether you prefer warm and mellow or bright and punchy, there’s a pickup for that.
  • Tonal coloring: Some pickups add their own character to your sound. Decide if you want this extra flavor or not.
  • Transparent pickups: These aim to boost your sound without changing its essence.

Understanding your tone preferences will guide you to the pickup that best suits your sound.

Compatibility with Your Acoustic Guitar

Not all pickups play nice with every guitar. To avoid a mismatch, consider:

  • Guitar model and build: Some pickups are designed for specific guitar types.
  • Soundhole size: Especially important for soundhole pickups, as they must fit snugly.
  • String spacing: Ensure the pickup aligns with your guitar’s strings for optimal sound capture.

Before you buy, double-check these details to ensure a harmonious fit with your guitar.

Active vs. Passive Pickups: Pros and Cons

The debate between active and passive pickups is ongoing. Here’s a quick rundown:

Active pickups:

  • Require a battery but offer more tonal control.
  • Can produce a stronger, more consistent signal.
  • Might be preferred for their clarity and power.

Passive pickups:

  • Don’t need a battery, making them more convenient.
  • Offer a more traditional sound that’s dynamic and nuanced.
  • Are often favored for their natural and organic output.

Consider your needs regarding tonal shaping, maintenance, and signal strength when choosing between active and passive.

Budget Considerations for Various Pickup Options

Pickups come in a wide price range, and the cost can reflect:

  • Materials and design complexity: Higher quality often comes at a higher price.
  • Brand reputation: Well-known brands might charge more for their trusted name.
  • Innovative features: Cutting-edge technology can add to the cost.

Setting a realistic budget is crucial. Remember, a higher price doesn’t always mean a better fit for your needs. There are excellent pickups available at various price points. It’s about finding the right balance between what you can afford and the quality you seek.

By considering these factors, you’ll be well on your way to finding the best acoustic guitar pickup that resonates with your instrument, your style, and your wallet.

Types of Acoustic Guitar Pickups Explained

Navigating the world of acoustic guitar pickups can be like finding your way through a dense forest. Each type of pickup offers a unique path to amplifying your guitar’s natural sound. Understanding the differences is key to choosing the right one for your sound goals and technical requirements. Let’s explore the main varieties and what sets them apart.

Soundhole Pickups: Features and Benefits

Soundhole pickups are a popular choice for their blend of simplicity and effectiveness. They sit snugly in the guitar’s soundhole and are relatively easy to install and remove, which is great for players who switch between amplified and acoustic settings often. Here’s what they bring to the table:

  • Design: Typically a single or double coil design, similar to electric guitar pickups.
  • Mounting: Clamps or screws onto the edges of the soundhole, no modifications needed.
  • Installation: Quick and reversible, perfect for players who rent or don’t want to alter their guitar.
  • Sound characteristics: Warm and full, with a magnetic quality that’s reminiscent of electric guitars.

For guitarists looking for a straightforward, non-invasive way to amplify their sound, soundhole pickups are a solid choice.

Undersaddle Pickups: How They Differ from Soundhole Pickups

Undersaddle pickups offer a different approach. Positioned under the saddle of the guitar’s bridge, they pick up the vibrations directly from the strings. This location gives them certain advantages:

  • Saddle placement: Leads to a crisp sound that captures the guitar’s tonal nuances.
  • Feedback resistance: Less prone to feedback compared to some other pickup types.
  • Installation process: More involved than soundhole pickups, may require professional help.
  • String balance: Provides even string-to-string response, important for balanced amplification.

These pickups are well-suited for players who need a reliable, feedback-resistant option for live performances.

Microphone-Based Pickups: Capturing True Acoustic Sound

For the purest acoustic sound, microphone-based pickups are the go-to. They work just like a mic in front of the guitar, but with the convenience of being onboard:

  • Acoustic sound: Captures the true sound of the guitar, including its body resonance.
  • Mic placement: Critical for sound quality, often adjustable within the guitar body.
  • Feedback potential: Can be an issue in loud environments, requires careful handling.
  • Internal/external microphones: Options vary from built-in mics to those that attach externally.

These pickups are ideal for studio recording or quiet live settings where the natural acoustic sound is paramount.

Piezo Pickups: Understanding Under-Saddle Technology

Piezo pickups are another under-saddle option, but they work differently from their magnetic counterparts. They use piezoelectric crystals to detect vibrations:

  • Under-saddle technology: Picks up pressure changes from string vibrations.
  • Bright sound: Known for a clear, articulate output that cuts through the mix.
  • Clear sound: Less coloration than magnetic pickups, closer to the guitar’s natural tone.
  • Hybrid systems: Often used in combination with other pickups for a fuller sound profile.

These pickups are a favorite for players who want a strong, clear signal, especially in live settings.

Blend Pickup Systems: Combining Multiple Pickup Types

Blend systems take the best of different worlds by combining multiple pickup types. This setup allows for a rich, customizable sound:

  • Pickup signals: Mixes signals from different pickup types, like a mic and a piezo.
  • Sound tailoring: Offers the ability to shape the sound to fit the room or recording.
  • Installation complexity: More components mean a more complex setup process.
  • Usage complexity: Requires some knowledge to balance the levels and tones effectively.

For the guitarist who wants ultimate control over their amplified sound, blend systems offer a versatile solution. Whether you’re playing a cozy coffee shop or a large outdoor festival, having the ability to tailor your sound on the fly is a game-changer.

Each type of acoustic guitar pickup has its own set of features that can enhance your playing experience. Consider your playing environment, the natural sound of your guitar, and your personal preferences when making your selection. With the right pickup, your acoustic guitar will not only sound louder but also bring out the full richness and character of your music.

Installation and Maintenance of Acoustic Guitar Pickups

Getting the best out of your acoustic guitar often means adding a pickup, but the thought of installing and maintaining one can be daunting. Fear not! With the right guidance, even beginners can ensure their pickups are set up correctly and kept in great shape for years of beautiful sound.

Step-by-Step Guide to Installing an Acoustic Guitar Pickup

Installing a pickup can be a rewarding DIY project. Here’s how to get started:

  1. Gather your tools: You’ll need a screwdriver, wire cutters, and sometimes a drill, depending on the pickup type.
  2. Read the instructions: Every pickup comes with a manual. Give it a thorough read before starting.
  3. Prepare your guitar: Make sure it’s on a stable surface and that you have good lighting.
  4. Mount the pickup: This varies by type—soundhole pickups might just clip in, while undersaddle pickups could require careful placement under the bridge.
  5. Connect the wires: Some pickups might need you to solder wires, others will have a plug-and-play system.
  6. Test it out: Before restringing your guitar, plug into an amp to check the pickup’s working.

Avoid common pitfalls like drilling without measuring or forcing parts into place. If you’re unsure, it’s always best to consult a professional.

Adjusting Pickup Placement for Optimal Sound

The position of your pickup can greatly affect your guitar’s amplified sound. Here’s how to find the sweet spot:

  • Listen as you adjust: Move the pickup slightly and play. Notice how the sound changes.
  • Check balance: Ensure all strings are equally loud and clear.
  • Secure the pickup: Once you’re happy with the sound, make sure the pickup is firmly in place.

Fine-tuning your pickup’s position can be the difference between a good sound and a great one.

Maintaining Your Pickup for Longevity and Performance

A well-maintained pickup can last for years. Keep yours in top shape with these tips:

  • Clean regularly: Wipe down your pickup with a dry cloth to remove dust and grime.
  • Check connections: Loose wires can cause issues, so tighten them up if needed.
  • Store safely: When not in use, keep your guitar in a case to protect the pickup from damage.
  • Watch for wear: If your sound starts to degrade, inspect the pickup for signs of wear.

Regular maintenance will ensure your pickup continues to perform at its best.

Troubleshooting Common Pickup Problems

Even the best pickups can run into issues. Here’s how to tackle common problems:

  • Humming or buzzing: Check for loose connections or a ground loop. Ensure the pickup isn’t too close to other electronic devices.
  • Signal loss: Inspect the cables and connections for any signs of damage or wear.
  • Uneven sound: Revisit the pickup placement and adjust for balance across all strings.

With these DIY solutions, you can often fix pickup problems without needing to visit a repair shop.

By understanding the installation process, knowing how to adjust for the best sound, maintaining your pickup properly, and troubleshooting common issues, you’ll be well-equipped to ensure your acoustic guitar sounds fantastic for every performance.

Top Acoustic Guitar Pickup Recommendations and Reviews

When it comes to enhancing the sound of your acoustic guitar, the right pickup can make all the difference. With a myriad of options on the market, it can be overwhelming to choose. That’s why we’ve done the legwork to bring you a list of the best acoustic guitar pickups, tailored for different needs and budgets. These recommendations are based on meticulous research and hands-on testing, ensuring you get the most bang for your buck.

Best Overall Acoustic Guitar Pickup for Quality and Value

For the guitarist seeking the perfect blend of quality and value, the LR Baggs Anthem stands out. This pickup system combines a proprietary condenser microphone with an undersaddle piezo pickup. The result is a sound that’s both natural and full-bodied, capturing the true voice of your guitar.

  • Tru-Mic technology ensures the mic picks up only the sound of the guitar, not the room.
  • Noise-canceling features prevent any unwanted feedback.
  • User feedback consistently praises the Anthem for its fidelity and ease of use.

The LR Baggs Anthem is a top choice for players of all levels, offering professional-grade sound at a mid-range price point.

Top Budget-Friendly Pickups for Beginners

For those just starting out or working with a limited budget, the Fishman Neo-D is a fantastic option. This soundhole pickup is not only affordable but also incredibly easy to install, making it ideal for beginners.

  • Passive design means no battery is required.
  • Neodymium magnet structure provides exceptional string balance and sparkling acoustic clarity.
  • Low profile ensures it doesn’t get in the way of your playing.

While there are trade-offs with lower-priced pickups, such as less control over tone, the Fishman Neo-D delivers reliable performance without a hefty investment.

Premium Pickups for Professional Use

Professionals demand the best, and the K&K Pure Mini delivers. This pickup system is revered for its capacity to capture the guitar’s natural dynamics and nuanced overtones.

  • Three transducer heads result in a well-balanced sound with a warm and full tone.
  • No battery required: It’s a passive system that’s simple and effective.
  • Installation is more involved, but the superior sound quality justifies the effort.

The K&K Pure Mini is an investment in your acoustic guitar’s amplified sound, providing unmatched clarity and richness that professionals require.

Best Pickups for Specific Genres and Playing Styles

Different playing styles and genres demand specific qualities from a pickup. Here’s a quick guide:

  • Fingerstyle players will appreciate the Fishman Matrix Infinity for its sensitivity to dynamics.
  • Jazz musicians often lean towards the LR Baggs M80, which offers a warm tone that complements complex chords.
  • Rock guitarists might opt for the Seymour Duncan Woody series for its bold and punchy output.

Selecting a pickup that aligns with your genre and technique can elevate your performance and help you find your unique sound.

User Reviews: Real Experiences with Popular Pickups

Real-world feedback is invaluable when choosing a pickup. Here’s what users are saying:

  • The LR Baggs Anthem is often lauded for its “plug and play” ease and the “studio-quality” sound it delivers live.
  • The Fishman Neo-D is a favorite among beginners for its “straightforward installation” and “clear, bright tone.”
  • The K&K Pure Mini receives high marks for its “natural acoustic sound” but does note that it “requires professional installation.”

By considering these user experiences, you can make an informed decision on the best acoustic guitar pickup for your needs. Whether you’re looking for a budget-friendly option or a professional-grade system, there’s a pickup on this list that will meet—and likely exceed—your expectations.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use an acoustic guitar pickup with nylon strings?

Answer: Most magnetic pickups are designed for steel strings, but there are specific models available for nylon strings. Piezo and microphone-based pickups can work with nylon strings.

How do I prevent feedback when using an acoustic guitar pickup?

Answer: Use a soundhole cover, adjust the placement of the pickup, lower the volume, or use a notch filter to reduce feedback.

Can I install an acoustic guitar pickup myself?

Answer: Yes, some pickups are designed for easy DIY installation, but others, especially undersaddle models, may require professional installation.

Will an acoustic guitar pickup affect the unplugged sound of my guitar?

Answer: Some pickups, particularly those that require drilling or permanent installation, may slightly alter the acoustic tone, but many are designed to have minimal impact.

How long do batteries typically last in active pickups?

Answer: Battery life varies, but active pickups can often run for 100 hours or more before needing a replacement.