If you’re seeking a personal, intimate experience while playing an acoustic guitar, there is no substitute. The sound of the strings reverberating through your fingertips can be so therapeutic and calming. However, that tranquil moment can become complicated if you find yourself wanting to share it with others beyond just a few people.
If you want to make your guitar heard above the chatter at a coffee shop, rise over the audience in a large concert hall, or outshine drums and electric instruments while playing in a band, acoustic guitar pickups are essential. Acquiring what equipment you need and how to use it can be overwhelming — so we’re here to assist!
Due to its value for money, the active Fishman Rare Earth is the best sound pickup for acoustic guitars in the medium-price segment. The model exists in two versions, differing in price: humbucker (more expensive) and single (cheaper).
The device is placed on top of the resonator and provides a lush, but natural sound – Rare Earth is equally good at playing banging, overdubbing, and even fingerstyle. On the bottom of the unit is a volume control that will make your speaker a more flexible instrument in the mix. The pickup runs on batteries, and the manufacturer promises up to 300 hours of playtime on a single charge.
Barring a somewhat conditional appearance, Rare Earth has almost no downsides. A nice price, natural sound, and easy and fast installation – you won’t find a more versatile option.
LR Baggs is not the cheapest sound pickup for an acoustic guitar, but the high price is justified by the excellent sound.
The sensor is equipped with the “3D Body Sensor” function, which captures the resonance of the guitar body, combines it with the original sound, and produces a true-to-life sound picture. In addition, the device offers full volume control and two modes of operation: passive and active.
The ingenious M80 utilizes a patented, free-floating humbucking coil that acts as an intricate 3D body sensor. As your guitar’s soundboard vibrates in all 3 dimensions, the exclusive suspension system allows each axis of the humbucking coil to delicately react with its movement. An authentic resonance is created and blended with the strings for a captivating outcome — no other magnetic pickup has ever replicated this!
The M80 allows you to switch between active or passive settings with the ease of a single button. When in the active setting, it engages an included preamp that has been designed for high-fidelity sound reproduction – which is what Bags are renowned for! Selecting passive instead lets you bypass this circuitry and enjoy the battery-free performance. Additionally, there’s also a checker for batteries within the unit, as well as adjustable pole pieces to ensure your strings stay completely balanced during use.
Seymour Duncan is usually associated with a loud, aggressive sound, but with Woody, you get a natural, warm and relaxed sound. The model fits all resonator hole sizes, so you don’t have to modify your guitar.
The passive pickup is made in three versions: the single SA-3SC, the hammerhead HC SA-3HC, and the combo XL SA-3XL. The HC model is considered the most popular, providing a rich and sonorous sound. For its price, Seymour Duncan Woody is one of the best acoustic cartridges.
The transducer from LR Baggs features a precise and detailed sound that is hard to find from competitors. The Anthem Tru-Mic kit is a mix of a noise-canceling microphone and pickup.
The system is designed in such a way that it combines the signals from the microphone and the pickup when you play. It is the microphone sound that dominates the mix, while the pickup works in a secondary role. This solution provides excellent dynamics and plenty of gains without the risk of going into overdrive.
Buyers will also find a set of controls in the kit: volume control, tone control, phase switch, and mix control. The minus of all this splendor is exactly one – the price, although the LR Baggs Anthem Tru-Mic is definitely worth its money.
The AER AK 15 Plus provides high-end sound quality and powerful acoustic performance. This pickup and preamp set are designed to deliver maximum dynamic range, tonal balance, and clarity.
It includes an endpin preamp with adjustable gain suited for both piezo and mic signals; a six-in-line piezo crystal pickup with threading spacing of 10mm to 12.5mm; soundhole control; a 9V battery holder with dual lock attachment; a nylon zipper bag; an AER ballpen, and an AER writing pad—all provided in one convenient package. With the precise engineering behind the AK 15 Plus set from AER, you know that every note will be captured accurately and beautifully.
A mixture of an acoustic guitar piezo pickup and a condenser microphone, made in the form of a small unit. The unit is attached not on top of the resonator, but on the back of the instrument, reading the vibrations of the guitar body itself. The device has a built-in preamp, volume, and microphone level controls. It is easy to get a quality sound.
The K&K Pure Mini is occasionally used by the notorious fingerstyle guitarist Andy McKee. This popular model offers an honest, warm, and pleasant sound without distortion, with no muddiness or dirt. And all for a mere $100.
The passive system perfectly captures the sound of the instrument. Of course, the accuracy of the transmission is not perfect: the difference between the connected and unconnected instruments is audible, but it does not hurt your ears. The main problem of K&K Pure Mini is not an easy install – the process is not impossible, but it requires time and a fair amount of dexterity and skill. Despite this, the Pure Mini is definitely worth its money.
The Fishman Neo-Buster is a special version of the Fishman Neo-D cartridge with a resonator hole mount and an active feedback suppression system. Because of its design, it is not suitable for all instruments.
The neodymium magnet provides a balanced sound that perfectly blends the tone of the transducer itself and the natural sound of the guitar. The sound is bright without falling into unpleasant sonority – the warmth and fullness did not go anywhere. The clarity and purity of the Neo-Buster are also worth mentioning – the transducer sounds equally good in the studio and concert.
The SH 145 Prestige offers an unbeatable acoustic guitar sound, unlike other magnetic pickups that offer a typical electric guitar tone.
Constructed as a stacked humbucker using top-notch samarium cobalt magnets, this pickup is designed with adjustable pole pieces to provide the perfect string balance for acoustic guitars. With its unparalleled crisp and natural sound quality, you can be sure your music will shine!
Embrace the hum-free experience with this award-winning humbucker pickup! A shielded case and low impedance output protect it from outer magnetic disruptions, while its single 3V cell battery ensures minimal power consumption. With a simple installation process, volume control, and both an endpin connection cable for permanent mounting or quick mount 12′ (4m) detachable cables included – you’ll find that no other user-friendly pickups come close to matching the quality of this one on the market.
The Sunrise S2 is the best sound pickup for handmade acoustic guitars, but it will be very hard to get, and the price is not happy. Sunrise founder Jim Kaufman builds about 1,000 units a year.
For its money, the outwardly unremarkable S2 passive pickup offers the clearest, most undistorted, and unadorned sound possible, and virtually no feedback.
The Dean Markley DM3000 Artist Transducer at about $70 is one of the cheapest acoustic guitar pickups in our selection. The price shouldn’t be misleading – the low cost of the DM3000 is due to the design features.
The model is a simple sensor under a wooden plate that attaches to the guitar body and reads its vibrations. The sensor is easy to attach and remove from the instrument – it takes less than a minute to install (you’ll take longer to untangle the wire than to attach the device itself).
The amazing thing about the DM3000 is that for all its simplicity and low price, it sounds pretty good. Of course, the sound transmission is not so accurate and natural compared to the more expensive models in our list, but the overall sound picture is good: the strings are separated from each other, and the sound is clear, with a good timbre.
The Dean Markley DM3000 Artist Transducer is not perfect, but for its price, it is the best acoustic guitar pickup for beginner guitarists or those who have just started experimenting with acoustic pickups.
A very highly regarded piezo pickup mounted underneath the guitar bridge. Fishman Matrix offers accurate acoustic guitar sound, as well as a rich, warm and rich sound. The active sensor is powered by a 9-volt crocodile battery.
In addition to the transducer itself, the system comes with a set of rotary controls. The controls are mounted near the resonator hole and allow you to adjust the volume and timbre of the Fishman Matrix Infinity sound.
The combination of supreme sound quality, ease of installation, and control make this cartridge the most versatile device possible – with the Matrix you can play banging, overdubbing, and fingerstyle. Whether it’s a solo part or an accompaniment, it doesn’t matter – the system handles all kinds of signals equally well.
Best Acoustic Guitar Pickups Guide
Let’s break down this process by exploring three primary components of an acoustic amplification system: pickups, preamps/DIs, and amplifiers/PA systems. With this knowledge under your belt—you’ll be ready to provide sound that will reverberate with any crowd!
What should you know?
To amplify an acoustic guitar, we must convert its natural sound into electrical energy. This can be accomplished with a microphone or pickup; however, microphones are only viable when playing in quiet environments – loud shows and multi-instrument performances may easily overwhelm the mic’s capabilities.
If you’re in search of a convenient way to amplify your sound, guitar pickups are the ideal solution. Not only do they enable you to move around freely, but also render more volume before feedback and isolate your instrument’s sounds from other instruments. For this article we’ll be highlighting systems based around these types – though there are hundreds on the market – generally falling into several basic categories:
Magnetic acoustic pickups
Magnetic acoustic pickups mimic the function of electric guitar pickups but are more suitable for playing louder. They attach to the soundhole by clamping onto it and in some cases can be removed without difficulty. These types of pickup have become well-liked because they tend to resist feedback better than other models, making them ideal for artists who need higher volumes during their performances.
Magnetic soundhole pickups provide a huge, warm tone with an electrifying quality, perfect for any kind of playing style. The Sunrise S-2, Fishman Rare Earth, and L.R. Baggs M80 are some great examples of these types of pickups which can add depth and character to your music.
Undersaddle transducers (USTs)
Undersaddle transducers (USTs) are slim slivers of piezo-electric material placed in the slot under the saddle and commonly used for factory-installed systems.
USTs reign supreme due to their capability to successfully integrate good feedback resistance with a decent acoustic tone, although once pushed hard they can create an unpleasant sound (“quack”) that some prefer not hearing. Besides being inconspicuous, USTs also have a straightforward installation process making them ideal pickups!
The Fishman Acoustic Matrix and the L.R. Baggs Element are excellent illustrations of Under Saddle Transducers or USTs.
Soundboard transducers (SBTs)
Whether you’re playing softly or loudly, Soundboard Transducers (SBTs) can take your strings from sounding just okay to make a stunning impression. Installed inside the guitar on the bridge plate, SBT sensors detect and reproduce the motion of your instrument’s top with an organic ‘woody’ tone that stands out in any situation.
Examples of these revolutionary pickups include Trance Audio Amulet M, K&K Pure Mini, and DiMarzio Black Angel Piezo – all designed to bring out your sound like never before!
Compared to external mics, internal mics come with higher feedback rejection capabilities; however, the sound quality is not as sharp. While a few such as MiniFlex 2Mic Model 1 are designed for single-mic use, they are more often combined with another pickup type.
If you’re looking for a more creative and dynamic sound, dual-source systems are perfect for your needs. Take advantage of the L.R. Baggs Anthem, Fishman Ellipse Blend, or Fishman Rare Earth Mic Blend to capture every shade of nuance from an acoustic guitar – but if you want to take things further still then why not construct your custom system using pickups from different makers? Explore this option if you’re feeling brave!
Active vs Passive Pickups for Guitar
When it comes to choosing the right pickups for an acoustic guitar, there are two main types of options available: active and passive pickups. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, and it’s important to understand the differences before making a decision.
Active pickups are generally considered to be more powerful than passive pickups, due to their higher output level. This makes them ideal for heavy metal, hard rock, and other styles of music that require extra punch in the notes.
The downside is that active pickups tend to consume more power from your amp or battery which can lead to shorter playing time before having to change the battery or plug the guitar into an outlet. Active pickups also require controls such as preamps and EQs, which can add additional cost and complexity to your setup.
Passive pickups are usually preferred by players who are looking for a more natural sound with less distortion. These pickups tend to produce a softer tone because they don’t rely on as much power from your amp or battery as active pickups do. This makes them ideal for jazz, blues, folk, country, and other genres of music that don’t require as much gain or distortion in their sound.
The downside is that passive pickups don’t always pick up all of the nuances in notes due to their lower output level compared with active pickups.
Overall, it’s important to consider what type of sound you want from your acoustic guitar before deciding between active or passive pickups since each type has its advantages and disadvantages depending on the style of music you want to play.
Additionally, if you’re playing amplified music with multiple instruments or backing tracks involved then you should also consider how well these different sounds will mix when selecting a pickup type. Ultimately though, it’s important to experiment with both types of pickup so that you can decide which one best suits your specific needs as a musician.