As you know, the acoustic guitar is an amazing instrument. It is extremely portable and its acoustic sound can be enjoyed just about anywhere. But what happens when you want to play your acoustic guitar through an amplifier or a PA system? Do you use a microphone against the sound hole? Is your guitar already equipped with a piezo pickup? Or do you need some sort of acoustic guitar pickup?
With so many options, it is difficult to know what is best, especially in the realm of guitar pickups for acoustic guitars. What type of pickup is best? What type of acoustic pickups will deliver the best sound without feedback? What is the difference between soundhole pickups and a piezo pickup? What are the best acoustic guitar pickups? Preamp electronics, acoustic guitar soundhole? What do these words even mean? Wouldn’t it be nice if somebody researched the possible options of acoustic guitar pickups and organized the options into a concise list?
Well my friend, look no further. We have compiled all the top acoustic guitar pickups for you here in one concise and easy to understand article!
View the Best Acoustic Guitar Pickups Below
The Fishman Matrix Infinity Pickup System and Preamp is the newest version of Fishman’s Matrix Series and offers clear and transparent tone, dynamic string response, and ease of installation. Sound hole mounted volume and tone controls allow the player to effortlessly make adjustments to their sound.
The preamp’s voicing switch is easily accessible to help accommodate different performance situations, amplifiers, PA system, or types of acoustic guitars. The preamp is mounted inside the endpin jack, where your guitar strap normally sits, meaning you don’t have to cut or install a new system into your guitar. The Fishman Matrix Infinity system also accommodates steel and nylon string acoustic guitars.
The pickup itself rests under the bridge saddles and is available in wide, narrow, split saddle and ukulele formats, making it a versatile choice for the modern performer. Those features, combined with Fishman’s established quality, mean the Fishman Matrix Infinity Pickup System is one of the best acoustic guitar pickups on the market today.
The Fishman Matrix Infinity Pickup System is a versatile choice for the semi-professional musician who wants to maximize their tone and versatility in a live setting.
The K & K Pure and K & K Pure Mini is a transducer-only system. This acoustic guitar pickup uses no batteries and does not include electronics. The pickups sound full and rich and have enough output for most amps and PA systems directly, without the need for a preamplifier.
The K & K Pure system includes a 1/4″ end pin jack for an instrument cable you can plug directly into a PA system or amplifier. The 3 transducers are designed to pick up pairs of string and to “listen to the adjacent area around the bridge” according the K & K’s information. This means that you can attach the 3 transducers in various places on top of your guitar’s soundboard, on or around the bridge, or even inside of the guitar for many different sonic options.
The high power output of the k & K Pure system is perfect for nylon string acoustic guitars and will enable the performer to capture more nuance on the strings and percussive sounds of the acoustic guitar body.
The K & K Pure Pickup System is a great choice for the acoustic guitarist looking for a passive pickup system with a broad spectrum sound that can capture the nuances of strings and body sounds.
The Seymour Duncan Woody HC Hum-Canceling Soundhole Pickup is a magnetic transducer pickup that easily fits inside the soundhole of your acoustic guitar. This easy to use acoustic pickup does not require any drilling on your acoustic guitar. The Seymour Duncan Woody HC Hum-Canceling Soundhole pickup uses Seymour Duncan’s unique Stack technology to deliver a full tone without noise or hum.
The pickup’s hum-cancelling design is perfect for use with effects, PA systems, or amplifiers. It comes with a 1/4″ instrument cable jack attached, so all you have to do is attach the pickup to your soundhole, plug-in, and start playing! The Seymour Duncan Woody is available in a single coil or humbucker style, but it will not work for nylon string guitars.
The Woody comes with fully adjustable pole pieces, so the player can truly dial in and balance the tone of each string to their own desire.
The Seymour Duncan Woody is an excellent choice for the performer who values accessibility without sacrificing tone and quality construction.
The Fishman Neo D Single Coil Magnetic Soundhole Pickup is another option for the acoustic guitar that does not require any drilling. This acoustic guitar pickup fits inside the soundhole. The Fishman Neo D Single Coil features Fishman’s proprietary Neodymium magnet structure for exceptional string balance and sparkling acoustic clarity. It’s low profile, high-impedance design needs no battery.
Similar to the Seymour Duncan Woody, the Fishman Neo-D features easy installation with no alteration to your acoustic guitar required. Installation is simple and you can plug in and play right out of the box. The pickup features excellent string-to-string balance and acoustic clarity. It fits a wide range of soundholes and attached via to clamps on either side covered in a soft cork material.
The Fishman Neo-D also comes in a humbucking model for those seeking a little higher output. Unfortunately, this pickup will not work for nylon string acoustic guitars. The pickup also comes with a 9.5′ instrument cable.
The Fishman Neo-D Soundhole Pickup is a great choice in the soundhole pickup category. It’s ease of use paired with Fishman’s established success make it an excellent pick to enhance your next performance.
The Luvay Acoustic Guitar Pickup Piezo Contact Microphone Transducer is an acoustic pickup designed to be stuck near the soundhole with included self-adhesive. The non-magnetic nature of this pickup means it is perfect for nylon string acoustic guitars, or any other non-metallic string instrument.
The Luvay Acoustic Guitar Pickup features an adjustable volume knob and comes with 4 self-adhesive stickers so you can experiment with the best placement on your guitar. The Luvay is a piezo pickup, meaning it does not rely on magnets and instead picks up the natural vibrations of the wood in your guitar. This means the pickup may be more prone to feedback and is potentially not the best for a high-volume performance situation.
It’s small design is practical for the professional and comes with a 10′ instrument cable with a standard 1/4″ instrument jack. The pickup is also perfect for any other acoustic instrument such as violin, ukulele, etc.
The Luvay Acoustic Guitar Pickup Piezo Contact Microphone Transducer is a great choice for the acoustic musician on a tight budget who needs something functional and not fancy.
The Fishman Neo-Buster Humbucker Soundhole Acoustic Pickup and Feedback Buster is an acoustic guitar pickup that is designed to completely fill the soundhole of your acoustic guitar. The pickup features a neodymium humbucking magnet structure for warm humbucking tone and exceptional string balance. Similar to the Neo-D Soundhole pickup, the Neo-buster also features a low profile and high-impedance design that does not require a battery to power.
The Feedback Buster is designed to easily fit inside common soundholes and provides a flexible and versatile solution to problematic feedback in high volume situations. The Neo-Buster is made of a flexible elastomer material that will not react with most finished, so you won’t be risking the beautiful finish of your prized instrument.
Unfortunately, like the other magnetic pickups we have reviewed so far, the Neo-Buster does not work for nylon string acoustics.
The Fishman Neo-Buster is an awesome choice for the performer who regularly plays in high volume settings where feedback is often a problem.
The Donner Sound Seeker DSS-3 Pure Sound Transducer Acoustic Guitar Pickup is designed to capture the natural acoustic sound of your guitar via 3 piezo pickups that attach anywhere on your guitar. The pickups can be attached on various points on the soundboard, the bridge, or the inside via self-adhesive.
The Donner Sound Seeker is ideal because it requires no battery or soldering. The piezo pickups comes pre-wired to save you time and require no professional installation. Smooth contact surfaces at the bottom pick up the sound characteristics of the wood. The set comes with 3 pickups wired together, 1 set of glue, 4 self-adhesive stickers, 3 cables holders for organization, and a clip to hold it all together.
The Donner Sound Seeker is lightweight at only 5.6 ounces and features a variable placement system that avoids thin and percussive sounds common in similar pickups.
The Donner Sound Seeker is a great choice for the acoustic musician seeking a reliable piezo style pickup.
The Fishman Acoustic Matrix under-saddle pickup used in the Prefix Plus-T is regarded as the industry-standard acoustic transducer. A unique proprietary co-polymer sensing material is the secret to the Acoustic Matrix’ excellent sensitivity and dynamic range. The transducer is fully EMI shielded and is comprised of a multi-layer sandwich of co-polymer strips that run the length of the pickup. The continuous length design allows the pickup to sense the motion of the entire saddle length, for superb string to string balance and sensitivity to both the strings and soundboard.
The Fishman Prefix Plus-T features a feedback-fighting notch filter and phase switch to help alleviate any feedback problems at higher volumes. The Prefix Plus-T also includes an onboard chromatic tuner which can be used without plugging in the guitar. The Prefix Plus-T includes a volume control as well as bass, treble and brilliance control as well as a wide-range semi-parametric EQ to isolate certain frequencies and boost or cut them as needed. This is extremely helpful and makes the pickup versatile in a wide range of performance situations.
If you are looking for the top of the line, industry standard acoustic guitar pickup, look no further than the Fishman Prefix Plus-T.
The award winning Anthem series, featuring the patent pending TRU MIC technology, seamlessly combines a proprietary condenser microphone with the acclaimed Element pickup to deliver the warmth and fidelity of a studio mic’d guitar anywhere you perform. At the heart of the Anthem is a revolutionary microphone engineered to capture a dynamic studio mic’d sound for any live performance.
The ANTHEM Acoustic Guitar Pickup features a no-cut preamp/control unit and a master volume and mic level control. The built-in phase inversion switch helps to minimize feedback for higher volume situations and allows the performer to adjust the blend of the undersaddle pickup and microphone. This means there a wide range of tonal possibilities in the ANTHEM pickup.
The pickup mounts to the underside of the bridge plate and hovers about 3 mm above its surface to take advantage of what L.R. Baggs calls the “boundary” effect. The ANTHEM is powered by 1 lithium ion battery and weighs about 8 ounces.
The L.R. Baggs ANTHEM pickup is another top of the line model. If you are interested in a wide range of tonal options and perform in a number of different settings, then this would be a great choice.
Acoustic Guitar Pickups Buyers Guide
Which is the Best Acoustic Guitar Pickup?
This is the million dollar question, isn’t it? The answer depends on what you plan to use the pickup for and what kind of sound you are going for.
Planning to perform in a low volume situation such as a coffee shop or bookstore is much different and requires different sound needs than a high volume situation such as a music venue, festival, or large stage performance. One of the soundhole pickups like the Seymour Duncan Woody would likely work fine for the coffee shop gig, but maybe not for the high-volume stage performance where you might run into some feedback problems. Likewise, the Fishman Matrix Infinity or Neo-Buster Humbucker might be a little overkill for your bookstore gig, but would work great for the large festival gig you have next month.
Also worth considering is the type of strings on your guitar. A magnetic soundhole pickup will not work for your nylon string. For that, you need to invest in a piezo system like the K & K Pure, Donner Sound Seeker, or Luvay Pickup.
Additionally, if you incorporate any sort of percussive elements in your playing such as tapping on the bridge or soundboard, you might want to consider a piezo pickup that will reproduce those types of sounds. You may also want to consider purchasing a soundhole cover in conjunction with the piezo pickup. That way, you have the best of both worlds; a piezo pickup to reproduce the nuances of your nylon strings or percussive effects and a soundhole cover to block the possibility of feedback in a louder situation.
What is Up With the Different Styles of Acoustic Guitar Pickups?
As you may have noticed, there are a few different styles of acoustic guitar pickups.
We have pickups that resemble the pickups on an electric guitar. That is, they are wound magnetic coils that pickup the vibrations generated by steel strings. Examples of this type of pickup included the Seymour Duncan Woody and the Fishman Neo D and the Neo-Buster. These types of pickups will work for your steel string guitar and will sound great in a wide range of contexts and are easy to install and use. However, these pickups reproduce more of the sound of your strings than the actual acoustic sound of your guitar. So take it with a grain of salt. If you are playing in a loud room to 250+ people is it more important that your guitar not feedback or that someone hears the nuance of your solid-top acoustic?
We also have pickups that resemble something more like a stethoscope from a doctor’s office. These are piezo pickups. These pickups reproduce the vibrations from the actual wood of your guitar. So yes, if you are interested in projecting the nuances of the sound of your acoustic instrument, this is what you want. The danger of this type of pickup is the feedback. You can easily rectify this though with a soundhole cover as we have said previously.
What is a Transducer?
We have mentioned the phrase “transducer” a few times in this article. What is a transducer?
A transducer is a device that captures energy in one form and transforms it into another. All pickups are transducers because they capture the vibration of a string or of wood and transform those vibrations into an electric signal that is then reproduced through amplification, PA System, etc. So transducer is just a fancy word for pickup essentially.
Which Pickup Should I Buy?
The High Budget Choice: If you are not on a tight budget, the obvious choice is the The Fishman Prefix Plus-T Onboard Preamp. This is a top of the line model for acoustic guitar pickups. It does require some installation that would probably best be done at a guitar shop.
Medium Budget Choice: If you are on a middle budget, the best acoustic guitar pickup is the Fishman Matrix Infinity. This model is not as extensive as the Prefix Plus-T Onboard Preamp, but would cover all your needs at this middle level.
Medium-Low Budget Choice: If you are on a medium-low budget, the best choice is the Fishman Neo-Buster Humbucker Soundhole Pickup. This pickup will work great for the budget rock star who needs something to reproduce a great acoustic tone without worrying about feedback at higher volumes.
Low Budget Choice: If you are on a tight budget, the best choice is the Luvay Acoustic Guitar Pickup Piezo Contact Microphone Transducer. This pickup is under $20 and can be easily attached to the soundboard of your guitar. Just plug in and get playing!
We hope this comparison article on acoustic guitar pickups has been informative for you. There are many choices out there for acoustic guitar pickups. Do some more research on your favorite artists. What type of acoustic pickups do they use? Search out interviews or articles about their gear and practices. If possible, try to visit a local music shop to test out some of these pickups. You can learn for yourself the sonic differences between a magnetic soundhole pickup and a piezo pickup and how a piezo pickup will hear the sound of your fingers against the guitar while a magnetic soundhole pickup will not. The other piece to consider here is that you get what you pay for. Companies like Fishman are highly regarded and sell higher priced items because their pickups are high quality. You know what you are getting and you know it is going to work. Conversely, a company like Luvay that is selling cheap pickups are not going to be as high quality. The pickups might be noisy or not last very long. The adhesive might not stick well to the soundboard or come flying off when you are rocking out in the middle of your guitar solo. Always consider what will happen when you are rocking out in the middle of your guitar solo.
In our experience, the combination of a high quality pickup such as the Fishman Matrix Infinity or Prefix Plus and a soundhole cover produces the most effective and reliable sound for a live acoustic guitar performance.
Did you know that the first acoustic guitar pickup was created by Lloyd Loar, a former designer at Gibson who broke from the company to form his own organization, Vivi-tone, in the early 1930’s? Previous to that, guitarists used carbon button microphones attached to the bridge. Imagine what Loar would think today!
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