The Essential Guide to Finding the Best Acoustic Guitar Pickup + Reviews
Whether you love playing at small venues or grand concert halls, getting the best acoustic guitar pickup can help you obtain a rich and lively sound that accurately reproduces the unique tonality of your instrument. However, finding the perfect pickup system for your guitar can be anything but easy, with so many options available. There’s no need to worry, though, as we’ve scoured the internet and selected some of the very best models so you don’t have to. After comparing endless options, we have decided to recommend the K&K Pure Mini. This device comes with 3 transducers that can be easily installed on the inside of the top, they can reproduce a full and rich sound, and they also come with a ¼-inch jack so you can conveniently plug in your guitar. In case this unit is unavailable, you might want to take a look at the Fishman Matrix Infinity as well.
Our Top Choice
This pickup is suitable for guitars that work with steel strings, and it’s a three transducer system. You don’t need to solder it since it comes already wired from the manufacturer, and it’s suitable for use straight out of the box. Also, no battery is required, given the high output. In order to make this item more attractive, the packaging includes a ¼ endpin jack, which increases its adaptability.
The installation process is rumored to be a little difficult to complete, especially for beginners.
Given the price range, this alternative delivers excellent volume and tone.
Easy to install and relatively simple to use given the rotary controls, this option offers a clear tone and a dynamic string response. Its length will fit the average spacing between strings that most guitars have, which is 2.5”. If you own a ukulele, this model has an option especially designed for the instrument. Another bonus is that it features the Acoustic Matrix, a great under saddle pickup.
Despite the fact that no instructions are included, the installation process is easy to understand and fast to complete.
This pickup will make your guitar sound like an entirely new instrument.
Also To Consider
A reasonably priced alternative, this item combines the regular microphone with the much-appreciated Element pickup function, which delivers the familiar sound of a studio mic, that will improve any live performance. The noise cancellation function contributes to the crisp sound that this device offers. The paring with TRU MIC works exceptionally well for low frequencies.
Sometimes this item does not fit with the guitar’s internal bracing, but contacting the manufacturer might help.
You’ll get one of the purest amplified sounds when using this pickup.
6 Best Acoustic Guitar Pickups (Reviews) in 2020
In case you’re undecided as to which type of pickup you should get for your instrument, yet don’t have the time required to read all the popular reviews of acoustic guitar pickups out there, we have prepared a list with some of the highly acclaimed systems on the market so that you get to choose the right unit for your needs and budget.
- 1. K&K Pure Mini Acoustic Guitar Pickup
- 2. Fishman Matrix Infinity Undersaddle Active Pickup
- 3. L.R. Baggs Anthem Acoustic Guitar Pickup
- 4. KNA Pickups AP-1 Acoustic Guitar Pickup
- 5. Seymour Duncan Woody HC SA-3HC Hum Cancelling
- 6. Sourcingmap Professional Guitar Clip On Pickup
- Yearly Guide & Report
- Frequently Asked Questions:
1. K&K Pure Mini Acoustic Guitar Pickup
The Pure Mini is a transducer system that can help you conveniently amplify your acoustic guitar without soldering or pre-wiring your instrument. This device is extremely easy to set up and use, it comes with a ¼-inch endpin jack, and you get to use a pure pickup that does not require any onboard electronics or batteries.
Thanks to the rich and powerful sound it can create, you can use this pickup even without a preamp, and that’s especially true if you’re more into playing in small coffee houses rather than large venues. Contrary to passive pickups, the Pure Mini gives a rich and full sound that won’t take away from your guitar’s original sound, helping you maintain that unique quality.
With this unit, you’ll get sufficient output for most types of amps and sound systems so you most likely won’t need to spend extra money on a preamp. The surface transducers can be mounted on the top of the guitar, and they reproduce a warm, balanced, and rich sound.
Because it’s a transducer system, this pickup won’t require you to solder anything or to pre-wire the instrument.
It’s fast and easy to install and it requires no tools to do so.
Furthermore, you need no internal batteries or any source of power, and once you plug this pickup in, you’re ready to go.
You don’t even need a preamp for this pickup as you can just plug it in and it will offer a powerful and rich sound.
It is an active pickup and that means the sound will be fuller, helping you keep the original tune of your guitar.
This is a great pickup for everyone looking to get a natural sound from their acoustic guitar.
The bass and treble are accurate and the mid-tones are exactly what you need.
You will need a powerful amp to deliver good sound volume because the pickup isn’t capable of doing that by itself.Buy from Amazon.com for ($99)
2. Fishman Matrix Infinity Undersaddle Active Pickup
Whether you’re playing with a band or are looking for a reliable system that’s easy to set up, the Matrix Infinity from Fishman is just what you need. This under saddle pickup is a modern version of the popular Matrix Series, and it can work with any type of guitar body and size, so you know you get a trusted system to amplify your guitar.
Besides the actual pickup, you also get a preamp that can be easily mounted on the soundhole edge, and that offers you easy controls thanks to the rotary volume and tone controls. The unique tone control can help you boost the bass and treble while lowering the mids so that you get a richer and fuller sound that captures your guitar’s character.
You get to benefit from switchable voicing so that you can use this device for all body sizes and performance requirements.
This acoustic guitar pickup from Fishman also includes a LED indicator that can warn you when the battery is low. This unit works with 9V batteries.
When you have to set up a pickup quickly, this one will be there to help you.
This pickup is a newer version of a classic model that can be placed under the saddle of any guitar, and it can be trusted in any situation.
Most pickups don’t come with a preamp but this one does, to help you capture a better sound.
You also get to control the volume and the tone as well with the help of the knobs.
You will always be able to get richer sounds by either boosting the bass or the treble, depending on what you need and how you want your guitar to sound.
Due to the switchable voices, you can use this pickup on all kinds of guitar body sizes.
The LED light will let you know when the battery is low.
You will have to drill in a small hole to make this pickup stick to the body.Buy from Amazon.com for ($179.95)
3. L.R. Baggs Anthem Acoustic Guitar Pickup
If you’re looking for a complete pickup system to amplify your acoustic guitar, then you definitely want to look at the L.R. Baggs Anthem. This award-winning system comes with everything you need to obtain the most out of your guitar while also giving you full control over the sound so that you get to experience a rich and complete sound like never before.
This fully-customizable system allows you to setup your guitar for live performances or studio recordings in no time. You get a modern microphone that benefits from a revolutionary design for a dynamic studio-quality sound suited to any kind of performance. The Tru-Mic can easily be mounted on the underside of the bridge plate for a quality ‘boundary’ effect.
This system comes with noise cancellation technologies that allows the microphone to work just like in a studio while minimizing feedback. You also get a conveniently placed preamp for complete volume control for both the pickup and the mic.
This is a complete pickup system that will do wonders when amplifying your acoustic guitar.
Its quality is so good that the pickup is an award winner.
You will have the ultimate control over the sound, with the help of knobs letting you adjust the sound so it’s rich and colorful.
It’s a system that can be customized any way you wish and that allows for great performances both on stage and in the studio.
Thanks to the noise-canceling technology the mic will work without any fuzz or feedback, just like in the studio.
The preamp will also let you control the volume for the pickup and the microphone too.
Once you get this system installed you will get one loud experience.
It’s difficult to install, as you need to take the guitar apart. Or you could try to install the whole system in the hollow body without disassembling it but that is really hard to do.Buy from Amazon.com for ($299)
4. KNA Pickups AP-1 Acoustic Guitar Pickup
The KNA AP-1 is a perfect example of a pickup system that offers good performance without costing an arm and a leg. This ingenious device comes with a surface-mounted piezo transducer pickup which will amplify your guitar’s natural sounds without any complex installation procedures that are quite common among other pickups.
You can easily attach the pickup to the exterior surface of the top with the included putty that won’t damage the finish of your guitar. You also won’t need to drill holes or open up your guitar, as this system is very simple to attach and remove so you get convenient amplification without intrusive techniques that modify your guitar.
This pickup is lightweight and easy to carry, and it comes with a smooth wooden finish that can match a wide range of guitar designs and finishes.
You also get a long cable measuring 8 feet for easy plugging-in as well as a ¼-inch and a ⅛-inch input jack.
Easy to install, this pickup can be attached to the top of your guitar, coming with all you need to do so, and it won’t damage your guitar’s finish.
Because of the way it’s installed, you will need to drill no holes, you won’t have to modify your guitar and if you want to take it off, it will be an easy task.
It’s lightweight, so it won’t change the feel of your guitar when you hold it in your hands and it also has a nice finish, that can match most guitar models out there, maintaining their style.
Coming with 2 input jacks, one of ¼ inches and the other ⅛ inches, and with a cable 8-ft long, you’re sure that you can use this pickup in many situations.
The pickup can also be used for other acoustic instruments such as ukulele, banjo or mandolin.
This pickup will capture a lot of noise when the guitar moves.Buy from Amazon.com for ($39)
5. Seymour Duncan Woody HC SA-3HC Hum Cancelling
If you’re looking for a reliable acoustic guitar system that doesn’t break the bank, then getting the Seymour Duncan Woody HC is surely a smart choice. This simple and effective pickup is easy to set up and use, and you get to obtain convenient amplification without drilling holes into your guitar or making other possibly damaging modifications to your instrument.
You can place this pickup over the soundhole, and it will capture the vibrations from each string to give you a balanced sound. Furthermore, you can adjust the position of the poles to change the balance without any complicated techniques.
Thanks to the Stack technology, you get full tones and rich sounds from the guitar with minimum humming even when playing bear neon or fluorescent signs or light sources that are common in many music venues. The Duncan Woody HC comes with a smooth maple finish that will complement the design of your guitar. This unit also comes with a ¼-inch jack.
This is one of those reliable pickups that can help you in any situation and won’t require a heavy investment.
You will be able to amplify your guitar without the need to drill in holes or changing your guitar in any form.
Because it’s installed over the strings, the pickup will give you an accurate sound of each of them, in a balanced way.
You can also change the position at both ends if you want to influence the general sound.
The pickup comes with something called Stack technology and that basically means the sound will be a clear one, the tones will be full, and there will be almost no humming.
The design of this device is also nice, and the maple finish gives it a simple yet elegant look.
Although the position can be adjusted, finding the best spot to get the maximum volume and the clearest sound at the same time can be very difficult.Buy from Amazon.com for ($59)
6. Sourcingmap Professional Guitar Clip On Pickup
The Cherub WCP-60G is a more than affordable acoustic guitar pickup clip-on that can help you amplify your guitar whether you’re on the go or at home. This little device can be mounted on the soundhole to amplify your guitar’s natural sound. You can easily attach this device or take it off thanks to its effective clamp, so you don’t have to modify anything inside your guitar.
You can use this device to amplify your guitar or even for tuning it so you can make sure that you’re always playing accurate notes. Some users have claimed to successfully use this pickup when mounted on the guitar headstock. Others were amazed by its high-quality, especially considering its low price.
This is actually a microphone so you should be careful when installing it, especially since it comes with a rather long and thin cable. Some users have suggested carefully routing it, so it doesn’t hang in the interior of the guitar to pick up unnecessary noise.
Using this clip-on pickup you can always amplify your guitar, no matter where you are.
The device is easy to install and in just a few minutes it can be mounted on the soundhole and ready to give you the amplification needed.
You can also use this to help you tune your guitar.
You don’t need to put it in a precise spot as it will capture the sound in a precise fashion from nearly anywhere on the guitar.
It’s a compact device that is so light it can be carried in your pocket.
Because it’s so easy to mount it on and off the guitar, you can take it off the instrument every time you finish playing it, so you don’t risk scratching the guitar.
The cable that it comes with is quite thin and sensitive so it will give some noise in the final sound, and it’s also prone to breaking fast.Buy from Amazon.com for ($8.53)
Yearly Guide & Report
If you’re looking for the best guitar pickup for acoustic instruments yet have little time to do comprehensive research, then you’re in the right place. If you’re just starting out with your first guitar, then you probably don’t know much about piezo pickups, magnetic transducers, or soundboard pickups.
The good news is that we have created a guide that should help you decide on which features and properties you need so that you get to choose the right system to amplify your acoustic guitar.
Get the right type for your needs
Before getting a model, you should become familiarized to the main acoustic guitar pickup types. Doing so will enable you to make a better choice. Each system comes with its pros and cons, and picking the right model should also take into account your specific needs, skill level, budget, guitar type, play style, etc.
Go for an affordable undersaddle model
The first pickup you’ll likely encounter is the undersaddle pickup. This type is possibly one of the most popular variants. Just as its name implies, it is mounted under the bridge plate. The device contains six piezo crystals that pick up the sounds from the strings which are then passed on as electric signals to a preamp or directly to a sound system.
The undersaddle pickup is easy to install, and it is perhaps one of the most affordable options. However, it is only capable of picking up the sound of the strings and not the soundboard or the instrument itself so don’t expect to get the full range of your guitar’s sound. This type is great if you’re playing in a band so that you can perfectly blend in.
You also get fewer problems with feedback when compared to other pickup types. However, since the signal from the piezo crystals is generally quite weak, you’ll most likely need to get a preamp as well to get more control over the volume and tone, especially if you aren’t planning on playing only in extremely small venues.
A magnetic pickup for an electric sound
Another option that is also quite easy to install is the magnetic pickup. This is usually mounted over the soundhole and under the strings. One advantage is that these are easy to attach and take off so you won’t need to perform intrusive and potentially damaging modifications to your guitar. This kind is probably the best acoustic guitar soundhole pickup in terms of value and price.
The magnetic pickup will capture the sound of your guitar’s strings and then accurately pick up the response of each string. Some guitarists prefer the electric sound of these pickups. Expect to lose the acoustic-quality of your guitar, although you will now have a lot more headroom to experiment with different effects and sounds, especially if you choose a decent amp to plug it into.
While the guitar will definitely sound more electric, you’ll still get the feel of an acoustic guitar, not to mention be able to perform techniques or playstyles that you couldn’t on an electric guitar. If you don’t like the electric sound or wish to switch to acoustic, just remove the pickup and then mount a different system with minimum hassle.
Purchase a contact pickup
If you want a good acoustic guitar pickup, then you should also consider getting a contact variant. This type of pickup usually comes with transducers that are mounted on the inside of the top, and they won’t pick up the sound of the strings but of the entire soundboard. This pickup is a great choice for retaining the original tone quality and sound of your acoustic guitar.
However, many models are quite difficult to install, and you’re most likely going to turn to a professional for installation, so you don’t damage your instrument. The installation will also involve drilling and other intrusive operations leading to permanent modification of your guitar.
You will get to enjoy the full range of sounds from both the strings and the guitar without using a microphone which could pick up unnecessary noise. A disadvantage is that you may run into feedback issues, especially when playing at higher volumes.
How much should you spend?
When looking for acoustic guitar pickups for sale, you should first consider which model is best suited to your guitar and specific needs, as well as your budget. While you can definitely benefit from an expensive system, that doesn’t mean you need to spend a fortune to get decent performance. You can easily find affordable options, just make sure you prioritize your needs.
Active pickups vs. passive pickups
Finding the best acoustic guitar pickup depends on a series of factors, including how good you are with your instrument and how much you care about it as some products will require modifications to your guitar to deliver the best volume and tone.
The main difference between the active and the passive pickups is that the first ones are solely operated by batteries. An active bridge plate transducer or a transducer pickup uses a small preamp mounted on the pickup. The preamp is specifically designed to strengthen the signal from your acoustic instrument and improve the desired frequencies before it reaches your PA system or mixer.
The great advantage of active acoustic guitar pickups is that they require fewer adjustments and can achieve great results in most live applications, which means they will deliver the perfect volume and tone for a real acoustic sound.
When it comes to passive pickups, they are both functionally and tonally as cut and dry as possible. They don’t sound inadequate but they won’t enhance or drastically color the tone of your instrument, which means you’ll still receive an acoustic sound with minimum interference.
If we’re talking about playing in a room with poor acoustics or alongside other members of a band, then the passive acoustic guitar pickups will prove the best choice. Unlike a transducer pickup, you’ll enjoy improved volume and tone controls when it comes to your mix and you’ll get to make adjustments easily.
What about microphone-based pickups?
If you’re looking for the best acoustic guitar pickup for your money, you should consider the microphone-based system. It can achieve the most natural recreation of the acoustic sound of your guitar while it will also capture the fundamental resonance and the overtone of the instrument.
The main drawback of these pickups is that they are designed for feedback in live settings but you can find some decent models created so that the player benefits from the sonic superiority of microphone capsules even when performing on the stage.
Blend systems allow the guitarist to combine the best of two worlds – soundhole pickups and a microphone signal in various amounts so that you can use the required amount of mic signal without any feedback. However, this mix of soundhole pickups and microphone devices usually requires professional installation and is more expensive, so it is up to the end-user to know if it is worth the trouble.
You should also keep in mind that not all acoustic guitar pickups will be suitable for your instrument, depending on the quality of the strings and the materials used to manufacture them. For instance, magnetic acoustic guitar pickups won’t work for nylon-string instruments.
In other cases, the guitar comes with an unusual saddle configuration which may also limit your options in terms of the best acoustic guitar pickup.
How does the gear work?
Once you’ve chosen your favorite accessories to accompany your acoustic guitar for your next performance, you should also learn how to use it properly and in an effective manner. The first and most important issue most guitarists will encounter is the feedback, which might become a problem even in low-volume situations.
The first thing you can do to minimize this feedback is to choose the perfect placement for your amp. When working with a stage amplifier, we recommend that you place it on the floor, off to the side, so that your body can come between the instrument and the amp.
If your gear of choice is a PA system with a wedge monitor, you don’t want the monitors to face directly into the guitar. Generally speaking, you should place the PA speakers well out in front of you, at a considerable distance, depending on the length of the stage. Some professional guitar players prefer a feedback buster, a device that plugs up your soundhole, to reduce feedback.
Once you control feedback, you should also consider adjusting the EQ to get a good tone. When creating your sound system for the stage, it is best to get a good basic sound with all EQ controls flat, so that you can use it to adjust different volume and room acoustic levels, according to your needs, instead of fixing the inherent sound of your system.
Keep in mind that most guitars, without the help of acoustic guitar pickups, have resonances in the lower midrange, which might be a problem when trying to make your instrument work at higher volumes. If you use magnetic pickups, you can reduce the electric sound by cutting upper mids.
As for USTs or a transducer pickup, you can reduce the harshness of the sound by cutting the frequencies around 5-7kHz. If you choose this option, it would be best to opt for a product with parametric EQ controls that allows you to easily dial and find these frequencies.
Volume levels also affect how the human ear perceives the tone. When the volume is low, the ear won’t respond as well to low or high frequencies. In other words, if you’re used to playing at a low volume, you can make your guitar sound fuller by boosting the bass and highs. On the contrary, if you play at a higher volume, you’ll have to reduce the treble and bass and increase the mids.
Finally, you should also take into account the multiple-player factor which occurs if you’re part of a band or a guitar duo. Don’t forget that your instrument’s sound is affected by the other instruments, especially when it comes to how it is perceived by the human ear. To minimize the effect, we suggest a midrange-cut to make your guitar stand out.
As a general rule, it is always better to cut frequencies instead of boosting them. This provides more headroom and avoids overdriving parts of the signal chain.
Factory-installed models or after-market?
As we mentioned earlier in this comprehensive buying guide, you should choose the acoustic guitar pickups that best match your guitar.
While most manufacturers provide guitars that are already equipped with pickups, some models are only available with a built-in pickup where the controls can be found in a panel on the side of the guitar.
You can also choose pickups that are proprietary to one guitar company such as Maton, Taylor or Takamine, so you can rest assured the model of the music instrument perfectly fits with the pickup.
There is also the option of adding a pickup to a guitar of your choice. This is mainly used by professional guitarists and some even launched a series of products that are designed to work best with various types of guitars. EMG has successfully launched collaborations with some of the world’s biggest guitarists, from Gary Holt to Glenn Tipton, James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, and Zakk Wylde.
Installing an after-market pickup allows you to choose the guitar you’re most comfortable with and then opt for different pickups to experiment more with sound and volume. Most professional guitarists opt for a set of two pickups on their instruments, one attached to the neck, and the other to the bridge.
Choosing acoustic guitar pickups could prove a difficult task, given the number of features you need to take into account, aside from your budget and your playing skills. We suggest you carefully go through our buying guide to identify the most important elements that you need to look for in such a device to make sure you bring home the right choice for you.
Don’t forget that the design and the overall construction of a pickup should also count if you want the accessory to stand out from the crowd and last you a long time.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: What is an acoustic guitar pickup?
Pickups used for acoustic guitars are most of the time piezo pickups. They are placed under the bridge saddle so they stay out of sight. The way they work is by picking up vibrations from the top of the saddle. Their name comes from the fact that they use piezoelectric crystals to detect these vibrations.
Due to how they work they also need a preamp to translate their signal before the guitar’s output. There are some models that are passive and require no preamp but they give a lower volume.
There are also magnetic pickups that are used for guitars, but these are mostly found in electric instruments. Some acoustic guitars also use basic microphones that act as pickups – these aren’t as great, as they don’t provide such a clear sound. However, a combination of microphone and piezo pickup is great to amplify the sound of an acoustic guitar.
Q: How do you put a pickup on a guitar?
Installing a pickup on your acoustic guitar depends on the type of pickup you’re using. Piezoelectric models are more difficult to install and they will require you to pay close attention to the installation details provided by the manufacturer. There are, however, models that will let you quickly install them without modifying the guitar.
These are usually soundhole pickups. They are placed on the soundhole of the instrument and attach with some clamps. Installing them might require you to get the strings off the instrument if the pickup is too large.
On the other hand, installing a piezoelectric pickup requires the help of a professional, as you need to modify the instrument a lot to make it accommodate the pickup. The process implies drilling a hole under the saddle and one at the end of the instrument and also installing electronic components.
Q: What is a soundhole pickup?
Soundhole pickups are magnetic or microphone pickups that are made to be portable and easy to install and uninstall. They come with a cable attached to them, and you can plug that cable into an amplifier or a PA system directly. As you can see, this is the least invasive form of adding a pickup to your acoustic guitar and requires no prior modification to the instrument.
These pickups are also cheaper, but on the flip side, they don’t offer the same quality as a piezo pickup. There are some soundhole models that are made for a type of permanent installation. To install them you will need to drill a small hole into the tail block of your guitar in order to install the jack and cable. Inside the guitar, these pickups have a cable that provides the connection between the pickup and the jack.
Q: What is the difference between passive and active guitar pickups?
Pickups are devices that consist of a magnet that has a wire wrapped around it for thousands of times until a coil is formed. This is the case for both active and passive pickups. The way they work is that when you move a string, its vibrations interfere with the magnetic field of the coil, and thus electricity is generated in the wire.
Usually, the more times the wire is wrapped around the magnet, the louder the noise. This is all that happens in passive pickups – they only work using this principle. They create electricity using this phenomenon and send it to an amp to create the sound. The active pickups have a preamp that needs to be powered, usually by a battery. This preamp makes things louder, and as a result, active pickups don’t need a coil that is that big, and they can give out more sound volume in a smaller format.
Q: Can active pickups work without batteries?
The essential thing about active pickups is that they only work using batteries. They need some sort of power to make use of their preamp, and the batteries provide that power. Of course, you could say that you can connect the preamp to another source of power without the use of batteries, but that would be really difficult and doing that wouldn’t make much sense.
You need to have that preamp for a multitude of reasons. First of all, active pickups are better at cutting off humming or interference in the tone. Let’s not forget that with active pickups you have more sustain than with their counterparts. The tone is a crystal clear one and the signal is high-output.
The preamp also offers EQ functions that you don’t normally find on other types of pickups, especially the ones using microphones. You can always use rechargeable 9V batteries for these pickups.