Whether you’re a professional or an amateur, a real virtuoso or a beginner, you could benefit from a great acoustic guitar pickup. Your craftsmanship is the most important thing in order to sound amazing, but even professional players need some support from their gear. Skills are significant, but they aren’t almighty. That means that any player might be in need of the best acoustic guitar pickup at some point in their lives. This way, we all can take control over our tone and choose to take it to the direction we want. We should never let our faulty gear ruin our music – after all, our fingers can’t emit sounds, can they? To make sure you knew what options are available on the market at the moment, we decided to put together a list and include the worthy models in a single article. Let’s get started and figure out together, which acoustic pickup is actually better.
Best Acoustic Guitar Pickups
If you’re generous with your spending and have the sufficient budget to purchase L.R. Baggs Anthem, then you should definitely go for it. Though not perfect, it’s certainly one of the top picks. It’s more of a system than a mere pickup. It combines a preamp, a pickup and a mic. The former enables you to modify Volume, Phase and Mix. Now, the pickup is designed to carry lower frequencies to avoid the noise that is so typical of similar pickups. The mic takes care of the rest of the range and their combination delivers full tone. Mix control will let you balance the ratio between these two and experiment with different proportions whenever needed. The biggest selling point of L.R. Baggs Anthem is the fact that it doesn’t produce any feedback. Similar to other pickups, it can amplify your body or finger movements, so be careful. Those who aren’t afraid to touch (and drill) their guitars will install this puppy with ease, but I can see how some of you could be afraid of that, so keep that in mind. This is undoubtedly the best acoustic guitar pickup – well, at least it’s one of the best.
- Doesn’t have feedback
- Clear sound
- Once installed, nobody will see that it’s there
- If you don’t know what to do with your guitar, you’ll need a luthier to install this
- It can’t be used with guitars that have tall soundboard bracings
If you’re sick and tired of changing batteries on your pickups, then it’s time to turn to passive electronics. And not just some random one, but a high-quality model that doesn’t even have any major flaws. Yes, you heard me, it’s virtually impeccable. Fishman Blackstack is for those players, who are looking for simplicity and articulation. It enables you to take full control over your tone and modify the properties that you mightn’t have thought of adjusting. What I mean is that it allows you to adjust pole pieces and, thus, select individual volume for each string. This way, you can create an even tone without too much trouble. It’s extremely loud – it can easily cut through any mix. In other words, it’s perfect for those who play in a band. Blackstack has a compact design that can easily fit even in the smaller soundholes. I don’t know if it fits in all the existing acoustic guitars, but I’m sure it will be suitable for the majority of models out there. And lastly, it comes with a premium TA4 mini-XLR connector to make sure installation is easy and effortless.
- Exceptional clarity
- Doesn’t require batteries to be powered
- Lets you adjust individual string volume
- Not for those who don’t like passive electronics
You know how sometimes you come across a gear that is perfect in every aspect? Its name, its design and its performance are all in harmony – creating a unified piece that is one of a kind. If you’ve never experienced that before, you’re about to feel all those feelings, my friend. The Black Angel (DP234) from DiMarzio has an intriguing name that is mixed with an equally appealing name and sound. Its matte surface will look stunning on any guitar no matter how affordable or high-end they are. It’s a soundhole pickup, which means it should be placed on the soundhole (duh). It doesn’t require batteries, so you can forget about the headache we all get from changing them in the most inappropriate situations. The Black Angel offers noiseless performance – in other words it doesn’t have any feedback. It can respond to different dynamics and amplify your acoustic in its pristine shape. Though it has the power of an electric pickup, it doesn’t lose acoustic qualities. DP234 is slightly cheaper than the Fishman or L.R. Baggs, but it isn’t any less in terms of performance.
- Amplifies the entire range equally
- Doesn’t have feedback
- Doesn’t need batteries for operation
- You need to adjust pole pieces to your liking
Anyone who has played at least with a couple of guitars will recognize the name of Seymour Duncan. Their electric pickups are mounted on some of the best axes out there, and it’s not surprising that their acoustic ones aren’t so bad either. In fact, they are fantastic. Woody XL is one of the examples. Before I introduce its details to you, let me say that it’s not exactly suitable for live performances – basically any scenarios where you’d require high volumes. You can pair it with a preamp to make it louder, of course, that’s up to you. However, it’s absolutely fantastic during home utilization and recording. The quality of the amplified signal is out of this world – it gets as close to the natural acoustic sound as it’s possible. It has the ability to recognize all the ranges and direct a pristine signal to the amp. Woody XL has a beautiful appearance, as well, since it blends with the guitar woods and makes itself look like it belongs there. Let’s not forget that it has the individually adjustable poles to make sure your sound is refined. Add noiseless operation on top and you’ve got yourself a fantastic pickup!
- Easy to install and use
- Extremely clean
- Amplifies acoustic sound without making it sound artificial
- The volume might be too low if you’re not using a preamp
- Doesn’t have a preamp, which limits it a bit
We all know what a fuss a piezo pickup can be. It has many disadvantages that many players find difficult to deal with on a daily basis. If you have similar feelings towards piezo pickups, then you should check out EMG ACS. It’s an active pickup which can be powered with batteries. Though they are small in size and can get lost easily, I don’t think you’ll have any issues with them if you are careful enough. The system itself includes an in-built EQ, which is tailored to the response of steel-string acoustic guitars. It amplifies all the needed frequencies without producing feedback, which is why it’s such a great model. You get the ability to change the volume easily and get as loud as you want with a simple twist. That feature can be really useful for those who require high volumes frequently. EMG ACS comes with adjustable poles that can be tailored to your taste. Oh, and did I mention that it comes in a number of finishes? Well, now you know.
- Comes with in-built preamp
- Loud enough to cut through the mix
- Quite easy to attach to the body of the guitar
- Batteries are easy to lose due to their small size
All the pickups we discussed above were wonderful, but all of them required some sort of cable in order to be connected to the amp. Some of you might be unwilling to dig a hole through their vintage or expensive acoustic guitar, and some of you might be sick and tired of the cables hanging out of soundholes weirdly. Skysonic has come up with the solution to all those problems. Their FS-1 is a wireless pickup which includes two main parts: a transmitter (which sits on the soundhole) and a receiver (which is connected to the amp). Both of them can be charged with the help of the USB cables so there’s no trouble with that either. The fact that it’s wireless might make you think that it can be easily mounted from a guitar to another, but that’s not the case with this one. It’s quite big in size, so you’ll probably have to unhook your strings to have it installed. However, FS-1 is revolutionary not just because of the lack of cables. It consists of dual channels, i.e. the sound is amplified with a magnetic pickup and a mic simultaneously for better response. I have so much to say about it, but I’ll stop here. Just know that this fella is the best acoustic guitar pickup, as it is virtually one of a kind!
- Doesn’t have any cables (forget about those hanging out of the soundhole)
- One of the few wireless dual source options
- Amazing response
- It’s quite big in size
- The volume knob is situated awkwardly, which means you might hit it accidentally
Yes, we all love our clean tones and want pickups that transmit them perfectly. But sometimes some of us want to go for something that has more of an edge, a bite that will add thickness to our sounds. The model we’re about to look at is Bartolini 3AV, which is not your typical pickup. What I mean is that it’s more suitable for a little overdrive and maybe some rock, as it has a defined acoustic-electric sound. I’m saying this to make sure you have the right expectations. If you want your tone to be exactly the same while amplified, then you should go for something else. 3AV has its own appeal, which I personally really enjoy. It’s a humbucker with a B-string compensation, making sure that your sound is as noiseless as possible. It comes with a clear bracket that makes the pickup suitable for different sized soundholes. It’s also adjustable so that you can tailor it to your guitar. Even though this Bartolini isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, it’s certainly an interesting piece to check out. Not all the pickups have to be the same, do they?
- Can fit on almost every guitar out there
- Comes with an adjustable bracket
- Eliminates hum and feedback
- Not for those who want clean sound
- Clear bracket might not look appealing to some
The pickup we’re about to discuss is the most compact one of all the models we’ve mentioned above. It’s also quite different, to the point where you might get confused if it’s really a pickup or something else. K&K Pure Mini looks like a tool that aliens would use to hypnotize you before they’d abduct you. But in reality, it’s the most ergonomic pickup that I have ever seen. It’s a 3-head bridge plate transducer, which gets installed on the bridge plate itself (duh). It gets superglued to the surface, so that it doesn’t move. The cable can be routed from the strap hole, and as a result, you’ll get an invisible pickup. Pure Mini is not that easy to install and if you do know what you’re doing, you’ll still have to be really careful and read the instructions thoroughly. And if you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s better to use luthier’s help. When it comes to the sound, you get the unexpected power from such a small tool. It amplifies frequencies nicely, but can lean towards the mid-range a bit. Though it sounds amazing on its own, it can still benefit greatly from the pickup. Take a risk – you won’t be disappointed.
- Extremely compact
- A great value for money
- Passive operation
- Getting a preamp will unveil the true potential of the pickup
- Might be too “electric” for some
If you’re looking for a decent pickup that has a “traditional” look to it and doesn’t cost much either, then this one might be perfect for you. Amumu SP60 is a passive model that doesn’t require batteries or a power source for that matter. It’s a humbucker that easily eliminates any noise that could have slipped into your signal. It does also remove that annoying feedback that nobody cares for. This bad boy has a typical construction, meaning that it can be mounted on the soundhole. The cable can run either through the bottom hole or be left hanging from – it’s totally up to you and won’t interfere with the overall performance. SP60 has adjustable poles that you can mess around with to make sure the pickup fits your guitar and strings perfectly. Otherwise, you won’t be able to achieve good results. You can also modify the volume, which is quite an essential feature as well. The sound is quite dynamic and clean, and you’ll enjoy it quite a bit. After all, SP60 is the best acoustic guitar pickup for the price!
- Doesn’t require batteries or any power source
- A wide dynamic range
- Adjustable poles
- Might not suit everyone’s taste and needs
Speaking of affordable models, we’re finishing our list with a simple Tylanhua Folk Guitar Pickup. It features a wooden design that will suit any guitar perfectly. Though its size might not fit every soundhole, none of the pickups do and we have to make our piece with that. This fella offers passive operation with its magnets. The great thing about it is that you don’t have to drill any holes in your guitar in order to have it installed. You’ll be able to easily attach it to the soundhole and route the cable through the holster. The latter can be secured on the strap lock – that’s how effortless everything is here. It does also have Volume and Tone knobs which enable you to modify sonic properties to your liking. Tylanhua Folk Guitar pickup is as simple as it can get, while providing you with a decent acoustic response. What else could we ask for?
- You won’t have to drill any holes to install it
- Quite affordable
- Great response
- Might not fit in every soundhole
The Differences Between Acoustic Guitar Pickups
Just by looking at the list we have provided above, you can easily conclude that there are a couple of different acoustic guitar types available on the market. Some of them will be more suitable for you than the others, but that doesn’t mean that they are bad or offer poor performance. Depending on the guitar you own and the results you want to achieve, you’ll have to select different types. Maybe you’ll splurge for the L.R. Baggs Anthem for one and pick out a more affordable Fishman for the other. The choice is yours – the main thing is to know what are the differences between all those acoustic pickups. Let me give you all the information you’ll need for selecting the best acoustic guitar pickup.
A Traditional Piezo
Piezo is probably the most common and “acoustic” pickup of all. It utilizes piezoelectric crystals that detect movements that you make. Since such a pickup is usually placed under the saddle, it has the ability to detect the range of vibrations more accurately. It has many benefits to it, one of them being the fact that it’s quite natural sounding, but that does have its limitations. Though Piezos are quite noiseless, once they transform your vibrations into voltage and send the signal to the amp, your sound can get a bit compressed. This might result in the infamous quack that the majority of guitarists dislike quite a bit. They can be used in conjunction with a mic to round out the tone a bit more. In short, such pickups have their advantages, but flaws are quite noticeable, as well.
A Soundhole Pickup
A soundhole pickup is the type that is easiest to install on your guitar. Some models might still require some drilling, but compared to other pickups, this one is still relatively simple in that sense. It utilizes a magnetic field in order to recognize the vibrations in your steel strings. Depending on the construction, you’ll achieve a different response. Soundhole pickups can be active or passive, have in-built EQs or be plain – either way they are quite convenient for the majority of the guitarists. Choose their size carefully, as a wrong type can interfere with your playing and, thus, keep you from achieving good results.
A Soundboard Transducer
Soundboard transducers are for those guitarists who don’t want anything to interfere with their playing. These puppies can be attached to the bridge plate or the soundboard itself, hiding themselves beneath the body completely. They recognize the vibrations of the soundboard and transform it into an electric signal. You won’t even notice that they are there – well, once you start playing, you certainly will. They can be quite powerful, but the majority of models still require a preamp to craft some of the tonal characteristics.
As you can see, none of these types is absolutely perfect or faultless. Of course, their features depend on the individual models, but mainly they still have certain flaws. Once you define what is the best acoustic guitar pickup for you, you’ll be able to select the one that is tailored to your guitar and your needs.
Let’s face the fact that these comprehensive journeys are never easy. They are difficult emotionally, as they provide our readers with too many options to choose from. But we always try to provide you with all the details that might play a role in making a final decision. I hope our article helped you choose the best acoustic guitar pickup out there. After all, we did everything we could to provide you with some wonderful options. Good luck!