The 8 Best Acoustic Guitar Pickups

Updated September 20, 2017 by Daniel Imperiale

8 Best Acoustic Guitar Pickups
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We spent 43 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. Any gigging singer-songwriter will need to boost their instrument's volume when playing in larger or noisy venues. These acoustic guitar pickups provide an easy and convenient way to do that and are available with pickups and as transducer-only systems. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best acoustic guitar pickup on Amazon.

8. Shadow Prestige SH-145-BK

The Shadow Prestige SH-145-BK is constructed as a stacked humbucker to resist negative vibrations resonating within the chamber. Its mounting edges are on the stiff side, however, so they might create some vibration of their own.
  • samarium cobalt magnets
  • powered by a 3 volt cell
  • poorly placed volume wheel
Brand Shadow
Model SH-145-BK
Weight 1.1 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

7. K&K Pure Mini

The K&K Pure Mini is a transducer-only system, meaning that it has no microphone and no magnetic pickups of any kind. It's purely a passive, pressure-based system. With three receiver points along the underside of the saddle, it produces a very lifelike sound.
  • no soldering required
  • high output without batteries
  • prone to feedback around 110 hz
Brand K&K Sound
Model K&K-0233
Weight 3.2 ounces
Rating 3.7 / 5.0

6. LR Baggs Lyric

Often, the purest reproduction of an acoustic guitar's tone comes from a well-placed microphone, and the LR Baggs Lyric places itself as close to the action as possible: inside the body. It can't quite match the brightness you'd get from a more traditional pickup, however.
  • tru-mic noise cancelling technology
  • analog signal conditioning
  • annoying wire length
Brand LR Baggs
Model LYRIC
Weight 4 ounces
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

5. LR Baggs M80

The LR Baggs M80 features adjustable pole pieces that let you define your preferred tonal response, as well as a multi-segment battery check to ensure your pickup is alive and well before any gig. The cream coloring is meant to blend in with most woods.
  • feedback resistant
  • active or passive option
  • lacks low end response
Brand LR Baggs
Model M80
Weight 6.4 ounces
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

4. Fishman Matrix Infinity

The Fishman Matrix Infinity is a single-method undersaddle transducer that translates the vibration of your guitar's sound chamber into particular tonal signals. Its preamp system adds articulation to what could be an otherwise muddy process.
  • lets you directly adjust mid tones
  • multiple slot widths
  • responds better to bone saddles
Brand Fishman
Model PROMANINF
Weight 8.8 ounces
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

3. AER AK 15

Compatible with both steel and nylon string guitars, the AER AK 15 combines an electronic condenser microphone and preamp with a piezoelectronic transducer that senses the specific pressures caused by the vibrating string saddle and reproduces them as electric signals.
  • minimal mechanical impact
  • volume and blend knobs
  • difficult to place transducer
Brand AER
Model AK15-PLUS
Weight 12 ounces
Rating 5.0 / 5.0

2. Seymour Duncan Woody Hum Canceller

The Seymour Duncan Woody Hum Canceller is double potted to resist feedback, and its passive ceramic magnet design picks up a tone that focuses more on the mid and treble frequencies than it does on the bass, creating a brighter soundscape.
  • instantly mountable
  • comes in three wood-mimicking colors
  • no volume controls
Brand Seymour Duncan
Model SA-3HC
Weight 12.6 ounces
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

1. Fishman Rare Earth Blend

The humbucking design of the Fishman Rare Earth Blend utilizes a twice-coiled magnetic pickup in conjunction with a high quality condenser microphone to produce a tone that combines the pure attack of the strings with the warm resonance of the guitar's interior.
  • knobs placed at the sound hole
  • high resolution signal
  • temporary or permanent installation
Brand Fishman
Model PROREP103
Weight 9.6 ounces
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

How Capturing Sound Can Change It

A lot of things can affect the tone of an acoustic guitar. The way a given wood expands or contracts at different temperatures and humidity levels plays a large role in the quality of its sound. That’s just one reason that responsible guitarists make use of humidifiers and dehumidifiers, depending on their climate and the time of year.

The gauge of pick you use and the strings you select for your guitar will also affect its sound, as will your style of play. Any further adjustments you make to the instrument itself are just as liable to change the tone it produces, from drilling strap locks into its body to installing a pickup for amplified performances.

That pickup may be the difference between your ability to play for a larger crowd and your relegation to only the smallest coffee shops. With a high-quality pickup installed in your acoustic guitar, you can send your song’s signal through equally high-quality acoustic guitar amps, or through a given venue’s PA system.

Of course, the physics of an acoustic guitar place the richest points of its tone just outside of its sound hole, with an additional bright spot up the neck. In expensive live and studio environments, engineers will often mic an acoustic at both of these points, as well as slightly farther into a properly tuned space if they want to capture some natural reverb.

A pickup can’t provide you with that level of audio excellence, but even if you’re playing through a microphone setup, a pickup can serve as a vital backup should one or more microphones drop out. Additionally, most acoustic guitar pickups naturally tend toward the middle frequencies, while mics at the sound hole and neck will naturally get more bass and treble respectively. A good pickup lets you or your engineer balance out the mids against these other sonic forces.

A pickup will also allow you to send your guitar through any number of effects pedals that the signal from a microphone could only reach through a very complicated setup. You also won’t find yourself anchored to a single spot on a stool. For more expressive performers who need to move around a lot while they play, a pickup is an absolute necessity.

Installing that pickup may affect the tone of the guitar itself, however, often for the worse if you do a sloppy job. Some models require modifications to the wood of your instrument, and these you should take to a professional for installation. Others secure into place with a far less invasive installation, but they can create some unwanted vibrations. Either way, make sure you take your time getting your sound just right.

The Microphone Or The Magnet

There are essentially two ways that an acoustic guitar pickup can do its job, and that method will bear heavily on its means of installation, its sound quality, and its usefulness for a given type of guitar. Let’s tackle that last point first, as it will most cleanly divide these pickups into two camps: the type of acoustic you play will largely determine what kind of pickup is right for you.

If you play a classical guitar — which is to say an acoustic guitar that uses nylon, catgut, or any non-metallic string — you’re going to need a microphone pickup. Magnetic pickups rely on magnetized coils to feel the vibrations of metal guitar strings to produce their signals. Since non-metallic strings won’t produce a reaction in a magnetic coil, such a pickup wouldn’t produce any signal to amplify.

Acoustic guitars with metallic strings can make use of either magnetic or microphone pickups. The magnetic variety is often easier to install without error, but it doesn’t capture the depth of tone that a good microphone can. That said, the less expensive microphone pickups have all the difficulty of installation and management with little of the sound quality.

A small number of magnetic pickups also include a microphone to round out their mid-heavy tone by picking up a little extra bass produced naturally in the cavity of the instrument. These may offer the best sound available, but they’re also going to combine the difficulty in installing either type of pickup.

One other option exists on the market that eschews both the magnet and the microphone. This is the transducer pickup, which utilizes a small number of electrical transducers to interpret the vibrations of the guitar body. Installation is pretty easy with these, and they’re often relatively inexpensive, but their tonal quality can’t compare with the other options on the market.

When selecting any of the pickup styles on the market, be sure to keep an eye out for volume controls. These small knobs, most often located directly on the pickups themselves, allow you to make adjustments to the tonal balance and volume of a given system, reducing any potential feedback at a moment’s notice.

A Brief History Of The Guitar Pickup

While instrument amplification has been available since the advent of the microphone in the 1870s, the magnetic guitar pickup as we know it didn’t arrive on the scene until the 1920s. That’s when a guitarist from California named George Beauchamp attempted to use the pickup assembly of his phonograph to transmit a signal from his guitar strings.

With a great deal of self-confidence, Beauchamp set out to coil his own magnets using everything from a washing machine motor to a sewing machine. After receiving a little help from Adolph Rickenbacker, who would soon transform his tool and tie business into a successful and iconic instrument company, Beauchamp created his first single-coil pickups.

Gibson soon joined the fray, introducing their bar pickup in 1935. From this point forward, the gradual electrification of the guitar was under way, with one of its most infamous milestones coming in 1965, when revered folk singer Bob Dylan played a set at the Newport Folk Festival on an electric guitar.



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Last updated on September 20, 2017 by Daniel Imperiale

Daniel is a writer, actor, and director living in Los Angeles, CA. He spent a large portion of his 20s roaming the country in search of new experiences, taking on odd jobs in the strangest places, studying at incredible schools, and making art with empathy and curiosity.


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