Choosing an Acoustic Pickup

If you have an acoustic guitar and want to play live on stage then you are going to need to amplify it. At the end of the day you want what the audience hears to be what you hear ie: the natural sound of your guitar. There are three or four ways to amplify your acoustic:

Put a mic in front of it
Use a piezo under saddle pickup
Use a soundhole pickup
Use a sound board pickup
Or a combination of all of them

Now most guitars today are ‘stage ready’ electro acoustics and come with some form of pickup in them already. But if like me you are not happy with the sound what can you do?

Today we are going to compare the inbuilt piezo tranducer pickup with a Fishman Rare Earth Single Coil soundhole pickup and both of these against the natural sound of the guitar through mics.

Mics
In theory Mic’s are probably the best way to amplify the sound of your acoustic, but it is very difficult to achieve that perfect sound. You can get feedback and muddiness and if you move you move away from the sweet spot of the guitar.

So Pros: – Great natural sound – it can sound magic
Cons: – you have to stand still; they can pick up the other instruments; feedback can be a big issue; so not very practical

Undersaddle Transducers
Most electro acoustics have one of these already installed. They sense the immediate vibration of the strings through the saddle. Typically made of strips of tiny piezo crystals that sense vibrations and transform them into an electrical signal.

Pros: resistance to feedback; invisible installation; natural sound. Awesome for fingerstyle or moderate strumming.
Cons: If you have a strong attack and you play with a heavy pick, this type of pickup can produce a “quacking” sound, which can be very annoying. Rarely sound good. They need a pre-amp in the guitar.

Soundhole pickups
Pros: Easy to install (and uninstall) yourself with no modification to your guitar… a big plus if you want to use one pickup for several guitars. More realistic ‘natural’ tone which is softer
Cons: Don’t always look great; limited onboard controls (no pre amp); some may sound more “electric” than most other acoustic guitar pickups

The Fishman Rare Earth Single Coil has been carefully re-voiced and fine-tuned to offer a smooth acoustic tone, which is warm and natural.

Listen to the differences on the video:
First via the mics
Now the piezo
Now the Fishman

What you choose is all a matter of taste and what style you play. For me I will go with the Fishman