Help!!! Acoustic Pickup Needed!!!

Discussion in 'Acoustic Instruments' started by fridgit, Jan 10, 2008.

  1. fridgit

    fridgit Member

    Aug 1, 2007
    Austin, TX
    I am new here (yes, a n00b) and I am seeking your advice on an acoustic guitar pickup. Years past (long ago) I used a Seymour Duncan Woody HC which sounded great, nice warm tones. Recently, I played through an acoustic-electric Ibanez w/ an installed pup, but now that's gone and I am the proud owner of a Martin D-15 (w/o pup).

    I am looking for a nice WARM, CLEAR acoustic tone, nothing thin sounding or too bright (like a single coil), but nothing muddy, either. I also don't want to cut into my D-15 too much, so I am looking at simple installation w/ the least amount of damage possible. Also, I am looking for a good PADI w/ this pickup, whether passive or active, (but more than likely passive).

    I play out live occasionally, so I am open to anything in any price range.

    Thanks for any help you can give me!!!
  2. in a little row

    in a little row Member

    Sep 7, 2007
    Memphis, crime capital of the South
    guess Ill be the first...Ive got K&K pure westerns in my acoustics, after trying many, many, I couldnt be happier...

  3. royd

    royd Member

    Jan 29, 2004
    Santa Barbara, CA
    here's a post a did a week or so ago to a similar question with a few additions...

    First, it really does depend upon what you want to do. What kind of music do you play? How loud do you need to be? Then answer these questions... How accurate do you want the sound to be in the end? How much are you willing to spend, and how complicated a set-up can you have? Are you willing to have the pickups visible to an audience?

    Amplifying an acoustic is always a series of compromises between the answers to the above questions.

    If you need to get loud, you need something that will be very good at avoiding feedback. That equals a soundhole pickup. They will probably not be the most accurate sound on their own. They have their own sound that you either like or not. IMHO, the Sunrise is the best and the most feedback resistant. You see scores of these in touring musicians' guitars. They have a huge bottom, don't feed back easily, but have a little electric edge to the sound in the trebles. Without careful eq'ing, they sound a bit like a jazz box. Next comes the Baggs M1. It probably sounds a little more accurate in itself because it senses the top more but that makes it less feedback resistant than the Sunrise. The Fishman mags come next followed by the others, some of which are terrible.

    For accuracy, a surface mounted pickup is best. The K&K's get a lot of positive press. Another that is very good is the McIntyre. The Baggs Ibeam is another. There are others too... even "roll-your-own" models that you can make from a piezo element you get at Radio Shack or elsewhere. The best ones will sound much more like your guitar than anything else except an external microphone, are very sensitive to placement, and will amplify everything including your arm sliding across the face of the guitar (this is good as that all contributes to an accurate sound). Down side is that they are more feedback prone and the further away from the bridge plate, the more feedback prone they become. If placed incorrectly, they can sound bad.

    Both of the above types require minimal modification for mounting... only an enlarged endpin hole for the jack and an outboard pre-amp of some kind.

    If you use one of each, you can get the best of both worlds but your rig becomes more expensive and more complicated as you need a blender to mix them together and balance them. (I have a Sunrise and a McIntyre in my Lowden that come out via a stereo plug and cable to a Raven blender). With a dual source like this you can get the feedback resistance from a mag and then dial in just enough of the surface mount transducer to get the artifacts and the sparkle but not feedback. Depending on the blender you have, or if you have two separate pre-amps sending two feeds to the PA, you may be able to fold back only the mag through the monitors while sending a mix to the house.

    Some pups attempt to do the dual source thing in themselves. You'll find a number of mags with a microphone on the back or the Baggs M1 which has a separate coil that vibrates from the top, essentially becoming a surface mount transducer. Some of these are more effective than others. Most are extremely limited in the ability to dial one source in or out.

    Personally, I don't care for under-the-saddle pups. They can be good at feedback resistance but I don't like the sound of even the best ones. If you want one, it would replace the magnetic in the above set-up... having a strong bass response and weaker trebles although for a different reason. And I don't like internal microphones. They would do similar things as the surface mount pup although all that I've heard were a bit boxy in the midrange and even more feedback prone (I've had at least 4 different ones). So I can't make any recommendations for either type of pickup.

    Pre-amps, external or internal, are another issue. I really like my Raven but tey aren't made any more. The DTar Solstice is very similar. The Baggs ParaDI is really good too. I'm sure there are others.
  4. 62Tele

    62Tele Supporting Member

    May 1, 2005
    +1 on the K&K's - great pickup for moderate volumes. If you play in a band setting use a magnetic with the K&K or alone. I've liked my Baggs M1 active quite a bit and that's after years of using Sunrise's exclusively. I just hear the Baggs as more natural sounding - both pickups have quite a following, and better is very subjective.

    Listen to Wilco (get the latest CD with the live video) and you can hear the Baggs in action.
  5. Iralovesguitars

    Iralovesguitars Member

    Sep 16, 2006
    Lexington, KY
    another vote for K&K Pure Western Minis. I actually had a fishman stereo blender in my guitars before i knew the PWminis existed, and removed the Matrix 1 UST and ran the PWmini sensors into my fishman stereo blender. so, bridgeplate w/o the quack, and an internal mic all running into a Rane AP13 allowing me to EQ both the PWminis and the mic separately. unfortunately though, a very invasive operation to cut a hole in the side of a guitar when my guitar already had one in it. i think you'd do well with the K&K, but again, it's really based on how loud to need to get. anything louder than a small (100 persons or less) venue will mean getting magnetic.
  6. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 16, 2006
    moderator, when you get around to a FAQ section, you can copy this and post it under "what acoustic pickup should i buy?"

    i tell my customers that the whole reason they invented electric guitars was that acoustics were so hard to amplify!

    i can only add that the dimarzio reference acoustic will hang with the top dog magnetics all day long (i actually slightly prefer it to the baggs m1). also, the mic in the baggs dual source is the most usable internal mic i've heard so far, much more feedback resistant than the fishman mics.
  7. gtrst

    gtrst Member

    May 11, 2007
    I've used Fishman prefix, prefix blender pro (added mic), B-band, B-band + mic preamp from Yamaha, K&K trinity with mic mix, Taylor expression and Schertler DYN-G.

    Fishmans are bright, and has a lot of that 'quack' - unnatural compressed attack. Simply awkward. And when you mix the mic in, it starts to sound like an acoustic guitar, but in 2 seconds it'll start howling. It was relatively ok for direct recording. Then I tried B-band, which is much more softer, smoother sounding undersaddle. Yet, when amplified, it is still artificial sounding. Not as much as fishman but still, makes your guitar sound like a plastic guitar. Then I had B-band undersaddle mixed with microphone, on my Yamaha acoustic. It was pretty darn good when you mix in the mic 5~10 percent. It won't start howling as much as fishman, and yet very warm. I don't understand why acoustic pickup makers make their small microphones so hot. I wish it was set way colder. Something like 1/2, 1/3....
    Then, I moved to K&K. I'm trying to sell this off with its external preamp now... meaning I found something better : ). Let me tell you what that is. Anyway, it had much better sounding 3 point contact pickup than B-band or Fishman undersaddles. Crisp yet not quacky, warm but not dull. Mine has a microphone mix, and again, subtle mix helped the guitar to sound like a guitar, but still too hot and started howling very soon.
    And I currently have an expression system on my Taylor 514ce. It sounds nice when played fingerstyle, and I need to mention that it has a great EQ settings that make your guitar sound so full and 'bigger' when plugged in. (I don't know how to put this into technical terms properly) but still, it starts to sound awkward with harder attacks.

    So, WHAT IS IT that I found which made me sell the K&K and all other things? A Schertler DYN-G.
    This pickup, is simply amazing. It sounds like a microphone, and it was designed to be a mic. It is not a piezo but a moving transducer. Taylor expression has two small transducers under the top, and they float in some kind of liquid, // I don't know how they did it but DYN-G sounds much better and doesn't do that artificial 'quack' at all. It's just like a microphone.
    At first I was happy and shocked, then I relized this pickup needed some EQ to finetune it. If you're worried about howling or quack, this is something that'll free your mind on stage. And, your guitar will finally sound like it was made of wood, not plastic.
    The problem with this pickup is that they're pretty costly, (300~400) is not integrated, and needs some EQing. (They don't come with preamp since it is not integrated. You need to get Schertly Pre or any other EQ to compensate. and, this is not a line-in 1/4 inch type pickup. It IS a microphone, a contact microphone. All of these makes the pickup system a bit untidy for sure. But it is nothing serious since it sounds so much better than undersaddles.)

    I found out that the pickup sound is a bit boxy and midrangy, kinda like what you get when you use a cheap tiny condenser mic when you chat online with your friends. So I plugged it into my AER and added quite a bit of very high frequency (high with bright switch on) and added bass also. Yay. There you go. If haven't tried DYN-G before, you're gonna love it the first place, but be sure to EQ it a bit if you're trying to record your guitar or play live having better sound. (Better sound here meaning NATURAL tone)
  8. trivial

    trivial Member

    Aug 20, 2002
    another k&k fan here... I have them in all my acoustics.

  9. Steve L

    Steve L Supporting Member

    Mar 14, 2006
    North of Chicago
    I have Highlander IP-2 pickups in all three of my acoustic guitars. Undersaddle pickup and internal mic. Feed into the Solstice which allow separate controls for each (with a stereo quarter inch plug coming out). I have been happy with this setup for at least 8 years (didn't have the Solstice then--only for about two years or so).
    I don't see a lot of mention about the Highlander pickups here, but I do read from time to time about performers I admire who use the products.
    Good luck.

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