Recommend an Acoustic Guitar Pickup

I’m looking at purchasing a pickup for my acoustic guitar in advance of an upcoming gig, and was wondering if any fellow pickers had some insight on current pickups out there. The gig in question is coming up quick (end of February), so I’m probably limited to a soundhole pickup, or something similarly easy to install.

Some more details:
[li]Guitar is a Martin D-1[/li][li]I play with a pretty wide dynamic range: hard strumming in some songs, fingerpicking in others[/li][li]I’ll be plugging directly into a PA, so if a preamp is recommended/necessary with a given pickup, let me know (I don’t have a ton of experience with acoustic pickups; mostly used mics in the past, and will probably continue to do so for recording)[/li][li]A pickup that can be easily removed would be nice, but isn’t essential[/li][li]I don’t have a particular price range in mind, but I’m looking for something that provides good sound for the money[/li][/ul]

Also, if the correct and obvious answer for this kind of situation is “bite the bullet and get a luthier to install a permanent pickup because they just sound much better”, I’d like to know that too… In that case, I may try to borrow something for the upcoming gig and then deal with getting something good installed later (with the hopes that future gigs are forthcoming!).

Thanks for any help you can provide!

I have two acoustic pickups, and they both sound great to me. I have not compared them to others available.

One is a soundhole pickup made by Lace, the Acoustic Bronze (they make other models as well). It clamps in securely and easily with a Phillips screwdriver, and has a degree of adjustability.

The other is an under-the-bridge pickup made by McIntyre, the Acoustic Feather. It has some special stickum that allows installation by pressing it in place with the fingers, which is easy, non-invasive, and reversible. However, it comes with an endpin jack that requires reaming out the endpin hole (easy to do with a wood borer drill bit, but not necessarily something one would want to do to a Martin). Alternatively, one could run the wiring out of the soundhole and attach a readily available jack.

ETA: I don’t know nuthing about preamps. McIntyre recommends one. I don’t know whether or the set-ups I’ve used these pickups with had one.

Here’s a page of reviews of many brands of acoustic pickups. From there:

Acoustic Bronze. Some like it a lot, others not so much.

Acoustic Feather. All like it a lot.

Sorry - no clue. For all the geekiness I spend on electric pickups, I haven’t focused the same way on acoustics. Thank god my J-45 came with something equipped - I just plug it in and it works fine for my acoustics…

Thanks, Gary T! That review site is very helpful (I kinda forgot about Harmony Central since they stopped doing tabs/chords).

This actually looks like it’s simple enough to install, and it’s nice to see that I’m not entirely limited to soundhole/magnetic pickups. I don’t really have any qualms about reaming the endpin hole–it’s not a particularly valuable Martin (and even if it was, my guitars are for making music, not for collecting!).

IMHO, the best pickup for big sounding acoustics (i.e. Martin, Guild, Breedlove, Gibson) is the Fishman Rare Earth single coil. For brighter. less boomy guitars such as Larrivee and the like, I’d go to a competent luthier and have them recommend (and install) one after hearing the exact tone. Brighter sounding guitars will have a much more difficult time finding the perfect pickup that faithfully reproduces the acoustic signature.

That said, you definitely want a ribbon pickup installed under the saddle no matter which way you go. Again a luthier (not a guitar center dude with an acoustic) is the one best able to recommend the right fit for you. you can find a great sounding ribbon pickup installed for about $100, and up to $300 for high end stuff.

Platinum Pro is far and away the best sounding preamp, regardless of pickup - I’ve used one on stage and on the road for years with nary a bobble or failure.

Were I on a budget, I’d go with a lower end (but still fantastic) Fishman ribbon pickup plus the Pro EQ Platinum.

And yes, you will need a preamp of some type, and it will color your sound significantly more than the pickup.

I can go into more detail if necessary, or answer more specific q’s if you like.

pick on,

just noticed your time constraint caveat : just to let you know, a competent luthier can install most pickups within a couple of hours, so it’s only limited to their backlog of work, not the complexity of the job.

Heh, yeah… I bought the Martin after receiving my first post-college paycheck. At my budget, it was either get one with a solid top/back or get one with a built-in pickup; not both. Given that it’s still doing well for me 9 years later, I think I made the right choice.

Thanks, picker. At this point, even giving the guitar up for a few days is not really an option given rehearsal schedule.

But, that does add a few points to Plan B: getting something cheap/temporary/acceptable sound for the purposes of the upcoming gig, then something nicer and more suited to my particular guitar and playing style installed professionally later.

I do, thankfully, have access to pretty decent luthiers in the Boston area, and I have a feeling that in the current economic environment that work backlogs aren’t as much of an issue as they might otherwise be.

I would beg or borrow a loaner with a pickup in it, then. No sense spending $$ for something less the best…

I use a Fishman AG pickup with the Platinum Pro on my '78 Guild D25-M and it sounds fantastic. The AG are ceramic undersaddle, and don’t require a battery, so there’s minimal damage to the guitar body during installation.

To reiterate, get a good preamp - that’s far more important. The Pro is great, but Fishman also makes a number of cheaper ones (no compressor or notch filter mainly) that still have EQ, gain, and ground lift. Plus a couple of them have a clip to hang on your strap, so they’re not cluttering up stage area.

What style of music are you doing?

Heck yes, you did.

And **GaryT **has some good information and **picker **has his username for a reason - I would follow his advice in a heartbeat…

Hey **picker **- total hijack, but for your acoustic work, are you a “Martin Dreadnought” kinda guy - meaning, while you may not actually have a Martin, you embrace the “industry standard” of a rosewood dread as your main model…

I am sticking my toe into the world of acoustics for the first time in a while - well, I got my Gibson J-45 a couple of years ago, but I am trying more now to really educate my ear with an acoustic guitar focus - and I find that I am not a Martin Dread kinda guy. Don’t get me wrong - they are totally great; but my ear and hands really prefer a different guitar design…and there are plenty out there.

I guess I never even though to look beyond the Martin Dread standard and really only evaluated acoustics vs. that standard, when there are completely different designs that should be evaluated on their own merits…

Most of what I play is in the rock/alt-country vein. The upcoming gig is mostly going to be myself (switching off between guitar and mandolin) and another guitarist with both of us on vocals. No bass or drums, but possibly some auxiliary percussion (tamborine, shaker, etc). I’ll be doing mostly rhythm, with some occasional lead playing.

The mando amplification is itself a question (I was more or less resigned to using a mic for that)… Any reason I couldn’t use the same preamp for both if I eventually get a pickup for that too?

Well, I’m a Guild guy. I like a rich warm sound with a lot of low end roundness, but without the boominess you get in modern Martin’s.

If you’re not into that Martin sound, I strongly recommend you check out Taylor, Breedlove and Larrivee guitars. Three radically different sounds but all wonderful guitars with different feels and timbre. The Larivee in particular is very clear and bell like, but not thin or harsh, it’s exceedingly pleasant. Check out some clips here.

All good - I actually had a Taylor for years, but it, to me, sounds like it is trying to be a Martin variant.

I actually have realized that I am a Gibson guy - small-bodied, mahogany, with a thin top that is very responsive. As I have heard said, Gibson’s sound like close-in family harmonies; Martins sound like a choir. I am a family man, I guess! I just didn’t know and assumed I should be looking for my best-sounding Martin Dread type. So I did - and it is neither Martin nor dreadnaught…

As to the mando questions, I do that all the time (same preamp for both) You might have to tweak your eq a bit, but you’ll find the sweet spot right quick. It would depend more on the mando style (A v. F) and playing method (bluegrass v. strummed/classical) than the eq, though.

On stage I use a directional condensor for my step-in mic (for solos) and the preamp output for my base level/rhythm tone. The condensor is richer and hotter - depending on proximity - so makes for a distinct, richer, more powerful solo tone. This method is kind of standard in bluegrass and string band setups, but gets tricky with rock volumes and floor monitors (better gate that mic!)

That’s a cool idea, and would work well in situations like the upcoming gig. I can see how it would be problematic at rock volumes, though!

Of course, that means adding a directional condenser to the list. Somehow, I don’t imagine that the amount of free beer I’ll get from any future gigging will offset the investment… Guess I won’t quit the day job.