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Acoustic guitar pickups

Posted: Fri Dec 19, 2008 5:40 pm
by AndrewD
My "trusty" Fender La Brea acoustic has an appallingly bad passive pickup (so passive it is lying on its back with its legs in the air) set underneath the saddle, and it is connected to two equally appalling tone and volume knobs. I want to replace it with something better but I have no experience of pickups so don't know where to begin.

I have read other earlier postings on pickups but was wondering whether there were any updated experiences to draw on.

I guess my initial questions are of manufacturers, where best to site the pickup (which probably depends on the pickup as much as anything else I suppose). I notice that some of Gordon's guitars have pickups placed across the sound hole. I have seen adverts for others that affix to the bridge and others that go inside attached to the underside of the top. Where to begin my friends? What are your experiences?

Posted: Mon Dec 22, 2008 1:08 pm
by TimH
Difficult to offer advice as the same pickup will sound different in different guitars as so much is dependent on the design and materials used in the manufacture of the guitar. I can comment from personal experience on 3 different acoustic pickups types:
1) Fishman Rare Earth Blend. This is an acitve pickup (i.e. has batteries and it's own little in-built pre-amp) that fixes across the sound-hole and combines a magnetic pickup with a tiny microphone. The blend of these two (hence the name of the pickup) is fed out through a jack socket (usually fitted as a replacement to the strap-button on the end of the guitar). Because of the ability to adjust the blend between 100% magnetic to 100% microphone (and every combination in between) this is a very flexible pickup which I have found useful for live use and recording. My experience is that it is very faithful to the original sound and personally I just like it. It does need to be used with a good separate pre-amp though (such as the Award-Session AP10 or GG10 such as Gordon uses).
2) Fishman under-saddle piezo. This, as the name suggest, sits under the bridge saddle and I have found this very good with an Ovation bowl-back type guitar. A bit 'harsher' sounding to me than the Rare Earth Blend but suits the slightly harder sound of a bowl-back (to my ear).
3) Shadow sound-hole pickup. I didn't like this one. It's a magnetic pickup that sits across the sound-hole (like the Blend but without the microphone) and is just too harsh sounding to my ear. It also project up above the sound-hole further than the Blend and I kept catching it with my nails or pick which creates a small 'thump' sound - very annoying.

Cost will obviously be a big factor and the Rare Earth Blend was (when I bought them a few years ago) about £250. If you're serious then they're well worth trying out somewhere (you can hear them in action at most GG gigs as I think Gordon still uses them). I've not had experience of the type that fix to the underside of the sound-board but I'm sure others on the forum have and will share their views willingly. Good hunting!

Posted: Mon Dec 22, 2008 5:29 pm
by AndrewD
The rare earth blend sounds like an interesting option. I have not come across this kind of design before.

Any output jack can simply take the place of the existing output jack that will be redundant once I remove or disconnect the existing pickup.

Thanks for your input, Tim. Exactly the kind of info to broaden my search radius that I am hunting for.