Best Acoustic Guitar Pickup – Reviews and Guide

If you’re looking for the best acoustic guitar pickup, the reviews, comparison and guide here would probably help. There is also an interactive table that already narrowed the choices down to only the top options. There are a lot of pickups out there, but only those worth a look are included in the table.

acoustic guitar pickup

Each pickup featured here is great in its own way — there is really no such thing as the best ever. But by using the table’s comparison of features, you will likely find the best that fits your requirements. And for a more in-depth discussion of the pickups’ features, just check out the guide further down below.

Acoustic Guitar Pickup Comparison

OptionActive or Passive?Specific TypeInstallationSoundPrice
K&K Pure MiniPassiveContactUnder the bridge plate, requires endpin drillingNatural sound, louder than most passive pickups$
See the exact price
LR Baggs M80Active and passive (switchable)SoundholeSlips into soundhole, drilling not necessaryWarm and full tone, feedback resistant$$$
See the exact price
Fishman Matrix
Infinity
ActiveUndersaddle transducerSolderless installation, requires endpin and top drillingClear tone, feedback resistant, no quack$$
See the exact price
LR Baggs LyricActiveInternal micVia detachable tapes, requires endpin drillingNatural sound, no feedback at high enough volume$$
See the exact price
Fishman Rare Earth BlendActiveMulti-source systemSlips into soundhole, drilling not necessaryNatural warm tone, no feedback at high volume$$$$
See the exact price

Acoustic Guitar Pickup Reviews

Here, you’ll find acoustic guitar pickup reviews that provide an in-depth look at the top options right now. Video demos and links to more information are included to help you pick the option that suits you best. More reviews might be added here in the future, so be sure to check back often.

K&K Pure Mini Review

The K&K Pure Mini is louder than most passive pickup out there, with enough output to directly drive PA systems and amps. And unlike most of its rivals, it sounds rich and full. Also, it has an excellently balanced, flat sound transmission of a quack-free, warm woody tone that has a superb dynamic range.

The K&K Pure Mini has an endpin jack and three pickup heads, and installation is easy with the help of the jig that it comes with. For the best performance, direct installation by using superglue gel is recommended. That way, it is still removable without ruining your guitar (but be careful about damaging the pickup itself).

If you would like to learn more about the K&K Pure Mini, you will see more details here.

L.R. Baggs M80 Review

One of the great things about the L.R. Baggs M80 is the ease of installing it. Just slip it on and you are good to go. If your endpin hole is too small, just leave the cable and jack dangling from the soundhole. No need to modify, and possibly mess up, your precious guitar. And you could use it on several of yours, since it’s easy to transfer from one instrument to another. Couple that flexibility with a competitive price and you easily get an impressive value for money.

Equally impressive is how the M80 behaves like a multi-source system, even if it isn’t. Because of it’s innovation of the humbucking design, it’s like a soundhole pickup with an internal mic or soundboard transducer. The result is a warm full tone, with only a slight electric tinge and more acoustic character. And the tone is the same in its switchable active and passive modes (which is handy if you suddenly run out of battery).

If you want more details about the L.R. Baggs M80, you’ll find them here.

Acoustic Guitar Pickups Guide

Pickups capture your guitar’s sound and puts it into wires that send it to other units. An example of these units is the amplifier, which allow you to boost the volume and more.

When you shop around for a pickup, you’ll notice that the options are as many as the guitars. There are actually several types of acoustic guitar pickups, each with its own advantages and challenges (discussed below). Bear in mind that most types of pickup require some modifications that are best done by trained professionals. Nonetheless, there are a few good options that require temporary and/or minimal modifications.

Active or Passive?

Pickups may be grouped into two general types – active or passive. Active pickups require batteries and have a built in ability to boost volume (also called as gain).

Meanwhile, passive pickups don’t need electronics to modify your instrument’s sound before sending it to other units. Think of it as a simple microphone, but for guitars instead of voice. It just captures the sound and passes it through a cable to an amp, direct-insert (DI) box, or what have you. So if you prefer a very natural sound, get the best passive acoustic guitar pickups.

Removable Acoustic Guitar Pickup

Removable acoustic guitar pickups are those that can be removed as easily as they can be installed. Below are two types of such pickups.

Soundhole Pickups

Soundhole pickups are probably the most ubiquitous options out there. There are both passive and active versions too.

Top Acoustic Guitar Pickups Reviews

This pickup type is also easy to install – they are simply slid behind the acoustic guitar’s strings and attached into the soundhole. Sometimes, you do need to drill through your end-pin to make way for the 1/4″ jack of the pickup cable. But most options available don’t require so, like the LR Baggs M80 (see the review above). Because it’s easy to install, you could actually use just one for several guitars.

Compared to other types, soundhole pickups sound more “electric.” And being in the soundhole, they are visible and they change the look of your instrument.

Contact Pickups or Soundboard Transducers

Contact pickups, or soundboard transducers (also called “bottlecaps”), are one of the least invasive options available. They stick to the guitar’s top as easy as they can come off – via a tack material that doesn’t harm the finish. There is also a bridgeplate variety, but it requires drilling. Contact pickups are small and more commonly passive.

Contact pickups tend to be very microphonic. Hence, they sound a lot more natural – the amplified tone closely resembles the unplugged one. However, that also makes them prone to high-pitched feedback at high volumes. If used in a noisy venue, their warm, round tone could sound dull and muddy. But for those performing in low volume gigs, they can work pretty well.

Internal Mics

Some high-end guitars have preamps that include a microphone installed inside the instrument’s body. These internal mics usually work great in venues where you don’t need to get very loud. If you crank up the volume too much, they will feedback in a way that’s unpleasant or painful. Mics could be costly too – if you want one, be ready to fork out a few hundreds for it and its installation. That said, the sound quality from internal mics is exceptional – it produces the most natural acoustic sound.

Undersaddle Transducers

Undersaddle transducers are pickups installed under the saddle (white piece of bone or plastic) in the bridgeplate. They are usually made of strips of small piezo crystals that capture vibrations and transform them to electrical signals. There are both passive and active versions of this type of pickup.

undersaddle transducer installation 3

If your guitar already sounds great, and you just want to amplify it, undersaddle transducers could work well. However, installing it involves drilling a small hole for its wire to pass through. There is also end-pin-jack installation, so you should really get the help of a luthier. But unlike soundhole pickups, they are hidden from view and sound more natural. Cheap undersaddle transducers do have a tendency to produce a quacking sound. Hence, it’s advisable to get the best that you can afford.

Multi-Source Systems

Why settle for one type of acoustic guitar pickup, when you can use more at the same time?

A multi-source system combines two or more types of pickup and controls them through a lone preamp. Since pickup types capture and transmit your guitar’s sound in distinct ways, you will have the best of different worlds. For example, combining a microphone with an undersaddle transducer results to a richer, fuller sound. The undersaddle transducer will give you an articulated, defined tone and feedback-free volume. Meanwhile, the microphone will provide that “airy feel” that make you sound even more natural.

Pick the Best for Yourself

Hopefully, you’ll choose the best acoustic pickup for yourself with the help of the reviews and guide here. You can also read my article about the best acoustic-electric guitars if you decide to get one of those instead. Either way, you will need one of the top acoustic guitar amps so be sure to check them out too.

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2 Replies to “Best Acoustic Guitar Pickup – Reviews and Guide”

  1. Thanks for the informative article! Quick question: which would be the best type of pickup to install in an acoustic (Martin 000-28ec) that will be used live in a fairly loud rock band with the guitar being plugged into a Fractal FX8 multi effects unit (or AX8) before going to the PA… Would an active or passive system be better?

    Thanks!

    James

    1. Personally, I’ll pick active. The volume boost will likely be handy given the loud background. I also enjoy playing with effects, so a passive’s more natural sound isn’t too important anyway. Ideally though, I’ll get something like the M80 to both have active and passive. It’s pricey, but the flexibility is worth it. Also, no need to mess too much with that Martin just to install it. I hope this helps!

      – Nold

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