Is there any musical instrument more engaging, pure, or more intimate than an acoustic guitar? Unfortunately, unless you’re playing in a small room, an acoustic guitar is often difficult to hear.
An acoustic guitar pickup provides sound amplification to allow you to play for a larger crowd and alongside other instruments. Plus, it gives you more movement freedom and a fuller sound than a standalone mic.
Finding the right type of pickup for your acoustic guitar can feel complicated, but it’s often easier than many people think. Your complete guide to the best acoustic guitar pickups starts right now, including my top 11 favorites this year.
Ready to play in a whole new way? Let’s take a closer look:
The 11 Top Acoustic Guitar Pickups
Not sure where to start? Check out my top 11 favorites on the market today.
L.R. Baggs is a trusted name in musical gear, with the Anthem-SL one of their most popular acoustic guitar pickups. It’s well-made, easy-to-install, and offers a variety of options suitable for players of all skill levels.
The most noteworthy feature about the Anthem line is the patent-pending TRU MIC technology. It combines a condenser mic with their one-of-a-kind Element pickup. It creates a full, warm, and studio-quality sound when playing live.
It mounts underneath the guitar’s bridge plate. Located 3mm underneath the surface, its placement creates a boundary effect to increase clarity and reduce feedback. The balanced frequency response creates a pure, amplified sound.
- Includes powerful and unique TRU MIC technology
- Easy under-bridge mounting
- Produces a clear, loud tone
- Medium-gauge strings can result in a muffled sound
Also check out: The Best Acoustic-Electric Guitars Today
Best for Travel
Fishman’s Neo-D is a powerful pickup that produces top-tier string balance and stunning clarity even at high volume. It uses a neodymium magnet structure to ensure long-lasting quality.
If you like to bring a guitar along wherever you go, the Neo-D is an excellent option because it’s lightweight, durable, and portable. The low-profile design fits into a guitar case, backpack, or bag without a problem. Plus, it requires no battery, so you don’t have to worry about it running out of power. It fits some of the top travel guitars today perfectly.
Installation is usually simple. A pre-wired output jack allows for optional endpin mounting. It fits soundholes with a diameter as small as 98.4mm. It has a single coil to help create articulated sound.
- Portable, durable design
- Doesn’t require a battery
- Fits soundholes 98.4mm and larger
- Produces clear, articulated sounds
- Not ideal for nylon strings
- Sound can minimize treble
Best Passive System
If you’re looking for a pure pickup, K & K’s Pure Mini is an excellent option. It’s a transducer-only system that contains no batteries or electronics.
If you’re familiar with other passive systems, you might not always have the best impression of their capabilities. But the Pure Mini stands out from the crowd. The sound is full and rich without excessive thinness.
Even better, this pickup doesn’t need a preamp. The surface transducers deliver enough output to directly power most decent amps and PA systems. Enjoy a balanced sound with no excessive harsh tones.
- Transducer-only system requires no batteries or electronics
- Creates a rich, full sound
- Doesn’t require a preamp for use on PA or amp system
- It lacks the percussive low end of an under bridge mount
- Bass can buzz even at low volume
Best Preamp Option
Seymour Duncan’s Woody HC is an excellent soundhole option. It’s a passive pickup that delivers rich tones in public and in the studio.
It’s one of my favorite options for acoustic guitars. The pickup captures strumming and fingerstyle playing with excellent clarity. When using this pickup with an acoustic guitar, you’ll get the best results by connecting it to an acoustic guitar amp.
- Produces top-tier clarity
- Designed for fingerstyle playing
- Suitable for studio and live performance
- Can sound shrill on certain guitars
- Requires acoustic amp
Best Included Preamp
Fishman is a popular, well-regarded brand for musical equipment, so it’s no surprise that more than one of their pickups found its way onto this Best Of list. Their Infinity Matrix VT is my top recommendation for acoustic guitars (although it’s not the only high-quality acoustic pickup on the list).
The Matrix Infinity includes everything you need. Aside from the pickup, you also get an active, endpin-mounted preamp. Together, the pickup and preamp create a clear, dynamic tone.
Note that instead of the one-size-fits-all model many pickups adhere to, Fishman’s Matrix Infinity is available in two saddle slot widths. Choose between the wide 1/8th-inch format or the narrow 3/32th-inch format. Either is an excellent option if you’re looking for a pickup and preamp combo for an acoustic guitar.
- Pickup and preamp combo
- Designed specifically for acoustic guitars
- Available in both wide and narrow formats
- Can produce excessive bass
- Potentially overemphasizes the 6th bass string
Best Acoustic-Electric Sound
Luvay’s pickup lets you quickly, easily, and effectively turn your acoustic into an acoustic-electric. It clips onto the soundhole of practically any acoustic. Once attached, you use a standard quarter-inch connector to connect it to an audio input.
Keep in mind the acoustic-electric sound is different from an amplified acoustic. While this pickup is an awesome option if you want an acoustic-electric sound, make sure that’s the sound you want.
The pickup is light and compact. Its total size is 5.3” by 1.1” by 0.4”. Aside from the pickup, you also get a 10’ gold cable.
- Creates acoustic-electric sound
- Pickup is compact and unobtrusive
- Attaches quickly and securely
- Only creates acoustic-electric sound
Best High-End Model
If you’re looking for a fully-equipped pickup for incredibly accurate sound reproduction, you’ll want to try the Feather from Myers Pickups. Touted as a “lightweight powerhouse,” it’s powered by an internal, active power source.
Setup and operation are easy. The power source is pre-installed. With true plug-and-play functionality, it requires no complicated mounting or calibration.
It’s made in the USA under strict quality controls. All pickups are tested at the factory to ensure they’re in excellent working condition.
- Creates powerful, accurate sound
- Active power source
- Simple to install
- Excellent US-based customer service
- Included cord between belt clip and mic is long
OriGlam’s Preamp and Pickup combo is fully packed with features but at a price that won’t bust your budget. It’s an all-in-one kit that fits into any standard acoustic guitar.
The five-band EQ lets you control the volume, bass, treble, and more. With an LCD display, you’ll have no problem getting the information and feedback you want, even while playing.
It operates on a 9V battery. Note that the manufacturer recommends removing the battery when you’re not using the preamp.
- Affordable preamp and pickup combo
- Allows extensive control over the sound
- Info displayed on a large LCD screen
- Battery not included
- Instructions are sparse
Best for All-Around Use
Do you have a variety of acoustic guitars? Check out this pickup from TraderPlus. It’ll produce a clear, crisp sound on any acoustic guitar with a sound hole and steel strings.
Installation is straightforward but does require a few steps. After plugging the pickup into the point, you’ll need to connect a wire and tighten it with the included wrench.
Additionally, you can rest easy knowing that no matter what guitar you use with this pickup, it will remain scratch-free thanks to the felt-backed clip.
Aside from the pickup, you also get tone/volume control, an amp connection cable, and a jack.
- Fits a wide variety of guitar styles and sizes
- Produces clear, accurate sound
- Protects guitar against scratches
- Includes volume and tone control
- Not as durable as some other options
- Installation can feel complicated at first
Best Active and Passive Option
LR Baggs is a major force in music gear, so it’s not surprising that this is their second pickup you’ll want to check out. The M80 is a versatile pickup that lets you switch between active and passive operation with a single switch.
Inside the M80, you’ll find a unique, free-floating coil that acts as a full-body sensor. The sound produced is warm and woodsy. If you want to avoid the electric-acoustic sound, this pickup is one of your best options.
- Quality construction you’d expect from LR Baggs
- Switches between active and passive
- Creates a natural acoustic sound
- Unique coil system can produce excessive vibration
- Installation can feel complicated
Best for Fast Installation
If you don’t want to mess around with a complicated installation, Randon’s pickup is perfect. It uses double-sided tape and self-adhesive Velcro to attach to your guitar. Not only is it quick and simple to install, but it also won’t scratch or damage your guitar.
The unique installation method helps eliminate external sounds to create a clear, authentic sound. Aside from the pickup, the kit also includes a 9.96” cable, audio jack, and all other necessary equipment.
- Unique Velcro and tape installation system
- Simple and quick to attach
- Creates authentic acoustic sound
- While it works great on guitars, it’s not the ideal product for cellos and similar instruments.
Acoustic Guitar Pickup Buyer’s Guide
Finding the best acoustic guitar pickup depends on a few factors, such as where you plan to play and what type of sound you want to create. Here’s a closer look at how to find the perfect pickup for your needs:
What is a Guitar Pickup?
A pickup boosts the volume of an acoustic guitar. It converts the vibrations of the strings into electrical signals, allowing you to raise or lower the sound. They’re useful in a variety of situations such as:
- Playing an acoustic guitar alongside other instruments
- Playing an acoustic guitar in a mid-to-large sized venue
- Recording in a studio with an acoustic guitar
When playing an acoustic guitar in a small group, sound levels usually aren’t an issue. However, in most performing and recording situations, you’ll almost always need a pickup.
The Different Types of Guitar Pickups
Make sure you’re getting a pickup specifically made for an acoustic guitar. You’ll find a wide variety of pickups for electric guitars, but none of them work with an acoustic guitar. Generally, you want to avoid pickups that work on electromagnetic induction.
Acoustic guitar pickups are organized into the following types:
- Mic Blend
- Magnetic Soundhole
- Standard Microphone
- Soundboard Transducer Pickups
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Here’s a closer look at each:
A piezo pickup is the most popular option. It sits under the guitar’s bridge saddle, where it detects string vibrations. The pickup uses a type of crystal, called a piezoelectric crystal, to detect the guitar’s vibrations.
Piezo pickups detect vibrations on the point on the guitar where the strings are the tightest, so they’re able to produce a bright, refined sound.
They’re generally considered an excellent type of pickup for both live performance and studio recording, especially in large venues, because they can substantially augment the guitar’s volume.
On the downside, they can diminish the woodsy tones of the guitar. Also, low-quality pickups can create what’s called the Piezo Quack. It’s a brittle quality to the sound that’s caused by overload.
Mic Blend System
A Mic Blend system is a certain type of piezo system. They’re basically a small microphone that sits inside the guitar. They amplify the soundboard, picking up the deep tones that the Piezo system often misses.
Mic blend systems allow you to adjust the mix between the Piezo pickup and the interior mic.
Magnetic Soundhole Pickup
A soundhole is the large hole inside the guitar’s base. A soundhole pickup, naturally, fits inside this space. It detects string vibrations using a magnetic field. The pickup translates these vibrations into voltage.
These types of pickups produce a sound similar to a clean electric guitar. The sound is picked up from the strings of the guitar, but not its body, so you can lose some of the deeper, acoustic sounds.
However, soundhole pickups have a few advantages. They’re quick and easy to install. Plus, installation doesn’t require any permanent modifications to your guitar.
If you’re looking for one pickup you can use on multiple acoustic guitars, a soundhole is usually your best bet.
You don’t need a pickup at all. Instead, you can play in front of a standard microphone and use it to amplify the guitar sounds the same way it would a voice. A standalone mic can work, but pickups often have two significant advantages.
First, a pickup provides a deeper, richer sound compared to a standalone mic. Because it’s connected directly to the guitar, it captures the vibrations of the strings with incredible accuracy.
Plus, a pickup allows you to move the guitar while playing. You need to keep the guitar in front of the standalone mic to produce a consistent sound. However, because the pickup is attached directly to the guitar, you can move it around without affecting the sound.
Soundboard Transducer Pickups
Another type of pickup is the Soundboard Transducer, which is also called a contact pickup.
It’s similar to an under-saddle pickup but with a temporary adhesive that allows you to place it anywhere on the guitar.
This placement flexibility lets you adjust where the pickup detects vibrations. You can alter the sound by placing the pickup on the strings or body. It’s especially effective if you use your guitar to play lots of percussive sounds.
The Difference between Active and Passive
Pickups are either active or passive. An active pickup is battery-powered, while a passive system requires no electronics.
Active systems produce a stronger frequency. They use a preamp to augment the sound before it reaches a mixer, PA, or another type of sound system. You have a precise level of control over the frequencies produced.
On the downside, an active system is a bit more complicated to maintain than a passive one. You’ll need to deal with replacement batteries. Also, active pickups are often bulkier than passives.
Installing an Acoustic Guitar Pickup: What Type is Easiest?
Installation difficulty varies by type.
If you’re looking for the easiest pickup to install, choose either a soundboard or a contact pickup. They use adhesive or other non-permanent methods to attach to your guitar. No drilling or permanent alteration is required.
Piezo systems require drilling and other guitar modifications. If you don’t know what you’re doing, professional installation is recommended. Otherwise, you risk accidentally damaging your guitar.
All of the acoustic guitar pickups listed above are easy-to-install, durable, and effective. When determining which pickup is the best for you, consider your specific needs, such as how you prefer to play and the type of venues where you’ll perform.
If having difficulty choosing, I recommend the L.R. Baggs Anthem-SL. It’s easy to install, even if you’re new to using pickups, and made from a trusted manufacturer. More importantly, it’s TRU MIC tech creates a warm, full sound suitable for live performance and studio play.
A pickup allows you to enjoy the beauty of acoustic playing at a volume suitable for large audiences or alongside a band. Use our list to find the best pickup today!
Last Updated on January 29, 2021 by Liam F. Admin