Before we go searching for the best acoustic guitar pickups, it is interesting to look briefly at their development. Guitars have been around a while. Historically they came from Spain, probably from Malaga, in the 16th Century, but they were always a solo instrument. In the 1920s, it began its journey into mainstream music and was included in small jazz bands and quartets.
But there was a problem…
You could hardly hear it. The quest for volume started. A quest that funnily enough is still with us today.
There were some strange attempts at making the guitar sound louder. Some of them were quite funny, but then along came the all-metal resonator guitar. It did provide a volume boost, nowhere near enough, but the resonator guitar is still with us today. Ultimately though, the pickup was the answer.
The first came along from an ex-Gibson designer Lloyd Loar in 1930. The Mid-30s and DeArmond gave us the first commercially available magnetic pickups. In 1936, Gibson, who by nature is usually one step behind others, brought out their own. Gibson went big on the idea during the 50s, building them into acoustics like the J-160e.
Martin brought out their version in the late 50s, and it was all hands to the pumps now to get it right.
Development took a sideways, and some would say more effective turn in the 70s. The sound of these ‘acoustic’ pickups just didn’t really sound ‘acoustic’ at all. But then Glen Campbell asked Ovation for an electric version of their acoustic. Ovation was a relatively ‘new kid in town’ having been established only in 1965.
Some well-known manufacturers, no names mentioned, tried to discredit their guitars. But the wider public and a bunch of musicians saw them as what they were. Very good indeed. Campbell playing this fiberglass body, suddenly found the ‘acoustic sound’ but loud. He played, and he could really play, and performed solos with it.
Asia, new to the international guitar world, were watching, and the Japanese manufacturer Takamine brought out their version. This Palathetic pickup used six individual transducers set under the bridge one for each string. They had clarity and warmth. They were and are good.
The boys down in Kalamazoo put down their coffee and realized they were behind. We could go on with this fascinating story but suffice to say since then the standards have risen. There are now some great pickups that make acoustic guitars sound like acoustic guitars. But at volume.
So, let’s go through some of the very best Acoustic Guitar Pickups on the market and find the perfect ones for you…
Top 10 Best Acoustic Guitar Pickups In 2020 Reviews
1 LR Baggs iBeam Active System With Volume Control
This is not what you might call your usual acoustic guitar pickup attachment. In fact, if we are to be very honest, you will need to be adept at practical things to be able to fit it correctly. You will certainly have to be handy with a drill as there is a hole in the body to make. Many of us with little or no dexterity will have to take it to a guitar tech to fit it. It states easy to fit, but not so for a lot of people.
It has a different design to most pickups that have bridge plate sensors. This employs two sensors that move with the soundboard, trying to catch every nuance in sound. As far as we can see, there are some ‘interesting’ fittings but more on this later.
It is designed to fit most X-braced acoustic guitars and comes with a placement jig. It has a Class A preamp. The overall sound is quite good when it is not too loud. When you increase the volume, it starts to sound quite boomy. That may well lead to feedback before very long. It is, however, a nice sound when played quietly.
We mentioned some interesting fittings. The main assembly mounts to the bridge plate using a peel and stick adhesive. Not a system of attachment used by many manufacturers. Another interesting design installation is the velcro pouch to hold the battery. I think at this price point that most people would be hoping for security with fittings.
Quality creative design…
There is no doubt that it will improve the sound of your guitar if you can get the fitting right. But at this price point, and it is expensive, there might not be many takers. We think this is a great shame. The sound is good, and the design of the pickup is creative. But they really needed to get themselves sorted out with the fitting.
- Good sound reproduction.
- Nice sound when at a reasonable volume.
- Fitting is a potential nightmare.
2 Luvay Guitar Pickup Acoustic Electric
This acoustic guitar pickup from Luvay will turn your acoustic guitar into an acoustic-electric very easily and with the minimum of fuss. It is very much a budget level pickup with no frills attached. For that reason must be considered a very cost-effective way of electrifying your acoustic.
Unlike some, this is very easy to install and simply clips on to the soundhole of your guitar. It is that simple. There is a cord that is permanently fixed, which has a ¼” jack plug that goes straight into your amp. The pickup is 5.3 inches by 1.1 by 0.4 of an inch. It will, therefore, fit in most full-size instruments. For smaller guitars, you should check the size of your soundhole.
The cable is ten meters long. And the pickup features a tone and volume control. We would make the point here that this pickup is only for guitars with metal strings.
The sound is not at the highest level if we are, to be honest, but at the price point is more than acceptable. It is quite a bright sound and can be prone to a little feedback. It is, therefore, not for concert-level performance but is great for home use, practice, or even a bit of home studio recording.
We think this pickup is a great example of how a company can make a pickup cheap enough for everyone. It is not going to win too many sound awards, but as a very affordable pickup, it is a great option.
- Easy to fit with a decent sound.
- Very easy to fit with volume and tone control.
- Some will want a better all-round sound.
3 L.R. Baggs ANTHEM Acoustic Guitar Pickup
LR Baggs is a US company specializing in pickups and effects pedals. They are popular in some circles and have a high reputation. They are not a budget product though and can very expensive.
This acoustic guitar pickup combines the standard design piezo pickup with a microphone. The idea is to create an authentic, natural acoustic sound. It is mounted inside the body of the guitar close to the bridge plate and also near the top. This is where the tone of the guitar is most prominent.
The quality of the microphone used will have an impact on the sound, of course. With this system, the microphone used is a condenser. The sound is very natural but will have its potential drawbacks. Feedback is one.
You need to be careful when buying this pickup to make sure all the components will fit. For example, if you have a guitar with ‘A’ bracing, it probably won’t because of the taller braces. The pickup itself measures 6 inches by 4 by 2 inches.
It has two sections for the pickup – the microphone and the actual pickup itself. They have a control where you can mix the sound together to get the sound you like. There is also a master volume.
This company doesn’t appear to pay much attention to the fittings, though. Some of them are attached with sticky tabs. Hardly acceptable for a pickup at this price. Fitting is also not easy. For most, this is going to take a trip to the local guitar tech — and more expense.
The sound is nice, there is no doubt, but for us the cost is exorbitant. You can find equally nice sounding pickups for a fraction of the price. And they are a lot easier to fit.
- Produces a nice balanced sound.
- Very expensive.
- Fitting is not easy.
4 Fishman Rare Earth Humbucker
Welcome to many people’s dreams. A humbucker on an acoustic guitar made by Fishman.
The company was established in 1981 in Massachusetts and have become widely known for designing and manufacturing pickups for acoustic guitars. In fact, some guitar manufacturers include their pickups as standard on new guitars. They make some of the best sounding acoustic guitar pickups around at all price points.
The Rare Earth pickup is a well-designed pickup that is easy to fit without any modifications needed, when fitting a pickup to an acoustic guitar, the easier, the better and this just clips on.
This is a humbucker with neodymium magnets. Neodymium is considered a ‘rare earth’ element, hence the name. Some single-coil pickups can be a little prone to unwanted noise. This is a stacked-coil design with a nice reproduction and pure sound.
Great for longer cable lengths…
Built-in to the pickup is a preamp with low-circuit noise design. You can plug into amps, PAs, or recording consoles. All without any compromise to the sound as can happen with some pickups. Likewise, there is no sound degradation using cables up to 80 feet in length,
It has a miniature battery that is included that is located on the underside of the pickup. Battery life is approximately 300 hours. There is a thumbwheel volume control that is easy to use. If you wish the jack socket can be mounted, but this is optional, and the pickup functions perfectly well as a clip-on.
This is a nicely designed pickup for an acoustic guitar by a company that specializes in exactly that. The price point is set realistically, making this for the money one of the best value acoustic guitar pickups out there.
- Well made and designed and easy to fit.
- Humbucker stacked-coil pickup with low noise and great sound.
- Some may want a cheaper option.
5 K&K Pure Mini Acoustic Guitar Pickup
K and K Sounds have been manufacturing pickups and other accessories for guitar since 1984. They have developed a reputation for producing pickups for the acoustic guitar that are high-quality and sensible priced.
To be considered one of the Best Guitar Pickups for Acoustic, it is important that fitting is easy. That is not this pickups’ strongest point but more on this later.
But it is really all about sound?
We are repeatedly told that the soundboard of the guitar gives it most of its tone. So if you want to gather that tone, where does the pickup need to be? Attached to the soundboard.
This is a soundboard pickup that is quick and easy to install. It reproduces all the natural resonance of the instrument by collecting the sound straight from the soundboard and uses a three transducer system. It is, though, for steel-strung guitars only.
Sounds perfect, but there is a drawback to this…
They do tend to feedback at higher volumes. This can, of course, be rather a problem. That doesn’t apply specifically to this pickup but to all pickups attached straight to the soundboard. This is not going to affect the player in small group situations or where the volume levels are not too high. But it certainly will when it is louder.
This is a great shame because the sound this pickup produces is excellent. In fact, we would say that this pickup is the best sounding acoustic guitar pickup around. The warm, rich tones are quite surprising, and at this price point must be of interest to those who don’t crank it up too much.
May need a good guitar tech…
We mentioned the fitting earlier. The fitting is, unfortunately, a weak point with this pickup as glue has to be used. Putty is supplied to make sure you get the position right before applying the fixative. It might be a better idea to gate a tech to fit it.
- Great soundboard pickup with warm and natural tone reproduction.
- Very affordable price.
- Prone to feedback, and the fitting is a bit of a mess.
6 Fishman Matrix Infinity Pickup & Preamp System
Back we go to Fishman again for another pickup. This time the Matrix Infinity under-saddle pickup with preamp.
It is mounted inside the guitar and has rotary controls for volume and tone that are maybe a little hard to get to quickly if you need to. The tone control is called Tone Unique and cuts out mids and emphasizes low and high frequencies. That is fine if this is what you want, but it doesn’t create a particularly warm sound.
Less mids on an acoustic?
The sound is clear, and the pickup does not lack dynamism in collecting string responses. But the tone with no mids is to us a strange choice. There is also an LED for displaying battery condition.
It is a standard length of 2.65 inches, which means most guitar sizes will accommodate it. It is a pickup for steel-strung guitars first and foremost.
The preamp takes a 9-volt battery, and you can expect in excess of three hundred hours of life from each change. The preamp will stay active while the guitar is plugged in. It turns off when the jack socket is removed. It is suitable for both six and twelve-string guitars.
The fitting is not what you might call easy despite Fishman’s claims. It may be for some but taking the average person armed with a drill, not so easy. If you have an expensive guitar, there is drilling to do. It may be necessary to take it to a guitar tech to have fitted.
You may also need to get an adjuster for a guitar strap for the back end while you are there. If you are doing it yourself, allow between two to three hours if nothing goes wrong. There is no doubt that some people are just going to prefer a pick up you can just clamp on when you need it.
- It has a good sound in its basic format without adjusting the tone.
- Good price point.
- The lowered mid sound signature will not appeal to many.
- Not so easy to fit as claimed we suspect.
7 Seymour Duncan Woody HC Hum-Canceling Soundhole Pickup
Off we go to another giant of the pickup world, Seymour Duncan. Since they were founded in 1976 in California, they have established themselves as one of the leaders in pickup manufacturing. And they can be rightly considered as one of the Best Acoustic Guitar Pickups manufacturers in the business.
Their product range covers the whole spectrum and all price points. But for this review, we are looking at the Woody HC Hum-Canceling Soundhole Pickup.
This isn’t one of Seymour Duncan’s high-end pickups, but it still carries many of their quality attributes. The thing we liked about it straight away was its look. It isn’t often you get a pickup with a maple cover.
The second most important thing to us was the ease of fitting – No drilling holes. It will fit comfortably into sound holes on a guitar that are from 3.75 inches to 4.00 inches across. Clamp it in and away you go. It fits neatly into the soundhole of most guitars. But please note, only steel string guitars, not nylon strings.
Once you’ve fitted it this Humbucker, hum-canceling pickup will start to perform. Just plug it into any guitar amp or PA. Maybe use it straight into a desk. The tone is rich and ideal for either finger-picking or chords. Not too much concentration on high or low frequencies; it delivers a balanced sound. Seymour Duncan provides a 14-foot cable.
For the price point, this pickup is of exceptional value. Easy to fit, no fuss to use, and the look is impressive. The sound, though, is where it scores some points. But then Seymour Duncan knows all about making good sounding pickups. And especially good sounding humbuckers. A great pick up at a great price and one of the best sounding acoustic guitar pickups around.
- Great sound at an affordable price.
- Easy to fit and use.
- Some may not like the maple wood cover.
8 Fishman Neo-Buster Humbucker Soundhole Acoustic Pickup
Back for another pickup from Fishman. This is a slightly different design in that it covers the soundhole of the guitar completely. This will inevitably, of course, alter the sound of the guitar if it’s left in place when not amplified. The plus side is that because the soundhole is covered, it is going to reduce any unwanted resonance.
The pickup can then just be left to amplify the sound. This means ultimately that it will reduce the potential for feedback., This has always been one of the big problems with amplifying acoustic guitars.
It is a Neodymium magnet humbucker that gives off a very warm tone. It can be played at a higher volume than is usual for acoustic guitars because of the reduction of feedback.
This pickup is easy to fit and just literally sits in the soundhole. It needs no adjustments, tools, or alteration to the guitar and will fit into soundholes of between three and seven-eighths and four inches. We think it might be wise to measure carefully and, if in doubt, contact your seller. You will need to slacken off the strings to fit the pickup. It is not suitable for nylon-strung guitars.
Of course, being a humbucker, any unwanted sounds, especially hum, are not present. The pick up is similar to the ‘rare earth’ structure found on other Fishman pickups.
It needs no battery to operate. There is no volume control on the pick up so the level will be controlled by whatever you plug into.
Best for permanent installation…
It is an interesting design and one that does reduce and even eliminate feedback at higher volumes. But we think it is a bit of a problem to keep taking it off and on. If you are planning to leave it on the guitar, then it is suitable. But this only if you are not going to use the guitar acoustically.
Blocking the soundhole with the pickup will certainly alter the natural sound. If you need an occasionally used pickup, it is probably also not well-suited because of the removal process. A clip-on will be far easier — a decent sounding pickup but only suitable for certain uses. The affordable price point makes it an option to consider.
- Good sound at an affordable price.
- No hum or unwanted noise and low feedback generated by the pickup.
- Bit of a nuisance to keep taking off when not in use.
9 Dean Markley DM3000 Artist Transducer Acoustic Pickup
This is a very unique style of pickup that is also designed to be multi-purpose. Not only will it work with an acoustic guitar, but it will amplify violin, or cello, a mandolin or a banjo. In fact, any instrument that has a soundboard where it can be fitted.
It takes its design ideas from the resonance of the soundboard on an instrument. It is here that the majority of the sound is generated and felt. This pickup attaches to that sound source and amplifies it. Therefore, it produces a very true and transparent tone. There are no connection issues as the pickup plugs straight into your amp.
It is fixed to the outer soundboard of your instrument using a fixative. This sounds a bit dangerous for the surface, but it has been designed to be used many times without hurting the wood of the instrument.
We should say at this point that this pickup device is designed more for convenience than anything else. As such, its overall sound quality is not up to the best, as you can probably imagine. As a cheap option to amplify an acoustic guitar for practice or in a very small room, it may work fine. But don’t expect too much of it.
It is a convenient little pickup that does its job in a very basic way. As such, the price point reflects that. That makes it a worthwhile option if you just want to amplify an acoustic at home.
- Easy to fit and use at an affordable price.
- A decent but very basic sound.
- Some are just going to want a more permanent fix.
10 Luvay Acoustic Guitar Pickup, Piezo Contact Microphone Transducer
Another offering from Luvay pickups, and this item another option for quick and easy use.
At first glance, it resembles the end of a stethoscope the doctor might use. It is a practical design, though. That is an important thing for those who want a quick solution to amplifying their acoustic guitar. It not only fits guitars but also other instruments like the ukulele or banjo, possibly even a mandolin or violin.
Great for Nylon-strung guitars…
One asset this pickup has that some others do not is that it will work adequately with a nylon-strung guitar. It is easy to use and has a conveniently placed volume control.
The pickup is fixed to the instrument using an adhesive. The adhesive is in the form of a reusable patch that does no damage to the surface of the instrument. It is placed near the soundhole to catch as much of the sound and pick up the vibrations from the soundboard.
It comes with a ten-foot cable for connection to an amplifier with a ¼ inch jack plug.
Sound-wise though, it will surprise you. At this price point, it is a great little pickup. Feedback levels are low, and the sound is quite bright and clear. Lacks a little at the bottom end, of course, but for what it is, it performs well above its level.
If your expectations are realistic, you are not going to be disappointed with this pickup. Not going to win too many prizes but an excellent option just the same.
- Easy to fix and use at a very affordable price point.
- Nice sound with volume control.
- At this price, nothing at all.
Best Acoustic Guitar Pickups Buyer’s Guide
Turning Up The Acoustic
Deciding which pickup to attach to your acoustic guitar will depend on a number of issues.
The fittings are certainly one thing to be considered. Are you going to want to keep taking it off and putting it on? Can you leave it permanently fixed to the guitar? This will make a difference, and there are a variety of options on view.
With some, you are probably going to have to take the instrument and the pickup to a guitar tech. Some need drilling; others are just a bit awkward to fit easily. If you have to go to a tech that is going to cost more. Maybe you can just be happy with a pickup that clips off and on in seconds, seems to make sense to us. Not sure we would want someone drilling holes in our expensive and loved acoustic.
Sound-wise they are all quite similar. Some have volume and tone controls. Others you will have to rely on amp settings.
This can be an issue with amplified acoustic guitars. You will need to decide if you will need to crank the volume up. If you do, then there are some pickups that cater for that. Most pickups generate a decent sound when played at a low level. But when they have volume applied, there is often a problem. If you are gigging with it, maybe it’s best to look at the low feedback options.
This is where you will need to be careful. Set yourself a budget and try and stick to it. The prices vary greatly and so decide what sort of pickup you want first then look at the costs. Bear in mind if it is a model that needs a pro tech to fix the pickup that will cost you more money.
Some Pickups For Your Other Guitars?
Adding a pickup to your acoustic may cause you to re-think your pickup choices for the rest of your guitar collection. So, it may also be worth checking out our reviews of the Best Single Coil Pickups, the Best Telecaster Guitar Pickups, the Best P-90 Pickups, the Best Precision Bass Pickups, and the Best Jazz Bass Pickups currently available.
So What Are The Best Acoustic Guitar Pickups?
What Would We Choose?
We think we would want to choose a humbucker if only to keep any unwanted sounds out of the way. And we would want it to be cost-effective, and we don’t see the point of buying a pickup that might be more expensive than the guitar it is amplifying. We also want it to fit easily and without too much fuss.
Therefore, we’ve decided that the Best Acoustic Guitar Pickup is the…
Good sound, easy to fit, great price, and great looking with its maple top. Seymour Duncan produces great pickups. This is one of them. Highly recommended!