Adding one of the best acoustic guitar pickups to your instrument can take a dull-sounding piezo pickup to new levels, or add another layer of tonality to your latest recording. They’re more straightforward than you think to install and can significantly improve the plugged-in sound of your acoustic guitar, making them a no-brainer for the guitarist looking to upgrade their instrument without buying an entirely new one.
There are multiple reasons you would want to add an acoustic pickup, even if you already own an electro-acoustic guitar, so we’ve put together this list of the best out there so you can pick out the best one for you. It might be you want a more traditional pickup design so you can use effects with your acoustic, or perhaps you’re not a fan of the sound of your already installed piezo pickup and want something that better translates your unplugged tone through a PA or acoustic guitar amp.
If you want to learn more about acoustic guitar pickups then have a look at our buying advice section. To see the best acoustic guitar pickups available today, keep scrolling for our top picks.
Best acoustic guitar pickups: Guitar World's choice
The LR Baggs Anthem comes as standard on many top-of-the-range acoustic guitars, which is exactly why it takes our top spot here. Using a mixture of pickup types with the traditional piezo kind and LR Baggs’ True-Mic technology, it captures the entire dynamic range of your acoustic, delivering epic guitar tones.
If you’re a fan of hybrid picking and tapping styles, then you’ll want to check out the Fishman PowerTap Infinity. Blending the famous Fishman Matrix pickup with a unique body contact mic, it captures the sound of your acoustic incredibly well, delivering an open and natural sound with every nuance of your performance present.
Best acoustic guitar pickups: Product guide
Once again, when it comes to the best acoustic guitar pickups it’s nigh-on impossible to see past LR Baggs Anthem pickup and microphone setup. It is used by the likes of Jake Bugg and Marcus King, and perhaps should be considered the industry standard. It’s not cheap, but nor is it prohibitively expensive, and if you are serious about your tone and need a pickup option for the stage or studio, this is it.
There is none of that thwacky artificiality that you sometimes get with acoustic pickups. No feedback. The Anthem system positions a piezo-style Element pickup under the saddle and combines it with a condenser mic that’s mounted 3mm from the underside of the bridge plate. The mic performs just as a studio mic would. It is noise-cancelling and has a flatter frequency response that is responsive to your instrument.
The soundhole preamp is discretely mounted and gives you control over volume, phase inversion, mic trim and mix, the latter letting you dial in the right amount of low-end from the element pickup. There is also a battery check feature, too, so you know you’ve got enough juice to get through a show.
Fishman’s flagship acoustic pickup system has been upgraded with a Tap body sensor complementing the Matrix under-saddle pickup to help capture every nuance from your playing. This is the best acoustic guitar pickup for guitarists who play percussively – you'll love its feedback-free performance and the transparency.
Elsewhere, we’ve got the redesigned soundhole-mounted controller as seen on the excellent Matrix Infinity VT outfit. The Unique Tone control enables you to cut mids and boost lows and highs for quick scooped tones. The repositioned voicing switch allows you to match the pickup’s performance to the guitar, the amp or indeed the occasion. There are options for narrow, wide and split saddles and the pickup/preamp serves steel or nylon strings equally.
As ever, installation is not for the inexperienced, so we would co-sign Fishman’s advice to get a professional in to do the job.
Mojotone’s Quiet Coil NC-1 is a fantastic option for anyone who’s sick of acoustic pickups changing the personality of their instrument. Mojotone has apparently “solved the soundhole pickup problem”, and we think they’ve got quite a persuasive argument.
The Quiet Coil NC-1 is, as the name suggests, noise cancelling. It’s got a 6V active preamp that supplies the necessary power to suppress any extra noise and feedback, so it’s great for live work as well as for use in the studio. The two CR2032 batteries have up to 1,000 hours of life in them and with two bright LED indicator lights, you’ll never get caught off guard with a dead battery.
The NC-1 is specifically voiced and EQ’d like a microphone to emphasize your guitar’s pure, natural acoustic tone. It’s also designed to have perfect string balance and volume with bronze or phosphor bronze strings, hence the lack of adjustable polepieces, or the need for specific NC-1-friendly strings. It’s lightweight and compact too, so your picking hand can carry on doing its thing without worry. Unfortunately the NC-1 is currently only available in the US, but is still a fantastic option for anyone who wants an extra special acoustic pickup.
As a fuss-free, wallet-friendly option, this hum-cancelling option from the Californian pickup titans is hard to beat. For a start, it's easy to install and similarly easy to remove. Those looking for the occasional electro-acoustic solution for gigging will find a lot to like in the Woody. It looks good, too, with natural finish options including actual real maple and walnut that should complement a wide range of acoustics.
The Woody is non-intrusive fit any acoustic with a soundhole radius between 3.85” and 4.1”. The pole pieces are adjustable, so you can fine tune output for each string. And best of all, this Woody is humbucking; sometimes the last thing you want when playing a delicate fingerstyle passage is 60-cycle mains hum in the background.
Of course, if you’re on an even-tighter budget and need it for amped-strumming at the odd gig where a little hum is not too big a deal, you could save 20 bucks and go for the singlecoil Woody. This could make it the best acoustic guitar pickup for beginners – also check our guide to the best acoustic guitars for beginners.
Another LR Baggs pickup, another naturalistic sound performance. If the platonic ideal of an acoustic guitar pickup is to translate the voice of your guitar faithfully so it may be amplified, this is as close as it gets. The M80 is also super-versatile, with features that make it a pro-quality choice for stage or studio.
There are switchable active and passive modes. Use the active mode for a little contouring on your EQ. There is a battery check mode but if you are caught short you can switch it to passive mode and continue the show.
But the real genius is in a design that preserves your acoustic’s voice by using a free-floating second pickup coil as a 3D body sensor, with the other coil bringing out all the frequency response and dynamics of the string movement.
Fishman’s Rare Earth soundhole pickup has been an industry stalwart for a long while, and in its many forms has helped open up a world of opportunity to many acoustic players all across the globe.
This latest iteration of the Rare Earth humbucker has been re-voiced and re-tuned to deliver a delectably smooth treble response - something which many acoustic pickups struggle to achieve. An active humbucker equipped with a neodymium magnet, the Rare Earth offers incredible string balance and sparkling clarity, without sacrificing the natural warmth and depth of your acoustic tone.
Preamp-wise, the Rare Earth is basic - but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The low-current design of the preamp is actually one of its biggest strengths, allowing up to 300 hours of battery life. Along with easy installation thanks to the redesigned mounting system, the Rare Earth is great for anyone who wants the reassurance of an industry-leading brand on their pickup.
This hugely impressive active EMG acoustic pickup is quintessentially EMG in its build in the sense that it uses the Quik-Connect system for fast installation. Step away from the toolbox; there’ll be no soldering, no rerouting required here.
Like its electronic siblings, which revolutionized electric guitar design by making active humbuckers a mainstream feature, the EMG ACS has a high-output performance that’s hum-free.
And yet consider the ACS. It has adjustable pole pieces so you can adjust its output to match your instrument and playing style. Its active preamp is tuned especially for acoustic guitars.
There is a lot to like about the Black Angel. It is a simple and non-invasive set-up, easily mounted in the soundhole. The build features two coils with a rare earth magnetic core, each sitting on a parallel axis to the strings, with an acoustically isolated magnetic circuit to reduce finger squeak.
Don’t let the fact the Black Angel is magnetic put you off – it is quiet, and it takes effects well. Best of all, there is a phase switch that enables you to combine it with multiple sources without issues. Those looking for something to complement their piezos or transducer will love it. Otherwise it is an excellent, if pricey, passive pickup.
K&K’s flagship acoustic guitar pickup is universally lauded for good reason. First off, it’s cheap. For an extra 100 bucks you can get a preamp with a three-band EQ that you can attach to your belt loop.
All this and you haven’t even modified your instrument. If you have a steel-string you feel is too precious for surgery but you want a pickup, this makes a good option to consider alongside the less-invasive soundhole pickups.
With three sensors that are superglued to the underside of your bridge played, the Sound Pure Mini delivers a naturalistic and warm, full tone – and the positioning of those sensors helps cut down on any feedback.
While the XM Artist transducer isn't going to compete with the premium LR Baggs or Fishman units in this best acoustic guitar pickups guide, it's worth mentioning in dispatches for its ease of use, solid performance and utterly unbeatable price.
Not everyone is going to need a pro-quality piezo, and this is easily mounted and as cheap as chips. You might take a few goes trying to find the sweet spot on your guitar, but the adhesive won’t damage your finish so you can experiment freely. If you’re only playing the odd open mic night, or need a backup, this is a more than respectable, wallet-friendly choice.
Best acoustic guitar pickups: Buying advice
What is an acoustic guitar pickup and how does it work?
Acoustic guitar pickups come in many different forms and the way they work is to amplify the sound of your instrument when plugging it into a PA or acoustic guitar amp. Musicians that are playing acoustic live will need an acoustic guitar pickup to ensure they’re heard above the crowd and can match other instrument volume levels in a full band scenario. Acoustic guitar pickups can also have a use when recording, as they can capture the sound of the inside of the instrument, and can also be used alongside pedalboards to add effects.
What are the different types of acoustic guitar pickups?
There are three main types of acoustic guitar pickup you’ll come across, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.
Piezo pickups are the most common type, often found installed as standard on electro-acoustic guitars. A piezo pickup detects the vibration of the guitar strings and is usually mounted underneath the saddle of the guitar. Known for its bright, almost brittle sound, piezo pickups are popular because of their impressive rejection of feedback and their ability to be used on classical guitars without steel strings.
Soundhole pickups or magnetic pickups are very similar to electric guitar pickups in their design. They work via magnetism and are usually placed across the soundhole of your acoustic guitar in order to pick up the vibrations of your acoustic guitar strings. They’re really easy to install, making them a great way to convert a standard acoustic to an electro-acoustic, and their tone is similar to a single coil pickup, sparkly and warm with plenty of articulation. They still don’t quite capture the full tonality of your instrument and are prone to feedback at high volumes too.
Microphone pickups are designed to pick up the internal resonances of your acoustic guitar body. Working similarly to a regular microphone, they provide the most realistic depiction of your acoustic guitar's unplugged tone. They usually come paired with a preamp and a piezo or magnetic pickup as on their own they’re not particularly loud. Like soundhole pickups, they’re also prone to feedback.
Which type of acoustic guitar pickup is best for me?
It all depends on what you want from your instrument. If you’ve got a purely acoustic guitar and want to make it an electro-acoustic, then a piezo or soundhole pickup would probably be best for you. Soundhole pickups are easier to install, but piezo pickups are cheaper and have the advantage of working on nylon string guitars as well.
If you’re not happy with the existing piezo pickup, then a microphone or soundhole pickup might be more to your liking. You can even wire them up to use both at the same time, adjusting your tone to your liking by blending both sounds.
If you have a premium instrument that you want to capture that gorgeous natural tone of, then a microphone pickup will best translate your tone authentically. Bear in mind you’ll need to use it with a preamp, and perhaps even a piezo or soundhole pickup to get the right volume level to play live, however.
Can I install an acoustic guitar pickup on my guitar myself?
When installing an acoustic guitar pickup, it all depends on the type. Undoubtedly the easiest to install is the soundhole pickup which just requires a screwdriver. It’s up to you whether you want to drill a hole in the body to feed the input through, or you can just run it over the exterior of the body itself if you don’t want to risk damaging your acoustic.
Piezo pickups require a lot more work to install because you have to place them underneath the guitar bridge on the inside of the body. Piezo pickups can be quite fragile so you have to be careful when sticking them to the body, as bending can result in them being broken. You’ll need glue, putty, or tape to mount it to the underside of the bridge, taking off the strings and feeding it through the soundhole.
It’s a similar story with microphone pickups, as you’ll need to place it inside the guitar body. One of the other issues with microphone pickup installation is finding the sweet spot where it captures the sound of your guitar best. You’ll need to experiment with different placements to find the best sound for you, which can extend the installation time.
Will installing a pickup affect the sound of my guitar?
If it is installed correctly, then it will have no effect on the sound - nor the value - of your acoustic guitar. Acoustic guitar pickups are designed not to affect the natural tone of your instrument, and many of them are lightweight or in the case of soundhole pickups, easily removable.
Do I need a preamp for my acoustic guitar pickup?
A preamp is essential for boosting the volume of an acoustic guitar pickup to usable levels. Most pickups come with a preamp already bundled into it, so you’ll often see controls for volume as well as sometimes tone on these preamp units. Other times there will just be an additional unit with no controls that pickup that requires mounting.
Find out more about how we make our recommendations and how we test each of the products in our buyer's guides.
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