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Employee Review

Years at Rainbow: 15
Weekly work schedule: Tuesday-Saturday

What types of acoustic guitar pickups are out there?

There are four ways to go with amplifying an acoustic guitar. The most natural sound is with a good condenser mic, but there is a limit to how much volume you can get before feedback becomes a problem. The smaller the room (i.e. the closer the speakers to your guitar), the bigger the problem. So…enter the acoustic guitar pickup. There are lots of models on the market but here are some tried and proven ones that our customers have been happy with and won’t cost the mortgage on your house. The simplest type is the removable contact or transducer type- these are the size of a quarter and pick up the vibration of the body. They are mounted with a non-destructive adhesive on the body or bridge. For a Nylon string guitar, only a transducer will work, as the other type uses a magnet and requires metal strings. Inexpensive transducers can be had for under $40 but are not hi-fidelity. They do the trick well for many non-critical applications. Good transducers usually require a professional install and can range $100 and up plus labor. More on this later. Of the magnetic pickups, there are many manufacturers and types. As with electric guitar pickups, they come in single coil and humbucking designs and fit into the sound hole of the guitar. Humbuckers tend to be louder and less prone to noise but they both work well and deliver good volume as long as you are not right on top of a monitor. In the reasonably priced range, the Dean Markleys and DiMarzios are great choices. The Markleys come in single and humbucking models, and we sell them from $49.99 to $59.99. No frills or whistles, just clean strong tone. Higher on the chain is the DiMarzios. Their Virtual Acoustic sells for $79.99 and reproduces the sound of your guitar in its full range, with very little tendency to feedback. It is black and has individual polepieces for each string, enabling you to adjust for imbalances. It also has a volume slider right on the pickup! Their Super Natural Plus sells for the same price but is voiced to eliminate the bass boom of many dreadnaught guitars. (This bottom end works great acoustically but when amplified tends to make some guitars sound muddy). It has a simulated wood body and the same features as the Virtual Acoustic. If you want a great, natural sounding pickup installed inside your guitar, I think the best choice is the K&K Pure Western Mini. This is actually a very high quality, low noise three-transducer system that needs to be permanently attached under the bridge and connected to a jack which replaces the strap button. No new holes need to be drilled! We highly recommend a professional install for this baby! The K&K sounds superb and totally “acoustic” and does not need any outboard equipment or power. You can always add preamps and EQ’s but most people have been thrilled with it as is. The K&K is $99.99 plus install.