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Choosing an Acoustic Guitar Pickup

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I often get asked the difference between the common guitar pickups on the market, it's very hard to choose between the types.

Hopefully this article will help you weigh up your options!

Types of acoustic guitar pickup

Undersaddle Pickups

These pickups work living under your bridge saddle, the piezo element works on the pressure change as you pluck a string. A small hole is drilled in the saddle slot for the cable. There are many types around, some have a small preamp which is connected directly to a jack socket/strap pin unit.

Some are available as "passive" and don't require a battery.

     Fishman matrix infinity pickup installation            Artec EPP-PZ undersaddle transducer pickup system installation        B-Band 22R electret undersaddlepickup system installation Highlander iP-1 pickup installation
Fishman Matrix Infinity         Artec EPP-PZ system         B-Band 22 R pickup        Highlander iP-1

Pros - helps to reduce feedback

Cons - the piezo unit under the saddle affects the coupling between the saddle and the guitar top

Contact pickups

This type of pickup is glued to either the bridge plate or the soundboard inside your guitar. Because this type of pickup is listening to the sound board, the guitar is susceptible to picking up tapping on the body. Often these systems also use Piezo elements.

They're great at providing an even string balance and sometime its a good option for instruments with a weird saddle slot.

K&K Pure mini pickup installation         LR Baggs I-beam pickup installation         B-Band AST Transducer
     K&K Pure Mini                LR baggs IBeam                       B Band AST 1740

Pros - balanced string to string output

Cons - will pickup tapping on the body and finger noise

Soundhole Pickups

These pickups suspend directly over the soundhole, it's possible to uninstall these relatively easy leaving no permanent marks. There are some models available where you trail the cable out of the sound hole to your amp so you don't even need to install a jack socket.

They work on sensing the magnetic properties or your strings, similar to electric guitar pickups.

Seymour duncan woody sound hole pickup installation         Artec WSH12 soundhole pickup installation         Fish man Rare earth humbucker soundhole pickup installation         LR Baggs Active M! soundhole pickup installation
Seymour Duncan Woody        Artec WSH12              Fishman Rare Earth              LR Baggs M1 Active

Pros - minimal modification to the guitar itself

Cons - different tone, visible, no use on nylon string guitars

Multi Source Pickups

Right, these pickup systems are the most complicated as they blend together 2 or more sound sources. I have seen ones which blend a microphone, an under saddle pickup and a magnetic sound hold pickup all in one.

While they have the most options for tailoring your sound they often need a control panel installing.

Fishman Rare earth blend pickup system installation                LR Baggs Anthem SL Internal microphone and transducer installation                HIghlander iP-2 Installation
Fishman rare earth blend            LR Baggs Anthem SL     Highlander iP-2 Dual System

Pros versatile sound properties

Cons - pricey, often bulky and most commonly misunderstood by the user!

Internal Microphones

Microphones inside guitars tend to give a nice natural sound however they are very prone to feedback. Many players use these in recording and less so when on stage or in loud environments. You often see them as part of a blend system so that they can be turned down and let the piezo take over for live use.

LR Baggs Anthem Installation                       Highlander Insternal Microphone Installation                       GHS internal microphone Installation
LR Baggs Anthem    Highlander Internal Microphone    GHS acoustic soundhole microphone

Pros nice tone reproduction

Cons - big on screeching feedback

Endpin Jacks

Endpin jacks are a great way of combining your strap pin and jack socket into one. They're very discrete!


Preamps offer advantages when it come to sound shaping, some have controls and some are preset. The ones with controls often need a control box mounting onto the guitar. I can install these no problem, you just have to be sure that you want it as installing preamp boxes is very intrusive and permanent!

The upside is that you can get a variety of gadgets which are included like tuners, feedback suppressors, phase controls, EQ controls or even USB ports built in!


Batteries can be annoying, you need somewhere to mount the battery whether it be inside the guitar or mounted to the outside face. Don't forget that you will need to keep a spare inside your guitar case as the battery will only run out on stage in front of large crowds.

I hope that this page has helped you make a decision to choosing a pickup for you guitar. I can install and supply all the pickup systems listed here and more, the ones on this page are ones that I recommend.


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