Acoustic guitar players have never had more options when it comes to electric acoustic models. There are tons of choices available from pretty much every major manufacturer, but this doesn’t help if you already own an acoustic-only guitar. If that’s the case, you’ll probably want to shop around for acoustic guitar pickups.
Aftermarket acoustic guitar pickups come in a few different forms, but ultimately they all serve the same purpose, allowing players to amplify their acoustic guitars, either for recording or to take their playing to a wider audience. In this KillerGuitarRigs Review, we checked out 7 of the Best Acoustic Guitar Pickups on the market, from temporary soundhole units to permanent undersaddle piezos.
In these reviews, we looked at the installation process, ease of use, features, and of course, tones. Keep on reading to learn more about what we found!
Features: Body sensor, Undersaddle Pickup, Soundhole mounted controls
Benefits: Fantastic sensitivity/responsiveness, Beautiful warm tones, Stereo capability
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Features: Rare earth magnetic element, Phase switch, Screw down clamps
Benefits: Fits securely, Can be permanently installed through end pin, Retains organic acoustic tone
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Features: Volume control, Non permanent sticky pads, 8' Cable
Benefits: Super convenient, No modifications required, Works on all acoustics
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- Our Top 3
- Individual Reviews
- DiMarzio Black Angel Passive Acoustic Soundhole Acoustic Pickup
- KNA AP-2 Universal Stick-on Piezo Acoustic Pickup
- Fishman PowerTap Infinity
- LR Baggs Anthem Mic/Pickup System
- Seymour Duncan SA-3SC Woody SC Acoustic Pickup
- Mojo Tone Quiet Coil NC-1
- Fishman Rare Earth Magnetic Acoustic Soundhole Humbucker Acoustic Pickup
- How to Choose The Right Pickups For You
- Final Thoughts
Our Top 3
We found the DiMarzio Black Angel Passive Soundhole Pickup to be a phenomenal all-rounder, delivering great tones and some of the simplest installation and operation of the entire field, so we named it our Top Pick.
If you’re looking for something inexpensive, but still capable of delivering solid performance, the KNA AP-2 Universal Stick On Piezo is our Best Budget pick and might be just the thing. It works on the same principle as more expensive undersaddle options, but requires no permanent modifications to the guitar.
Finally, if you’re just looking for the best acoustic guitar pickup on the market, you really need to consider our Editor’s Choice, the Fishman PowerTap Infinity. This system blends 2 pickup technologies to work in harmony and the results are sensational.
A phenomenal blend of high end performance and attainable pricing.
This passive acoustic soundhole pickup is a great choice for guitarists who are looking for a simple, turnkey option. It offers incredibly simple installation and operation, and makes use of a rare earth magnet to deliver gorgeous natural sounding acoustic tones.
The DiMarzio Black Angel is a soundhole pickup, which made it very easy to install with no tools or permanent modifications to the guitar required (if you do want to make it a permanent installation, it did come with an endpin jack kit).
Being passive, there were no batteries required, which makes it a great choice for all kinds of players. If you only play plugged in once in a while, then you won’t need to think about batteries at all. If you rely on amplification for gigs or recording, then this is one of the most reliable solutions on the market.
There were no controls of any kind on the unit, which made it an absolute breeze to use. Not having potentiometers also helped to reduce noise, making it one of the quietest on test. We found that it didn’t induce feedback even with higher volumes dialed in on the amp.
Thanks to its rare-earth magnet, the Black Angel produced a beautifully clear, natural tone that we found to be perfect for both live and studio settings. There was very little coloration from the pickup, which allowed the guitar’s natural acoustic character to shine. It perfectly reproduced the midrange presence and really highlighted the top-end shimmer, which are two of the most important characteristics of an acoustic tone.
It handled everything from basic strumming to intricate fingerpicking with ease, and was extremely responsive to changes in playing dynamics, making it a real player’s choice.
Verdict: The DiMarzio Black Angel Passive Acoustic Soundhole Pickup is an excellent choice for guitarists looking for a simple, but high-quality soundhole pickup. It’s easy to install, doesn’t require batteries, and produces clear, organic tones that work for recording artists and live performers alike.
- Made in the USA
- Includes an endpin jack kit
- Extremely responsive
- No tone control
- Doesn’t fit guitars with sound holes under 3.5”
A unique piezo pickup for players who want the piezo sound with minimal effort.
This is a fantastic acoustic pickup for any player looking to get the authentic acoustic tones produced by piezos, but who perhaps don’t want to take their guitar apart to install one. It’s affordable, it’s simple to use, and it’s even easier to install.
Installation of the KNA AP-2 Universal Stick-on Piezo was about as easy as it gets. All that needed to be done was placing it on the soundboard using the provided removable adhesive putty and plugging it into your amp – that’s it! The entire setup process took us less than one minute,and we’re confident even day-one beginners could be up and running with this pickup right away.
The AP-2 was an incredibly user-friendly pickup. We found that it still sounded good no matter where on the soundboard we placed it, so there’s no particular expertise required for installation. The only control on the whole unit was a simple volume knob, so there was no real learning curve to speak of. It works with any acoustic guitar (even ukuleles or mandolins), and plugs straight into any amp using a standard cable.
It came fitted with an 1/4″ output jack and a built-in volume control knob, which gave us good control over the output. The pickup itself was made from high-quality plywood that was clearly designed to last, and looked quite subtle against a natural guitar finish.
This pickup wasn’t pretending to be a competitor for the more premium offerings in the roundup, but that didn’t stop us from getting some nice tones from it. We felt that it delivered a rich, full tone that showcased the midrange nicely. We didn’t find it to be too microphonic, nor did it give us any significant issues with feedback.
Verdict: Despite the extremely low price, the KNA AP-2 Universal Stick-on Piezo Acoustic Pickup is a well-made pickup that is easy to install and use, and that delivers great tones. It’s ideal for players who might want to take their own guitar to the occasional open mic, but who aren’t looking to spend a ton on high-end pickups, or models that require tools for installation.
- Easy to install
- Doesn’t block the soundhole
- Good feedback resistance
- Adhesives may be bad for vintage guitars or guitars with delicate finishes
- No position indicator on volume knob
High end performance for the most discerning players.
This is a pro level acoustic guitar pickup that promises to provide players with a wide range of gorgeous tones. It makes use of 2 different pickup types, an under saddle body sensor, and a humbucking soundhole pickup, and allows the user to blend the outputs for incredible control over the sound.
The installation for the Fishman PowerTap Infinity was quite involved, but the end result was absolutely worth it. While the components are all designed to be mounted internally, we found it to be minimally invasive, especially for guitars that already feature an endpin jack. If your guitar doesn’t have an endpin jack, you may need to rout a slightly larger hole, but that is the extent of the tooling required. The remaining components all mount using adhesive strips, so once again, simple, and non-invasive.
Once it was installed, we found it to be incredibly straightforward, operationally-speaking. There were three main controls – a volume knob, a tone knob, and on the other side of the sound hole, a blend knob. We found they were all easy to manipulate and were easily accessible while playing.
One of the things that helped this Fishman pickup to stand out most was its incredible versatility. Even just with the volume and tone control, we extracted a wide range of tones, from bright and sparkling to dark and gritty. But once we factored in the blend control, it opened up a whole world of new sounds. We were able to get everything from natural acoustic sounds to atmospheric, ethereal tones.
Another favorite feature for us was the ability to use the 2 pickups in stereo. With a stereo cable, we were able to play each pickup through a separate amp, which added even more to the versatility of this setup.
Verdict: Players looking for a high-end pickup setup for their guitar should give real consideration to the Fishman PowerTap Infinity. It’s absolutely packed with pro-level features and the sound quality was out of this world. The combination of soundhole humbucker and body sensor pickups makes it a great choice for expressive players, and the overall sensitivity means it’s still a solid option for those with a more delicate touch.
- Stereo ready
- Blend control
- Easy operation
- Pro installation recommended
- Does require batteries
Dynamic dual pickup tones and excellent battery life.
This microphone/undersaddle pickup system delivers fantastically natural tones with easy installation and offers exceptional feedback protection. The preamp controls are incredibly discreet, so even if you’re playing a minimalist guitar, this setup won’t spoil its lines.
We found the LR Baggs Anthem to be pretty easy to install. It took us less than an hour to get it set up and ready to go, which wasn’t bad. Everything we needed was included in the box, and we found the instructions to be clear and concise. We did have to make some minor adjustments to the saddle height after installing the Anthem, as the undersaddle transducer raised the height of action quite noticeably.
Even though it had some relatively advanced features, it worked passively, so there wasn’t much to do other than plugging in and playing once we had it set up and the battery installed. The soundhole-mounted volume control was easily accessible, too.
It featured noise-canceling technology, which we found did a great job of filtering out unwanted sound through the mic, and also assisted in squashing feedback, something that’s always welcome on an acoustic pickup! Tonally, it did a great job of reproducing the real acoustic tones of the guitar without much interference. It did particularly well with the top end, highlighting the natural sparkle when strummed singer/songwriter style.
Verdict: The LR Baggs Anthem is a quality choice from a well-known and respected name in acoustic pickups. We thought the noise-canceling tech was a great feature, alleviating one of the biggest issues we typically encounter with microphone based pickups – background noise. The battery life is absolutely massive, too, making it one of the more reliable choices in battery-powered pickups.
- Excellent battery life
- Great background noise prevention
- Excellent range of tones
- Will almost definitely cause you to need setup adjustments
- No tone or blend controls
An absolute classic in the world of aftermarket acoustic pickups.
This pickup is a staple in the world of non-permanent acoustic pickups. It offers exceptionally easy setup and use, and can be removed just as easily with no adhesive residue or screw holes to deal with. It’s a great choice for those with valuable or vintage guitars who want to avoid the potential for damage.
The Seymour Duncan SA-3SC Woody SC is extremely easy to install, even if you’re not particularly handy. All we needed was slip it behind the strings, and wedge it to the edges of the guitar’s top around the sound hole. It had a fixed cable, so was about as plug-and-play as they come. The Woody is available in a number of finishes. We received black, which we thought was well-finished and quite handsome.
It was a passive unit, so like the DiMarzio Black Angel, it didn’t require any batteries to get up and running, which is a plus for reliability. One of the biggest concerns we had, however, was that if you end up with any problems with the fixed 14’ cable, it will render the whole unit out of action. Unlike a pickup with a separate cable, in which the lead could just be replaced.
This was the single-coil version, so there was a little hum, although it wasn’t excessive. We loved the twang that it produced, which was akin to a Tele on steroids. So while it wasn’t the most organic tone of the group, it still sounded fantastic.
We were also impressed with the Woody’s ability to respond to changes in touch. It picked up a lot of nuance in delicate playing styles, and when we played more aggressively, it didn’t even break a sweat.
Verdict: The Seymour Duncan SA-3SC Woody SC is a great low-cost alternative to the DiMarzio Black Angel, although the lower price comes with more limitations, so bear that in mind. Regardless, it sounded great and offered a true plug-and-play experience, making it a great choice for beginners and casual players looking to take their playing to bigger audiences.
- Easy to set up
- No batteries necessary
- Great tones
- Fixed cable has limitations
- Single coil hum
A premium soundhole pickup for serious players.
This is a great choice for any guitarist from beginner to working musicians. It’s a full featured soundhole pickup that requires no modification to your guitar, and delivers natural mic’d up sound without the usual accompanying noise. It features rock solid build quality, and superb tones, too.
The Mojo Tone Quiet Coil NC-1 is designed for easy installation, and it lived up to that promise. It had 2 installation modes; either temporary placement with the cable hanging from the pickup in situ, or a permanent installation via the included endpin jack kit.
Unlike the other soundhole-mounted pickups on test, this model did have an active preamp, so batteries were required. Fortunately, battery life is rated at over 500 hours, which equates to 2 or more years of use for the average player.
As for ease of use, we did find that the volume control was tricky to access for those with bigger hands. It was tucked on the back side of the pickup, so not only was it tough to reach, but it wasn’t possible to see what the settings were. This was an unfortunate design flaw, because otherwise this model may have taken the top pick.
It did come with a few handy features that are definitely worth mentioning. Starting with the LED indicator that lets you know when the battery is running low. As mentioned, the battery life is extremely long, so there’s a good chance it will run out when you least expect it.
The output jack was a Switchcraft, which is arguably the best output jack on the market. This was great to see, and will definitely help with the overall reliability over the long term.
Additionally, there was cork padding on the clamps, which really did a great job of holding the pickup in place firmly without causing any damage at all to the finish.
Tonally, it did a fantastic job of producing an organic acoustic tone, which is a rare feature in an electromagnetic pickup. It handled the entire frequency range well, delivering booming bottom end, punchy mids, and crystal-clear overtones at the top end, all without any notable feedback issues at any volume.
Verdict: The Mojo Tone Quiet Coil NC-1 narrowly missed out on our top pick primarily due to its ergonomics, but tonally speaking it’s still a solid choice. We loved the sounds we got using this pickup, and the overall build quality was still very impressive. It had some thoughtful features, and some of the best battery life of any pickup on the market.
- Quality components
- No fixed cable
- Organic tones
- Difficult to reach the volume control
- Battery indicator LEDs were a little too bright
A wonderfully nuanced pickup that fingerstyle players will love.
This is a top of the line humbucking acoustic guitar pickup that provides incredible sound quality, simple operation, and high end construction. It offers a flexible installation arrangement, and can be permanently or temporarily mounted, making it ideal for both players who don’t mind drilling their guitars, and those who don’t want to make modifications.
We didn’t get a chance to check out the Fishman Rare Earth Magnetic Acoustic Soundhole Humbucker with a permanent installation, but it did come bundled with the end pin jack required to make that modification. And that process, as we’ve discovered with other models, is simple enough. We performed our tests with the unit mounted in the soundhole and the cable running outside of the guitar.
Being an active pickup, batteries were required and fortunately they were included. The battery life was quoted at 300 hours, and during our extensive test period it didn’t falter at all. The active circuitry helped keep the signal clean and clear, but we did have some issues with feedback at higher volumes.
We liked that the clamps designed to hold it to the edges of the soundhole were cork-covered. This is a nice touch, and something players with vintage guitars will appreciate, since rubber pads can sometimes cause issues with certain lacquers.
It had a volume-control knob, which we always find to be a welcome touch on acoustic pickups, but unfortunately the knob was at the back of the unit, and for players with bigger fingers it can be very difficult to reach on the fly.
Overall, it had a nicely-balanced tone and, being a humbucker, it was very quiet. For this reason we think it would be a great option for those looking to record without the hassle of setting up microphones. The rare earth neodymium magnets made a big difference with individual string response, too, which helps to set this pickup apart in terms of articulation.
Verdict: If you’re looking for an acoustic guitar pickup that provides outstanding sound quality and ease of use, the Fishman Rare Earth Magnetic Acoustic Soundhole Humbucker could be a great choice for you. It is a premium model and is quite a lot more expensive than other soundhole models, but fingerstyle players will really love the string separation and depth this pickup delivers.
- Great string separation
- Cork padding
- 300 hour battery life
- Tends to feed back at high volume
- Volume control is difficult to access
How to Choose The Right Pickups For You
While there are some crossovers with standard electric guitar pickups, there are some different styles you simply won’t see outside of acoustic guitar pickups. Keep on reading to learn a little more about the different types of acoustic pickup on offer, and which might be right for you.
Piezo pickups are a type of transducer that convert the vibrations passing through the body of the guitar into an electrical signal. They are typically used in acoustic guitars, though they can be found in electric guitars as well.
How do Piezo Pickups Work?
Piezo pickups work by converting body vibrations into an electrical signal. The way they do this is by using a piezoelectric material, most commonly ceramics or crystals. When these materials detect variations in pressure, they generate an electric signal, which is then converted to sound.
Advantages of Piezo Pickups
There are several advantages to using piezo pickups in your guitar. One advantage is they tend to be very accurate in terms of reproduction of sound. This means that your guitar will sound very close to what it actually sounds like when you play it unplugged. Another advantage of using piezo pickups is that they usually don’t require batteries, unlike some other types of guitar pickups. This means you won’t have to worry about changing batteries in your guitar every few months.
Microphone Guitar Pickups
How Microphone Guitar Pickups Work
Microphone guitar pickups work by using a small microphone to pick up the acoustic sound produced by your guitar. Microphone pickups are capable of detecting a wide range of frequencies, from the low-end thump of the bass strings to the high-end twang of the treble strings. The signal from the microphone is then sent to an amplifier to be played through the speaker or PA.
Benefits of Microphone Guitar Pickups
There are several benefits offered by microphone guitar pickups. First, they tend to be more sensitive than other types of pickups, meaning they can pick up a wider range of frequencies. This makes them ideal for players who want to experiment with different sounds. Additionally, because they are more sensitive, they tend to capture nuances better than other pickups. This makes them better suited for recording applications than for live performances.
Electromagnetic Guitar Pickups
Guitar pickups work by converting the string’s vibrations into electrical signals. When the strings are plucked, they vibrate between the bridge and the nut of the guitar. The strings vibrate, which causes them to move in and out of the electromagnetic field generated by the pickups. This in turn creates the electrical signal which will be converted into sound.
There are two main types of guitar pickups: single-coil and humbucking. Single-coil pickups are composed of a single coil of wire wrapped around a magnet. They are famed for their bright, clean sound. Humbucking pickups, on the other hand, are made with two coils of wire that are wired out of phase with each other. This cancels out the 60-cycle hum that affects single-coil models, and gives them a thicker, fatter sound, without the background noise.
Benefits of Electromagnetic Guitar Pickups
The primary benefit of electromagnetic pickups is that they are inexpensive to manufacture, making them a widely-available and affordable option. They work extremely well with the heavy gauge strings of an acoustic guitar, and offer high output for excellent volume when amplified.
Installing a pickup or pickup system in an acoustic guitar is a relatively inexpensive way to completely transform the capabilities of your instrument. Not only does a pickup allow you to amplify the guitar, but it also allows for line-in recording and even the use of effects.
To summarize our favorites, we named the DiMarzio Black Angel Soundhole Pickup our Top Pick. It was sharp and responsive, plus incredibly easy to set up. Our Best Budget choice was the KNA AP-2 Universal Stick On Piezo. This unique pickup works on any acoustic instrument and, considering the incredibly-low cost, was still a solid performer. Our Editor’s Choice, the Fishman PowerTap Infinity, was an absolute powerhouse in terms of tones and features, and is a pickup we’d gladly recommend to anyone.