Ben Morgan-Brown tries two very different approaches to amplifying your acoustic guitar
Whether you have decided to replace an underperforming piezo pickup that came with your guitar, or have a solely acoustic instrument which you need to amplify, the range of options currently on the market is considerable. One of the most respected sources is the US company L.R, Baggs, which offers a several alternative methods, two of which we have reviewed here: the (fairly) traditional soundhole magnetic M1 Active pickup and the internal microphone Lyric system.
The first bit of good news is that both are quite easy to fit, calling for no more than having an end pin hole drilled to take a jack socket (your guitar may already have one, of course). Beyond that, L.R. Baggs has made life very easy, the necessary internals of both these transducers being stowed inside your guitar’s body, secured with tape, without the need for you to do anything that permanently changes the nature of your instrument.
The M1 Active is a magnetic humbucker but with a difference. In conventional humbuckers, one of the coils is ‘dumb’ – all it does is cancel (ie ‘buck’) the hum of a single coil design. Not so with the M1 where the second coil actually functions as a pickup as well as cutting out hum. This, apparently, gives the M1 a more faithful sound. Oneof the advantages a pickup as opposed to a mic, as Ben explains, is that it is less prone to feedback and on our test guitar it certainly seemed to provide a satisfyingly realistic sound, though he felt that it would still benefit from the use of a pre-amp with good quality EQ to squeeze the best out of it. Incidentally, a passive version is available if you would prefer that and both it and the active model feature adjustable pole pieces enabling you to ‘tune’ the pickup to tame any over prominent strings.
Like the pickup, the Lyric mic system is also extremely easy to fit. The mic itself is simply taped to the underside of the bridge plate and uses electronic circuitry designed to eliminate some of the unwanted acoustic reflections that can occur when a mic is placed inside a soundbox. Usefully, it has an adjustable presence control, which helps the user tune it to an individual instrument.
In an ideal world, you might choose to take both approaches to amplifying your guitar (quite a few professional players do this – employing an internal mic and a pickup of some kind) so Ben demonstrates that option as well in our video, with both L.R. Baggs transducers operating together.
As Ben says, there is no perfect way to amplify an acoustic guitar. Some form of external EQ, either player controlled, or from a mixing desk, is always helpful, but these two approaches from this well respected manufacturer are impressively easy to fit and one of the them – maybe even both together – would suit most players. Check out Ben’s comparisons using your best headphones and make your choice!
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L.R. Baggs M1 Active soundhole pickup £189 and Lyric guitar mic £239
M1 Active pickup (features according to manufacturer)
Built-in gold plated 1/8″ jack makes removing the pickup a snap
Long battery life – 1,000 hours on one 3V lithium coin cell
Adjustable pole pieces for perfect balance with most string types and gauges
Includes a pre-wired strapjack harness
Lyric mic system (features according to manufacturer)
TRU•MIC noise canceling technology
Analog signal conditioning
All discrete mic preamplifier
Soundhole volume control
Microphone presence control
Quick & easy installation
Model available for nylon string guitars.