Pickup Tests

Thanks to the following companies for providing pickups for these recordings

B-Band Gryphon Stringed Instruments K&K Sound Dazzo Acoustic Pickups
Shoreline Acoustic Music Pickup The World Schatten Design Miniflex

This page contains recorded samples of different acoustic guitar pickups. I recorded each pickup directly into a digital recorder so you can hear what the pickup itself sounds like. Except for those tracks that are specifically labeled, no EQ or processing was applied. All of these pickups can sound dramatically better with some EQ (feel free to download the files and experiment yourself) and always almost sound better through an amplifier than when heard directly.

I was inspired to create these tests by people asking about pickups for home recording. Most people will agree that pickups cannot compete with a microphone for serious recording. At the same time, many people would like to use pickups for home recording, as a convenience, a way to avoid the need for a good sounding room, expensive microphones, isolation from noises, and so on.

You may be able to extrapolate some information from these tests about how various pickups will act in a live performance setting, but be very careful about drawing conclusions. Your guitar, technique, choice of amplification, volume level, type of music, etc, will have a major impact, and these factors often matter more than the pickup. Pickups also interact with your guitar and amplifier in live performance in a way that these tests cannot capture. But perhaps these samples can be helpful when you are starting to choose a pickup. You can even download them and play them through your own amplifier, which may take you a step closer to the performance sound, tho it is still not the same.

About the Tests

Each sample consists of the same three short riffs. The first is played fingerstyle, the second uses some slapping and tapping technqiues, and the last is strummed with a flatpick. These three samples can give you some idea of how each pickup responds (does it pick up the body taps well? Does it "quack" on the strumming?) Each sample also has the same guitar recorded at the same time with a reference studio microphone. This allows you to compare the sound of the pickup with the sound of the guitar, and also provides some clues about whether a difference between samples is due to the pickup, or because I played something differently. The mic track acts as a control.

For dual source pickups with stereo outputs, I recorded the guitar in stereo, with each of the pickup sources hard panned to each side. This gives an interesting (and exaggerated) stereo effect, but allows you to download the tracks and experiment with your own blending. For these guitars, I have also provided a mono blend, closer to what you would get through a mono live amplifier, and also the individual pickup left and right tracks.

Note: I hope this is obvious, but typical computer speakers are not the best way to audition these samples. To hear these samples correctly, listen over a good speaker system. But even then, you will not hear the same sound you would get through most guitar amplification systems.

The Tests ( 336 recordings, 115 tests, 73 pickups, 27 companies)

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Pickup TypeCompanyTestTrying to figure out amplification? Try
Acoustic Guitar Amplification Essentials
Immediate download, with video examples

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