Last updated: August 16, 2021

Our method

7Products analysed

16Hours spent

4Evaluated articles

52User reviews

Hello and welcome to ReviewBox Brasil! Today's text is for you, guitar player, who wants to amplify your sound, but doesn't want to lose the unique timbre of your acoustic instrument. We are talking about the guitar pickup. With a pickup for guitar you can have a modulated sound, equalized and amplified, and have your guitar and your music ready for any situation. In this guide, we will show these situations, the right models for each, and of course, help you find the right one for you.




Summary

  • There are basically three types of pickups: magnetic, contact and fuse.
  • Pickups can either be installed on fully acoustic guitars or on acoustic guitars with some kind of pickup and equalization beforehand.
  • Two of the best-selling brands of pickups are Fishman and Tagima.

The Best Guitar Pickup: Our Picks

Shopping Guide

The guitar is a unique instrument, and, considering the number of guitarists out there, unparalleled. Its sound is equally special, from harmony to timbre. Pickup is one of the most effective ways to amplify it, and in many situations, one of the most practical too. That's because there is a wide variety of pickups, ideal for big concerts or intimate performances. You will see them in the Buying Guide below, along with some of the best models and other selected information, all designed to help you find your guitar pickup.

Imagem mostra um homem tocando violão na esquina de uma rua intensamente arborizada.

Pickups for street musicians? We have. (Source: Tatiana Rodriguez/ Unsplash.com)

What are the differences between the pickup for steel guitar and nylon guitar?

The sound differences between the steel string guitar and the nylon string guitar are easily noticeable. This happens because of the difference in vibration of their materials, which generate the waves that are picked up by our ears. The vibration of steel is more intense and sinuous, that of nylon more delicate and dry.

The pickup of each, therefore, has to be able not only to efficiently harvest its sounds, but also to amplify these nuances.

The pickup for the steel guitar should be more focused on its strings and the impact of the fingers on them. In this case, a magnetic pickup (which we will explain later in this article) or a fuse pickup - which is at the bottom "tip" of the string - are welcome. The nylon guitar pickup should be more focused on the "final sound", on harmony, that is, to capture the same quality of the strings played and those that resonate. The contact pickup, which works as a "stethoscope" of the guitar, capturing the sound of the top, or even the fuse pickup, work well.

Imagem mostra uma pessoa tocando violão sentada numa cadeira, posicionada num calçadão. O foco está centrado no violão e seu captador.

The difference in vibration between nylon and steel strings spills over into the type of pickup needed for each type of guitar.(Source: Eugene Bolshem / Pexels.com)

Guitar pickup Fishman or Tagima?

Two of the strongest brands in the market for guitar pickups are Fishman and Tagima. Both have quality and tradition, but end up having different audiences, by having specialties and sets of different characteristics. Fishman pickups are a kind of excellence models, with focus on pickup quality, with many of its models having a double pickup, and also with a tradition in manufacturing humbucker pickups, main variety of magnetic models.
Did you know? Humbucker pickups were invented by Seth Lover, an employee of Gibson, a traditional guitar manufacturer, in order to reduce the noise caused by interference

Fishman products are widely used by high-calibre professionals, both for big gigs and recordings. Tagima's pickups, on the other hand, are more "generalist", betting on a balanced set, with quality pickups and a greater focus on equalization, especially in the "dialogue" with the guitars, bass guitars and other instruments of the brand. They have good response in concerts and a good cost-benefit in their average models - a good option, therefore, for amateur and independent musicians.

Fishman Tagima
Positioning Model excellence Balanced set
Strong point Capture Equalization
Use Professional, recording Amateur and independent, presentation

Is it worth having a pickup for guitar with tuner?

Anyone who owns a guitar knows that, however well stored, however settled the strings are - whether nylon or steel - the tuning will always be necessary, and regular, moreover. So, nothing more practical than taking advantage of the pickup to be installed to also have a better tuning. The device will hardly create problems for reproduction or generate any other conflict. The only question is to "choose" the type of tuner, that is, the way of visualizing the process. Many models rely on the tuning on the LCD panel - the screen - of the equalization; others use a small LED lamp to indicate the correct tuning.

Imagem mostra o close de uma pessoa tocando um violão, com o foco em sua mão esquerda, que faz um acorde no topo do braço do violão.

The tuning in the pickup is practical and hardly creates problems in the reproduction. (Source: 42 North/ Pexels.com)

How does the magnetic pickup work?

The electromagnetic pickup (or magnetic, for the more intimate ones) uses the concept of the electromagnetic induction to work. This type of pickup is basically a magnet, only wrapped around a conductive metal wire, most often copper. When the strings of the guitar are played, they "disturb" the magnetic field that the magnet generates, which causes a voltage that is "transmitted" to the conductor wires that take it to the amplifier, generating sound. This tension, you guessed it, has a very similar behaviour to the vibration of the strings, making, therefore, the same sound as the string itself. The magnetic pickup is normally placed, when detached, above the top, just below the strings. When it is built in, like on guitars, it is a little above the fuse.

Imagem mostra um captador magnético para violão sob

The magnetic pickup "catches" waves with the same behavior as the notes coming out of the strings. (Source: Rupert Trischberger/ 123rf.com)

Purchase Criteria: How to compare guitar pickup models

Below, we will show you the most important details of guitar pickups. These are the essential features of the models, which make (or fail to make) them ideal for you. Just notice, compare and choose.

Installation

A good way to compare guitar pickups is the installation. In this case, which is the most practical installation, or the one that matches what you need or are willing to do. There are pickups, such as some fretted pickups, that require "interventions" in the guitar body. For other models, such as contact pickups, all that is needed is a stable fixture. The question is to align your needs and your resources, under the installation point of view.

Imagem mostra, em close, um captador de violão já instalado, logo abaixo das cordas.

The installation is one of the essential elements of the pickup, and can change the entire dynamics of the guitar. (Source: Amlan Mathur/ 123rf.com)

Active or passive

The decision between active and passive pickup relates to both practical and, say, sonic issues. Active pickup is, at the same time, the pickup that offers the most possibilities and the one that gives the most work. This is because it allows equalisation of the sound, but has a more complicated installation, as well as the battery issue. If your need or desire for a more modulated sound exceeds these practical barriers, the active pick-up is for you. Now, if you are more attached to the specific sound of your guitar, nor need a more powerful amplification, the passive capture may be the best choice.

Number of bands

The number of bands is another point to note on the pickup of your choice. This number is proportional to its equalization capability. In equalizing the bands, you alter the volume of the bass, midrange and treble, to name the basic ones. This number does not necessarily make a model better, but more versatile, especially for concerts and other presentations. Ideally, however, this number should be noted as a "tie-breaker criterion", between pickups of similar quality.

Imagem mostra o close de controladores de volume, tons e frequência.

The more detailed equalization of the bands makes your guitar more versatile, prepared for different amplification situations.(Source:Alexander Korzh/ 123rf.com)

Timbre

Music is nothing without feeling, that immeasurable sensation when hearing a sound. Timbre is an integral part of that dynamic. Thus, it is very important that you note the timbre of your guitar with the pickup of your choice, if possible. You can search for a model that hardly changes the original timbre, or want another that makes your guitar more metallic, ultimately, the important thing is that you are satisfied with the way that your sound comes out of the amp. (Source of the highlighted image: Amlan Mathur / 123rf.com)

Reviews