Just wondering what you guys typically recommend when a customer needs an acoustic pickup installed. 

When customers ask how to get the most natural acoustic sound, my answer is always the same: use a microphone!  But when this is not possible due to the venue, electric playing bandmates, stage antics, etc., I almost always recommend a UST from one of the big names.  I prefer active (not much additional cost and big difference in ease of use for most).  I absolutely prefer external pre-amps over adding a preamp. In my mind if the instrument is worth the expense of adding an onboard pre-amp, it is probably also worth thinking twice before cutting a huge hole in the side. There are many good external models available at reasonable prices also.

I'm sure this has been discussed here quite a bit, but I couldn't find any post newer than a few years old and this is one area where a few years really makes a difference.

What's been sounding good to you guys?


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Thank you, Rusty and Paul, for the detailed input.  Well said.

Most of the pickups I install in acoustics are being used in a full country or rock band setting.  I recommend the UST nearly every time.  They're easy, they work, and you can get more volume without feedback.  Sounds like you guys do about the same thing (UST or a magnetic pickup).

 The coffee houses, theaters, and other small intimate gigs (solo or duo) are usually the ones I sell on the idea of a mic.  There is a learning curve with this setup for sure, but I've yet to see a pickup that sounds as good as even a moderately priced mic (properly used).  I even know a guy with a phone app that tells him which frequencies to cut when setting up for the room.  Too fancy for me, but I haven't heard feedback at any of his gigs.

I'd still like to try out the Lyric and give the K&K another listen also. It would be nice to have a low cost, easy to use option for this type of player. 

Thanks again guys!


Would love to hear more about that app.

Hi Ian,

The app is called "Frequensee".

I've never used it myself, but these guys (a trio) use it and a single mic setup and they get a good sound with no feedback.  I've only seen them in smaller venues.  They've got vocals, guitar, mando or banjo, and an accordion (yes an accordion - only in Cincinnati! :P )  ... so I can't say how well this handles the lower frequencies.  Also I know nothing else about their PA, EQ, etc...


I too, can't say enough good things about the K&K. I have one in my main guitar as well, it's far more natural sounding than an under saddle, and I love not having to worry about batteries. I still will occasionally recommend under saddle pickups for any customer who's playing in a large group and needs to cut through the mix without feedback. For that, I'll usually go with the Fishman Matrix Infinity, it's not too pricey, and it doesn't sound awful, as far as USTs go.

A question for the other K&K users here, do you install using CA, or the supplied double stick? I always use the CA. I once had a customer specifically request that I use the double stick however. K&K says that the volume loss when using the double stick can be up to 30%, but when I plugged it in, I thought that I had a defective unit. Very low and muddy output. I ended up redoing that one with CA, and it was just fine.

Good tip on the CA vs. double stick, Ian.  Thanks!  I've not tried a K&K for many years and I don't remember being overly impressed (especially with output as compared with, say a passive UST).  My thought was if they didn't sound good with a "temporary" installation, why make it permanent?  Wouldn't have guessed the tape would make that big of a difference.  Sounds like it is significant.

I will definitely try the CA.  Thanks again!


I used double stick to install my mandolin K&K.  It fell off a few days later, so I re-installed it with clamps and it hasn't failed again in several years.  I think the adhesive hardens up once the backing is peeled and it gets stronger with age.  

As far as sound, I can't compare with a CA installation but it sounds just fine with plenty of output as I installed it--and there's no permanent attachment to the underside of the top to cause a problem if it's ever removed.  On the flamenco I have with the K&K classical, the builder installed it and I don't know how he did it.  It also sounds fine.


Hi Jon -- one thing I can advise you on is to be very careful on how you use a mic that is designed for the inside of a guitar box-- the reason is because they are very sensitive and feed back can be a big problem -- other than that you wont get a truer sound from it.. best  to you in your search for what it is that you are looking for... peace, Donald

One vote here for Schatten HFN Artist pickups. Its an internal soundboard p/u with sensor built into a little rosewood block that looks like a very small mandolin bridge & mounts inside to the bridge plate. I have been consistently suprised at the tone from these pickups in every flat top instrument Ive used them in. Work good for the octave mando/ bouzouki family too. Can get it with a thumbwheel volume control or two thumbwheels- one volume and one tone.


I'll second the Schatten HFN system I've had great luck with it for years. Sounds great, installs easily and the only call callbacks you get are customers telling you how much they like it. 

Hi John, Rory,

Very interested to hear more about the Schatten HFN...  Could you guys tell us a bit more about what kind of acts they are used in (solo, full band, etc.).  Also, most reviews I've read favored the Schatten preamp over the K&K for active models.  Any thoughts on that?

I always forget about Schatten.  I really like their tricone pickups.  I don't think it can stand up to the highlander, but the sound quality for the money and ease of installation its still a great deal. 




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