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I've gone through many of the helpful threads here on active v passive pickups, so I will try to keep my questions to issues that I didnt see answers to, or that are still unclear to me. I'd really appreciate any help that anyone can offer.

 

One of my new year's resolutions was to get out and play more and to record more. If I want to hit some open mics, I've got to put a pickup on one of my acoustics. I've settled on LR Baggs from what I've heard, read, etc. But now I am trying to decide whether I want the passive or the active. Here are my questions:

 

1. When does one need a DI box? Some say that that the Active pickup allows you to go direct into the PA without need for a DI. I realize that the Passive pickup would need a preamp. Is a DI box just a luxury for the active pickup? MEaning it allows you to tweak some of your sound, eq, etc., but isn't necessary? Whereas it is necessary for the passive pickup to drive the sound?

 

2. If I am worried about the structural integrity of the instrument, should I consider the passive since it can be used without being permanently installed? ie, no need to drill a hole in the guitar? As I understand it, this means I've got a cord coming out of the soundhole. Seems pretty unappealing. but this is my Martin and I am afraid of putting a hole in it. :(

 

3. I also read that the LR Baggs is a pretty heavy pickup. If it is permanently installed, how will it impact my ability to play on my couch at home since this is obviously what I do 95% of the time? Will the guitar be much heavier? How does a soundhole pickup affect playability? I assume it doesnt interfere with the ability to play, but I don't want to assume.

 

4. How would guitar body size be impacted by a soundhole pickup? I've got a Dread and a smaller bodied (00) guitar. If I was going to install it on one, would one be better? What about strings? I've read that since these are magnetic pickups, different compositions of strings can mess with signal.

 

Well, these are all my q's for now. Many thanks (in advance) to everyone who weighs in. The reason I am such a newbie on this is that I've generally only used my Taylor 314ce and it has a built in pickup and I've always gone direct to the PA. Never needed to think about any of these things, but I was never really happy with my sound either.

 

Thanks!

MattZ

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Im happy to run on this one...as I have a lot of experience, and play mostly acoustic live, as well as install pickups...amplifying acoustics is always a compromise...

 

1) DI box serves a few purposes. To match impedance, to balance the signal in order to avoid signal loss over long cables (like stage to mixer), and to ensure a continuity in the signal. Many DI boxes, like the baggs PADI, offer eq and gain stages, as well as phantom power...but bear in mind a DI box and a preamp are 2 different things. So, a DI is a luxury for the soundguy more than the guitarist. Active pickups still benefit from a DI box. And, to complicate things, even active pickups sometimes need/improve with a good preamp. I have used the aphex acoustic xciter as a DI with great results.

 

2)Structural integrety aside, fi you dont want to cut (which I seldom recommend), you dont have to. Many pickups come with jacks which require you to ream the endpin to 1/2 inch, and thats the only cut---for example, the Bags M1a, fishman rare earth, etc. My advice to my repair clients and fellow musicians is to never use an on board 'barn door' preamp, which requires a 2x3 hole in the side of a nice guitar. Next step is something like a Fishman Matrix Infinity, which I love, which requires only the jack ream and a small 2mm hole under the saddle.

 

For those (like me) that would never cut on a nice instrument (like my Martin), I recommend this vintage jack which eliminates the 1/2 inch endpin cut. I use K&K pickups almost exclusively, as do many folks I play around. They are non invasive and semi-perminent installs. Its a great product, the company is small and very customer oriented, and easy to use. My preference I use this in tandem with a Baggs M1a running stereo out, giving me the best combo of mag pickup bass, and SBT crispness. The can be played louder and is more feedback resistant, but the K&K simply sound better. Beck uses a similar set up live (although he uses FRAPs).

 

3)The Baggs m1a is somewhat heavy, but not some much it causes any problems. The install is not permanent, there are to screws on each side, as well as a 1/8 jack on the back of the pickup, it simply unplugs and removes in a second. Not many playability issues, but you have to be careful playing hard, the strings can bump the pole pieces...also, the weight of the pickup COULD affect the vibrations of the top, so I never record with the Baggs in...I do not like the sound of magnetic acoustic pickups by themselves, but to each their own...in my experience, the Baggs doesnt pickup the top vibrations as well as advertised...

 

4)The Baggs wouldnt be impacted much by the body size, as it really picks up the strings the most...however, the K&K would be...

If you like the Baggs, just get a second jack and needed 1/8 cables ($15), and swap from one guitar to the other in seconds. The Baggs is designed to work with regular acoustic strings, other types will work, but may not sound better...adjusting the pole pieces is recommended to get the most out of the acoustic magnetic pickup, but just like in electric guitars, there is an art to it.

 

I have tried address each question...that said, Id just like to add that your needs greatly affect what pickup works best on acoustics...most pros I know (Tweedy, for example) prefer a dual source set up (combo of 2 pickups)...and after doing this a while and playing nearly every kind of acoustic pickup, the above combo of K&K and Baggs works best for my live rig, and Ill go without the Baggs and just the K&K whenever I can...

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Im happy to run on this one...as I have a lot of experience, and play mostly acoustic live, as well as install pickups...amplifying acoustics is always a compromise...

 

Thanks so much rowboat! Can I ask a few follow-ups?

 

1) DI box serves a few purposes. To match impedance, to balance the signal in order to avoid signal loss over long cables (like stage to mixer), and to ensure a continuity in the signal. Many DI boxes, like the baggs PADI, offer eq and gain stages, as well as phantom power...but bear in mind a DI box and a preamp are 2 different things. So, a DI is a luxury for the soundguy more than the guitarist. Active pickups still benefit from a DI box. And, to complicate things, even active pickups sometimes need/improve with a good preamp. I have used the aphex acoustic xciter as a DI with great results.

 

Haha, ok, so I see why I was confused. You are basically telling me that I might need a DI box and a preamp whether I get the passive or the active. But then what am I missing? What's the difference between a passive and an active pickup? Functionally, I mean?

 

2)

For those (like me) that would never cut on a nice instrument (like my Martin), I recommend this vintage jack which eliminates the 1/2 inch endpin cut. I use K&K pickups almost exclusively, as do many folks I play around. They are non invasive and semi-perminent installs. Its a great product, the company is small and very customer oriented, and easy to use. My preference I use this in tandem with a Baggs M1a running stereo out, giving me the best combo of mag pickup bass, and SBT crispness. The can be played louder and is more feedback resistant, but the K&K simply sound better.

 

I will definitely check out the vintage jack if it allows me to avoid the 1/2" endpin cut. Here's where you lose me though -- the BaggsM1a does require the 1/2" endpin cut. So I don't really understand how you run a combo. You use the vintage jack with the K&K? How do you run a stereo out from the Baggs? Through the soundhole?

 

3)

Not many playability issues, but you have to be careful playing hard, the strings can bump the pole pieces...

 

Hmmm, this is what I was worried about. I dont attack the strings with all that much authority (I like to think that I attack with love), but since the majority of the time I am sitting on my couch playing, do you usually remove the Baggs m1a before sitting and strumming on the couch? Not too much of a hassle?

 

I have tried address each question...

 

You tried, and succeeded, and were a huge help. Really, I can't thank you enough. Any chance you ever bring your live rig to NYC so I can buy you a beer? :cheers

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Thanks so much rowboat! Can I ask a few follow-ups?

 

 

 

Haha, ok, so I see why I was confused. You are basically telling me that I might need a DI box and a preamp whether I get the passive or the active. But then what am I missing? What's the difference between a passive and an active pickup? Functionally, I mean?

 

 

 

I will definitely check out the vintage jack if it allows me to avoid the 1/2" endpin cut. Here's where you lose me though -- the BaggsM1a does require the 1/2" endpin cut. So I don't really understand how you run a combo. You use the vintage jack with the K&K? How do you run a stereo out from the Baggs? Through the soundhole?

 

 

 

Hmmm, this is what I was worried about. I dont attack the strings with all that much authority (I like to think that I attack with love), but since the majority of the time I am sitting on my couch playing, do you usually remove the Baggs m1a before sitting and strumming on the couch? Not too much of a hassle?

 

 

 

You tried, and succeeded, and were a huge help. Really, I can't thank you enough. Any chance you ever bring your live rig to NYC so I can buy you a beer? :cheers

 

Follow ups accepted:

Basically active means 'powered' which means an amplified circuit of some kind...in this case by a watch-type battery. However, this isnt always an efficient way of boosting the signal, depends on the circuit. Passive works without a gain stage, so output is weak, but relative to the pickup...so, a single coil on a strat for example, is a passive circuit. Active lessens the need for other pre-amplification. Id recommend the active version of the Baggs between the two, because it has a small volume wheel on it, which i always seen to hit by accident.

 

Well, a DI is a nice thing to have, but less important than a preamp in most cases. For plugging in at coffeeshop open mics, you could easily bypass this. However, a nice balanced xlr signal to the board is something I seldom play without--DIs are cheap.

 

Ill post this, then upload a nifty diagram...but, the Baggs doesnt require a 1/2 inch hole for the included jack, because you dont have to use that jack assembly. To use the vintage jack, youd desolder the 2 polar connections from the included jack, and then hook the vintage jack to the baggs...there is no difference other than size. In fact they are both stereo out, allowing you to add a second source. In my set up, the K&K is my main source, going to the 'tip' of the jack, the baggs is secondary, going to the 'ring' of the jack, and the 2 pickups share a common 'ground' I then use a 1/8 inch stereo plug to a stereo instrument cable, and either run each source in to its own PA channel or its own channel on my amp. Its even easier than it sounds. The baggs sounds like a mag pickup listening to my guitar, the K&K sounds like my guitar, dig?

 

In regard to the Baggs, i usually put it in my case pocket, and only use it when I really need it, like in loud band situations or when I dont trust the soundguy in a club...otherwise, the K&K is my goto pickup. So on the couch, no baggs. And its no hassle to remove the Baggs M1a, need a small screwdriver and 15 seconds.

 

Id highly recommend visiting this page for a comparison on the sounds and set ups of the pickups...pickup shoot out Or hope in the car for a day trip to Maury's, they have the best rep Ive seen in regard to Martins and pickups.

 

Wish i were closer, Id happily do the install gratis. Takes about 20 mins. NYC, mmm Next time im up there, Ill take you up on that beer... :cheers

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I just use the baggs M1a in my martin hd-28v.

 

It sounds and works fine, and most people think it sounds way better than most other amplified acoustic guitars. If you ream out the hole to 1/2 inch, you can just plug a guitar cable straight into the pa and it works great. I think they sound infinitely better than most undersaddle piezos and other soundhole pickups.

 

It comes with a few little things that are sticky on one side and have a little arm on the other that is bendable. I use this to suspend the cable inside the guitar. I usually remove the pickup and leave the cable tied down to those things. It doesnt move around. When I want to play out, I unhook the end of the cable, plug it in to the pickup and slide the pickup in. Works like a charm.

 

This would be the simplest way.

 

Using a good preamp and a sticky pickup (like a k & k or a frap) or some of the better piezos that have come out would be better, but also alot more expensive. It really all depends on what you can afford and how often you are going to be using it in places that it really would matter. I am of the opinion that an amplified acoustic is never going to be as good as the real thing, so close is good enough. I also dont play solo acoustic too often.

 

I am happy with just the LR Baggs, but when I get more money (out of college!), I probably will get a k&k pickup and a preamp.

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Thanks again rowboat, and thanks rockinrob.

 

Of course, I went ahead and ordered the Baggs M1A and then checked out rowboat's pickup shoot out link, and those K&Ks sound amazing. Man oh man. Maybe I will need to return the Baggs.

 

EDIT: actually, it was this link on the same page as rowboat's link, if anyone is interested in hearing different acoustic pickups: http://www.maurysmusic.com/pickup_comparisons

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Using a good preamp and a sticky pickup (like a k & k or a frap) or some of the better piezos that have come out would be better, but also alot more expensive. It really all depends on what you can afford and how often you are going to be using it in places that it really would matter. I am of the opinion that an amplified acoustic is never going to be as good as the real thing, so close is good enough. I also dont play solo acoustic too often.

 

I am happy with just the LR Baggs, but when I get more money (out of college!), I probably will get a k&k pickup and a preamp.

haha i agree that close is the best you can get...

 

I think the baggs retails for $160 and you can get the

K&K pwm with its pure preamp for $200...vintage jacks are less than C-note...fraps arent made anymore, but the trace audio acoustic lens us the same thing, that product is way expensive

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  • 1 month later...

I've been playing with a Baggs M1A for 3-4 years in my Santa Cruz 000. I too had concerns about messing with the original condition of a rather very nice guitar, but once it was installed with the 1/2 inch endpin hole drilled and jack installed, I had no regrets. The M1 Active makes playing out simple. Open mics at coffee houses with no di box? No problem, just plug into the pa. The M1A has the juice. Bars and other venues with sound engineers and di boxes? No problem. Plugs right into them. I keep the M1 installed, because that is the guitar I gig with. I know it's there when I need it. And when I play at home acoustically and at jams, it doesn't bother me. I like it a lot. Baggs claims that the battery can handle something like 1,000 hours of plug in time. I change the battery once a year whether it needs it or not. I've never had it go dead on me.

 

I had an M1A installed in my late model D-28 a few years ago and when I went to sell it, I was concerned the endjack and M1 install would be a negative selling point, since the guitar wasn't in original condition, but I had no trouble selling it.

 

...so tune up, plug in, and play!!

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hey, thanks jtrollman. And thanks again to rowboat and everyone else in here.

Not sure that anyone cares how this story ends, but I did end up installing the M1A in a D-18 and practiced last week with my bandmate (drummer), and the pickup is really great. In the end, my concerns were all silly.

 

1. I was afraid that the pickup would interfere with heavy strumming since it's a soundhole pickup -- it didn't.

2. I was concerned that I'd need a DI box -- I didn't.

3. Concerned that the guitar would be much heavier -- it isn't.

4. Concerned about drilling a hole in my D-18 -- haha, whatever, it's completely fine and has a nice endpin.

5. Concerned about wanting to remove it while sitting on my couch at home -- it's fine to play unplugged on the couch.

6. most important, it sounds great.

 

I may look into the K/K pwm for a different guitar, but i'm very happy with the M1A. Thanks again everyone.

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  • 3 weeks later...

yeah, I'm not that into the LR Baggs PU. I know tweedy uses em and loves em apparently but their sound has never appealed to me. I'm much more partial to an under the saddle transducer. I've been using the Fishman Matrix for the past couple years in my Martin D-28 and it works pretty well for me. Previously I had a Sunrise soundhole PU but it (like the LR Baggs) was just too brittle for me, especially when played solo. With a band, it blended better but I still prefer the Fishman. The one advantage of the Sunrise was when I plugged the guitar direct into a Fender Blues Jr. It actually gets a pretty cool sound.

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