Whether you’re ready to hit the stage or just trying out some effects pedals, there comes a time in every guitarist’s life when they are ready to move beyond the plain-old acoustic — it’s time for an upgrade. What is that next upgrade, you might ask? It’s time to go acoustic-electric: we’re getting you an acoustic pickup system.
What is an "Acoustic Pickup System"?
Great question! In short, an acoustic pickup system is a series of electronics that (literally) electrify your acoustic guitar, giving it plug-in capabilities. Unlike a solid-body electric guitar, which uses a simple set of magnets to “pick up” the signal from the strings, an acoustic guitar needs specially designed systems to capture their sonic strengths.
Acoustic pickup systems usually involve either a microphone, an undersaddle piezo pickup, a magnetic pickup above the soundhole, or a combination of the above.
For the sake of our discussion today, we’ll be comparing the two pickup systems that come loaded in our Orangewood Live models: the LR Baggs Anthem (which comes in our all solid Live models) and the Fishman EQ Series (equipped in solid top Live models).
Now that you know the basics of what acoustic pickup systems are, let’s dive into the specifics of our two participants in today’s comparison.
The LR Baggs Anthem is a combination of two sonic inputs: the proprietary TRU•MIC undersaddle microphone and the Element pickup. Both of these run to a preamp in the soundhole, where you’ll find a volume thumb wheel, a mix thumb wheel, phase invert button (to unlock even more sounds), and a battery check button. With the preamp, you can blend the sound from the two inputs to create a sound of your liking.
The Fishman Sonitone EQ, on the other hand, consists of a single undersaddle pickup. This straightforward, single-input system connects to a preamp in the soundhole which houses the volume and tone controls, which you can use to dial in your sound.
Our Melrose Collection Live models are rocking theFishman Flex Plus-T EQ, which is a similar pickup system to the Sonitone, but also includes a built-in tuner straight in the body of the guitar. It also features an additional tone wheel for its 2-band EQ, allowing you to even further personalize your sound.
It’s crucial to understand the difference in sound between the two options, because that’s the end goal of all of the fancy wiring, microphones, pickups and what-not: to get you the best sound for your plugged-in acoustic.
Let’s start with the LR Baggs Anthem. TRU•MIC does a great job of picking up all of the frequencies from your guitar, while the Element supplements it with a boost in the low-end. Want a different sound? With all of the system’s complexity, the robust preamp gives you access to plenty of options to adjust your sound to your exact liking. Don’t start to fret over feedback or honky sounds, either — the microphone is equipped with noise canceling technology. All in all, the LR Baggs provides a balanced, warm sound with lots of room for customization.
The Fishman EQ Series is an incredibly common pickup system, meaning you’ll already be familiar with its quintessential plugged-in acoustic sound. It’s a much less complex setup, meaning you’ll likely intuitively understand its volume and tone controls. Want it bright? Tone all the way up. Want it duller? Drop the tone back. The Fishman’s straightforward, sounds great, and provides a completely new sound to contrast with your unplugged acoustic tone.
Every purchase ultimately comes down to one thing: if the price is right. It’s important to note that this comparison features two products at dramatically different price points, so let’s break it down.
The LR Baggs Anthem raises the price of your instrument (whether it be from the Topanga or Highland Collection) $300 above the base price. This is a considerable increase, but for an incredibly refined and complex acoustic pickup system, it only makes sense that our top-of-the-line instruments are equipped with professional quality electronics.
The Fishman EQ Series is an extremely fitting choice for those appreciative of the more budget-friendly options in our lineup. The Fishman Flex Plus-T EQ is a $100 upgrade to Melrose Collection models, while the Fishman Sonitone EQ ends up on our “best bang for your buck” list at an upgrade price of $75 on Overland Collection models.
Which Pickup Should You Pick Up?
With all of our comparisons, you can’t really go wrong with either option. The choice comes down to personal preference. Keen on saving cash? Looking for a simpler system to get started? Go for a Fishman. Need a specific sound for studio recording? Looking to minimize feedback on stage? The LR Baggs is your winner.
If you’re seeking an acoustic-electric to take your playing to the next level, both the LR Baggs Anthem and the Fishman EQ Series will provide you with those capabilities and plenty of ways to dial in your sound.