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Hi all,

I have a 7-8 year old Seagull S6 Cedar Original and I'm creeping up on playing in public for the first time. I would like to have a pickup and electronics installed, but am looking for some guidance on what I should get, not knowing one from another. I have a soundhole pickup, but it just seems to bother me when I'm playing. I'm not looking to spend a lot of money since I'de eventually like to get a better guitar (the Seagull is just fine for me for now!), but I also don't want totally poor sound, or to be taken by a shop and buy something I don't need (not that a good shop would do that, but I don't have a shop that's proven themselves to me yet).

Thanks for any advice!

Tags: pickups

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Dave, you must have clear in mind the kind of amplification you need. If you want electronics (I mean something as a parametric EQ on the upper shoulder of your guitar), you must go to a good luthier to have it installed. If you just want to plug-in to a mixer or amp, it's enough you install a passive pick-up. IMO, K&K Sound System is a reliable brand with very good devices at affordable prices. Visit their site. I've the Pure Western on my guitars and mandolin.
Good luck
You mentioned that you were not looking to spend a lot of money. Without knowing what that is, I'll offer you my advice as a luthier. There are a few companies out there that make pickups that make a fair attempt at capturing the acoustics of peoples instruments for decades. I've done hundreds of installations on 6, 10, and 12 string guitars with the following pickups: LR Baggs and Fishman. They both offer a reasonable solution for a reasonable price. Both companies offer an out of the box solution that should satisfy most musicians.

My personal recommendation is to go with a Fishman Acoustic Matrix infinity system. I've been installing Fishman pickups since 1994 and to date I've only had one failure (and the failure was due to the customer peeling the shielding off the transducer- even then, Fishman sent me a new transducer to replace the damaged one). These pickups have an outstanding efficiency on battery usage/ drain and since they are equiped with a pre-amp you are sure to have enough ooomph when playing with loud bands.

Back then they offered this pickup in two configurations. Natural I and Natural II (later called HOT). Basically Natural I for solo artists, small guitars and the other for very loud environments thus cutting the Bass a bit and avoiding the annoyance of Feedback.
Cool think about this infinity system is how now, for basically the same price I used to buy each configuration it gives you the flexibility to have both, and a Volume and Tone control. Not a bad feature, considering that back then I used to do surgery on these pickups to get tone and volume installed.

Now to the $69k question, how much. You will find luthiers that will install the Fishman Acoustic Matrix infinity (either narrow 3/32" or wide 1/8" format starting at $185 and up including the pickup. Or you can buy the pickup from musicians friend for $140 and then install it yourself. see here:
Its not a hard installation, the hardest thing is to actually take just enough off the saddle to accomodate for the space taken by the undersaddle transducer.

I hope this helps you make your decision. As far as my recommendation, its always to take it to your nearest professional and let him recommend based on your playing style and acoustic qualities of your S6.

Stay well
Roberto Rivera
First off, great insights! Do you have any experience/comments on the Dean Markley products? Specifically, I have an "Artist Model" (that sticks on the body) pickup. It seems to sound good and I am considering getting it permanently installed on the interior and use the DM end pin kit.

Again, thanks for sharing your expertise. I look forward to your response.

Thank you all for your insights! Roberto - I've done quite a bit of research and your choice of the Fishman Acoustic Matrix infinity system seems to be solid around town. Antonio - a local guy also recommended K&K. Looks like it gets down to personal preference (as most things). Of course, as I mulled this over, I'm contemplating getting a new/used acoustic/electric ... I'm leaning towards the Fishman, but taking a look to see what's on the market for sub-$500 acoustc electrics. If you have any recommendations on that front, much appreciated, but thanks for the insight so far!

I've installed a lot of different pickups in my own guitars and in guitars for my customers. They all have their limitations, but for most applications my prefernce would always be a Schatten piezo pickup that mounts inside the guitar beneath the bridge plate. I think Baggs makes something similar, and it's probably very good too; I haven't tried it. I'm not a fan of under saddle pickups--too tempramental on string to string volume, and I don't care for the tone either. The Schatten sounds fine (Okay, it still sounds like a pickup, but the tone is better than most.) without an outboard preamp, so that saves you some money right there, and the installation is pretty straight forward--well within the capability of most repair shops. It's simplicity also minimizes the possibilty of annoying buzzes from loose wires contacting the vibrating parts of your guitar.
Interesting. Since my post last week I talked to a luthier and he said some similar things. He recommended a K&K Pure Western which is, I believe, the same style as the Schatten you mentioned. Also, another question: when someone refers to a pickup as "transducer" type, I assume he/she is referring to the piezo-electric type? Are piezo-electric acoustic guitar pickups working off the vibration of the top wood (causing stress/strain in the sensor material), or are they working off the sound waves themselves (sound waves passing through the air causing stress-strain in the sencor material)?
Would you expect a comprehensive lesson about the piezo-electric physical phenomenon? Too long!!
Let's say that a piezo-electric crystal has the property to transform a mechanical pressure into an electrical signal.
An undersaddle piezo pick up catches the direct pressure of the string and sends the electrical signal that is transformed in sound. I don't like this way. An under-the-soundboard catches the vibration of the wood (that is actually a form of pressure) and transform in the same (more or less) way. The sound in the first case is quackie, too bright, less natural and coloured, IMO. I've to say that it's more feed-back (Larsen) resistant. The second type of piezo is (always IMO) more acoustic sounding, that's what I want from an acoustic guitar. All of what I said should be argument of long discussions. But that's the story.
The sound waves are caught by a dynamic or a condenser mic, that's a completely different system.
I've never heard of Shatten pick ups, but I know very well K&K. You just must be careful not to stay in front of the loudspeaker to avoid resonance from your guitar.
I know it's a "to make a long story short" way to explain amplification, but I can't do better here.
Hope this helps.
Antonio - no, I would not "expect" a comprehensive lesson on the phenomena, but the engineering geek side of me would take it! Still not expecting it, but I expect a book on sound reinfrocement is in my future. For the time being, your explanation is just right and appreciated: a lot of books probably get into the phenomena, but what it really means to the player and listener ... so your information (of course, realizing it's IYO) is invaluable. Thanks!
You're welcome.
What ever you do, get something you can re-install when you get another guitar. No need to buy it twice, in the event you buy something cool with no pick up. You don't limit your guitar choices that way! an LR Baggs 'i beam' is a great choice Good luck playing out!
I had an LR Baggs M1 Active and sold it to get the K&K Mini Western system.

LOVE IT!! I can't say enough good about K&K. IMHO... THE most natural sounding system I've heard. I did my own install of the transducers (DO get the endpin drilled professionally). It took 30 minutes and it was very easy. FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS!!
How is that for bottom end? I'm very interested in replacing a Fishman Blend pickup with something that will help with the lack of bottom the Fishman has.


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