I am looking for a good acoustic guitar pickup? Specifically, I'm looking for something that sounds good, does not get permanently installed, can be moved easily from 1 guitar to another, has a decent amount of gain, is quiet, and can be used both live and in the studio. Your thoughts appreciated.
or check out all the various kinds of popular acoustic guitar pickups here.
Pretty much all of them require some kind of installation. I think the only reason you're asking is to save money. You'll find after awhile that it's going to be a PITA to move from one to another. And since it's not a permanent installation you will have small wires hanging out from the sound hole. With this comes the risk of stepping on said cable (which is going to be either two thin wires or one less than a standard guitar type cord cable with two thin wires on the end). Depending on how often you are moving the pickup from one guitar to another, the handling of said wires will eventually lead to crackling and eventual failure.
It'd probably be best to, over time, buy a pickup and have it installed for each guitar (or make sure the next bought guitar is an acoustic/electric guitar)
The below pickups are really nice if you want good sound.
LR Baggs M1A Active
There is another way to approach this if you have some electric guitar pickups laying around not being used. This is something I did with my Weissenborn. I had a a single coil and humbucker pickup sitting around. A pickup is a pickup as far as I'm concerned. I took a piece of acrylic and cut out a mount custom fit for the Weissenborn and installed the single-coil pickup on it. I bought a package of thosecork pads you stick to feet to prevent marring or scratching and placed them on the ends of the mount that would touch the guitar. I drilled a couple holes through the mount top and bottom so I could put a screw through it to secure the mount to the sound hole. It worked and all I had was the two dainty little wires hanging out from the soundhole. I had an old 1/4 guitar cable that I cut the one end off and stripped the wires to connect the pickup to them (make sure to connect the ground to ground and hot to hot - usually black to black and white to white). It worked but I didn't like how fragile it was. So I bought a Switchcraft output jack and brought the guitar to my guitar tech to do a proper installation. He loved the mount I devised and did what was necessary to make it permanent and less fragile.
I'll upload some pics of the mount and the installation later today.
There are 2 reasons I am going this route. 1) I don't want anything permanently mounted in the guitars that requires gluing or drilling, or modifying the guitars in any way. 2) Usually I record with mics so it is a non-issue, but I am doing some recording that is guitar and vocal simultaneously and I want one channel direct off the guitar with no bleed so I can balance it with the mics which all have vocal in them to on degree or another. That way I can boost the guitar channel if needed in order to get a good balance.
I won't need to put the thing on and off to frequently, just when I am recording in this manner.
I have had several people recommend the LR Baggs M1. So far I am leaning that direction.
The whole build your own approach ... pretty creative. If I tried that, I would probably seriously mangle something.
It's not a humbucker pick-up. It's a single-coil one. Humbucker's are basically two single-coils pickups wired together. The reason it's called a humbucker is because it cancels out the hum.
A single-coil will hum but much of that has to do with environment. Place it near a flourescent bulb and you'll get lots of hum. Turn off the flourescent light and the hum will go away.
Shadow makes a nanoflex model that installs under the saddle, very easy, no drilling, sounds very good. Has a built-in vol control and preamp as well.
but if it installs under the saddle doesn't it require you to change your strings in order to move from one guitar to the next?
No, just loosen the strings, pull up the saddle, and slide the pickup out. I do it all the time, on both 6 and 7-string guitars, including my very expensive Lester Devoe flamenco models. It's a 10-minute job at most.
not many great solutions to this one... the baggs m1 is pretty good, sensitive to any taps to the top and if you change guitars live it takes a few minutes, a screwdriver, and retuning. fishman makes some soundhole pickups that sound pretty decent without the top sensitivity, i liked the neo-d humbucker, it has the same change out issues. pickups like the promag are easier to deal with switching in a live situation but they don't sound very accurate, especially for recording. it's your desire for recording isolation that fouls this up, otherwise i'd say stick with an sm57...
I will be recording the guitar with a mic, but ... I need something that also gets the guitar signal without bleed. I will use the direct channel to supplement the mic if necessary, to balance a louder vocal with the guitar. How long it takes to swap out a pickup doesn't really matter in this scenario. The new LR Baggs pickup does look promising for my purposes.
I own both the LRBaggs M1active, and the Seymour Duncan Woody HC. I have used the Woody for exact same reason you cite. As I'm sure you're aware, none of the soundhole pups will give you an acurate recording of your acoustic. However, since you're using the mic for that anyway, the added tone you get from the "dedicated" pup really makes for complimentary sound. I record with it most of the time now. My pick-up installed guitars work wonderfully on stage, but in the studio, there's too much noise. Not so with the passive Woody. I usually don't play and sing at the same time when in the studio, but I like to get the "two-different-guitars" sound. An added perk is that the Woody (or suitable facsimilie) will be cheaper than most other soundhole pups. Best of luck, and let us know which way you go.