Question about accoustic guitar pickups

Taylor upgrade …

Hi there !

A coleague of mine has the following question(s) :

He’s got a Taylor 314MCE with a Fishman Prefix pickup in it.
The guitar sounds accoustically awesome, but loses some of that sound when he plugs it in. He was happy with that, but then a weekend or two ago he played with someone’s Ibanez. That guitar had an almost dull accoustic sound, but plugged in it sounded better than his Taylor does (and apparently by a fair margin better)

This is the question: He is thinking about upgrading the pickup / preamp in his guitar, but we don’t know what model to look at, or the difference it will make, or anything about it. Guys locally can give us specs, but they don’t really know what will sound better. Now Ian (the coleague) is obviously concerned about the expense (and actually letting someone mod his Taylor), and then in the end the effort wasn’t worth it…

There are also some options with different undersaddle pickups, and different pre-amps (He’s thinking about the Prefix plus).
Some have built in microphones, and some have magnetic pickups and blending between them.

Is there anyone that can shed some light on this, and that can help us in our search ?

Thanks a ton !


My Taylor has a Fishman Blender in it which I think is better sounding that the Prefix. Taylor has completely re-designed it’s built-in pickups and now uses an Expression System on the 300 Series and up (check the web site for details). My guess is this new system is far superior to the Fishman technology. They also have come out with a new T4 Equalizer which is probably great.

Having said that, your friend could try the Blender but I doubt if it would be significantly better than what he has. For me, the Blender is acceptable but it has limitations.

My recommendation - if I were in critical need of a better live sound, I would sell my current Taylor and get a new one, because I don’t think you can retrofit old guitars with the new Expression System (I haven’t verified this for sure). If you can’t afford that, look into getting a Fishman Blender which has an inside condensor mic, along with the piezo pickup under the bridge.

A seriously easy fix is to get one of those electric pickups that clips in the sound hole. Use that WITH the bridge pickup. Mix them into two channels to balance the sound.

One reason most under-bridge pickups sound like crap is that they don’t pick up the full body sound. A electric pickup doesn’t do that either but it can simulate it by adding a lot of lows that the piezos don’t have.

Get the depth from the electric pickup and the pick and string sound from the bridge. Experiment with EQ and phasing.

I used to install a semi-self-invented system of acoustics that was based on this principal. It was a single electric pickup in the sound hole mounded so it was pretty far from the strings, almost level with the body. A single Radio Shack piezo 1" buzzer element was super-glued directly under the bridge in a location that didn’t interfere with the strings.

The two were wired together with no special electron incs for the piezo. This goes against what we normally do when using piezos but it worked. The piezo added the brightness and the electric added the body. It was a very natural sound when plugged into clean system like a PA with very little EQ needed, though compression was good thing.

The electric pickup was mounted on a sort of wide flat U shaped piece of wood that was attached to the inside of the body with velcro, so that the pickup sat flat on the wood at the right height.

A special strap end pin that had a 1/4" jack in it was add, so the only modifications needed to the guitar was any routing to make the end pin hole big enough for the jack pin, super-glue for the piezo, and velcro strips.

Obviously it wouldn’t work on a nylon string guitar.

I’ve done this to at least 5 guitars and all sounded very natural through a sound system.

Check out Fishman’s Rare Earth series. They’ve got a single coil, Humbucker, and a Blend pick-up which has a humbucker as well as a mic. The rare earth blend pickup’s mic can be adjusted to room size, and is fantastic for the performing player. For most Martin’s and Taylor’s I’d suggest The single coil design, as it really works great for the clean modest resonance which these guitars usually create. For acoustics that are a little louder, the humbucker does well to tame this for recording and or otherwise. Pricing reasonable from $120. for the single, to $180 for the hummer. The Blend will run around $230 and up. I’ve seen some strange pricing on those.
Good luck, Bob