Mandolins have a huge history of being played all over the world, but they have historically been acoustic instruments and amplification wasn’t required. Bluegrass or folk bands historically haven’t needed to be amped up on stage but in the modern age, finding the best mandolin pickups is the simplest way to getting your volume where it needs to be, especially for big gigs.
Microphones are an option and especially for performance, but on stage, this can become very awkward when you start moving around and changing instruments. In fact, it just isn’t viable. Pickups are also sometimes referred to as ‘transducers’ so you may see them described as this at some retailers.
Choosing a pickup system for your Mandolin isn’t always a simple process. With some instruments such as a classical or acoustic guitar, the pickup will go on the sound hole. For Mandolins, different designs, variations and shapes such as A-Style and F-Style, and different shapes and sizes of sound hole mean that getting the right Mandolin pickup is essential.
What are we looking for in a top quality pickup? Well, due to the fact that Mandolins can be a little awkward in terms of shape, something that is easy to install is essential. This is especially true if you want to attach the pickup yourself, the last thing you want to do is get a quality product and make an error whilst installing it.
Another main consideration is tone, of course, you want a pickup which can give a bright tone and properly amplify all the frequencies of your instrument. The last thing you want is to install a pickup and the audio sounds like it is being played over the phone when you amplify it! Trust me, this does happen, and is tied to the final consideration, cost. There are some good products at a decent price, so value for money is paramount when buying a mandolin pickup, but there is little point in buying a cheap Mandolin pickup which isn’t up to the task if you have invested a lot of money in your instrument. A $10 pickup on a $500 Mandolin is not going to make the most of your instrument.
Mandolin Pickup Reviews
We’ve picked out some of the best pickups at different price ranges. Different instruments require different pickups and these have a variety of pickup styles and features, we’ve broken it all down to make the decision on which to buy as simple as possible.
Myers Pickups Mandolin Pickup with micro-goose neck
Myers pickups are a brand starting to make a name for itself and their versatile instrument pickup deserves its place on our ‘best of’ list. This is such a simple to use Mandolin pickup which can turn your acoustic instrument into an ‘electric’ within minutes.
As you may expect, it has a 1/4 inch jack input and of course a control switch to change the volume and control the pre-amp.
The microphone which picks up the audio is omnidirectional and wonderful quality, so you get a clear and crisp sound when run through an amp. This has the mounting hardware included for three different positions, so you can alter it depending on your instrument design, soundhole location or just personal preference. You can experiment to see what works best.
The versatility of the Myers Pickup means it is great for multiple instruments, so you can use it on your banjo, ukulele, or just about any other acoustic instrument. A huge amount of positive reviews and testimonials show just how happy people are with their purchase and the features of the Myers.
LR Baggs Radius
LR Baggs are known for their acoustic instrument pickups, and they have created a great, easy to use product for instruments which belong at a higher frequency such as the Mandolin, and as such picks up the bright tonality of your Mandolin with ease. This is also incredibly easy to use, and instead of having to do proper hardware alterations or modifications on your instrument, it has ‘mounting putty’ which means you can attach it with ease as if you were using glue. The mounting putty has no negative effect on the finish of your instrument so you can remove it when you are done and it won’t leave a mark.
The sensor uses the same technology that is used in diaphragm mics, with the transducer using a film sensor to give a sensitive pickup and a rich tone which is true to your instrument. This gives you lots of control over your sound and means you don’t end up with a tone which has been muddied by a low-quality pickup.
This isn’t the cheapest product on the market and is great for high-end and intermediate Mandolins. If you are a beginner with a budget Mandolin you may not want to opt for the LR Baggs, but it can be moved and used on other instruments as you upgrade. If quality is what you need, look no further.
K&K Mandolin Twin Internal
This is not a product that it is recommended to install yourself. If you are one of the more handy musicians or are a qualified instrument tech then it is hard to find a better-reviewed pickup. This has a stereo, twin transducer pickup system. The K and K Mandolin pickup gives a tone which is exceptionally true and clear, and is used in many brands of electric Mandolin and by professional instrumentalists.
The brand does have a “Twin Fusion” model which is designed for anyone to be able to install, but the reviews simply aren’t as good as the Twin Internal. Strongly recommended for those who have the capacity to install the product or who know a reliable techy who can do it for them.
Luvay Piezo Pickup
We wanted to include a budget product on the list. The Luvay Piezo pickup is designed to be used on a huge amount of instruments to good effect, and in spite of the fact that it is a fraction of the price of some of its competitors, it does a good job for beginners and those who are on a smaller budget. This definitely has a more ‘plastic’ feel to it and is less of a luxurious product than some of those we’ve already mentioned, which is reflected in the cheap price. That said, the tone this provides is a lot better than most would expect from a product at this price range and most of the reviews back this up.
The Luvay Piezo is great for violin, ukulele and other products and the quality contact microphone gives a pretty good tone, which is more than good enough for band practices and small gigs. A great option if you’re not looking to spend a lot of money.
More and more people are looking for pickups for all sorts of instruments. It opens up a world of new tones, effects and of course the loudness we need for gigs and other audio applications. The products we’ve mentioned here are truly some of the best, but if you have any experience with other contact mics or pickups we’d love to hear about it.
Image credit: ALangley