How Does a Guitar Pickup Work

How Does a Guitar Pickup Work

Acoustic Guitar: Pickup Vs Mic


  • If you want to amplify your acoustic, then magnetic pickups, such as Piezo pickups, and microphones are your two basic options.
  • Acoustic pickups, such as undersaddle pickups, are easier to use, as they are built right into the guitar and plug into amplifiers of all types.
  • Microphones allow for a more natural acoustic sound, though this sound is susceptible to feedback.

If you are new to the world of musical instruments, you may want to compare using an acoustic guitar with a pickup vs a mic. Many of the best guitars, after all, are acoustics and these acoustics require some out-of-the-box thinking regarding amplification. So what is the best way to amplify the best acoustic guitars, and why would you want to do it in the first place? Keep reading to find out.

Why Amplify an Acoustic Guitar?

Acoustic guitars can get pretty loud, but certainly not loud enough to adequately fill a large performance space. This is true even of the best acoustic guitars under $300. Learning how to mic an acoustic guitar, for instance, is a great way to solve this problem of amplification. Of course, many acoustics feature pickups that put them closer in line with electric guitars if you are comparing acoustic vs electric guitars.

So if you want to be heard during a performance, amplify your guitar, as this is true even when trying out PRS acoustic guitars.

Acoustic Guitar: Mic Vs Pickup

These are the two basic ways to amplify an acoustic. All acoustics integrate with a microphone placed in front of them, but those with built-in pickups do not require this microphone to amplify, as they can just plug right into an amp. Here are more differences between these two amplification methods.


Nothing is easier than an integrated pickup, as it offers a true plug-and-play experience. You won’t need to purchase or arrange an external microphone, which is a plus, but you will need an amplifier of some kind. Generally speaking, plugging an acoustic with a pickup into a standard electric guitar amp works, but using a dedicated acoustic amp is slightly better from a sound standpoint.


There is no easy way to put this, but the sound of an acoustic guitar pickup is an acquired taste, and it certainly differs from the sound of a natural acoustic. Some people love the sound, though, so try it for yourself. However, micing an acoustic guitar allows for a more natural response that closely resembles the sound of the actual guitar. Of course, this varies depending on your microphone and related outboard gear. Certain models give certain sounds as well, like if you want a professional-sounding acoustic, consider reading our Ibanez PC15 review to learn more.


Both options can create a fair amount of feedback if you aren’t careful. Experiment with mic placement and amp volume to minimize this feedback.

Pickup Vs Mic FAQs

How do magnetic pickups work? 

Magnetic pickups are a popular type of acoustic guitar pickup, and they work using electromagnetism. This helps create that desired acoustic sound, though it makes them subject to magnetic fields and various electrical signals. 

Which acoustic pickup should you pick up?

Each type of acoustic guitar pick has its pros and cons, from Piezo pickups to soundhole pickups and various electric guitar pickups. Perform research on your own and make a decision. 

Do I need a preamp? 

You don’t necessarily need a preamp when dealing with acoustic guitar pickups, such as Piezo pickups. They do help, however, limit feedback and can help deliver a more natural sound. 



“A Piezo pickup is a surface transducer; it senses the vibrations and turns those into electrical signals, which are then amplified as sound by the amplifier.” (source)

TIP: Begin on a low volume and slowly increase to gauge how much feedback you are dealing with.


Pickup Microphone
Easier to Use X
More Feedback Draw Draw
More Natural Sound  X
Louder Draw Draw



Acoustic Piezo vs. Soundhole Pickups – What’s the Difference?

Miking Your Acoustic Guitar on Live Shows

Lawrence Bonk
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