classical guitar pickups, fishman sbt, transducer pickups, mic preamps, lr baggs

Classical Guitar Pickups

If you need to amplify your classical guitar, there are some amazing options now available for that transparent sound we seek.

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Classical Guitar Pickups - The Beginnings:

I can remember for a long time, the only acoustic pickups that were available for the acoustic guitar or the classical guitar were soundhole mounted pickups that spanned across the soundhole.

Not only did thy look terrible, they sounded as bad as they looks. It was a muddy sound the had way too much bass and when you tried to equalize the bass out, there was noting left in the treble.

How things have changed since those days, and am I ever glad, as are many other musicians.

I will have to admit that my preferred method of amplifying my acoustic guitar is still a quality instrument mic, mounted on a mic stand, but there are many instances where musicians will want to eliminate that hassle and hook directly up to a sound system.

Fishman SBT-C Classical Guitar Transducer Acoustic Guitar Pickup: This is a "universal" surface mount pickup for instruments with flat soundboards. A long favorite with classical guitarists, the SBT excels in small-bodied guitars with responsive tops.

The SBT-C is easily installed on classical or steel string guitars, dulcimers and similar instruments where a permanent installation may not be desired.

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Classical Guitar Pickups - Transducer Mounts

One option for the Classical Guitar is a transducer pickup. In my estimation the transducer mount is the least intrusive pickup you can buy.

If you intend to amplify your classical guitar only occasionally, then I would recommend the Fishman SBT, which features an external mount and a clip-on wiring system. It has a 1/8" jack, which can be mounted anywhere on the outside of the guitar.

Be sure to locate the transducer over a "freely vibrating" area of the guitar top. You will usually find a sweet spot straight down from the treble side of the bridge, between 1-1/2" and 2-1/2" from the bridge and centered on the treble bridge wing.

The best should will take some experimentation. I know on my Ramirez, even a move of 1/4" one way or another made quite a big difference.

Classical Guitar Pickups - Temporary Installation

Once you have established the best location for your transducer, you should rout the cables. For the occasional use, mount the transducer on the outside face of the guitar.

I prefer to mount the jack holder on the butt end of the guitar, which routes the cable away for the playing area. It is best to also mount the strain relief clip in this area too, which will help prevent unintentional unplugging of the pickup.

If you intend to use the pickup for more regular use, I would recommend that you mount the transducer inside the guitar at the exact same location or "sweet spot" you found on the top of the instrument.

Route the cables as shown in the diagram above, buy placing the jack holder inside the guitar, just out of sight of the upper edge of the sound hole. Now place the restraining clip on the edge of the sound hole and run the cable out the bottom of the sound hole.

Classical Guitar Pickups - The Necessary Accessories:

If you want to make your sound output quality a top priority, then you should consider a couple of accessories to go along with the SBT series of pickups.

Impendence Matching Preamp: This is one of the more critical pieces of equipment you should have to fine-tune the output of your instrument.

I would recommend going with the Fishman GII:

The GII automatically switches on when you plug your instrument into it. Remember to unplug your instrument when not using it to conserve battery life.

Another tip is to turn down your mixer or amplifier when unplugging your instrument to protect both your ears and speakers from loud pops.

There is a small input gain rotary control recessed in the back of the unit. This acts just like a trim control on a mixer. Use a slotted screwdriver to adjust this control to suit your input level.

Input The input accepts all piezo and magnetic pickups (passive or active). When you plug in here, the 9 Volt battery switches on.

Fishman SBT Cable: Fishman SBT audio cable is designed to get the best sound out of your instruments and their guitar pickups.

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Fishman SBT-E Classical Guitar Pickup: This passive pickup is the favorite of many pro solo guitarists.

Attaches to your instrument top and senses the micro vibrations of the soundboard to reproduce its full, natural response Includes pickup, 3 double-sided adhesive pads, and 1/4" Fishman Switchjack stereo endpin jack.

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Classical Guitar Pickups - Permanent Installation:

Another option for the Classical Guitar Pickups is the Permanent Mount Fishman SBT-E:

The Fishman SBT-E is exactly the same transducer as the SBT-C. The difference is the configuration of the jack. This pickup will give you the same brilliance and clear basses of the SBT-C and is about the best pickup you can buy for the classical guitar.

Fishman G-II Acoustic Instrument Preamp: The G-II is designed for acoustic guitar, and the classical guitar pickups.

On the inside, all new electronics deliver cleaner, more transparent sound and an unprecedented 400 hours of battery life.

The preamps are housed in a rugged, lightweight injection-molded case, measuring 1.375" high x 3.5 wide x 5" long. These units come complete with rubber feet and a heavy-duty stainless-steel belt clip.

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Classical Guitar Pickups - End Pin Jack Installation:

The most difficult task in the installation of a classical guitar pickup, permanent transducer, is mounting the end pin jack properly and wiring the transducer to the jack.

Drill The Jack Hole: Carefully mark the location of the jack on the butt or end block of the guitar with a dry marker.

Next take a scratch awl and carefully make a center punch where the jack will be located. This is usually dead center on the butt of the guitar, located within the center strip of purfling.

I prefer to use either a brad point bit or a Forstner bit for the drilling operation. Both of these bits will slice through the finish with a minimum of chipping and give you a nice cleanly bored hole when complete.

Fishman recommends a 15/32" bit, but I use a 1/2" bit. Be sure you check that you are drilling perfectly perpendicular to the guitar and not at an angle. Also make be very careful upon the exit of the drill bit. Take is really slow to minimize tear-out.

Solder the pickup “hot” wire to the Tip terminal, which is the shortest of the three tabs. Solder the pickup shield to the Ground tab on the jack. Gently tighten the strain relief.

To gain better access to the Tip, Ring and Switch terminals, gently bend back the Strain Relief/Sleeve tab before soldering

Follow this sequence when you install the endpin jack (figure above):
1. Large backing nut
2. Large backing washer
3. Star washer
4. Guitar end block
5. Small dress washer
6. Small dress nut
7. Strap nut

Follow this sequence when you install the endpin jack (figure above):
1. Large backing nut
2. Large backing washer
3. Star washer
4. Guitar end block
5. Small dress washer
6. Small dress nut
7. Strap nut

Adjust the backing nut so the larger threads are about 1/16" shy of the outside of the end block.

Thread the dress washer and dress nut, then insert a 3/32" (2.3 mm) or smaller diameter shaft through the small cross-drilled holes. Tighten the nut with a " open end wrench while you hold the jack in place with the shaft.

Fasten the strap nut.

Note: When properly installed, the end of the jack will be slightly proud of the strap nut, so when a plug is inserted, it will snap securely in place