Seymour Duncan MagMic
For sheer acoustic woodiness, it’s hard to beat a pickup with a microphone in it. The MagMic contains an omnidirectional mic with extremely natural and airy highs to make this pickup, to quote Pat, “really guitary sounding.” With Volume and Blend dials easily accessible at either side of the strings, it’s a breeze to dial in more natural sound for “ideal” playing situations, and dial out feedback potential when it’s less than ideal.
One nifty feature is the included clips, which can be soldered in to receptors on the bottom of the pickup, allowing you to use an N battery instead the bulky 9V—although you do sacrifice some battery life. The 9V battery will get you 450 hours, and the N battery will last around 250 hours. The N battery was a modification requested by guitarist Laurence Juber, who travels a lot and doesn’t like to leave the pickup installed when he’s flying. The N battery makes it much easier to uninstall and reinstall the MagMic quickly. In fact, there are three different installation configurations, making this a remarkably versatile pickup.
We liked this one right away because the “hearing aide”-style batteries are tucked away nicely inside the unit, which requires no fussing with bothersome wiring for a bulky battery pack. Battery life is 240 hours according to the literature in the box, or 300 according to the website. It’s also quite compact: just under 4" at its longest point and a mere 5/8" wide, and it weighs in at 2.5 ounces.
The mid-range was smooth; there was no bump at the G-string. You could hear midrange clearly throughout the spectrum. It was slightly electric-ish sounding, but the treble was good. It’s bright and sparkly without being glassy.
The basic unit is the same as the Humbucking but with a gooseneck microphone attached, dropping battery life to 110 hours.
Once again, we have to say it’s hard to beat the combination of the magnetic pickup and microphone. The response is extremely smooth and creamy; there’s no mid-range bump, and the highs are natural and airy, with woodiness to burn.
L.R. Baggs M1
The lone passive pickup we reviewed, the M1 had a microphone-like character that surprised us. This is due to the dual-coil design. One coil is suspended, allowing it to be more responsive to the body sound. An excellent choice for non-permanent installation, Baggs includes a cable with a 1/4" plug. This is the only pickup we reviewed that detaches from its wiring via 1/8" plug, so it can be easily uninstalled and reinstalled. The big kudos to Baggs in the design: the adjustment pole pieces are not threaded above the pickup face, so fingerstyle players won’t catch their nails on the poles. We found it extremely natural and pleasant sounding, with warm mids and breathy highs, though with the lower output you may want a preamp.
L.R. Baggs M1 Active
The M1Active was by far the hottest of all the pickups we reviewed. The pickup itself is the same as the passive version, but with a built-in, class-A preamp in that eliminates the need for an external one. The battery is a flat CR2032 and Baggs thoughtfully includes a spare. According to the literature, battery life is 1000 hours or more, or approximately 250 gigs, making it the battery- life champion of the bunch. The battery change is very quick and easy.
The high end is much more defined than with the passive version, and the treble sparkles nicely. Some of the amps emphasized the mid-range a bit, but it was very smooth with no distracting hump at the G-string. It was incredibly even all the way across the strings, with a warm and natural sound.