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Both sources blended
Indeed, compromise may be inherent in the world of acoustic amplification. But few pickup makers have walked the line and bridged that gap between authentic tone and performance-level volume as well as L.R. Baggs. And with the introduction of the Anthem Tru-Mic, they’ve taken another step toward reducing compromises for the amplified acoustic player.
What is it?
The Anthem Tru-Mic system is built around a super lightweight (.5 oz) microphone housed in a small plastic enclosure mounted inside your guitar’s body and affixed with double-sided tape to the bridge plate. In this configuration, the mic hovers just 3 mm from the guitar’s bridge plate—effectively capturing the vibrations of the entire soundboard, but focusing on signals above 250 Hz. The system also incorporates the Baggs Element, an undersaddle transducer that captures audio below 250 Hz for a powerful one-two punch: the Tru-Mic gives you the breathy, microphonic quality that’s missing in most pickups, and the undersaddle Element gives you the sparkling detail and enhanced bass response you crave. The Anthem also makes use of the company’s noise-canceling technology to virtually eliminate feedback.
Volume and Blend controls, as well as a Phase switch and battery indicator, are located out of the way of errant picking strokes and placed just inside the bass side of the soundhole on a discreet onboard preamp. There’s also a small trim pot for fine-tuning the volume of the Tru-Mic in relation to the output of the Element pickup. The Blend control enables you to move from an almost entirely Tru-Mic signal (with a little Element signal for support in the bass frequencies) to a pure Element, or to find a sweet spot somewhere between the two.
The Anthem is as unobtrusive a system as you’re likely find, too. Apart from the soundhole controller, which is all but invisible at more than a few paces away, there’s little clue that there’s a very sophisticated pickup system onboard. It’s also worth noting that installation of the Anthem system is best left to a professional.
Rich and Loud
The Anthem System came to us installed in a Martin M38—a damn fine guitar that sounded simply awesome. Surely some readers will say, “Yeah, well you attach a tin can with a string to that and it’s gonna sound great.” But the very balanced voice of the M38 proved a perfectly appropriate platform for evaluating the Anthem system across a wide frequency spectrum.
In a word, the Anthem sounds outstanding. I played it through an L.R. Baggs Acoustic Reference Amplifier and a Fishman SA220, and it rocked my world. The signal remained free of feedback, distortion, or any other harmonic unpleasantness with even the loudest amp settings. In fact, the Anthem tended to retain more of the guitar’s acoustic qualities the louder it got, until at times it sounded like a guitar the size of a pipe organ: rich, sustaining, and very loud. Highs were smooth and brilliant, never harsh or spiky. Mids—typically the frequency most likely to reveal a pickup system’s shortcoming in the form of quack or feedback—were remarkably well defined, with a total absence of harsh nasality. And the bass sounds, generated with a combination of the Tru-Mic and the Element, were awesome without being woofy or overwhelming, and without inducing groaning feedback.