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L.R. Baggs Anthem Tru-Mic Acoustic Pickup System Review

Amplify your acoustics in a whole new way

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No Pickup (mic'd for reference)
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Both sources blended

Acoustic pickups are almost always a compromise:

Do you want your amplified tone

to sound like a guitar or do you want it

to be loud? Typically, the louder you get

with, say, an undersaddle solution, the less

woody warmth you enjoy. But if you go for

a realistic-sounding pickup that captures the

tonal gorgeousness of your special baby, a

loud signal may require a lot of EQ—which

is going to suck tone and make things a lot

less woody and warm.

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.

I did have a chance to use this guitar live for

a duo gig with my drummer Eric in a medium-

sized, L-shaped venue. Eric is a pretty

aggressive player, and as the night went on

his playing got a bit rowdier. But the Anthem

had no problem rising above his caffeinated

exuberance. Each note was clear, and both

of us could be heard perfectly through the

entire space. The guitar tone remained pure

guitar, regardless of crowd noise or the percussive

power behind me.

Because of its highly accurate signal, the

Anthem system also opens up an interesting

world of recording possibilities, where

blends of the Anthem signal and an organic

mic’d signal can be split to create greater

girth and ambience in an acoustic track.

The Verdict

Thankfully for all of us who perform live with

acoustic guitars, acoustic amplification technology

has grown by leaps and bounds. But

L.R. Baggs has taken a truly giant leap forward

with the Tru-Mic Anthem system. And

by focusing on a microphone-oriented solution—

an approach that many players and

certainly engineers regard as the best way to

capture a guitar’s natural tone—L.R. Baggs

is helping raise the bar for what players can

expect from an accessibly priced system.

Buy if...
you have a gorgeous-sounding guitar that deserves to he heard in all its glory when you plug it in.
Skip if...
you are still working your way up the high-end-guitar food chain.

Street $299 - L.R. Baggs -