L.R. Baggs Lyric Pickup System Installation and Review

2013-08-28 16.57.36I’ve been really enjoying the new line of L.R. Baggs acoustic pickups. Starting with the introduction of the M1 soundhole pickup, they’ve been changing the expectations for acoustic imaging and fidelity from a pickup. It’s always been a struggle getting accurate amplified acoustic sound, and while there are some tried and true solutions, some of the new products on the market are really changing the game for the working musician.

2013-08-28 16.57.47This unit is being installed on a Tacoma acoustic with an unconventional soundhole, so soundhole pickups like the M80 won’t work with it. The guitar already had an older Martin under-saddle pickup, but the customer wanted something better sounding, with a volume control. The Lyric is a new breed of “internal mic,” which, unlike the older boomy and feedback-prone guitar body mics, translates top vibrations into a mic’d signal. The installation instructions specify that pickup placement is less sensitive than with some other transducer-type acoustic pickups, giving you ample room to experiment with placement and get a great sound. The unit has a built in endpin preamp, battery clip, and volume control/gain trim pot, all pre-wired, and installation really couldn’t be much easier. The wires are the correct length, which is a relief compared to some acoustic pickups, the double-stick adhesive is already applied and/or cut to shape, and if you’ve installed acoustic pickups before, the process is a relative breeze.

2013-08-28 20.12.04From the top there’s no sign of the pickup system aside from the endpin jack, and the guitar maintains its minimalist look.

2013-08-28 20.12.21The volume control is nice and discrete, but large enough to quickly and easily adjust with a finger. Slightly counterintuitively, rolling the pot counterclockwise increases the volume, but it’s easy to get used to. The tortoise-shell plastic casing on the pickup and volume control are a classy touch, even if you’re not going to see them much after they go in the guitar.

2013-08-28 20.12.38The guitar has been fully setup with a nice low acoustic action and straight neck. The bolt-on neck is a little unconventional, but gives easy access to the cutaway for the upper frets without the heel impeding any shredding you might want to get into.

2013-08-28 20.14.00So how does it sound? I recorded a couple of quick sample files, so you can hear the guitar acoustically, and amplified. My test amp is this beastly-looking little solid state Fender that was rescued from a dumpster after being spray painted orange and blue. Not a very high fidelity unit by any means, but I keep the EQ set flat and use it for trouble shooting. My recorder was the internal condenser mic on a battery powered Boss MicroBR 4 track with no added effects or EQ. The first track is the Tacoma acoustically with the recorder about 12″ away on my bench. The 2nd track is the Lyric system through the amp, with the recorder about the same distance away and a few inches below the level of the speaker.

To my ears the recordings are remarkably similar, which is a great thing when you’re trying to capture true acoustic sound. If anything the L.R. Baggs Lyric captures a little more string nuance and life, with bold fundamentals and great detail. It’s rare to say that an acoustic pickup amplified might actually sound better than the guitar miked on its own, but I’m leaning that way on this one. The pickup is definitely sensitive to handling noise, so brushing the top or strings comes through the amp, and I’d be curious to know how feedback resistant the pickup is at stage levels, but it’s certainly no worse than transducer pickups I’ve tried. All in all I would strongly consider this unit for my own guitars. I’d love to hear other’s impressions of the unit if you have any. For about $200 I have to say the Lyric is a fantastic option, especially if you have a guitar that won’t accept a standard soundhole pickup, or you’re looking to upgrade your tone from a piezo pickup.



T1_V1_01  Tacoma Acoustic, Pickup Off, Through MicroBR Condenser Mic

T1_V1_02 Tacoma Acoustic With L.R. Baggs Lyric Through Fender solid state and MicroBR Condenser Mic