Body and Hole - LR Baggs M1 Active Pickup
Guitar World Acoustic – Danny Miles
Acoustic soundhole pickups, like their standard electric guitar counterparts, sense string vibrations by means of their magnetic pole pieces. But an acoustic guitar’s tone is not only the product of vibrating strings but also the resonating body and top- which are not “picked up” by standard magnetic pickups.
The LR Baggs M1 Active pickup does both. The dual-coil Active unit is an upgrade of the Baggs M1 model (reviewed in GWA June/July 2004), thanks to the inclusion of a class A discrete preamp. Powering the pickup is a CR0032 battery that will deliver 1000 hours of battery life.
The M1 mounts permanently on your acoustic via an output strapjack installed in place o the endpin. If your guitar doesn’t have the ½” diameter hole necessary for the installation, Baggs recommends that you have a pro do the work for you.
The pickup can easily be placed in soundholes larger than 3.55 inches. I was able to mount it in my Alvarez 12-string without removing the strings, though this isn’t the recommended procedure. Once in the hole, the M1 settles snuggly into place when you tighten the clamp screws. According to Baggs, the pickup will function most effectively if nothing is placed between the pickup’s clamps and the guitar body, though the company does advise those who go this route to be careful about chipping the wood.
The pickup features a single volume control, mounted on the treble side, that is easy enough to access but not so prominent that you can bump it by accident. The M1’s adjustable pole pieces allow you to adjust string balance.
Plugged in, my M1-fitted Alvarez produced an amazing lifelike tone that sounded more resonant and “woody” than anything I ever heard from a magnetic pickup. The body sensor is the key here, providing a smooth warmth no piezo could match, and in a manner more practical and feedback-resistant than could be realized with any mic or hybrid system. An extra terminal on the output jack makes it possible to add a second source-like an onboard mic or piezo-to your setup, but that seems unnecessary. The outstanding M1 Active gets the job done on its own.
LR Baggs M1 Active Soundhole Pickup
Guitar Player Magazine
Amplifying a flat-top onstage can be a real bear, and those who strive to meet the challenge face tricky design tradeoffs. These include balancing sonic sensitivity against feedback resistance, and ease-of-use against tonal flexibility. With his new M1 Active magnetic soundhole pickup ($249 Retail, $169 Street), Lloyd Baggs has found a superb point of equilibrium between such conflicting demands. A big brother to Baggs’ passive M1 pickup, the humbucking M1 Active includes a tiny class-A preamp housed within the pickup shell. Here’s the kicker: The pickup’s stacked coils work together to sense soundboard vibration. This energy is combined with signals generated by the moving strings to create a remarkably animated and dynamic sound.
The M1 Active sports a volume control, as well as individually adjustable polepieces that let you fine-tune the pickup’s response to bronze or nickel strings of virtually any gauge. The pickup clamps easily to the soundhole rim, and attaches to the prewired endpin jack using a standard 1/8” plug. Installation is cake, assuming your guitar has an existing hole in the tailblock for the jack. (If not, hire a pro to do the drilling.) The preamp is powered by a common 3-volt lithium coin battery that Baggs says provides 1,000 hours of operation.
Armed with a well-worn Taylor 512c, I auditioned the M1 Active through a club P.A., and also in the studio, connected directly to the mixer or running through a Line 6 POD. In all cases, the pickup delivered robust lows, round mids, and sweet, detailed highs, and the preamp added no discernible background hiss. Though it doesn’t offer the “air” of an onboard mic, the toneful M1 Active is much less prone to feedback than mic-plus-undersaddle pickup systems, making it ideal for onstage use.