If like me you have a hatred for having batteries inside your acoustic guitar. Then you have probably heard of and used a piezo pickup to plug your acoustic guitar in. For years I would say the standard for under saddle piezo pickups has been the K&K Pure Mini. After hearing more and more about the Journey Instruments piezo pickup I wanted to do as fair of a comparison as I could between the pickups.
Now I want to add a disclaimer here about how the K&K pickup is twice the cost of the Journey pickup. You would maybe think the K&K should sound twice as good, or that the Journey gets a little pass but really I just want to fairly compare and see which pickup I like better regardless of price.
To be as scientific as possible I tried to eliminate as many variables as possible. I played the same guitar, with the same pick, same strings, same room, same mic setup. I plugged the guitar into the Red-eye Twin by Fire-eye, into my Presonus Audiobox Two. Once everything was setup for the first round I didn’t touch a single thing. I did a couple of recordings with the K&K mini installed first. I tried to get a finger picking song, some simple open chord strumming, and some harder palm muting to cover the extremes of acoustic guitar playing, while also trying to keep everything fairly simple so that I could easily play everything twice as similar as possible.
Unfortunately some of the random chord progressions that I played for the test got hit with copyright strikes. Super annoying since you can’t copyright chord progressions and the strike said I used the same melody, even though there isn’t any melody, but after some edits the algorithm overlords were happy enough to let me use my own material.
Then I removed the K&K pickup and installed the Journey Instruments pickup, and then repeated the recordings as similar as I could.
I was happy with the experiment if you will allow me to call it that since I also had setup a Shure SM81 to record the guitar in the room as sort of a control. When listening back to just the microphone recordings from the first pickup to the second the were basically identical. This told me that the guitar, room, strings, player or any of those things outside of just the pickup would be a factor in the comparison.
Obviously when talking about music, reading about it doesn’t do you much good. So I really recommend watching the video and listening to the comparison yourself. I set this up as sort of a game where you can decide which pickup you think is which, or which you like best before the big reveal.
While I tried to be as scientific as reasonably possible with the comparison, music is highly subjective. There will be as many conclusions on this test as people who watch this video. I really don’t think there is a right or wrong answer here simply a matter of taste and what you are trying to get out of your amplified acoustic guitar.
My opinion is that the K&K was the brighter pickup. It had more of that squawk associated with piezo pickups. I don’t necessarily think that makes it the loser, or worse pickup. It would certainly probably blend better or sit nicer in a full band mix where you just want some of that percussive quality from the acoustic guitar. On the other hand the Journey Instruments pickup seems to be a little more full, and natural. But I could definitely see there being plenty of instances where it was to much and a little boomy.
While playing the guitar I definitely preferred the Journey pickup. It felt more natural, like my guitar only louder. However when I went back and listened to everything there were times I preferred the sound from the K&K.
I would not be surprised if all things being equal in a live sound setting, the guitar player would prefer the Journey pickup, while the sound guy/girl would prefer the K&K. All this to me starts to get ridiculous too when you consider the fact that you could probably just had some EQ and fix the short comings of both pickups.
That is enough of my opinions on the pickups. Make sure you listen to the examples and make up your mind for yourself. I hope all of this was helpful in deciding which pickup you want to use or install in your acoustic guitar. Just remember neither pickup makes any sound on its own. Without the pickup you can still make music, but without the music the pickup is useless.
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