What's the difference in sound, between an acoustic guitar with a soundhole magnetic pickup and an electric guitar? I Know that el. guitars usually have more than one, but is that all? Does the hollow body contribute somehow to the sound?

  • Since the sound of either, but especially a solidbody electric, depends 99% on the follower electronics' gain & bandpass and any additional effects applied, your question is not really answerable. Yes, a hollowbody guitar has a lot more "source" resonances but what a mag-pickup will collect depends a lot on placement. Jan 28, 2015 at 21:03
  • With an acoustic guitar there is a greater tenancy to feed back. Is it possible that the Solid body guitar has more of an effect? Or else why care if I buy an electric with a body of Mahogany, Maple, alder, ash, etc. I guess that it is somewhat subjective, but there appears to be some effect that wood has on the overall sound of a pick-up.
    – amalgamate
    Jan 28, 2015 at 22:06
  • This is not the same question but this answer is relevant. The question is about pick-ups in solid body vs semi-hollow and hollow body guitars: music.stackexchange.com/a/26973/15535
    – amalgamate
    Jan 28, 2015 at 22:54
  • @CoffeeCode I disagree with those who claim that the question is not answerable. See my answer below. If you want to know more about the differences in systems designed to amplify an acoustic, post a new question and I will share my knowledge. I have done tons of research on that subject. Jan 29, 2015 at 4:31

2 Answers 2


A magnetic sound hole pickup for acoustic guitar reproduces sound waves in exactly the same way that a magnetic pick up on an electric guitar does. It uses magnets to pick up the vibration of the strings and translates that through an electrical signal sent to the amplifier which sends those vibrations to the speaker in the amp or PA speaker. There are more controls on board an electric guitar to shape and color the sound and usually different pickups with differences in the way the magnet is configured - that will alter the sound differently than the other pick up or pick ups.

A magnetic sound hole pickup on an acoustic guitar will actually pick up more volume from your wound strings if you use electric guitar strings which are wound in nickel (which is magnetic) verses acoustic strings which are wound in bronze (which is "non magnetic"). With acoustic strings, a magnetic sound hole pickup is only reacting to the vibration of the steel core of an acoustic string. Try it if you need convincing.

Having said that, there are several factors that make an acoustic with a magnetic sound hole pickup sound much different than an electric. For one thing, an acoustic guitar will provide some sound from the guitar itself - acoustically. Folks a good ways away may not hear nearly as much of that as the folks sitting close to the stage.

But beyond that, most sound hole pickups, also have sensors built in that detect some of the vibration of the guitar's top (also known as the soundboard) which is what produces most of the acoustic sound of an acoustic guitar. The sound-hole pickup is clamped to the top and feels the vibrations. Some sound-hole pickups such as the LR Baggs M-80 - get almost as much of their sound from the vibration of the top as they do from the magnetic field of the strings.

Also, sound hole pickups are designed for acoustic guitars, and therefore intentionally configured to attempt to replicate or mimic the sound of an acoustic guitar. But unlike other systems designed to allow you to "plug in" your acoustic guitar (such as body sensor pickups or under saddle piezoelectric or in the body microphone systems) it does not actually reproduce the acoustic sound.

Obviously, there are several non magnetic systems designed to amplify an acoustic guitar that do not use magnets to pick up on the vibration of the strings themselves (see examples in preceding paragraph). Instead they translate the vibration of the soundboard into a signal that is sent to the amplifier.

Which system sounds best on a particular guitar with a particular amplifier or PA, is largely a matter of personal preference. Your choice will also depend on if the acoustic will be played solo - or as part of the overall mix with other instruments.

  • May I add that an acoustic guitar's top vibrations get in the sound not only due to some sensors that the pickup may has, but also they cause some additional vibrations to the strings. While in a solid body electric that is minimal.
    – 8odoros
    Jan 29, 2015 at 7:21
  • @CoffeeCode mmmm - I never thought about that. Good point! I suppose that could happen to some extent. It's the vibration of the strings that vibrates the top through the saddle and bridge. I really never considered the possibility that once the strings get the top vibrating there could be a ripple effect where the top vibrations translate back to the strings (like in a feedback loop). I suppose if a dog wagged his tail with enough exuberance the tail could in turn wag the dog - lol. Jan 29, 2015 at 14:38

Ummm. Like Carl noted, it can not really be answered.

Acoustic guitars are acoustic. They can be played loud enough without an amplifier. All the pick up is doing is amplifying the sound of the strings resonating, on an electric guitar (solid body) if you have 3 pick ups, each pick up contributes to the 'tone' of the guitar. Typically on an electric guitar there is a switch that switches between the pickups. Top is closest to the neck, middle typically picks up all 3 pick ups and the bottom position typically get the bottom pickup.

The closer to the neck of the guitar on a solid body electric is usually a 'deeper' more bass tone, middle is a more mid rounded tone and the bottom pick up is typically more twangy or higher in tone. Inheritly because of the position from the neck. Then from the amplifier/speaker you would adjust tone from there.

A sound hole pick up for an acoustic will just get one signal from the guitar, Because of the one pickup, you would have to adjust the tone from the amp itself.

  • I'm more of an acoustic guy myself but the Fender Strat I used to have had a 5 position switch with 3 pickups which allowed me to select any one of the 3 pickups individually or blend a pair together. 1)Neck/2)neck and middle/3)Middle/4)middle and bridge/5)Bridge if I recall correctly. My Gibson with two pickups had a 3 position switch and it was neck, bridge or both. Jan 29, 2015 at 14:45
  • @RockinCowboy I had always understood the middle position (3) to be all of the pick-ups. I do know that you can rewire the switch to a custom selection.
    – amalgamate
    Jan 29, 2015 at 18:02
  • Middle position is all pickups if there are only two. I don't know of any way to wire a 5 way switch to make contact with all 3 pickups in a 3 pickup guitar. The two adjacent switch poles can be bridged together - the contact just bridges the neck > middle or the middle > bridge when it's in the position between the middle and the adjacent pickup pole. I am not aware of a switch that can turn on all 3 pickups at the same time. It would have to be some type of digital computer controlled switch vs. a mechanical switch I would think. Jan 30, 2015 at 16:03

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