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I wanted to buy some pickups for my accoustic violin and I was looking on thomann.de and see these two models that seems interesting with the same price:

I am quite unable to make a choice between the two since they seem to be of the same quality range (regarding their prices). I am looking for help or advice concerning what could be determinant in such a choice.

Are there any objective criterion that could allow me to choose? Has anyone tried either of these pickups?

  • Shopping recommendations are off-topic, so I tweaked the question slightly to make sure the focus was on the objective criteria/guidelines you asked for. Hope that's OK. – Matthew Read Jan 10 '12 at 17:07
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    While shopping recommendations are off-topic, I take that to mean one shouldn't be asking questions about where to shop or how to get the best deal. Asking what violin pickups are typically available for less than some amount and how they differ technically is surely setting objective criteria. – MetaEd Jan 10 '12 at 19:08
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Many of us have had this dilemma. I think first off we need to realise that the "Stradivarius" violin was never made to be electric. I feel strongly that the huge price difference from a few dollars to several hundred to do the same thing promotes much suspicion. It is my firm opinion however that anything fitted to the bridge will not delight the purist trying to achieve the impossible.

Interference with the bridge will modify the acoustic sound. On a valuable violin it is sacrilege. Best way to mute a fiddle for in house practice is to put a weight on bridge. I am in no doubt that it is the craftsmanship in the hollow beautifully shaped body of the violin that makes the sound we hear. Pickups built into or attached to bridges also offers the thought that the body of said instrument is being completely bypassed and in which case a solid "electric" fiddle will do as well or even better.

I favour from experience a body mounted pickup and to this end I built my own nearly twenty years ago still used to this day. It is easily fitted or removed, no mods to the violin. It picks up the lower tones better, and can come close to a mic sound with a minimum tone adjustment.

There are too many variables to claim categorically which is "best". All violins are different, players are different too as are all of the other parameters and parts involved including the environment. Clever marketing includes a lot of rot and elevated pricing.

My best advice is to go to a shop, fit the pickups and try before buy, and try as many as you can get a hold on. My violin pickup allows me to hold my own in an all electric band very nicely, an environment which was never intended for the traditional acoustic violin. There is no room really for the total purist.

  • guest - I have split your post out into readable paragraphs, and to be honest, the final paragraph on it's own is the key one which got my upvote - the others could be removed or summarised easily to get rid of some of the more emotive opinion. – Doktor Mayhem Sep 2 '16 at 11:18
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I have the The Realist on my cello (not the violin version obviously, but it should be comparable) and I'm content with it. It reliably picks up the string tone with quite good precision and has very good electrical characteristics. Like probably every bridge pickup design, it lacks the resonant qualities of the instrument's body, i.e. sounds somewhat dull on its own; but in those context where you need a pickup it's usually ok.

Can't say much about the Fishman. It seems to be a similar construction, so I doubt it can perform much better than the The Realist when it comes to body sound. But I really don't know.

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Finding the ideal pickup for an acoustic instrument can quickly become a tedious, expensive, frustrating pursuit.

You can learn a lot online, but you'll soon fine that everyone has their opinion, and what works for them may not work for you. I often look to the quantity of positive reviews for pickups, rather than one or two opinions, as expert as they may be.

The best online resource then may be any sound comparisons you can find, ideally done in a controlled way (that is, using the same instrument, pre-amp, mic, etc - just changing the pickup). Another idea is to find players whose sound you like, and see if you can figure out what they use.

If I hear an acoustic instrument in a show that sounds particularly good, I do my best to ask the sound man (or the artist, if I can get to them) what kind of setup they are using.

Finally, be aware that a pickup is only one part of what can be a long signal path. The preamp can make a huge difference, as can eq and other effects. And of course whether you are ultimately going into an amplifier or house PA, etc.

Have fun!

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See if you can find a good music shop near you where you can go and try different pickups that they have in stock - ring around first because you may well need a string specialist shop that have different ones in stock, but this is possibly the most reliable way to try different ones out. You'll often end up paying a bit more than if you purchased online, but in my experience the ability to try the models out makes it more than worth it. Whatever you do, don't go and try them all out in a shop then buy online for slightly cheaper - that's just rude!

In my experience, if you're playing a nice violin a clip on microphone actually often does a much better job at picking up the natural sound of the instrument rather than a contact based design. I've found the ATM350 to be a nice fit, they cost around £150 and give a good sound without picking up too much background noise - so that would be my personal recommendation.

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