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I use D'Addario 85-15 strings brass wound and steel unwound strings on a dreadnought Blue Ridge acoustic guitar. I also use a Dean Markley Pro Mag in-hole magnetic pickup because I send an acoustic guitar signal when playing rhythm and an overdriven electric guitar signal when soloing.

One thing I've noticed is that the unwound strings send more signal through the magnetic pickup than the wound strings. This results in a very bright unprocessed sound.

I've been thinking of just EQing the signal pre FX but one sound guy used an octaving effect to get a fuller tone. Is one of these better than the other or should I use a different method to get a balanced frequency range that's closer to the acoustic guitar's acoustic sound?

  • Any way you can move the pup so that it's closer to the bottom/ further from the top strings? – Tim Jun 27 at 10:22
  • @Tim no, sorry. – pro Jun 27 at 16:26
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The problem (difficult to solve with EQ) with "Bronze/Brass" Wound Acoustic guitar strings with magnetic pickups is the windings are not magnetic and therefore the magnets in your sound hole magnetic pick up can only detect the steel core deep inside the winding. Electric guitar strings are nickel wound and the nickel windings respond to the magnets in your pickup.

The larger diameter bass acoustic strings (E and A) will be less responsive than a wound D or G string because there is more material insulating the steel core from the magnets. The plain steel strings on electric and acoustic sets are the same material and equally responsive to a magnetic pickup.

On the acoustic guitar I play that uses a magnetic soundhole pickup, the best solution I found was using nickel flat wound electric strings for my wound strings. I found the flat wound strings sounded more like an acoustic guitar (mellower) which was the sound I was going for.

Another solution (besides using electric guitar strings) is Zebra Strings by DR DR Website. The Zebra strings are alternately wound in both phosphor bronze and nickel (giving them a striped appearance) and therefore respond to magnetic pickups while retaining a brighter acoustic tone. They are marketed as a string that is both Acoustic AND Electric - because they will work for either type guitar.

They offer 7 different sets with various gauge combinations. Pictured below is a box of what they call "Custom Light".

DR Zebra/Acoustic Electric Strings

An alternative solution (if you don't want to solve the issue by string selection) is to add either an internal or external microphone based pickup, or a soundboard transducer pickup in addition to your magnetic soundhole pickup. These type pickups are not dependant on the magnetic properties of your strings.

Soundboard Transducer Pickups attach to the guitar top and sense the vibrations of the top. They can be permanently mounted (check out the K & K Pure Mini K & K Webstite) or can be found in a removable external version. The K & K Hotspot (pictured below) attaches with removable adhesive (I would attach the input to my strap) on the guitar soundboard. You can get different tones by moving it to different areas on the guitar top.

enter image description here
Hotspot External Soundboard Transducer Pickup

If you add either a Guitar Mounted Mic Pickup or Soundboard Transducer, you could then use an A/B/Y footswitch to choose either your magnetic soundhole pickup, your alternate pickup or blend them together to get various sounds and tones to fit the musical situation.

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Good luck!

  • Thanks for your detailed answer. Changing strings at this point is not an option because since I play so much, I have a lot of string sets which I'm loathe to discard. I also can't use a transducer or a mic because my lead guitar tone is overdriven which causes transducer squeal and microphone feedback. – pro Jun 27 at 19:50
  • You might try at least one set of Zebra's (whatever is closest to your current string gage) just to see how you like the results. You can always use your stockpile on a different guitar without a magnetic pickup. Or sell them on eBay. If you love the way your guitar sounds with the Zebra strings, it might be worth the sacrifice. – Rockin Cowboy Jun 28 at 20:22
  • As far as the mic squeal when using overdrive (valid point) that is the reason for the A/B/Y switch. When using overdrive you would switch to the magnetic pickup only. – Rockin Cowboy Jun 28 at 20:24
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EQ-ing would be my recommendation. An octave effect will significantly change your sound, add latency and affect the dynamics of your tone.

That said, try both, and go with the one you like best. There really are no hard and fast rules in this :-)

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