FISHMAN- Acoustic Pickups Buying Guide

FISHMAN- Acoustic Pickups Buying Guide

True Notes are happy to announce that we are now official dealers of FISHMAN® pickups.

As a professional guitar service centre, we get asked on a weekly basis about acoustic guitar pickups. Questions range from what we recommend, what would fit the customer’s guitar, what product is the most usable and which would be the most suitable to their needs and budget.

With so many different pickups on the market, it can be quite a daunting task to choose the right one for yourself and for your guitar.

This led us to create a buying guide which details the three main types of pickups for your acoustic that we can highly recommend.

These pickups have been organised with usability and installation invasiveness in mind.



How easy and intuitive the pickups are to use.


How much work it is to install.


FISHMAN® is our choice of pickups for this run down, because they have lead the industry for years by producing some of the highest quality gear available, and are now making some of the best acoustic pickups on the market. It was an easy choice for us.



Sound hole pickup

This is probably the most non – invasive pickup on the list, as only the end block will need drilling out and enlarging for the new endpin jack. The jack socket also doubles as your strap button, but can be quite tricky to install without the right tools and techniques. So definitely a job for a qualified tech.


Our choice for this category is the Fishman Rare Earth Mic Blend.




The Fishman Rare Earth Mic Blend provides the best of both worlds.

This pickup is actually a hybrid which incorporates a magnetic pickup for the strings, as well as a new and improved cardioid microphone for the body chamber and top.  The organic sound of the guitar is easily picked up via the flexible shaft mic. With the idea being that you can balance the pickup and the mic, then blend the two together to reach the most authentic acoustic sound.


Rare Earth Mic Blend Active Sound Hole Pickup Features:

  • Warm and full humbucking sound
  • Excellent string-to-string balance
  • Low-noise
  • Discrete circuitry design keeps the sound pure and clean with a smooth response throughout the frequency range.
  • Flexible cardioid microphone and mic/pickup blend control
  • Microphone bass extension/roll-off switch
  • Active electronics and neodymium magnet structure for exceptional string balance and clarity
  • Pre-wired output jack
  • Miniature batteries offer approx. 100 hours of life


INSTALLATION: Fits sound holes as small as 3 5/8” (92 mm) diameter.

CONTROLS: Mic/Pickup Blend Control

BATTERY: Two 1.5-Volt silver oxide or one 3-Volt lithium

BATTERY LIFE:   110 hours

Advantages of the Rare Earth Blend Disadvantages of the Rare Earth Blend
Simplicity and Sound:

Sleek and simple design with more features than most other sound hole pickups on the market.



Some finger pickers and hard strummers can find that sound hole pickups get in the way of their playing. Although this pickup has one of the sleekest designs on the market, the space it will take up in your sound hole is definitely worth considering before buying.


Least invasive:

This pickup has the least invasive installation method on our list. Meaning minimal changes to your instrument.

Microphone at loud volumes:

Although we think the microphone is a great feature of this pickup and it is the main reason why we chose this model. It is important to remember that ALL microphones have the capability of feedback when playing at very loud volumes. I have personally found that rolling the mic off when playing live can limit feedback. However, the mic suits the recording environment incredibly well and sounds fantastic in a more controlled space.



Discrete Preamp With Under Saddle Pickup

We decided on the Fishman Ellipse Aura Pickup and Preamp for this category as it combines Fishman’s most sophisticated onboard preamp design with the power of “Aura Acoustic Imaging Technology“.


The Ellipse Aura allows acoustic musicians to easily and accurately replicate the sound of their instrument, as “mic’d” in a professional studio. Players can load up to four Aura Images into this intuitive, discreetly mounted sound hole preamp. The ergonomic design of the Ellipse Aura puts slider controls at the player’s fingertips, helping to maintain a natural playing position.

This style pickup requires the guitar’s saddle slot and saddle height to be adjusted. The width of the guitar’s saddle needs to be considered too. As there are narrow and wide pickup formats to choose from. The pickup will need to perfectly match your saddle slot for correct install. The preamp controls will be mounted inside the sound hole rim, just out of sight. As well as the 9v battery mount (normally on head block or just left of). The guitar’s tail block will also need careful attention for the ¼ End Pin Jack installation.



Ellipse Aura Pickup and Preamp Features:

  • Pickup/Image Blend,
  • Volume and switchable Natural I and Natural II Low Frequency tone shaping,
  • a Phase Switch and automatic Anti-Feedback control.
  • State-of-the-art onboard preamp featuring Fishman’s Aura Acoustic Imaging Technology
  • Up to four Aura Images can be downloaded from Fishman’s Aura Image Gallery software (included)
  • Ergonomic sound hole-mounted design puts slider controls at your fingertips to maintain a natural playing position
  • Features the world’s best-selling under saddle pickup, the Acoustic Matrix
  • Automatic anti-feedback
  • Pickup/Image Blend control
  • Volume control
  • Phase switch (feedback control)
  • Low battery indicator
  • Unique patent-pending neodymium magnetic mounting system for easy, solder-free installation
  • Solder-free connections
  • Switchable low-frequency tone-shaping built into preamp
  • Pickup available in wide, narrow or split formats
  • Professional installation recommended




Standard pickup length of 2.65


Accommodates most round sound holes from 3-7/8




33 hours


Advantages of the Aura Pickup and preamp Disadvantages of the Aura Pickup and Preamp
Sound quality and variable controls:

Includes more controls and frequency sculpting than the previous sound hole pickup.  


More expensive piece of equipment than the sound hole pickup and installation cost is also slightly more.

Discrete installation:

Sound hole is clear of parts, allowing maximum area for playability, as preamp controls are discretely hidden just inside the top.   


Some customers find the hidden controls a little tricky to adjust at first, as they’re located just inside the rim of the sound hole and are some what out of sight.



Preamp with onboard tuner

This style is the most invasive of all the pickups we’ve listed, as the upper bout of the guitar’s side will need to be routed out to house the preamp section. The guitar’s saddle and saddle slot will need to be adjusted and the end block will need to be drilled for the end pin jack.


Our choice for this category is the Fishman Presys+



The Presys+ Onboard Preamp System is designed to offer maximum control, performance and quality in a small, unobtrusive format.

The compact and sophisticated Presys+ offers Volume, Bass, Mid, Treble and Brilliance controls, a Phase switch, Notch filter, and a built-in tuner with LED display. The Presys+ system also includes a pre-wired Fishman Sonicore pickup for solder-free, plug and play installation, a low battery indicator, low profile control knobs and a unique pivot design for easy access to the battery compartment.


Presys+ Features

  • Small footprint fits many guitars
  • Volume control
  • Bass, Middle and Treble controls
  • Built-in tuner with LED display
  • Phase switch
  • Low battery indicator
  • Unique pivot design for instant 9-Volt battery access
  • Pre-wired Fishman Sonicore pickup for solder-free installation
  • Low profile control knobs
  • Onboard anti-feedback control (notch)
  • Brilliance control for additional tone shaping
  • Professional installation recommended



DIMENSIONS     2.2” W x 3.2” H (55.8 mm) x (84.2 mm)

BATTERY             9-Volt

BATTERY LIFE     88 hours


Advantages of the Presys + Disadvantages of the Presys +

Most easily accessible controls of all the pickups and includes a bright LED lit onboard tuner.

Most invasive installation:

Of all the models listed, this onboard preamp requires invasive installation within the sides of the guitar. This is irreversible and we wouldn’t recommend on a vintage instrument.  

Sound quality and variable controls:

Includes more controls and frequency sculpting than the sound hole pickup.

Installation costs:

Will tend to be more expensive to install due to extra routing work required.


Cost Consideration and Conclusion

In conclusion, the Rare-Earth Blend sound hole pickup is priced at the lowest of all the models listed, and installation is the cheapest. However, the draw backs are within the controls.  Although the pickup sounds great, there isn’t as much scope to play with when compared to the other two listed. Plus the pickup itself could get in the way of your rhythm hand technique.


The Ellipse Aura Pickup and Preamp is the highest cost part, out of the three models and has the more variable sounds available when compared to the Rare Earth Blend. However, the controls are almost hidden and so they need careful attention when dialling in your sound.  Installation also costs more than the sound hole pickup, but not as invasive as the on board Presys+ Preamp.

Aesthetically speaking, you really would not know the Ellipse pickup had been installed, as it is so discretely hidden inside the sound hole rim.

The Presys + is the most cost – effective piece of kit on this list, and really is the most user-friendly pickup of all three. However, installation costs more than the other two, as it is a more involved job. Also the work needed to install the preamp is irreversible.

Though once installed, all the controls are in your line of sight and easily accessible. The tuner is really good too, and is very clearly visible in the dark. Which means that it’s one less piece of equipment to worry about when you’re out gigging. The E.Q and other controls are very usable and more than enough for getting a good live sound.


We hope this run down is helpful and guides you in choosing which system is the best fit.

If you would like to enquire about sourcing your own pickups and having us install them for you, please drop us an email here as we offer a supply and install service.



Leave a Comment