Any guitar player is bound to meet challenges in performances wherein good amplification is a must. Be it for weddings or orchestral concerts, making a classical guitar’s sound loud and clear is a task to be reckoned with. Fortunately over the years, technology has made leaps and bounds in producing a myriad of options and ways of amplification.
The first step to proper amplification is to decide on whether to have an instrument dedicated to performances, or to use only one guitar for all situations. For the latter choice, especially if the guitar is expensive, the installation of a pickup should be decided against the possible impact on the unplugged sound. Moreover, the potential effect on the resale value should be considered, if you’re the type who sells to upgrade.
The next step is to choose the best acoustic pickup for your classical or nylon string guitar. There are several types to choose from, and you can check out specific examples of each kind of acoustic guitar pickup at GLM. Here, I’ll discuss only my personal preference as well as the popular choice for most people.
Piezo pickups are the go to choice for most people, but I’m unfortunately not one of them. Over the years, I’ve observed that putting anything below the saddle tends to change the tonal response of a guitar. Furthermore, most undersaddle pickups are made to work hand in hand with internal preamps. This is an additional turn off for me, as I’ve observed that even the most discreet preamps will affect a classical guitar’s responsiveness and resonance. Moreover, a majority of piezos produce a sound that can be described as quacky and compressed.
My personal choice is the soundboard transducer (SBT), which is also placed inside a guitar, but is only attached to the bridgeplate’s underside or to a brace. SBTs are more sensitive to feedback compared with undersaddle pickups, but they produce a more organic sound. When installed properly, SBTs will keep a classical guitar almost untouched save for the endpin jack addition.