What is the difference between passive and active acoustic guitar pickups?

In addition to choosing a good guitar, buying a high-quality Amp, Pickup is also the most important factor to create good and standard melodies for acoustic guitars.

Each different type of Pickup will convey a different tone, and the properties of the wood and strings must also be considered before choosing a pickup for your guitar.

Besides, checking some product reviews and details on the manufacturer’s website, today’s article will introduce you to some basics about what is the difference between passive and active acoustic guitar pickup.

What is a good pickup for the acoustic guitar?

When choosing Pickup, first you need to clearly define the tone you find interesting, suitable or desired.

The tone you want will determine what type of Pickup you will buy.

Most of the current Pickup types are Passive types, designed as a small generator.

With the standard pickup, the design consists of a magnet wrapped with copper wire.

The passive Pickup line has very small voltage, usually, you will see the passive pickup design runs between 350mv – 600mv or so.

A really good pickup will not distort the sound of the guitar or affect the operation of the amp.

But each of Pickup’s different designs and materials will determine the tone it produces.

Passive pickups use different magnets made from groups of materials such as ceramic, steel or AlNiCo (AlNiCo is an abbreviation for aluminum, nickel, and Cobalt).

Each type will produce its own unique and distinctive melody.

AlNiCo pickup includes several types, namely: II, III, V and VIII, this classification is based on the ratio of aluminum, nickel, and Cobalt in alloys.

The AlNiCo III pickup is often used in Stratocasters, Type II produces a softer but not like Type III.

The lNiCo V pickup for sharper, more powerful tunes, more resonant and brighter than Type II and Type III.

Basic types of Acoustic Pickup

There are many things to consider before buying a new acoustic guitar, such as brand, model and age, ability to play, feeling, but some players have other questions, such as passive pickup or active pickup.

And, in fact, a lot of guitar players don’t know the difference between these two types of pickups, or the better choice for their acoustic guitars.

Basically, Pickup is divided into 2 types: passive and active. In particular, the Active type uses batteries to power the Pickup, so the sound is strong and keeps the sound quality over time.

Passive designs, wrapped copper wire are the deciding factor of output. The larger the number of copper wires, the higher the ability to transmit any guitar vibrations to the speakers.

The Active type uses larger wires so the frequency response is very wide. Of the two types, the Active provides a clearer sound than the Passive type.

Pickup also has many forms such as The common form is P (precision); J (jazz); Soapbar…

P-style pickup: based on Fender’s Precision Bass model, i.e. 2 cores in succession (similar to humbucker) but short and unequal position.

J-style pickup: originally a Single Coil pickup based on fender jazz bass.

There is also a Humcanceling, which is a pickup divided into two parts, one after another similar to the P Pickup but looks exactly like the Traditional J Pickup.

Humbucker( Buck the Hum) is a type of pickup with 2 cores connected in series and placed in parallel.

Music Man Stingray is the first bass to use this popular type of Pickup so it is called MM style.

Nowadays, MM Style doesn’t mean 2 cores as it used to be, it could be 3 cores (tri-coils) or even quad-coils.

Lakland and Bartolini are the only commercially available MM 3 and 4 core cores in the market

Soarphar pickup: It could be Single Coil, it could be Dual Coils (Bucker style or P Style), or tri-coils, even Quad-coils.

Referring to the EMG Pickup line of Bass will see it many types of pickup look exactly the same, but the core layout is different.

What is the difference between passive and active acoustic guitar pickups?


The main difference between active and passive pickup is the way of powering, the active pickup uses one or two 9V batteries to power the bass guitar signal through a pre-amp before sending the signal.

The effect of the bass is through the amplifier, while the passive pickup is sent directly out.

The basic difference of active pickup is that you always need to have a few 9v batteries around, especially during the show, the bass sound can be suddenly cut off in the middle of the performance.

The 9v battery is not very expensive, but it can run out at any time depending on how many guitars you play and maybe even the year with some models.


When the passive pickup sends sound directly out, it usually uses a larger magnet to catch the sound of the strings.

As a result, the sound will be warmer, more convincing than most active pickups, but it also picks up sounds like noise so if that is the case you need it clean the piano regularly with oxide solution to remove dirt, take good care of the instrument to reduce the noise when used.

Active pickup sends sound to the pre-amp, so you’ll have more control than just the bass and treble keys. If you use Bass guitar, you can have tens of options, so if you want to customize the sound, an active pickup can give you more options.

Final words

Hopefully, our above share about “What is the difference between passive and active acoustic guitar pickups?” has helped you to gain an overview and useful knowledge about pickups of acoustic guitars. Stay tuned for the next posts!

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