7. What About Electronics?
Don’t bother getting an acoustic guitar with a built-in pickup, you can always add that later.
Sooner or later in your guitar buying adventure, someone is going to mention the idea of getting a guitar with a pickup system built in. What is a pickup system you ask? Well like the pickups on an electric guitar, an acoustic pickup system is used to amplify the sound of the acoustic guitar. Having a built-in pickup allows a guitarist to plug his or her guitar into an amplifier, PA or recording system without using a microphone, which can be a hassle sometimes. Most acoustic guitar pickup systems have a built-in volume control and EQ (equalizer) and even a tuner. This might sound like a great idea, but there are a couple of reasons we recommend against getting a guitar with a built-in pickup system as your first guitar.
The first reason is very simple: you don’t need it! When you are first starting out playing guitar, you’re highly unlikely to run into a situation where you are going to have to amplify your acoustic guitar. Acoustic guitars put out plenty of volume, enough that you should comfortably be able to sing along or play with someone else without any concerns.
The second reason has to do with quality. We mentioned earlier that you should be looking at guitars in the $200-$400 price range, and if someone is showing you a guitar with a built-in pickup within this price range, I would have some serious questions about the quality of the pickup system or the guitar itself. Typically if you see a guitar with a pickup in this price range you can expect one of two things: A) a poor-quality guitar with an OK pickup or B) an OK guitar with a poor-quality pickup system. You would be better served by buying the best guitar you can find within your budget and if you find down the road that you need a pickup, you can have one installed. Companies like L.R. Baggs, Fishman and MJS Custom make great sounding pickups that suit a wide range of budgets and can be installed by your local guitar tech. By going this route you will be sure that you are getting both a quality guitar and a quality pickup system, rather than having to make a choice between the two.