This page contains recorded samples of different acoustic guitar pickups.
Note: I recorded each pickup directly into a digital recorder so you can hear what the pickup itself sounds like. Except for those tracks that are specifically labeled, no EQ or processing was applied. All of these pickups can sound dramatically better with some EQ (feel free to download the files and experiment yourself) and almost always sound better through an amplifier than when heard directly. However, recording them directly is the only way to have a level playing field and not have my room acoustics or other gear affect the results.
To view the tests, click on a type of pickup, then a brand of pickup, and finally a specific test. Players will appear to allow you to listen to the recordings. You can also download any file from the players. Feel free to download those you are interested in. I'd suggest playing them through your own amplification setup, to get a better - tho still imperfect - idea of how the pickup might sound in your own use.
Trying to form judgements based on direct recorded samples of pickups can be challenging. Any of these pickups may sound quite different in your own guitar, with you playing, and thru your amplification setup. Amps and speakers can have an enormous impact, as can even the room you are playing in. Keep in mind that some of the most natural sounding pickups on recordings like this may not translate as well in the real world. Soundboard pickups (SBTs) and mics are more prone to feedback, for example than undersaddle (UST) or Magnetic pickups. Feedback is often a major concern, depending on how loud your stage volume is.
You can, however, glean some information from these tests to narrow down the list of pickups you might be interested in. Listen to things like string balance and attack. Players who play percussively will want to pay special attention to the tapping example - do the body taps come out cleanly (or at all?). If you play rhythm guitar, does the strumming example sound "quacky"? Note that I am not an especially aggressive strummer, and very hard strumming can aggravate the "quack" sound of many pickups.
In some cases, I have the same pickup installed in multiple guitars. Comparing these may give you some idea how much the guitar choice may affect the sound of the pickup, or possibly how much variation there can be between multiple performances.
Listening to these samples through your own gear - not just your computer or phone, can also give you a better idea of how a pickup may sound. If you download the samples and play them back through your PA or amplifier you can also add EQ or effects to better match your playing style and situation.
My Personal Amplification Setups
People often ask me, after doing all these test recordings, what pickup(s) I actually use. I'll answer that question, and demo my setup here: