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Martin Natural I Pickup


By Todd Stuart Phillips

The folks at Fishman Transducers have done it again. The current version of their Martin Gold+Plus Natural 1, undersaddle, acoustic guitar pickup is an outstanding option for today's acoustic guitar player who needs to plug in but still provide a pleasing, acoustic guitar sound. I knew the pickup would be pretty good, I was not prepared for how good it turned out to be.
 
Fishman undersaddle pickups have come a long way from the passive version I had in my old, 1970s Martin D-18 and they have even made considerable improvements since I had an active Fishman pickup installed in a 1990s D-28. But I am an acoustic guitar player with the emphasis on acoustic. I have always said that I "hate pickups" and I have spent a great deal of money trying different kinds, undersaddle pickups, magnetic sound hole pickups, bridge plate sensor pickups, condenser mics and blender pickups, and tried a great many others that I did not pay for. But now I have come back to the basic Fishman undersaddle pickup.
 
The modern Fishman undersaddle pickup employs a co-polymer transmitter that fits into the bridge slot under the guitar's saddle and connects to an end-pin mounted preamp. The Natural 1 variety has the preamp tweaked to work best with guitars that have smaller bodies or at least are not overly boomy like scalloped-braced dreadnoughts and the like. Being an OM player it was the choice for me.
 
My reasons for installing this Fishman pickup in my exquisite Martin OMC-28B had to do with the fact I have acquired the new Fishman Aura preamp with its revolutionary guitar imaging technology. I knew that this expensive preamp had been designed specifically with the Fishman Gold+Plus pickups in mind, as well as the alternative Fishman Rare Earth, magnetic sound hole pickups. So I figured that however the Matrix Natural 1 pickup sounded the Aura was bound to make it sound all the better and I also wanted the Aura to meet its full potential. I immediately plugged in and went to work adjusting the settings on the Aura preamp, which was hooked up to my first class Trace Elliot acoustic guitar amp.
 
I really felt I may have been compromising my electric sound when it came to returning to undersaddle pickups. I was happy to find out this was not the case at all. As much as I like the potential of the Aura, what really floored me was how great the pickup sounds by itself. At first I could not believe it was the pickup all by itself, so I unplugged it from the Aura and put it directly into the amp. Without any EQ or reverb at all it sounded very, very good! The bass was full and the trebles singing. There was considerably less "pickup quack" than I have noticed in previous versions of Fishman pickups. I could not be happier when it comes to a simple but productive amplification solution to my expensive guitar.
 
Granted, it is still a pickup and will never sound the same as an expensive condenser microphone. But Larry Fishman and company have done a magnificent job getting the pickup-only signal to sound amazingly good. It speaks well of a company who has a large market share of the acoustic guitar amplification world when they continue to make improvements on their products long after they have already cornered much of that market.
 
The Martin Gold+Plus Natural 1, undersaddle, acoustic guitar pickup will make the ideal companion to my Aura preamp. I will continue to be a microphone only player when I can get away with. But the realities of on-stage playing often require me to plug in. Now I will have no problem at all just plugging into an amp or direct box when I do not have the time or inclination to go with a more complicated rig. As many excellent choices as there are out there when it comes to acoustic guitar pickups, Fishman's basic undersaddle pickup is clearly a worthy competitor and will continue to be a very popular choice.
 
Of a possible 8 notes on the T Spoon Scale of Guitaracity, I give the Martin Gold+Plus Natural I pickup an electrified 7 notes.
 

 
TSP, NYC
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