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LR Baggs HiFi Pickup System
 
Dual bridge plate sensors and an onboard preamp yield a natural sound for steel-string flattops.
May 10, 2023
 

Founded by luthier and electronics wiz Lloyd Baggs, L.R. Baggs is a leading maker of amplification solutions for acoustic instruments. Products like the Para Acoustic D.I., M1, Anthem, and Radius are just a few of the company’s products that can rightfully claim classic status. L.R. Baggs has long covered all the common approaches to guitar amplification, with undersaddle, magnetic, and soundboard-mounted pickups, as well as internal mics. And for more than 20 years, the L.R. Baggs iBeam has been a favorite of guitarists who need a pickup that senses the top’s vibrations at the bridge plate. The company has recently introduced a new bridge-plate pickup system called the HiFi, which has a universal fit, allowing it to be installed in guitars with a bridge plate that doesn’t have enough space for the larger iBeam. L.R. Baggs sent me one of the first production-run HiFis installed in a Martin OM-21, and in this video, I demo the pickup in the Peghead Nation studio, where I plugged it into an AER Compact 60 amp and also recorded it directly. 

The HiFi consists of a pair of plastic-encased sensors, an endpin-mounted preamp, and a volume and tone control unit that installs at the edge of the soundhole. The system is powered by a nine-volt battery that attaches inside the guitar with a hook-and-loop fastener. The entire system comes pre-wired, and no soldering is required. The pickups themselves attach with special 3M peel-and-stick tape, and L.R. Baggs says that using this adhesive, rather than other kinds of glue, is crucial to the HiFi’s performance. Proper installation is paramount in making any pickup sound its best, and for many guitarists, the job is best left to a professional. However, the HiFi’s installation is relatively straight-forward, and if the guitar already has an endpin hole large enough to hold a jack, no permanent modifications are required. (Guitars that have never had a pickup installed may need to have the endpin hole enlarged, which is a job for a good tech!) L.R. Baggs includes a clever jig that allows positioning the pickups directly under the saddle area without interfering with the bridge pins and without guesswork or using mirrors during installation. Patient guitarists who have some experience working on their instruments should be able to install the HiFi without too much difficulty. 

I played the HiFi-equipped Martin in several settings, including in my home studio, at an outdoor restaurant gig, and in the Peghead Nation studio. I’ve tested and heard many different kinds of soundboard pickups over the years, and I’ve usually found that the guitar they’re installed in as well as the playing setting and volume requirements can have a greater impact on the pickup’s performance than they do with other pickups. I was pleased to find that the HiFi offers very easy plug-and-play performance. At home and in the studio, I got very pleasing results by plugging directly into my AER amp, which didn’t really require any further tweaking. At the gig, my AER was supplemented by a Fishman SA-330x PA, and I was playing in a duo, at relatively high volume. In this setting, the tunable mid control and notch filter on my Para Acoustic D.I. was useful in dialing in the most natural sound, and that only took a few seconds. In all settings, the HiFi impressed me with its ability to reproduce string attack in a natural and musical way. String-to-string balance was also excellent, and the pickup allowed for a deeper bass response than other soundboard transducers without becoming tubby or beginning to feed back.

In the video demo, I start by playing both fingerstyle and with a flatpick while recording a combination of the amp sound and a direct signal, which is similar to what a listener would hear in a typical performance setting. In order to demonstrate the pickup’s direct sound, I wrap the demo up by turning off the studio mics and recording only the D.I. signal. 

Without question, the HiFi is not only a great addition to L.R. Baggs’s existing pickup options, it is also one of the best bridge plate–mounted pickups on the market. L.R. Baggs has taken a lot of the guesswork out of installing the pickups, and its custom preamp means that the HiFi not only has a strong output signal, it is also fine-tuned to produce a pleasing, natural sound. Today’s guitarists have a lot of options for great-sounding pickups, but if a natural attack, the ability to capture an instrument’s individual voice, and non-invasive installation are high on your list of criteria, the HiFi should definitely be considered!

SPECS:

Pickup system for steel-string flattop guitars. Dual bridge plate–mounted sensors. High-fidelity endpin preamp. Onboard volume and tone control. Powered by a nine-volt battery. $199. 

lrbaggs.com

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    ● Courses
    ● Live Workshops
    ● Instructors
    ● Sample Lessons
    ● Notation Guide
    ● For Beginners
 
 
    ● Vintage Vault
    ● New Gear
    ● Fine Lutherie
 
 
    ● Workshops
    ● Advice
    ● Repertoire
 
 
    ● Recordings
    ● Events
    ● Breaking News
 
 
    ● In The Studio
    ● Live Onstage
    ● Backroom
 
 
    ● New Products
    ● Inside Look
    ● Performances
    ● Partner Pages
 
 
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