While guitars get most of the limelight when it comes to popular string instruments, ask anyone who has learned how to play the banjo and they’ll tell you how awesome this instrument is.
But what do you do if you need to amp up a banjo to play alongside an amped-up band?
Well, that’s the subject of this article. We’ve considered the quality of build, quality of sound and value for money in our reviews of the best banjo pickups on the market today.
At a Glance – Our Choice Of The Best Banjo Pickups On The Market
- The Feather with Flexible Micro-Gooseneck Pickup
- Fishman Classic Series
- KNA BP-1 Piezo Pickup
- Gold Tone SMP+
- EMG ACB-5 Active 5 String
Note: Clicking the above links will take you to further information on Amazon.
Product Roundup & Reviews – Best Banjo Pickups
The Feather with Flexible Micro-Gooseneck Pickup
The Feather is a super lightweight pickup (hence the name ‘feather’) and offers natural sound reproduction and feedback reduction.
It’s incredibly versatile – you can clip it on in a matter of seconds, and then adjust the mic’s ‘gooseneck’ to wherever you think makes it sound best.
There’s a small volume control, so you can really take charge of how much your instrument cuts through. And with this pickup, it will cut through.
It has an internally powered, active preamp that brings out the richness from your instrument.
- Natural sound reproduction and feedback reduction
- Easy to install and remove, with a directional, adjustable gooseneck
- Internally powered, active preamp which brings out the richness from your instrument
- Can be used on a variety of instruments
Fishman Classic Series
Fishman make superb quality pickups, and this one is no exception.
This one has a quiet humbucking coil and a powerful neodymium magnet assembly. It has a built-in preamp that’s been specially designed to strengthen and preserve the natural sound of your banjo.
You can fit in on dual-coordinator rod banjos and can be modified to fit single-rod banjos.
The one downside is installation. Unless you know what you’re going, it might be a little tricky to install on your own so professional installation is recommended.
- Quiet humbucking coil and a powerful neodymium magnet
- Built-in preamp that preserves the natural sound of your banjo
- Quality build
KNA BP-1 Piezo Pickup
If you’re on a budget, this pickup is a good choice. Encased in lightweight tonewood, it’s lightweight and unobtrusive.
No modification to the bridge of your banjo is necessary with this one – you simply put the BP-1 sensor on the upper side of the bridge and trail the wire to the base of the banjo, which makes it really easy to install.
It easily detaches too (or can remain installed when not in use) and accepts a standard 1/4′ cable.
- Wooden sensor casing
- Lightweight and unobtrusive
- Unobtrusive and easy to install
Gold Tone SMP+ Sliding Magnetic Pickup for Banjo
The Gold Tone pickup is magnetic, and though it’s not as easy to install as The Feather, it’s still not tricky and can be done with a screwdriver and a spanner.
It’s a humbucker, which helps the banjo keep its deep resonance once amplified, and this also means it works without a pre-amp: just plug it straight in.
It’s height-adjustable, so you can choose how far from the head this pick up should be, to suit your sound the best.
- Deep sound
- Easy to install
- No feedback
EMG ACB-5 Active 5 String Banjo Pickup
This pickup is favored by professionals, and – like the Gold Tone – is a magnetic humbucker that can be installed by yourself, using a few basic tools.
Its build quality is superior and innovative: the coils are spaced apart from each other which creates an additional acoustic quality and more resonance than any banjo pickup achieved before it.
This one has a steep price tag, but the professionals use it for a reason.
- Easy to install
- Extremely natural sounding
- Superior build quality
Buyer’s Tips: Key Considerations
Pickups can be fitted to almost any type of banjo. There are broadly three different kinds of pickup: piezo, magnetic and microphone pickups:
- Piezo pickups tend to be budget-friendly and great for people just starting out with the banjo.
- Magnetic pickups offer a higher quality of sound and less risk of feedback
- Microphone pickups are excellent for controllability and versatility
Ease of installation, feedback reduction, and quality of sound and construction are all things that are important to look for when buying a pickup.
If you are looking for ease of installation, look for pickups that don’t require drilling.
For feedback reduction, it’s best to go magnetic.
Quality of sound can be more personal, but if you want the natural resonance of your instrument to remain, then a bridge pick up may suit you best, and if you want even more emphasis on the banjo’s chunkiness, you may wish to go for a humbucker.
So, Which Should I Buy?
Our top pick is The Feather. Natural sound reproduction, easy to install and remove, and a directional, adjustable gooseneck. Includes an internally powered, active preamp to brings out the natural tones of your banjo.
If you’re on a budget, go with the BP-1 piezo pickup from KNA. It’s easy to fit and unobtrusive when in place, with decent quality wooden sensor casing, and very light. For the price, it’s superb value, and less than half the price of the others.
Finally, if you want to go premium, go with the Fishman. With a quiet humbucking coil and powerful neodymium magnet assembly, it can fit dual-coordinator rod and single-rod banjos. It simply oozes quality!