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5 Best Banjo Pickups, Buyer’s Guide

Need to amplify your banjo? Walk this way.

Here’s our pick of the best on the market. We’ve considered the quality of build, sound, and value for money.

Product Guide: 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 of your instrument.

Features:

  • Natural sound reproduction and feedback reduction
  • Easy to install and remove, with a directional, adjustable gooseneck
  • Internally powered, active preamp
  • Can be used on a variety of instruments

Fishman Classic Series

Fishman makes 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 doing, it might be a little tricky to install on your own, so professional installation is recommended.

Features:

  • 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.

Features:

  • Wooden sensor casing
  • Lightweight and unobtrusive
  • Unobtrusive and easy to install

Gold Tone SMP+ Sliding Magnetic Pickup for Banjo

This Gold Tone SMP+ 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 pickup should be, to suit your sound the best.

Features:

  • Deep sound
  • Easy to install
  • No feedback

EMG ACB-5 Active 5 String Banjo Pickup

Professionals favor this pickup, 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.

Features:

  • Easy to install
  • Extremely natural sounding
  • Superior build quality

Buyer’s Tips: Key Considerations

Pickups can fit almost any type of banjo. There are broadly three different kinds of pickup: piezo, magnetic, and microphone:

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.

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About Ged Richardson

Ged Richardson is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of ZingInstruments.com. He has been featured in Entrepreneur, PremierGuitar, Hallmark, Wanderlust, CreativeLive, and other major publications. As an avid music fan, he spends his time researching and writing about new and old music, as well as testing and reviewing music-related products. He's played guitar in various bands, from rock to gypsy jazz. Be sure to check out his YouTube channel, where he geeks out about his favorite bands.

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