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Our picks are divided into several price ranges, so you shouldn’t have trouble finding something that fits your budget. With that said, let’s get started with our first pickup:
Fishman Classic Series Banjo Pickup
Fishman has been among the leaders in the field of pickups for acoustic instruments for decades now. For that reason, it’s no wonder that a brand of their caliber offers some of the best solutions in terms of banjo amplification. The Fishman Classic Series humbucker is a very compact pup that fits perfectly on the coordinator rod inside your instrument.
One of the great things about this type of design is the ability to move the pickup and find that perfect tone (see full specs). It will require a single 3V battery, which will last you a very long time. In terms of sound quality, you can expect to hear a near perfect rendition of your banjo’s natural tone. The main benefit of going to Fishman as a brand is the level of quality and technology that goes into their pickups. This Classic Series pickup does everything you might need it to in professional environments and recording studios. The only real issue with this model is the price. However, those who will accept no compromises will find a setup like this one to be a great investment.
Gold Tone SMP+
Gold Tone offers a very similar package as the one we have just talked about. Their SMP+ pickup also utilizes the coordinating rod as a mounting system, and allows you to slide the pickup along the said rod. For the most part, the performance is pretty similar to the Fishman kit. There is a lot of color in the tone and the amp will sound off a pretty accurate rendering of your banjo’s natural tone. The kit (see full specs) contains everything you need to fully convert the banjo into an electric one.
There’s your pickup, an output jack that comes with a matching mounting plate, reasonable length of wire and a naturally all the nuts and screws. The installation process is easy, requires no significant adjustments being made to the instrument and the whole thing can be done within an hour. The only thing you should pay attention to is the placement of the pickup. Different banjos will naturally yield different results, but the position of the pickup can still enhance your experience significantly. That being said, this is one of the best banjo pickups around.
Schatten BJ-02 Player Series Banjo Pickup
Now that we have covered some more permanent solutions, let’s check out an easy setup that can be attached or taken off a banjo in a matter of seconds. The Schatten BJ-02 Player Series pickup comes in a very compact package. The whole thing is relatively stealthy and takes little to no space at all. You can mount the BJ-02 on just about any banjo, regardless of its size or string configuration.
One cool thing about this pickup is the fact that you don’t need to do any additional wiring or soldering. The output jack is found on the same piece of framework where the pickup is mounted, so everything goes together. Speaking of pickup placement, it’s best to put it on the underside area, right on the head. This way the pickups sits comfortably at the foot of the bridge, and is able to pick every subtle detail with great clarity. Hands down, it’s among the best banjo pickups for the money.
SUNYIN Transducer Acoustic Guitar Pickup
Last but not least we have a very inexpensive, basic solution that is easy to use and even easier to install. SUNYIN Transducer is a system that was designed for a variety of acoustic instruments. You can mount it on acoustic guitars, banjos, violins, you name it. The entire setup is housed in a compact plastic disc. To mount this pickup, all you have to do is apply a noninvasive adhesive to the instrument and press the pickup firmly until the adhesive has set in properly.
Removal is pretty much the reverse of the process we’ve just described. In terms of sound quality, you are looking at a decent amount of tradeoffs and compromises. This type of pickup won’t give you that professional grade quality, but it’s more than perfect for practice. If you want to learn what your banjo sounds like when it’s amplified, SUNYIN offers this inexpensive solution to that problem. If you are working on a tight budget, this is about as good as it gets out there at the moment.
Conclusion – So What Makes the Best Banjo Pickups?
The banjo is one of those traditional instruments that is coming back in style. As it is the case with other acoustic instruments, banjos have received their own set of pickups rather quickly once technology is allowed. Since then, we have seen a whole line of pickups designed for this instrument in particular. So, no matter how strict your criteria is, chances are you will find something that works perfectly for you.
The pickups that we have listed in this guide are pretty great at doing their job, and will allow you to use your banjo in situations where some sort of amplification is necessary. Some of these are more expensive than others and some are pretty cheap, but “cheap” is only seen in a reduction in price, not quality (these are all terrific pickups period). Try to figure out what types of applications you have in mind and choose the one that best fits that framework. Good luck!