EMG are rightfully known for their revolutionary active pickups for electric guitar, which are used by players as diverse as David Gilmour, Steve Lukather, Reb Beach, Zakk Wylde and James Hetfield, so it makes sense that they apply their active technology to acoustic pickups too. Active pickups have characteristically high headroom, which is especially handy for maintaining the fidelity of a clean guitar.
With only a single volume control on the pickup itself, this is a very simple system. There’s no particular need for bells and whistles like EQ, limiting, feedback elimination or a tuner.
The first thing I noticed with this pickup was the healthy dose of high end. This is especially good news for fingerpickers who need absolute note definition, and for strummers who need their pick attack to cut through the mix. If the treble is a bit too much, EMG suggests removing some or all of the pole pieces altogether. I like this very practical and straightforward way of customising the response of the pickup, and it feels a bit more ‘real’ than simply attacking the problem with outboard gear.
I kinda wish I had a guitar on hand with a piezo pickup in the bridge too, because a lot of companies now are combining different kinds of pickup in the one acoustic guitar, and it would be interesting to see how the ACS sounds when combined with the timbre of an undersaddle pickup, and to compare the two, because while piezo pickups are typically very high-end-heavy, it’s a different type of treble and attack to that of the ACS. The ACS definitely sounds more natural and realistic, and doesn’t need a whole bunch of processors and controls to do so.
This pickup is a good option for those who want a more natural sound from their acoustic than a piezo can typically provide, and it’s easy to install and customize. It may not sound as authentic as micing your acoustic up in the studio with top-flight microphones, but in terms of stage use, practicality and reproducibility it’s a very attractive option.