The LR Baggs Lyric acoustic guitar pickup/mic

I was intrigued by The LR Bagg's Lyric acoustic guitar pickup system as Ricky Skaggs was demoing it for LR Baggs on line. He raved about it, and from what I could hear through my computer speakers, it was... really good. I also believe a guy like Ricky is honest as the day is long, and he wouldn't get behind a product unless he believed in it. 

So I bought one. As I am a guitar tech of moderate talents, the install was very simple. 

Sound: Ok I have two opinions here. In plugging the Lyric into my little Fishman acoustic amp, I was knocked out how real this pickup sounded. Amazing in every way. I complain about the feel of amplified acoustic guitars often. The sound produced by the guitar played naturally is a direct connection of fingers - strings - sound board - your ears and the vibrations of holding the guitar. So much is normally lost when amplifying and acoustic guitar. It becomes an electric guitar in many aspects. With the Lyric, it was an amazing revelation. It was like playing with a great mic on a sound stage. I had a studio job to do that weekend and I went ahead and used the Lyric plugged directly into the digital converter. The sound was amazing. IT WAS MY GUITAR the way it sounds to me. The low strings were beautiful and dark but still present, while the trebles were tone-full and much as you would expect with a good dynamic mic. I was blown away as I had only dreamed of reproducing this sound through an amp. I used the guitar for every track as needed and was very pleased with the results. What a time saver. No setting up mics and remaining in one position while playing. What freedom! OK at this point I was in love, and it was spring time, and flowers.

Live: I use a Bose L1 Mark II line array PA system and a Martin HD-28 when performing. It is the best small PA for me, but that is another review. I foolishly drove off to my solo gig in a fairly busy lounge with out testing the pickup. I was horrified with the results I got upon first turning the PA on and plugging the guitar in w/EQ flat. It was thin, and toneless, and feeding back at every attempt to correct what I was getting. I had never experienced such a change in performance. OMG, I was in a mess. It was unusable and I had 45min to get it together. Nothing was working. Luckily my Bro in law was in the audience and we weren't to far from home. I had to ask for him to drive to my house and grab my trusty D18 with its K&K Western Pure pickup. He returned with the guitar and the gig went well, and the mission completed.

I then set the L1 up in my living room and began working on the Lyric. There had to be a mistake somewhere, on my behalf, and sure enough I had forgotten about the presence control. I turned it way down, and then began getting the tone that was my guitar. But try as I could, I could not recreate the success of the studio sounds I had been so pleased with. I found it very sensitive to feed back and the top of the guitar became a lightning rod for the unwanted sounds of holding the guitar. I could not get close to the volume and tone I needed to perform. There comes a place where the amount of EQ-ing becomes too complex. It is just not worth carrying a time bomb around with you, until you find yourself in a situation where the EQ just isn't available. Now I did not try bringing the Fishman amp and using the direct out to feed my PA. It is possible that using it may have created a more stable playing situation. I decided against it and removed the Lyric, sadly. 

Conclusion: This is an amazing tool for lower volume situations in unison with the same equipment on a regular basis. For studio applications it's a wonderful tool and makes life real simple, and with great results. I'm keeping my Lyric in its box on a shelf in my music room. It will come in handy for recording or maybe for another guitar. As for my main performing instrument, it requires a simple, great sounding solution. So far my best results have been the the LR Baggs M80 sound hole pickup, the LR Baggs I-Beam, and the K&K Western Pure Pickup. I have also had great results with two Beta 57 Mics, but only under certain circumstances.

I will soon write an entry on various systems for amplifying acoustic guitars, and how they work best for me. Until then, good luck with your guitar journey.

Bill Johnson

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