Founded in 2004, Mi-Si Electronics Design is a relative newcomer to the acoustic-guitar amplification world. Based in Massachusetts, Mi-Si makes several pickup systems, some based on undersaddle designs and others using magnetic-pickup technology. But there is one noteworthy feature in all of Mi-Siâ€™s products: instead of using a battery to power active electronics, the company relies on rechargeable technology, which is more friendly to the environment and avoids the hassle of replacing batteries. Mi-Siâ€™s original Acoustic Duo 2 magnetic pickup won an Acoustic Guitar Playerâ€™s Choice Award in 2011, and the company recently released an updated version, the Magpie, which I had a chance to check out.
Small & Lightweight
The Magpie is the same shape and size as the original Acoustic Duo 2, but instead of the distinctive brass housing, it uses a more conventional black-plastic enclosure around its single-coil design.
The Magpie also has some new features: rather than using an output cable that is permanently attached, the unit has a minijack on the treble side that can be connected to either a standard strap-button jack installed in the guitar or a longer cable for temporary installation.
The Magpie also includes controls for volume and tone; theyâ€™re mounted side-by-side on the bottom of the unit and accessible through the soundhole.
Like many other soundhole pickups, the Mi-Si mounts with a simple clamping mechanism on each end of the pickupâ€”small pieces of cork protect the guitarâ€™s top from the brackets. To install it temporarily, with its cable hanging out of the soundhole, all youâ€™ll need is a Phillips-head screwdriver. I installed the Magpie with the included wiring harness (which includes a minijack for the pickup on one end, and an endpin jack on the other) in a Taylor 712c. Because this guitar already had its endpin hole enlarged to fit a jack from a previous pickup installation, I just needed a small crescent wrench to tighten the endpin jack. If you have a guitar that doesnâ€™t yet have a hole large enough for a jack, it would be wise to leave the installation to a professional.
Charging the pickup is simple. Mi-Si comes with a wall-wartâ€“style power supply with a standard 1/4-inch TRS (tip, ring, sleeve) plug on the end of its cable. Inserting it into the pickupâ€™s output jack for about 60 seconds provides enough charge for eight hours. However, that isnâ€™t just playing time, but total time between charges, as the pickupâ€™s capacitors will only hold their charge for a limited time. Realistically, this means youâ€™ll need to charge the pickup every day you plan to use it. If you forget your charger and find yourself with a dead pickup, you can use a TRS cable and
a nine-volt battery to charge the system by holding the contacts of the battery to the end of the jack (Mi-Si provides instructions for this procedure in the pickupâ€™s manual), but since few guitarists use 1/4-inch TRS cables as part of their setup (theyâ€™re typically used as part of a stereo or two-pickup system), itâ€™s a good idea to plan ahead.
Clear, Magnetic-Style Tone
I played my Magpie-equipped Taylor through an AER Compact 60 amp as well as my home studio setup, which includes a Mackie 1202 mixer and M-Audio BX-5 speakers. In both cases, the pickup delivered clear sound with the typical soft attack and great low-end response that are trademarks of high-quality magnetic pickups. A slight upper-midrange accentuation gave the unit a definite pickup soundâ€”the Magpie is not likely to fool anyone into thinking the guitar is being amplified with a microphone. But the kind of assertiveness and clarity offered by a magnetic pickup are required in many situations, especially when playing with a band or at high volume, and the Magpie delivers these qualities in spades. It was also very resistant to feedback, and its single-coil design is surprisingly quiet. Mi-Si says that its unique planar-coil design is less susceptible to AC hum, and judging by the sound of the Magpie, Iâ€™d say this design is really effective. The unitâ€™s volume and tone controls worked well, but I would have preferred to have the controls reversed, with the volume control in the more easily reached position near the edge of the soundhole.
Overall, the Mi-Si Magpie is a cool addition to the current crop of magnetic acoustic pickups. The rechargeable active design is unique to Mi-Si, the Magpie is among the smallest soundhole pickups available, and its onboard controls add useful functionality.
Specs Planar single-coil design.
Active, capacitor-powered electronics.
Volume and tone controls. 1 Kohm output.
4 1/8 inches x 1/2 inch x 1 1/8 inches.
Includes AC charger and wiring harness
with prewired endpin jack. Made in USA.
Price $244.95 list/$186 street
Excerpted from Acoustic Guitar February 2014