Jumbo Sunshade - Blogpost

 
Kent Armstrong AGS1 single-coil acoustic guitar pickup
- buyer beware!
 
In 2004 i bought a cheap magnetic soundhole pickup for one of my acoustic guitars.  I already knew that it wouldn't sound acoustic, but i thought it might be cool with slide and through a practice amp.

That pickup was an Abilene PU100 that i got from American Musical Supply for around $25 (i think).  I have put electric guitar pickups into acoustic guitars many times over the years, and i can say honestly that this Abilene "acoustic guitar" pickup sounded far worse than any of my acoustic/electric 'modifications'.

The PU100 was un-modified for use with acoustic guitar strings.  Just like an electric guitar pickup, the Abilene's string-to-string balance was completely uneven, with the B string louder by several dB.  And since this is a sealed pickup, there's not a darn thing you can do about it.

The first PU100 i got from AMS was missing this little clip that holds it in.  Also, the volume knob was scratchy, and the tone knob was scratchy and didn't actually affect the tone at all.  This pickup was so bad that it was really kindof funny.

[zZounds still has the Abilene 'discontinued' page up, and it's actually very highly rated.  So maybe it's just me.]

I called AMS and they sent me another, telling me to keep the one i had.  The replacement that they sent was even MORE scratchy than the original.  At this point i wanted to send them both back, and the customer service guy was really cool, but insisted that i let them send me yet another, which he would personally make sure was a brand new (unused/unreturned) pickup.

AMS refunded my money and i got to keep all three of these really awful pickups.  For my trouble, i sold two on eBay for $10 and $5 (one without the clip).  I kept the third which i know is buried in the studio somewhere with all of the other stuff i'll never use but never throw away or sell.

Fast-forward to this year (2008).  Kent Armstrong is a pickup designer.  He started out working with Bill Lawrence.  On his own website, it is said that "Today, Kent is one of the foremost pickup designers in the industry...".

"Foremost"?  What are they saying there?

So, WD Music Products is the sole distributor of Kent Armstrong pickups in the US.  Here's a link to a Kent Armstrong single-coil acoustic guitar pickup.  Yes, it's the exact same crappy pickup i bought back in 2004.  Except that it doesn't say "Abilene" and it now goes for $90.  $90!  Wow.

So i don't know if Kent Armstrong had owned Abilene before, or acquired it recently, but it's definitely the same pickup.  What i think is probably going on is the same thing that happens with the Chinese-made microphones (referred to in the recording industry as re-badging).  A Chinese manufacturer produces cookie-cutter products that anyone can buy; they just put your logo on it before shipping.

Now it makes me wonder about Kent Armstrong's other pickups.  I mean, if they're not really his designs i guess i still don't care.  But to sell such a low-end product for so much money?  I paid at least $60 less for this same pickup four years ago... That is one crazy profit margin!

 

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