L.R. Baggs M1 Active Review

A few weeks back I bought the new L.R. Baggs M1 Active acoustic guitar pickup. Because this pickup is relatively new, I had a difficult time finding information and user reviews on the web, but I decided to take the plunge based on the good buzz surrounding this product. Here are a few of my impressions so far.

Installation was easy. The M1 seats on the edge of the soundhole and is secured by two screws. There is no padding between the pickup and the guitar but it looks like the surface of the pickup is smooth and, unless over-tightened, shouldn’t mar the finish of the guitar. Baggs suggests that the area could be padded with small pieces of cork, noting that this will deaden the response of the pickup. Assuming your endpin hole has already been drilled out, the pre-wired endpin jack can be installed in a snap. Because you have to put most of your arm inside the guitar to connect the endpin jack, you’ll at least need to loosen the strings significantly, if not restring, for the install. Also, if your endpin hole needs to be hollowed out, find a qualified guitar tech with the proper tools to do this for you.

First Impressions
So far, I’ve really enjoyed the pickup. It definitely adds the warmth that I’ve missed with my undersaddle piezo and soundboard transducer systems. The magnetic sound of the pickup is enhanced by the fact that the pickup also reproduces the vibrations of the guitar top. This gives the sense that you are listening to something close to a dual source soundhole pickup/soundboard transducer system. The individual pole pieces can be raised or lowered to adjust string balance, and adjusted for the balance between the strings and the body signals. (The the closer the pole pieces are set to the strings the less you’ll notice the resonance of the body and vice-versa.) For the first couple of days I left the pole pieces alone and played with the pickup as it came shipped, which was fine but after some tinkering, I decided that I preferred the pole pieces just sligtly higher than the preset position. Baggs also includes extra pole pieces for different types of strings, but I haven’t used these at all yet. Also, the 2nd string pole piece is set really low. So low, infact, that I actually thought that there wasn’t one down in there for a while.

Because the pickup is active (Baggs even provided a spare battery- nice!) there is no need for an outboard preamp to raise the signal level. This suits me just fine because I hate to use any more outboard electronics than necessary. There is also an on-board volume control which the older, passive M1 model does not have. I love this feature because I perform wireless and often move too far away from the board for quick level adjustments. I think most guitarists will want to EQ the sound a bit, but otherwise the pickup sounds great right out of the box. The M1 is extremely quiet although there is some faint noise which is easily masked by the playing sound, and I have rarely experienced feedback, but it usually occurs at high frequencies and seems to be coming more from the body vibrations than from the strings.

There are only a few things that I don’t like about the M1. First the color. Not the tonal color, the color color. I know that this is superficial and silly, but the cream-colored pickup really calls attention to itself as it sits in the usually dark soundhole. I suppose that this may be the point – to raise the “visibility” of the pickup on stage. Still, I would have preferred dark brown or black myself. Musically, my one major gripe is that 5th fret harmonics don’t seem to ring out with as much clarity as I’d like to hear. I think this may be due to the placement of the pickup along the length of the strings. Unfortunately, this is not adjustable for the time being. I once saw a photo of David Wilcox with a Sunrise pickup mounted “upside-down” in the soundhole. In other words, in the lower portion of the soundhole, turned 180 degrees so that the 1st string pole is now under the 6th string. This might be an experiment worth trying, but I’d have to remove all of the polepieces and reinstall them in reverse order. I’ll update if I ever try it.

I’m very pleased with the M1 Active and would strongly recommend it to anyone. The M1 is a great sounding system with minimal installation and setup hassles. One final plug: I was not able to find a local retailer who carried the M1 so I ordered online from Shoreline Music. I had never ordered form Shoreline before, but these guys had a great price, no shipping and handling charges. and were responsive to my email, and I will be sure to remember them the next time I can’t find what I need locally.

Well, I did rotate the pickup to the lower half of the soundhole and the 5th fret harmonics now ring out loud and clear. In order to keep the correct type of pole pieces under the strings, I then had to switch the 1st and 2nd pole pieces with the 5th and 6th. I’m not sure I have the height adjusted to my liking yet but it definitely works. When screwing the poles into their new positions I felt some resistance, so I called Baggs to make sure swapping the pole pieces wouldn’t cause any problems. Not only is it safe, but swapping the poles is how the pickup can be customized for left-handed instruments. Unfortunately, this move put the pickup directly under my right hand and causes a nasty noise anytime my nails or pick hit it, so I ended up reverting to the original pickup position.

37 thoughts to “L.R. Baggs M1 Active Review”

  1. Hello,
    I also have the new M1 Active, and I like it because it is so easy to get a strong sound out of it and cause you don`t need a pre-amp xtra.(I love the creamy color of it.It add some vintage feel I think)however the sound of the pickup is a little bit too “glassy”..much better with the well known L.R.Baggs L6..nicer and warmer sound in this one..hands down as you say in the US.
    Frank from Norway

  2. Hi Steve,
    No,I think it is great with a Para.DI.
    The ParaDI is superb with any pickup.It add some warmth to the pickup and you are able to reduce the glassy sound without being dependent on the soundman


  3. Greetings! Good info! I’m getting ready to get the M1. Does the volume on the active version have an “off” click point? I mean, does it turn off should I want to use a special preamp?
    Thanks for your e-mail!
    Jeff Baxter

  4. Jeff, If I understand you question correctly, the answer is no. The preamp is integrated into the pickup. There is a passive version available, however.

  5. after using the M1 active for a few weeks now in live performance I just love the thing.Put the volume control on 5 when strumming,and add some volume when fingerpicking (7) just remember Jeff that you are not able to do this on the passive one

  6. Hi, I currently have the M1A and i’m trying to figure something out. I have the ES blue piezo p/u on my taylor, but I want to know if anyone has tried the combination of a tranducer (internal mic or piezo) and the M1 together. I called LR baggs and he said only the passive M1 would work that way. Has anyone tried this or just have any feedback??

    thanks, Art

  7. I’m looking for a pickup that makes my Guild D25 M sound like a D25M. How does this compare to the I beam and the Sunrise?? Thanks anyone with an answer

  8. I just bought the M1 Active and also thought there was no pole piece for the B string. It is set very low. Thanks for your helpful and informative review.

    Nick from Sydney

  9. I have an old BOZO Western I really love it, so the active m1 is probably a good thing. Can I ask: What about batteries ? Is it difficult to change ém?
    Where is the eq and vol buttons ?

  10. Hi, I´ve been reading your review with interest. I got my M1 today, and I´m anxious to fit it in my 12 string LYS.
    I am left handed, and according to the discussion here I need to change position of the poles. Is it just the E and B poles swopping places with the A and E, or how is it? Do I have to reverse all of them?
    Thanks for any respond.
    Søren in Denmark

  11. Soren,

    It’s my understanding that only the E and B poles swapping places with the A and E, just as you described.

    Let me know how you like it.

  12. Okay, the Baggs is installed, and it is GREAT! I really like it, so responsive and a true acoustic sound. I had a Lace before, and is there a difference? O yes!
    I didn´t swap the E/A poles with the E/B poles. The E/A poles are much longer than the E/B poles, and when I tried to screw the bass E pole in the treble E hole, I met too much resistance, and was afraid to damage the pick-up. I simply turned it in the soundhole, and it works fine.
    I have a Garrison with a Fishman Classic piezo-under-saddle system, and it´s okay, but the LR Baggs is fantastic. Best pick-up I ever tried!

  13. Yes, I too am very well pleased with my investment in the M1 active pickup. I bought it one afternoon and performed with it that night. The install was absolutely painless. At first I wasn’t sure how it would sound on my new (to me) Ventura 12 string but I was immediately impressed at how natural it sounds and because of the way the pole pieces are positioned under the strings it actually emphasizes the higher octave set of strings, Perfect!.

  14. i’ve just installed the M1A into a /78 Guild D-25….performed live a couple of times and its been great….however i’ve also recently bought a fender acoustasonic amplifier and there seems to be quite a bit of noise….
    the level of noise changes as i move the position of the guitar in relation to the amplifier (even when i’m over 5 metres from the amp)
    Does anyone know what is causing this and how i can reduce the ‘hum’?

  15. I have 2 M1 actives for my Taylor 114 and 414’s. I am very happy with it, except i think that it sounds quite harsh most of the time. I looked at a Boss EQ pedal tonight and i think i will be purchasing it very soon as it warms the sound SIGNFICANTLY and is relatively cheap. I recommend the pickup to anyone because ive compared it to others and i think it reproduces the delicate sound of my taylors better than any other pickup ive ever tried (second to the ES of course)

  16. Hi,

    I’d like some advice with my M1 active. I’ve heard the pickup in dozens of different guitars, and I thought it would go great with my Larrivee OM 03R. I don’t know if my top os too lively or what, but the pickup feeds back a lot, and it’s got a very prominent high-mid ring that is pretty undesirable. I think is has potential to really help my guitar, but I guess I need some ideas on how to tweak it before I yank it out. Thanks!


  17. Hi Chas,

    I don’t know if I have any advice for you. I have rarely experienced feedback with the M1 active except for when I was exceptionally close to the speakers. I’d recommend giving Baggs a call. They’ve always been very responsive and helpful to me. Perhaps they can shed some light on your situation.

  18. i’m also with Chas on this. i just installed the M1A in a rosewood Taylor Dreadnaught. The “handling noise” i initially got was a turnoff. it sounded like someone was running the guitar thru a wah-wah pedal in the middle position in the background while the louder signal sounds great. after two days of playing with the EQ on the “Loudbox” amp (minimizing the mid-range)and adjusting the onboard volume – keeping it below “8”, i was able to minimize the handling noise. i have come to determine that the naturally bright sound of my guitar coupled with the active electronics of the pick-up and the power of the amp make it a “hot” combo. in the end it’s not perfect, affordable options rarely are, but i’ll keep it.

  19. I’ve been thinking of buying a new acoustic guitar pick up and been hearing about L.R. Baggs M1 Active. But I thought that there might be something more impressive than this. Upon reading your post, I think I will get this one instead.

    Katie Smith

  20. Hi !
    Installation of the M1 is easy enough and consists of fitting the plastic tabs under the edge of the sound hole so they sandwich the top between them and the corresponding wings of the face plate. When tightened they gently hold the pickup in place. However, they are made to fit a dreadnought size guitar. I have had people say they managed to squeeze them into an OM, but I did not want to risk chipping off the edge of my sound hole. The good folks at Baggs informed me that all that was needed was an emery board to file down the farthest edge of the tabs that fit inside the guitar. Only a tiny bit needs to be filed off, so if you try this at home don’t over do it. The tabs contribute to the top vibration transfer, so just take a little bit off and keep doing so until the tab will slip under the edge of the top.

    The LR Baggs M1 is a well designed piece of equipment with a collection of features that improve upon the magnetic pickups that came before it while applying innovative technology that add in sonic dimensions previously missing in sound hole pickups. It provides players with a low maintenance, reasonably priced and professional quality option for amplifying their acoustic guitar. I did take issue with the fact I needed to shave down the tabs to get them in an OM size guitar and feel the placement of the cord plug could have been better thought out. I also wish it could be installed without having to detune the strings, as is the case with many other pickups. But the important thing is how it sounds and that is very good. To these jaded, picky ears it still sounds like an electrified pickup, but there is a lot more to the actual guitar in its sound than I ever expected to find in a magnetic sound hole pickup. Baggs has recently introduced an active version of the M1 that has a volume control wheel. I think both versions will prove very popular.
    THANXS !

    Kate Jonston
    My blog: Bolle Prescription Sunglasses

  21. One of my hobby is playing guitar during my vacant time. My guitar is too old and I am planning to replace a new and better one. I don’t have the idea yet, that’s why I read this blog to get an idea. Thank you so much.

    Anne Kramer
    Author of How to Blow Glasses

  22. I currently am giving up playing a Takamine TAN16C with a Cool tube pickup which I loved bc of the fat bottom tone produced from the Cool Tube that has a tube preamp built in. I am gonna put a LR Baggs M1 Active in my early 60’s Gibson Diamond Jubilee. The Gibson has an incredible sound without a pickup. Will I still get that fat and clear sound I am used to with that Takamine Cool Tube, on the Gibson with a M1 active?? I gig with a nice little Powered Mackie PA with sub woofer for my acoustic gigs. Pretty musically stupid, so just wanted some advice from yall. Thanks guys.

  23. Kevin: I’ve never used the cool tube preamp so I can’t compare, but the M1 active is a great pickup option. With a little EQ from the Mackie, I’d imagine it can put out a satisfactory amount of bass. Of course everyone has their own tone in their head so YMMV. If you do try an M1 active please stop back and let me know what you think!

  24. Hi! You mentioned “In other words, in the lower portion of the soundhole, turned 180 degrees so that the 1st string pole is now under the 6th string. This might be an experiment worth trying, but I’d have to remove all of the polepieces and reinstall them in reverse order.”

    Just want to know if you were able to try it? thanks!

  25. Brock: I did try it a long while back but found that it got in the way of where I normally pick/fingerpick. I don’t recall the tone being too significantly different.

  26. I have 3 MI active Baggs pickups. I’ve had them for 2 years. On my Washburn Tanglewood 12 string the pickup sounds great Im running into a California Blonde.
    I did try one on my newly aquired Loprinzi OM model with a thin top and all I got was feedback,midrange nasel tone, and way to much body sound. Im going to try a Fishman rare earth which doesnt have a body sound. on the whole I find the M1A to be a very good pickup it sounds much better than the piezo bridge pickups.Im thinking of putting some cork on the clamps to curb some of the body sound.

  27. hey lee, before you buy that rare earth, try swapping out M-1’s from one of the other guitars. i have it on factory authority that there were a number of bad ones that went out before last summer 2011. i got two bad one’s in a row that had the same nasally heavy handling noise prob you described.

  28. I just purchased the M1 active pickup and I’m looking to combine it with my already installed ibeam active pickup. My question is what is the proper way to wire these two pickups together so that each pickup can be controlled by it’s individual volume control. I do not want to use a stereo guitar cable as I currently use a wireless which has a male mono 1/4″ plug. This will be installed on a Santa Cruz om 6 string acoustic.

  29. I was thinking about using the M1 in my Martin OM however I read an unfavorable review of the pickup from an owner of an OM and he says that although it is claimed that the pickup will accommodate sound holes down to 3.55inch he couldn’t get it into the OM sound hole without great difficulty and returned the pickup. Advise from technical support did not solve the problem. If true, that means the pickup won’t work for my OM.

  30. On the subject of using pickup with an OM guitar I found this in a review.
    You will want to measure your guitar’s soundhole before installing the M80. Like the M1, the M80 is a tight fit in many guitars. Baggs says it will fit in any guitar with a soundhole of at least 3.55 inches in diameter, but to install the pickup in a Martin OM (with a soundhole diameter of 3.75 inches) I had to completely remove the mounting flanges and reinstall them after the pickup was in the soundhole—a fairly tricky maneuver. – See more at: http://www.acousticguitar.com/Gear/Reviews/L.R.-Baggs-M80-Review#sthash.AHObOrQ2.dpuf

  31. Terrible pickup not made to last. Mine developed an earthing problem resulting in a constant buzz. Was fixed, but now sounds like plastic, unplayable. LR Baggs refuse to replace it. Out of pocket £150. Great! Thanks Baggs!

  32. Sorry to hear you had such a bad experience. I still have two M1A’s and an M80. I have had no issues with them. I don’t work for Baggs but their products seem to work for me.

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