Acoustic guitar pickups that function like electric guitar pickups sometimes get a bad rap—they don’t necessarily capture the rich timbre of an acoustic instrument. However, DiMarzio’s new Black Angel, its updated magnetic, humbucking acoustic guitar pickup, not only preserves instrument tone but is also easy to install and easy to use.
The Black Angel is essentially an updated version of DiMarzio’s Angel acoustic guitar pickup. Unlike the Angel, the Black Angel, as its name implies, comes in flat black rather than the previous model’s faux-tortoise shell coloring. Simplicity is often the best aesthetic choice, and in this case, DiMarzio’s decision to eschew fancy coloring should be applauded.
A second notable development in the Black Angel is its phase-shift switch. This little two-way switch—which DiMarzio mounted on the side of the pickup for easy access—is a boon for musicians who are considering multiple sources of amplification. Sometimes, if two or more sound sources are mixed together, slightly out-of-phase signals can cancel each other out. Guitarists will likely praise the usefulness of this phase-shift switch.
Installation was no trouble at all and required nothing more than a small, Phillips-head screwdriver. DiMarzio offers two installation methods, one that’s temporary and fairly quick to undo, and another that’s more permanent, and that involves installing a quarter inch jack at the base of the guitar. With just a bit of maneuvering, the Black Angel slid underneath the strings, into the sound hole, and parallel to the end of the fretboard. A few turns of the pickup’s two screws ensured that it wouldn’t slide about or fall out.
Although the Black Angel is a humbucking pickup, don’t expect it to be have super high output. In testing, this writer had to turn his amplifier up to levels he’d normally fear, but the natural, full sound of the acoustic guitar assuaged any of his fears. Even in a less than ideal, direct-input situation in which the signal was recorded straight to GarageBand through an A/D converter (no preamplification to “massage” and warm up the signal), the Black Angel maintained the test dreadnought’s warm, full sound while also capturing crisp, clear, very acoustic highs. DiMarzio promised accurate reproduction of acoustic tones, and the Black Angel delivered the goods.
As for the dreaded feedback, the Black Angel’s little phase-shift switch once again demonstrated its usefulness. After a few minutes of experimentation and comparison, it became apparent that the out-of-phase mode suppressed most feedback. It’s not that the pickup didn’t feed back; rather, any feedback that the amp and pickup generated required more time to crescendo—more than enough time, actually, to notice and halt its development. In the Black Angel’s regular phase mode, feedback was easier to generate, but was nothing out of the ordinary.
The Black Angel is a step up from DiMarzio’s previous model, and in keeping with the company’s tradition of quality, the new model impresses. For live performance or even home recording, the Black Angel offers the flexibility and tonal nuance that one would desire of an acoustic pickup yet not necessarily expect.
What we like: Excellent reproduction of acoustic timbre and tone; quiet hum-bucking design cancels most noise; a little phase-shift switch helps to suppress feedback and phasing issues.
Concerns: If a guitarist isn’t careful, and if the cable is draped over and out of the sound hole, it’s possible to accidentally yank the cable.