From the July 2017 issue of Acoustic Guitar | BY DOUG YOUNG
Acoustic guitars and electronics can be an uneasy match. In addition to the sonic challenge of amplifying the complex sound of the instrument, guitarists often have strong feelings about filling their guitars with things that are decidedly non-acoustic, including the ubiquitous 9-volt battery. Batteries can be difficult to change, can come loose in the guitar, add weight and wires, and worst of all, have a habit of going dead at exactly the wrong time. For those who would like to break free of batteries, Trance Audio, a boutique company in Northern California, has a solution—a version of their highly regarded pickup system with a built-in preamp that runs off phantom power, completely eliminating the need for an onboard battery.
The Amulet M Phantom is an intriguing addition to a product lineup that includes the original Stereo Amulet, as well as the battery-powered Amulet M and Amulet M Plus. At the heart of each system is a pair of Acoustic Lens transducers—the pickup element itself. The Acoustic Lens is a rectangular element that attaches to the bridge plate inside the guitar, under the saddle line. Both the phantom and non-phantom versions of the Amulet M support optional volume and tone controls—small dials that mount unobtrusively inside the soundhole.
The Amulet M Phantom requires a cable with a TRS (tip-ring-sleeve) ¼ inch plug on the guitar side and an XLR plug on the other to plug into a source of phantom power, such as the mic input on a PA system’s mixing board. Trance supplies a high-quality Canare cable with replaceable/repairable plugs on each end. TRS/XLR cables are also readily available online or from major music stores.
While it’s always a good idea to have pickups installed by an experienced guitar tech, installing the Amulet M Phantom is remarkably simple and the unit is a good candidate for self-installation. The pickup comes with detailed instructions for placing the transducers, which are attached with a proprietary pressure-
activated double-sticky tape. I had my local guitar shop drill the required standard end-pin hole, but otherwise my self-install was a breeze, with no soldering, no glue, and only a few basic tools. The lack of a battery, along with its associated wires, made the process noticeably easier than active systems I have installed. Trance does recommend clamping each transducer using an included turnbuckle-style clamp and letting them cure for 12 hours, which adds to the total time required until you can plug in and hear the results, but the process itself is simple and fast.
Other than the need for an endpin hole, the Amulet M Phantom is a relatively non-invasive pickup, which should appeal to guitarists who are reluctant to modify their instruments. With no internal battery, the system adds little weight, and the pickup elements can be removed cleanly without leaving a trace. It’s easy to reposition the…