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Old 03-16-2007, 03:52 AM
Jerrysimon Jerrysimon is offline
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Location: Cambridge UK
Posts: 340
Default L.R.Baggs iBeam Active - A Personal Review

This is my personal review of this popular pickup.

If you have been following my other threads you would have seen that I had been looking to add a pickup to my 10 year old Taylor 412.

After some investigation I decided I wanted something active with external control i.e. volume control, able to fit myself and non intrusive, i.e. I did not want to start cutting holes in my guitar.

I think it is probably important to review your style and the environment you plan to play in before selecting one as well. I use this guitar predominantly for finger picking and a little light strumming. Mostly I play at home but have played some small venues e.g. wine bars and small clubs playing and singing solo.

Taking all this into account the iBeam seemed the right choice for me.

The package arrives in well-packed yellow/orange coloured box with lots of bits to help with the installation, including a fitting template for guitars with a pinned bridge. My 412 having a pinless bridge makes installation a little different.


The first thing I had to do was to enlarge the strapjack hole and this is the subject of a previous thread. An ordeal in itself, if you have not done this before its NOT something I would recommend you do yourself if you have a new guitar or are paranoid about its finish. Having said that now that I have done it once myself, I am confident next time I would get it perfect. Here is the link if you are interested in my experience:

Once the hole is done its pretty easy to fit the strapjack/preamp following the excellent instructions supplied.

Moving to the actual iBeam unit itself I drilled the extra hole at the other end of the saddle slot and then used these with a couple of pieces of wire poked through to line up with the slots in the end of the iBeam. This worked well and I pushed it up into place directly under the saddle first time

Although this is rarely the ideal position, you have to start here to get a reference point for moving it later to get the ideal position for your guitar.

I connected up the battery, restrung (a pain on a guitar with a pinless bridge as you can't losen them, remove the pins and move them asside) and gave it a go. I have an AER Compact 60, recently purchased and I found even with the base turned right down it was a little boomy. But I managed to get a half decent sound. I bit the bullet and went for a second positioning. I marked round the iBeam with a pencil (that all important reference point) and with quite a bit of brute force unstuck it.

The X bracing on my 412 is such I could not move it forward any more towards the sound hole. Note its probably best to check this on your guitar before you purchase it. You can download the instruction manual from the L.R.Baggs site first to do this.

Anyway I clearly needed to move it side ways, away from the base strings and could not do that without moving it backwards first. I reapplied my second sticky strip (I have one left). I then moved it backwards about 2-3mm away from the sound hole towards the string ball ends (back edge of the bridge). This then allowed me to move it sideways towards the treble strings at the same time.

The secret seems to be to position it lightly, check with a mirror against your reference pencil line, adjust, check adjust etc till you get it spot on. Then push it up firmly ensuring you apply similar/equal pressure to the top of the bridge plate at the same time. I plugged in again and this time had a much better sound, less bassy.

One thing that is not mentioned in the instructions is if the iBeam can only be fitted round one way. By that I mean in the instructions it is shown with the logo towards the treble strings. Nowhere does it say if you can fit it 180 degrees round the other way with the logo towards the base strings ?


In conclusion I would say it much more natural sounding than an AST. I played it a/b with my Taylor 314CE which has a Fishman set up.

I don't seem to have a problem with feedback that other people have reported, although I have not played out in a noisy environment yet. On your amp you will need to play around with EQ to get the best sound. I had to reduce the base, treble and high pots.

It would have been interesting to see what it would sounded like moved forward towards the sound hole but I can't do that. Installed directly under the saddle it is a much more direct sound. If I could have kept it in that position and moved it towards the treble strings that may have been the ideal position for my guitar.

I would say this is its only limitation i.e. the room to move it around under the saddle dependant on the X bracing on your guitar. On the whole though I am happy. As I said the sound is very natural and it certainly sounds better than the Fishman Prefix Plus in my Taylor 314CE.

So that is it really. I just need to tidy up the wires with some clips provided and re-string with some new strings having changed and re-used the same ones at least twice

I hope others find this review helpfull.

I now have to add electrics to my Taylor 355. Maybe I will try the K&K (which others here also favuor) on that to give me a direct comparison. Out of curiosity I would like to hear from someone who has fitted this or the K&K to a 12 string and their thoughts/impressions.

I will post some pictures of the installation in the next post. If I get some time I will also record some clips though, you can review it and many other different pickups at Doug Young's excellent site linked below.


L.R.Baggs website iBeam -
Doug Young's pickup comparrison website, with audio samples -

96 Taylor 512 (2008)
95 Taylor 512 (2007)
98 Taylor 555 (2007)
K&K Pure Western Mini

Last edited by Jerrysimon; 03-16-2007 at 07:55 AM.
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Old 03-16-2007, 03:58 AM
Jerrysimon Jerrysimon is offline
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Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: Cambridge UK
Posts: 340

The box

The endpin fitted after much trauma!

View of the endpin from inside

IBeam second position. Note the reference line, essential for re-positioning later. Mirror, torch and ten fingered hands essential!!

Neat little volume control probably the easiest bit to fit

The battery bag held on with Velcro
Just the wires left to tidy up now.

96 Taylor 512 (2008)
95 Taylor 512 (2007)
98 Taylor 555 (2007)
K&K Pure Western Mini

Last edited by Jerrysimon; 03-16-2007 at 10:17 AM.
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