If you’re looking for a way to plug in without having to buy a whole new ukulele or drill holes into your precious instrument, you need an external ukulele pickup! These stick or clip on to your ukulele, and still offer great sound. Once you’re done, you can take them off to switch between instruments, or just keep them in your case for when you need them again.
Here’s a rundown of some of the top ukulele pickups on the market today!
If you’re still trying to decide between an internal vs external ukulele pickup, here’s our guide to making the right choice for your needs
Kremona KNA AP-1 Piezo Pickup
Summary: The Kremona KNA AP-1 offers flexibility and great sound, but isn’t optimized for the ukulele.
Best for: Musicians who play other instruments and want one pickup that can do it all.
The Kremona KNA AP-1 is a standard stick-on piezo pickup, designed to work with a variety of instruments. It mounts to the soundboard of the instrument with a type of sticky putty that sticks firmly but doesn’t leave any residue when taken off.
This pickup seems to have been created with guitars and other larger instruments in mind rather than ukuleles, and is a little bulky on smaller soprano and concert sizes. The included putty works well, but be careful not to knock into the pickup while playing! I did it a few times, and besides creating a loud thunk, the pickup did fall off on one occasion.
Once plugged in, the ukulele produces a warm tone that fairly accurately reproduces the acoustic sound of the ukulele. The signal is very strong, which helps reduce buzzing when boosting the volume on the amplifier. However, it also picks up a lot of handling noise, which can get very distracting. Placement is key, and it’s worth experimenting to find the best fit for your ukulele. I found the best tone with the pickup placed just behind the bridge, but this can be a problem for anyone who anchors their palm or pinky there while fingerpicking.
- Good sound and strong signal
- Easy to put on/take off ukulele
- Picks up a lot of handling noise
- Can fall off if knocked into
Thinking about just buying a new ukulele? Check out our guide to choosing between an acoustic-electric and a solid body electric ukulele…
KNA UK-1 Ukulele Pickup
Summary: A unique design gives excellent sound but sacrifices some of the convenience of an external pickup.
Best for: Musicians with a dedicated “playing out” ukulele who want great sound.
Kremona went out on a limb here with a unique design based on a great idea. The best place to put a ukulele pickup is usually close to the bridge, but most expernal pickups can’t be mounted directly on the bridge. The KNA UK-1 gets around that problem with a thin strip that fits underneath the strings were they tie onto the bridge. It’s a great solution that gives results similar to installed undersaddle pickups, but without having to actually install anything!
Unfortunately, there are an increasing number of ukuleles that do not feature a tie bar, and therefore will not work with this pickup. Before buying, check to make sure that your ukulele has a tie bar, instead of pegs, slots, or other ways of attaching the strings to the bridge.
The pickup itself is quite small and lightweight, a nice change compared to bulkier pickups. This would especially suit soprano ukuleles that don’t have a lot of space to be sticking an external pickup on the soundboard.
It doesn’t take much to “install” this pickup, but you do have to loosen the strings in order to fit it underneath them. This does make it harder to flip the pickup between ukes, or to easily remove the pickup when not needed.
The pickup produces a remarkably clear and natural tone, on par with higher-end internal pickups. Highs and lows are nicely balanced, and the signal is strong enough that there’s no buzzing or humming. In fact, this is about as close as you’ll get to a microphone with a passive pickup. Because it’s placed directly on the bridge, it picks up less handling noise than other ukulele pickups, although as always it’s important not to touch the pickup or the cable directly while playing.
- Excellent tone thank to innovative tie bar placement
- Lightweight and low profile
- Won’t work with ukuleles that don’t have a tie bar
- Have to loosen strings to put it on/take it off
Want to unleash your inner rocker? Take a look at the best solid body electric ukuleles on the market today…
iRig Acoustic Stage Digital Microphone System
Summary: A unique microphone/preamp system gives ukulele players plenty of options
Best for: Gigging musicians who need great tone and flexibility
As you might guess from the name, this is not actually a pickup system. Instead, it uses a small microphone that clips into the soundhole. This feeds a signal into a preamp, which easily clips onto a belt. Unlike the rest of the pickups on this list, the iRig Acoustic Stage system is “active,” which makes for a much stronger and clearer signal.
The microphone and preamp box are mostly made out of plastic, and the construction is a little lighter-weight than I would have liked. Equipment made for a gigging musician should be able to take a beating, because it will. Still, it comes with a protective pouch, and with a bit of care, there’s no reason to think this will break at a crucial time.
The microphone itself has a very low profile, and clips neatly onto the sound hole. It’s almost impossible to knock it loose, although a strummer could easily knock into it and make a loud (and annoying!) thumping sound.
Where this really shines is in the control it gives the player over tone. With three settings (“natural,” “warm,” and “bright”) and two modes optimized for either steel or nylon stringed instruments, there’s plenty of scope to dial in the perfect sound for you. It also has the option to plug in an existing pickup and mix the sound between the two. While most people looking for an external ukulele pickup won’t already have one installed, this offers even more control to a gigging musician who wants the best sound.
The microphone picks up a wonderfully natural tone as-is, although it is also prone to feedback. While the preamp does have a big “cancel feedback” button, this only works once feedback has taken place. You may have to hit the button multiple times to get rid of each problematic frequency. Luckily, you can do so up to 10 times per session, and the preamp will save each frequency.
- Excellent sound
- Lots of control over tone
- Strong signal
- Plastic construction seems delicate
- Prone to feedback even with “cancel feedback” button
Sunyin Ukulele Pickup
Summary: “Cheap and cheerful” pickup that has most (but not all) of the performance of more expensive competitors
Best for: Someone who wants to try out the electric ukulele experience
There are many similar stick-on pickups on Amazon, eBay, etc. that go by various brand names, including Sunyin, Luvay, GetMusic, AD-35, and Yimaler. They all seem to come from the same factory, and have similar features.
The one I tested was labeled “Sunyin” and is one of the most popular pickups on Amazon. It’s relatively cheap compared to the other pickups on this list, perfect for those who are just experimenting with plugging in their ukulele. Like the Kremona KNA AP-1, this pickup sticks to the soundboard with included sticky putty, which is easy to take off without leaving a residue.
Unlike many other passive pickups, the Sunyin pickup features a volume control. However, the signal is already low enough that even turned all the way up, you’ll need to boost the gain on your amp. Still, it’s a nice feature that gives you a bit more control over the sound.
The Sunyin pickup is a little bulky, but fits nicely onto a concert or tenor ukulele (and OK on a soprano). It does feel much more plasticky than other brands, making me wonder about durability in the long term. This is especially true of the volume control knob, which seems liable to break.
Again like the Kremona KNA AP-1, it’s vitally important to get the placement of the pickup right for the best sound. At various points on the soundboard, the tone can get too tinny, too bassy, or just right, with a natural warmth and no strange overtones. The lower signal does mean that hissing gets into the sound if you crank the gain on your amplifier. The pickup also picks up a to of handling noise. This can be controlled for a bit by placement, but can’t be fully eliminated.
- Volume control on the pickup
- Plastic construction
- Low signal