Vintage Dearmond Acoustic Sound Hole Pickups
D. Jones LB 2006

The Rowe company made many model acoustic pickups as early as the late 1940s and may have been producing them as late as the early 1970s or late 1960s. One of the most famous pickups for blues is the model 210 used by Lightnin' Hopkins in the 1950s and 60s (see photo on left) as well as a host of other blues legends. The benefits of this pickup include a loud, fat feedback resistant tone that's so rich it's almost fattening. Slide guitar sounds like a dream on this pickup but of course it has drawbacks also. It's a bulky heavy pickup made mostly from metal parts. It's held in place with a metal clip on one end and two folding arm clips on the other. It slide's around in the hole during aggressive playing and often has to be repositioned before or during a show. It's almost indestructable and has more of an electric sound than acoustic. If you play through an electric guitar amp you get a sound much like a deep hollow body archtop but you can get a more realistic acoustic sound going through a PADI preamp into a PA. In either case the goal is to be heard in a loud concert or club scene when other pickups just can't cut it. These pickups have also become very popular to collectors and the prices are so high now that regular blues musicians can barely afford them. Luckily I have saved several for my personal stash.

There are several models and I'd like to describe them and give you an idea what to look for. What is best for a collector or an Ebay auction is not always the best pickup for actual live use. For example I dont like the two most collectable and sought after models. I will show you three various models you may run across and the details on them. See photos and comments below as you scroll down.

Photo Gallery
with history, installation, features and review

First photo below. This is the oldest model I know of and has a decent sound but no adjustable pole pieces and a film style pickup technology. A little raspy and funky sounding compared to the newer 210 model but very cool with a braided cloth cable and bakelite connector. These are mostly collectable in my opinion and are not my number one choice for live work. I've seen them sell as low as 50.00 and as high as 225.00. See next photo.

This is the rear of the older model and it's built like a tank with only one arm holding it on. This is actually a very good design and easy to install without scratching the guitar. They should have stayed with part of this design. The volume knob was also very secure and stable.

Below is the next model they came out with in the 1950s and probably my favorite choice. It's the model 210 with the original blue box and accessories.
See next photo for more description.

The 210 has rugged construction with the volume control mounted on a metal frame and two folding arm clips that hold it in. Also pads on each end try to prevent scratches. You have to be careful not to damage the wires. One is a very hair thin fine wire that goes to the coils and comes out of that small white cylinder below the yellow wire. Soldering a cable to this pickup might require someone with skill on a soldering iron. I'm always very careful. Almost all of these older pickups have a dry rotted cable that is degraded in tone or needs to be replaced. It doesn't seem to harm the value.

Below: Now here comes the new and improved Dearmond 210 that is so highly sought after by collectors. It's also the pickup shown with Lightnin Hopkins photos. In my opinion these are not as good as the previous 210 for many reasons. Mainly all the improvements are just the opposite in my opinion. As you can see to battle string balance problems and loud unwound strings they dropped the 2nd B string pole piece down so low the cover plate doesn't even show it. This could always be done with the older pickup by lowering the pole piece with a screwdriver. Plus they removed the adjustable pole pieces feature. What were they thinking? But it goes deeper in the next photo.

Here's the back of the newer model 210 from the late 1960/70s with the improved noise shielding which does NOTHING and the plastic housing the volume control mounts on which makes the volume wheel more wobbly than ever and impossible to keep in place and prevent that grinding sound when adjusting the volume on stage. One thing I never liked about any 210 model was how that black wheel rubs the edge of the sound hole when you try to push the pickup forward to prevent the thumbpick from constantly hitting it. Overall this is a good pickup but I much prefer to sell these for a profit on EBay then buy the older 210 for my own stash. To hell with collectables.

 

Here's an example of the installation process. Just loosen the strings and try to slip the pickup in and make the end clip slide under the soundboard as shown then allow the treble side of the pickup to drop down with the little arms folded back as shown. Then go to next step (see next photo).

 

I highly recommend using a screwdriver or other long object to rotate these arms into place. A slight down pressure will prevent the clips from scratching the underside of the top then when you release them the little arm will bite and hold the pickup in place. Use the tool to remove them and you will not bend or over fatigue those arms. Remove the pickup in the reverse order.

NOTE: If you slide the pickup forward it will prevent you thumbpick from making noise when striking it but going to far forward allows that little black volume wheel to sometimes scrape the edge of the sound hole when adjusting. A minor irritation.

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