Finally getting around to trying a Sunrise pickup was a long process. I've bought almost every type of pickup system ever made and it seems like the last choice is the best. Don't get me wrong I love my Dearmond 210 sound hole pickup for live blues but this Sunrise has really impressed me on a half dozen very demanding gigs. Let me explain. I play in the local blues scene which is dominated by electric bands, instruments and loud stage volume. Even the half dozen or so serious acoustic blues players in town have finally adapted over the years with sound hole pickups and loud rigs on their acoustics. My friend Mudcat uses a Dearmond 210 and Bill Sheffield, Stephen Talkovich and several others including me now use the Sunrise. Ross Pead uses a Fishman Rare earth. They all seem to work better in these loud bar room venues but each have qualities or features that might fit your style better. Shown on the right is the standard Sunrise pickup and the installation kit. It says only use a professional to install but except for a brief use of a soldering iron it was a super easy installation. I was very impressed with the install kit because of the high quality noise free cable and metal connectors. The pickup itself was more compact and lighter weight that I expected and it's built like a military part and has a transferable lifetime warranty. It also has adjustable pole pieces so you can fine tune the balance and volume on the strings to be even. The little plastic cable holders that stick inside the guitar are superior to anything I've seen and the pickup can be removed and reinstalled in seconds if you have pure acoustic gigs where you don't want any pickup installed. You can also buy just one Sunrise pickup yet have the hot pluggable install kit in several different guitars and just move the pickup in seconds to any of several guitars depending on which one you want to play that night. It's a beautiful thing. Also look at the photo on the left and you can see how easy it is to temporarily install the pickup into any guitar for one night using a long extension cable. Check out the installation notes and photos in the gallery below.
TONE - The tone of the sunrise is not quite as fat as the Dearmond but never the less it has a wonderful tone of it's own. Slide guitar sounds fantastic and it does make an acoustic sound almost like an old archtop if you plug into a Fender electric amp like I do. It sounds great through a preamp, buffer box or PADI and then into a PA but has a slight bit of that electric sound. The claims you see on Ebay and other sites selling the Sunrise say they are like a studio mic and all the stars use them. Well that's only partly true. The last thing these sound like is your guitar through a studio mic. The goal is to literally be heard on a professional stage with some resemblance to an acoustic guitar. The result is quite satisfying for blues and rock but I don't see a San Francisco coffee house finger style player using a Sunrise. I could be wrong though. One thing I have read and confirmed is that getting the 5th fret harmonic to ping while using this pickup is very hard. Luckily I could care less about pinging harmonics while I play bar room blues. A few benefits of this pickup over others is how solid it installs and does not slip around in the sound hole and fits a little forward so your thumb pick is not constantly slapping it. The black color makes the pickup all but vanish on stage in low light club conditions.
Update: The Buffer Box
PHOTO GALLERY AND INSTALL COMMENTS
Photo Below: You will never see me get anywhere near a guitar with a power tool. I use this 20.00 1/2" hand reamer I bought at Ace hardware. It's not only safe but allows me to correct the straightness of the hole as I bore it out. These turn counter clockwise to cut.
The installation kit shown below holds the quick disconnect solidly in place and makes removing the Sunrise in and out of the guitar a piece of cake. The kit costs about 20.00 extra.
I put these little layered pieces of blue painter's tape underneath to pad the pickup clamping onto the guitar to reduce vibrations and prevent the clamp from pressing on this 70 year old guitar as much. This also helps isolate feedback a little in my opinion.
Photo Below: Don't tighten the screws too tight or you can cause damage to the pickup or guitar. Fortunately the customer support at Sunrise is so good they will fix a broken pickup for you. You must have to really try hard to break one though.
Below is the pickup connected to a Baggs PADI which works really well going into a PA system and gives me quite a few tonal controls you wont find on other preamp boxes. You might choose one of these instead of the buffer box from Sunrise. Many feel the Sunrise buffer box is a better match but I've not been able to prove that yet.
Here's my rig when I play with the full blues bands. I have no trouble cranking up with a packed dance floor and a full bar of shouting, laughing people. This is only a 22 watt amp but it can completely blast an Elmore James style tone throughout a club. Sit it up on a chair and it becomes more lethal. We're talking about stage situations where a UST/AST pickup would not even be heard. Been there, done that. On one hand there is theory and sales hype and on the other hand there's reality and real world situations. The Sunrise is real world.
Below is a pretty decent powered speaker and this is a good rig for solo or duet acoustic gigs and with the right adjustments and a decent club PA this works really well even with a full band but in those cases I also run the line out to the amp onstage to add a little stage monitor and solid balls to the sound. In this mode you get a little more of the wound pickup sound coming through but it's light years ahead of a raw UST and sounds better than many AST pickups.