In this paper, we report the results of an experimental sensitivity analysis on a thermoacoustic system – an electrically heated Rijke tube. We measure the change of the linear stability characteristics of the system, quantified as shifts in the growth rate and oscillation frequency, that is caused by the introduction of a passive control device. The control device is a mesh, which causes drag in the system. The rate of growth is slow, so the growth rate and frequency can be measured very accurately over many hundreds of cycles in the linear regime with and without control. These measurements agree qualitatively well with the theoretical predictions from adjoint-based methods of Magri & Juniper (J. Fluid Mech., vol. 719, 2013, pp. 183–202). This agreement supports the use of adjoint methods for the development and implementation of control strategies for more complex thermoacoustic systems.