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View Full Version : Strat pickups, staggered vs. flat magnets


Crowder
03-02-2010, 07:28 PM
I have three strats with the following pickups:

-- Van Zandt blues (staggered)
-- Suhr 60 LP's (staggered)
-- Rio Grande Vintage Tallboys (flat)

I also have a new amp, a Goodsell 33, and it's like a "truth machine" for guitars. If you have a string rattling or fretting out, you're going to hear it through this amp.

With the staggered-magnet pickups, there is a noticable sonic "hole" where the B string should be, and to a lesser extent the high E. Those strings sound weak and anemic compared to the rest.

With the flat-magnet guitar, I get much better response across all the strings. It's really, really noticable.

The funny thing is I've had lots of good amps, but none that were this sensitive to the string-to-string variations from staggered magnets. In fact, I've never noticed a difference between a guitar with staggered or flat magnets before now.

I really like the amp, so I guess I've got choices. I could obviously seek out flat-magnet pickups for the other two guitars. Could I also manually adjust the magnets on the other guitars? I know the magnets will slide up and down some, but they're also different lengths and I don't want to risk wrecking a pickup. Perhaps I could send the pickups back to their respective makers to have the magnets swapped out for ones that are all the same length.

Any other suggestions would be appreciated. :bonk

kenneth
03-02-2010, 08:36 PM
With the staggered-magnet pickups, there is a noticable sonic "hole" where the B string should be, and to a lesser extent the high E. Those strings sound weak and anemic compared to the rest.

With the flat-magnet guitar, I get much better response across all the strings. It's really, really noticable.



Maybe stupid question, but I'm assuming you have already been through adjusting the pickup height on the treble side?

But, I use flat pole pieces for this very reason, better string to string balance.

I can't comment on converting from staggered to flat, but does sound risky...

ManliusGuitar
03-02-2010, 08:37 PM
Try raising up the treble side and lowering the bass side.... this could help a good bit.

Husky
03-02-2010, 08:41 PM
I have three strats with the following pickups:

-- Van Zandt blues (staggered)
-- Suhr 60 LP's (staggered)
-- Rio Grande Vintage Tallboys (flat)

I also have a new amp, a Goodsell 33, and it's like a "truth machine" for guitars. If you have a string rattling or fretting out, you're going to hear it through this amp.

With the staggered-magnet pickups, there is a noticable sonic "hole" where the B string should be, and to a lesser extent the high E. Those strings sound weak and anemic compared to the rest.

With the flat-magnet guitar, I get much better response across all the strings. It's really, really noticable.

The funny thing is I've had lots of good amps, but none that were this sensitive to the string-to-string variations from staggered magnets. In fact, I've never noticed a difference between a guitar with staggered or flat magnets before now.

I really like the amp, so I guess I've got choices. I could obviously seek out flat-magnet pickups for the other two guitars. Could I also manually adjust the magnets on the other guitars? I know the magnets will slide up and down some, but they're also different lengths and I don't want to risk wrecking a pickup. Perhaps I could send the pickups back to their respective makers to have the magnets swapped out for ones that are all the same length.

Any other suggestions would be appreciated. :bonk
You can order flat stagger from us, no upcharge, I'll also exchange them for you
However we do not do vintage stagger where the B is low so ours should not have the vintage stagger problem. Ours have a very mild modern stagger only using 2 heights, nothing like Fenders stagger.
You should not push the magnets up, but you might get away with it on ours since the magnets are insulated, kind of a crap shoot.

strat6866
03-03-2010, 06:30 AM
I have been wondering why my high E string on "some" of my guitars is anemic and doesn't cut through on leads while others cut right through. I have tried adjusting the pickup heights and it doesn't seem to help.

Now that I have read this thread, I think some of the guitars with this problem have the staggered magnets! I'll need to verify this when I get home.

cherrick
03-03-2010, 09:06 AM
What is the fretboard radius of curvature on each of your guitars that have the staggered pickups?

strat6866
03-03-2010, 09:12 AM
Mine are all 9.5 I believe which is probably part of the problem as staggers were originally made for 7.25

cherrick
03-03-2010, 09:21 AM
I would certainly take Mr Suhr up on this offer to exchange. Talk about being number one in customer service and rightfully a legend in guitar history!

thetangmang
03-03-2010, 10:56 AM
I have pickups staggered for righties installed in my lefty AVRI and I actually love it this way. I thought it'd turn out badly but playing on the higher strings is so much punchier like this. Didn't Jimi have it this way too?

archtop2
03-03-2010, 11:24 AM
staggered prevent a close to string position of the pup. First disappointed by my Fender Texmex, i found it was possible to push the poles so I aligned all 6 and mounted the pup close to the strings, that great.
I think I would have appreciated more my Red velvet with flat poles....

Staggered no more !

cherrick
03-03-2010, 11:28 AM
Warning!!! Warning!!! Warning!!!
Danger, Will Robinson!

Dude, you are sooooo lucky.

I did this once with a vintage Fender Strat pickup and promptly ruined it, breaking the winding.

The take away? Don't pull or push the poles on Strat pickups. Unless you like to gamble.

staggered prevent a close to string position of the pup. First disappointed by my Fender Texmex, i found it was possible to push the poles so I aligned all 6 and mounted the pup close to the strings, that great.
I think I would have appreciated more my Red velvet with flat poles....

Staggered no more !

Structo
03-03-2010, 11:32 AM
What I don't understand is why pickup builders still offer the vintage stagger that was made back in the 50's because the G string was wound back then so they had to have that pole closer (or was it farther away) for string balance.
I have several guitars with staggered poles but the more modern ones have the middle two sticking out a bit which is good on a 7 1/4" radius.

Yes be careful pushing on the poles. Many times they are sand casted and are pretty rough on the sides.
What can happen is that it will grab the winding inside and break one or more of the strands that are 43-42 gauge, just a bit bigger than a hair!

Bottom line, if you like the tone, the string balance and the looks, it's a winner!

D.G.
03-03-2010, 11:36 AM
There's a reason that the pole pieces are staggered on a strat pup. The thing you really need to watch out for is the 3rd string pole. If you use a wound string, your pups need a vintage stagger, and if you use a plain 3rd, a modern stagger. Putting a pickup that is built for a 7.5 radius on a guitar with a flat(er) radius is of course a problem.

I also adjust the pole screws on humbuckers to have a stagger sort of like a strat. Of course, because a humbucker has a different freq response the stagger is different, but the basic principle still applies.

amberzombie
03-03-2010, 04:35 PM
really?

Jason Lollar begs to differ...

http://www.lollarguitars.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=flat-vs-staggered-pole-pickups

I personally think it doesn't matter what radius your fretboard is, flatpoles are better.

Even Bill Lawrence's keystones are flat poles

cherrick
03-03-2010, 05:04 PM
Someone should ask Zhangliqun to weigh in here.

Husky
03-03-2010, 06:08 PM
I actually love flat stagger and has been my personal preference for many years. Main thing for me personally is the magnets don't get in your way. We only do two heights though and a very mild stagger.
It is also a hell of a lot easier on ordering magnets!
The only reason we started a stagger is because that is what customers wanted.

Zhangliqun
03-04-2010, 10:08 AM
Customers do still dig the vintage stagger look, so I offer it too. The stagger I make the most is what I call a soft vintage stagger, which is to say the high rods are not as high and the lows not as low, and with the added twist of the G rod being slightly lower than the D rod so the plain G doesn't overpower. But I'll make just about anything, including flat and radius or something totally custom.

Cherrick, I think Lollar has it about 95% right, maybe even 100%. The part where I might disagree is on the high E getting lost on the vintage stagger. The high E rod sits higher than the B, so it at least shouldn't be overpowered by the B. If Jason means the plain G overpowers the high E, than we agree completely.

SMark
03-04-2010, 12:03 PM
Warning!!! Warning!!! Warning!!!
Danger, Will Robinson!

Dude, you are sooooo lucky.

I did this once with a vintage Fender Strat pickup and promptly ruined it, breaking the winding.

The take away? Don't pull or push the poles on Strat pickups. Unless you like to gamble.

Well, you're mostly right, but in this case he's talking about the Tex-Mex pups which have the Fender plastic bobbin. The plastic bobbin pickups can be adjusted as such without the risk that you found with their vintage fiber bobbin pups. In fact, with the plastic bobbin it's actually possible to carefully slide each magnet out and put them back in. You could accomplish a polarity reversal doing that.

Fender's attachment to their vintage stagger (specifically the very high G-pole) is a head-scratcher. Supposedly, they do it because the "Vintage Freaks" demand it. If that was the case, then why do so many Vintage Freaks put Suhr's, Lollars, Fralins, etc... in their Strats? And for players like me who prefer a flat radius neck, Fender's extreme stagger can become nearly impossible to overcome.

Robert1950
03-04-2010, 12:22 PM
Flat. There were some times when the too loud G string and not loud enough B and high E strings would drive me nutso.

archtop2
03-05-2010, 01:31 PM
Well, you're mostly right, but in this case he's talking about the Tex-Mex pups which have the Fender plastic bobbin. The plastic bobbin pickups can be adjusted as such without the risk that you found with their vintage fiber bobbin pups. In fact, with the plastic bobbin it's actually possible to carefully slide each magnet out and put them back in. You could accomplish a polarity reversal doing that.


Thanks for the idea, didn't think about this, I simply reverted the wires because it's middle pup.
Sliding is really smooth, and the pup if covered/filled with wax that can also help in this.

jzgtrguy
03-05-2010, 02:17 PM
This is copy and pasted from Jason Lollars website

Flat Poll vs. staggered Poll pickups

If you compared a flat-pole pickup to a staggered-pole pickup wound the same way, you would get a little more presence ( like a Fender Amp presence knob), a little more bass and a little more overall output from the flat-pole pickup. Another way to think about it is that a flat-pole pickup will generate a little more output without putting more wire on the pickup coil. Adding more wire changes the frequency response, usually by losing some treble and gaining some bass. If you are already use to using staggered-pole pickups, you may find that you will need to turn the bass down slightly on the amplifier because with a flat-pole pickup you will no longer have to make up for weak low strings.
In most cases the flat-pole pickup will give you a better string balance. The high E won't get buried in the mix like a staggered-pole pickup can. You will also notice that the two low strings are louder than a staggered-pole set, and the G string does not overpower the others.
Staggered-poles create more of a smeared tone when you play more than one note at a time—you may or may not like it. On a staggered-pole pickup the low strings rarely overpower any amp, but they can also sound somewhat subdued or weak. The volume on the G string tends to dominate all others. If you have previously played using only staggered-poles and you don't notice any discrepancies with string-to-string volume balance, you have learned to compensate for them. If you decide to try a flat-pole set, it may take some time to adapt but once you get familiar with the sound, you'll find they work better in most cases than a staggered-pole design. For example, all teles up until around 1956 had flat-poles—no one ever comments that their 1952 telecaster has bad string balance. Also, most Telecasters, Jazzmaster, Mustangs and Fender bass guitars have historically had flat-pole pickups. On Gibson guitars no one ever staggers the adjustable poles as much as strat pickups.





good info...

D.G.
03-05-2010, 02:25 PM
This is copy and pasted from Jason Lollars website

Flat Poll vs. staggered Poll pickups

On Gibson guitars no one ever staggers the adjustable poles as much as strat pickups.

I hate to disagree with such an recognized source of knowledge as Jason, but I stagger the screws on my humbuckers even more than on a strat. I've also had flat pole pickups as well as vintage stagger (high G pole) and modern stagger (lower G pole and a few other adjustments) and I can tell you which I prefer (in the neck, bridge is nowhere near as sensitive.)