Pickup Magnets: Ceramic vs A2 vs A5

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by hardys, Aug 10, 2009.

  1. hardys

    hardys Supporting Member

    May 20, 2004
    Charleston, SC
    I'm trying to get some opinions on how ceramic magnets compare tonally to A2 and A5 pickup magnets in humbuckers.

    To my ears A2 has round highs, full mids & slightly rolled off low end. A5s have crisper highs, slightly scooped mids & tighter, slightly bigger low end.

    How does ceramic compare? I have a pup that's not doing it for me with A2 or A5. I'm looking for full mids, tight & full low end, crips highs and and overall more aggressive sound.
  2. paintguy

    paintguy Long Hair Hippy Freak Silver Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2005
    Los Angeles, Ca
    Sounds like you are describing a ceramic to me, at least from my experience.
  3. Dr. Lo

    Dr. Lo Member

    Dec 31, 2006
    It's hard to describe what ceramic sounds like. Depending on the pickup's design, it's sound can vary considerably. For example, it can be used to produce a high-output and (some would say) biting lead tone as found in the DiMarzio Super Distortion, but it can also be used to produce a "hi-fi" low-output tone as found in the Joe Barden (Danny Gatton-style) pickups.
  4. HoboMan

    HoboMan Silver Supporting Member

    Oct 20, 2007
    From my experience also.
  5. burner

    burner Member

    Dec 27, 2007
    It seems to me that a lot of (if not most) of the low end el-cheapo pickups utilize Ceramic magnets....and most of those sound thin & harsh to me.
    It must be a cheaper way to produce pickups compared to AlNiCo designs.

    However, I've heard some Ceramic magnet pickups that sounded simply beautiful....so that goes to show how much is in the actual design vs. just the magnet type.
    Anyway, I'm sure we all know that by now...;)

    These things are difficult for me to explain, but If I could find one thing common to most ceramic magnet pickups regardless of the design, I would have to say that the high end tends to be more 'piercing', 'biting' or 'harsh'....and I think the low end stays a bit tighter in high gain situations.

    They also tend to sound a bit less "organic" for lack of a better term...like they are "stiff" rather than "spongy" so to speak.

    They also seem a lot 'punchier' to me, which can be a good thing depnding on what you're going for. I haven't really looked at all of the technical specs but something leads me to believe that ceramic pickups have more output. (all things equal)
    I guess if you need say...significantly more midrange character...then a ceramic design might do that really well.:dunno

    I haven't played with humbuckers in so long that I'm not sure I even remember which ones are good and which are junk.
    In my experience w/ single coil pickups the A5s seem to be more 'jagged' and A2s seem 'sweeter'.....then the ceramics even more 'jagged' than A5s
    ......if any of that makes any sense.
    Again, that's really the only way I know how to explain what I've experienced.

    While I generally don't prefer ceramic single coils, I recently heard a set that sounded very good in a Strat! They had that classic hollow piano-like thump but seemed much more powerful than most strat pickups with that sound....almost like actives.
    Those were from this newer(?) company called Sixgun Electric which is sort of a 'boutique' outfit that isn't really 'out there' yet....word of mouth I suppose because I've yet to find a website for 'em.
    At any rate, they were very surprising for ceramic magnet single coils!
    (probably hella-expensive too)

    As somewhat of a comparison, I've tried both the Ceramic and AlNiCo versions of EMG pickups...both single coil & humbucker....and while I hated the ceramic single coil versions for being too bright and 'thin', I felt the opposite way about the humbuckers.
    The ceramic versions of those sounded 'tighter' and significnatly less 'muddy'.
    Of course you also have to factor in that I was running the single coils with lo-gain classic Fender blackface & tweed amps, and I was running the humbuckers with an ultra high gain rig.......so that might give some indication of which magnets work best for those particular situations.

    ETA: I think I used just about every cliche in the book on this post.;)

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