Do pickup manufacturers even try to sell pickups?

Brian N

Member
Messages
1,709
I have been trying to decide on some new pickups for the past week and can't help but start thinking; why don't pickup makers post more sound clips? Really, they are selling these things for $80-300 a pop, is it really that hard to post a clean and a dirty of each pickup in each position? Maybe even in two different guitars?

It's just simply accepted that the industry standard is to describe your pickup in very ambiguous words (this pickup is KILLER, awesome tone, etc) and leave it at that.

Granted I haven't looked at a ton of pickup makers, but the ones I have looked at make no effort to actually show you what the things sound like. Seymour Duncan and Bare Knuckle are two that at least make some effort, but even then they still only post a few clips, and they don't even tell you which positions the pickups were in or which guitars they were in. And then they include a little 3-bar chart.

Because of this, I pretty much limit myself to pickups that I've played, or the rare instance I can find a decent user-generated clip on youtube.

Cmon guys, step it up!


(Pictured: how your pickup sounds, according to pickup makers)
 
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Brian N

Member
Messages
1,709
SD even went so far as to write an entire blog post describing one pickup I was looking at, and it said something to the effect of "this was designed as a bridge pickup, but it sounds absolutely killer in the neck. But don't take my word for it - here's a clip of it in the bridge position!"
 

T Dizz

Member
Messages
20,948
this is a good point.. I think lots of manufactures go directly to youtube with their demos nowadays.
 

Balok

Member
Messages
3,536
Since it can be argued that they are often just selling the idea of sounding better, clips might actually put cold water on that profitable illusion.
Dimarzio has celebrities with different guitars and amps demoing pickups. Duncans new releases are demoed with a different rig, or often not at all.
Same goes for speaker demos. WGS has different rigs and players demoing their speakers.

So a truly critical study of the product line is not possible.

Minus that, you are left having to swoon over their adjectives, fall in love with an idea and grab your Visa. Cha ching.
 
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GCDEF

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
27,891
Pickups are responsible for approximately 5% of the tone, IMHO. The way the amp is set will change the sound of your guitar way more than any kind of pickup swap and I don't see how they could dial amps in in a way that would appeal to everybody. We've all heard various models of the same guitar with the same pickups sound really good and really bad depending on what they were plugged into, how it was set and how it was played. I'm not really sure how much good sound samples of pickups would do.
 
Messages
1,481
I have been trying to decide on some new pickups for the past week and can't help but start thinking; why don't pickup makers post more sound clips? Really, they are selling these things for $80-300 a pop, is it really that hard to post a clean and a dirty of each pickup in each position? Maybe even in two different guitars?

It's just simply accepted that the industry standard is to describe your pickup in very ambiguous words (this pickup is KILLER, awesome tone, etc) and leave it at that.

Granted I haven't looked at a ton of pickup makers, but the ones I have looked at make no effort to actually show you what the things sound like. Seymour Duncan and Bare Knuckle are two that at least make some effort, but even then they still only post a few clips, and they don't even tell you which positions the pickups were in or which guitars they were in. And then they include a little 3-bar chart.

Because of this, I pretty much limit myself to pickups that I've played, or the rare instance I can find a decent user-generated clip on youtube.

Cmon guys, step it up!


(Pictured: how your pickup sounds, according to pickup makers)
I've thought the same thing, but then it occurred to me that any sound clip they posted, regardless of its audio fidelity, would do very little to assist me in my hunt for a pickup unless I was installing it in the EXACT guitar used in the clip, running into the EXACT same amplifier with the EXACT same cables, etc. etc. ad nauseam. There are just too many variables involved (the speakers you use to listen to the clip being not the least of these) to accurately inform the consumer on how any given pickup will affect THEIR tone.

I get more from descriptors like "warm", "piercing", "chewy", "percussive", "haunting", etc. than I do from someone's crappy youtube clip. (which is probably going to be 20% sound coming from the amplifier and 80% sound of a pick clanging on strings)
 

XSSIVE

D'Avanzo Guitars
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
1,591
In reality there are way too many variables to judge anything guitar related (guitars, pickups, speakers, amps, pedals etc) by a clip. Let's even forget playing style (rock, blues, metal etc) and "tone in the hands" players which come into play and just think of strumming a few chords. The truth is if I take my same guitar and plug it into my stereo rack rig it sounds very different compared to it plugged into my stock '67 Vibrolux or my '79 JMP or the cheap little Marshall SS amp I use on the bench to test guitars. The amps and speakers impart such a big change in the tone that you're left wondering where the characteristics of the wood, pickups, strings, pick, amp, speakers all that leave off and where the other variables take over. There's also the mic used to record the clips and if it was moved between the recordings and the room itself and any post recording EQ. Then if I were to do the test again and use different speaker cabinets with each of those amps it would sound different again. Of course pickups have their own inherent character but clips are pointless unless they're being used to compare to other clips recorded with the same guitar with different pickups through the same amp and same player with the only variable being the pickup swap. Then you'd be hearing the pickups voice which could be more helpful, but in reality it's still a bit pointless really. Once again forgetting the "tone in the hands" argument and thinking of it as basic as possible if you judge the tone of anything guitar related based on a clip and you don't have the same gear used in that clip it's going to sound different when you run it through your inevitably different rig anyway. Thus, clips are pointless other than to give you a rough ballpark idea of basic characteristics of a pickup, amp, guitar or whatever.
 

TheoDog

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
19,819
They are trying to sell but aren't relying on the demos to sell them. Aside from the various guitars, Amos, techniques that can cause variance making objective comparison impossible, the audio compression on YouTube and other streaming sources make the sound unrealistic.

I asked my guitar repairman whom I consider an expert to research and choose the appropriate TV Jones pickup to match with a pickup I already had. I am pleased with his choice.
 

prototype

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,738
i think the idea behind clips is to compare them against eachother. I.e. once you decide you want to upgrade your strat pickups to duncans, you go to the SD site and listen to all their strat pickups compared against eachother and decide which EQ and character best suits your playing. IMO this is useful in determining what kind of magnets you prefer and whether you want an overwound or underwound pickup
 

macmax77

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
12,771
i am fortunate to already have the single coils i want in my guitar ( R Ellis) and i already know which i will have in my next Strat like guitar. (Lollar Blondes)
 

scelerat

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
3,107
Seymour Duncan used to have CDs demoing their entire product line with samples for clean and dirty play. I think Balok (above) is right: the pickup manufacturers have come to understand that they are in the business of selling a dream, and not necessarily a quantifiable thing. Actual clips might reveal what little difference there is between pickups (or at least, what little difference can be perceived once it's recorded and played back).

I've been very happy with the few aftermarket pickups I've bought. I noticed a difference. It made me happy. In that sense, it was worth it. I'm not sure anyone in the audience could really tell. Same for most gear. People notice the playing: the groove and the touch. Tone is much more subtle to the audience than many players realize.
 

Sweetfinger

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
12,513
It's quite subjective. One person's hot salsa is another's mild. Why isn't there a standardized taste chart for salsas? Why don't salsa makers put out a "lick-n-try" sampler? How do you expect me to compare salsas... by buying them and opening the jar? I'm shocked they even sell any at all.
 

Jazzandmore

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
11,043
I think there are some like Lollar, DAllen, Pete Biltoft, etc. that have some very good sound clips. Agree with others that say that there are other variables that the manufacturer may not control for when doing the demos though.

Pickups are responsible for approximately 5% of the tone, IMHO. The way the amp is set will change the sound of your guitar way more than any kind of pickup swap and I don't see how they could dial amps in in a way that would appeal to everybody. We've all heard various models of the same guitar with the same pickups sound really good and really bad depending on what they were plugged into, how it was set and how it was played. I'm not really sure how much good sound samples of pickups would do.
While I see your point, not sure I agree with the 5% estimate. I can think of at least three cases for myself where I got a pickup set, put them in a guitar (not all the same guitar, these pickups were all in different guitars) and the pickups were just too "focused". They produced this in your face primary tone, and no matter what I did with the amp, I couldn't dial in what I was after. Bought a different pickup and huge difference. So I definitely think the pickup plays a huge part in the base tone.

But overall I think we all agree it is very tough to do a pickup demo that would satisfy everyone or address people's questions about how it will sound in their guitar with their gear. I don't think it's possible to do that.
 




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