Do pickups change sound as they age?

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by jcmark611, Oct 12, 2008.

  1. jcmark611

    jcmark611 Member

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    I know that speakers change sound but, they also move which causes them to wear in but, what about pickups? Do the magnets lose strength? Will the winding wires age and change the sound?

    That being said, will Standard Strats age or will they always sound new?
     
  2. kimock

    kimock Member

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    Everything ages, breaks in, wears out. etc
    If you play a brand new guitar enough, it should settle nicely in 3 to 5 years.
    The new thing will wear off, you just gotta keep playing it, bouncing it around, leaving it on a stand in front of a speaker, stuff like that.
    Keep it vibrating.

    peace
     
  3. stuagu

    stuagu Member

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    yep, the magnets lose strength so a paf from late 50,s will not sound like it did then... if you think about it, a lot of the classic songs where we like the sound of the guitar so much were recorded when the guitar/pickups were in fact not that old. food for thought?
    ... 90% of tone is in the fingers guys...
     
  4. kimock

    kimock Member

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    Oddly enough, the remagnetizing doesn't seem to hold for very long if you zap an old pickup to refresh it.
    I tried it on some old humbuckers that I imagined we're weak, and they seemed louder and a lot brighter for a couple of days, but that was it.

    Not sure what was going on there. Seems like pickups are easily demagnetized, not so easily refreshed.
    Anybody?

    Re: 90% of the tone is in the fingers; I think 100% of the tone is in the music!

    p's
     
  5. RvChevron

    RvChevron Member

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    Guitars should've had built in vibrator since day one.:p
     
  6. stuagu

    stuagu Member

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    grasshopper, you speak wisely... i think?
     
  7. roomservice

    roomservice Member

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    Dear Old Blighty
    Apart from the demagnetising side (which, for me, is rathedr exciting as after 3 - 5 years the pups are beautifully 'worn in' and sound so warm...mmmm!) there's the issue of your guitar wood 'drying out'.

    Depends what environment you keep them in, but they're made of wood for the most part and wood retains moisture and loses it...flexes etc.

    I've always said, get a great piece of wood and you've got a great guitar - everything else is just cream

    rs
     
  8. bluesjuke

    bluesjuke Disrespected Elder

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    "......get a great piece of wood and you've got a great guitar - everything else is just cream"


    I do agree with that.
    That's where a good guitar starts.
     
  9. Groovey Records

    Groovey Records Member

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    Women would enjoy playing so much more
     
  10. JS335

    JS335 Member

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    kimock = grasshopper (funny)
     
  11. gtrfinder

    gtrfinder Supporting Member

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    The Tonequest Report did a recent review on a couple of '59 Les Pauls. A few of the pages are focused specifically on the PAF pickups in these guitars, and one section addresses the issue of "demagnetized" pickups
    http://www.tonequest.com/pdf_pubs/TQRApr08_screen.pdf
    Happy Reading
     
  12. stuagu

    stuagu Member

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    thanks for posting that.:dude
     
  13. uOpt

    uOpt Member

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    Loss of magnet strength is definitely not a big factor unless we talk 50 years or so.

    I have measured the strength a whole bunch of my Seymour Duncans. While there is variety in strength for the same Alnico class the variety isn't age-dependent. My old JB had one of the strongest A5.

    Furthermore, I experimented with demagnetizing and re-charging some of these magnets and the changes in sound are just not that dramatic. It's a bit like changing pickup height. The character stays the same, you can still recognize individual magnets. The only exception is that - to me - A3 sounds pretty similar to degaussed A5.

    I think a much bigger factor here is that the coils settle. Unless they are epoxied to death there's some room for settling and they might become looser or tighter over time, also depending on environmental factors involved.

    At the end of the day I can't hear much of a difference between new and old 59s and JBs (those I tried).
     
  14. Rosewood

    Rosewood Member

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    The isulation used on old pickups ( formvar and enamel ) would tend to crack easier than the poly nylon coating on some new pickups so I would think the old pickups changed more than modern pickups unless using the same materials.
     
  15. GUITARFORCE

    GUITARFORCE Member

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    Unless the guitar's pickups have been exposed to other magnetic fields. For example, leaning a guitar, with top facing the speakers, could also weaken the magnets.

    An amp cabnet's magnetic field can extend, from my measurements, 18 to 24 inches from the front of the cabinet. Resting a guitar in this manner can sap the gauss from the mags over time. The lower grade Alnicos, A2 and A3, tend to be more susceptable to loss because of the inherent properties of the grade (the alloy makeup of the magnet) and its ability to hold a charge.
     
  16. ManliusGuitar

    ManliusGuitar Member

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    More than likely the weak magnet readings you may find on an older pickup are more indicative of the general strength of the magnet. I would strongly argue that an AlNiCo magnet will not lose much, if any, charge over that span of time. In the 50's, the rating classifications of magnets was much more lax than it is today, so it is very difficult to pigeon-hole the grade of magnets used. I would imagine that they had a great big old box of magnets labelled "AlNiCo" and used them all, even though today they may be labelled as A2 A3 A4 or A5.

    I have gotten the chance to work on and examine about 5 patent applied for sticker pickups, and only one magnet was ready to take a charge, and it was very minimal. That is a very small sample, but is inline with some findings of others.

    I think the speaker magnet thing is interesting. Although I wouldn't prop my guitar up by the amp for too long, I seriously doubt if any degaussing effect will occur unless the guitar sits there for the equivalant of a couple years total time in a 50 year span...
     
  17. paulscape

    paulscape Member

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    Its true of many metals...they age, fatigue and loose memory
     
  18. mpvick

    mpvick Member

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    it seems to me the older the pickups the better they sound. for instance I went to GC today to compare my Stratocaster (Fender Stratocaster MIM squier series(squire tuners, trem, and pick gaurd and everything else fender) from 1995) to a new epiphone les paul and a fender MIM Stratocaster with a humbucker (deciding whether or not the pick up makes the difference (it did)) and I realized my pickups on all the same settings on amp and guitar for the middle pick up had more output on the new one which was odd also pre 2000 gibsons always sound better to me than the new ones.
     

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