Give me your philosophy on pickup output

Discussion in 'Effects, Pedals, Strings & Things' started by kleydj13, Jun 30, 2010.

  1. Apollo

    Apollo Member

    Apr 19, 2010
    low output vintage pickups for the best clean sound. you can always add a transparent boost pedal to bring up the output and drive the amp when you need it.
  2. youngupstart

    youngupstart Member

    May 26, 2007
    for the most part a mid output balanced eq bucker. too low sounds harsh and thin too high sounds murky. just right.

    i also do some jazz for which i use low output singles on a tele only because i need the headroom through a bassman.

    live i usually leave my amps mids at noon and play with treble and bass to accomodate the room's eq.

    studio i have both an unpotted low output humbucker and an active emg 85 wired direct no controls. in there its anything goes.

    i always walk around FOH while someone plays my rig with the band. i use a lot of pedals and my amp is loud but i never squash anyone out of the mix nor do i get buried. the nuances are as good as youll get live.

    i know everyone in these parts has a bone with the kids who scoop their rectumfryers to ****. but to me it is just as bad when that "purist" geezer has his his 5k pafs through that british amp mids dimed through mid-heavy speakers. and it is just raspy cardboard and thin, just killing the mix.
  3. BillyK

    BillyK Member

    Dec 13, 2004
    Pickup output from low to high is not dissimilar in my mind as the color spectrum. Put low output at one end and high at the other.

    In the color spectrum, there's absolutely nothing wrong with the last color on the far right side of the spectrum, as long as you are OK missing out on every color prior to that one.

    For some players, that one color is all there needs to be in the world. For other players, they need everything.

    How to get everything? Start with great low output pups and select from one of a 100 great boost and or EQ pedals and you'll get there. In fact, you'll get everywhere.

    What do I use? Low output pups exclusively.
  4. Todd Bishop

    Todd Bishop Member

    Apr 17, 2009
    I play mostly hard rock and metal so medium to high output suits me pretty well.
  5. Lolaviola

    Lolaviola Member

    Oct 13, 2005
    Eastern Standard Time
    I love single coils, but sometimes in rock, I need a humbucker to get thru the mix. Live, blues and jazz is another story.
  6. Ronsonic

    Ronsonic Member

    May 14, 2006
    Sunny Tampa, Florida
    My theory starts with: The only power in the pickup is a tiny wisp of metal vibrating past a bitty little magnet. The amp gets power from the wall socket. All it wants. The most powerful thing driving the pickup is your thumb. Get a good tonal balance and the transient characteristics you want out of the pickup and get the power from the pedals and amp.
  7. Andre357

    Andre357 Member

    Jan 10, 2007

    Wow, what a great post. I couldn't agree more, and you've articulated how I've felt for years...

    I would add low output, single coil players often have a more unique voice due to the fact they need to make interesting and varied choices to get thick " forced to dirt " tones ( i love that term )...
  8. Jef Bardsley

    Jef Bardsley Member

    Jan 26, 2007
    Middle Massachusetts
    I was just reading the thread on booster pedals, trying to get some insight into what people use them for. Now, I know.

    I use overwound pickups, turn the guitar down, and the amp up. No pedals.

    As far as philosophy, I think people expect their guitars to sound good with the knobs on '10', and that's misguided. If your guitar sounds good on '10', then it won't sound as good when you turn it down, and suddenly you're very limited.
  9. chervokas

    chervokas Member

    Feb 16, 2008
    Very interesting thread. I like lower output pickups myself, DCRs of 6-8k, whether singles or humbuckers, as a general rule because I think they allow more of the sound and character of the guitar to come through, even when you're not playing purely clean.... Really hot, heavily overwound pickups are kind of sonic homogenizers to my ears especially super dark, mega hot pickups with which its impossible to play clean. I hate those. One trick ponies. I suppose if someone's exclusively playing super crunchy metal, with bright amps, those pickups have some value, but I need a much broader palette of tones at my disposal so some of these 14k DCR and up pickups are almost entirely useless to me.

    That said, something on the slightly hotter side--10k dcr or so (and I know DCR isn't a great measure of a pickup's tone, but it's our most common shorthand measurement)--if it's voiced to preserve enough high end jangle and upper harmonic richness--can be great straight into something like a Fender Tweed-style amp for a rich, driving crunch w/o too much amp gain or the need for pedals to goose gain or add clipping. Great for recording into a small tube amp.

    Also, to me, a lot of it has to do with matching the pickup to the guitar....a really bright chimey Strat can benefit from a pickup that's a little warmer (and usually that also means hotter), a really heavy dark sounding slab of mahogany can often benefit from the splank and twang of lower output, brighter voiced humbuckers.

    It's interesting seeing how many players favor lower, vintage-style outputs in this thread considering how much marketing muscle and apparent marketplace appeal high output overwound pickups seem to have.
  10. Uma Floresta

    Uma Floresta Senior Member

    May 23, 2006
    Interstellar Wossname
    Medium-low. I need clarity above all else.
  11. bluesmann8

    bluesmann8 Senior Member

    Sep 15, 2008
    single coils /PAF or ny mini buckers. why? tone, nothing like a duncan 59 either imo
  12. Mancunion

    Mancunion Member

    Mar 26, 2009
    Pickups are only a link in the sound chain. So, I guess the right pick ups are those which better react to the rest of your chain (i.e. your guitar, your amp and more importantly your playing style). Much has to do also with what you are expecting.

    I have a late 70s strat with Bareknuckle Trilogy Suite single coil. They have a tremendous output, yet they are cristal clean. Who says that high output pickups don't do vintage ought to listen to the Hendrix, Purple and Trower tones I can get.
  13. somedude

    somedude Member

    May 30, 2004
    South of Heaven
    My two main guitars are a P90 Les Paul and a slightly overwound PAF Les Paul. I like both because slamming the front end of the amp requires me to hit the strings harder, and I like how that comes through the amp.

    I'm not a low output purist... it's just the way it worked out. I'd be happy to have a higher output guitar to compliment the other two... and maybe someday I'll be able to afford it.
  14. edgie

    edgie Member

    Jan 10, 2009
    I have a set of Bareknuckle Apaches(5.7-5.9k) in my Edwards SRV relic strat for more than two years now and I've played different kinds of tones in different bands on them and they work just fine. Sets could vary from modern rock(Incubus, 311, RHCP, etc.) to blues-rock/classic rock(Hendrix, The Doors, etc.).

    I find that low output pickups, with the help of effects, can go to where hi gain pickups go but not vice versa.
  15. JohnnyGtar

    JohnnyGtar Member

    Jan 7, 2006
    In general, low to medium output.
  16. mullytron

    mullytron Member

    Jul 27, 2009
    right behind you
    I have a lot of agreeing to do. I do prefer something in the middle myself, but can appreciate the extremes, as long is it's not a desert-island one guitar situation. There really is no way to get all the sounds you might want one way. I like the hot pickups/away from the strings thing, I like the loud guitar/turned down thing. I like the volume up all night thing.

    My go-to Strat has Bardens in it, which a lot of guys think are shrill and bad, but I love turning that thing up and down during the set and staying clear and loud the whole time. I just put a Demeter mid-boost in a different Strat (maple/maple, ash, Suhr V60LPs), and it's so cool but... totally different. Like having 2 guitars, almost too much mids on any non-bridge pickup, but so awesome. I like high output, just not all the time.

    Can a magnetic guru set me straight? Is there any back-EMF kind of damping factor in inductive coils? I feel like high-output pickups have no feel, like they just become an on/off switch for the amp, like a drum trigger. Anything over 12k kind of loses me; who knows, maybe my technique just sucks.
  17. pitseleh

    pitseleh Member

    Sep 1, 2008
    I've always preferred brighter tones in guitars. Bright, jangly, lively, crystalline, glassy, whatever you want to call it, that's what I prefer for clean tones and generally for dirty tones as well. Low-output pickups seem to do this better, in my experience. But with that said, I haven't played a ton of high-output pickups so I'm sure there's some I'd like just fine too!
  18. spentron

    spentron Member

    Aug 2, 2004
    I like mid-high output PU. I have the option of good coil splits with ways to get enough gain, and still don't use them a lot. The more "concentrated" tone seems to work better. I use various dirt mostly but have come to like the clean tone too, although originally I didn't. The trick is one that still brings out some upper mids and low treble rather than cutting off too much or just boosting mids. Also if you do have coil splits, with a PU that is bright enough you tend to not need them, the splits will be too thin. If I only used cleanish tones, I could go with a brighter PU or even single coil, but still wouldn't really need it.
  19. SBLP

    SBLP Member

    Jan 13, 2010
    I prefer vintage style pickups, Strat and Les Paul. A lot of the best rock and blues was made with whatever came in the guitars before there was a huge pool of aftermarket pickups. Most of favorite tones come from clean or overdriven/fuzzified old school guitars.

    Then along came the Super Distortion, which, to me, is still an old school sound that was later used through more modern gain and it worked well. Then everyone and their mother started making pickups. Sure, there's lots of good high output, hot pickups, and even some of the older ones had some hot output, depending on the axe, like early metal tones. But that sound was always more authentic to me compared to today's EMG's and super high gain insane output pickups.

    I mean, if that's your style and need, fine. It's good that there's a wide array of varying pickups for so many styles for everyone. But for me, it's always vintage tone. And with enough chops and a good amp, you can take a '59 or even a distorted '64 Strat and coax just about any sound from it, from soft, clean jazz/blues, to Death Shred Metal.

    Didn't Iommi use a Strat on some of Sabbath's first album? Not saying that's death metal, but it's still Metal, the origin of that dark, heavy, sinister genre via tone and style, not a BC Rich Warlock into a Mesa Boogie--not that there's anything wrong with that; just making an example of how old school pickups can cover a lot of ground.
  20. spoonie g

    spoonie g Member

    Feb 28, 2006

    The first album was a strat I believe.

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