Have you ever realized what you thought was your "perfect tone," on paper, was, in fact, not?

singlecutarmy

Member
Messages
1,588
I can't say this has, exactly, happened to me but it's more of a curiosity that came up from another situation.

Ex. I asked about Alnico 2 pickups for high gain on the seymour duncan forum and was suggested that the qualities I said I'm looking for are more like Alnico 8. (Basically I want that singing A2 top end with a tighter bottom for chugga chugga).

Now I know, sonically, from hearing A2 pickups, I like their sound, but I haven't owned or played any to know if I want them (I will own one as of this afternoon!)

I also don't know anything about A8, so I'll need to do some research there and maybe order one.

So it has brought me to this question:
  • Is the A2 the sound I want, but I'm mischaracterizing / poorly describing my ideal sound
OR
  • Do I just like certain things about the A2 but my description suggests A8 is truly my ideal magnet type.
Obviously the answer is to try both and see what I like, but I think it's interesting you can get stuck in this dichotomy of,
"Am I looking for the wrong gear, or just describing what I'm looking for wrong?"

I feel like the effort to define my perfect tone in tonal buzz-words then find a piece of equipment that provides those is a less than ideal way of hunting gear, because sometimes the qualities I like about a sound are not necessarily ones often described in characterizing them, or that another piece of equipment could give me the qualities I like but with other ones I like more.

And one other exception - sometimes you just like a lot of different things and there's no one perfect sound for you! I love my P90s and my Rockfield pickups equally, they do different things, but they both sound fantastic. I also like the blacktop filters in my gretsch, which are completely different than either, and if I just described what my ideal sound is, I would NEVER have bought them.

At this point I'm rambling.

So uh... what's all y'alls experience?
 

Woowoo

Member
Messages
656
Taking into account the following factors:
1. You can't use words to accurately describe sound.
2. Unlike some other instruments, electric guitar sound passes through multiple components that can and do influence the end result.
3. Different ears perceive sound differently due to habit, preference, previous exposure to loud sounds, or even anatomical differences.
...it is almost impossible for any advice, guide, or description to be used "safely". I have been there...buying various stuff because the description looked ideal only to be totally disappointed and vice versa, taken by surprise with things I though I would dislike, but sounded awesome when I used them in real life.
Unfortunately our ears are the only thing we can depend on when it comes to such choices.
 

Average Joe

Member
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11,645
My ears are not fine tuned enough to say what part of the pickup's tone come from magnets vs windings etc. In fact my limitations are such that I would never bother about magnets: If I dislike a set of pickups, I'll find another set I like in stock form.

As for figuring out what I like, it's always a bit of a shot in the dark but if I can't get to try say a pickup before ordering, I tend to research what I have first. You see, by reading/hearing how others describe the tone of gear I already like, i get some bearing on how I should read descriptions on the items I'm interested in. What kind of adjectives are frequent in either set of descriptions?

Am I lucky enough that somebody already made a X vs Y thread in one of the forums, so that i can read up on those comparisons?

Most important is that I accept that "ideal tone" is a moving target, depending on genre and band. My ideal tone might for instance be my 335, but that doesn't really work as well as a strat in that pop/disco band with the horns and keys. It works a charm for the jazz quartet though
 

gunslinger

Member
Messages
3,291
Yes. But your ears have the final say.

What album(s), song(s) or artist(s) come closest to your favorite tones? Knowing this may help you to get to where you want to be tone wise.
 
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soulman969

Member
Messages
3,650
If by "on paper" you mean what you may have read or been told by others then to a certain degree I would agree with that.

I like to experiment but I also accept the fact that pickups are only one component in a complex system of other components.

In my world only by taking what's "on paper" and making it a reality can I ever decide whether or not I'm where I wanted to be.
 

Jazzandmore

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
10,767
I never look at pickup specs. I obsessively listen to sound files to figure out exactly which pickup I want. Then talk directly to the person who makes the pickups. That has worked best for me in the vast majority of cases where I bought new pickups.
 

Ron Kirn

Member
Messages
6,969
the "error" is in thinking tone can be the product of a quantified project... Unless you can factor the Psycho-acoustic phenomena, it's simply cannot happen..

r
 

Guitarworks

Member
Messages
10,403
OP,
Differences in volume and setting will set out to destroy whatever your best laid plans for "tone" are.
What 'tone' you think sounds perfect at quiet bedroom levels will sound terrible at high volume. What 'tone' you think sounds incredible when playing just by yourself will sound like absolute garbage in a mix with drums, bass, second guitar, keys and vocals.
The reality is a guitarist’s life is filled with knob-turning and dial-tweaking more than any highly-touted “recipe”.
 

singlecutarmy

Member
Messages
1,588
OP,
Differences in volume and setting will set out to destroy whatever your best laid plans for "tone" are.
What 'tone' you think sounds perfect at quiet bedroom levels will sound terrible at high volume. What 'tone' you think sounds incredible when playing just by yourself will sound like absolute garbage in a mix with drums, bass, second guitar, keys and vocals.
The reality is a guitarist’s life is filled with knob-turning and dial-tweaking more than any highly-touted “recipe”.
Definitely, in my bedroom I find I need a lot more treble than I would in a louder setting. My amp is quite dark. I'm pretty sure if I cranked it, it would make ears bleed without a lot of adjustments to my normal setup.
 

Benz2112

Memba?
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
5,187
The mistake you made was fielding suggestions from people on a forum *ducks*.

All this stuff is so very subjective, depends highly on the entire signal chain, and then who is playing through the signal chain. Even when someone comes up with a guitar or an amp mod that worked for them, the next person who tries it may like it for a completely different reason. I think tone can vary based upon the mood that you are in that day. I pulled out a cheapo guitar that I was thinking of moving on last night, and it was outright incredible sounding, even started a/b'ing it against some of my favs, put those down and rocked with it for an hour. Tone chasing is about the journey, not the destination.
 

singlecutarmy

Member
Messages
1,588
Get a good Multi FX unit. If you don't like the tone, adjust. And there is no soldering and extra parts that you don't want or can't sell.
Sorry but pickups are your first pass filter and there are just things you cannot EQ out down the line.

For me I find way more interest in the nuances of pickups than the rest of my signal chain. I like my amp and pedals, they do the thing.

Now I'm interested in how pickups interact with the thing.

I have many guitars with different flavors of pickups and there is not Multi FX unit that will make one respond to my playing like any of the others.

The soft response of A2 is significantly different from ceramic.
 
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Messages
165
Get a good Multi FX unit. If you don't like the tone, adjust. And there is no soldering and extra parts that you don't want or can't sell.
My helix rack and foot controller has saved me thousands of dollars. Bought it used for $1250 shipped. I still own a rectifier recording preamp with a Peavey Classic 60/60 6l6 tube power amp and a 1960a marshall cabinet. Don’t get me wrong. But, there are SO MANY times I just want a tone on a particular day or weekend for fun or jamming and I spin the dial, download a patch, and I’m up in running with cabinets and pedals I’d never use enough to justify buying.

I still own a keely Modded bosa ds-1, analogman ts9, and an angry charlie but that’s mostly for the Mesa.

all my other gear is gone. I’ve also been able to pair down my guitars from 7 to three. Many of the patches sound so great you can replicate a certain band without even changing instruments. I’ve got a prs Tremonti usa, a dave murray Black strat, and a Jimmie Vaughan mexi single coil strat I use. I might pick up a gretsch or telecaster this year.

when I need to booming tone and more dynamics I just run the helix into the tube power amp and out the marshall and then turn off the speaker emulation. Works great.
 

m@2

Member
Messages
5,072
I have seen far too many times, great players make a very average setup (think blues junior with a Mexican Tele) sound incredible, to believe it's THAT hard to get great tone. We say this a lot here on TGP but the "tone is in the hands' is a real thing (unfortunately lol)
 

bobcs71

Member
Messages
4,612
I feel like the effort to define my perfect tone in tonal buzz-words then find a piece of equipment that provides those is a less than ideal way of hunting gear, because sometimes the qualities I like about a sound are not necessarily ones often described in characterizing them, or that another piece of equipment could give me the qualities I like but with other ones I like more.

So uh... what's all y'alls experience?
My experience where I made the most progress for tone (and playing) was to listen to recordings of my playing in a band context. This included live, studio and home recordings.
I was fortunate to have input on those recordings from pro players & audio engineers.
Sometimes the hard part was accepting the simplicity of their suggestions.
 

singlecutarmy

Member
Messages
1,588
I have seen far too many times, great players make a very average setup (think blues junior with a Mexican Tele) sound incredible, to believe it's THAT hard to get great tone. We say this a lot here on TGP but the "tone is in the hands' is a real thing (unfortunately lol)
Why does someone have to come in with this every time a person is just looking to change their sound?

Yes, we get it, tone is in the hands.

Now can you please just let us have our gear discussion?

It's not like anyone is saying an A2 magnet is going to sound great and a Ceramic will sound like ****.

Sometimes you just want something different.

And for some reason this offends "Tone is in the hands" players that seem to be under the impression that tone chasers live in a constant state of despair that their tone is garbage and the next piece of gear will fix it.
 

m@2

Member
Messages
5,072
Why does someone have to come in with this every time a person is just looking to change their sound?

Yes, we get it, tone is in the hands.

Now can you please just let us have our gear discussion?

It's not like anyone is saying an A2 magnet is going to sound great and a Ceramic will sound like ****.

Sometimes you just want something different.

And for some reason this offends "Tone is in the hands" players that seem to be under the impression that tone chasers live in a constant state of despair that their tone is garbage and the next piece of gear will fix it.
allrighty then, what an odd response... I was just chiming in based on the question asked (Have you ever realized what you thought was your "perfect tone," on paper, was, in fact, not?).. Nevermind :aok

.
 

Brian N

Member
Messages
1,676
I've found that fidgeting with pickups won't get you very far. 90% of the guitar's tone is going to come from the guitar itself. Pickups are more of an EQ. I've done the whole this magnet or that magnet thing and in the end, it didn't make it sound any better to me. Now, if I don't like the sound I don't get the guitar, and if I do like the sound, I leave the pickups as-is and tweak other things to mold my tone.

End of the day though, I do prefer Alnico 2, followed by Alnico 5, and nothing else really does it for me.
 

noisebloom

Member
Messages
1,016
My ears tend to prefer Alnico 2s, even though A5s are much more popular, and A5s 'on paper' seem to make more sense to some of the heavier sounds I like to make. Still, I can't deny what I'm hearing.
 




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