How important is volume balance between pickups? Why?

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by dr.circles, Mar 14, 2008.

  1. dr.circles

    dr.circles Member

    Messages:
    92
    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2007
    And is output directly, or just somewhat, correlated with volume balance? I'm new to all of this.
     
  2. Austinrocks

    Austinrocks Member

    Messages:
    7,026
    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2007
    Pickups have a resistance which you can measure with and Ohm meter on most Multi-meters, typically the single coil is around 5K ohms, and a Humbucker around 12K ohms, however they vary over a range of values, the resistance relates the amount of volume you will get from the pick up, the higher the resistance the higher the volume will be. Manufactures will use the resistance to balance the volume in the better guitars, typically the neck and middle pickups will have one value say 5K ohms and the bridge will have a higher value say 8K ohms, this is to balance the volume across the pickups, cheaper guitars will often use the same pickup in all positions, this will cause the neck pickup to be louder than the bridge, it is noticible in a lot of guitars, and you can use the volume knob to balance the volumes when you need to, or you can spend some money and get better pickups, which is what I do, only one guitar of mine has the original pick up, its a cheap Oscar Schimdt, and the pick ups are more expensive than the $150 I paid of the guitar.
     
  3. dr.circles

    dr.circles Member

    Messages:
    92
    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2007
    That's what I thinking- thanks!

    I recently ordered a set of pickups and wanted a bridge pickup that would overdrive my amp easier than the stock Strat bridge pickup. But, at the same time, I wanted something with a typical Strat chime (but with a little less treble) in the neck and middle pickups. I got 2% underwound neck and middle pickups and a P90 style (Strat cavity size) pickup in the bridge. Because I didn't get all of the P90 style pickups, the P90 style bridge had to have changes made to it for the volume balance. Instead of the typical 10.3 k-ohm at 10,000 turns of 43 gauge wire, I got 6.3 k-ohm at 8,500 turns of 42 gauge wire. The regular Strat (neck and middle) pickups and P90 style (bridge) are qualitatively different, though. The regulars are Alnico magnets and the P90 style is adjustable nickel plated pole pieces with two bar magnets. Do you think I sacrificed too much of the P90 style sound in the name of volume balance? Or is volume balance too important to ignore?



    What are some of the problems experienced by having pickups that aren't volume balanced between each other?
     
  4. Tone_Terrific

    Tone_Terrific Member

    Messages:
    25,243
    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2004
    Location:
    Canada-GTA
    Volume is determined by the pickups output, which is measured in millivolts.
    This is often, but not exactly, reflected by the DC resistance, measured in ohms (Kohms).
    The closeness to the strings also affects output and tonal quality, so you have some adjustment room.

    Exactly how this all works with respect to magnet types, field strength, coil pattern, wire gauge, etc., remains a mystery to me.

    I like a bit of signal boost as I engage the bridge pup for lead work, but not a pup that sounds too weird for the guitar, except sometimes.:D
     
  5. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

    Messages:
    33,542
    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2006
    those pickups you described should balance just fine, as steel slugs with a magnet underneath make for a much louder pickup than alnico rods with the same coil wire. that's why leo went to that design with G&L. he found he could reduce the winding, reducing the associated treble loss, while still ending up with a sufficiently loud pickup.

    as long as your bridge is not weaker than your neck & middle, you should be able to get good balance by playing with pickup height. most folks can also do just fine with a considerably hotter bridge pickup as well.
     
  6. LaXu

    LaXu Member

    Messages:
    2,761
    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2004
    Location:
    Finland
    There is something to be said for hotter neck pickups too. Many players like a bit more gain when soloing so a hotter neck pickup could be used to kick it up a notch for a more compressed sound for leads.

    I've got a tele style Yamaha that currently has a humbucker sized P90 in the neck and a tele singlecoil in the bridge. It's the Mike Stern signature model so it originally had a full sized 'bucker in the neck and a singlecoil size humbucker in the bridge.
     
  7. KRosser

    KRosser Member

    Messages:
    14,153
    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2004
    Location:
    Pasadena, CA
    It depends on your playing and how you use the pickup slector on the guitar.

    I've always prefered having the neck and bridge at the exact same volume level when I switch between them. Other folks like feeling a 'boost' from the bridge.

    It's up to what works for you
     
  8. JSeth

    JSeth Member

    Messages:
    2,140
    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2008
    Location:
    Corvallis, Oregon... "Heart of the Valley"...
    Depends on the guitar and the way it's used... in general, I like my pups to be pretty much balanced in output - I'll do the tweaking myself if needed... but my ES-175? I pretty much only use the 'board pup so I don't even care what the other sounds like, long as it works, cause I only use it as a kind of "pre-set" for Jim Hall type strumming w/ a lot of pick noise... when it's kicked in w/ both simultaneously, the overall volume is lowered way down for comping...
    Good luck with your quest!
     

Share This Page