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Humbucker Pickup Height Adjustment

IceTre

Member
Messages
877
For humbucker pickups with two adjustment screws on each side, should the pickup be set parallel with the strings, or should one end (neck or bridge) be slightly higher or lower than the other?

Next question: what method should be followed in adjusting the individual pole pieces?

I know that the bridge pickup should generally be higher than the neck pickup, because the strings vibrate more in the neck pickup area.

Thanks in advance for the education.
 

mikealpine

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
1,547
I think you'll find there is no "should" when it comes to this. It's experimentation to get the sound that you want to hear, and that particular guitar. I have some where the bass side is closer, because that's what I feel that guitar needs. If the balance in volume is not what I want, I'll change the heights until I think the balance is better. The good thing is, that it's all reversible. Play a bit, move the pickups a little and check if you like that better. If not, change them back. Same with the pole pieces. Trial and error will get you your best results for your ear and your gear.
 

Jarick

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
9,138
I always start with the pickup fairly level, but if I need it to be a little brighter or darker or leaner in the bass I'll adjust it. I'm never going to have a pickup that's super angled though.

I also do it kind of by ear and trial/error. Usually I start with the bridge pickup a little bit above the ring and the neck pickup about even with the ring. The bridge pickup tends to get raised a little more while the neck pickup might get backed off a touch especially on the low string side. That tends to give me a fuller sound and a little more output from the bridge while the neck pickup sounds a bit more distant.
 

cap10kirk

Member
Messages
9,001
There is no exact pickup height or pole piece height that works for everyone. I just adjust it all by ear. I get the bridge pickup height where I want it, then adjust the neck pickup until they sound balanced. If I want the neck a little brighter (which I always do), I lower it a little more, and raise the pole pieces to balance it with the bridge pickup. Then, I adjust all the pole pieces so they're balanced across all 6 strings.
 

sg~guy

Member
Messages
681
-its always lower than you think-

-better note definition and clarity with lower bridge pup's-
 

ken374

Member
Messages
7,038
Well I like measurements so I know were to start! I always 1/8 on the low E side and 1/16 high E by taking the measurement from the top of the pole piece. Usually the 6th string is about flush and the 1st string. You want to raise the pole towards the middle up like 2 or so turns and the others 1 so you can match the radius of the neck. This takes out some unwanted highs and more balanced tone. Works great on Gibsons to smooth it out more.
 

ken374

Member
Messages
7,038
Well I like measurements so I know were to start! I always 1/8 on the low E side and 1/16 high E by taking the measurement from the top of the pole piece. Usually the 6th string is about flush and the 1st string. You want to raise the pole towards the middle up like 2 or so turns and the others 1 so you can match the radius of the neck. This takes out some unwanted highs and more balanced tone. Works great on Gibsons to smooth it out more.
neck try 4mm each side
 

edro

Member
Messages
942
My preference for Lesters or any humbucker guitar:

I deck the pickups, play and listen. Raise in small increments, playing each time... I prefer lower pickups... Just sounds better to me...

Every amp has a preamp... :)
 

kidmo

Senior Member
Messages
1,149
Does anybody REALLY know the compromise entailed by lowering the pickup and raising the pole pieces?? If it's factual that lowering the pickup to gain more clarity and raising the pole piece for better string separation, why isn't it more widely known and practiced?? Rarely do you see a humbucker with the pole pieces raised. Strat pick ups have staggered pole pieces more than any other pick up, why is that?? I've seen more vintage P90 pick ups with the pole pieces raised. Why is that?? In this day and age, why is there not more general knowledge about pole pieces?? I once asked a well known pick up maker about raising the pole pieces and he said it's not worth it. why?? Why?? WHY??
This is from Seymore Duncan website:

Adjusting pickup pole piece height

Many would be familiar with adjusting the height of a pickup to balance the volume between bridge and neck humbuckers. One thing that you may notice when adjusting a pickup is that the lower frequencies are amplified as the pickup gets higher. With some guitar/pickup combinations they may result in an undesirable muddy thick tone. Lowering the pickups may resolve the EQ issues, but not give you enough output.

There is a way around this though. Humbuckers typically have at least one coil that has pole-pieces that are either fillister head screws that can be adjusted with a flat-head screw driver, or socket head cap screws that are adjustable with an allen key. By lowering the pickup and raising the pole-pieces you can raise the output of the pickup without raising the low end too much.

One trick that works really well for a bridge pickup is raising the three-bass side pole-pieces, keeping the treble side flush with with the bobbin, and raising the treble side a fraction to match the volume across the strings. This gives you a sharper, less bassy tone for the wound strings, and a fuller tone for the unwound strings. This setup works really well if you want to play lead further up the fretboard, but find that notes get too shrill on the bridge pickup.


Adjusting and changing your pickup’s pole pieces can make a big difference to your tone.

Swapping pickup pole pieces

You’ve probably noticed how some humbucker models use the aforementioned fillister head screws and others the socket-head cap screws. The reason for the two different types is that each alter the tone of the pickup in slightly different ways.

The Socket head cap screw generates a slightly tighter and brighter tone than the more traditional fillister head screw. If you have a pickup that uses fillister head screws, and find that the pickup sounds a little loose and dark, a swap to the socket head cap screw might suit you just fine.

Generally both the fillister head and socket head cap screws used in most humbuckers are the same thread size (5-40). You may not be able to find them in a regular hardware store, but most specialty fastener stores will have them.

Another major factor is the length of the screw itself. Fillisters are typically 3/4″ long screws. Trimming them or installing 1/2″ ones will significantly brighten up a pickup as well. The socket head cap screws typically used by Seymour Duncan are already 1/2″, which may account to the significant changes some experience if you are to swap pole-pieces between different Seymour Duncan models.

Using a capacitor as a high pass filter

Here’s another trick for those who are comfortable with using a soldering iron. If you are finding that a pickup is sounding a little too muddy for your liking you can use a capacitor as a high pass filter.

Solder a 0.047uf non-polarised capacitor between your pickup’s ‘hot’ wire (black for Seymour Duncan pickups) and the pickup selector to cut out some of the low end frequencies the pickup produces. If this isn’t quite cutting enough for you experiment with a few slightly smaller value capacitors (0.022uf, 0.01uf, etc) to dial in your perfect tone. This is a great little fix for any pickup in any position, single coil or humbucker.
more to come...
 

Mincer

Member
Messages
4,580
It is always different to me. There is certainly a sweet spot that every pickup has and can be different for every player of that guitar (I pick lightly, but if my metal friends pick my guitar, it is a mess for them). Generally, with modern string gauges, the poles follow the radius unless I hear one string just jump out, then I compensate for it.
 

Kmaz

Member
Messages
8,991
When I received my Heritage 150, the bridge bucker was jacked quite high and the neck much lower. No slanting.
 

xjojox

Tardis-dwelling wanker
Messages
5,733
The advice from the Duncan website quoted above is quite good, particularly regarding polepieces. I went through a pickup-modding phase some years ago and spent a fair amount of time on pickup and luthier forums while I pulled pickups apart and rebuilt them, playing with magnets, polepices, etc. Changing to hex (socket head) screws from flathead (fillister) screws really does tighten up the sound of a pickup, and vice versa.

I solo a fair amount with the neck pickup, so this becomes particularly useful in balancing a neck hummer with a bridge hummer without trading out the neck pickup. I even have one guitar where the neck pickup sounded best with hex screws on the lower three strings and flat screws on the upper three. That way I kept the syrupy tone on the high strings but it tightened up the low strings. Looked kinda funky but funky is cool too. On the same guitar I needed an articulate but slightly hot bridge pickup. I started with a Duncan Screamin' Demon, which is a 10k wind, and both coils have hex screws (no slug coil). Sounds fine in George Lynch's guitar through his rig but didn't work in my guitar thru my rig, the guitar was kinda spanky naturally (it's a PRS singlecut, SC250). Swapped the magnet to Alnico 8, that fattened and warmed it a bit. Then changed one row of screws to fillister (flat), still not enough. So now it's a 10k wind with an A8 magnet and two rows of fillister screws. It works in that guitar, and plays well with the neck pickup (Duncan Alnico II Pro, with bass side screws changed to hex as noted above).

One thing I recently had to come to grips with is that you may need to balance a guitar differently for different rigs. My Friedman Smallbox has huge low-mids, and my Axe-FX rig, even when using a Friedman patch, is much tighter (admittedly I EQ it that way, I don't like Buffalo-sized low-mids). So I find that different pickup adjustments are needed to optimize each rig.

Someone posted a video on TGP of Joe Walsh doing a basic lesson not long ago, and he went thru a simple exercise of adjusting pickups using his ears. His commentary while he did it was very entertaining. (I think the point of the post was that Joe later pointed out the "proper" way to play the Whole Lotta Love riff, letting the D string ring open while playing the fretted D on the fifth string and goosing it with a subtle bend...)
 

70 Mach 1

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
5,458
also imo once you make an adjustment leave it be for a while and see how it sounds in various situations.

what may sound sucky at bedroom levels may sound great at gig level.

also it give your ears time to adjust than maybe a simply amp or pedal tweak will be all it needs from there

I set mine up then resist the temptation to touch it again for at least 3 weeks and i use it
several times in the studio as well as gigging before i do anything else more.

also feedback from another experienced guitar player or bass player in the band helps too.
 

IceTre

Member
Messages
877
Thanks for all the replies, but my main question was about whether a humbucker pickup should be parallel with the strings or not. I recently bought some humbuckers that are difficult to set parallel to the strings; they are constructed so that the neck side of each pickup will always be higher than the bridge side.
 




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