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Humbuckers: when we have tone controls, what benefit is a cover?

Paul Conway

Member
Messages
4,989
About to put a humbucker in a strat. Hadn't considered the cover/ no cover conundrum till now.

I understand that a cover offers some protection against RFI but that it also dulls the top end.

Is the RFI issue really that prominent with a humbucker? If not, then presumably, the only reason for a cover is aesthetics, given that surely we can replicate the 'sweetening' of the sound with a tone control?

Would welcome your thoughts.
 

jvin248

Member
Messages
4,874
.

If you are using a humbucker for noise reduction in the first place ... a covered humbucker seems like the correct answer.

If on a Strat ... make sure to use shielded cable from the volume pot to the jack, just like you use shielded cable from the guitar to the amp to reduce noise.

Not all humbuckers are built equal. Many are wound with high internal capacitance resulting in muddiness no matter if they have a cover or not. A huge volume seller aftermarket pickup brand has this tendency, some players call them "warm" or "smooth" -- but they are just muddy. Boutique hand-wound pickups will have more scatter wound bobbins and thus lower internal capacitance which gives you more articulate note clarity -- and you pay for it. Many import cheap ebay pickups, especially those $15/set range ones that are unfortunately unbranded, are low capacitance (likely actually hand wound) but most guitarists seem to think if you are not paying high prices you are not getting quality...

However, here's what you do: Buy whatever humbucker you want to use and if it's too muddy because of winding or the wrong cover material or you put it too close to the strings (better tone is lower), then solder a 0.047uF tone cap in series with the muddy pickup's hot lead. You can try other caps in series if you want but generally starting there will fix a lot of issues by cutting the pickup's effective capacitance. Look up "capacitors in series" calculators if you want to see how it works.

.
 

Ron Kirn

Platinum Supporting Member
Vendor
Messages
6,701
it keeps prying little fingers from exploring what's under the tape.

The sonic influence of the cover is a factor that's considered when the design of the pickup is under development.. Thus when you remove the cover, while you DO alter the sound, you also defeat whatever sound the engineers were striving for.

There are guys making pups that sound quite nice that know little more than to wind wire around magnets, for those pups, removing the cover is a "crap shoot" since it's probable the only thought that went into the design was where the least expensive components may be found.. However remove the covers from pickups made by the "serious" makers and there's little reason to buy a higher priced, better pickup.

r
 

Warkli

Member
Messages
424
Covers influence on tone is very little compared to your other tone shaping elements. Tone control, amp, preamp EQ etc. You can count even more.
It's true that it smooths out the top end which I see it a positive thing. Still that might not work well with some dark sounding humbuckers or guitars.

Still I like the look and I would prefer covered HBs for that reason.
 

Paul Conway

Member
Messages
4,989
lol....

this x100. Ha, that last happened to me in the late 80's. It was a real #$$%er. I bought an enclosed EMG replacement for this reason :)
I did that very thing to a Bill Lawrence Tele neck pickup. Sigh.

This is going to be a bridge pickup, though.
 

smolder

Platinum Supporting Member
Silver Supporting Member
Messages
14,305
I understand why they took covers off back in the day. Get some nickel silver covers and let your guitar look complete. I’m not huge on aesthetics of guitars... playability and tone are way more important... but humbuckers are flat out ugly without covers.
 

David Garner

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
5,743
Seymour Duncan told a story once about why he wound his first pickup. He bent a string on his Telecaster and the string went under the bobbin on the bridge pickup and broke a coil wire, rendering the pickup dead.

I've never had that happen on a Telecaster or any of my LPs (the only ones I own where it could happen), but the remote possibility of doing that is another reason a cover might have utility.
 

Amp_Addicted

Member
Messages
539
If you sweat a bunch while playing, a covered humbucker helps. I have never busted a pickup by a E string getting caught below it's top though it's see how that could cause a pickup to prematurely malfunction. I actually prefer the look of the covered humbucker, but get why some don't. As a result I am not well versed on whether a cover has much impact on tone. Some pickups need the cover to work properly(I am one of those weirdos that actually like a stock Tele neck pickup. The cover is part of what some call a dull sound-I like the contrast) A 70's Fender Wide Range Humbucker or original Guild HB-1 look stupid without their covers. Those are my two favorite pickups, so those covers wont be ditched anytime soon
 

MikeMcK

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
4,775
I think covers first started coming off in the '70's, when the only way to get gain was from the pickup and amp... every fraction of a dB was important, especially in the mids. But at the time, the reasoning behind it was usually, "well, Clapton did it."
 

Golem

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
504
The nickel silver has a very subtle effect on the tone. Other than that it's aesthetics. I feel like covered pickups are quieter when split. But perhaps I'm imagining that.
 




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