• New Sponsor: ShipNerd, Ship Your Gear with Us... for less! Click Here.

Pickguard change = better tone?

davimre

Member
Messages
223
I've been disappointed with the tone of a recent partscaster build. Rather than go for a pickup swap, I on a hunch swapped the gold anodized pickguard to a regular 3-ply plastic one.

With the anodized guard, the pickups sounded noticeably honky/harsh and were extremely microphonic. Engaging even light gain led to squeals and you could knock on the guard and produce a loud sound.

Since switching to the plastic guard, the pickups (David Allen Tru '62s) have gone back to that scooped, clucky strat sound we all love. The pickups further are no longer microphonic.

I was under the impression the gold guard since it's aluminum shouldn't interfere with the pickups, but it clearly was in some way. Do any tgp members have a similar experience with swapping guards and getting different tones?
 

johnh

Member
Messages
4,768
I love reading the ToneQuest Report. In one issue the editor put an anodised scratchplate on one particular strat and mentioned that it affected the tone - made the guitar sound a little more bright, scooped and hollow from memory.
 

Laurent Brondel

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,401
An anodized pickguard definitely changes the tone, it is something I encountered a few times and every single guitar I built with one eventually got a plastic or nylon guard.
I think it may have to do with how aluminum at this thickness affects the magnetic field of the pickups. It makes the guitar sound muffled and severely decreases the high end and dynamic range.
It is not a subtle change.
 

poolshark

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,239
Could be eddy currents, could be material stiffness. Either way, no surprise they sound different.
 

ripgtr

Member
Messages
10,773
With the anodized guard, the pickups sounded noticeably honky/harsh and were extremely microphonic
That is kind of interesting, the Allens I tried were not microphonic at all, pretty sure he pots them?

I was reading something on base plates that is kind of relevant. The aluminum is not magnetic, so it does not affect that, like the bridge on a tele does, if it is steel. But the metal Does affect eddy currents, which will change the sound. I added the aluminum plate under the pickguard on my partsocaster to match what is on my old one, and I noticed it beefed up the sound a bit. I didn't expect that, really, kind of surprised me. I was doing it more for esthetics, really. So, yea, I can see it affecting the sound.

A plastic one could have an affect, if the pickups are microphonic. They will pick up vibrations from the pickguard and that can make a difference. But Fender potted their pickups in the old days, though. If you can tap on the pickguard and you can hear it in the amp, then the pickup is picking up more than the strings, so ...
 

davimre

Member
Messages
223
To address a few questions:

The pickups are lightly potted and as D. Allen suggests were set pretty low from the strings. The pickups moreover were attached with surgical tubing.

One suggestion I found browsing around is that these guards (mine is a genuine Fender) are rarely 100% aluminum and therefore may contain some ferrous metals that interfere with the pickups.
 
Last edited:

edro

Member
Messages
942
The pickguard due to it's composition of metals can be distorting the normal flux path.

Any deviation of flux path from norm WILL decrease the field delta generated by a moving guitar string which will in effect decrease e_induced developed in the coil. i.e. loss of signal level....
 

thebowl

Member
Messages
712
There is definitely a difference. I have a G&L ASAT Classic that I purchased used with aftermarket pickups in it. I bought a three-ply plastic guard, in part for looks; in part to see how it sounded. Definitely a "softer" tone, which was not an improvement. Not sure why Leo went with aluminum on what were basically the last guitars he made (I know, with Leo, it probably had something to do with $$, LOL), but this particular guitar sounds "better" with what it came with. YMMV.
 

Advisable Owl

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,203
Saying aluminum isn't magnetic is kind of a half truth. It's paramagnetic which means that it reacts to external magnetic fields and enhances them, so the carefully crafted magnetic and electrical properties goes out the windows when combined. In addition because it's paramagnetic it has a Ur of slight greater than one which basically means it doesn't really deflect or change field lines either.

These effects are temperature dependent and are more apparent at low temperatures. I would be very happy if one of you could take you're aluminum pickguard and thrown them in the freezer for a couple hours install them again and try playing and compare it to room temp just for ***** and gigs. Probably won't notice much as the thermal energy will slowly increase in the pickguard and decrease the magnetic properties as the energy causes the dipoles to scatter.
 

edro

Member
Messages
942
If aluminum can levitate, it can sure have an effect on flux.... and it can levitate...
 

Dig ?

Member
Messages
1,197
Pickups hear what is happening both outside and inside of a guitar. An anodized pickguard means that inside of the guitar sound is resonating against a metallic surface wich can be harsh and microphonic. I have experienced this in metal pickguards as well as the vintage "ash tray" bridge covers
 

davimre

Member
Messages
223
The physics and material science on display here is outstanding. Thanks for all the replies.
 

bluesoul

Senior Member
Messages
4,646
An anodized pickguard definitely changes the tone, it is something I encountered a few times and every single guitar I built with one eventually got a plastic or nylon guard.
I think it may have to do with how aluminum at this thickness affects the magnetic field of the pickups. It makes the guitar sound muffled and severely decreases the high end and dynamic range.
It is not a subtle change.
At first when I read this thread I was having a hard time believing an anodized PG would make any difference on how pickups sound....
"It makes the guitar sound muffled and severely decreases the high end and dynamic range."
And that is what I discovered!
I was hearing a dull sounding strat and ready to swap pickups until I read this thread...I got rid of the anodized gaurd and the pickups came alive.
Night and day difference.
 




Trending Topics

Top Bottom