pros and cons of low impedance pickups?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by redgold, Feb 1, 2012.

  1. redgold

    redgold Supporting Member

    Messages:
    5,479
    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2002
    Location:
    NY
    Hi, I have an EMG tele neck pickup I'm really enjoying. I understand that EMG's run with a battery are low impedance... what are the pros and cons of low impedance pickups on the rest of my signal chain (eg, cables, effects, amp)?

    Thanks in advance...
     
  2. Lolaviola

    Lolaviola Supporting Member

    Messages:
    8,061
    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2005
    Location:
    Eastern Standard Time
    It's generally not a 'problem' unless you like to use a lot of old fuzz effects, like fuzzface and fuzztone etc. etc.
    In some ways it makes your signal clear-er when using a large array of outboard devices, but in general, people who prefer guitar>amp synergy (or +fuzz synergy,) eschew low impedance.
    A Tele with a set of EMG's is a very flexible tone machine however. For creative use of low impedance, see Les Paul, David Gilmour and Jerry Garcia. Also most modern Bass tones involve active tone controls. High-impedance circuits (passive) can only cut high end. Active systems can +/- different frequencies. EMG sells a variety of filters you can add to their pickup.
     
  3. Jef Bardsley

    Jef Bardsley Member

    Messages:
    2,959
    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2007
    Location:
    Middle Massachusetts
    Everything I've seen lists EMG's output impedance as 10K. That's fairly high for a Tele.
     
  4. Rockledge

    Rockledge Member

    Messages:
    2,885
    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2011
    Location:
    mars
    Active pickups with low impedence , in my opinion, give you the tone of low output alnicos with the benefit if higher output and a hot gainy sound.
    With actives I suspect that the output of the guitar is not the impedence the pickups actually measure at. I would think that the impedence is a reflection of the circuitry of the preamp, which is making a low output pickup have the output of a high gain pickup.
    Kind of like how a crossover manipulates impedence.
    I see no cons to active pickups (depending on the particular pickup and personal taste) other than the cost of installing them and the occasional inconvenience of keep up with the battery.
     
  5. redgold

    redgold Supporting Member

    Messages:
    5,479
    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2002
    Location:
    NY
    That's what I like about the EMG T neck... super lively and dynamic with good output. As good as any tele neck pickup I've tried. The EMG bridge is kind of flat and thin sounding in comparison.

    I'm thinking of tricking out a strat with all EMG's: T neck, T neck and maybe the SA bridge or a humbucker, but want to know of any downsides before dropping the coin.
     
  6. redgold

    redgold Supporting Member

    Messages:
    5,479
    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2002
    Location:
    NY
    I don't have an older style FF on hand right now... anyone know how the low impedance changes the fuzz sound?
     
  7. EADGBE

    EADGBE Member

    Messages:
    12,379
    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2005
    Low impedance pickups are less muddy sounding than passive. But passive seem to be warmer and rounder sounding. You can use longer cables with low impedance pickups and not lose any high end.
     
  8. Sensible Musician

    Sensible Musician Member

    Messages:
    728
    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2009
    in a conventional guitar the instrument itself - along with the cable and anything else before the first active device - forms a low pass filter (e.g. a fixed tone control). this is a sh*t design but it wasn't bad for the 1930's when it was contemporary. for whatever reason the guitar never got an update, so all our favorite recordings - going back to the 1930's - were made with this general approach, the distinctive sound of which is a huge peak somewhere in the mid-to-sibilant range, and drastic falloff above that. so now this anachronistic electronic device - amplified using vacuum tubes - sounds right.

    this scenario actually causes all kinds of problems, e.g. people who have talent and credentials in electronics generally aren't interested in us and our quaint little period instrument. but it's also the source of a lot of fun, e.g. messing with pickup recipes

    what emg does is put that first active device right by the pickup - permanently epoxied right into the cover. it's not an active pickup as much as it is a very short cable run LOL. you can do the same thing inside any guitar - EMG just has a real specific thing that is very appealing

    with a buffer right after the coil you isolate the HPF effect to the coil only, so that it becomes very easy to manage passive controls afterward, cable runs of any length w/o worrying about noise... the effect is a more level, detailed sound, more touch response, easier more consistent sound. sounds like a win-win, but like i said, we are extremely slow to accept any change to the electric guitar.

    didn't EMG come out in the 1970's? like before many of us were born? and we still think of them as new/high tech/novel

    if you were to use an actual low impedance coil as a pickup (e.g. 2k turns on a conventional design) and buffer/amplify that, you get a very flat response. everyone says it sounds like an acoustic guitar. that would be the "right" way to do electric guitar if it were being developed today, but it's way too late now - the old sound is still going strong

    so short version: you have to find the right compromise between hi-fi and antique, and the only way to do that is try it and determine whether you like it. i should have just written that LOL
     
    Erich Onnen likes this.
  9. chervokas

    chervokas Member

    Messages:
    6,864
    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2008
    Yeah a vintage style fuzz circuit is designed to sort of become part of a passive guitar circuit, coupled directly to the passive guitar. If you drive it with a constant, low impedance output from an active pickup -- much like driving it from a pedal chain buffer -- it will most likely over distort, giving little to no usable range of distortion, it will quite possibly squeal, and you won't have the ability to get that cleanup/tone change you get by working the volume knob on the guitar. If you want to use a fuzz with active pickups you need a different sort of circuit than a FF/Tonebender type circuit.
     
  10. chervokas

    chervokas Member

    Messages:
    6,864
    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2008
    You know, throughout the world of musical instruments, "antique" tech and construct techniques often remain standard -- whether you're talking about violins, pianos or sitars. Sure, sometimes stuff changes -- we doing use gut strings, animal skin heads on the banjo, drum shells get made out of fiberglass, etc -- and of course new tech arrives -- digital synthesis and sampling, midi control, etc. But if the sound we're looking for is the old sound (whether it's the old sound of the violin, the sitar -- which is like a 3000 year old design -- or the electric guitar), the core elements of producing that old sound tend not to get displaced by new tech.
     
  11. Rockledge

    Rockledge Member

    Messages:
    2,885
    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2011
    Location:
    mars
    I have a Squier Strat ( best strat I have ever played) that I loaded with the DG setup, 3 SAs, and I love it.
    The only bad thing is that even though the pickups give a very high gain response sound and feel, pinch harmonics aren't as easy clean as you would think them to be on hot pickups.
    My set also seems to be so much hotter than normal pickups that with my wireless they cause a barely audible high pitched tone through it.
    But as far as how they react, great for Hendrix type songs done cleaner, great for perfectly clean stuff to record with.
    And quiet as a graveyard on a still night.

    One other thing that I like about them, some guys do not, is that they seem to be very flat response. Kind of like how the ideal vocal mike in the studio is one that has flat response.
    Which some guys don't like. I record a lot so I like the very big presence you get with EMGs because you don't have a significant presence peak in any particular frequency range.
    It almost is a compressed sound,because you don't have certain frequencies jumping out at you.
    A lot of guys refer to this as "sterile" sounding, but I don't view it that way. I view it as a less complicated pallete to start from before you add or take away anything with an eq or tone controls.
     
  12. Rockledge

    Rockledge Member

    Messages:
    2,885
    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2011
    Location:
    mars
    Yet..................
     
  13. chervokas

    chervokas Member

    Messages:
    6,864
    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2008
    Well, like you note active pickups have been widely available for 40 years, and while they're in widespread use among bass players, not so for guitars. I don't think that gonna change much at this point. There's a common notion that new tech displaces old tech. Often that happens. But just as often both old and new tech wind up coexisting.
     
  14. Rockledge

    Rockledge Member

    Messages:
    2,885
    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2011
    Location:
    mars

    You are certainly right, but that wasn't the reason for my "yet...........".
    I am thinking more in terms of how technology is changing everything.
    Considering someone tried marketing laser pickup systems a while back ( and may very well might still be) I find it hard to imagine in world of hundreds of gig hard drives on laptops , all kinds of hand held communications devices that can do everything but beam Scotty up, and wireless everything, that guitar technology will not change as well.
    I can imagine some instrument in the not very far future that is a "guitar" that has no strings and no frets and no visible electronics, but sounds just like a guitar.
    At this point, I consider nothing to be beyond the realm of possibility. The sky isn't even a limit anymore.

    But of course, again, you are right. None of it seems to displace the old technology, they just coexist.
     
  15. chervokas

    chervokas Member

    Messages:
    6,864
    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2008
    That last point is my point. I spent a decade in the new media/internet tech industry in the mid 90s and early 2000s and spent a lot of time looking at the issue of new tech displacing old tech. It does happen, of course (witness the fate of Kodak), but its neither as inevitable as it sometimes seems, nor is it universal. More often than you'd think old and new techs wind up coexisting...market share changes -- sometime so profoundly as to marginalize old tech (vinyl playback, tape recording) -- but sometimes things just coexist but, you know tv in the end didn't displace movies or radio or whatever the hype was at the time. I think the passive electric guitar is pretty much here to stay as long as the electric guitar itself is.
     
  16. Rockledge

    Rockledge Member

    Messages:
    2,885
    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2011
    Location:
    mars
    No doubt about it.
    But I do think given how technology is exponentially folding in on itself at an amazing rate, that we are likely on the verge of technologies that are going to give us entirely new approaches, including but not limited to materials guitars are made from, as well as electronics.
    But no doubt they will coexist. Pickups didn't stop acoustic guitars from existing.
    But man, look how long of a run the electric guitar has had. It is about time for a new generation to rebel and reject it and move on to something else, which it appears they are trying to do with all the computer generated sound effects disguised as music that fill the airwaves now.
    Too bad I won't be here in 50 years to see what guitars will look like.
    In fact, a prediction.
    How long before a guitar is invented with internal blue tooth? Imagine recording directly to a computer.
    Could happen.
     
  17. earthtonesaudio

    earthtonesaudio Member

    Messages:
    1,186
    Joined:
    May 16, 2008
    Why stop there? Build in a camera that watches for "solo face" and kicks on a fuzz for you automatically.
     
    Erich Onnen likes this.
  18. chervokas

    chervokas Member

    Messages:
    6,864
    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2008
    Maybe. But you know we still play violins made of wood -- yeah, the "modern" violin isn't quite the same as a baroque violin but it's pretty close to a late 17th century instrument, albeit with modern elements -- like the strings. In India they still play sitars which are still pretty close to 1000 year old instruments, though, it's true they might be made of some synthetic materials instead of teak and gourds. The banjo is still recognizably a banjo, despite begin make with metal rims, synthetic heads, etc instead of gourds and animal skins.

    As long as we find the sounds of traditional instruments pleasing and musical they seem to remain in use with refinements more than being replaced or radically altered. Instead what happens is new instruments come along a live along side the old ones -- so we have synthesizers of various sorts appearing on stage at a country music concert together with fiddles and mandolins. Turntables, mixers, samplers are all musical instruments now; but so too still are harpsichords.

    And you know 70, 80 years is not a long time in the life of an musical instrument. Heck, the saxophone is still a baby at 170 years old.
     
  19. earthtonesaudio

    earthtonesaudio Member

    Messages:
    1,186
    Joined:
    May 16, 2008
    I want an instrument that transduces thoughts into soundwaves directly. Beta testers will have to have something implanted, but the 2.0 release will just be an injection of nanobots.
     
    Erich Onnen likes this.
  20. Rockledge

    Rockledge Member

    Messages:
    2,885
    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2011
    Location:
    mars
    Don't give em' any ideas..............
     

Share This Page