• TGP is giving away a Strat, Tele, and Jazzmaster. Click Here for full details.
    Click Here to upgrade your account and enter today!

Question for those with experience plugging directly into amps (i.e. no pedals)... do guitar with high output pickups sound better?

Zounds Perspex

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
1,801
"Better" is wholly subjective, of course, but for me - no.

I always think of this thing I read on the Curtis Novak website that really nails it -


"I believe a pickup should not be thought of in terms of output, but rather of input. The function of a pickup is to sense the string and send as wide of a tone band as possible to your rig.

Contrary to the way pickups have been marketed for the past 20 years, a pickup is an input device, not an output device. Measuring, or rating a pickup in terms of output is like rating a mouse in terms of screen resolution, or pixels per inch.

A pickup is a sensor and its job is to sense the strings vibration and send that signal to an output device, your amp. The objective of any sensor is to have the greatest dynamic range and fidelity to capture whatever it is designed to sense. You can then decide, as the end user, to accentuate or eliminate elements at your discretion. You cannot post process and accentuate what your sensor did not pick up!

It is far better to think of a pickup more in terms of the input level for recording. Like with pickups, in recording there is a sweet spot you want to find where you are not restricting input volume and fidelity by having it too low, but you also do not want the input level so high that the needle is pegged in the red. Just like in recording, if you make a pickup too hot you lose much of the dynamics, richness, and the fidelity and are stuck with a sound you can not ever recover from.

When you have a pickup in that sweet spot you can choose to saturate it and simulate the sound of having the record level high with a pedal or your amp. You also have the freedom to choose to pull it back and have other tonal options. With an over wound pickup, you have no ability to pull it back to any other tone options, and you are stuck with a one-trick-pony guitar. This drastically limits your tone possibilities. "
 

ProfRhino

Member
Messages
6,876
high output PUs were a big thing in the late 70s, when most amps coiuldn't deliver the gain players wanted.
Boogies, Dumbles, Kelleys were super rare & expensive, so hot PUs were the obvious solution for most players.
as amp gain, and also OD pedal quality, increased during the 80s and 90s, high PU output became less important, and the downsides began to outweigh the advantages. :dunno

I'm with those who said they prefer vintage style, low output PUs.
one aspect is still open for discussion though - the degree of potting. That's where higher gain players might want to go away from purist vintage specs.

ymmv,
Rhino
 

LaXu

Member
Messages
5,858
Players using high output pickups often aim for hard rock and metal sounds and use amps that are high gain themselves, which to me is somewhat pointless because you don't need the high output because your amp can deliver as much gain as you would ever need.

I would not choose pickups based on their output but their voicing. I have pickups that are low, mid and high output that work great in their respective guitars.
 

Steviecaster

Member
Messages
651
No. As a matter of fact, they sound significantly worse. High output pickups are nasally and wooly.

Lower output pickups are generally punchier, crisper, and have a deeper, clearer bass response. Im a single coil guy, so this is the case with Strats and Teles. Its a very obvious difference.
For example, everyone used to think SRV had high output pups....to the contrary, and Fender screwed up the Texas Specials making them high output.
 
Last edited:

zenas

Member
Messages
8,536
My main guitars were a Tele with of course Tele pickups, Fezzster OilDales. Then I had an 81ish Las Paul Custom with stock pickups and a 65 ES-330 with P90s.
Nothing really high gain there but a significant difference. The ES-330 was very dynamic, clean when played softer and raunchy when you dug in. That was with old school NMV plugged straight in. The Tele was on the other end of things but I still got a lot of dynamics out of it, all be it with the amp volume a bit higher.
Picking dynamics is almost a lost art. Guys that have always played pedals and channel switchers might not get it at all. Guy I play with couldn't figure out how I got different things out of a Tele and a Deluxe Reverb, just from how I hit the strings. He stepped on something all the time and picked with a soft pick the same way all the time. He's since figured it out.
I'm not particularly talented, just started out with NMV amps and no pedals and that's what you had to do. He started out with a red knob Twin and pedals, playing low volume in his parents house.
You gotta turn the amp up a ways. Even an old Twin Reverb is pretty dynamic but it's fairly loud. Some would day "too loud". That's why Princetons are worth more money today.
Anyway that's just the way I grew up playing.
 
Last edited:

Steviecaster

Member
Messages
651
I specifically got custom low output single coils in my strat to go for the Ty Tabor sound (without the actives)... it was an experiment... ended up with the best strat tone I've ever had
Yep. My Strat pups are<5K, and are punchy as hell. Amazing sound.
I like a Tele bridge about 6.2k. That's about as high as I'll go.
 

Steviecaster

Member
Messages
651
My main guitars were a Tele with of course Tele pickups, Fezzster OilDales. Then I had an 81ish Las Paul Custom with stock pickups and a 65 ES-330 with P90s.
Nothing really high gain there but a significant difference. The ES-330 was very dynamic, clean when played softer and raunchy when you dug in. That was with old school NMV plugged straight in. The Tele was on the other end of things but I still got a lot of dynamics out of it, all be it with the amp volume a bit higher.
Picking dynamics is almost a lost art. Guys that have always played pedals and channel switchers might not get it at all. Guy I play with couldn't figure out how I got different things out of a Tele and a Deluxe Reverb, just from how I hit the strings. He stepped on something all the time and picked with a soft pick the same way all the time. He's since figured it out.
I'm not particularly talented, just started out with NMV amps and no pedals and that's what you had to do. He started out with a red knob Twin and pedals, playing low volume in his parents house.
You gotta turn the amp up a ways. Even an old Twin Reverb is pretty dynamic but it's fairly loud. Some would day "too loud". That's why Princetons are worth more money today.
Anyway that's just the way I grew up playing.
The Tele bridge pickup is a dynamic beast.
 

DonP

Member
Messages
2,358
Question for those with experience plugging directly into amps (i.e. no pedals)... do guitar with high output pickups sound better?
Yes, they do for certain things.

You can't get much hotter than a DiMarzio X2N and it sounds great going into my DSL1HR, for example.
 

5F6-A

Member
Messages
2,815
Yep. And punchy as anything. I encourage everyone to try lower output pickups. The frequency bandwidth will make your guitar seem like a new instrument.
My bridge pickup is tappable between 5 & 7K.
My CS 69 Strat pickups are about 5.4K. I haven't tried any lower (in Strats with 42 wire).
 

Teleplayer

Moder8er
Staff member
Messages
19,777
What sound are you after? What type of guitar and amp are you playing? What type of pickups - single coil...humbucker...P90s...staple P90s....Firebird,,,Gold Foil...etc.? What is the context of your playing - bedroom, studio, stage, local jam; and are you trying to cut through a mix? And so on and so forth.

There are multiple variables involved with addressing the original question, as it's highly subjective. And let's not even get into things like psycho-acoustics, etc..
 

silentbob

Member
Messages
1,280
My Mesa Road King doesn't have a ton of headroom on the clean channels, so I tend to prefer lower or mid output pickups. If I want to push the input, I can just use a clean boost. I prefer having options, and lower output pickups give me more options
 




Trending Topics

Top