Thoughts on ceramic magnet pickups

candid_x

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Are they all sterile, uninspiring, and should be thrown in the trash (as I've recently read from a self-proclaimed expert and pickup maker). Obviously, some pretty talented players don't think so. Do they excel in particular genres but not in others? What do you think, what's your experience with them?
 

JDaniels

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894
All diesel powered vehicles suck they should be crushed. Gasoline is the superior fuel.

In all seriousness I have/had pickups with lots of different magnets and they are all good for different reasons.

Everyone who put a super distortion in the guitar in the 70's and 80's can't be wrong.
 

duaneflowers

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650
I'm not a big fan of ceramic magnets, but it really is purely subjective... so that's just my take on them. A lot of great music was made with them... and I guess that's what really matters.
 

bismark

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1,650
Are they all sterile, uninspiring, and should be thrown in the trash (as I've recently read from a self-proclaimed expert and pickup maker). Obviously, some pretty talented players don't think so. Do they excel in particular genres but not in others? What do you think, what's your experience with them?
Some of the best medium to high output pickups use ceramic magnets. DiMarzios are pretty good. As for boutique brands, check out some of those contemporary pickups by Bare Knuckles. I have tried the Miracle Man humbucker. It's really good - punchy, aggressive but very articulate.

Not every good pickups uses alnico magnets or has to be vintage sounding. It depends on your music and personal taste. As for the self-proclaimed expert? Well, he probably has to proclaim himself as an expert because no one listens to his nonsense in the first place.
 

dazco

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14,628
One of the most popular humbuckers in history and the first aftermarket pickup ever to hit the shelves is the dimarzio Super D which is ceramic. Still used and loved my legions. Ceramic is no better or worse than any other, just different and in the right application it may be the best magnet for the job. But it's mainly used in humbuckers, not sure why. Maybe they can't easily make rod versions of it, which by the way would account for the fact that the only single coils i have seen with ceramic are those import ones that use steel poles with a bar across the bottom like a humbucker. In any case, they sound great in the right application. I find the super D to be my fav high output HB ever and it's got a great split sound. But i am a fender guy at heart so i rarely use HB's anymore and like vintage style alnico tele and strat pups.
 

Hugh_s

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I really like the DiMarzio SD I put in my LP. The HFS that came in my PRS was OK, but a little too compressed for what I play today. At the end of the day, the fact that it has an AlNiCo or ceramic magnet isn't going to determine if a pickup is good or bad; it is the combination of winding, magnet, guitar it is in and the context in which it is used that makes something like that good or bad.
 

candid_x

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9,676
Appreciate your thoughts.

I've had two, actually three counting the first guitar I purchased for my son, MFD guitars, one was an S-500. It took some getting used to. I recently traded for a Shur Pro S-1. The owner had a DiMarzio bridge Cruiser in the neck position and a T-1 in the Bridge. I had no plans of keeping them in that guitar since the original Suhrs came with it, but I've never gotten mid to higher gain this clear from alnicos, including the alnico Breed, and now I'm planning on just keeping them in there. They mix with the hot stock V60LP alnico middle well too. http://www.dimarzio.com/player/andy-timmons

One thing, if sound can be put into words, that I notice while playing through these, is that a lot of nuance that quickly fades or partly escapes alnico is clearly heard with these ceramics. Maybe one can call that lack of dynamics, and that may be true to some degree, but the more subtle notes are clearly there, whether played clean or distorted. I've noticed that same feature through MFD pickups. The volume control has a major effect on the focus of ceramics, in a different way than with alnico. MFDs are single coils, no?

A funny thing. A friend and neighbor picked up a mim Standard Strat with a Classic 50's neck, or 60's (I forgot) and asked me to clean up the frets and set it up for him. It was an HSS, all ceramic. When I was finished, I had to plug it in and try it out, of course. I got into it, the guitar was a lot of fun to play, including the bridge HB. If I'd analyzed the sound, focusing on the ceramic factor, I probably would have been critical of it. But that's not what happened; I just was having a blast playing that thing. Only when I stopped and put it aside for my friend to pick up did it even occur to me, hey! those are stinkin' mim ceramic magnets! and I dug it!
 

VaughnC

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17,848
Ceramic magnet single coil pickups, with the bar magnets on the bottom, tend to sound P90'ish to me, with poor note separation. Good or bad sounding?...is very subjective.
 
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fitz

Member
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2,374
G&L large single coil MFD is one of my favorite pickups.
I totally agree - actually they are one of my favorite pickups as well. Also, Reverend uses ceramic magnets on their P90's. I had a Slingshot that sounded great with the P90's. Also, the single coil in my relative recent Melody Maker is ceramic and that pickup sounds nice as well. To my ears good ceramic's single coils sound slightly different then Alnico, but not by much. Perhaps clearer with with a little more punch.

Gregors videos above really give you a good idea on ceramics in G&L's.

Also from Joe Naylor awhile back:

Many (but not all) pickups that use ceramic are designed to be harder sounding. Many (but not all) pickups that use alnico are designed to sound warmer. This is all due to marketing... the original, warm-sounding, vintage designs had alnico, so it makes marketing sense to use alnico in "warm/vintage" aftermarket designs.

BUT, ceramic is not harsher than alnico. In a traditional humbucker, alnico is not sweeter, more musical, or warmer. In fact, in many designs, replacing an alnico magnet with ceramic would yield a warmer sounding pickup. Ultimately, it boils down to the total design of the pickup.

Reverend humbuckers sound similar to a typical, traditional PAF, but with a little more clarity and better tonal/volume balance between neck and bridge. They are middle-of-the road in terms of brightness/warmth... witness the two forum threads running at the same time: one guy found them too bright, and in the other thread, they're too warm/muffled.

The best way to choose pickups is to research the tone they produce, regardless of magnet type.
Also, I did not know DiMarzio Super Distortions were ceramic. I had one in an LP back in the 80's and it sounded great. I had no idea they were ceramics and nor did I even care back then.
 
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GrungeMan

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6,501
I don't use them in humbuckers but have several Tele and Strat type pickups built like P90's with two small ceramic bar mags on either side of the screw pole-pieces on the bottom of the pickup. Steven Kersting, BG, HD, Porter, Rio Grande are some of the manufacturers. As some one mentioned on an earlier post, tone recipe...guitar, amp, pedals; I use a cathode biased 5E3 which is already compressed powered by(2 or 4-6V6's or 5881's)with low wattage speakers(several different cabs with 10's and 12's)all with small ceramic magnets and small VC's, guitars are Tele's/Strats with the Tele/Strat/P90 type build pups and LP's with Gibson P90's, Firebird and Deluxe mini's. They are not for the faint of heart, Love Em! :JAM
 
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I agree some factors have given ceramics a bad name that's generally undeserved. Several mentioned already. 1) Ceramic mags are used in the very cheapest pickups because they're powerful enough to produce adequate output with minimal windings, allowing manufacturers to save money by using less copper wire; these cheap pickups often sound harsh, leading some to think it's the ceramics at fault. 2) They often respond to a guitar's volume pot fairly differently than alnico does, and may seem less interactive to those who are used to alnico pickups and use the volume control a lot. (I'm in that category myself.) 3) Bright treble response and tight lows make them ideal for high output humbuckers that are overwound enough to sound muddy with weaker mags; this leads them to be associated with the compressed tone of hot pickups. 4) Their strong magnetism gives them a slightly more compressed feel to begin with, and this is augmented by their higher output causing guitar amps to compress more too, so it kind of doubles down on the compression we're hearing.

That said, I have replaced several ceramic mags with UA5s or A8s and generally been happier with the result. The exception has been my Duncan Customs, which for some reason feel more like alnico to me in the way they respond. But that's just a personal preference- I don't require tight chunky low end or very high output from my guitars. If I were playing metal it's a good bet that I'd be using high output ceramics in many of my axes.

And there's no denying that the Super Distortion has been a rock classic for decades.
 

jackson

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Messages
3,357
I don't know if you can generalize that ceramic magnet pickups are good or bad. Some probably are bad. I like the Fender Hot Noiseless pickups, and I believe that they have ceramic magnets.
 




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