Which elements make a great guitar pickup?

Kmaz

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What makes one pickup great and another not so much? Mainly components used as opposed to winding techiques?
 

Rod

Tone is Paramount
Silver Supporting Member
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21,020
I think a lot of the components used by the pickup makers are pretty standard fare. You can buy all the parts, bobbins, magnets and wire from Stu Mac.... IMHO, it's the winding technique used that you're paying for.. There's a definite difference in sound and feel between a machine made Gibson or Dimarzio compared to a hand guided or totally handwound Zhangbucker....
 

dazco

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13,897
It's mostly not about that, it's about matching a pickup's EQ curve to the guitar. A high $ pickup thats not well matched can be beaten easily by a cheapie that IS well matched. Thats the thing people seem to always miss. They think theres a certain recipe or certain "best" ways to make a pickup. But the truth is each guitar's voice is unique and what sounds great in one may sound like cr@p in another. For example, say the guitar has a lack of mids. A high end boutique pickup that many people swear by that is scooped will exaggerate the guitar's weakness, while even a budget pickup with cheap materials but with boosted mids right where that guitar needs them may blow the boutique away in that guitar. Or a A2 pickup may sound much better then a A5 in a guitar thats painfully bright. Or A5 in a dark guitar may sound a lot better then A2. Etc etc etc.
 
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Rod

Tone is Paramount
Silver Supporting Member
Messages
21,020
It's mostly not about that, it's about matching a pickup's EQ curve to the guitar. A high $ pickup thats not well matched can be beaten easily by a cheapie that IS well matched. Thats the thing people seem to always miss. They think theres a certain recipe or certain "best" ways to make a pickup. But the truth is each guitar's voice is unique and what sounds great in one may sound like cr@pm in another. For example, say the guitar has a lack of mids. A high end boutique pickup that many people swear my that is scooped will exaggerate the guitar's weakness, while even a budget pickup with cheap materials but with boosted mids right where that guitar needs them may blow the boutique away in that guitar. Or a A2 pickup may sound much better then a A5 in a guitar thats painfully bright. Or A5 in a dark guitar may sound a lot better then A2. Etc etc etc.
Yes, and all of these factors that Dazco pointed out so well....
 

Mpcoluv

Supporting Member
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3,144
To me some of the magic in no or very little wax potting. Dismiss the pickup winders skill all you want but a Don Mare 7.5k A5 tele pickup will sound different than a factory fender 7.5k A5 pickup.
I assume the winding pattern makes this difference as well as the potting.
A Bill LAWRENCE L-45 sounds a lot different than the look alike Dimarzio Fast Track 1 and also different than the Joe Barden.
To dismiss pickup differences is missing the boat. However to also claim that only the OTPG PAFs will work or that only Tom Holmes will work is also foolish. Plenty of good pups out there at all price points.
So back to the question, DC resistance, magnet type and strength, winding pattern and potting are where the magic is for a vintage pup. For non vintage designs such as Bill Lawrence, you have to really try them to know for sure. Like I can't imagine something like a Zexcoil can be judged but the same specs as a vintage style pup.
 

Rockin J

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1,958
Todays winders can now wind pickups to a very close duplicate once they find the ideal sound they are looking for by using the exact some components and wire wrap count.
No one used to care exactly how many wraps on a coil so pickups sounded different from one to another, more of a luck of the draw crapshoot in the past.
 

Guitarworks

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10,068
A pickup is a simple device. One can dissect it only so far, and one can wind it only two slightly different ways - 'scatter-wound'...or 'not scatter-wound'. Some bobbins don't allow for any deviation in that respect, like a P-90. In the end, it still has to function in the same manner as every other pickup. Every coil, regardless of 'shape' or location of wire along the bobbin, does the same job. There still needs to be consistency of tension. These unavoidable constants and technical constraints impose limits that leave little room for intentional deviation in an effort to somehow squeeze out a marketing angle. In my winding experience, the only elements that offer any concrete measureable changes, or clear auditory differences, in what was heard were the magnet type and the thickness of magnet wire.
 

candid_x

Supporting Member
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9,680
I'm sure there's more to it than I know, but it's funny to me how a Tex-Mex Strat set can sound so good, when set low in the guard, and can be purchased for $65. Put a 1 in front of that and some cloth push back wire, change the name, and I bet it would be touted as a great pickup for those desiring higher output. The same for the stock '08 American Standard pickups, which also sell used for around $60. Plastic bobbin and all that aside, it's in the same class as a Texas Special, with more mids. I still hold onto my old set, and one day may drop them into a deserving mim Strat.

It doesn't mean other pickups aren't finer in ways, but like the chapter in the marketing classic, "Positioning", in the chapter "What's in a name?" says, the answer is: a lot.
 

Zexcoil

Vendor
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5,664
The biggest, most underappreciated contributor to the voice of a pickup are the electromagnetic properties of the pole piece.

The way the magnetic flux from the vibrating string gets, in effect, "filtered" through the pole piece is what defines the tonal character of a pickup.

Turns on a coil will basically only move the frequency response around.

The pole piece material changes the basic shape of the frequency response.
 

Ron Kirn

Gold Supporting Member
Vendor
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6,618
yep the "stuff's" 'bout all the same... it comes down to, does the people making 'em know what they're doing. Stick with the names ya know.... there's a reason ya know them..

Ron Kirn
 

Chris Pile

Member
Messages
511
Wide variety of wire used in pickups....

I think it was Les Paul who said the cleanest pickup he ever made was winding a couple wraps of light cord around a magnet.

Rickenbacker uses very fine wire as compared to Gibson and Fender. Result - enhanced treble.
 

K-Line

Vendor
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7,985
Not every winder gets their parts from the same place. This is absolutely false. Some winders have non-standard recipes of magnets and wire. I have heard about most of the stuff out there and a few stand out to my ear. And yes, they have their magnets poured to their recipe. If it does not make a difference to your ear, you are lucky. I hear things that I wish I couldn't. However, tone is subjective. Much like cars or anything else in life. Just because you do not find the value, does not mean it does not exist.
 

dead of night

Member
Messages
2,631
Not every winder gets their parts from the same place. This is absolutely false. Some winders have non-standard recipes of magnets and wire. I have heard about most of the stuff out there and a few stand out to my ear. And yes, they have their magnets poured to their recipe. If it does not make a difference to your ear, you are lucky. I hear things that I wish I couldn't. However, tone is subjective. Much like cars or anything else in life. Just because you do not find the value, does not mean it does not exist.
Chris, you like Lollars, correct? I have noticed a lot of your guitars have them.
 




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