Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by teamdelfano, May 23, 2008.
like john mayer, he supposedly prefers lower output pickups.
Better, purer tone.
Why do some players prefer higher output pickups?
does it just make the amp break up later than a high output pickup?
i like grant green's tone, he always seemed to have the amp at the perfect spot, right before it really breaks up.
lower output pickups just sound better on a clean amp, tend to "clean up" better on a crunchy amp when the guitar is turned down, and even when turned up, tend to allow more of the character of the guitar and the pickup to come through, rather than just the distortion sound of the amp.
Bell like clarity.
Asking why people like lower output pickups is asking more about a correlation than a cause of the different tone. The actual output of a pickup is just one factor that coincides with a lot of other properties of a pickup that effect the tone. You are probably referring to what many call "under-wound" coils, where lots of things can change - impedance at various frequencies, Q factor, peak resonant frequencies, capacitance, etc., etc., and of course, output. Lots of things change the responsive properties of a pickup, and how it interacts with an amplifier.
The answer is pretty simple in the end - they like them because they like the way they sound. Same reason some people like single coils, some like low impedance active, some like adrenaline-testosterone-high octane 20K+ humbuckers - different styles of pickups have different sounds. Pure, clear, clean, are all good descriptive terms, but you really just have to listen to them to hear what a different style of pickup sounds like.
More headroom, more dynamics to allow one's playing nuances to come through.
High output pickups were desirable in a time when amps didn't do their stuff until the were hit hard (hot signals) or on "11". Today, between the choices of boosters and great amps, there is little need to have the gain in the guitar. Obviously, there are certain styles where high out put pickups rule however more and more players (including me) are really getting into the wonderful sound of lower output pickups.
As posted, simply, it offers more tonal variance before breaking the amp up
With high output pups, you're stuck to that sound. Great on medium crunch to high gain, but a pain in the ass when you're going for clean or light crunch. Often harsh on the top end or too beefy or nasal in the mids.
The lower output often makes a higher resonance peak, sounding more airy, open and articulate on clean to light/medium crunch and like said before: with all the good pedals and amps these days, you can have all the gain you want with low output pickups.
More snap crackle pop (in a good way). More clarity. Nice soft distortion when cranked. Much more tone and definition when used with effects.
Some people just don't like distortion. I do myself.
anyone know what sort of pickups the super 58's in an ibanez as200 has? are they low output or hot?
Yes, I agree....and it is confusing. Some guys like the added compression of the higher output pickups but I find the higher output pickups seem nice at lower volumes but when I get out to jam or gig I find I like the lower output ones even for HEAVY styles! You should b able to get all tyhe gain and tightness, compression you need with the right amp. I have an Egnater Mod 50 which has more gain than I need so I don't need an insane pickup slamming the front.
I was using 15-16K pickups in one of my LPs but since switching to a hot PAF at 9.4K. I guess this is still relatively hot, but it seems bigger and more open I guess.
Look at the heavy metal guitarist from Iced Earth as he is using a WCR modified Godwood PAF.
Sustain is one thing some say hotter pickups do better.
Yeah that and more harmonics too.
Coincidentally this issue came up in several other forums recently as well. Seems there's a fairly well-known adage in the sound biz: Hot pups, cold amp. Cold pups, hot amp. But not both.
Here's the theory as I've come to understand it... Early deep-saturation (as opposed to what we might call true hi-gain) sound was achieved by fattening up the guitar signal, either by way of a boost pedal or with hotter pickups, and smacking the front end of older lower-gain amps. But as hi-gain preamps with cascading gain stages began to mature, designers learned to saturate each gain stage at a very narrow sweet spot that yielded heavy dirt with optimum clarity and ear comfort. Further, those stages were daisy-chained together in a delicate (by then-current guitar rig standards) balancing act such that each stage caused the next to operate in that precise saturation groove. The result was modern multi-stage Hi-Gain front ends.
The newer circuits dripped with saturation, but with unprecedented clarity, pick detail, and enunciation that made many flavors of modern hi-gain sound possible. Additionally, the circuit could be tuned to produce a tightly crafted (again, by guitar rig standards) and very thick set of harmonics all their own. The point being that the amp would voice percussives, power chords, double stops, and high notes much more clearly and musically than their lower-gain predecessors.
But that created two problems with old-school guitars. For one, with the cascading saturation now so carefully balanced, changing that delicate gain structure with too much signal from the guitar upset that balance, resulting in less definition in the attack of the notes and poorer differentiation in general, esp higher up the neck--not good for neo-classical metal or shred, among other things. In addition, it became easy to overcompress the signal as it made its way through the preamp, making tight modern percussives muddy.
On the harmonic side, with the amp producing such rich harmonics of its own, adding extra frequency content in front of the amp can simply crowd up the picture and create thick mud--overtones laid over overtones. Guitar makers found several ways to let the amp do the singing, including the choice of tonewoods, using Floyd Rose-style sytems to reduce the fat native harmonics of the guitar (or perhaps more accurately, to focus them), and fundamental construction choices that began to move away from barrel-chested guitars like archtops and LPs, not to mention the rich warmth of traditional humbuckers.
Trouble was, those HBs are indispensable in an amp that betrays even the slightest bit of noise, so a way had to be found to use them, but without all the added signal level and harmonic content of exisiting HBs--a big change in design theory of the time. SCs, by contrast, tend to be somewhat better suited to the task, but hi-gain circuits were only too happy to amplify their heavier S/N. The solution was to start using lower-output, less harmonic HBs, and as it turned out it wasn't too tough to find such pups already on the shelf.
As it's ended up, apparently lots of folks, incl me, have stumbled on old "cheap" low-output HBs that for some reason showcase hi-gain amps unlike anything seen from the high-priced spread. (Like those old mid-80's Matsumoku Protomatics, Ibanezes, etc.) Further, such pups work wonders for hi-gain patches in things like Pods and other DSP systems. With both analog amps and modellers, each note of a shred run is more enunciated, down-tuned percussive rhythms are tighter, palm-mutes mute better, high notes are easier to differentiate...but all the sustain and pinch-harmonics are there, super-controllable, yet in the massive quantities you expect from a hi-gain rig. Quite a balancing act.
Try it for yourself. If you have an LP or even a traditional Strat, compare the tone to something with "thinner" and lower-output pups. Using a good clean boost to turn the signal down is another way. You can also simply lower the pup height on an existing guitar and achieve most of the same results. (Though you get more native body tone from the guitar that way, and the tone gets a bit darker in some pups.) Of course you can always just turn your volume knob down, but most factory vol knobs bleed off a little high end when you do that. But to really hear it without such broad approximations and compromises, nothing beats sitting down in a guitar shop with a modern guitar that sounds "thin" when clean, and plugging into a wailing hi-gain amp. Just be sure that the amp or patch you're plugged into is truly a hi-gain rig, as opposed to a deeply saturated older-style amp.
Anyhoo, that's the science as I've come to understand it. Try it for yourself, it even works in Pods and stuff. Hot pups-cold amp...apparently this revelation has been known in many circles for quite some time, but it hasn't really made it to the street yet.
Yup. Less harshness, more juicy goodness!
amp choice notwithstanding, I've come to the conclusion that "output" and "tone" are inversely proportional.
What you like the sound of is good to you, and that is pretty much it. They are not better or worse just different.Some pickups don't work well with some amps so you have to watch out that you have a reasonable reference point , but it is stupid to make blanket statements of better or worse.