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-   -   Alnico V vs Alnico III vs Alnico II vs Ceramic? Vintage? (

benmeza November 5th, 2004 01:18 PM

Alnico V vs Alnico III vs Alnico II vs Ceramic? Vintage?
Just wondering if someone could run down the tonal differences between all the Alnico variants(maybe even how it differs from ceramic).

I guess the next obvious question is what Fender used in their production of pickups in the past - I heard Alnico III in early tele production but when did that change? Was Alnico II ever used? Is there an Alnico IV or a VI for that matter?

Thanks guys...all this Hammel talk has made me questions my next pickup purchase and try and understand the specs of pickups to determine what is right for me. I generally like to keep a wide variety of sounds at my disposal according to what type of songs I have written and am recording. Right now, I am lusting after a Gibson L-50 and putting a Lollar Charlie Christian in it....I also have the notion to start working on another tele and I figure this will be the one that I should make sound like all the great guitar sounds of the 60s...

I am starting to heal up from a broken wrist and I am itching to get back to the guitar and piano after a long hiatus...

Tele Jr November 5th, 2004 01:44 PM

As a general rule...
The alnico 3's would be more like the 50's vintage, and the alnico 5's would be more like the 60's era.

The alnico 3 pups seem to be more closely associated with ash Tele's with brass saddles, where the alnico 5's seem to match up good with alder bodies and steel saddles.

Kelsey November 5th, 2004 04:23 PM

To my ears, the A5's are bright with strong low end, low to moderate mids, and lots of high end that can get harsh or thin in some guitars. The A3's have slightly smoother highs but retain good bite, and have more rounded and solid mids -- the low end is about as strong as the A5's but is rounder and less springy. The A2's have a spongier sound and feel through the lows and mids with smoother high end. I would say that the mids are stronger in A2 and A3 than in A5. So, overall A2 to A3 to A5 would go from smooth and spongy (A2) to smooth and round with bite (A3) to bright and springy (A5). So A5 would probably have maximum twang.

There are A4's, but I don't know what they're like. I think A6's are used in the Dano lipstick tube pickups for that bright and jangly tone.

spyder November 5th, 2004 04:52 PM

Ho...its my understanding the magnetic strength/ field is different 2-5...a lower magnetic pull on the strings allows longer vibration than higher strength magnets...'course theres more to it than that I reckon...but it does have alot to do with tonal flavor in general....later, spyder

benmeza November 5th, 2004 07:27 PM


Originally Posted by spyder
Ho...its my understanding the magnetic strength/ field is different 2-5...a lower magnetic pull on the strings allows longer vibration than higher strength magnets...'course theres more to it than that I reckon...but it does have alot to do with tonal flavor in general....later, spyder

I wonder if that means one lends itself to a better esquire than the other...

DrB November 9th, 2004 05:51 AM


Originally Posted by spyder
Ho...its my understanding the magnetic strength/ field is different 2-5...a lower magnetic pull on the strings allows longer vibration than higher strength magnets...'course theres more to it than that I reckon...but it does have alot to do with tonal flavor in general....later, spyder

The alnico grades are given based on the composition of the ingredients used, not magnetic pull. In fact, alnico 3's have less magnetic pull than that of a2's. But apart from that distinction generally higher alnico grades have more magnetic pull, thus, less sustain.

For a great source on magnets read Q&A 185 and Q&A 226 both thanks to Seymour's articles in Vintage Guitar Magazine.


Wild Rice Chris November 9th, 2004 03:28 PM

Here's a rundown of AlNiCo II III and V, and ceramics, and how they act in a guitar pickup:

I bought some pickups with III on the low strings and V on the high strings, but haven't recieved them yet. The winder/seller has some stuff to say on the matter

Don Mare November 10th, 2004 09:29 PM

Don't help spread OC's misqoutes..someone should call Duff,
Quote from Duff's site:
" Alnico III's are the strongest of the Alnicos that I offer and they are the brightest and have the least midrange. If you like Roy Buchanan's tone, this is what you want. Very chimey, detailed, and very loud and bright. Alnico V's are right in the middle and are well liked by the majority of players for good reason, they are neither lacking or overcompensating tonally on any range of the spectrum"

WHAT??? Am I missing something or does OC Duff have some Alnico 2 &5 verbage in the wrong place here?

My understanding has bee this for tke last 5 years...Alnico II=weakest then Alnico III=middle then Alnico 5,
I bealive 5 is the strongest, II being the weakest, and III being in the middle..

there is also 7's but not very popular.

Somebody..Please Call OC Duff and ask that he correct this???... if in fact he also thinks its an error... heck I could be wrong but... I have my info from many different sources so I am 99.9% :roll:

Kingpin November 10th, 2004 11:12 PM

Perhaps it's a typo. I can vouch for the fact that my Alnico 5 Van Zandt flatpole bridge has way more magnetic pull than my Alnico 3 Hamel standard bridge. I would also characterize Alnico 5's as brighter than Alnico 3's - the opposite of his description.

Scotland November 10th, 2004 11:41 PM

Must be a typo
A5 is definitely brighter and has more pull. Look at the difference i.e. a SD Alnico pro 2 and a broadcaster.

Wild Rice Chris November 11th, 2004 12:34 AM

Did a Google

The three most common magnets are Alnico II, Alnico V, and Ceramic. Occasionally you may encounter an Alnico III. These where the magnets used in original Fender pickups from the early 50's (they have used the other magnets as well through the years.) If you are looking for an authentic vintage Fender tone, search for a pickup with Alnico III's. Alnico stands for the basic composition of the magnet: aluminum, nickel, and cobalt. Ceramic are a combination of iron and several rare Earth materials. Alnico II is a warm sounding magnet that produces a smooth midrange and good sustain. Alnico V is stronger and produces a glassy high end with good bass response. Ceramic magnets are the most powerful of the three, and have an aggressive voice with good treble and punchy bass. In general, Alnico II's are good for instruments that lack low end, and Alnico V's are good for instruments that tend to sound muddy. Like Alnico V's, ceramics are also good for bass heavy guitars, but are better suited for players who need high output and more distortion.

On 1/2 & 1/2 pickups, we put the ALNICO III magnets in the E, A & G position and the ALNICO V magnets in the D, B & high E. This puts the brighter magnets where they are most useful.

Kingtone November 11th, 2004 06:24 PM

OC Duff pickups
like I've said in a few post the last few days I just put in a set of OC Duff pickus ( alnico 3 ) , replacing a set of Texas Specials ( alnico 5 ). Everything being setup the same, The OC Duffs are noticeably louder. Here is an e-mail responce to that very question, Dan -

Good to hear that they are really doing their job. The loudness factor
most likely the Alnico III magnets, which are stronger magnets than the
Texas Special Alnico V. As far as aging, all aging is is a weakening
of the
magnet. I used to do it, but then it stopped making sense. Basically,
Alnico II magnet is 3/4 as strong as an Alnico V, Alnico 3 is 1 1/4
times as
strong as Alnico V, roughly.

So if I was to age Alnico III, you'd just have Alnico V tone.
Don mabey you could e-mail Owen and ask him to explain. These pickups have gotten me closer to Roys tone than any other pickups I've tried....

ocduff November 12th, 2004 04:13 AM

A valued customer brought this thread to my attention. I don't often come on forums but I thought I'd add my two cents and then get out of here before anyone thinks I'm trying to sell anything (to be clear then, do NOT buy my pickups!):

Here's a link that describes Alnico rod magnets in very technical terms:

In contrast, my descriptions of these magnets is subjective - I use terms that describe the way my ear perceives them to sound - not the way a gaussmeter objectively perceives them (but after all, guitarists don't have gaussmeter's for ears, do they?).

So in terms of Alnico III being "stronger" than Alnico V - it's not - not technically anyway. The purpose of my FAQ is to engage players in dialogue - even if we disagree - it helps us all to have a level playing field in which to discuss "tone". And if there's one thing I know about pickups it's that every guitarist has a different idea of what "tone" is - which may be the real debate here (and may also explain Yngwie Malmsteen!).

Scotland November 12th, 2004 04:19 AM

Mr. Duff
I am so glad you came here to qualify it, of which you have done, admirably !!
My Alnico V pickups that I bought from you for my Strat, is the best sounding pickups I have ever heard...anywhere, that was as a result of talking to you and you listening to exactly what I wanted. Of course your expertise in making them helped as well :wink:

KarlH November 12th, 2004 12:37 PM

Im going to respectfully disagree with Mr Duff re. the magnets.... In my experience, alnico 5 is louder, both when measured and perceived by the ear, than III. The highs are much more strident and fast, and the lows much snappier and punchier than a III. IIIs, to me, are much softer sounding, and "bloom" more. Even if both magnets were able to charge to a more similar level (which they dont: they differ by around 15-20 gauss among vintage examples!!!), I would speculate that the 5s would still sound louder, due to the more immediate transients and the strident highs...

listen to roy buchannons first two albums, then listen to Booker T and the MGs "green onions". both are bright, but even with roy so up front in the mix, he still seems just as loud as cropper, who is more behind in the mix and still stands out like a mofo with all those cutting highs

Jason Lollar November 13th, 2004 05:09 PM

Al 3 is the weakest as far as the charts and all the stock I get reflects that. Fully charged 3 is weaker than 2 but funny things happen, frequency response can make a pickup seem like its putting more out than it really is.

Jess loureiro June 20th, 2010 04:21 AM

Here is a video showing the differences betwen alnicos:

CyanideJunkie June 20th, 2010 05:57 AM

If I recall correctly, in terms of magnet strength, it should be as such:

Ceramic (strongest)
Alnico V
Alnico IV
Alnico II
Alnico III (weakest)

I vaguely remember reading about Alnico VIII magnets somewhere... anyone care to shed some light on that?

Ben Harmless June 21st, 2010 10:17 PM

This thread is from 2004. Just thought I'd point that out.

...Though I've uncovered it about a million times in search results myself.

FWIW, there seem to be a lot of winders now who swear that it's all in the final charge of the magnets - the only differences between them being how powerful each type is at full charge.

In my experience... Maybe, but I've got Alnico II pickups, Alnico 5 pickups, and Ceramic pickups, and I can hear exactly the traditionally associated characteristics - though I think the low end response of A2 gets an unfair rep for being to spongey.

robt57 June 21st, 2010 10:45 PM

Must be revive old thread day ;)

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