Ceramic Pickups

Discussion in 'Just Pickups' started by nicod98, Aug 8, 2018.

  1. nicod98

    nicod98 Tele-Afflicted

    Jul 7, 2014
    In the past few years I've learned to know a few good, affordable brands for telecaster pickups, and even some custom builders but all with one little problem: They all provide me with just alnico-based pickups.

    This of course adds to the perception that alnico pickups are better by definition. I don't agree, some are great, but sometimes I like the different sound of ceramics.

    But I'd like to find high quality ceramic pickups, without having to get no-brand far eastern pickups. I don't mind them being made there, but since I have no brand, it's always difficult to find a dealer to buy more if you find a good one.

    So are there regular brands that have ceramic (telecaster) pickups???
    2blue2 likes this.
  2. rigatele

    rigatele Tele-Afflicted

    Apr 20, 2014
    GFS has the "Metal Foil" ceramics (ferrite).
    3-Chord-Genius and nicod98 like this.
  3. BryMelvin

    BryMelvin Tele-Afflicted

    Jan 4, 2014
    Arivaca AZ
    They are Asian made ( but so are many US Brands) Artec or GFS , also Dragonfire

    All work fine. Or get Mexican Standard or Squier pickups someone discarded.
    LocoTex, 3-Chord-Genius and 2blue2 like this.
  4. Zepfan

    Zepfan Poster Extraordinaire

    Nov 30, 2013
    Horn Lake, MS
    I would second the GFS suggestion. They also have the Neovin pickups that sound decent.
    3-Chord-Genius likes this.
  5. Golem

    Golem Tele-Holic

    G&L MFD pickups. Designed by Leo Fender.
  6. 2blue2

    2blue2 Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    Jul 20, 2013
    Island of Oahu
    Imports are a mixed plate.
    But I do love them cheap ceramic pick ups sometimes.
    3-Chord-Genius and nicod98 like this.
  7. JD0x0

    JD0x0 Poster Extraordinaire

    Feb 22, 2009
    New York
    Why just limit yourself to ceramic, though? Wilde pickups makes Microcoils, which use Neodymium disk magnets under the polepieces. Very cool design. Extremely efficient. Very good signal to noise ratio for a passive, non-'hum canceling' pickup. They're also voiced for a lot of clarity without being harsh or brittle.

    Dimarzio, also has a decent selection of strat sized ceramic magnet single coils. Not so much in tele sizes, unless you want a blade style pickup.
  8. littlebadboy

    littlebadboy Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 25, 2016
    Midwest, USA
    Guitar Madness sell very nice but affordable pickups on eBay... cheap enough for you to try and toss! But most likely, you will like and keep them.

    Seller is NY based and very knowledgeable about his pickups.

    Here's my demo of their GM Dirty Digits and GM P94, which is similar to Gibson's Dirty Fingers on a cheap Epi LP Special II... imho, it made the guitar sound like a thousand $$$!

    And this is a demo in a full production environment using the same pocups...

  9. nicod98

    nicod98 Tele-Afflicted

    Jul 7, 2014
    You guys give great suggestions, but that's just NOT what I want. I know some cheap GFS pickups are great, and I'm certainly open to try different things (like the metal foil idea).
    I just don't want to import, and I'd like to know what I buy.

    So do I, but wanting a ceramic bridge pickup for instance is difficult without reference. Let's take Seymour Duncans as an example. If I talk about the quarter pound tele bridge pickup, everyone here can easily find dozens of samples of how it sounds, you can find exact specifications, and you can buy it all over the world. So the quality is well known, the product is well known and it's available all over the world. A bridge and neck pickup would set me back about 136 euros (about 158 US dollars today), delivered at my doorstep the next day.

    First if I find ceramic telecaster pickups, they are almost always the cheapest of the cheapest, and what do I know about the quality? At most I can read some sales pitch and a perhaps some values. Like "These are WICKED nice. These are nice pickups- ceramic bar magnets, nice warm vintage output- Bridge clock in at a healthy 6.4K and the neck pickup a 50's correct 5.5K. This ridiculous price is FOR THE PAIR complete with mounting screws and springs!!"

    What kind of warranty to I have? Only from the seller, never from the factory.

    I could get some Fender or G&L pickups, if they are available at the time I buy them, if I'm the highest bidder on eBay, and so on... warranty? next to none, but at least I can check some youtube video's to get an idea about how they sound in several different styles.

    Let's say that I do find some pickups, let's pretend that the "52 Tele Overwound Professional Series Bridge Pickup 7.8K" and the "KP - Overwound LOUDER Repro Vintage Alnico Tele Neck Pickup - Our Best! - Kwikplug™ Ready" are what I'd like to buy from GFS. That would cost me 57.90 USD for the pickups, at least 25.5 USD for shipping (if I don't mind waiting 2-3 weeks), or about double that (48 USD) if I want it in about a week. Then import taxes come, for 57.90 USD that would be about 30 euros, and 15 euros of administration costs. Giving me about 50 euros for the pickups, 22 at least for shipping, and 45 extra costs, all this together equals 117 euros for pickups I cannot reference anywhere, have to wait for at least two weeks, and don't know anything about. That's quite a contrast with the Seymour Duncan example I gave.

    In the UK there are also several sites that sell pickups and some very good pickup makers, which I can easily ship to Belgium without import taxes (at least until somewhere in 2019), but after that...

    Well, I can only see 2 products on their eBay page, but I gues that's because they forgot to disable Europe as possible destination for shipping, so that's a no go, too...

    Which leaves only this:
    But I use a tele, I'm just not a strat guy.
    Why don't DiMarzio, Seymour Duncan, Lollar, Lace and so many other brands that make fine alnico pickups, also make high quality ceramics? Am I really an oddity, wanting ceramics?

    So I'm not putting cheap pickups down (I have bought of them myself, and loved quite a few of them), but there just doesn't seem to be an easy way to get exactly what you want. And I was hoping you guys could help me here.
    2blue2 likes this.
  10. LtKojak

    LtKojak Tele-Meister

    Sep 10, 2013
    Milano, Italy
  11. nicod98

    nicod98 Tele-Afflicted

    Jul 7, 2014
    Thanks for the tip, but no thanks... I don't want ONE set of pickups i want CHOICE between a few different brands and/or models (for future guitars too, without having to choose the same combination) AND that are available in the EU. Belgium really is probably the most expensive EU country for importing stuff.
  12. Dacious

    Dacious Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 16, 2003
    Why are you so determined to get 'high quality ceramic' pickups? What do you think they're going to give you not available from alnico or neo?

    If people don't make 'high quality' Tele pickup from ceramic, it's because 1 there is no call for them or 2 because ceramic is not as usable in a bar form and in rod form it's not strong enough.

    Leo chose alnico (as did others) because it gausses into a strong permanent magnet in rod, cube or bar able to be trimmed to useful sizes.

    Ferric magnets only came to the fore when Cobalt became a strategic material in nukes.

    There are classic pickups with ceramic magnets but they're fewer and farther between for various reasons, perception being one. Maybe unfairly.
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2018
  13. Bowpickins

    Bowpickins Tele-Meister

    May 29, 2018
    Somewhere In TX
    I second this. I put MFD's in my Standard Telecaster and American Special Stratocaster, best pickups I've used!:) I have seen G&L ALNICO pickups second-hand but I had to buy my MFD's directly from G&L, I don't think I've ever seen any other store have them in stock either.
  14. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

    Apr 18, 2014
    Near Detroit, MI

    "High Quality" is an often nebulous term. How do you define it? Consistency like a Budweiser beer or McDonald's hamburger -- where it tastes the same no matter which store cooks it up, which factory made all the ingredients, what sixteen year old tossed it on the griddle, what filter system was used on the water, or other minute details?

    I have had both great and terrible Ceramic and Alnico pickups. Setups and control electronics can improve or worsen either type. I've noticed that players are willing to try fixes for Alnico but not Ceramic.

    The problem with Ceramic magnet pickups is the perception of 'cheapness' around them. Players use the presence of Ceramic, laminated plywood bodies, tiny potentiometers, and tuners as the hallmarks of a starter-grade guitar they don't want to be seen gigging with -- Supermodels cannot be caught wearing $15 Walmart jeans.

    This is observed by all the boutique builders trying to get $200 out of a pickup that they don't dare try putting ceramic in their products because no one will buy them for more than the wire costs. Just like a boutique guitar builder dare not use laminated wood on a body or the 'tone wood police' will be out in force stomping his good name in the mud. They can barely deviate from selecting rain forest wood species regardless of how harmful that is to the environment.

    Look at the problems that Gibson got into with the 2015 guitar upgrades they made. The backlash was so intense that Gibson was forced to rework all their models the following year. Or how Gibson cannot make any changes to their fragile headstock design because the outcry for not being 1950s authentic will be more deafening than accepting players with fractured re-glued headstock guitars.

    So I suspect Ceramic magnets will continue to remain difficult to find in boutique catalogs and high end guitars, unless a famous player accidentally creates a mini-cult like all those Goldfoil pickups.

    11 Gauge, hellopike and DugT like this.
  15. YoGeorge

    YoGeorge Tele-Afflicted

    Mar 16, 2003
    Harmonic Designs Vintage Plus
    G&L MFD's
    Duncan Rail type pickups
    Dimarzio Chopper, Fast Track, other bladed pickups

    No idea what is available easily in Belgium, and no idea why you think your quest is gonna get you tonal nirvana. If ceramic magnets were magical, they would be far more common. Nothing necessarily bad about them, but they don't work in slug magnet designs.
  16. mitchfinck

    mitchfinck Tele-Holic

    Dec 7, 2015
    Stratford, Ontario
    I've got some Ibanez pickups that are ceramic and sounds really nice. Might be something you can look into - unless to you that's "no-brand far eastern" in your opinion. I'd say it's just far eastern.
  17. JohnS

    JohnS Friend of Leo's

    Mar 18, 2003
    Sparks, NV
    Wilkinson makes some nice ceramic pups.
    Anode100 likes this.
  18. LutherBurger

    LutherBurger Friend of Leo's

    Oct 29, 2013
    The Wilkinson-branded ceramic MWTN and MWTB pickups I researched online are suspiciously similar in both appearance and DCR values to an unbranded set I bought from GM for half the price. I can't confirm that they're the same pickups, made by the same people, but I suspect that they might be.
  19. nicod98

    nicod98 Tele-Afflicted

    Jul 7, 2014
    Obviously, I like the sound... And I'm kind of make my own mind up about what is and what is not good sound. I prefer vinyl over CD if possible too. When I was a kid, I was the only one with a certain musical preference too, different from all the other kids...

    I'm no "guitar supermodel", and I really like the combination of a ceramic bridge (like the Wilkinson bridge pickup) with an alnico neck pickup. I also like the Wilkinson alnico WVOB (overwound) alnico pickup with a ceramic neck pickup. I also have Fender telecaster with stock ceramics that sound good to me. But I'd like some more choice.

    I do agree that there is a perception of "cheapness", but I still like the "mid-dy" sound it makes. I have guitars with alnico pickups too, and depending on the song one sounds just a little better than the other.

    Consistency surely is an important point, I want to know where I can buy what sound. High quality also reflects in a return policy when there are problems (in production), and in the look 'n feel (fibre bobbin vs moulded plastic, ...) but also in the quality of the wire used, the quality finish and look of the rods, and the overall finish (like logo or not).

    Sometimes I have pickups that sound pretty good, but the finish is poor (because of the price), so in those cases I wouldn't mind paying more if they used better bobbins, and nicer rods and so on...

    When I look at OEM producers like Artec, I can even find a catalogue, but I can not find a place to buy me a TRC65 for instance.

    I'm not looking for a tonal Nirvana, I already found what I like (within certain tolerances). I just want a steady source with choice in pickups. And yes, they always have bars beneath, but that doesn't matter, because it's invisible.

    Also because of brexit, I'll have to find new sources within the EU to overcome the import tax problems. Import taxes are the same from wherever I import from outside the EU, I don't think they will make another exception for the UK, where I got most of my pickups from (ceramic and alnico) the last few years. For alnico pickups, this is easy, because all brands can be bought. For ceramics it's not easy at all.

    So far, I have consistency in some Fender ceramics (and as some noted G&L had some to, which I will keep an eye out for), I know the Wilkinsons, and apparently, the rest is just going to have to stay the way it is... I like variation in my guitars, and don't usually put the same pickup combination in two different guitars.

    Still, thank you all very much for your input.
  20. schmee

    schmee Friend of Leo's

    Jun 2, 2003
    Fender makes some ceramics. Not sure what "hi quality" means, ceramic by nature are cheaper because the magnet is cheaper than Alnico. I have some ceramic Tele pickups you can have cheap. Some people like ceramics. There are vintage pickups that were ceramic like Firebird Mini buckers etc.
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