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Discussion in 'Just Pickups' started by rxtech, Jun 12, 2019.
What is a good height setting for a bridge humbucker?
It depends on the pickup and guitar.
Generally, I set it (PAF-types) to sound clear, and somewhat bright.
I also am careful to set it’s height to balance with the neck pickup’s volume.
In other words, not too close.
I play clean mostly, and don’t like too much mid-range.
I don't put them as close as single coils.
Maybe 2dimes bass side and nickel treble side.
the common sense correct answer is, whatever sounds best to your ears.
there now, that was easy, wasn't it?
You really got to tune them to your guitar... I usually start by adjusting the pole pieces (before I even install them) and then eyeball it to about 1/16" (1.6 mm) for the bridge pickup and 3/32" (2.4 mm) for the neck as Gibson recommends and then tweaking to taste and to the individual guitar.
Hold the string down at the last fret and use Bill Lawrence's one nickel treble and 2 nickels bass as the starting point then just tune to your ear. Never fails.
there is NO need to get all techie and anal about how to adjust pickups. it's not rocket science, promise.
do NOT use "measuring tools", i.e. rulers, coins, calipers, etc. just use your EARS, because they are your judge and jury for tone and output.
one method is to start high and drop down incrementally while actually listening to the results along the way - depress all the strings at the last fret and jack up the pups to within 1/16" or so of the string bottoms. this setting will render the most aggressive tone with the most output. as the pups are seqeuntially dropped lower, the aggressiveness turns to more of an acoustic-like tone, with lesser output.
It helps if you can make faces like Joe, but that last bullet on the Gibson page is the best.
+1 the old joe video.
I usually start the neck low to the pickguard, then raise the bridge to volume parity when switching between them (so low but up a bit). This gives more clarity to the notes. Yes, you turn the amp knob up a bit.
"The closer the pickups are to the strings, the hotter the output."
While the above may seem true, it’s important to remember that humbuckers and single-coil pickups are quite different in design.
The issue is with the actual magnets inside the pickup. If they get too close to the strings, the magnets will pull on the string too much, resulting in lack of sustain, and the dreaded disease known as “Strat-itis”.
The magnets in typical, traditional humbuckers are located at the bottom of the assembly, far away enough from the strings not to interfere with their vibration. Those screws called “pole pieces” are not the actual magnets, but go down through the pickup assembly to contact the actual magnet in the bottom.
This is why humbuckers can be set much closer to the strings than traditional single-coils. I say “traditional” because there are many pickups that look like single-coils, but are not. Sorry, gotta do your homework.
With traditional single-coils, those “pole pieces” are, indeed, the actual magnets. So, of course, these magnets are way closer to the strings, and will affect their vibration if the pickup is set too close.
Your mileage will not vary. Science!
It's a compromise - the lower it is the clearer it will seem and as you raise it you'll give up clarity for presence, volume, and even a bit of distortion. I always start out low and then move the pickup closer to the strings until I get a clear tone with some presence. With decent pickups I usually find a "sweet spot" that makes me happy.
This video is posted in every thread on this topic.
Has no one every noticed that he sounds like absolute **** on a stick throughout?
Sometime after obtaining my fourth or more guitar, and semi-regularly rotating pickups in and out of some of them, that I ended up just setting the pickup heights by ear, regardless of what type they were.
I also would forget what types of magnets were specifically used with some humbuckers, and sometimes, I never even knew what they had.
There's also the potential issue of not knowing something like the inductance of any given pickup, and having the DC resistance not actually being a useful metric.
...It's mostly rare that I'll ever have a "matched set" of anything in a given guitar, and I actually find the whole concept of matching to be as subjective as "the right way" to set pickup heights.
Anyway, if it's a guitar with two or more pickups, I try to first get the bridge pickup to where "it sounds good to me" on its own. Next, I try to set the neck pickup to where it will balance well with the bridge pickup, assuming the two can be used together. About 30% of the time, I'll have to fine-tune the height of the neck pickup, and only then do I further adjust the bridge pickup for a good balance of the two.
Also - I know it was mentioned that with alnico poles, you have to be mindful to not set pickups that use them to be too close to the strings. I just wanted to add that not all alnico behaves the same. IME, you can set a pickup with alnico II poles a bit closer to the strings than you can do the same thing with alnico V. That's just all the more reason to set things by ear.
By ear is the way to go, ultimately. Before resorting to my ears, though, I start by setting humbuckers at 3/32 (high E) and 4/32 (low E) with the strings fretted at the 17th fret. Then adjust to taste.
IME, the less expensive the pickup, the more important this adjustment becomes to getting an agreeable tone.