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Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups

Humbuckers: Raising pole pieces vs. the whole pickup

Discussion in 'Just Pickups' started by SixStringSlinger, Feb 7, 2019.

  1. SixStringSlinger

    SixStringSlinger Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    May 21, 2006
    What's the diff.??

    Over the last year or two I've gotten more comfortable with adjusting my pickup heights (amazing what buying a ruler will do for you), and I have a pretty good handle on the general effect this will have on single-coil pickups (your typical Strat/Tele type). Higher = more output, more treble, what I call a more "focused" tone, while too high = too much of all that, plus the possibility of the pickups' magnetic pull screwing with your string vibration. Meanwhile, lower = a more mellow, "wider" tone, perhaps more balanced with respect to high end vs. low end, while too low = too little output, or not enough "focus".

    Humbuckers, however, throw an extra element into this, due to the fact that you can raise or lower the whole pickup as with singles, plus you can raise or lower the individual pole pieces on one of the coils.

    I'm familiar with matching the adjustable pole pieces to the guitar's neck radius, as well as proceeding from there to compensate for differences in output from string to string. But how does one go about deciding whether to mess with the pole piece height vs. that of the whole pickup? What process do you typically follow when setting the heights on a guitar you just got? What general effects can one expect, as with raising or lowering single coils as I described above? Does the same generally hold with, say, mini-humbuckers? What if the pole pieces on both coils are adjustable? What then?

    On a related note, say your guitar has coil-splitting capabilities. Does it matter which coil (adjustable pieces or no) is the one active in single mode?
  2. uriah1

    uriah1 Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Feb 12, 2011
    Whole magnet proximity vs pole proximity. For years on my p90s I dabbled the heck out of them.
    I had a SD Lil59 that gave you 12 poles on each pu., that was a pain, but, I did get a myriad of sounds.
    I think HB were not meant to be unstuck. I think PU, are generally fatter when they all raised in unison.
    SixStringSlinger likes this.
  3. brookdalebill

    brookdalebill Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

    Nov 15, 2009
    Austin, Tx
    I prefer to raise/adjust the whole pickup.
    I don’t hear much difference when adjusting individual screws/polepieces.
    SixStringSlinger likes this.
  4. Nickadermis

    Nickadermis Friend of Leo's

    Dec 18, 2016
    Camden Point, MO
    I adjust the body down and pole pieces up.
    jvin248, rand z and SixStringSlinger like this.
  5. ricardo1912

    ricardo1912 Tele-Afflicted

    Jul 26, 2011
    Kent, UK
    From experience , raising humbucker pole pieces can make the overall sound a bit brighter and less muddy.. How much to raise them is a matter of trial and error.

    Raising them to follow the neck curve will have one effect, raising them to allow for the G string being loud will be different.
  6. philosofriend

    philosofriend Tele-Holic

    Oct 28, 2015
    I do finger picking as well as some actual classic guitar music on electric so I like the strings to be balanced with each other. If you put the (plain) third string polepiece almost all the way down and you can't balance the fourth string without the fourth string polepiece being so close that your pick/fingers are hitting it all the time, then the whole pickup needs to be moved lower.

    Other than that, it is exactly like you described, whole pickup closer is more focused, "electric", detailed, further is more dreamy and mellow. Keep experimenting until you are happy.
    SixStringSlinger likes this.
  7. roknfnrol

    roknfnrol Tele-Meister

    Nov 16, 2004
    Louisville, KY
    I always tweak the pole piece and pickup height with humbuckers. I've found that I generally like the pole pieces lowered a bit under the cover (or flush with the cover), then raise the entire pickup. Occasionally with the neck I will raise the pole pieces to match the neck radius to allow for more clarity.
    Bruxist and SixStringSlinger like this.
  8. rze99

    rze99 Poster Extraordinaire

    Feb 26, 2014
    South London UK
    I just set the over all level and then tweak individual poles to ensure the most even volume string by string.
    All my PAF type humbucker guitars have 12" radius. Often the D and B are raised a little. Not much in it, just tweaks.
    Same is true for my P90s.
    aerhed and SixStringSlinger like this.
  9. SixStringSlinger

    SixStringSlinger Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    May 21, 2006
  10. SixStringSlinger

    SixStringSlinger Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    May 21, 2006
    What if both coils have adjustable pole pieces? Should they be identical? But then what if the humbucker is splittable?
  11. Fearnot

    Fearnot Friend of Leo's

    Jan 17, 2010
    Decatur, GA
    The HBs on my Ibanez Talman seemed to lack some low-end oomph, but when I tweaked up the screws under the 5th and 6th strings, things got much better.
  12. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Friend of Leo's

    Jun 2, 2014
    west coast

    PAFs were originally not supposed to have screws, they were supposed to have slugs in both coils, but Gibson wanted them to look a little more like a P-90, so they gave one coil screws, so it's not as though they were ever deemed functionally necessary to begin with.

    The higher the screws are, the more of a single coil sound you'll get because it will decrease the prominence of the other coil in the mix. Overall the effect is very slight, and hardly even worth doing, which is why you rarely ever see screws adjusted one way or another, even with P-90s.
  13. strat a various

    strat a various Friend of Leo's

    May 9, 2008
    Pickup screws up, pickup down = clearer
    Pickup screws down, pickup up = thicker
    Adjust based on guitar and amp tone ... to taste.
    Nickadermis likes this.
  14. Wally

    Wally Telefied Ad Free Member

    Mar 17, 2003
    Lubbock, TX
    The screw poles should be adjusted according to the radius and the type of G string used. I also adjust non-adjustable poles in single coils that allow on a proper Strat pickup.
    Take a look at the vintage stagger Strat pickup for, instance. It was built for a wound G string. The height of the G pole is improper for a plain G string which has a higher output signal than does a wound string. That pole needs to be taken down flush for a plan G. This has been known for decades....I first read about it 45 years ago in Guitar Player. Kinman builds radius and string specific single coils. (;^)
    For adjustable pole pickups when using a plain G, the outside E poles and the Gpole stay flush. The B needs to be raised slightly. The A string needs to be raised slightly and the D Stein will be the ‘tallest’ pole. The radius of the neck, which should be mirrored at the bridge in a good set up, determines how much adjustment is need for those three poles. If one uses. Wound G, then thatbpole will be the tallest seen I. That vintage stagger Strat pickup.
    The height adjustment for the whole pickup is then made after the pole piece adjustment.
    There is one Fender Strat that is no longer being produced that used pickups with all of the poles raised above the bobbin bynot quite 1/8”. With those pickups, five poles need to be adjusted. After adjustment, those pickups are the best modern Fender pickups I have heard....Alnico II magnets....very warm sonics.
    I have adjusted polepieces in front of owners who were amazed at the difference that proper pickup adjustment made for the guitar. As for the magnetic pull, I do not see any new guitar that has the pickup magnets far enough away from the strings. There is no music that comes out of a guitar with the pickups too close to the strings.
    mrmousey likes this.
  15. strat a various

    strat a various Friend of Leo's

    May 9, 2008
    I know a Jazz player who just removes the pole screws entirely. There's another guy who plays a Strat who lowers the pickups as far as they'll go. In neither case do I hear any magic in their tones.

    Kenny Burrell once told me (in the 70s) that he liked the DeArmond (monkey on a stick) pickup because at least you can adjust the screws to even out the sound across the strings.
    Wally likes this.
  16. 11 Gauge

    11 Gauge Doctor of Teleocity

    Mar 21, 2003
    Near BWI Int'l
    It's amazing how many pickup design aspects had nothing to do with (actual improved) sonics. We were talking about the tonal influence of the bottom plate on a Tele bridge pickup in another thread, and how tiny the actual effect is. It seems like a lot of these things had to do with appearance, or shielding, or being able to produce something with minimal cost/labor/materials.
  17. Wally

    Wally Telefied Ad Free Member

    Mar 17, 2003
    Lubbock, TX
    Ime, what some people don’t hear is a result of one of two things. Either they do not have the ears or they don’t use them. In one case they are challenged by not having musical ears. In the other, they can be made aware that they are not listening well enough to gain the benefit of their hearing.
    Individual string output balancing is for real and makes a huge difference to one is listening with good ears. I don’t play pickups that cannot be adjusted for the strings and the radius. I also do not use compression to minimize imbalance of a vintage stagger polepieces many people do...because I can hear the difference in how that hot G string affects the compression circuit compared to the other strings that have weaker output in comparison.
    I have never had anyone not hear the difference between a badly setup pickup and a pickup that is adjusted properly. It is a real difference.
    mrmousey and rand z like this.
  18. ScribbleSomething

    ScribbleSomething Tele-Holic Platinum Supporter

    Mar 12, 2016
    San Antonio
    I adjust the overall height and angle of the pickup to my previews sound with even volume between the neck and bridge. Depending on the guitar sometimes the bridge will be a little louder.

    Then I adjust the poll pieces to even out string volume. Usually, for me I need to crank up the high e string poll because it doesn’t seem to be loud enough.

  19. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Friend of Leo's

    Jun 2, 2014
    west coast
    I've come to appreciate deliberate string to string imbalance. Take the Seymour Duncan Five-Two Strat set for example, deliberately imbalanced by using weaker magnets on one side, stronger on the other, but it makes for a interesting audible experience. It's like a chorus of singers, some with stronger voices than others. Variety is the spice of life.
    CFFF likes this.
  20. 11 Gauge

    11 Gauge Doctor of Teleocity

    Mar 21, 2003
    Near BWI Int'l
    I've come to accept that I'm simply harder on some of the strings than others, and the cacophony of noise that I typically produce makes any imbalance a moot point. I'm just hoping that I'm more or less in tune.
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