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

Other than magnet strength, what makes one variety of magnet sound different from another?

Discussion in 'Just Pickups' started by Vibro Chimp, Mar 26, 2017.

  1. GuitarPix

    GuitarPix TDPRI Member

    57
    Oct 1, 2015
    Calgary, AB
    The ceramic magnet was by far the strongest- yet I managed to get at least one combination of the the three that was very close to the same response, but still very different in the 4th, 5th and 7th harmonics.
     
    24 track likes this.

  2. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 2, 2014
    west coast
    I'm all about scientific investigation, I do lots of these sorts of tests, but you're way oversimplifying the relationship between harmonics and magnet type.

    The first issue, I didn't see you mention this, how are you plucking the string? The whole reason a guitar string has harmonics is because of the fact that it's plucked. Therefore, the manner of plucking the string hugely impacts the harmonic content, and that problem alone screws up a lot of experiments that aim to compare harmonic amplitudes. For more on this, look here http://research.spa.aalto.fi/publications/theses/jungmann_mst.pdf to page 12, "vibrations of a plucked string".

    Other issues are whether or not you set the pickup to precisely the same height after each magnet swap. Magnetic strength drops off quickly with any distance, so it's crucial that dimensions and spacing be carefully tracked. AlNiCo 5 is weaker than AlNiCo 2, but if you lower a pickup with AlNiCo 5 enough, it will have the same strength at distance.

    The harmonics also vary hugely based on what part of the string or strings the pickup is near. Is this a neck or bridge position? Did you strum all the strings or just one particular string? It's a whole ball of wax http://www.till.com/articles/PickupResponse/

    Additionally, there are electrical differences that result from changing the magnet. When you take out an AlNiCo bar and place a ceramic, you lower the inductance of the pickup, that changes the response curve by itself, on the RLC side of the pickup.

    The moral of the story is that a test like this jumps from A to Z, skipping B through Y, so there is very little to be garnered from it, but if you're just asking the simple question "do magnets change the sound?" the answer is yes.. very much so.
     
    Indian Joe and Zepfan like this.

  3. chezdeluxe

    chezdeluxe Poster Extraordinaire

    Age:
    67
    Dec 29, 2007
    Brisbane Australia
    Isn't Alnico 2 weaker than Alnico 5 (But stronger than Alnico 3) ?
     

  4. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 2, 2014
    west coast
    Yeah I made a typo there.
     

  5. GuitarPix

    GuitarPix TDPRI Member

    57
    Oct 1, 2015
    Calgary, AB
    I hear you about variables - I did do the most I could to eliminate as many variables as possible. The pickup was same distance each time - mounted sideways so the magnets could be swapped without moving the pickup itself and only one pole directly beside the string, plucking one string only, plucked the same way at the same spot. By comparing 'after' the initial attack (the attack would have the highest variation) and sampling the base tone itself before decaying too low eliminates much of the variation. I also ran all the way through each test several passes going through each magnet each pass so that it wasn't a 'one off' of each one. Took about three hours.
     
    Piggy Stu, Iago and 24 track like this.

  6. 24 track

    24 track Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

    Nov 6, 2014
    kamloops bc
    Thanks for taking the time on this, I always felt that there alot of veriables that go with the magnet type like winding guage, winding impedence ,number of wraps as well as the type of magnet that gave a particular charactoristic to a pick up, and Like one of my favorites Lace alumatones that use rare earth magnets a very tiny coil and an aluminum frame, they have a small impedence of about 2 ohms yet sound increadable.
    nice graphs it shows alot
     

  7. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 2, 2014
    west coast
    ---
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2017

  8. Ascension

    Ascension Tele-Holic

    Age:
    59
    838
    Dec 3, 2012
    Birmingham Alabama
    No there is a pretty good number of guys out here like myself who have been experimenting with Mag swaps for a number of years. There are very real differences in tone between magnet types that are more than just strength of field. There is also a noticeable difference in the tone of a rough cast A 5 for example and a smooth cast A5. Have pulled one out swapped them and then restrung the same guitar with the same pickup it's noticeable.
    it's also why Seymour Duncan will use a rough cast A5 in the Antiquity JB's for a slightly different tone.
    Duncan on this and yes it does make a difference. Many of us know this from actually working with pickups swapping in and out different mags to see/hear the effect instead of sitting behind a keyboard typing about what you think you know.
    Seymour on the Antiquity JB mags in particular.
    The Antiquity JB delivers rich harmonics, and a balance of sustain, distortion, and clarity, sweetened by the mellowing effect of a custom aged alnico 5 bar magnet and years of simulated sweat, dust, and oxidation.
     
    Teleterr likes this.

  9. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 2, 2014
    west coast
    I'm guessing you don't know, from a physics standpoint, how those magnets make the differences you describe, you're just certain that they do. My primary retort to that point is that you're not ruling out psychology as an influencing factor. The way you feel about something effects the way you subjectively perceive it.

    On the matter of rough cast versus smooth, I understand they use different formulations for the two. So I don't believe it's the case that the only difference that one is smooth and the other isn't, I think the differences go beyond that, but I'm not sure. I should email a magnet supplier and ask.
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2017

  10. Ascension

    Ascension Tele-Holic

    Age:
    59
    838
    Dec 3, 2012
    Birmingham Alabama
    [QUOTE="GuitarPix, post: 7543173, member: 122459]
    The ceramic is way different on an oscilloscope, but the difference between 2 and 5 is very slight.

    What does this prove? That I can waste time like anyone else. I'd say there's enough to show there are differences in the harmonic information output by different magnets - but its pretty close and could be argued that without corelating just how much those differences mean to the listener it may not be proof of actual real world difference.

    But like I said, I've done enough blind tests (and yes, I am willing to question myself and test to make sure there is an actual difference) to be comfortable saying I chose the pickups I did because I liked how they sound and it was different enough from other pickups.[/QUOTE]
    Wish you would have included one more mag in that graph test the Alnico 8. There are quite a few of us who have been using that mag in particular in the Duncan Custom wind.
    Here is our general assessment of the Custom with A-5, A-2, Ceramic and A-8.
    Ceramic original Duncan Custom mag - Hot and crispy but a little harsh and bright.
    Custom Custom A-2 softer attack singing sweet mid tones not as bright more round and open sounding that the Custom.
    Custom 5 A-5 big round and warm tones but scooped in the mids make it not cut through the mix for solos with a soft mid guitar. More out put that the A-2 but less perceived output because of the mid peak. Sightly tighter dynamic response than the A-2 softer than the Ceramic
    Custom 8 ( now a Floor Custom option BTW) A-8 Almost as much heat as the Ceramic but warmer and rounder tighter than the A-5 and A-2 and has the singing sweet mids of the A-2 but also a tight big bottom. Smooth on the top with good cut without being harsh.
    That is same pickup same guitar swapping only mags. Hope that helped.
     

  11. Piggy Stu

    Piggy Stu Tele-Holic

    Age:
    38
    902
    Feb 26, 2017
    Manchester UK
    Let me know when someone does a good double blind test. There is sense being spoken on both sides here and I can imagine either being true, but I can also see how either could be wrong

    Not picking sides - just interested in the truth. We all know that different pickups sound different - magnet composition and finish aren't unimaginable influencers. But I can also imagine there is an element of 'tone polish' in the prejudice
     
    awasson likes this.

  12. Ascension

    Ascension Tele-Holic

    Age:
    59
    838
    Dec 3, 2012
    Birmingham Alabama
    Actually have a background in electronics so do understand some of the physics. Also am a sound engineer and have been a working player for about 42 or so years now. Have done back to back pull one mag out drop another in with a fixed bridge guitar + measured pickup heights so that would eliminate the variables of distance to the strings.
    Also be aware string pull can be radically different between mags. Alnico 8 for one is really sensitive to this as to close will really cause some weird overtones and such in particular.
    There are threads in abundance on all this over on the Seymour Duncan forum.
    We have about a half a dozen pickups now that are ether floor customs or in production because of the group I am part of playing with these mag swaps and much more.
    The Duncan Custom Custom , Custom 5, Custom 8, Alt 8 and the 59 Custom Hybrid in particular all came directly from us tinkerers sharing our results on that forum. There also have been several forum only pickups designed by "committee" like the Crazy 8, Stratabo, Fugly Bucker and Bro Bucker all came from that same group I am part of.
    Hybrid story and YES I'm very much a part of that community he is speaking of.
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2017

  13. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 2, 2014
    west coast
    This isn't any better than what I described, though. A whole forum of guys loosely agreeing about how magnets change the tone doesn't rule psychological influence. In fact, it introduces several more, such as bandwagon effect and groupthink. An isolated evaluation is actually more valuable, to the extent that it's valuable at all.
     
    awasson likes this.

  14. awasson

    awasson Friend of Leo's

    Age:
    53
    Nov 18, 2010
    Vancouver
    I agree. It's been known since God knows when that a/b listening tests are entirely undependable, and more so as time passes between listening to a and b. Furthermore, listener bias is a powerful force.

    I don't necessarily care about being an expert, marketing pickups or convincing anyone about one thing or another. I'm just chasing tone to improve my guitars and if someone likes the tone, I'd hope to be able to help point them in the right direction.

    When at all possible, I'll record direct via an analog/digital input device into my DAW (Logic or Garage Band), everything flat and I'll play/record 3 or 5 tunes with one pickup, then do the same for the others. It is by no means perfect but it allows me to review the results over time which removes a lot of the psychology/prejudice and is a heck of a lot better than going by what I thought they sounded like.
     

  15. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 2, 2014
    west coast
    IMO, the biggest effect to come from replacing science with feelings when it comes to the marketplace is you end up getting a thousand different products when there are maybe a few dozen actual variations on the product. This seems especially true of "vice"; there are thousands of cigar and cigarette brands, wines, craft beers, whiskies and spirits, coffee and tea, and even illegal street drugs. Save for the street drugs, I've had a fair amount of experience with all these things, and I think biggest difference is marketing, not the product. The coffee all tastes the same, for a given roast, but they change how they market it to target women, young men, old men, majorities, minorities, etc.

    I feel the same thing applies to guitars, and guitar accessories, it's the same component, but one is marketed to blues guys, one to metal heads, one for the jazz, djent, etc. One pickup, ten different audiences. And they this pickup has "warm jazzy tones", and that this other pickup makes "smooth, silky overdrive", and people think it's two different pickups with two different model names doing two different things, when in reality it's all the same pickup, that is everything to everybody. Marketing primes consumers to perceive products a certain way, and by doing so can create ten different products where only one exists.
     
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  16. Piggy Stu

    Piggy Stu Tele-Holic

    Age:
    38
    902
    Feb 26, 2017
    Manchester UK
    I've played expensive guitars that sound flat and cheap ones that sound great. Who knows what judgments I brought to them, but every time there is a blind tasting of expensive wine or cake it is always Aldi or somewhere wins it

    I think if people can blind identify a pickup it works for them and good luck. I suspect some other things are just doing it to try and catch magic, but are ultimately pointless
     

  17. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 2, 2014
    west coast
    One example of marketing the same product to two different types of customer that really sticks out in my mind is this listening device:

    https://www.amazon.com/UZI-OD-1-Obs...d=1497858104&sr=8-7&keywords=listening+device

    $40, the box depicts an older guy doing some serious eavesdropping on an attractive lady who's on her phone. They say "We pride ourselves in having the latest and most innovative products in the industry"

    then look at this:

    https://www.amazon.com/Poof-Slinky-...=1497858204&sr=1-42&keywords=listening+device

    now only $20, showing a little kid having fun with the exact same product, the monochromatic packaging now features fun, wacky colors. "Ages 6 and Up".
     

  18. Rob DiStefano

    Rob DiStefano Poster Extraordinaire Vendor Member

    Age:
    71
    Mar 3, 2003
    NJ via TX
    dimensions & strength.
     
    RLee77 likes this.

  19. RLee77

    RLee77 Friend of Leo's

    May 15, 2016
    Silicon Valley
    Succinct.
     

  20. radiocaster

    radiocaster Friend of Leo's

    Aug 18, 2015
    europe
    Magnetic sound perception, measured in Mojos (Mj).
     
    ahnadr, zippofan, GuitarPix and 3 others like this.

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