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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. Ascension

    Ascension Tele-Holic

    Age:
    59
    822
    Dec 3, 2012
    Birmingham Alabama
    So a committed group of players who are chasing tone and playing with all types of Frankenstein configurations then sharing results is not effective?
    Then tell me why we have at least 15 of our ideas that are now at the least readily available through a major pickup manufacturer ether as production pickups, floor customs or full on custom orders. Some examples are here.
    http://customshop.seymourduncan.com/humbucker/?sort=bestselling
    And after you think on this how about you show me how many YOU have out there in the market place that you provided design input into?
    There are set tonal differences you will see in different magnets due to how the field surrounds the coils that are noticeable. Also because of what we have been doing we can see/hear difference in coil windings that go beyond number of turns , wire gauge and DC resistance.
    Frankly designing a pickup purely in a lab on an scope is what doesn't make sense. Tone in the real world is much more elusive and organic.
     
  2. jamieorc

    jamieorc Tele-Meister

    376
    Apr 22, 2011
    Virginia
    Reading what Bill Lawrence wrote on the topic of magnetic pickups and sound is worth your time. He not only designed and made great pickups, but he understood the physics behind them. I doubt there are many in the pickup manufacturing world that have that knowledge:

    http://www.billlawrence.com/Pages/All_About_Tone.htm/Pickupology.htm
     
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  3. jamieorc

    jamieorc Tele-Meister

    376
    Apr 22, 2011
    Virginia
    Bill says on his page about magnets:

    "When I read that ceramic magnets sound harsh and alnico magnets sound sweet, I ask myself, " Who the hell preaches such nonsense?" There are harsh-sounding pickups with alnico magnets and sweet-sounding pickups with ceramic magnets and vice-versa! A magnet by itself has no sound, and as a part of a pickup, the magnet is simply the source to provide the magnetic field for the strings. The important factor is the design of a magnetic circuit which establishes what magnet to use." -- http://www.billlawrence.com/Pages/Pickupology/magnets.htm

    He redesigned his famous L-500s to use Alnico Vs when there was a shortage of ceramics: http://web.archive.org/web/20100615...027/t/L-500s-options-and-characteristics.html
     
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  5. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 2, 2014
    west coast
    You're way off base. First of all, Seymour Duncan has not bothered to to produce all of the "forum designed" pickups they've voted on over the years. In fact, I lurked the last time they gave it a go, and the Seymour Duncan Custom Shop didn't even bother to acknowledge the SDUGF's efforts, which I thought was rude. The company completely blew them off.

    Aside from that unfortunate turn of events, to the extent that they do take the advice of the forum, that's just good marketing, as well. The Internet is a POWERFUL marketing device. There are several guitar related products and companies that took off solely due to Internet word of mouth. Exploiting Internet hype is effective marketing.

    To be honest, I rarely every see a mention of those forum spawned pickups outside of SDUGF. The only ones I see here, for example, are ones that Seymour Duncan have promoted through their usual advertising methods, such as their new Hendrix Strat set, or pickups that have existed for decades prior.

    I don't know how you got the idea that I intend to design pickups, but nothing I've done to date should suggest that. I don't make experimental pickups. The few times I have made pickups, my goal was to make the pickup as traditional as possible, just to measure the electrical values that resulted. For example I wound three pickups with 8,000 turns, which is a typical Fender Strat wind count, with 41, 42 and 43 AWG wire, just to see how the electrical values varied when wire gauge was the only obvious variable.

    My goal is to gather information together that doesn't currently exist elsewhere, and that's exactly what I've been doing. Most people out there who are involved in pickups and guitar accessories are trying to dream up some gimmick that will let them retire early. I enjoy my day job, I'm not looking to make a profit. Lying and exaggerating helps some people sell more of their wares, but it would defeat my purpose completely.
     
    hellopike likes this.
  6. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 2, 2014
    west coast
    I think the perception comes from people disliking ceramic single coils and ceramic magnets in PAF clones, and they dislike both, and assume the ceramic is inherently to blame, but the issue is different in both cases.

    In the case of the single coil, the problem is actually the steel slugs. They increase the inductance by a lot. Cheap ceramic pickups are "hot" pickups by vintage spec standards. Eddy currents caused by the steel change the response curve dramatically, making the resonant amplitude a lot lower, and the attenuation slope a lot more gradual. It's not that they sound bad as much as it makes them sound non traditional. Due to the steel pole pieces, these pickups will sound the way they sound even if you put an AlNiCo bar underneath.

    In the case of a PAF, the ceramic is magnetically inert outside of the fact that it has a magnetic field. Where as the magnetic permeability and electrical conductivity of AlNiCo causes the pickups' inductance to increase, and the resonant amplitude to lower, ceramic causes a lower inductance and a higher peak amplitude. That will make most pickups sound more shrill all by itself. Add to that the fact that the stronger magnet makes the shrillness louder. They usually pair ceramic with a high output humbucker because the extra winds add back more inductance than is lost by omitting an AlNiCo bar.

    So Bill Lawrence was right that a magnet doesn't have a sound, but in a given context there is a good reason to lay blame upon the magnet.
     
    awasson likes this.
  7. Zepfan

    Zepfan Friend of Leo's

    Nov 30, 2013
    Horn Lake, MS
    Deneb changed cheap Ceramic magnets with Neodymium magnets on a set of single coils with steel slugs on his thread and got great results.
    There's still the case for wood's influence on a pickup to consider too. Example: cheap ceramic magnet pickups in Aspen bodied Behringer guitar that were mediocre suddenly sound fantastic in a guitar with a Malaysian Oak body of same scale, wiring, neck type and other similarities. So, does a ceramic magnet pickup sound better in guitars with bodies of certain types of wood? Or other types of material?
     
    Ascension likes this.
  8. Ascension

    Ascension Tele-Holic

    Age:
    59
    822
    Dec 3, 2012
    Birmingham Alabama
    The pickups with the greatest commercial success that came from the forum have been the 59/Custom Hybrid and the Custom 5. both were 100% forum creations that caught fire.
    A pickups tonal response is much more than just resistance and inductance it's more than number of turns and wire gauge also. One example is to take a pickup wind it linearly specific number of turns and wire then wind another coil same wire same bobbin same number of turns but scatter wind it. If you have an ear you will hear a noticeable difference.
    If you don't have an ear none of this matters.
    Maybe you should build and/or mod a few pickups as without doing so then listening to the results not just viewing the results on a scope frankly you IMO have no credibility.
    PS can tell you how the overall outputs varies larger wire same number of turns will have a higher output all other factors being =. But that is not the only factor even insulation types on the same wire and number of turns with the same mag can impact tone.
    Your stated goal was stay traditional observe results in a lab sitting. Most of the guys i hang with ( including a couple boutique custom winders) and pushing the envelope with mag types winds and even spacer materials.
    Kind of that same old argument that a ss amp can respond like a tube amp because it does so in the lab on a scope in a controlled test. Real world it doesn't and that's a fact.
     
  9. Ascension

    Ascension Tele-Holic

    Age:
    59
    822
    Dec 3, 2012
    Birmingham Alabama
    Dead on that everything affects tone in the equation to some extent.
    One example is a pickup like the Dunacan JB can be pure magic in the right guitar and a disaster in the wrong one. Everything has to work together to get great tone.
    That is why a manufacturer like Duncan or Dimarzio have a program that will ask you questions on body type wood neck woods scale bridge type and other details like style of music and what you wee looking for in a tonal difference before making a recommendation on a pickup swap. It all works together. Also the amp can have a huge impact as a bright amp + a bright pickup in a bright guitar can be painful. However that same bright guitar and pickup through the right dark amp may sound wonderful.
    Tone is not one dimensional to just a pickup need the right pickup in the right guitar through the right amp to sound it's best.
     
    Zepfan likes this.
  10. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 2, 2014
    west coast
    This is very condescending. I play guitar regularly. I have lots of different pickups in lots of difference guitars. Just because I don't tell you what you want to hear doesn't mean my credibility is in any way beneath your own. You like to imagine I rely on scope, well I do have ears too, how about that.

    Listening that doesn't involve a proper double blind test doesn't have any objective merit. That's just a fact. Large amounts of subjectivity doesn't make objectivity, it just makes lots of subjectivity. Lots of kids believe in Santa Clause, that doesn't make him real.

    The fact that the Custom 5 is popular does not disprove what I had said, in fact it demonstrates my point about the ability for the Internet to be a powerful marketing tool. Whether the Custom 5 sounds good or not is beside the point. Lots of pickups sound good, it's more a matter of figuring out how to sell them, than it is to make them.

    "Scatter winding" just reduces the capacitance. You guys like to pretend there's some voodoo there, but ultimately it's an electrical component that conforms to physics, just like all the electrical components in your household appliances. Do you think scatter winding a transformer will make microwaved food taste better?

    SS amps don't respond like tube amps in a lab. They have different slew rates, different clipping characteristics, etc.

    Pickups winders don't analyze their pickups they way I analyze pickup, I know this to be the case because there is a forum on the 'net that is popular with pickup winders, hobbyists and commercial, and if they were doing this I would know about it.

    You and whoever you associate with can pretend to hear a difference between PE and formvar, but unless you can prove it somehow, it's only every going to be "guitar forum" true, not actually true.

    I think you, and a lot of other guys, are wrapped up in a make believe universe where pickup winding is more of an art form than it really is, and you're lashing out in my direction, because I ask you, and others, to simply prove that any of it's true, and you can't. You know that in any other area of life you would demand such proof, whether the issue be global warming, or financial investments, but since we're talking about something relatively trivial, the electric guitar, you apply a much lower standard that satisfies what you wish to be true, but isn't.
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2017
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  11. Chris S.

    Chris S. Asst. Admin Staff Member

    Age:
    114
    Mar 26, 2005
    Near TELE-Town (Wash. DC)
    Admin Post
    From the posting rules given at the top of this and every TDPRI forum:

    POST OPINIONS NOT FACTS:
    Always respect other Forum members opinions even if they clash with your own. Give others room to have differing opinions. Don't state your opinion as FACT.

    Thanks for your cooperation. CS
     
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  12. Ascension

    Ascension Tele-Holic

    Age:
    59
    822
    Dec 3, 2012
    Birmingham Alabama
    Thank you!
     
  13. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 2, 2014
    west coast
    You don't think that message applies to you?
     
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  14. peterleroux

    peterleroux TDPRI Member

    58
    Oct 1, 2009
    South Africa
    Isnt there a theoretical basis for this though- doesn't the permittivity and thickness of the insulation effect the capacitance of the coil?
     
  15. RLee77

    RLee77 Tele-Afflicted

    May 15, 2016
    Silicon Valley
    I don't have a horse in this race (my day job has for too many years been engineering, and I don't want to come home and think about more engineering, I play guitar to exercise my right brain - at least I try to keep it that way), but can't resist a few comments...

    There is, imo, an excess of mysticism swirling around pickup construction -- some of it's undoubtedly marketing hype, and some is just people trying to understand how things work. I prefer to just put in a new set and see if I like them, and not analyze why. But that's just me; I do too much analysis at work to bring it home. I think there is much value to be had from someone trying to quantify things a bit and dispell myths.

    Have to call this one out... not because I'm disagreeing with it, but because it's not a scientific statement of truth. It's a belief. While it may be perfectly true, it can't be stated this way, because while you can prove that it does in fact reduce capacitance, you cannot prove it doesn't do anything else. You can't prove a negative like that, and also what would you measure to prove it? What if it changes something that you don't even know to measure for?

    Anyway, like I said, I don't really care one way or the other... I like that some are digging into the physics and uncovering the real construction elements that matter, but I also like imagining mystical mojo trapped in a pickup... :cool:
     
  16. ebb soul

    ebb soul Friend of Leo's

    Age:
    57
    Jun 7, 2016
    Smyrna georgia
    Am I they only who who noticed a pickup winder saying 'strength' as the answer to " what is the difference other than strength?"
     
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  17. Teleterr

    Teleterr Friend of Leo's

    Feb 7, 2011
    Lewes De.
    I always wonder if Bill and you all really understand it differently or its just semantic. Yes you can tweek windings etc. to get the same freq response curves and Q, but the harmonic relationship cant be duplicated. Bartolini makes IME the best Ceramics around, but they dont sparkle like AlNiCo.........Heres my "I actually did this , its not a theory" refute. I made a 60 turn coil hollow so Alnico , ceramic or steel feed by either, could be in it . Despite the coil being super hi-fi you could hear the difference each change. Theres no shift of resonance or Q change here within hearing range... The magnets sound different.
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2017
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  18. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 2, 2014
    west coast
    That's a fact, it's not theoretical, but it's complicated. The largest amount of capacitance in a passive electric guitar comes from the cable. A typical cable adds 300 to 500pF capacitance, all the way up to 2nF. A typical Tele neck pickup has around 230pF, and a Tele bridge has around 150pF, based on my data. So the total capacitance is a somewhat random number: the fixed capacitance of the pickup, plus a larger arbitrary amount that completely depends on what guitar cable you happen to use. If the insulation changes the capacitance, the question becomes, by how much? 1pF? 10pF? I can tell you it's probably going to be less than 10pF, based on having measured many of both. How can anyone really say the insulation is making a difference if they don't even know how much it's altering the coil's capacitance? How can a 10pF amount make a real difference when guitar cables show far greater variety in value than that?

    Even then, capacitance doesn't equal tone. The capacitance working in tandem with the coil inductance to determine a frequency of maximum mutual reactance, or the "resonant peak". Less capacitance gets you a higher peak frequency, but so does fewer winds of wire on the coil. So you're never hearing the fruits of low capacitance, you're only ever hearing the combined effect of whatever the capacitance happens to be, and whatever the inductance happens to be. If you don't get the sense that the magic disappears when you change guitar cables, then it's probably not related to capacitance, because changing guitars cables will generally change that value by a significant amount.

    The thing people have to avoid is rationalizing. Suppose you think you hear a difference, but whether you do or don't hear a difference is not truly known. Then you go looking for an explanation, and you learn about capacitance. Ah ha! Capacitance must explain why I heard something different. But we still don't know that you heard anything different in the first place, and looking at the physics of how capacitance relates to the performance of the pickup, it's not very clear cut how capacitance would have explained that particular difference, even if there really is one.
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2017
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  19. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 2, 2014
    west coast
    Coils of wire are very well understood. There is not that much room for mystery in the first place. Surprisingly enough, the exact nature of inner winding capacitance isn't all that well understood, but what is known from over a century of people designing transformers and inductors is that when the coil windings are closely together, you get a stronger magnetic coupling from one winding to the next, and therefore a higher inductance, but you also get a higher capacitance, again due to closer proximity. It's therefore a trade off. You reduce capacitance by adding space, but you lose some inductance at the same time. So I over simplified by saying it only reduces capacitance, as it slightly decreases the inductance, also.

    Knowing what there is to know, I'd ask what potential exists for there to be more to it than that. What secret have guitar pickup winders discovered in their garages about coils of wire that has eluded the field of electrical engineering for well over a century?
     
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  20. Chris S.

    Chris S. Asst. Admin Staff Member

    Age:
    114
    Mar 26, 2005
    Near TELE-Town (Wash. DC)
    Admin Post
    I think it applies to anyone tempted to post their opinions as FACT, and to dismiss others' opinions as fantasy, b.s., or worse.

    You may think you're 100% correct and the other person is full of hooey, but as far as opinions go, theirs is equally as valid as yours. You can argue ideas all you want, you just can't tell anyone their ideas are invalid.

    CS
     
  21. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 2, 2014
    west coast
    There are statements made by others, such as "There is also a noticeable difference in the tone of a rough cast A 5 for example and a smooth cast A5" this speaks to what you're saying, They aren't saying "I hear a noticeable difference.." they're saying there is a noticeable difference, as though it's a fact.

    There are a lot of new guitarists who read these threads, and the see claims like "there is a difference between smooth and rough AlNiCo", and they trust what they read, especially if nobody seems to dispute it. I want to make sure that anyone who hasn't studied the subject beforehand is mislead into thinking these ideas are hard science when they're are not.
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2017
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