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

Tele Neck Pickups : Please help me to understand

Discussion in 'Just Pickups' started by variantboy, Jul 9, 2018.

  1. variantboy

    variantboy Tele-Meister

    Jul 4, 2008
    Recently - i've had experience that goes contrary to what i THOUGHT i understood about pickups, and I am hoping someone can offer some sort of de-mystifying explanation.

    To keep this particular thread focused - i want to make clear that i am speaking about Telecaster NECK pickups.

    Consider these CONSTANTS :
    43 Gauge Wire (plain enamel)
    Alnico 5 magnets
    Tele Neck Pickup with Nickel cover
    Distance of pickup from Strings
    Pot Values
    Neck material (maple)
    Body material (alder)
    Player : Me

    Ok - my previous understanding was that
    1) The lower the resistance/inductance/output, the wider the frequency spectrum of the signal - more highs, more lows, and an overall clearer cleaner tone.
    2) The higher the resistance/inductance/output, the more narrow the frequency spectrum. more MIDS, less highs, less lows

    And recently - i had a custom pickup maker make me 2 pickups that were supposed to be the same configuration. Alnico 5, Plain Enamel Wire, Nickel cover. It so happens that with his inability to match the windings and/or resistance values exactly, i got two pickups that were significantly different.

    Pickup 1: DC Resistance = 6.0
    Pickup 2: DC Resistance = 6.8

    (I have measured these with an ohm meter that i know to be working perfectly and which has yielded consistent values with all manufacturers quoted specs in other pickups)

    To my incredible confusion..
    Pickup 2 is MUCH brighter than Pickup #1.
    Pickup 1 is comparitively sounding like it’s under a blanket compared to #2. It can be perceived as if it has more bass, but i think that is because it is so lacking in high end.

    (note : after this finding i have measured other pickups in my other guitars, and in my backup stash and found this to be true of those pickups as well. The nearer to 6.0 the pickups go, the darker they sound, the nearer to 7.0 they go, the brighter they sound)

    With regard to the assumption of “more output = more mids, less highs” - does this ‘law’ have ‘transition’ point in it ? What i mean is - when you’re in the 6.0 range - is it a little ‘grey’ ? In other words, below 6.0, pickups definitely are brighter than pickups in the 7’s and 8s and above, but the 6.0 through 7.0 range is sort of the ‘fluctuation’ point for this law.

    Other questions :
    1) Are all Alnico 5 magnets equal? Could one be STRONGER than another? Could that be contributing to what i am hearing?
    2) Does the cover on a Tele neck pickup affect this rule of tone in a significant way?

    Hopefully my questions make sense. Any thoughts anyone can offer would be much appreciated. At this point, I’ve tried so many pickups, i just want to reliably be able to know exactly what I want - and how to get it - and i’m becoming a little frustrated.

    Thanks in advance for any help in understanding that anyone can provide.
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2018
  2. Derek Kiernan

    Derek Kiernan Friend of Leo's

    Sep 7, 2008
    Princeton, NJ
    Not all coils are equally wound. Small shorts can make a pickup muddier.

    On the other hand, the cable capacitance is presumably constant? As the pickup has more inductance and the resonance gets closer to 3 kHz (from a higher range), the pickup will sound brighter. 3.0 - 3.5 kHz is the "bright"/edgy/sharp/etc range of the response and not coincidentally the range of our hearing that's most sensitive.
  3. variantboy

    variantboy Tele-Meister

    Jul 4, 2008
    ok.. so is it fair to say (given all other factors same) that this can "peak" at a certain inductance level, and then if the pickup still has more winds added, inductance/resistance/output will go up but perceived brightness will start to diminish ?

    in other words :
    Below a certain inductance, it's less bright, then as inductance rises to *X*, it gets brighter, but then when inductance passes that point *X*, brightness begins to decrease again. (like a 'hill' graph where x-axis = inductance and y-axis is perceived brightness)

    am i on the right track there?
  4. tlsmack

    tlsmack Tele-Holic

    Jan 20, 2007
    Lonk I-lant, New York
    They make telecasters with neck pickups???:):):)
    Dan R and Bruxist like this.
  5. CFFF

    CFFF Tele-Meister

    Oct 31, 2016
    Thankfully :)
    Chicago Matt and Jimmy Owen like this.
  6. rigatele

    rigatele Tele-Afflicted

    Apr 20, 2014
    Maybe pickup #1 has a brass cover. Have a close look at a scraped portion of it.
    Butch Snyder and Golem like this.
  7. tedtan

    tedtan TDPRI Member

    Nov 18, 2015
    Kansas City
    In addition to what the others have said, DC resistance is only one part of measuring output and only provides a rough idea of a pickup's output. You also need to measure inductance (measured in Henries), impedance at various frequencies, and maybe even the output voltage, in order to get a fuller understanding of a pickup's output.
  8. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 2, 2014
    west coast
    Using DC resistance to infer inductance, and in turn the resonant peak, and in turn perceived brightness is a chain of assumptions in which there is a lot of room for error. I'd want to see the actual inductance values of each pickup, if the darker pickup had a lower inductance, that would be strange, but there are a few reasons a pickup can have a lower inductance and a higher DC resistance, among them being the AlNiCo pole pieces.
  9. variantboy

    variantboy Tele-Meister

    Jul 4, 2008
    Ok - what exactly about 'the AlNiCo pole pieces? Length ? diameter? overall mass? Gauss/strength?

    i've long heard and understood that resistance alone is not the only determining factor of output and/or sonic characteristic. I do not personally know how to measure inductance, and very few pickup makers offer up that information. Some have started, but they're few and far between).

    With that - over the years, I've gathered along the way that it depends on the wire gauge, magnet type, and of course the cover itself is part of the equation - and so when seeking out new pickups and ordering them, I've tried to use those factors to make decisions.

    of course, as is evidenced above.... now i'm learning that the important factors are not just limited to the ones i've already mentioned.

    So i guess basically - i'm asking :

    what are the other factors and how do they contribute?
  10. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 2, 2014
    west coast
    The AlNiCo will alter the inductance due to it's varied permeability mostly, and conductivity to a lesser extent. The AlNiCo pole pieces do two things at once, they supply the string with a magnetic field, but they also serve as a core for the coil. In an inductor, they would use steel or ferrite, which increase the inductance a lot more than does alnico.
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2018
  11. stratman54

    stratman54 Tele-Meister

    Aug 30, 2016
    How about differences In alnico 2,3,4 and 5. Aren't A3s deeper sounding, less highs than A5s.
  12. variantboy

    variantboy Tele-Meister

    Jul 4, 2008

    i'm sorry if my original post was not clear - but the heart of my question is :

    With all of the 'constants' i listed remaining constant (meaning : if two pickups have the SAME properties alnico 5, 43 gauge wire, nickel cover, etc - please see original list of constants), what OTHER FACTORS THAT I HAVEN'T LISTED might contribute to a pickup with higher resistance and/or inductance having a brighter sound than one with lower resistance/inductance?

    does that question make sense?
  13. Nick Fanis

    Nick Fanis Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

    Mar 3, 2003
    It's the covers man,some are brass no matter what they claim to be ;)
    variantboy likes this.
  14. stratoman1

    stratoman1 Tele-Afflicted

    Nov 12, 2016
    Virginia Beach, Va
    I think you might be overthinking this a bit. Yes it's good to have the basic knowledge down. However stuff that might sound good in theory doesn't always translate to real life. Sometimes you should just listen to what to what your ears say and be done with it
    DrBGood likes this.
  15. variantboy

    variantboy Tele-Meister

    Jul 4, 2008
    Thanks for the input stratoman1.

    That philosophy is not how i see things, nor what has afforded me results in the past. I support the premise of your statement. Ears are final judge. That said - there are approximately thousands of permutations of magnet type, wire type, pickup construction, winding counts, cover types, etc... etc. It would take 10 lifetimes and a metric ton of solder to try each permutation of those.

    In my mind, having a modicum of *understanding* of how and why things sound the way they do makes the path there a wee bit quicker and less expensive. (and honestly a little more fun, i think - you may disagree).

    I intend to learn more about all of this. I may not become a pickup maker - but i do find it interesting and it helps me sound closer to the way i like to sound. So i'll keep digging, thanks.
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2018
    stratoman1 likes this.
  16. DrBGood

    DrBGood Tele-Meister

    Jan 30, 2015
    Sutton QC, CANADA
    Yeah, play the damn thing ;)

    But really ... someone else might plays your pups and figure they sound opposite to what YOU hear. And then ... did you test them early morning with ears that just woke up, or late at night after a long boisy day ? So many variables involved.

    Some days, I find my best pups sound meh ... then the next day they are stellar.
    variantboy and stratoman1 like this.
  17. variantboy

    variantboy Tele-Meister

    Jul 4, 2008
    wow, really ? so.... just wait till tomorrow !?? THAT'S AWESOME ! i'll let you know how that works for me :D
  18. ndcaster

    ndcaster Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

    Nov 14, 2013
    OP, the physics is demonstrable that in general more winds = less treble and more copper in the cover = less treble

    you are presenting a claim that contradicts that, and then demanding proof of a negative (that everyone must be missing something)

    I'm just one guy, but I feel skeptical that a higher wind pickup with a nickel silver cover conveys more treble to the amp than its contrary
  19. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

    I think you have been given some good leads on what might be happening-- Alnico 5 in one pickup may have less magnetization than the Alnico 5 in the other. Covers could be different.
    There could be shorts in windings. When all else is truly equal you are correct that a pickup with more windings of the exact same wire,
    and therefore more resistance should sound darker than one with less. If that is not happening, then
    the only reasonable conclusion is that one of the other pickup design factors that is purported to be equal is actually not equal.

    The only other thing I would mention is wiring. If your wiring job is different when switching pickups, such as a cold solder joint in one installation vs. the other, that could
    significantly affect the resultant tone. A different pickup height setting would also have an effect.
    variantboy likes this.
  20. LutherBurger

    LutherBurger Friend of Leo's

    Oct 29, 2013
    @variantboy, have you asked the manufacturer about this discrepancy?
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