Why do vintage pickups sound better?

Discussion in 'Just Pickups' started by Marquee Moon, Jan 18, 2019.

  1. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Friend of Leo's

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    Have you looked into the "why" they say taking vitamin supplements are ineffective? I'm pretty sure they're reasonably smart people and they know we needs vitamins to live, in the most general sense.
     
  2. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

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    Yes. Most importantly, decades of study. So even if we don't know all the reasons why, we know that they are more harmful than helpful except in a few rare situations, such as pregnant women
    needing folic acid, and possibly, vitamin D for folks that can't get much sunshine. But here are some of the explanations as to why:

    First, we mostly urinate them out. Supplements tend not to be absorbed very well when they are not part of actual food. Second, it is not the case that more is better. As long as we are getting enough
    of an essential nutrient that's all we need. Air is about 21% oxygen. Unless someone has a compromised pulmonary system, having a higher concentration of oxygen does not improve health. And having too
    much oxygen can actually lead to oxygen toxicity. Similarly, taking too much of a micronutrient can actually be harmful through a variety of modalities. See some of the research described below.
    Fourth, a healthy, balanced diet is truly helpful...and trying to offset poor nutrition with supplements is a very, very
    poor substitute, as borne out by the research. Unless you are truly deficient, taking supplements is a waste of money and may be harmful. Fifth, and related to reason four-- healthy, fresh food is
    a lot more than just a list of ingredients. When your gut absorbs food and its nutritional content, there is a lot of complex stuff going on that has to do with how the ingredients work in a synergistic
    way. No simple supplement or multivitamin can come close to this. For example, the article talks about an apple and how its vitamin C content is dramatically enhanced by its association with numerous phytochemicals.


    https://bigthink.com/21st-century-s...amins-and-supplements-appear-to-have-no-value


    Going back to your Antigua's response to my long document-- it seems that the pickup manufacturers make a lot of hay talking about winding. Scatter wind, loose vs. tight wind, etc. And many buyers believe that
    small differences in the way a pickup is wound affect the tone. I think your response says that the way a pickup is wound affects inductance and capacitance. Seems like these would affect the tone....
    so help me, a newbie, understand which of these differences are audible, vs. which ones aren't, and how you are certain of that...whether based on your work or others' work.
     
  3. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Friend of Leo's

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    It's all defined as a parallel resonant RLC circuit. Coils are principally inductive. An ideal coil is inductive "L" at all frequencies. But, non ideally, the turns of wire electrostatically couple, which is capacitance "C". At some frequency, the capacitance overtakes the inductance, and so the coil is no longer an inductor, it's effectively a capacitor. The reason hot pickup are darker is because the pickup becomes capacitive at a lower frequency. When you turn the tone knob to zero, it adds that .047uF capacitance to the pickup, and makes the resonant peak very low. At the frequency where it switches from L to C, the L and C become equal and opposite, and so they resonate, and the "reactice" impedence becomes especially high, creating a resonant peak where the output voltage becomes especially high. This is where the resistance "R" comes in, the more resistance there is through the coil, or the less there is across it, the lower resonance will be. It's like if you took a swinging pendulum and immersed it in water, the waster would be the resistance.

    How this applies is with a tone control, as you reduce the resistance across the pickup, the weaker the LC resonance becomes:


    [​IMG]
    https://www.seymourduncan.com/blog/the-tone-garage/stop-ignoring-those-knobs


    but once the tone cap is full in parallel with the pickup, a new, lower resonance emerges since the path across the pickup is purely reactive (capacitance in the .047 cap).

    So scatter winding, as it relates to all this, serves to adjust these values by small amounts. Based on observation, most Strat pickup vary by about 30pF capacitance, and 250mH inductance on average, for a given number of turns, as indicated by the DC resistance.
     
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  4. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Yes, I’ve put a chunk of study into nutritional health and found lots of conflicting info.
    Much of it from retailers pushing their products with the misleading oversimplification suggesting that taking their vitamins is a sort of magic bullet.

    Similarly buying or selling pickups as magic bullet solutions to lousy sound may be similarly misleading, and I’ve seen pickup ads that IMO cross that line into an area where I would be on your side and call it bull****.

    We also read lots of maybe newer players claims that one makers pickups are the best sounding pickups ever and gave the player the great sound they could never get from other brands.
    That sounds crazy to me and I agree that confirmation bias is a real issue for many buyers, players and bloggers.

    None of this proves that we are all victims of confirmation bias though, nor does it prove that a scientist is a better judge of a guitar players chosen tools than the guitar player who uses them.

    Nor does it show that we should all buy Chinese pickups because you say that US made pickups are over priced and not worth buying.
    Maybe all US products are over priced compared to Chinese stuff.
    Interestingly though I suspect that a $50 Chinese PAF has a bigger markup than a $100 US PAF.

    I’m going to guess there’s a lot more profit being made in resale of cheaply made Chinese stuff that’s “just as good” than there is in comparable US made products.
    So who is cheating buyers?



    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
     
  5. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

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    Inductance affects amplitude (volume), right? And capacitance affects resonant peak and highs/lows or EQ, right? So 30pF capacitance is the equivalent of changing tone knob from 10 to 9, or what? And changing inductance by 250mH is equivalent to moving the volume knob from 10 to 9, or what? Anyway, if you can put it into these real-world terms for comparison's sake, that would be helpful. For example, if the difference is the equivalent of slightly moving a volume or tone knob, then it's fair to say that people could hear the difference, but they could also achieve that difference with minor adjustments to the position of their vol/tone knobs, the pot value, or the capacitor value. All of which are a lot cheaper than actually changing out a pickup.

    And, going back to timbre, how does the frequency response and shape/position of resonant peak affect timbre? Or does it? I.e., overtones that would give a pickup some "character", potentially?

    I suppose an analogy can be made to speakers. Most speaker manufacturers will provide a speaker response curve that looks very similar to this graph. For playback audio one would want a really flat response curve in the audible range,
    and the better manufacturers do a good job of this. For guitar players we actually like a mid hump. But people do perceive differences in the timbre of different speakers-- is it all reflected in the standard speaker response curve
    provided by the manufacturers? If two speakers have the same curve then they should sound exactly the same? I'm grasping for analogies which reflects my ignorance on the whole topic, basically....

    On a related capacitance issue, the patch cable from the guitar to the amp-- it's length and construction-- affects its capacitance and is part of the total signal chain. I can definitely hear the difference in going from a 3 foot cable to
    a 20 foot cable (loss of highs) of the same brand. I can also hear the difference in going from a 20' cable of a higher capacitance cable to a 20' cable of a lower capacitance cable. This is quite audible in terms of highs no longer being
    attenuated. It's interesting to me that people might spend a lot of money on pickups, when changing their cable could actually have a much bigger impact on their resultant tone.

    Bill Lawrence is considered a true guru of pickups and pickup tone. And yet some of his pickups that I tried I did not like. Sounded too sterile to me for want of a better word. I suspect it's because it didn't have as large of a
    typical mid hump that gives a traditional guitar pickup its "character". He was creating something that from an engineering perspective had a more balanced response across the audible audio spectrum-- but that is like putting an audiophile
    stereo speaker into a guitar amp instead of something like a Celestion greenback.

    Am I to infer from this graph that the key pickup variables are inductance (L), capacitance (C), and resistance (R)? Other than pickup dimensions and how much of the string it therefore "sees"? I.e., if you know these three things you should know what
    a pickup sounds like? And things like different materials, etc., to the extent they affect the tone, also show up as changes to R, L, and C? Are these the hypothetical a, b, c, d, e in my earlier post? Or, as a corollary, if you can see a graph of relative
    output voltage on the y axis against frequency on the x axis, as shown here, that tells you everything you could possibly know about how the pickup sounds? For example, if two PAF shaped humbuckers have the same output voltage/frequency graph,
    then they will sound exactly the same (and show as much on an oscilloscope of the sound wave) provided they are mounted exactly the same way in a guitar? How much of a shift is needed to be typically audible? For example, as shown here, I know I can hear a difference between 10 and 8 on a tone knob with a 0.047uF tone cap. 10 and 9-- probably. And that represents a drop of about 0.3 in "relative output voltage".
     
  6. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

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    Profit should not matter to the buyer. Just the price vs. value. If someone figures out a way to sell you the same gas for
    $3 a gallon instead of $4, and actually makes more profit per gallon sold while doing it, what do you care? For example,
    maybe they vertically integrate their distribution network and cut out the middleman.

    And that's not far off from what is happening when you buy pickups from China. In most cases you are probably buying a pickup
    that is manufactured OEM for guitars or pickup sellers. But by buying factory direct you are cutting out at least one middleman. The pickup factory
    gets a larger profit per unit sold direct-to-consumer than when they sell as OEM in guitars or to pickup marketers. You are still saving money.
    Everybody wins except the middleman. The factory and its workers actually physically make something. You will actually use it to make music.
    Everyone in the middle of that chain is arguably not providing any significant economic value other than making you feel better via marketing hype.

    Now it is also true that there are pickups made here in the USA and other "first world" countries. In many cases they have to charge much higher prices because they have lower
    economies of scale and also have to pay higher wages-- due to higher salaries as well as potentially less advanced automation. They also have to spend
    money on sponsoring artists, magazine and Internet advertising, showcasing at NAMM, and other marketing costs. So their profit
    margin may still be relatively low. But the only way they can stay in business is to charge the consumer more in order to cover their higher overhead.
    The higher price does not necessarily reflect higher quality, but rather the realities of higher overhead.
     
  7. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Friend of Leo's

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    That's like saying none of this proves that we're humans. Biasing influences are all around us all the time. Value judgements are never objective unless you take special care to remove bias.
     
  8. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Friend of Leo's

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    The knobs alter the damping, they don't change the inherent capacitance or inductance values. It's a little complicated because the volume is wired as a voltage divider, so it puts resistance between the guitar cable's capacitance and the pickup as you turn the volume down, but that's going off on a tangent about guitar wiring schemes. If you want to have a "new pickup" without buying a "new pickup", you can do that by putting low value caps across the pickup, try values ranging from 1nF to 5nF.

    The inductance is not directly related to the output voltage, that's a function of Faraday's law, rate of magnetic change though a loop of wire. A coil is a lot of loops in series. The closer those loops are the guitar string, and the more of them you have in series, the higher the voltage. It just so happens that most of the changes that increase the output voltage also increase inductance. Increasing output without also increase inductance is considered the Holy Grail of passive pickup design, it's about making the most efficient pickup possible without producing a muddy tone in turn.

    The timbre comes from the physical location of the pickup in relation to the string. The RLC filtering the pick "edits" the pure signal, increasing the output at resonance, and then discarding it above that frequency.

    Speakers have resonant frequencies also, but where they differ is that they physically move. Their frequency response is colored by the physical properties of the moving paper cone, and how effectively air is able to move around the speaker. Guitar pickup are a lot simpler because they don't move (not counting for microphonics).

    A short cable adds about 250pF, a really long one closer to 1,000pF, it moves the resonant peak of the pickup downwards. Thats the "tone suck" people talk about.

    Engineers tend to like a flat response, enthusiasts tend to prefer a colored response curve. Having a resonant peak in the audible range causes color. The engineer types generally tried to remove the resonance form the audible range, but it proves to be an unpopular sound.


    It pretty much comes down the the RLC and the aperture window, and keep in mind that eddy currents caused by steel parts are under the "R" umbrella, while the increase in inductance they cause is "L" of course. Other changes, like steel parts, if you set aside how they impact the inductance, they mostly just change how strongly the guitar strings magnetically couple with the coil(s), so they will effect output, but not the tone (other than the aforementioned inductance and eddy currents they cause). The common belief is that everything has an effect, and while that could be viewed as true, the important caveat is that not everything has a unique effect.

    Therefore, those cheap Strat pickups with the ceramic and steel pole pieces have a higher voltage output than an AlNiCo strat pickup, but the cause is not the ceramic bar, in fact the magnetic strength at the string is weaker (no stratitus is to be observed with them) but they are louder because the steel pole pieces cause a stronger magnetic coupling between the string and the coil. Look up "magnetic reluctance path" to understand more about whats going on there.
     
  9. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

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    So when DiMarzio sometimes uses steel pole pieces that have a hollow hex head at the top, what would be the typical effect of that? I don't know, maybe they are hollow all the way through. Maybe alters the magnetic coupling and eddy currents a little?
     
  10. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Friend of Leo's

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    Less permeable path just reduces the coupling coefficient and increases the reluctance, but the hex tops are hollowed out so that they can be adjusted with an allen wrench, and any effect it has on the magnetic path is just incidental. If the heads were solid, the inductance and output would increase by a very small amount, probably less and 1dB. Also not that if you get the entire coil closer to the strings, that also improves the string-to-coil coupling, and flat hex screws flush with the bobbins can get a bit closer to the strings than humbuckers with screw heads that stick out of the top of the pickup.

    A really good example of a pickup with low inductance, but high output due to a really good magnetic coupling, is a Filter'tron. Less inductance than a Strat pickup, but because of all the steel parts and the majority of the coil being closer to the strings, they produce an output that is several decibels louder.
     
  11. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

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    I have original Filtertrons in a MIJ Gretsch and it is suprisingly bright and spanky.
     
  12. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Friend of Leo's

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    I love Filtert'rons, I have a few Cabro's loaded with them. A year or two back, some physics/math guys were talking about the lack of association of between the inductance and output on another forum, and I was thinking, that can't be so, so I plugged in a Strat, then switched over to one of the Cabronitas near by, sure enough, a lot louder, all other things being equal, pickups about the same distance form the strings. My understanding about how that works out became a lot more clear subsequently.

    Each little loop of wire is an electrical generator unto itself. The closer the loop is to the strings, the more voltage it will produce (or spatially intersect with). When you hook up generators or batteries in series, the voltage compounds. This is why a humbucker drops in output when it's wired in parallel, it's not because the inductance dropped, it's because half of the wire turns are now in parallel with the other half, doubling the current but halving the voltage. This also means that most Fender single coils are not efficient because such a large portion of the coils is farther away from the strings. A Jazz Master coil is more efficient, since more of the turns are closer to the strings. The reason a humbucker is generally so powerful is because it places more of the turns of wire closer to the strings.
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2019
  13. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

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    Another great sounding pickup that isn’t the usual: Jazzmaster!

    Are those jagged enclosures on the side of Jaguar pickups conductive and therefore affecting the tone or strength? Otherwise they seem similar to Strat pickups.
     
  14. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Friend of Leo's

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    I analyzed those as well, with and without the shield, I found that it didn't increase the output at all http://www.strat-talk.com/threads/fender-65-jaguar-set-analysis-review.462728/ , the reason being that they're too far away from the area between the string and pole pieces, which is where the majority of flux is concentrated. The way it works is the pole pieces charges the string, and then the string induces voltage in the coil, so unless the metal is very close to that path way, it's not in a position to help, or reduce reluctance. The only way that is really possible is to use steel or ferrite pole pieces, since the pole pieces are central to that two way interaction. The "claw" shield does provide static shielding, but it is unnecessarily thick for the purpose it serves, a piece of tin foil would be as effective.
     
  15. ndcaster

    ndcaster Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    the wine comparisons are inapt

    experienced and dedicated wine drinkers find a bottle of Barefoot cabernet very easy to distinguish from a Viognier, and even from something as common as Chardonnay

    since when does inexperienced consumer perception become the basis for anything serious, other than gorilla marketing research?

    it's a rhetorical question,
    the coin just dropped

    thanks, Antigua
     
  16. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Friend of Leo's

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    Do you have a reference for that? Here's one that involved supposed wine professionals getting confused by the color alone https://www.realclearscience.com/blog/2014/08/the_most_infamous_study_on_wine_tasting.html

    Where we're at with pro audio is that everybody thinks their ears are golden instruments of truth, and the people who sell pro audio gear not only push the perception, but exploit it in order to make lots of money. The same thing is happening with the supplement market and placebo effect. Company turns various weeds you can find on the side of the road into a powder and put it in a capsule and claim it has all sorts of health benefits, few of which beat sugar pills. The big tell when it comes to audio is how many adjectives describe a feeling or a sensation rather than a physical property, like "lots of low end" is a physical property, but then people say "sweet high end" or "musical midrange", and you know a that point that gravity is no longer in play, and you see these sorts of adjectives in marketing materials and message boards alike.
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2019
  17. ndcaster

    ndcaster Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    antigua, the interior of every grape is white -- it is only maceration on red skins that makes "red" wine

    most wine today is produced in industrial quantities and is deliberately made, like pop songs, to be indistinguishable from each other -- so what are these studies measuring?

    most wine is made by the same seven companies. all the different brands in the supermarket is merely an illusion of difference, so it should not surprise anyone that people have difficulty distinguishing one from another. they were MADE to taste similar, and a lot of that similarity has had to do with the preferences of a critic named Robert Parker

    your second paragraph is definitely true; the wine industry has to rely on a lot of rhetoric and narrative to sell things

    with some practice and experience, you can get better at distinguishing wines IF those wines are not deliberately standardized industrial beverages

    there is a very good book called "Neurogastronomy" by a neurobiologist in NY which explains how the brain constructs "flavor" from the interaction of olfaction and memory

    I've learned a lot from your posts, so the first wine flights are on me
     
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  18. thesjkexperienc

    thesjkexperienc Tele-Holic

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    Vintage pups don’t necessarily sound better, but it is what we are used to hearing so we like them! I believe hand winding really makes the real difference. To me, most machine wound single coils can get ice pick. That said PAFs sound best wound by machine like the originals.

    YMMV and all that.
     
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