Why do vintage pickups sound better?

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

  1. SPUDCASTER

    SPUDCASTER Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    My grandkids better not hear of this.:D

    What does "mining" have to do with pickups? And what would be different? I guess we need more detailed info on that theory.
     
  2. 4pickupguy

    4pickupguy Poster Extraordinaire

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    Do they?
    Not single a vintage pickup I have ever owned (with the rare exception of a particular PAF) has been better than what is available now.
    I’ve owned vintage and customs, worked at a vintage guitar shop and even the owner commented over the phone the other day, “there are off the rack modern fenders at GC that sound as good as these, this aint the 70’s anymore...”
     
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  3. archetype

    archetype Fiend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    The same thing can be said for the copper in the wire.
     
  4. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

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    .

    Back in the old days, pickups were often wound by hand (there's an old Fender 50s video on youtube and you can see sewing motors and hand winding going on). Now days it's all machine wound for speed and low cost. Do Boutique hand-wound pickups sound better? Many think so and are willing to pay $200+ per pickup set.

    What you are chasing in the old hand winding creates scatter in the windings that reduces capacitance in the pickup. Brighter more clear tones not muddy and dark.

    Now, if you buy some import cheap pickups ... they more than likely are hand wound like the old days. At least the capacitance measurements I've done show the import ebay pickups often have half the capacitance of the typical famous aftermarket factory brands (that often sound too muddy to me). $15/set makes the experiments worthwhile. Set them lower in the pickguard as they have hotter ceramic magnets than the alnico rods to hit the classic tones you are chasing.

    If you are already stuck with a muddy dark set of pickups, try putting an 0.047uF capacitor in series with the hot lead of the muddy pickup. You can then try other values of caps but start there. This cuts the effective capacitance way down and eliminates the mud -- a boutique pickup effect for a nickel.

    .
     
  5. TequilaCaster

    TequilaCaster Tele-Holic

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    Well, to answer your question, I'd have to say 'chartreuse', or perhaps 'Nixon'. :D
     
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  6. soulman969

    soulman969 Telefied Ad Free Member

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    He owns a vintage guitar shop. He sells vintage guitars. He needs reasons to justify the high price of vintage guitars. He comes up with an idea he can promote to justify higher costs.....it's nonsense.

    Many vintage pickups ended up being hand wound and their specs are all over the map. It stands to reason that some just rung every tonal and volume output bell they could ring and others did not.

    What you end up with is more variation between some vintage pickup with some better than others but certainly not all. There's far less magic in a vintage guitar in reality than there is in somone's mind.
     
  7. 3-Chord-Genius

    3-Chord-Genius Poster Extraordinaire

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    Do they?
     
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  8. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Doood, that's so '90s.
     
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  9. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    I'm not gonna go and publicly announce that Leo bought surplus unmarked magnets and melted them all in the same crucible, resulting in sand cast alnico 235 being used in most vintage Fender pickups.
     
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  10. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Truth be told, the best sounding pickups have vintage impure magnets but modern ultra pure oxygen free copper.
     
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  11. drmmrr55

    drmmrr55 Tele-Meister

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    Of course, mined metal that is only about 50,000 years old OBVIOUSLY isn't going to sound as good as 200,000 year old metal....LOL Seriously though, I think the aged product combination of magnet, and wire could have an effect on the tone of the pickup.

    But I agree with some of the other posts that there are modern pickups out there that sound as good, if not better than vintage. It's a crapshoot though because the exact same spec pickups from the same maker, for whatever reason can sound (at times) quite different from each other, and ears also vary widely....
     
  12. memiller

    memiller Tele-Meister

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    This is just... so horrible on so many levels. While there is definitely a market for metals produced pre-WWII due to contamination from nuclear fallout making post-WWII metals unsuitable for certain applications... no. That has nothing to do with "back then" or any of the rest of this Good Old Days garbage.

    Vintage pickups do not "sound better." They sound different. All pickups sound different. Some will claim that over time the loss of magnetic pull has "mellowed" and that's why it sounds "better," while completely ignoring the fact that you can make a weakass magnet now without having to wait for decades.

    It also ignores the fact that then, as now, guitars (ESPECIALLY FENDERS) were produced as cheaply as possible and all of the vaunted "vintage" materials that are so cherished now were just what was readily available in quantity at the time.

    Modern production methods have made all aspects of the instrument monumentally better in every possible way. They're more consistent and better made from one end to the other.
     
  13. memiller

    memiller Tele-Meister

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    Very true. Survivor bias cannot be ignored. Even now how many trash-tier vintage Fenders do you have to go through to find a "good one" by vintage snob standards? And that's well after most of the churned out dreck that was bad even by the standards of the day had been discarded, closeted, or parted out.

    It's kind of like when I sold appliances and people would swear up and down that all of the old stuff was better because their grandma's Kenmore has been running since 1975, completely ignoring the hundreds of thousands of that exact same model that didn't even make it past 1979. Exceptions are not rules.
     
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  14. LtKojak

    LtKojak Tele-Meister

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    Tone is in the ear of the beholder. ;)
     
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  15. RoscoeElegante

    RoscoeElegante Friend of Leo's

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    I have a few guesses re: the OP's preference or impression. So I don't think his question is merely dismissable.

    1) The power of association. We hear "vintage" and think resonance, beauty, talent, a Golden Age's golden bells, etc. Romantic, idealized things. Say "Ontario" to me and I don't smell poor Lake Erie's dead carp. Instead, I'm already portaging my senses to unspoiled rivers. I don't say this to ridicule the OP's associations. Plenty natural.

    2) The OP simply likes the tones of low-output pickups generally. So vintage ones, which tend to be low-output, are going to sound better to him than generally more powerful modern/non-vintage ones. And insofar as degaussing is a real thing that may audibly affect old pickups (I have no dog in this fight), this further weakening of the their strength might be what the OP is hearing. Or, as per 1) above, imagining that he's hearing. (Again, with all due respect.)

    3) Insofar as vintage guitars per se do sound different than non-vintage ones, I think that's a function of many of them drying out over the decades. Almost every vintage guitar I've picked up (with the exception of the infamously heavy '70s Fenders) has been noticeably lighter than contemporary versions. The lighter they are, the more they have a distinct, almost reedy resonance, even when played unplugged. So the OP may be attributing this distinctive sound quality to said guitars' pickups.

    That said--yeah, not only can new pickups be wound to old specs, but they can be lowered away from the strings to sound pretty vintage. And the dials, buttons, and switches on guitars, amps, pedals, and recording programs can make probably most non-vintage pickups sound vintage-y.
     
  16. Teleterr

    Teleterr Friend of Leo's

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    I dislike the "its just pschological" default setting in a lot of threads here.

    It is quite possible that the p-up WIRE was different. Not the wire s metal content , but its SIZE and COATING. Coating makes a difference not due to its chemical composition, but its thickness. And of course the winding technique as mentioned.

    I had a '65 Strat p-up. It sounded fantastic. I did an A/B w a CS '69 RI, the ones initialed by Abby. Every good quality the real '65 had the CS had only more so. Better everything +. I sold the p-up for $400 to a guy who thought having a real p-up from that era for his '65 Strat he was restoring was important.

    So , yeah , there s the "Snake Oil" aspect w some people, but the p-ups can be different as well.
     
  17. beagle

    beagle Friend of Leo's

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    Why? Because the internet says so.
     
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  18. Rob DiStefano

    Rob DiStefano Poster Extraordinaire Vendor Member

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    total nonsense. more guitar BS hype aimed at selling and not speaking the truth.
     
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  19. Doctorx33

    Doctorx33 Tele-Afflicted

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    Vintage pickups better than currently made pickups?

    There was a time when that was probably true, mostly in the seventies. There were a lot of ****ty Fenders and Gibsons made in the seventies.

    These days, and for some time now, it isn't true anymore. Pickup winding (and guitar building) has been analyzed to death and even with cheaper imported guitars there are some awesome sounding instruments being constructed.

    I have a 1960 Stratocaster. It's my #1, and it's a wonderful guitar. Even if I had the resources to buy one (I don't) again, I wouldn't do it. There are countless small and large builders out there that could build me a quantum level copy of my Strat that would play and sound just as good and considerably cheaper than searching for and buying a vintage one, with pickups that sound the same as ones that are sixty years old.
     
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  20. kennl

    kennl Tele-Afflicted

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    because they are found in vintage guitars
     
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