Why do vintage pickups sound better?

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

  1. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Somewhere in the woods I have a 5 gal bucket of 4" monel nails I salvaged from a local shipwreck circa 1970. The ship had to be at least 20 years old so I may have some holy grail Tele saddle material in my possession!

    Steel in the ocean since then?
    You got me there!
     
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  2. luckett

    luckett Banned

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    Grain pattern and direction might be something to be foolishly concerned with if modern materials and construction techniques couldn't make excellent sounding pickups.
     
  3. memiller

    memiller Tele-Meister

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    Of course they're not. They were manufactured to much less stringent tolerances, using less pure materials, because the technology to produce the vastly superior magnets we have today didn't exist 60 years ago.

    Everything is better now. Any assertion otherwise is pure nostalgia and nothing else.
     
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  4. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Yes absolutely.
    At the same time I have lots of excellent sounding pickups on my bench that I took out of guitars in favor of pickups I liked better.

    I'm not ready to believe that the particular steel alloy or grain orientation of the poles transferring the magnetism to the string area is going to affect the sound.
    But I'm not a fan of steel poles even in SC pickups.

    In transformers though it seems the alloy and grain play a bigger role, and all they do is transfer energy in the form of magnetism AFAIK.

    We know that the strength of the magnetism at the top of the pickup plays a huge role in the sound, and we know that the pole material plays a role as well in both inductance and in the gauss at the strings.

    The fail here is probably that slight differences in the alloy or forming of those steel poles is just not enough to be audible.

    Right?
     
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  5. Masmus

    Masmus TDPRI Member

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    When I bought my first guitar it was a 78 strat. I tried 20 strats that day all played different (70's Fender) until I picked the one I liked best. That means that there were 19 I didn't like. We only remember the vintage stuff that's good, nobody records a hit song with a bad sounding guitar, also the main reason vintage equipment sounds so good is that EVERYTHING that was a hit in the 60's was recorded with vintage gear, since that was all that was available at the time and that particular sound is associated with what was a commercial success. As far as a pickup sounds different depending on what mine the magnets were sourced from, I don't think it's possible to scientifically measure that and eliminate ALL the other coefficients in that equation.
     
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  6. Peregrino69

    Peregrino69 Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    Well yeah, broad as in "why do roses smell better than orchids"...

    I've heard many "explanations" for this "fact", but I have to say "they mined better metals" takes the cake :D

    That being said... in my guitars the sound I like the most is the neck pickup on my Hagström. That's 50+ years old. I seriously doubt it sounded like that when it was new, tho. I believe the aging of the materials does change the sound. Whether it's for "better" or "worse" depends on who you ask.

    Now what comes to cast iron... my mom still has a cast iron skillet she used to cook with already when I was a kid, early 70s. She also has another her mother used to cook with when mom was a kid, back in the 40s. Both of those are significantly better in use than the one I bought a couple of years back, the older being definitely superior. There obviously are differences in the production methods, but I'm pretty certain the major factor there is firstly proper maintenance, secondly the seasoning that's developed over the decades of heavy use. I expect my skillet to equal them when I'm at my 80s :)
     
  7. jrblue

    jrblue Tele-Afflicted

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    nice troll job. Yup... ever since they closed the Alnico mines in West Narnia, it has been impossible to find good metal. I used to dig up excellent metal in my back yard to make my own pickups, but when I used up all the old-growth metal, I had to go to other sources, and it's not the same. Metal that is :scatter-dug" by hand is far superior to anything that is mined or processed and refined by machines. I think the old cast-iron skillet I used to do to make my own magic magnet metal concoctions was part of the mojo... But the I started using my ears and listening to music and discovered that new pickups are fantastic and this is BS.
     
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  8. luckett

    luckett Banned

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    You probably didn't cook the metal long enough in the skillet to get the grain pattern correct. You need to leave room in the grain for the fragile harmonics to come out. If the grain is too tight the fragile harmonics get trapped.
     
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  9. ndcaster

    ndcaster Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    alchemy hadn’t moved operations to China yet
     
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  10. JustABluesGuy

    JustABluesGuy Friend of Leo's

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    There seems to have been a golden age of cast iron cookware from the late 19th early 20th century into the 50’s or so.

    I’m a fan, not an expert but I agree that the casting process along with less competition (and demand) led to less desirable cast iron cookware. Better casts, and milling after casting makes for a smoother finish. Grizwold and Wagner both used to use these finer production techniques.

    Wagner’s website states that they went to their “pebble” finish because it allows them to more easily mass-preseason them. It reduces costs as well I’m sure.

    There are actually some boutique cast iron cookware manufacturers that are putting out some really nice new stuff (that I can’t afford).
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2019
  11. soulman969

    soulman969 Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Some of us are actually ignoring that with good reason and simply responding to the title.

    Responding to the second would be like dealing with someone who claims today's gasoline isn't nearly as good as it was a century ago because the crude oil it was made from was much fresher back then.:rolleyes: :lol:
     
  12. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Aaah then young buck, you don't remember Sunoco 260?
    Nothing better in your 11.5:1 comp ratio muscle car!
     
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  13. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Yeah those brands were great, but neither is as fine as some of the earlier cast iron cookware in my "collection".
    The really early stuff was fine and thin enough to not even be heavy, which seems odd but that was how critically they were casting iron back then.
    Many or most of these earlier pans had the lip ring on the bottom that fit typical cast iron woodstoves, so you'd take off one of the covers and set the pan in where the flame was against the bottom.

    Some of the cast iron pans I have include a pat or pat applied for date.
    Have to do some research but I wonder when the US pat office was accepting pat applications on cast iron cookware!
     
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  14. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Here’s a couple of pics of early iron.
    The second is a different pan with the brand worn off the bottom, one of the thinner castings and a favorite for eggs.

    IMG_0692.jpg IMG_0695.jpg


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
     
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  15. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Here’s a pair of 20th C Stanley block planes, same model and 1918 pat date but the one on the left is earlier and a finer more delicate casting. The one on the right is still very fine and nicer than current iron planes. IMG_0696.jpg


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  16. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Just to veer back on topic here’s Fender pickups from left to right ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s and current production. Not that appearance speaks to sound but pics are always good.

    IMG_0697.jpg


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  17. JustABluesGuy

    JustABluesGuy Friend of Leo's

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    Way to bring it back on topic. Smooth! ;)
     
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  18. JustABluesGuy

    JustABluesGuy Friend of Leo's

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    Nice! The oldest piece I have is a small, unlabeled skillet that was my great grandmother’s (at least) that I saved from my parent’s attic. The only thing that makes it special is the fact that it has been in the family so long.
     
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  19. 65 Champ Amp

    65 Champ Amp Tele-Afflicted

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    Maybe.
    As is typical on internet forums, lots of people only read the thread title and respond to that. Makes for "interesting" responses.

    In this case, the subject really is "Crap that sales people say".

    Which may deserve it's own thread,because great eye rolling humor is to be found there.


    But, to address the topic stated in the thread title, Since they varied so much, there were some great ones, some average, and some poor. Most of the average and poor ones were yanked out and replaced with Dimarzios back in the sixties. That left mostly good ones still in the old guitars.

    However, there were still a lot of average or poor pickups left in vintage axes that no one had the guts to replace and just stuck under the bed, or the discarded pickups forgotten in a box under Uncle Bob's workbench. When they get snapped up at the estate sale, it's up to the vintage guitar shop salesman to convince you that the pickups are amazing.
     
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  20. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Friend of Leo's

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    Will vintage pickups still sound better when the last baby boomer dies?
     
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