1. Win a Broadcaster or one of 3 Teles! The annual Supporting Member Giveaway is on. To enter Click Here. To see all the prizes and full details Click Here. To view the thread about the giveaway Click Here.

Do pickups lose quality over time?

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by dscottyg, Apr 14, 2021.

  1. dscottyg

    dscottyg Tele-Meister

    Age:
    54
    Posts:
    207
    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2020
    Location:
    Jacksonville
    A89B2D0A-4269-4D62-94B1-89C940DAF77F.jpeg E35DE40A-A3C3-4DBB-9EF2-E8B61EA57429.jpeg I just got a set of used Custom Shop Texas Special Telecaster pickups for $130 to restore a 2001 American Designer Edition Silver Sparkle. They look pretty old. Should I have spent the extra $60 for brand new? I know the typical responses will be “Try them and see if you like them.” Unfortunately I don’t have a discerning ear, but it will feel better knowing that they are sounding as good as new ones would. Thanks.
     
    Arfage likes this.
  2. Tele-friend

    Tele-friend Tele-Meister

    Posts:
    403
    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2020
    Location:
    EU
    I am not an expert on old pickups but as far as I have heard in an interwiew with Mr. Seth Lover (or maybe a documentary about him) their magnetic properties change over time. They become little 'weaker' to simplify it and this is something that many people actually like. So if for example you want to recreate an older pickup, you can use less windings. At least this is my understanding about the topic.
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2021
  3. northernguitar

    northernguitar Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    2,667
    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2009
    Location:
    North of Toronto
    I have an early 70s Pat No. Gibson T-Top. Sounds like it did when I first played on it, 25 years ago.
     
    stepvan, dodona, igor5 and 3 others like this.
  4. aadvark

    aadvark Tele-Meister

    Posts:
    499
    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2010
    Location:
    melbourne
    mine are 69 years old, still sound amazing...

    but to specifically answer your question, maybe if they lose a little signal (not necessarily a bad thing - I love low output pickups - because I can drive the amp/valves harder) it will take a long time, I can't see that there'll be any noticeable difference in yours.

    Clean them up, put them in and "see if you like them"!
     
  5. bgmacaw

    bgmacaw Poster Extraordinaire

    Posts:
    6,347
    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2006
    Location:
    Near Athens GA USA
    Material science says a permanent magnet will lose less than 1% of its magnetism over 100 years provided they haven't been subjected to significant environmental stress or physically damaged.

    Guitar mojo says a pickup magnet will sound better if it's older, as long as it isn't a ceramic pickup, unless it is a rubber magnet with a gold foil covering.
     
  6. Nick Fanis

    Nick Fanis Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

    Posts:
    6,475
    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2003
    Location:
    Athens-GREECE
    What is "pickup quality" and how can you "loose" it?
     
  7. DADGAD

    DADGAD Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    2,632
    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2003
    Location:
    Earth
    If your guitar pickup never gets hot, cold, bumped or placed anywhere near an amp speaker, magetic tipped screw driver or soldering gun, you will have no problem with the magnet getting weaker.
     
    Geo, El Tele Lobo, beep.click and 5 others like this.
  8. Matthias

    Matthias Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

    Posts:
    3,532
    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2003
    Location:
    Third rock from the Sun
    After about 20 years? None of mine over that age have issues.

    Sometimes you can get mechanical problems in the wires and solder joints on really old pickups... I'll refer to @Wally's post here: https://www.tdpri.com/threads/helping-a-friend-sell-a-strat.1068690/page-2#post-10596757

    But I would expect yours sound the same as they did went made. I see no rust on them, just dust, and it's the corrosion that does for them. The magnets getting audibly weaker over a few decades is debated, but I believe other things could affect them, such as how you store the pickups if they've been separated from the guitar... The magnets can effect each other.
     
    StarRaider likes this.
  9. Wally

    Wally Telefied Ad Free Member

    Posts:
    39,087
    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2003
    Location:
    Lubbock, TX
  10. Telecentric

    Telecentric Tele-Holic

    Age:
    61
    Posts:
    731
    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2016
    Location:
    Boulder Creek, Ca
    Some pickups do become microphonic, so something is affecting them. Most don't or at least I have not run into that problem on a guitar I have owned for any significant time.
     
    Wally and nojazzhere like this.
  11. DrBGood

    DrBGood Tele-Holic

    Posts:
    816
    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2015
    Location:
    Sutton QC, CANADA
    If they did, '59 Les Pauls would be firewood.
     
    LesTele, Deeve, willholt92 and 9 others like this.
  12. mkdaws32

    mkdaws32 Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

    Age:
    51
    Posts:
    2,262
    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2019
    Location:
    Moncton, NB Canada
    Usually a pickup will become microphonic because the windings are vibrating. Maybe whatever it is potted in has broken down over time, or the windings just relaxed a bit over time to vibrate a bit. I find a slightly microphonic pickup sounds more "airy" and lively - but too much and it's just squealing and feedbacking all the time, which is no good. I don't think magnet strength has anything to do with microphonics, but if an expert can explain otherwise, I will concede ;)
     
    DCCable and Wally like this.
  13. jvin248

    jvin248 Doctor of Teleocity

    Posts:
    10,413
    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2014
    Location:
    Lions & Tigers oh Mi !
    .

    Materials all age and get brittle. Abuse, neglect, and damage can degrade their performance.
    Leave a guitar in a hot car and the wax potting may melt/evaporate/move around or a cold car it may crack and allow the wires to vibrate and squeal under high gain. Leaning a guitar next to a cabinet full of high power magnets or transformers can alter the pickup magnets.

    The largest factor that people care about are Alnico magnets lose strength naturally over decades, a known and well documented event. Ceramic magnets remain identical over time to the day they were made. So by 'Quality' standards you should choose ceramic magnet pickups like the ones found in Squiers and some older MIM Fenders. Vintage purists demand Alnico because that's what the guitars in the 50s were built with.

    You'll see references where Alnico V pickups have 'deteriorated' to Alnico II or III strength. And hence why some boutique pickup winders make new pickups with Alnico II/III to market to those chasing more of a 'vintage vibe'. You can 'recharge' Alnico pickups. I've seen a few instances where one alnico pole had lost it's charge out of a set and a recharge fixed the pickup.

    You can achieve the same output between typical pickup magnets by adjusting the pickup height. Don't use published pickup height specs that were developed for brand new Alnico when setting up your Ceramic magnet pickups. Put the Ceramic magnet pickups lower. Even just an eighth inch height adjustment can change the tone. So use your ears and magnet type becomes meaningless.

    .
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2021
  14. northernguitar

    northernguitar Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    2,667
    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2009
    Location:
    North of Toronto
    Five decades on my alnico V T-Top. No changes.
     
    StarRaider, dscottyg and JRapp like this.
  15. Boreas

    Boreas Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    Age:
    65
    Posts:
    3,518
    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2019
    Location:
    Adirondack Coast, NY
    Many people feel they get better with age. Obviously, a few can fail or develop problems, but typically they don't change much. It is just as likely your hearing or amp will change more than the pickups.
     
  16. darkwaters

    darkwaters Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    2,494
    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2012
    Location:
    Newfoundland
    I wouldn't worry about it.
     
    aging_rocker and northernguitar like this.
  17. Boxla

    Boxla Tele-Meister

    Age:
    47
    Posts:
    491
    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2017
    Location:
    Jahmerica
    Jerry Garcia, who I would argue had good ears when it came to tone, was 100% convinced that pickups degrade over time and that's why he would change his out.
     
  18. Lucius Paisley

    Lucius Paisley Tele-Afflicted

    Age:
    45
    Posts:
    1,035
    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2020
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    Yeah, but it's Jerry Garcia. Degradation wasn't the issue. At least, not of the pickups.
     
  19. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    2,165
    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2021
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    Magnetic metals will decay over time. Whether it is significant such that you would notice is not as likely. It’s more likely that you’d notice the difference in the same type pickups with variations in turns or wiring pattern.

    Not debating the physics of Faraday’s Law or half-life. But the forces required to demagnetize would certainly be equivalent to the forces required to magnetize the pole pieces. So normal use and storage won’t flip a switch, so to speak.

    Winding technique and material plays a role. Vintage pickups were wound by hand (Ok, hand operated anyway) and counting and density/compactness and crosses were not as carefully controlled. Turns out many collectors and tone chasers dig that. So we might pay a premium for “scatter wound” which would make an engineer cringe. That said, 2 scatter wound pickups are not exactly the same. 2 machine assembled, numerically wound pickups wound be identical. So don’t discount that this is what people seek and seem to recognize.

    If string over pole can generate 200 mV (example) a 1% loss over 20 years (also example) is 196 mV. That’s within the tolerance of your pots on your guitar and in your amp. Just saying it may be something but don’t toss those sweet pickups just yet.
     
    nojazzhere and northernguitar like this.
  20. nojazzhere

    nojazzhere Doctor of Teleocity

    Age:
    69
    Posts:
    14,473
    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2017
    Location:
    Foat Wuth, Texas
    I think it's a fact that pickups CAN change with time. The question is whether that change is for the better or worse.
    I've read interviews with guitarists (particularly Jim Campilonga) who said one day they put their guitar away after playing, and the next day a pickup had simply died. As far as saying a pickup hadn't changed over forty or fifty years, it could just be that the change was so gradual that you wouldn't discern the change.
     
    BlueGillGreg and Tele-friend like this.
IMPORTANT: Treat everyone here with respect, no matter how difficult!
No sex, drug, political, religion or hate discussion permitted here.