Finding the right pickup type, high output single coils vs low output humbuckers

Discussion in 'Just Pickups' started by SimplyTH, Jul 21, 2021.

  1. SimplyTH

    SimplyTH NEW MEMBER!

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    Hey there,

    So I am in the market for a new guitar (the first in a long, long time) and I am having a hard time finding any guitars that really suit what it is that I am looking for and the real hang up for me seems to be pickups. I tend to prefer the warmth and thickness of humbuckers for cleans but not a fan at all of them distorted, too compressed, flat and boxy. Even clean some humbuckers sound dull and 'congested' to me. Exact opposite problem with standard single coils, not a fan of how thin they sound clean but I love the character and response of them dirty. In the past I have favored single coils because of the better dynamics, but I do just want something... warmer on the cleans.

    Would splitting the difference and putting after-market high output singles coils (warmer?) or low output humbuckers (brighter?) in a guitar? Should I look for some rarer more unique pickups (mini-humbuckers, jazzmaster? etc.)
     
  2. jvin248

    jvin248 Doctor of Teleocity

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    .

    Get an HH guitar with coil splits.

    Have you tried P90s?
    Have you tried a Telecaster bridge single coil pickup?

    Adjust pickups low to the pickguard and tip more/less bass/treble. Lower pickups often fix most tone problems. Turn up the amp for more volume.
    Raise screw poles 1/8th inch on humbuckers to get a clearer tone but still get noise reduction.

    Rotate a bridge humbucker so the screw poles are on the 'inside' and raise them a little with a lowered pickup for more of a P90 tone from a humbucker.

    You can also investigate Pots 'n Caps swapping... you probably know what 250kohm vs 500kohm volume pots do to dark/bright tone. Remember pots have a 20% tolerance range max/min that does the same as the nominal shift.

    .
     
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  3. MilwMark

    MilwMark Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Have quality 1m volume and tone pots installed with a good treble bleed.

    Clarity and Humbucker can coexist.
     
  4. alex1fly

    alex1fly Tele-Meister

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    Humbuckers with coil splits or serial/parallel switch is a game changer. It's like having two guitars in one and you switch between the two depending on what mood you're in.

    However, I hear you. Guitar shopping stinks. They're rarely set up the way you like, you have to use weird amps in weird rooms, etc. What I do is listen mostly unplugged and feel the neck and body. Electronics are easy to swap... vibe and feel, notsomuch.
     
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  5. Tele-Meister

    Tele-Meister TDPRI Member

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    1 Meg that's interesting, how come that over 500K? Thank you!
     
  6. alex1fly

    alex1fly Tele-Meister

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    Other recipes for clarity... cut the bass on the amp. Lower the pickups - don't be afraid to throw out conventional wisdom. Use a thick pick. Use pickups that advertise "clarity" as a feature. Turn the guitar volume down to 7-8.
     
  7. Lowerleftcoast

    Lowerleftcoast Friend of Leo's

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    Welcome to TDPRI.

    It seems you need to have more than one guitar. hah.

    It seems you are wanting a low number of wire turns for humbuckers and high number of wire turns on single coils.

    If your skill set includes fine motor skills and patience. I strongly suggest winding your own pickups.
     
  8. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

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    The OP's challenge is one I've been chasing for a long time. Here's a few thoughts:

    1) As mentioned, EQ adjustments can help optimize any pickup....whether in the guitar electronics, the amp, a pedal, or all of the above.

    2) Parallel wiring or coil split can make a humbucker sound nice and thin, but typically it needs to be a higher output pickup or it sounds fairly anemic.

    3) There's always the mix and match option-- SSH, HSH, SH, etc.

    4) Active pickups with a mid-boost (or the right boost pedal) can be a game changer. Basically you have a pure single coil sound when playing clean, and then you apply
    a fair bit of mid-boost whenever you want to play dirty.

    5) There are a number of pickups that do try to split the difference. Dimarzio Eric Johnson HB model sounds very clear. Joe Barden pickups have more girth and sound great
    clean or dirty. Some guys love Filtertrons. Others like P90s. Etc.

    6) Coil Tap can be a cool option. Basically a passive pickup that has extra windings but where you can "tap" and not actually use all the windings. So untapped it is girthy and sounds
    good dirty, but tapped it sounds more like a vintage single coil and sounds chimy when playing clean. Some people say coil "tap" when they really mean split.

    7) Spin-a-split is a cool option, too. You take a humbucker, and rather than coil split (ground out one coil completely), you use a pot so you can partially ground out one coil. You retain more of the power and girth, but
    can still thin it out and make it sound clearer. I used that option on an LPJ that had a PAF type humbucker in the bridge and it worked really well.


    https://www.seymourduncan.com/blog/latest-updates/guitar-wiring-explored-the-spin-a-split-mod

    8) Wiring two humbucker pickups magnetically out of phase (on purpose) and then playing them at the same time can result in a thinner sound, too. See article below for discussion on magnetically out of phase vs. completely out of phase.

    https://www.guitarplayer.com/players/the-key-to-peter-greens-magic-1959-les-paul-tone

    FWIW I think the easiest solution with passive pickups if building a guitar from scratch is to go HSH or SSH.....
     
  9. SimplyTH

    SimplyTH NEW MEMBER!

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    I have tried P90s, and yeah still a little thin for me but the dirty sounds were great. I am a fan the telecaster bridge but that restricts me just to teles (which hey, if I get a tele that is fine) and I play on the neck most of the time to be honest.

    Yeah this is a good point, I just realized I get nice quite of low end out of my current single coil guitar by using a 12-56 gauge.

    good to know
     
  10. Zepfan

    Zepfan Doctor of Teleocity Gold Supporter

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    Minibuckers are good and Filtertrons are nice.

    I'm with you on the single coils, don't usually like the thin sounding ones. I like P90's and the Cavalier Fat Lion Tele pickups. Cavalier has some new AR90 pickups, they're P90's with Alnico rod poles. You can get A3 or A5.
     
  11. fuzz guy

    fuzz guy TDPRI Member

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    Lots of good suggestions so far. Here's a couple more.

    1. Firebird pickups, which are not the same as mini-humbuckers, they are tonally similar to P90s but with more girth. A really great middle ground between singlecoils and regular humbuckers, and no hum.

    2. A great mod that I have done to a few humbucker guitars is installing a bass cut control. It basically works like a normal tone control, but instead of cutting treble it cuts the low end. It makes humbuckers much more versatile. There are controls that will work both ways too, treble cut one way, bass the other and flat in the middle. Fender and G&L have used them on guitars over the years.
     
  12. bebopbrain

    bebopbrain TDPRI Member

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  13. Golem

    Golem Tele-Holic

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    Lace Sensors might work. They're one of the few pickups that sounds best with the pickups very close to the strings.

    Kinman twangbuckers.

    Fralin Big Single.

    Wilde Pickups. You'd have to get ones with low impedance.
     
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  14. drmordo

    drmordo Tele-Afflicted

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    I'll second Lace Sensors, which can give you single coil twang or hot humbucker and everything in between depending on the model you pick. My only issue with them is they only make one model for a Tele bridge position.

    However, I'll say that to me a Tele does exactly what you are wanting - if you roll back the tone knob a bit. My Squier loaded with the Jimmy Page PUs (which are very hard to find) gets very beefy when I roll back the tone.
     
  15. 4pickupguy

    4pickupguy Doctor of Teleocity

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    An under wound PAF by a good winder who will help you get what you’re after.

    Two tapped single coils that you can run in series (RWRP) .
     
  16. schmee

    schmee Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    In SC's and a Tele or Strat, just add the clapton mid boost. It's not just about mids, a small tweak warms the top end a bit... and it's right there to change at will. I cycle mine from 0 to 4 most every song.
     
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  17. SixStringSlinger

    SixStringSlinger Friend of Leo's

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    My ideas (assuming you stay the humbucker route), some already mentioned:

    Low/high output is somewhat subjective (depending on what you're used to, a Seymour Duncan JB can be considered low-ish or high). That said, higher output tends to lean muddier when clean.

    Play with your pickup heights, including the screw poles. If you take a humbucker with the screws high and the body of the pickup low, and another with the screws down low but the whole pickup up high (and adjusted so that volume is even between them), the one with higher screw poles will sound clearer and less "woofy". Also play with how high they are on the bass side vs. the treble side.

    Watch your pot values, by which I mean actually measuring them. Depending on what you buy, a 500k pot can measure anywhere between 400k and 600k. That's a very audible difference. I bought 500k pots for my Les Paul that were advertised as being within 5% (they wound up averaging about 515k) to make sure I had some brightness available. A simple downturn of the tone knobs gets me that humbucker woofiness if I want it. A cap on the tone control that gets you a sweep you like is important, too.

    Bass cut control a la G&L or Reverend. Search for "PTB" if you want to wire your own from scratch. G&L sells 1meg reverse audio pots, though that's not a necessity. I like bass cuts way more than coil splits. It sounds better, I don't lose as much output and I get a lot more variety (not just on/off). Playing with this and your typical treble cut tone control is also fun, as it affects the relative balance between the lows (controlled by the bass cut), the highs (treble cut) and the middle range neither control touches.I have my Strat wired with a master bass cut and master treble cut, and I like rolling both back to about 6 for an old-school, sort of lo-fi-ish tone.

    Parallel/series on a humbucker is fun, too. Switching to parallel sort of cuts the "push" that humbuckers have without killing your output like a coil split. If you have two humbuckers and wire them so that each can be in series or parallel independently, there are lots of cool tones using both pickups and playing with which is in series and which is in parallel. Easy to wire with DPDT switches (either on their on or as part of a pot).

    And hell, you may just like coil splits.
     
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  18. pi

    pi Tele-Meister

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    Well the typical split-the-difference between single coil and humbucker is a p90.

    In that light, I'd say get an LP jr. and milk that one pickup.
     
  19. Golem

    Golem Tele-Holic

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    Who's this calling a JB low output? Never heard that.
     
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