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Discussion in 'Just Pickups' started by Webfoot, Jul 24, 2019.
I was wondering if people prefer flat poles for a more scooped- twangish - clean sound.... versus staggered if using dirt pedals sound and want a more forward mid distortion sound.
I don't even know what was traditional when teles first came out.
Its radius based. Staggered for round radius (vintage, 9 to 10 or whatever). Flat for not much radius (12+ to flat). I want the strings to have a relatively even volume. So string height and radius play in.
I have Strats (most with 9.5" radius, and one with 12") with staggered and flat poles and I really don't hear a big difference in string balance between the two. Even when I had the Hendrix Strat with reverse staggered '65 pickups, I couldn't hear any difference.
I almost always prefer flat pole pickups for clean or dirty guitar sounds.
I've always just used pole height adjustments to mitigate my perceived differences between string volumes. To me it's just another adjustment during set up.
Always staggered if possible, even with a 12" radius. That said, it doesn't make a huge difference on a guitar IME, and the closer to the bridge the pickup is located, the less it matters. It makes a huge difference on basses, though. I can barely stand to play Jazz Basses because of the massive string volume imbalance on 7.25" radius boards. I have to adjust my technique to play around it, and use some compression, which I don't generally like. Ps are fully adjustable by tilting the pickups, so it's not an issue.
The string spacing is always much wider at the bridge than at the nut. If the spacing is 1.5x as wide at the bridge, the radius should be 1.5x larger as well. As a result, the stagger should always be much flatter by the bridge than the radius at the nut indicates. Even with a 7.25" radius at the nut, you'll often find it should be 11-12", so you're almost always better off with flat poles than an excessive vintage stagger, especially with the strange offsets for the B and the G. You can get cartoonish imbalances with no way to fix it if the pickup's coil is wound directly against the pole pieces like the early Fender examples.
I thought having raised D & G magnets were to boost the mids a bit.
I have both and prefer the flats.
doesn't matter at all - there are more important things about passive pickups to consider.
Guys, here's something to consider...
It's impossible to make any two pickups identical .... you CAN make them similar.... but never exactly alike sonically. the reason is because the variations in windings, potting, or lack thereof, the wire... and a long list of other factors..
few know that a wire gauge has a margin of error... for instance 42 AWG is .0025 inch nominally... but, and I wish I knew where it is, bit Bill Lawrence sent me an Elektrisola data sheet showing how far off it could be and still be 42 AWG... but one roll may be .0025. the next may be .00248 ... multiply that by around 6000 turns it it represents a significant difference between two otherwise identical pickups wound with whaat's supposed to be the same size wire...
another little nuisance... the wire gets stretched (x) amount as its wound, because of the tension applied. A stretched wire will be smaller in diameter than a non stretched wire.... that compounded by the fact that the wire can be different sizes on different spools of the same size... and things get screwy..
that's one variance.. then the other is the magnets... the magnets we use are not "certified" as. having specific metrics.. this magnets are headed for CERN's LHC in Switzerland and ya cannot buy them for 80 cents a pop from Stew Mac.. or anyone else for that matter... the magnetic gauss or the Tesla rating also has a margin of error.. and if the magnets are being magnetized manually that introduces another variance.
Now... none of that really means jack.. because of ALL the other variances that are part of the confluence that eventually produces a sound ,.. no two guitars are EVER the same.... so there is no way to do a comparative analysis of two similar pickups in two similar guitars...
I'll stop here, but know that the above is only the proverbial tip of the iceberg... there. are many mechanical, dimensional, and electrical variations in every pickup made that introduces subtle variations in the voicing of any pickups made... and each has to meld with whatever sonic characterizations the overall construction of the guitar may be introducing... how complicated can t get???
Now the good news... for the most part... they all represent such subtle nuances at to go unnoticed in the horrible audio environments we play in... and even in a reasonably well engineered acoustic studio.. there are a myriad of other factors that are completely off the "radar" of the typical guitarist.. even the very good guitarists...
so don't panic... just play and enjoy.... and remember, some pretty awful pickups have been used to make some pretty astounding music through the years..
Its just plain not the gear, it will never be the gear,, it will forever be what YOU can do with the gear you have at hand..
Based on my 2012 Fender "60th Anniversary" American Special Telecaster, I was very very surprised that my Texas Special bridge pickup came with flat pole pieces. I even contacted Fender to be sure they were in fact Texas Specials. I would see the Fender Texas Special Tele set at GC and the bridge pickup had staggered poles. To my surprise that flat pole bridge pickup sounded amazing. I no longer own that Tele however I now own another American Special Tele with Texas Specials and the bridge pickup has the staggered pole pieces. At first the tone was way too harsh. I changed the bridge from the Fender Vintage 3 Brass Barrel Saddle to a Gotoh Nickel plated Brass with solid stainless steel saddles. What a very noticeable difference. The new Gotoh bridge really makes a huge difference in the tone making it less harsh and much more of a balanced sound/tone. So, if I could choose a Texas Special with flat pole pieces vs. a Texas Special with staggered pole pieces today it would definitely be the FLAT pole pieces.
If anything, I think it's the opposite with flat poles have a slightly fuller frequency response including mids. In any event, it's a very subtle difference, although I do prefer flat poles for the even string balance.
I dont hear it either. I use hot pickups though. In fact, I pushed my TexMex poles down flat.
does it really matter?
I'm attempting to wind pickups and learn the ins and outs of it all.
I wonder about the staggered magnet heights, not only on some single coils, but also the adjustable "screw type" poles of some humbuckers.
Everyone seems to have some "science" in their reasoning/explanations, including some of the main manufacturers.
However, some of it may be marketing rather than science. IDK.
I ran across a brief article by Curtis Novak.
His article offers -
"Staggered magnets came from a time when string technology was not that advanced, and there was not good string to string balance so they compensated for this by staggering the height of the magnets to the strings. That was their sole purpose.
I get a lot of vintage pickups in for repair because someone broke the coil trying to push a high magnet down. If you use a staggered magnet nowadays you are only making the strings unbalanced again."
I also like his brief article on "potting a microphonic pickup", then also read the "how to determine optimum pickup height", both found at the same link. Everyone has an opinion on these things as well.
I'll continue my experimenting and education, until I run out of time and/or money.
this was Bill Lawrence's rationale too... it's just as simple as, today the string manufacturers have access to a vast array of metallurgical technology that just didn't exist in the past... and Curt is correct... an amateur trying to move a magnet is a problem waiting to happen..
I can be pretty anal about stuff like this and then reality sets in. I lower the 490R in my SG as low as it can go and raise the pole pieces. Then I lower individual pole pieces to balance the strings. I lower the 490T all the way and copy the stagger from the neck pickup and then raise it until the pickups balance. The differences are so subtle that only I can hear them because I'm the only one listening closely enough to notice and all that subtlety is lost as soon as I unintentionally mute a string while fretting a chord or play a wrong note. I guess my point is that this only matters if you think it does and even if it does matter, your playing is what really matters.