If shielding tape works so well, then why do noiseless pickup designs exist?

11 Gauge

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The title pretty much says it all, but I would like to know why Lace/Barden/EMG/Lawrence/Zexcoil/Fralin/Mojotone/DiMarzio/Kinman/etc. have gone to the trouble to design and build something noiseless, if shielding tape would actually do the same thing, with identical results.

And I guess it's pretty much the same line of thinking for the Ilitch backplates and pickguards - seems like a lot of time and expense could be avoided.

IIRC, I've only ever had one guitar with the cavities shielded with tape. It was done by the previous owner. I don't seem to remember it completely removing all the hum like my noiseless pickups did. I actually ended up installing a Fast Track T in it for that very reason.

To be clear, I don't intend for this to be a discussion about noiseless pickups sounding different than or inferior to 'real' single coils. I'm talking about the elimination of as much of the hum as is possible.

Does anyone know what the actual science of this is, vs. their own personal experiences? It seems to me that it would be impossible to fully shield a pickup with tape, because you'd have to wrap the whole thing in in it. But that's admittedly just a non-scientific guess.
 

Jakedog

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I think the “shielding is fine” argument comes from two camps-

People who mostly play at home and have modern and up to date wiring and electricity.

People who play clean and very low gain and plug straight into the amp.

Because to be fair, when I play in those scenarios, the hum isn’t bad enough to really bug me much. Some top shelf shielding could definitely handle it fine.

Now, if you’re like me, and live in a house built in 1942 that still has all its old knob and tube single conductor wiring, and you also play a LOT in bars that are in 80-150 year old buildings with crap electricity, and neon signs, video slots, and an ATM on the same circuit with the band, and use a pedalboard and some appreciable amounts of gain and compression, you need noiseless pickups. Or a Hum Debugger. Not a noise gate, a Hum Debugger.

If you play in those situations, like I do, all the shielding tape in the world is quite akin to pissing in the ocean and expecting to raise sea level.
 
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chris m.

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Shielding tape eliminates a lot of hum, but not all of it. Some people cannot stand even the slightest bit of hum.

And yes, part of the problem is that you can't really shield the pickup itself. It sticks up, out of the pickguard. Well, maybe someone could come up with a plastic pickup cover that is actually a sandwich with foil or something like that in the middle of the plastic, but it would definitely alter the tone, so that would be a design challenge....adjusting the pickup design to compensate for the effect of the shielded cover.

A lot of humbuckers sound quite different with the metal cover on vs. the metal cover taken off....because of the material the cover is made out of.

The Major Differences Between Covered And Open-Coil Humbuckers

According to the pickup masters over at Seymour Duncan, there are a few differences between two otherwise identical humbuckers, one being covered and the other not. First, covers can sometimes cause feedback when used with high-powered amps. Humbucker covers can also affect the pickup’s magnetic field, depending on the material used, which will affect tone. For example, brightness might be a bit reduced with chrome, nickel or gold plated covers. Nickel-silver covers also tend to have less capacitance, which can also affect brightness.

 

Killing Floor

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Fender is the benchmark and they don’t shield because it saved cost when Leo was at the helm. It makes the most economic sense that products designed/marketed as aftermarket upgrades would accommodate the need for noise reduction. Not a commentary on the merit of shielding or any pickup brand. Just that the market fills a void.
 

Si G X

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The title pretty much says it all, but I would like to know why Lace/Barden/EMG/Lawrence/Zexcoil/Fralin/Mojotone/DiMarzio/Kinman/etc. have gone to the trouble to design and build something noiseless, if shielding tape would actually do the same thing, with identical results.

Noiseless pickups are trying to reduce/eliminate the inherent hum from a traditional single coil pickup, shielding is trying to shield the guitars electronics from external noise.

They aren't trying to achieve the same thing.
 

schmee

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Proper shielding works exceedingly well for the gigging musician. It ain't just tape though. It's a faraday cage and a known thing unless you are one of the non science believers. If that's the case, well, I can't help you.

But there are buildings we working musicians run across that even humbuckers are untenable.
I worked one place that I had to use a HB guitar and had to stand all night with my body rotated one direction (facing about 45 degrees to the right) only to avoid a loud buzzing sound.
I tried a line filter on night 2 and it did zero/nothing. Neither did a backup SS amp I brought.
 

Boreas

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Proper shielding works exceedingly well for the gigging musician. It ain't just tape though. It's a faraday cage and a known thing unless you are one of the non science believers. If that's the case, well, I can't help you.

But there are buildings we working musicians run across that even humbuckers are untenable.
I worked one place that I had to use a HB guitar and had to stand all night with my body rotated one direction (facing about 45 degrees to the right) only to avoid a loud buzzing sound.
I tried a line filter on night 2 and it did zero/nothing. Neither did a backup SS amp I brought.

Not much can clean filthy electricity except a conditioner. To me, hum just harmonizes with my tinnitus.
 

Tele-phone man

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It's the difference between electro-static noise, which shielding helps enormously with, and electro-magnetic noise (60Hz hum and related), which shielding can barely touch. In my experience, I need both. They are two different solutions to two different noise sources.

A good example of electrostatic noise is the crackling and buzzing you get when you move your hands along the strings, or release them altogether. Shielding has helped me very well with this noise. But for the noise that JakeDog describes, which shows up in so many places (including my old house), only noiseless pickups fix that.
 

11 Gauge

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It's the difference between electro-static noise, which shielding helps enormously with, and electro-magnetic noise (60Hz hum and related), which shielding can barely touch. In my experience, I need both. They are two different solutions to two different noise sources.

A good example of electrostatic noise is the crackling and buzzing you get when you move your hands along the strings, or release them altogether. Shielding has helped me very well with this noise. But for the noise that JakeDog describes, which shows up in so many places (including my old house), only noiseless pickups fix that.
Interesting. I've only experienced the electrostatic noise issue once or twice, and I'm currently going through that with one of my Tele pickguards, when my fingers move around on the surface of the 'guard, and the neck pickup is on. And it's an Area T neck pickup, so you're right - it's not electromagnetic in nature.

...I don't ever think I can recall having issues with electrostatic noise with a bridge pickup though. I guess I've just been lucky.

But the way some folks talk about shielding, I really get the feeling that they're talking about getting rid of electromagnetic noise.
 

Tele-phone man

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You're right; the crackle shows up most on neck pickups. But the buzzing that goes away when you hold the strings shows up on all pickups, and is minimized by good shielding.
You are also right when you say that most folks talking about shielding are equating ALL noise, and their expectation that shielding will eliminate, or even noticeably reduce all hum and noise leads many people to incorrectly conclude that shielding is worthless.
 

11 Gauge

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I think the “shielding is fine” argument comes from two camps-

People who mostly play at home and have modern and up to date wiring and electricity.

People who play clean and very low gain and plug straight into the amp.

Because to be fair, when I play in those scenarios, the hum isn’t bad enough to really bug me much. Some top shelf shielding could definitely handle it fine.

Now, if you’re like me, and live in a house built in 1942 that still has all its old knob and tube single conductor wiring, and you also play a LOT in bars that are in 80-150 year old buildings with crap electricity, and neon signs, video slots, and an ATM on the same circuit with the band, and use a pedalboard and some appreciable amounts of gain and compression, you need noiseless pickups. Or a Hum Debugger. Not a noise gate, a Hum Debugger.

If you play in those situations, like I do, all the shielding tape in the world is quite akin to pissing in the ocean and expecting to raise sea level.
My house was built in 1928. Over 70% of the places I play outside of the house were built prior to (or maybe around) WWII.

I primarily play rock music, so exclusively (or even mostly) playing clean simply isn't my reality.

IME, I don't even really need much of a dirty or overdriven tone to make the hum levels take off - just engaging a boost is usually enough to further amplify the amount of hum.

Anyway, I'm not a jazz player, and I don't have control over the wiring in most of these environments, so I guess shielding just won't cut it for me.
 

Tele-phone man

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I'm with you, Keith. I use gain (not metal or hard rock level) much of the time, so I'm of the same mind. All of my guitars have noiseless pickups AND the best shielding job I can manage, and even then some environments introduce noticeable noise even when I'm playing perfectly clean. My worst offender is my Washburn HB-35. It has covered humbuckers, but because of the body design, I cannot do cavity shielding, and of all the guitars I have used in our rehearsal space, it picks up the most noise, most likely due to the dimmers.
 

Thoughtfree

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I love Fender guitars, but every Fender or F-style guitar I've had, I've put noiseless pickups in, since the '79 Strat I bought new: I replaced its stock pickups with those crimson-colored Seymour Duncans that were among the first noiseless single-coil form factor pickups available. I had tried shielding but it didn't get it done. A later Strat held active EMGs, which worked very well for me.

Amazing that the marketplace has not completely rejected single-coil pickups, in the technologically-advanced year of 2022. Plug an LP Jr. into a Big Muff, in a bar with neon beer signs, and you will agree...
 

Fenderbaum

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I have had shielded guitars, yet i had noise from them at home.
Probably due to where i live.. Maybe Bad ground, or a transformer in close vicinity to the house.. Etc.. Because shielding only prevents airborn static noise that comes at the guitar. Shielding does not take away what comes into my lead though..
I have two noiseless equipped Strats and they are both very quiet compared to a shielded Guitar with Passive pickups.
 

11 Gauge

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Amazing that the marketplace has not completely rejected single-coil pickups, in the technologically-advanced year of 2022. Plug an LP Jr. into a Big Muff, in a bar with neon beer signs, and you will agree...
Knowing how conservative a percentage of guitarists are, I'm actually not amazed.

Also, I think that possibly more and more folks are simply just playing at home these days, and a given percentage of them probably have semi-decent wiring, and no neon signs, or other such bar/club noisemakers.

We also probably need to remember that this is a sub-forum with Telecaster discussion as the parent, so possibly 20% or more forum members might not be playing much in the way of anything dirty or overdriven.

For the two groups above, noiseless pickups are probably seen as a solution to a nonexistent problem. And if someone is even moderately conservative regarding what they will put in a guitar, then they're probably actually trying to avoid noiseless. I think this group is possibly much more receptive to doing the shielding thing instead.
 

chris m.

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Knowing how conservative a percentage of guitarists are, I'm actually not amazed.

Also, I think that possibly more and more folks are simply just playing at home these days, and a given percentage of them probably have semi-decent wiring, and no neon signs, or other such bar/club noisemakers.

We also probably need to remember that this is a sub-forum with Telecaster discussion as the parent, so possibly 20% or more forum members might not be playing much in the way of anything dirty or overdriven.

For the two groups above, noiseless pickups are probably seen as a solution to a nonexistent problem. And if someone is even moderately conservative regarding what they will put in a guitar, then they're probably actually trying to avoid noiseless. I think this group is possibly much more receptive to doing the shielding thing instead.
For live playing when I've had a noise issue I just kick the tuner on between songs to mute. While I'm playing the noise isn't noticeable at all because the music drowns it out. YMMV.
 

northernguitar

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I think the “shielding is fine” argument comes from two camps-

People who mostly play at home and have modern and up to date wiring and electricity.

People who play clean and very low gain and plug straight into the amp.

Because to be fair, when I play in those scenarios, the hum isn’t bad enough to really bug me much. Some top shelf shielding could definitely handle it fine.

Now, if you’re like me, and live in a house built in 1942 that still has all its old knob and tube single conductor wiring, and you also play a LOT in bars that are in 80-150 year old buildings with crap electricity, and neon signs, video slots, and an ATM on the same circuit with the band, and use a pedalboard and some appreciable amounts of gain and compression, you need noiseless pickups. Or a Hum Debugger. Not a noise gate, a Hum Debugger.

If you play in those situations, like I do, all the shielding tape in the world is quite akin to pissing in the ocean and expecting to raise sea level.
A Furman is worth its weight in gold for these scenarios.
 




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