Note to self, regarding picking pickups…

Discussion in 'Just Pickups' started by LGOberean, Oct 22, 2019.

  1. LGOberean

    LGOberean Doctor of Teleocity

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    DCR may be useful in a limited and general way, comparing like pickups to one another (e.g., DiMarzio tele neck pickups to Cavalier Lions), giving a general impression, but not a definitive indication, of said pickup’s output.

    Output is most often stated in general terms, not in consistent, measurable terms, other than a scale of 1-10. (The one exception I can think of is DiMarzio, which rates the output of their pickups in millivolts.)

    EQ ratings are most often given in general terms as well, on a scale of 1-10.

    Magnet types, and strength is mentioned, and generally is helpful, although there are variables.

    Other variables like inductance and wire turn count are rarely quantified consistently by manufacturers, and so are of no help to me in terms of identifiable, useful criteria.

    Conclusion: Pickup selection is a confusing crap shoot. Do your best to research claims, listen to clips and YouTube vids, get recommendations…then just roll the dice.

    Okay, that’s where my mind is on the process of selecting pickups for a build/swap. You’re welcome to try and change my mind.
     
  2. brookdalebill

    brookdalebill Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    I just listen to them, and form my opinions afterwards.
    I do have opinions about magnet types, outputs, resistances (ohms), and sizes, but ultimately, my big ol’ ugly ears do the decidin’.
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2019
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  3. LGOberean

    LGOberean Doctor of Teleocity

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    Bill, are you talking about listening to pickups in existing guitars to play in real time, or in situations like the clips/YT vids I mentioned before?

    It's rare that I get to play a guitar with the pickups I'm considering in the moment. I have never owned a FMIC product, so comparing their Tele or Strat pickups to replacement ones (for a build or for swapping out) is only marginally helpful, at best. For my applications, I'm looking at aftermarket or boutique offerings like DiMarzio, Bootstrap, Cavalier, etc. Finding a guitar loaded with, say, Bootstrap or DiMarzio Strat replacement pickups that I can play is an experience I've never had.
     
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  4. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Friend of Leo's

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    Inductance and wire turns are easy to quantify, they choose to keep it a secret because they amount to instructions on how to precisely replicate the pickup.
     
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  5. CFFF

    CFFF Tele-Holic

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    I think that pickup youtube videos and other audio files available online are only really helpful* when one pickup is compared to another in the same conditions but it is better then what we had before the Internet maybe.

    *if we like the playing!
     
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  6. LGOberean

    LGOberean Doctor of Teleocity

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    Sounds right when you say it. :twisted: I'm not trying to tilt at that particular windmill. I'm just formulating an approach to the problem based on the current state of affairs.
     
  7. WingedWords

    WingedWords Tele-Holic

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    I have a trusted supplier. I tell him what I want, he advises (and usually has sound samples on his website). Works for me.
     
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  8. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Friend of Leo's

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    The DC resistance is a good means of comparison if you can reckon the wire gauge. With Tele pickups, the neck pickup is almost always 43 AWG, the bridge 42 AWG, so the DC resistance is apples to apples. An exception is the Twisted Tele and clones of that set, which is reversed. If it's any other pickup, and the DC resistance is under 8.5k, it's likely 42 AWG, but if the DC resistances is higher than that, it gets more tricky to determine if it's 43 AWG or 44 AWG. If two pickups are made with all the same parts have have the same DC resistance, then you can presume that the turn counts and the inductance will be nearly the same as well. People will say two pickups that are identical in physical detail sound different, but if you factor in psychoacoustics and marketing, that's not a surprising outcome. By keeping the finer details a secret, the pickup makers are able to play off that ambiguity and say their designs are so much better than the other guy's, despite being no different at all.
     
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  9. LGOberean

    LGOberean Doctor of Teleocity

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    Yeah, I guess the Internet giving us access to clips and vids is a better situation than in olden days. But then again, I didn't buy my first electric guitar (a tele, of course) until 2008, so...
     
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  10. AxemanVR

    AxemanVR Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

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    This would be the most honest answer whenever anyone asks for pickup advice.

    The only thing I’d add is the fact that the same pickups may not sound exactly the same when installed on different guitars - further complicating the process...



     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2019
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  11. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

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    This is what Eminence gives you when you want to understand the performance of one of their speakers. In this case, the Tonker:

    upload_2019-10-22_11-52-46.png
    They also give you a lot more detailed specs--
    upload_2019-10-22_11-53-38.png

    They also provide details on construction and whole bunch of other stuff. This seems to be the standard for speaker marketing.

    Meanwhile Antigua Tele can also produce audio output graphs for pickups across the audible spectrum as well as output strength.

    Bottom line is if the speaker companies do it, why don't the pickup companies? Because if they did all the mojo would be exposed
    as BS and they wouldn't be able to charge so much for their products. JMHO....but just think for a second how a boutique guitar pickup can cost
    as much as a good quality Eminence speaker and yet how a speaker is SO much more complicated to manufacture with way more parts!
     
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  12. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

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    I used to swap pickups, until I found out how much impact pots and caps have in pickup output even when 'dimed'. Even pickup heights and screw pole heights can transform a bad sounding guitar to life. I've fixed a couple of flippers with just a nickel capacitor that would otherwise have been candidates for pickups swaps.

    .
     
  13. Rob DiStefano

    Rob DiStefano Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    tweaking pickup height and onboard circuits makes absolute sense, no matter how you feel about a pickup ya just soldered into yer guitar. always great advice.

    however, there is no way anyone will ever know precisely how a pickup will sound, in their guitar, with them playing, through their outboard rig(s). yes, it's all a cr@p shoot of sorts. you can get ballpark at best by listening to sound bytes, but the rubber meets the road when you do the deed and trust yer ears. all the stuff about DCR, inductance, henries, et al, might buy you a ticket to the dance but none will guarantee you'll be king or queen of the ball. it is what it is .... yeah, i wish it wasn't, but one needs to embrace reality, tune into the truth, and avoid the fake news. good luck to y'all. seriously.
     
  14. Zepfan

    Zepfan Poster Extraordinaire

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    Pickup videos done by the maker or the top seller always sound great.

    When ever I contemplate buying a particular pickup, I do a search on youtube and listen to several vids made by kids and adults with their home gear, some give details of their guitar and amp. The I decide if too many sounded too high, too dark, too meh or if most of them were decent/ good enough to buy. If most buyers are happy with their pickups, it's usually a good sign. Lots of players want their guitars as loud as they can go and almost all pickups sound good that way, but when the volume comes down and things are more quiet is when the tone matters most.

    That's all you can do is average out what your hearing for the best sounding pickups, install, adjust the heights for best tone and maybe do some electronic mods.
     
  15. 4pickupguy

    4pickupguy Poster Extraordinaire

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    That’s why I ain’t budging from my brand! Spent too many precious GAS points on things that didn’t work. We are truly blessed here. It’s almost unfair to the rest of the world.
     
  16. hopdybob

    hopdybob Tele-Afflicted

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    you are right, and when you can't, like i do, read/understand the techdata like antigua tele does and can
    everything might look as a snakepit.
    2 things, 1 use a good headphone, that helps better than crapy pc/laptop speakers, 2 there is a big chance that you will have some freq loss in your hearing.
    so what other may like, you may dislike.
    when you can point out guitar sound that you like, maybe you can get advise from the ones that like that to and got near to that with their pickups
    good luck
     
  17. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Listed specs are like part of a chili recipe.
    The DCR is the amount of chili powder.
    But the wire gauge is the size of the pot.
    The thinner the wire the bigger the pot.
    Yet knowing the amount of chili powder and the size of the pot, we still can't taste the chili.

    I don't know how Dimarzio claims an output in millivolts without giving specs for string gauge, which string or how many strings, how hard the strings are strummed, and the distance from pickup to pole piece.

    A better direction to go at the problem from might be why do we want to know what all the pickusp on earth sound like if we only play ten guitars and the pickups are 5% of our gear cost.
    If we want to be able to precisely choose/ tailor/ adjust the pickup part of our tone recipe, we might be better served by choosing a pickup maker who answers emails or phone calls and buying all our pickups from that one vendor/ maker.

    Want a little more treble?
    Tell the winder and they can adjust the pickup they made.

    Want to know what every model of every brand will sound like when you play it?
    Create a youtube account called "Dude reviews all the pickups" and solicit samples, then spend your life soldering and making videos.

    When I was trying to figure out how to choose pickups my best resource was old Fender pickups.
    I bought dozens of them and for the most part they were all useful in some position in some guitar.
    I bought some from thew only two makers around at the time, but Duncan and Dimarzio didn't make pickups I wanted that Fender hadn't already made for decades. Now of course old Fender pickups are valuable. Used to be shops gave dead ones away and I could often find a break and they worked.

    If I was starting from scratch now I'd ask Rob here for one of his twin lions and later when I wanted another pickup for another guitar I might put that twin in and get an idea of what if any difference I wanted in that instrument, then ask Rob for his recommendation.

    All the talk of how retailers should post lots of numbers and charts so we could get the exact sound we want from our guitar, our amp and our hands?

    Like tasting chili on paper.
    Taste the actual chili then talk to the chef if you want it a little different.

    True that speakers have more tech info including charts and dimension specs, yet buying speakers still comes down to internet discussion followed by buy and try. I've bought lots of barely used speakers because players can't hear a speaker on paper.

    Of course buying and trying all the different spendy makers stuff is fun if you have the time and the cash flow.
    Discussing and debating is fun too.
    But from the perspective of a player wanting targeted sounds from various guitars in a long term music making venture, I think it's worth working with a pickup winder who you can communicate with about known pickups they made and you use.

    A little secret about buying used pickups is that because Fender tends to not label pickups well or at all, buying them used the value runs low because buyers are taking a chance.
    I see CS pickups sell for as little as $20.
    If lots of buy and try is attractive, used Fender is great.

    I just bought a used Ibanez 7 string pickup from a $2000 Ibanez RG2027x.
    Going in a $100 Squier Stagemaster.
    The pickup was priced at $6.00 plus $4.39 shipping.
    Reckon it'll suck but who knows!
    Means little in this discussion but at the very least I know I won't know the sound of this guitar with this pickup by reading the specs.
    I did presume putting a neck pickup from a shred oriented 7 string in the bridge position might be closer to the clearer lower output pickups I prefer. Crap shoot one way or another...
     
  18. ping-ping-clicka

    ping-ping-clicka Tele-Holic

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    I have been using Dimarzio pickups since, well forever... and I find the descriptions/suggestions most helpful and have not had a disappointment regarding the pickups that I have decided to purchase . I now favor what would be called low output pickup, as the are lots of stomp gidgets and gadgets to drive the front end, compressors/sustainers, dirty up, warp, twist, spindle, and mutilate the guitars original output. Monster high gain amps french frying the guitars signal in lots of sci-fi flavors.
    being able to clean it up or blast from the guitars volume knob is still very important imho.
     
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  19. Antigua Tele

    Antigua Tele Friend of Leo's

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    Pro audio is replete with specs, and yet it doesn't seem to cause food metaphor conundrums.
     
  20. brookdalebill

    brookdalebill Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    I understand.
    I usually try to play instruments that have pickups I’m curious about.
    I also am not totally adverse to buying and trying pickups.
    I do not ever rely on YouTube videos or sound clips.
    Invariably I cannot determine what I the pickups sound like this way.
    I need to do a gig or two with the pickups to actually determine if they will work for.
    Though I no longer use any single coil pickups, I really liked the Rio Grande Muy Grande single coils.
     
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