Pickup Height - Critical or Subjective

Discussion in 'Just Pickups' started by DugT, Oct 27, 2021.

How critical is pickup height?

  1. Very

    58.2%
  2. Somewhat

    30.4%
  3. Anywhere within 2 or 3mm of too high is good enough. Just don't set them too high.

    11.4%
  1. 3fngrs

    3fngrs Friend of Leo's

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    I've had guitars that were set up by "pros" that sounded muddy because the pups were so close to the strings. Sounded much better when I backed them off. I almost always play with at least some dirt and, for me, I don't like the pups too high, especially humbuckers.

    That said, I haven't really figured out where I like the pups in my Telecaster. I should mess with them some more tonight. I'm going to jam again this weekend and I didn't like my sound last time.
     
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  2. naveed211

    naveed211 Friend of Leo's

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    It’s critical because it does make a big difference in tone.

    But not so critical you need to obsess over it and adjust a dozen times until it’s perfect.

    Rule of thumb, start really low.
     
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  3. Wallaby

    Wallaby Friend of Leo's

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    I'm going with critical.
     
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  4. Armo

    Armo Tele-Holic

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    There are screws provided to adjust the height so I think that might be a clue.
     
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  5. teletail

    teletail Friend of Leo's

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    Last edited: Oct 28, 2021
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  6. BobbyZ

    BobbyZ Doctor of Teleocity

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    Just start fiddling with the adjustment screws and see what you think. You might find a very slight change makes a big difference or that only drastic changes make any difference at all. Everyone hears things differently, some hear what they want to hear.
    Personally after 40 odd years of electric guitar playing, I can't hear chit.
     
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  7. Peegoo

    Peegoo Doctor of Teleocity

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    I didn't vote because 'critically subjective' wasn't a choice.
     
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  8. jvin248

    jvin248 Doctor of Teleocity

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    .

    Pickup height is critical and you should definitely stress over it first before chasing other mods like Pots 'n Caps and Pickup swapping.

    Pause this video at 5seconds in and you can see how Hendrix has his pickups set:
    -neck: Flush with the bass side slightly under flush
    -middle: Slightly above the pickguard with bass side tipped highest
    -bridge: A little higher than the middle pickup but also with the bass side tipped higher
    There used to be another video that was very clear as the camera person focused on the picking end rather than the fretboard for most of the closeup shots of the performance but sadly that one was removed. There are other Hendrix videos out there too. He borrowed a lot of Strats but most of them showed he adjusted pickup heights away from 'standard', more often low to the body and tipped.




    If you have pickups with stronger magnets, like Squier ceramic, then they will sound better/the same as alnico if you lower them. Alnico is quite weak in comparison and when players set their ceramic pickup heights 'by the specs!' (which were made using alnico) they will certainly sound 'bad'. On the other end of player desires: Alnico has a hard time pushing amps like ceramic magnets can for metal.

    I have two humbucker guitars where I rotated the pickups 180deg, lowered and raised the screw poles, to get a much better beefier tone out of the guitars. One guitar I did several years ago and it's been my favorite player, a second guitar in the 'not bonding with it' I did the same mod to a little bit ago and it's become the favorite player too. They sound more like quiet P90s. So don't forget you can adjust screw poles like having a little EQ pedal.

    .
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2021
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  9. Chiogtr4x

    Chiogtr4x Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    I do think pickup height is both critical and subjective/very personal ( just like dirt boxes, strings, pick preferences)

    It's actually been years now since I had any setups/work done on any of my electrics,

    but I know that whenever I say, had setups done, or new pickups installed, which were always set to (ex.) Stew-Mac's, 'Gibson or Fender pickup height spec'- the sound was too loud or brash for me. ( played into a clean Fender amp, as reference)

    The tone never seemed warm- too powerful for me, and I would lower the height.

    I would start with getting the best bridge PU alone sound/ height that was pleasing to my ears, then adjust the neck pickup ( and if it had one middle) to be in balance with it.

    * and always angled- favoring treble side, lower on bass on any pickup

    Something like that!- I've just left everything alone for so long
     
  10. arlum

    arlum Tele-Afflicted Platinum Supporter

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    I think pickup height plays a real role in a guitars tone and volume as well as getting a balanced output across the six strings. I don't believe that one size fits all. I adjust them so everything sounds right to my ears.
     
  11. dreamingtele

    dreamingtele Friend of Leo's

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    When I first came to TDPRI, people here told me adjust pickup heights.

    i was like HUH? Crazy people, what do you mean by setting it low will make it sound nicer or high makes it a bit louder and punchy?

    when I did it, and heard the difference, i became one of those crazy people.

    now i cant stop adjusting pickups until i hear what I like to hear. Never replaced stock pickups again after this.
     
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  12. rand z

    rand z Friend of Leo's

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    Yes.
     
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  13. Weazel

    Weazel Tele-Holic

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    ...and when the drummer kicks in....
     
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  14. Peegoo

    Peegoo Doctor of Teleocity

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    Remember that the amp matters too. If you gig or usually play with the amp dialed up loud, have your amp at gig level when adjusting the pickups. This really matters, especially if you use your guitar's volume and tone controls when playing.
     
  15. bblumentritt

    bblumentritt Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

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    There is definitely a 'sweet spot'. Some guitars (start with an "S" and end with "caster") are famous for out-of-tune issues from having the pickups too close to the strings.

    Different pickups require different height.

    Pickup Height
     
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  16. DekeDog

    DekeDog Tele-Afflicted

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    I heard that the closer pickups are to the strings, the more you hear the pickups; the farther away, the more you hear the guitar. I suspect this is true, esp. with hollow bodied guitars.

    When you buy from Lindy Fralin, he is emphatic that individual poles are preset to their optimum position relative to each other. I was having difficulty seating a control plate on a Tele, so I called him and sent pictures. (The problem was that the Tele was not properly routed to handle the selector switch in the reverse control plate.) He saw the pictures and asked me if I had adjusted the B-string pole on the bridge pickup, which I had. He strongly recommended I put it back to its original height, which I immediately did.
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2021
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  17. schoolie

    schoolie Tele-Holic

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    It makes a huge difference in tone...and intonation. Maybe even more than wood species.
     
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  18. yegbert

    yegbert Poster Extraordinaire

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    I like the Tele neck pickup especially to be low. I like the bass understated, and low sounds right for my playing style. But I don’t know whether a slight change up or down makes a difference.

    What might be useful would be some discussion how a change lower or higher affects the tone.
     
  19. DekeDog

    DekeDog Tele-Afflicted

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  20. Matthias

    Matthias Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

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    You can go so high it causes issues with the string sounding clearly and in pitch. Below that, it’s up to what you want to achieve. Most definitely a pick-up height adjustment can be a more dramatic difference than some pick-up swaps.
     
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