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Pure Vintage ‘56 Strat Pickups - Why A3?

Discussion in 'Just Pickups' started by Ethan2776, Jan 23, 2021.

  1. Ethan2776

    Ethan2776 TDPRI Member

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    Hello all,

    I have an AV 56 Strat that I absolutely love. The PV 56 pickups have A3 magnets, and I’m curious why Fender would choose these, since A5s would be vintage accurate for a 1956 model (unless I’m mistaken). Fender seems to put a lot of effort into making their PV series vintage accurate, so I was wondering if I am missing something.

    Anybody know?

    thanks!
     
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  2. mkdaws32

    mkdaws32 Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

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    My guess is that the strength of the A3 magnets approximates the strength of the aged A5s in the original pickups. So instead of making them sound like they would have new in 56, they are trying to make them sound like a pickup made in 56 would sound in 2021
     
  3. Ethan2776

    Ethan2776 TDPRI Member

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    That totally makes sense, thank you!
     
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  4. DougM

    DougM Poster Extraordinaire

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    Fender does a lot of stupid stuff like that. Like making many famous custom colors in a very faded and yellowed version, like a poorly cared for 50 year old guitar, instead of what those colors looked like new in the 60s. It's almost as stupid as relic guitars, but the people that like relic guitars probably like those yucky colors too. I despise them both.
     
  5. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Yeah, I thought the A3 were just '54 and maybe '55?
    What happened in '56, the V neck?
    Maybe they wanted to combine the '54 sound with the '56 neck? Two popular early Strat features?
     
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  6. notroHnhoJ

    notroHnhoJ Tele-Meister

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    I think those pickups are absolutely the shiznitt. I have an AV56 as well, and those pickups are easily 80% of my enthusiasm for that strat, not that any of the guitar sucks at all. I think they are absolutely classic sounding. The most fun thing though in my opinion, is how the relatively low gauss makes for just about zero warble. You can crank them pretty close to the string if thats your jam. Also, every pickup sounds great in every position. Its so much damn fun, best stratocaster I’ve ever owned.
     
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  7. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Hmmm, I've had '50s & '60s A5 Strat pickups and a set of the early A3 Strat pickups, what i hear is A3 has a sound that's not just old A5, and any magnet can be charged or discharged to any measured gauss strength one chooses.

    Fender had to have been thinking some other thing.
     
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  8. notroHnhoJ

    notroHnhoJ Tele-Meister

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    I would be willing to bet, its a small historical “stretch” to cover two bases, maybe even 3 bases, if you count the AV56 comes with two different body woods. The limited run AV 54 from 2014 has essentially the same pickup. The only difference being the pole pieces are chamfered.
     
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  9. Jay Jernigan

    Jay Jernigan Tele-Afflicted

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    When I think '50s Strat, A3 magnets come to mind. Vintage correct? I guess not.
    Tend to think that way about Tele bridge pickups, also. Probably also wrong.
    But it is what comes to mind.
     
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  10. mkdaws32

    mkdaws32 Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

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    I could be off base there for sure. Just a stab at what they might have been thinking. A less than fully charged A5 would be more “vintage correct”.

    As a side note, I generally find A5s to be “modern” sounding, and by that I don’t mean higher output or anything like that, they just seem crisper or clearer with a more immediate attack. To me, A2s actually feel and sound more in the vintage camp - spongier and a little more complex sounding. But that’s probably generally got more to do with how the two A2 sets I have are charged and wound. There’s a lot more to a pickup’s sound than the type of magnets used and more than one way to achieve a particular tone. Fender was undoubtedly taking a design path that would lead to what they consider the 56 tone and not so concerned about “vintage correct” materials.

    Now whether they were aiming for a 56 “new” tone or a 56 “aged” tone, your guess is as good as mine.
     
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  11. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Yeah I mean what we hear is pretty subjective, and things like spongy are not metallurgy!

    I hear A2 as sorta like discharged A5, but A3 is the one that's not merely weaker.

    A5 I do not hear as modern because I've been using 40-50-60yo A5 pickups for 40 years, and whatever early '50s year the Tele got A5 in the bridge is certainly "vintage"!

    In a way I think the modern idea that old Tele bridge pickups have ice pick tone, makes softer warmer toned hotter over wound pickups in Telecasters "modern", to my thinking.
    A vintage Tele bridge pickup, and all vintage Strat pickups after '55, are A5 low wind brilliantly bright cutting tone makers.

    Modern Tele and Strat pickups are hotter, darker, warmer, and even sorta "more spongy", in terms of the subtle effect a hotter coil has on the attack.

    But the short early use of A3, (that material isn't even actually alnico, because it has no cobalt, so it's really "AlNi". all other alnico formulas have the three elements in the name), A3 gets the most distinctly different sound, and IME you need A3 to get an A3 sound, then need A2 or A5 to escape the A3 sound, regardless of the charge variation. A5 and A2 might get sorta close if comparing a weak charge A5 to a strong charge A2.

    It's a bit of a mystery why after Fender switched the Broadcaster/ Tele bridge mags from A3 to A5, why did they bring back the A3 for the first Strat, when they wanted the Strat to be so much better than the Tele that they would stop producing Telecasters and stick to the "better" model?

    Well, I can't stand A3 in a Tele bridge because it's just too damn soft toned.
    But in a Strat it can be really nice, probably the only guitar I've ever liked A3 in.
    Maybe a better question is why did the switch the Strat quickly to A5?
    Could easily be the Country players Leo had testing new designs wanted max twang into whatever amp and speakers he used?
     
  12. schmee

    schmee Doctor of Teleocity

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    Most of this stuff is just to produce sales. You have to come up with something new all the time so people will buy. Reissue amps, reissue guitars, magnets get discussed on forums... next thing you know, different magnets!
     
  13. mkdaws32

    mkdaws32 Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

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    @telemnemonics

    I hear ya. Our experience will all tell us different things and our interpretation of things will be biased by that experience.

    My experience with A2 sets have been SD Alnico Pro II and Bootstrat Golden Ale sets - although my Golden Ales are slightly overwound custom pickups, they are still firmly in the vintage output range to me. The A5s I’m accustom too are usually overwound - especially the bridge position. In fact I have two Strats with A2s in the neck and middle and overwound A5s in the bridge. I have a third start with Tex Mex pickups right now and a forth with Bootstrap Oatmeal stout pickups. Both of these sets are A5 and overwound “modern” output. Although the Tex Mex set is not too hot, it certainly does not sound vintage in any way. Could be why, when I think of A5, I think of modern ;)

    Ive only played A3s in a Tele, and I really liked the tone, although I could’t really describe it in a way that would differentiate it from A2 or A5 and I have no idea what the wind on that A3 pickup was, in any case. And I had no idea there was no cobalt in an A3.

    Interesting thread for sure, this one! And I’m very interested in and A3 Strat set now - gonna need another Strat ;)
     
  14. FrontPU

    FrontPU Tele-Holic

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    I have had 2 or 3 real examples from 1956 with A3 pickups in my hands. So I personally am not confused with those pickup makers using A3 for their early strat models.
     
  15. Cadillac_Mike

    Cadillac_Mike Tele-Meister

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    That makes no sense, Fender only used A3's on original 1954 pups in the first half of production run as I know it. Fender is dumb like that. The coveted 57/62 pups are actually based on a 1963 pre-CBS pup lol.
     
  16. Ethan2776

    Ethan2776 TDPRI Member

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    Thank you so much for this, all my research led me to believe this wasn’t the case...awesome to know they still used A3’s for some 1956 models.
     
  17. EsquireOK

    EsquireOK Poster Extraordinaire

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    Pickup magnets significantly losing magnetism is largely a myth.

    They used A3 because it allowed them to get the balance between e.q. peaks and output that they wanted. They built/wound to a certain desired tone at a certain given magnetic strength.

    They also aren't vintage inaccurate. There were norms at Fender, but supply chains were not 100 percent reliable. Additionally, any one alnico alloy is different from factory to factory and batch to batch, today, as it was back then.

    Bottom line, there isn't much point to exactly replicating the "grade" of alnico used in the old days. It wasn't consistent back then, and it isn't consistent today. The best thing to do is shoot for a tonal goal, and use a refined understanding of electrical engineering to get there however you best can, exact specs be damned.

    What I can say is that that set is incredible sounding – perhaps the best set of Fender pickups I have ever played on. They are sweet, aggressive, and articulate all at the same time...and NOT weak in output. It's nearly identical to the limited edition '54 set (of which only 2x1,954 sets were made: 1,954 in guitars, and 1,954 as accessory sets). The only real difference is that the '54s have beveled magnet tops. The inductance is in the neighborhood of 2.6 Henrys, and the DC R is around 6.0 KOhm. They are also very similar to the Fat '50's bridge pickup, but in all three positions, not underwound in the middle and neck positions.
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2021
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  18. Ethan2776

    Ethan2776 TDPRI Member

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    Thanks for this, great insight - I agree, they are one of the best sets of pickups I’ve ever had
     
  19. notroHnhoJ

    notroHnhoJ Tele-Meister

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    I’m glad somebody else likes these strat pickups as much as I do. I’m with you on “best set of Fender pickups.”
     
  20. rigatele

    rigatele Tele-Afflicted

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    Marketing. There is very little difference between A3 and A2 electromagnetically. They know that people get all wound up about anything unique or rare.
     
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