What makes pickups sound different from each other?

DJLockjaw

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As far as I'm aware, there are a very limited number of factors that could make two similar pickups sound different. Take any given pickup - you've got format (humbucker, single coil, p90, etc) magnet type, wire gauge, potted/unpotted, and number of winds. What makes two very similar pickups sound different?
 

PennyroyalFrog

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Gauge of wire, the width of the coil, slugs versus bar magnets, and probably other factors. Some people claim scatter wound pickups make a considerable difference but not sure on that.
 

schmee

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Mostly how hot the wind is. Generally, the hotter, the less bright on the top in similar pickups. But it's not huge. Type of Alnico or magnet matters too , for the same reasons.
 

Killing Floor

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The variation in magnets and the turns to me. I will admit I am too ear-ringy to tell the difference in the wire quality if there is an audible difference. Even with the cicadas in my head I can tell the difference in some pickup types and poles. Obviously this assumes parameters like position and height and player are the same.

Absolutely every part of your circuit from the pickup to the pots to the jacks to the cable to your pedals and amp all affect tone to some degree because every component and solder joint and change of material affects the electrical signal. Whether you can detect it all is the issue.

And while I do believe pickups make a difference the player is part of tone and my favorite pickup might not work for you. Even on the same structure the number of turns makes a difference that you’ll hear. The important thing to remember is if you like the way a guitar sounds in your hands you should not change pickups just for the exercise.
 

Si G X

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What makes two very similar pickups sound different?

Nothing? I think 'very similar' pickups sound very similar.

For reference, I don't consider a vintage style PAF anything like a Strat single coil and that's why they sound different.

Other than them both being magnetic pickups, they aren't similar in any way.
 

SixStringSlinger

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“Format” means more than humbucker vs single coil vs…

PAFs, mini-humbuckers, Filtertrons, Firebirds and others are all humbuckers, but all different. Same with Strat pickups and Tele pickups and Jazzmaster pickups and P90’s and…

Pretty much everything but color will make some difference, but whether/how much you what it and whether/how much you care are the big variables.
 

Lou Tencodpees

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I have used 2 sets of the same Strat pickups (Fralin Real 54's) expecting mostly the same results. One alder body, one ash, both maple necks. Totally different results. I can't say I went as far as measuring pot values other than all were rated 250k.

I'm a believer in "sum of all parts" but it made me wonder if consistency in pickup manufacturing is also a factor.
 

JIMMY JAZZMAN

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Actually, it's where they are positioned on your guitar. Take any guitar with the same pickups,
the only difference is their position on the guitar. Hence the different tones.
 

thegaijin

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So to summarize so far….

Position of pickups on your guitar
Consistency in pickup manufacturing
Format
Magnet type
Magnet strength
Magnet quality
Wire gauge
Potted/unpotted
Number of winds
Pickup height
Speed of the wind
Humidity level
Pickup cover

lots of factors
 

somebodyelseuk

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I have used 2 sets of the same Strat pickups (Fralin Real 54's) expecting mostly the same results. One alder body, one ash, both maple necks. Totally different results. I can't say I went as far as measuring pot values other than all were rated 250k.

I'm a believer in "sum of all parts" but it made me wonder if consistency in pickup manufacturing is also a factor.
This... plus (in)consistency in pickup materials manufacture and potentiometer manufacture.
 

radiocaster

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Sometimes they sound different. But sometimes they sound similar despite the differences. Not really humbuckers and single coils, but different magnets, construction, sometimes even resistance readings.
 




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