High Output vs Low Output pickups?

Discussion in 'Pickups, Electronics & General Tech' started by littlebadboy, Aug 9, 2018.

  1. littlebadboy

    littlebadboy SS.org Regular

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    I know this can be googled, but thought it would be a nice reference for google hits. Not sure too if its the right section, but here goes...

    As I am working on demo'ing to review a high output humbucker, I was wondering...

    How do you call a high output pickup or low output pickup so?
    What are the differences between the two?
    What are the pros and cons of each?
    Are high output pickups the default for modern metal?

    Just picking your minds! Thanks!
     
  2. Lemonbaby

    Lemonbaby SS.org Regular

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    The term "high output" was created when Strats with their ~100mV SCs and vintage humbuckers with ~200mV were a big thing. I'd say that 95% of all humbuckers released in the last 20 years belong to the high output group.
     
  3. Andrew Lloyd Webber

    Andrew Lloyd Webber Super Duper Moduraturr

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    +1 to that. Here’s my longwinded, sanctimonious version:

    Mr. littlebadboy: Are you asking because you don’t know, or because you just want to see what the usual gang of idiots are willing to say about electromagnets they don’t understand? Either way, I’m looking forward to the degree of insight informing this Youtube review, and am certain that interested googlers will appreciate the way whatever is posted in this thread contrasts the other 150,000 search results of Pickups 101 threads dating back to 2004. That said:


    From the 1950’s to the present, arguably the main consumer trend driving product development in guitar pickup construction has been the desire to output more millivolts to the amplifier. In this strictly comparative sense, “modern” pickups, - compared to samples of older designs - are high-output; with pickups produced with the intent to be similar to the specifications of those produced in the 1950s and 60’s having comparatively low output.

    The most common means of increasing the amount of voltage a pickup induces is to increase the amount of wire wound around the pickup bobbin during its construction. Many manufacturers also use stronger magnets either instead or in conjunction with this approach.

    In the former approach, the amount of wire wound around the pickup bobbin will yield a particular direct current-resistance (measured in ohms), which is a helpful measurement in winding pickups to a specified ohmage.

    In comparing pickups of different ohmages, we can observe and measure that two pickups of identical construction, but with one wound with more wire and to a greater ohmage, will yield pickups with two different resonant peaks. A guitar pickup’s resonant peak is the intersection of the pickup’s peak decibel (volume) range with a frequency range. Generally speaking, the higher the electrical resistance of a guitar pickup’s coil windings, the lower the resulting resonant peak of the pickup.

    Because this phenomenon (in conjunction with many other variables) imparts particular aural artifacts into the resulting signal the pickup produces in its function as a transducer, players commonly regard these artifacts as the “voice”, or defining character, of a guitar pickup.

    Speaking in very general and greatly oversimplified terms, higher-output pickups will have a lower volume of high-end frequencies represented in the signal they produce, whereas lower-output pickups will have more from this higher frequency-range present in its signal, but at an overall lower-volume, due to being a lower-voltage signal.

    There are a million product variations covering just this single spectrum of the relationship between resonant peak and ohmage, due to players developing personal preference toward particular balances between the two. And, though many players play in the metal guitar style with low-output pickups, higher-output pickups voiced specifically for metal applications are much more common; as the greater voltage allows players to achieve a desired gain level with fewer gain stages in their signal chain between the guitar and amplifier.

    However, it is strictly a matter of preference informed by whichever prejudices a guitar player has accumulated in the lifetime of their role as a consumer of citationless internet gossip perpetrated by those who both fetishize bad, buzzy guitar sounds and believe they can buy their way to replicating these same sounds from and within the comfort of their bedrooms - Often to the point of A/Bing the same gear against a YouTube video of the player they strive to imitate, without considering that they’re trying to dial their 4x12 to sound the way a codec-affected MP4 file of a different acoustic environment sounds through their MacBook speakers.

    This process imbues them with great wisdom, which they then share, propagate, and zealously defend on internet messageboards. This process, known as “internet points”, is where the dissemination of the information ends. The bedroom player, having followed his role through with minimal cognitive dissonance, is then able to sleep. They never wake up.
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2018
  4. possumkiller

    possumkiller Goose stepping in front of a mirror

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    I want to marry your brain.
     
  5. KnightBrolaire

    KnightBrolaire pickupwhoricus americanus

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    unless you're actively measuring/comparing the Mv output or henries reading on the pickups with a multimeter, calling something high/low output is kind of subjective. guys that are used to lower output vintage pickups would probably call anything I like higher output.
    As far as usage goes, it really depends on the voicing of the pickup. You're going to have a hell of a time trying to get pickups that emphasize certain frequencies to sound the way you want without considerable tweaking via eqs, and even then they might not conform to that particular sound.

    The trend as of late seems to be a lot of people moving away from super high output pickups and moving back towards more medium/medium high output, though it's kind of a cyclical trend. In the 70s/early 80s a lot of players were using pretty high output pickups to slam the front of their amps, but as amps became capable of pumping out more gain, people started ditching the high output pickups. The same thing has kind of happened with people using modern rigs/amps, where they can get ridiculous amounts of gain, so there's less of a need for high output pickups.

    One thing I've found is that with ERGs in particular, higher output pickups are less and less viable with every string added. With 6 strings you can get away with certain pickup voicings that just don't work once you add more low strings. A perfect example would be the bkp warpig. The bass heavy low end is great for brighter guitars that need some filling out sonically. The problem is the 8 string version can get muddy on the low end because of that increased bass from the pickup.
     
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  6. USMarine75

    USMarine75 Lover of sasquatch erotica Contributor

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    Completely subjective - what Guitarmory and BKP consider low/med output vs Mojotone, Fralin, or TV Jones.
     
  7. littlebadboy

    littlebadboy SS.org Regular

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    First of all, thank you for your in-depth explanation.

    The reason I asked is because I noticed that with the stock humbucker that came with the guitar, it measures 7.5k. It makes decent drive sounds, actually, it was good enough to play heavy! Then, when I tried a high output humbucker at 17k, it gives better driven sound but also catches some other things from playing. So, is that what high output humbcukers do - picking up more tonal ranges or frequencies making it more lively?

    And... the way I see it, preferences is subjective to preference and what you play, right?

    For everyone, is this right?
    High Output for really heavy metal?
    Medium Output for in the area of crunchy rock?
    Light output for cleans?
     
  8. budda

    budda Guiterrorizer Contributor

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    I run what I'm guessing is "medium-ish" output for everything. I'm going to sound like me whether it's EMG's, a stock MIM strat, or my PRS S2 I use now. What's going to change is the amount of gain used :lol:
     
  9. mnemonic

    mnemonic Custom User Title

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    DC resistance is not a great way to measure output of a pickup. I guess all other variables being equal, you can kind of tell how overwound or underwound a pickup is, but there are a lot of other factors at play, like magnet type and size.

    For instance I have a Seymour Duncan JB that measures like 19k or 20k dc resistance yet my Bill Lawrence L500XL, which only measures 12k, is significantly higher output. And I have a Lundgren M7 that measures similar, like 13k or something, that is kind of between the two in output.
     
  10. TonyFlyingSquirrel

    TonyFlyingSquirrel Cherokee Warrior

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    Bring active circuitry into the mix, and the playing field widens even more.
     
  11. The906

    The906 Hella rad Contributor

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  12. fps

    fps Kit

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    The human ear always hears something that's *louder* as *better*. Just bear this in mind when using the 17k (higher output) humbucker!

    Others have explained much better than I ever could. I'd add that maybe to stand out you could be the first to use a particular kind of pickup for a particular purpose. Or play death metal, but with clean guitar tones!
     
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  13. Lindmann

    Lindmann SS.org Rectangular

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    If your gain knob has fallen off or you're playing a Fender Tweed...then: yes
    Otherwise: No
     
  14. Andrew Lloyd Webber

    Andrew Lloyd Webber Super Duper Moduraturr

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    Guitar players have to be some of the least-disciplined minds you can find: They want everything they don’t know boiled down to prescriptions for tonewood or kiloohm trivia that they can recall within 25% accuracy any time they need to let the comment section of a YouTube video know they haven’t just been wasting their time.

    They have no interest in developing or even engaging any concept not presented as a Life Hack That Will Transform Your Playing in Ten Minutes. Then they wonder why their list of recommended videos is populated with red circles and guys making faces at the question “Piss vs Shit - What’s the Difference?.”

    It’s because Youtube immediately recognized your algorithm of mediocrity.
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2018
  15. Airhead

    Airhead SS.org Regular

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    On my 7 strings RAN I used to have Dimarzio Crunch Lab + LiquiFire set, but after a while I change it with DiMarzio PAF7 set. I play indoor, no band, no outside show, through my Orange Dark Terror and PPC112 cab. For my ears, the low output pickup is more accurate in sound definition than the high output pickup. Maybe because of the wood combination (mahogany body, ovangkol top, 5P maple/mahogany neck, ebony fingerboard) or other reasons, but I am happy with low output pickup on 7 strings RAN.
    On other hand, I have a ESP LTD KH-602 with EMG pickup, and it sound great with my setup.
    So, in my opinion is a matter of personal preference.
     

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