Anyone else wonder how much pickups actually matter?

Discussion in 'Pickups, Electronics & General Tech' started by Nag, Jan 10, 2021.

  1. laxu

    laxu SS.org Regular

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    I have a nearly 40 years old Yamaha SA-1200S. Its stock pickups sounded fine, but they had a distinct imbalance to their tones. The bridge humbucker had a whole lot of midrange honk to it which meant that if you dialed it out with amp EQ the neck pickup was too thin sounding.

    I explained my issue to Vintage Vibe and they recommended one of their models with Alnico 2 magnets. The magnets on their pickups are super easy to change as you just screw out the bottom plate of the pickup and throw in new magnets. I got some Alnico V magnets installed on the pickups I bought, with Alnico 2 spares shipped with it.

    Well, the Alnico Vs were the total wrong magnet for the guitar. It sounded bright and harsh but at least the midrange honk was gone. But it made me want to sell the guitar. Then I remembered the Alnico 2 magnets and slapped those in. Now it's one of my favorite sounding guitars and that simple magnet swap made it sound exactly right.

    There's a good amount you can do with just messing with pickup height. I'd say there are a lot of subtleties that will not be apparent if you just hear a recording of someone else playing. Pickups definitely matter, but once you get to the quality level of Seymour Duncans and DiMarzios it's just variety of different flavors rather than better or worse. I currently own guitars with Duncan, Fender, Suhr, G&L, Vintage Vibe, Kiesel, BKP, Mastertone and Wolfetone pickups. They are all good. You take a gamble on a pickup and hope it is a good match for your guitar.
     
  2. bzhang9

    bzhang9 SS.org Regular

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    Just tested 2 similar prestige 7s, same pickup height, same rig, same strings etc. PAF7s sounded beefier than titans 7s, and just as tight...
     
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  3. Runander

    Runander SS.org Regular

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    Although, the Black Winter has me interested as well. Way more expensive than the EMG 57/66. Plus I really can’t be bothered with soldering right now.
     
  4. HoneyNut

    HoneyNut Regular

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    Pickups, string type, guage, scale length and amp IS THE GUITAR. Everything else is a myth.
     
  5. ThomasVB

    ThomasVB SS.org Regular

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    I think the difference is still enough to make it an important factor.

    That's a cool video, but keep in mind we're hearing this in a mix.
    This means the guitars have probably some lowpass and highpass filtering applied which does a lot to the overall tightness.

    Especially if you're playing on stage through a stack it matters a lot for the tightness and I personally just like the overall tight EMG active sound more than any other passive pickup for high gain.
    Most passives are just too bassy, which messes up overall tightness.

    Another factor is, are you a guitar player that also plays cleans and crunch? Because playing cleans with a telecaster with single coils is a totally different feel and sound than a double humbucker equipped guitar.
    But yeah, overall I think pickups are definitely worth the expense, also because they're not an expensive thing in your whole chain.
    Sometimes it's just more of a 'feel' thing than a big difference in sound, for sure.
     
  6. BornToLooze

    BornToLooze SS.org Regular

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    They matter as much as you think they do.
     
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  7. Merrekof

    Merrekof SS.org Regular

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    Pickups matter more for aesthetics for me. You could consider different pickups as different EQ and compressor settings at the start of the signal chain. A new set of pickups could make a meh sounding guitar better but this comes down to personal preference.
     
  8. Themistocles

    Themistocles SS.org Regular

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    they matter more on some guitars more than others. I can correct ok pickups with a screwdriver and some EQ. It's easy. Uninspiring pickups or ones that dont fit the respof the character of the guitar matter more.

    Another question is suitability for type of music and whether youd prefer single coils or humbuckers... I keep jonesing for p90's in the neck position but only Bare knuckle and Lundgren make em as far as Ive found. a p-90 does behave differently than a humbucker.

    Also, some guitars and amps are very pickup sensitive... others not so much.
     
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  9. gnoll

    gnoll SS.org Regular

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    No there's a bunch of other stuff that makes a difference.
     
  10. odibrom

    odibrom .

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    ... you're forgetting pots. Pots change the way a pickup reacts, feels and sounds. And if you add some caps (and other electronic components) to the mix, those matter a lot too.
     
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  11. Emperoff

    Emperoff Not using 5150s Contributor

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    The amount of things you think that matter on the signal chain is inversely proportional to the time you play the damn guitar :lol:
     
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  12. Legion

    Legion is a bloody army.

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    I keep going between one of two modes:

    1) No they dont matter because I got the pickups I want

    2) They are the fucking core of your tone because some company released a new pickup and I MUST HAVE IT

    :lol:
     
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  13. Gtan7

    Gtan7 SS.org Regular

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    Picks, strings, pickups, caps/pots, pedals, preamp , power stage, speakers, cab mike and preamp..

    of those you have most control of the beginning of the chain, pickups, strings, picking technique. Godo pickups can make up for sub par stuff later in the chain losing tone/string separation, but not vice versa at least that's my theory (i just got 3 custom pickups to test the theory)
     
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  14. Flappydoodle

    Flappydoodle SS.org Regular

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    Simply untrue.

    If you would like to prove yourself wrong, go to a huge guitar store and try out 20 different Gibson Les Pauls.

    All have the same construction, scale length etc. Yet I guarantee that some of them will be sustain-filled monsters, and some will be dead, uninspiring planks of wood.

    I wouldn't go full "tone wood", but it's very clear that some pieces are better than others, and the overall combination is very important. You also missed the nut, bridge and frets in your statement. All places which the string touches.
     
  15. odibrom

    odibrom .

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    ... setup is EVERYTHING for a guitar, besides all the rest. A bad setup ruins an otherwise perfect top tier guitar, as well as an excellent setup brings from the dead the most basic and dull guitar... since we're at what makes a guitar sound different from one alike...
     
  16. MaxOfMetal

    MaxOfMetal Likes trem wankery. Super Moderator

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    It's almost like ignoring one thing, and putting too much stock in another is a bad thing. Weird.
     
  17. devastone

    devastone SS.org Regular

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    I think it was John Suhr that said "practice fixes most tone issues" or something like that. Speaking of which, I have a lot of tone issues to fix, problem is finding time now days, CoVid did not give me more at home time.
     
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  18. Andii

    Andii MAMMALHAMMER

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    Pickups matter a lot. They matter the most when everything else is really nailed down. As you get closer and closer to your perfect recorded tone, every little component matters more and more.

    If there's a problem somewhere with your cab micing or impulse response or amp or settings or your hands, the pickup won't make very much difference and everything will sound nearly the same, because it doesn't have the fidelity and clarity to begin with.
     
  19. TheBolivianSniper

    TheBolivianSniper SS.org Regular

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    Yeah on that point, I thought I needed a pickup swap on that 7 string I had a while ago. It turns out I'm just bad. I've been getting about an hour or so in every day since January or so and a lot of what I play sounds tight, clear, and precise. The pickups and guitars matter a lot but I can take the Rockerverb plugin I have, load on the mids, plug my X2N-loaded BC Rich into it, and still have clarity.
     
  20. Themistocles

    Themistocles SS.org Regular

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    It is true, certain pickups will reveal a lot... in that way they can improve your playing by revealing what needs to be addresed. Dimarzio Evolutions are like that and what I keep on my old RG to this day.
     

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