Pros/cons between direct mounted pickups vs pickups on a pickguard

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Sound differences? Yeah right... although some will claim to hear a butterfly wings' flap...

Pickguard PROS - probably faster to change pickups or pickup sets. Allows for electronic service away from the guitar... *
Direct mounted pickups PROS - prettier and less parts to source if broken.

@Stiman there are solutions like that on the market and you can go to a hardware store and get yourself some inserts... easy-peasy...


* - considering the guitar is top routed and that the pickguard is not an Add-On mod just for the looks...
 
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Stiman

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Looks like I misread the title and thought pickups rings but you meant pick guard. In any case, it’s very similar. Unless going full custom build, there are usually a long list of higher priority specs above pickup mounting that I feel that if you find a guitar that has most of what you want, the pickup mounting isn’t what’s going to kill the deal. Although it may for some people.

@odibrom I didn’t know that, good to know.
 

Turd Ferguson

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Seems to me with direct mounted you can't adjust pickup height, only individual pole pieces (if adjustable). Is that right?
 

bigcupholder

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I've always thought the argument that "direct mount allows the pickup to sense the vibrations of the body better" was a load of BS. It's aesthetics vs function.

Seems to me with direct mounted you can't adjust pickup height, only individual pole pieces (if adjustable). Is that right?
You can adjust it still. There's foam under the pickup pushing it up against the screw head, so as you loosen the screw the pickup will raise.
 
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The pickguard as designed by Fender has the purpose to hide the guitars' top routings and secure all electronics, against the more complex Gibson build, where the cable management channels are permanently hidden by the top wood. Fender's take made cheaper guitars due to cheaper manufacturing. Then it became a look, a canvas where people could express themselves without wrecking the guitars' finish... I know I do it on my Universe, but truth be told, its original pickguard was already shattered when I bought the guitar... so purpose and opportunity for me... yeah...

Pickup rings as Gibson designed them had the purpose to make sure the pickups's top surface is parallel to the strings, hence there are different rings for the neck and bridge pickups. As for flat top guitars, pickup rings are just aesthetics unless they're Seymour Duncan's Tripleshots... then there's functionality as well.
 

Matt08642

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Overall I prefer direct mounted with a rear electronics cavity. To me this is the easiest for pickup swaps (as I've done many times in my RG752) and looks the best. Pickguard electronics seem easier to swap, but the whole pickguard having to come off vs. just needing to loosen the strings and sneak a pickup out is no-contest for me.

The cons are there though. For instance, you might need to route the guitar or mod the pickup tabs if you want to switch brands, there's a chance of the holes in the body stripping and needing to be filled (happened on my 7620), and the foam will lose it's bounce over time and need to be replaced.
 

spudmunkey

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A pickguard allows you to experiment with different pickup configs with no woodworking skills. Have a SSS but want to switch to HSS or HH or H_S, single humbucker or HSH? You're just a new pickguard away. no routing, filling, refinishing, etc.

A pickguard is more likely to acquire a static charge leading to crackles, even with it seeming like everything is perfectly grounded. I'm sure this means that it's NOT properly grounded, but it's something I had to deal with when living in a very dry environment with a Strat.

A pickguard is repaceable, so it's a low-stakes place to add stickers, hand painting, carving, etc.



OK, so I can think of one niche of a niche scenario where direct mounted pickups sound different than pickup mounted...but not because of how you're thinking.Kiesel's two versions of their Beryllium single coil pickups::

1) like this for direct mount:
1664409051850.png


2) Like this, for use with pickguard:
1664408884182.png 1664409254387.png


The reason: the #2 design gave them the tone they wanted from the Berylium single coil pickup, but it wouldn't work with non-pickguard models, so they made the #1 design to be as close as they could to #2 for their other models, but it's still different enough that they prefered to continue using #2 for models that can support it.
 

SubsonicDoom99

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As everyone has basically stated, the tone difference between direct mount and pickguard mounted/mounting rings is pretty much non-existent to my ears.
I have seen the arguement that direct mounting adds to the vibrations and all that, but I've never noticed it.
I know some players who've had issues with direct mounted pickups suffering more damage from their picking hand because they play more aggressively, and claim that having mounting rings or having a pickguard somehow minimizes the damaging impact on the pickup itself, but again this isn't something I've experienced personally. For me its basically all visual, some guitars really look better with direct mounted pups but others I just greatly prefer the look of rings or a pickguard.
 

Der JD

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If you feel there's even a small chance that you'll be doing pickup swaps, I'd definitely recommend rings or a pickguard. Direct mounts often (not always) can be a pain in the ass for pickup swaps. Routes that are too small or too large, stripped screws, stripped wood, holes that aren't deep enough, etc.
 

Crash Dandicoot

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There should be an insert that you screw into and out of, instead of a wood screw directly into the wood IMO

One of my favorite mods I do to all my guitars with direct mounting - though I've done it for control cavities, truss rod covers, etc. Wood screws seem archaic and unrefined in contrast.

95110A110p1-b01-digitall@2x_637122752052358335.png 98164A435Polished-Steelnegative_right_positive_front_standard15_1637159778_950@2x_637727350794...png

Screw-to-expand inserts (with a tiny dab of adhesive on the sides) and some button head hex drive screws. Drill to size, countersink them if you wanna get fancy and off you go.
 

eaeolian

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Drew

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I could maybe be convinced to entertain theoretical arguments that any time you're suspending a pickup on springs or rubber rings or foam or whatever away from the body of the guitar, the pickup is being slightly decoupled from the guitar's body vibrations, which theorectially might make it ever-so-slightly better able to sense the vibrations of the strings, if they're vibrating in phase, or more susceptable to faint phase cancelletation, if they're not...

...but, like, we're talking so at-the-margin that I'd have a hard time seeing this as material. And, for direct mount, unless the pickup is physically screwed down to be in contact with the guitar body, and isnt being height-adjusted with the help of springs or foam, I'd expect that potential faint effect to go right out the window.

In practice it's almost certainly just aesthetics, and ease of adjustment. I own guitars with both, and like them both.
 

Turd Ferguson

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Can anyone point me to a particular foam material to use under direct mounted pickups? I just double-checked my Jackson Pro Soloist, and when I loosen the mount screws, the pickup just flops around. So there doesn't seem to be anything under there. I'd like to raise it a little.
 

eaeolian

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I could maybe be convinced to entertain theoretical arguments that any time you're suspending a pickup on springs or rubber rings or foam or whatever away from the body of the guitar, the pickup is being slightly decoupled from the guitar's body vibrations, which theorectially might make it ever-so-slightly better able to sense the vibrations of the strings, if they're vibrating in phase, or more susceptable to faint phase cancelletation, if they're not...
both, and like them both.
Pickups generate an electric current as the strings cut their magnetic field. If the pickup is somehow coupling with the vibrations of the mounting system, it's microphonic, which is not a desired characteristic. YMMV.
 

Drew

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Pickups generate an electric current as the strings cut their magnetic field. If the pickup is somehow coupling with the vibrations of the mounting system, it's microphonic, which is not a desired characteristic. YMMV.
But to do that it requires motion, and specifically motion relative to the pickup, right? So it matters if the pickup is moving or stationary - taken to extremes, if the pickup was moving at exactly the same magnitude as the string, then idf they were in phase the relative movement of the string relative to the pickup would be zero, and out of phase it would be 2x the vibration of the string, and double the amplitude.

In practice I'd expect these effects to be so miniscule that they're irrelevant, which is why I think it's mostly aesthetics and convenience. But I suppose I would concede the theoretical possibility that the last 0.0001% could be impacted by whether or not the pickup was locked into the wood of the guitar body, or decoupled from the body's vibration.
 


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