Why is pickup technology so slow to evolve?

LexMentis

SS.org Regular
Joined
Jan 4, 2022
Messages
66
Reaction score
139
Forgive me if I've missed any recent developments. I'll admit I'm not too savvy when it comes to guitar technology, etc. I've been thinking about this for a bit. You would think by now that guitar pickups would have advanced more than they have. Like quick-connect setups for example. You would think by now that it would be easier and more convenient to swap pickups and try different combinations by just popping them in and out or something. I mean, we use things like this for other electronics... why not guitar pickups? I don't know, just a thought. Does anyone know of anything like this that is currently available?
 

MaxOfMetal

Likes trem wankery.
Super Moderator
Joined
Aug 7, 2008
Messages
41,563
Reaction score
40,027
Location
Racine, WI
The short answer is there's no real incentive to do more. Most guitarists don't bother changing pickups, and the greater majority that do don't mind what's available.

There are small pockets of innovation, but generally those companies don't last or fade to obscurity.

If want quick connects, they're readily available to crimp on whatever wires you want, but personally I don't bother, it's easier to just splice if I'm trying stuff out before soldering in.
 

KnightBrolaire

mass cultivator
Joined
Mar 19, 2015
Messages
19,500
Reaction score
24,461
Location
MN
a bunch of companies use quick connect variants (emg, gibson, fishman and guitarfetish) but they're not standardized, nor are they that much easier than just soldering or using a screw in terminal imo.

There are other proprietary takes on quick swapping pickups like the gyrock guitars, or the Relish guitars but those are expensive and frankly unnecessary for the majority of players.

Then there's pickups like cycfi that let you change the overall eq curve of the pickup via software, and can be used to model classic curves too. Again, super niche, and not really worth it for the majority of people..
 

JimF

SS.org Regular
Joined
Dec 18, 2015
Messages
1,440
Reaction score
1,468
Location
Lancashire, UK
Total conjecture, but weren't Fishman Fluences quite a step forward? I keep hearing the phrase "The battery powers the technology, rather than the battery powering the pickup", whatever that means.
I like the idea of changeable EQ curves, but I prefer the idea of more guitars. Also, my fear of things that are changeable with software, is when that software is no longer supported. I'm not into IT, and I had a nightmare setting up a virtual machine to run diagnostics on my Lexus as the software I needed was 32 bit. I could have bought an older laptop but I was selling the car. Imagine having to dig out an old tablet or android phone with a failing battery because the guitar you're selling was left in HM2 mode :D
 

KnightBrolaire

mass cultivator
Joined
Mar 19, 2015
Messages
19,500
Reaction score
24,461
Location
MN
Total conjecture, but weren't Fishman Fluences quite a step forward? I keep hearing the phrase "The battery powers the technology, rather than the battery powering the pickup", whatever that means.
I like the idea of changeable EQ curves, but I prefer the idea of more guitars. Also, my fear of things that are changeable with software, is when that software is no longer supported. I'm not into IT, and I had a nightmare setting up a virtual machine to run diagnostics on my Lexus as the software I needed was 32 bit. I could have bought an older laptop but I was selling the car. Imagine having to dig out an old tablet or android phone with a failing battery because the guitar you're selling was left in HM2 mode :D
It's just them trying to differentiate from other actives, where the active preamp needs power. With fishmans the pickup has the preamp built in.
Cycfi's website has more details about the modeling/eq curve changing if you're curious.
 

cindarkness

SS.org Regular
Joined
Sep 7, 2021
Messages
87
Reaction score
99
Because the current pickup technology is as "imperfect" as are the classic tube amplifiers for example. As guitarists, we usually aren't looking for that pure, perfect and flawless tone. We want that nasty and crusty sound of a cranked 100w tube amplifier that makes our neighbours ears bleed but warms the tiny heart inside us, ticking gently to the beat of Free Bird (or whatever you're into).

Same goes with pickups imho. They're not perfect, but they are perfect for us :)
YMMV, of course.. That's only my take on this.
 

technomancer

Gearus Pimptasticus
Super Moderator
Joined
Apr 15, 2006
Messages
28,858
Reaction score
9,975
Location
Out there, somewhere
Total conjecture, but weren't Fishman Fluences quite a step forward? I keep hearing the phrase "The battery powers the technology, rather than the battery powering the pickup", whatever that means.
I like the idea of changeable EQ curves, but I prefer the idea of more guitars. Also, my fear of things that are changeable with software, is when that software is no longer supported. I'm not into IT, and I had a nightmare setting up a virtual machine to run diagnostics on my Lexus as the software I needed was 32 bit. I could have bought an older laptop but I was selling the car. Imagine having to dig out an old tablet or android phone with a failing battery because the guitar you're selling was left in HM2 mode :D

IIRC the biggest tech different with Fishmans was that they aren't using wound coils so every pickup is identical for a given model.

But yeah TLDR answer to this question is 99.9% of guitarists don't care so there is no money in it.
 

Crungy

SS.org Regular
Joined
May 29, 2019
Messages
2,167
Reaction score
2,582
Location
Minnesota
Active pickups in general are a passive pickup with a preamp in the same housing/assembly. My understanding is they are (again generally) a weaker pickup.

Fishman's take on it is pretty interesting, this was a decent article with some pictures

 

LexMentis

SS.org Regular
Joined
Jan 4, 2022
Messages
66
Reaction score
139
I use guitars with synth pickups... and can change the tuning and type of guitar at the flick of the switch. The technology is out there, but guitarists are hung up on trying anything new.
Yeah, I know Roland makes one. I really want to get a setup like that. I just worry about latency, but I know Allan Holldsworth used one for a spell and he didn't seem to have any issues live.
 

TedEH

Cromulent
Joined
Jun 8, 2007
Messages
10,594
Reaction score
8,541
Location
Gatineau, Quebec
Simple guess:

a) Guitarists tend to be traditionalists in a bunch of ways
b) There's not really a need, since a pickup is a really simple device that does it's job pretty well
c) There have been advancements that didn't catch on because of some compromise you have to make for little benefit
d) Most innovation happens in the manufacturing process instead of in the final product, so it's happening but you don't see it yourself
e) See every answer given to the question of why we still use tube amps when DSP amps are "objectively better" (note the "quotes")

Like sure, midi pickups are cool, but they're a hassle and don't always track well.
Sure, quick connect is handy, for the minority of people who it would be useful for.
Sure, you can jam electronics in there to "EQ" your pickups, but you can already accomplish the same thing without jamming extra stuff into the instrument itself.
Sure you can design for 1000 tonal options, but sound is all about subtleties and lots of people will basically find the one or two things that work for them and ignore the rest.
 

ArtDecade

Tartuffe
Joined
Feb 27, 2009
Messages
6,862
Reaction score
7,980
Location
l'Opéra
Yeah, I know Roland makes one. I really want to get a setup like that. I just worry about latency, but I know Allan Holldsworth used one for a spell and he didn't seem to have any issues live.

The synth pickup is really 6 humbuckers that are each assigned a string. That means you have 6 signals running directly into the synth itself and you can manipulate the tuning and tone of each string in real time. There really is not latency in most cases - and often the presumed latency has to do with the envelope settings of a particular patch. The new-ish Boss SY-1000 has a GT-1000 built into it and you won't find any latency with those patches. Rabea did a demo of the SY-1000 a while back and he can play much faster and cleaner than I can and he was impressed by the lack of latency. Check it out if you get a chance.
 

LexMentis

SS.org Regular
Joined
Jan 4, 2022
Messages
66
Reaction score
139
The synth pickup is really 6 humbuckers that are each assigned a string. That means you have 6 signals running directly into the synth itself and you can manipulate the tuning and tone of each string in real time. There really is not latency in most cases - and often the presumed latency has to do with the envelope settings of a particular patch. The new-ish Boss SY-1000 has a GT-1000 built into it and you won't find any latency with those patches. Rabea did a demo of the SY-1000 a while back and he can play much faster and cleaner than I can and he was impressed by the lack of latency. Check it out if you get a chance.
Much appreciated! Very interested.
 

bigcupholder

SS.org Regular
Joined
Nov 9, 2020
Messages
312
Reaction score
336
Most people don't want something that sounds completely different, so there's no incentive to really innovate.

In terms of construction, Fishman Fluence with their printed coils is a really cool idea. When they came out I expected we'd see a huge range of interesting pickups from them but so far they seem to be content just making shittier sounding EMGs.
 

Zhysick

SS.org Regular
Joined
Feb 4, 2013
Messages
2,735
Reaction score
1,735
Location
Tenerife
People still playing 5000€ and 60Kg amps when you can have a Neural+200W class D amp for less than 2000€ and weights almost nothing. Why would anyone bother about pickups?

Guitarists are lazy bastards that doesn't look forward (generally speaking).

If you, as a player, are looking for a specific sound then you are already niche.

Also: buy Fender or Gibson, only real guitars...
 

spudmunkey

SS.org Regular
Joined
Mar 7, 2010
Messages
7,375
Reaction score
12,304
Location
Near San Francisco
Pretty much all available pickups are either magnetic, or piezo saddles. Then there's the family of optical pickups. Light4Sound, LightWave, oPik, but none of these have made any notable market penetration (as far as I know).

The Fluence pickups being layered PCBs is quite a revolutionary change, no matter how similar or unique the rest of the pickup system may be to other active pickups.
 

Hollowway

Extended Ranger
Joined
Dec 28, 2008
Messages
16,508
Reaction score
12,109
Location
California
Like any good politician, I'm going to ignore your question, and give you an answer to something I want to talk about. :lol:

I think it would be cool if they invented a pickup that would be just a battery chargeable bar, like an EMG with no wires coming out or something, and you could just side it under your strings, on any guitar, and then it would send a bluetooth signal to a box that would then have a 1/4" out jack to run to your regular amp. That way you could use the same pickup on every one of your guitars. Kind of like the Virtual Jeff tremolo.

I still wouldn't buy it though, because like everyone else said, I don't care enough. :lol:
 


Top