Chasing Tone in All Positions

Discussion in 'Pickups' started by Dilver, Oct 2, 2017.

  1. Dilver

    Dilver Senior Member

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    In my ongoing tone quest, I'm having trouble nailing tonal nirvana in all three pickup positions.

    Who's got a set of pickups that they can honestly say they love the tone in all 3 positions, neck, middle and bridge?

    To me, the bridge position tone is the hardest one to get right in a pickup, followed by middle position. Great neck position tone seems to be easier to achieve.

    Anyone not a fan of A4 magnets in the bridge position?
     
  2. scovell001

    scovell001 Senior Member

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    Yeah, I got a set of pickups I 'love' in all 3 positions - especially the middle.

    I would say that you're at odds with a lot of people as 'generally' the neck is the hardest to get right, the bridge pup is a lot more tolerant - with that being said, I had a rather spiky shrill bridge pup when I first got my guitar.

    The common consensus seems to be an A2 magnet pickup around 7.5 - 8.5 in the bridge, which I confirm, I like. I've had an A4 magnet pickup in the bridge and didn't like it - however, the particular pickup had been wound with a hotter screw coil which I believe added to the spiky, thinness of it.
     
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  3. Classicplayer

    Classicplayer Senior Member

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    A very good choice of subject. I have been trying to achieve this for some time now, and each set of pickup tweaks that draws me closer magnifies the fact that there is no perfect tweak for all three pickup switch positions. I have a pair of Seth Lover pickups that I like the sound of in all three positions.

    I've tweaked the neck for a round "saxophone-like" tone that's both bright and a strong bass with a touch of brightness to the bass also. I did not adjust pole screws; only the pup height for the 1st. and 6th. strings. If I set my amp a bit on the bright side, I get my idea of good neck tone. My Seth neck measures 7.2k.

    Now the bridge! It measures 8.2k. I set it for pickup height at both 1st. and 6th. strings exactly like my neck. I set both pickups volume controls around 8.5 and make sure when flipping the switch back and forth between both pups; they are about equal in volume. Again, using my amp with a bright tone dialed in I check that it emits sort of a horn-like tone on the 1st., 2nd., and 3rd. strings; but not a harsh icepick tone. As long as the volumes are equal and and I can hear that horn-like tone, and a "bark" from the 6, 5, and 4 strings, I know I am close.

    The middle position comes last. I use both pickups volumes to get that chirp' sound, if I can.....fiddling with volumes to find that elusive sound. I don't always hear it. Some pickups don't emit it and the Seth Lovers don't always either. If further Micro tweaks with the pickups or amp don't produce it, I leave well enough alone. I still have a very good Les Paul tone to my liking. Gilting the Lilly is pointless at that point. It is now time to enjoy the fruits of my tweaking and just play the thing.


    Classicplayer
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2017
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  4. gball

    gball Senior Member

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    More than one:
    - My 1979 LPC's T-Tops are sublime in all postions.
    - My 2016 Firebird kicks total butt in all positions.
    - My 2017 SG Standard is killer in all positions.
    - I don't "love" the middle position on my LP Traditional (not nasally enough for my taste), but both the bridge and neck are great on their own. And that's just my Gibsons.

    Guess what I'm leaning toward is that I honestly think it has more to do with the amp than the pickups. IME, the right amp, dialed in correctly for what you are playing, is where the magic lies. No amount of tinkering about with the pickups will change the fundamental tone. Again, my own experience and your mileage may vary, but that's what I think.
     
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  5. ARandall

    ARandall Senior Member

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    As much as I can say that I have pickups where all positions sound great....it has taken quite a bit of swapping between individuals to get there. I probably have close to 20 guitars with dual pickups......over 10 of them LP's. I have swapped pickups a LOT of times. And with fenders I have added in swapping necks and bodies too to get the right combination for every guitar.

    Not only does the individual pickup nuance change between guitars, but the way the volume and tone balances between neck and bridge position also changes - ie you might find one of the pickups in a set gets better with a swap but the other gets worse.
    Plus the middle position in every pickup set is unique - I have not a single pickup set where pickup combination selections sound the same....not in LP's, not in teles, not in strats.

    And then add in the above with the amp too.
     
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  6. morbidalex666

    morbidalex666 Senior Member

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    Out of all the pups I've tried, I have a short list of sets that leave me completely satisfied in all positions, for their respective purposes:
    Tyson TTL-2
    Sigil Holy Grail 58
    Sigil Roots 57 LTD
    Sigil Black Magic
    EMG 81/89 set (no comments please, they do what they do perfect IMHO)

    Too much of a "personality of sound" differentiation among different positions is a no-go for me.
    The T-top plus PAF combo was nice for only a short while and it got old really fast for me.
    I avoid sets that are described as versatile because of the different wind or whatever between neck and bridge.
    I have sold many sets because of that reason.

    As far as magnet type and Ohm readings go; they don't matter to me.
    I really think that people pay too much attention to these things - I used to be one of those people.
    These days, I prefer to place my faith and trust to the winder - made my life a LOT easier.
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2017
  7. calfzilla

    calfzilla Member

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    I recently converted to a LP and... I'm not sure I understand what the middle position should sound like after so many years with 2 and 4 being hum canceling... That being said, I took a leap on a mixed set of Manlius (landmark neck, vinyl bridge) and they don't disappoint. Best ever? No idea. But I have no desire to swap and see.
     
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  8. afranke

    afranke Senior Member

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    ive tried quite a few sets and found only a few the get it perfect in all three positions,,
    but this is just my opinion and experience.

    doyle coils[magnets unknown]this set has the best middle ive heard.
    Tyson tone ttl-2[a2 bridge-a4 neck]
    rewind paf1 underwound bridge and regular wind neck. sounds weird but it works[.both a4magnets.]
    rewind paf1 regular wind bridge and Tyson tone neck.[a5 mag bridge-a4 neck]
    rewind custom bridge and neck. [a2-bridge-a4 neck]

    I mixed and matched some of these sets to get it just right to my liking.
    I really like the a2 mag for bridge and a4 for the neck.
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2017
  9. mmd

    mmd Senior Member

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    The only pickups I have used over the years that make me happy, no matter where the switch is positioned, are:

    PRS 57/08
    Gretsch Filtertrons (not the TV Jones or anything hotter than the original vintage 4K range Filtertrons)

    Ever guitar I own now has one of those two pickup sets and they are exceptional in every instrument, playing a variety of styles.
     
  10. AJK1

    AJK1 Senior Member

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    From my experience a neck pickup the same output or stronger than the bridge pickup gives a great middle tone
    Try it !
     
  11. Antigua

    Antigua Senior Member

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    When you combine pickups in parallel the inductance drops to about half the value of the two pickups. So if you have two hotter pickups, the in between can have a good, full sound, because it's halved inductance is no so low. But now the neck and bridge are hotter than you like, so you're damned if you do, damned in you don't. I don't know that there's really a way to fix this "problem". You could do something convoluted with a capacitor to to darken the in-between tone, but the low inductance means you're stuck with a weaker voltage output.

    Although, sometimes I like the in between tone a little better if I also role back on the tone to flat out the resonance a bit. That can make the chime a little richer, especially if the amp is a little brighter to begin with.
     
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  12. Classicplayer

    Classicplayer Senior Member

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    When the words "great" and "good" tone from the middle position, what are we thinking of? I look upon the middle position with both pickups activated as a third useable and totally different sound, that can be manipulated with my Les Paul's volume and tone knobs to be either round or thin; depending on just what I want to hear at a given moment.

    i.e. If I play with a rather loud bass player, I don't want my guitar getting blocked by the bass' frequencies. Then I prefer a slightly brighter and thinner middle tone. If not so many bass frequencies and I'm accompanying singer, I try to fatten up the middle position tone. Does this make some sense to posters here?


    Classicplayer
     
  13. Dilver

    Dilver Senior Member

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    Hmmm... the two middle position reference tones for me are Jimmy Page and Dickey Betts (You Don't Love Me). Yes, there are MANY tones to be had in the middle position by adjusting volume and tone controls. But to me, it's that clicky, "pinched nose" kinda tone.
     
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  14. DarrellV

    DarrellV 1 Year old and 8K this month or bust! Premium Member

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    I've only had this one Lester with Tim Shaws but I love the middle sound as much as the rest.

    I'm not sure if it will be as big of a 'benefit' to crunch players, but playing clean with lots of reverb and a little delay really lets the sound of each pickup come through.

    I have my pups height and poles adjusted so that when i switch between them with the selector on any given chord there is no change of volume. They are both equal.

    Bringing them both in together at full volume and tone gives them a kind of squashed sound, but rolling back the volume pot of either one just a notch really makes a noticeable change.

    Rolling back the neck pup gives a sparkling edge to the sound and a nice chimey edge. If it's too much a roll back on the bridge or neck tone pot tames it nicely.

    Rolling back the bridge gives a sweeter slightly thicker bell like tone.

    It is becoming my favorite position.

    I have found recently that by rolling the neck pup tone knob down to halfway and taking a little off the bridge pickup I can get a very sweet almost steel guitar / organ like sound!

    Of course each pup on its own has very useful tonez as well.
     
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  15. Classicplayer

    Classicplayer Senior Member

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    What DarrellV writes is also what I've found to be true: the pickups (I have Duncan Seth Lovers) should be adjusted for height so that flipping to the neck and then switch to bridge should be just about equal volume; to get a decent sounding middle position tone. From that middle position, minor tweaks with volume and tone controls can produce some interesting tones too.


    Classicplayer
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2017
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  16. DarrellV

    DarrellV 1 Year old and 8K this month or bust! Premium Member

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    I see @Zoobiedood has liked your post so maybe he can confirm...

    If I'm not mistaken your Seth's and my Shaw's should sound very similar and give a very similar response. So you should be able to dial in what I'm hearing as well.

    Mine has 300K pots, so that will make a difference if yours are not, but they should be pretty close in essence...
     
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  17. Classicplayer

    Classicplayer Senior Member

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    My Seth Lovers read 7.2/8.2 for what that's worth. With 300K stock pots, I get the best results in tone when they are set about 8.5 to full on.

    Right now this Classic is being played into an Orange Dark Terror with a PPC112 with a V30 speaker. It's a very articulate combination of guitar pickups, amp and speaker cab; just made to accommodate my picking style which for the past 3+ decades has been pick & fingers.

    Classicplayer
     
  18. DarrellV

    DarrellV 1 Year old and 8K this month or bust! Premium Member

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    Shaws are right in the same range, so if you are saying you have 300K pots too, we may be tone twinz! :cheers2:

    I am using a little VOX valvetronic at home and using its built in effects. Just way easier and to me, doesn't sound half bad!
     
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  19. alnico59

    alnico59 Premium Member

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    All of them.

    Pretty easy for me, honestly. If I want a blues tone I dial my amp in using my neck pickup and then back down the tone on the bridge pickup to anywhere from 7 to 4 depending on the guitar.

    For rock pretty much the opposite. Dial in with the bridge. Usually the neck is ok set there for any rock solos.

    I think a lot of folks, I was one for a long time too, dial in their amp using the bridge pickup of their LP. I find this creates a less versatile rock guitar which is why the LP sometimes earns that reputation. Some great blues tone in there with the neck pickup taking preference. Of course ymmv.
     
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  20. Classicplayer

    Classicplayer Senior Member

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    I've been experimenting with the method you write about. I was keying my amp for the neck pickup, and I still do this most of the time. This past month I've been wondering if for the smaller amount of time I put towards Rock and Classic Rock, perhaps I should do the opposite and key on the bridge.

    A lot of this depends on just how you play your Les Paul.
    I use a flat pick and fingers method and know how to apply dynamics and pressure to the pick and an individual finger(s) to get the desired amount of grit for individual notes.....which works to my advantage when using my bridge pickup..especially. In my case, I've been able to develop this over the years and is not something that I was taught.

    This is why I've been setting amp e.q. for my neck pickup, because I find that my picking technique for my bridge pup is a lot easier than trying to do it with my neck pup. With my amp set up for the neck, I've found my picking technique sounds a whole better and is almost as easy to do. Does this make some sense to those of you who use a similar pick/fingers style?


    Classicplayer
     

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