Ideal pickup height

Discussion in 'Tonefreaks' started by Skiroy, Feb 21, 2012.

  1. Skiroy

    Skiroy Junior Member

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    I just wanted to strat a thread talking about PUP height and how it effects the tone and if people perfer different heights dpending on the style of playing or music. I noticed the further the PUPs the thinner and more cutting and the closer they are the more I guess fuller/compressed they sound.

    Whats your take on height if you were going to mostly play clean to slight dirty tones for Jazz/R&B/Reggae?

    By the way I have a es-335 with clasic 57s and a Epiphone standard LP with real Gibson 390r and 498T in the bridge(well I messed that up)
     
  2. naturalblack

    naturalblack Senior Member

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    Funny that you started this thread because I just adjusted the pickup hieght and poles screws of my newest guitar an hour ago. I wasn't aiming for a specific height though I was going off how they sounded. I have 490r/498t and my amp is eqed to the neck pup like in that "How to use the controls on a Les Paul" thread. After I did this I couldn't get the bridge pickup to sound right. There was a little too much mid range and it was kind of rumbly on the low strings when I added a little distortion(shitty amp too but still).

    I tweaked the neck first which was already sounding decent but I lowered the pickup as a whole and raised the pole screws I went over each string individually and with some chords and lowered or raised each screw to get the most clarity. I dont have a ruler but the pickup is kind of even with the wood on the fretboard with the low E side a bit lower. And the pole screws are raised the lower ones are higher it kind of offsets the slant in the pickup over all but it just sounded better this way.

    The Bridge pickup was pretty close to the strings already I dropped it down a bit. And raised the pole screws to be about the distance from the strings they were when the pickup was higher then I tweaked them individually for each string. They both sound extremely clear now. The bridge is still pretty hot and I liked it like that but it doesn't go to shit when I distort it a little anymore and it all rings real nicely. The middle position is 1000x better too.
     
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  3. JMB1984

    JMB1984 Premium Member

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    I had to raise the neck pickup a little from the factory setting on every Gibson I have owned so far to get the right balance between the two pickups (well right for me anyway). I also moved the bridge pup down a little on one of them. I never measured the height before or after though. In all cases it was just a few turns (1-3) of the screws for some fine adjusting by ear.
     
  4. MesaDCLP

    MesaDCLP Senior Member

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    This is a good topic that has been covered by many on this forum as well as other sites on the internet. Searching will help with some of the guidelines as far as the pickup height and/or screw pole adjustment.

    The ideal height is basically what sounds good to you. There are no rules, just guidelines. Your equipment will usually influence what sounds good, so what works for me or the other guy may not be ideal for the tone and feel you are trying to achieve.

    Obviously closer height provides more output, but the height also affects the overall tone and feel. To me the closer the pickup is, the more percussive and sharper the pick attack becomes. Kind of like the frequency response is expanded on extreme ends of the highs and lows. This affects the overall tone but is most noticeable with the initial attack. Lower has the opposite effect where things sound and feel softer. How you dial your gain stages in also affects how the change in height sounds. If the pickup is too close, things get harsh. If it's too far away from the strings, then the tone and feel gets weak. Also, different model pickups do not respond the same way to height changes. In my experience some compress more than others as the height is raised and usually the weaker the magnet is, the more sensitive the pickup is to smaller adjustments.

    To me the best height is almost always a compromise. The ideal spot for me is a balance of good output and feel where the pick attack is a bit subtle. The compromise begins as I incorporate the other pickup’s height so that a balance is reached between them. So say I dial in the neck perfectly, but the bridge is weak, I’ll raise the bridge. But if the bridge starts to get harsh, I have to compromise and drop the neck down to maintain a good balance. I’ll go back and forth until both pickups are fairly balanced but closest to my ideal tone and feel for each one on its own. Usually this works great for me with few exceptions.
     
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  5. 121064

    121064 Banned

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    I have mine flush with the pickup rings.
     
  6. MrRhoads

    MrRhoads Senior Member

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    Usually i start with the bridge pickup and raise until it touch the strings and sounds real bad more or less.
    Then i lower it until i hit a sweet spot with maximum output and clarity to my liking.
    The i adjust the neck to match the output of the bridge.
     
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  7. Tim91

    Tim91 Member

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    ...this is something i have to relearn everytime i do it. :)
     
  8. HillTone

    HillTone Junior Member

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    Sorry to resurrect an old and cold thread. Does anyone else find they really drive the bridge high and keep the neck really low?

    I don't have a ruler handy, but the neck is pretty much flush with the ring and the bridge is pretty darn close to the strings.

    I supposed i could avoid this by buying hotter bridge pickups...but i like the sound as is.
     
  9. foxtrot

    foxtrot Senior Member

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    I find my pickup heights to be about the same as you described, neck close to flush with the pickup ring, bridge quite a bit higher comparatively. I've adjusted my pickup heights but it seems like they come from Gibson more or less setup this way.

    I think if you go with Gibson's recommendation of having the poles 3/64" from the strings (fretting at the last fret), you naturally end up with what looks like a low neck pickup and a higher bridge pickup, but the distance from the strings is similar.

    I have my Studio Deluxe pickups (490R/BBpro) a bit under that 3/64" recommendation, somewhere around 5-6/64 (well, some poles are probably closer to now since I adjusted each one). Haven't measured my new Trad plus heights yet, just tweaked them a bit. They actually didn't require much adjustment at all, where my Deluxe did (especially the BBpro). Those Classic 57s are probably a tad higher compared to the pickups in my Deluxe. Still have to play with the poles on my Trad.
     
  10. djlogan33

    djlogan33 Senior Member

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    Measuring between the top of the pickups and the bottom of the strings, with the strings depressed at the last fret, the best advice is to start with a gap of 1/16 inch between bridge pickup and strings and 3/32 inch between neck pickup and strings, and this makes a good general base from which to launch your own experiments.

    If you really do want more drive and intensity for a hot, compressed crunch to lead sound at all times, you might want your pickups a little closer to the strings, within reason.
    If you want more balance, air, warmth, and definition, along with less mud, chances are that moving them a little further away might do it for you.
     
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  11. LtKojak

    LtKojak Senior Member

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    People, listen to this man.

    He KNOWS what he's doing.

    HTH,
     
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  12. NovaSDF

    NovaSDF Senior Member

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    I like Bill Lawrence's method - with strings pressed at the last fret, set the bridge pup 1 nickle's thickness between string and pup on the treble side, then stack 2 nickles and use that distance on the bass side. That always gets me more or less in the ballpark, then some slight tweaks from there if necessary.

    Once you have the bridge set, you adjust the neck by ear to balance.
     
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  13. Barcslay

    Barcslay Senior Member

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    I usually use the nickel method, but end up lowering the pickups a bit - I'd rather have better clarity than a high output.
     
  14. truckermde

    truckermde Senior Member

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    what he said. If you have clarity, you can add grit. If you're all dirty to start with, well... there you are.
     
  15. Shawn Lutz

    Shawn Lutz Senior Member

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    I usually let my ears do the talking. I raise them as high as they can go without hitting the strings and use that as a starting point. I then play and listen and lower it until I'm happy with the tone and how it tappers off with the volume knob. There is no standard really. Hotter pickups for me are usually lower than lower output ones.
     
  16. NovaSDF

    NovaSDF Senior Member

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    It's all a balancing act. Doubling the distance between the pickup and string will reduce the volume by 60%, and will also cause the loss of some lows. That's not necessarily a bad thing, depending on the setup you have and the sound you are going for.

    There are some people who claim that lowering the pickup deeper into the guitar will allow it to pick up some of the tonal characteristics of the wood. Not sure about that, as there are a lot of myths circulating around out there.

    No matter which method you use, the ear will end up being the ultimate determining factor.
     
  17. LtKojak

    LtKojak Senior Member

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    These people have no understanding about how a magnetic p'up works.

    It's easier to believe in fairy tales. :facepalm:
     
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  18. fuelie

    fuelie Senior Member

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    Like a guitar builder friend I have been trying to talk out of body mounted pickups for years. It's so damn frustrating I almost don't want to sell him pickups. :laugh2:
     
  19. NovaSDF

    NovaSDF Senior Member

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    I agree - but people believe what they believe. Pickups (in the solid body humbucker sense) are a lot different in how they work than a microphone. Still, to those that believe there is not talking sense to them. :)

    I'm not even convinced that the body material and so forth really makes all that much difference to that element of tone (although it should have an impact on sustain - which I always think of as an element separate from tone.) Even if it did have a slight difference, when compared to the pickups, pots, capacitors, amp settings and so forth - how much is that difference really meaningful? Not much, in my opinion.

    Now acoustic guitars are a whole other story.

    To me, it's just making sure that the pickups are far enough away from the strings to clean up nicely when I roll the volume back a bit.

    Of course, if you want to make use of the acoustic tonal properties of your guitar, then you can install a separate pickup for that. I know that you can get bridges with a built in piezo pickup. I actually thought about that briefly in my new tele build, but decided I was too lazy to do all the extra work. :lol:
     

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