Pickup Height and it's Effects on Tone ???

Discussion in 'Pickups' started by BOBBO, Apr 12, 2008.

  1. BOBBO

    BOBBO Banned

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    Since we have so many expert pickups guys on the forum , I'd like to know their theories on how close your pups should be to the strings and how it effects string vibration and tone ??? :wave:



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  2. madialex

    madialex Guest

    Too close and you lose sustain and the notes wash together, too far and it is anemic. Gotta find the sweet spot:thumb:
     
  3. 5F6-A

    5F6-A Senior Member

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    Ben has said it all. ;)

    Normally it's better to raise the pickup until its so high that it distorts in a bad way and sounds drowned. Then start lowering it until you hear a sudden drop in "tone", raise it back a hair and you've got it. Do it with the pickup you use the most first and then check with the other one until you find the perfect balance between them.
    I've found that if you have pickups that are out-of-phase with each other ( a là Peter Green ) you can try this trick; once you have found the sweet spot for the bridge unit you can max out all the pots and select the toggle switch middle postion. Then play around with the height of the neck unit and listen out for the most hollowness, typical of the OOP tone. When you've found it you've finished; both p/us are totally balanced out with each other.

    p.s.- Ben, I love your SRV quote!
     
  4. Axeman16

    Axeman16 V.I.P. Member

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    i just played put the height about level with the pickup rings, but what really got the tone for me was adjusting the polepieces.
     
  5. coldsteal2

    coldsteal2 V.I.P. Member

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    'bought an 1/8th of an inch from the strings to the
    pole peices is my sweet spot, but depends on the
    pickup i imagine
     
  6. BOBBO

    BOBBO Banned

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  7. Liam

    Liam V.I.P. Member

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    Bridge at the sweet spot. Neck positioned so it balances in volume with the bridge (generally lower than in your picture). I reckon the bridge pickup height is more critical to tone than the neck pickup height is.

    I never bother measuring, but I spend a lot of time trying to get balanced volume across all the strings.

    Liam
     
  8. djlogan33

    djlogan33 Senior Member

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    From the "Gibson Les Paul Handbook" , by Paul Balmer.

    Humbucker Height recommendations (factory settings):
    - Neck & Bridge height - Bass-side = 3/32"
    - Neck & Bridge height - Treble-side = 1/16"

    The above settings is after depressing all the strings at the last fret.

    They suggest start at the above settings and adjust up or down for the tone you want.

    When I adjusted my pickups, after I depressed all the strings at the last fret, several strings were hitting the top of the pole piece on the neck pickup.
     
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  9. SKATTERBRANE

    SKATTERBRANE Banned

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    It is like sparkplug gap, there is the spec, and then you experiment from there. Literally, you mileage may vary.
     
  10. Nigel Tufnel's tech

    Nigel Tufnel's tech Senior Member

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    Raising the pickup closer to the strings adds more mid range to the tone as well. Further away it gets more acoustic more woody. Since the neck pickup captures the strings movement in a position that already has more mid range than the bridge its better to have it lower. Positioning of the neck pickup can also have an affect on the bridge's tone, this is due to the magnetic pull on the string affecting it's oscillation and changing what the bridge picks up. this is more noticeable on single coils. There is no point me giving you any measurements since each pickup is individual. but i will say that i find less than a quarter of a turn can affect the tone, maybe even less.
     
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  11. gmacdonnell

    gmacdonnell V.I.P. Member

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    To my ears:

    Lower = a more woody, dynamic, airy sound (often with longer sustain)

    Higher = more power, compression, punch and a directness to the notes (sometimes with shorter sustain.)


    I feel that these apply more to the neck pickup than bridge, but you can hear the differences in both.


    Personally, for speed and accuracy I like using the old Bill Lawrence trick of using a nickle or two to adjust height.

    You press down the on the final fret of the low and high "e" strings, and adjust until you can fit a nickle (which is about 1/16") between the string and the pickup's polepiece.

    Depending on the kind of pickups, and their inherent tone, you can make adjustments, such as using 2 nickles for the neck p/u, and 1 for the bridge (great for PAF-style humbuckers, if they're roughly equal output,) or
    using 2 nickles for the bass side, and 1 for the treble, (great for getting more clarity and sparkle.)

    From there, you can make tiny adjustments to fine-tune everything.

    As far as setting up the polepieces, this is a great article posted here by Lance S:
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    It really helps you get the best out of your pickups. And you can print out a fretboard radius gauge from Pickguardian

    If you've never tried it, this "Kalamazoo" method really makes a nice tonal improvement to your sound

    It's all about personal preference, but I find using those templates makes it really easy to dial in the best sound
     
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  12. BOBBO

    BOBBO Banned

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    Here's where I'm set at the moment ..

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  13. gmacdonnell

    gmacdonnell V.I.P. Member

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    How the balance between pickups with those settings?
    With my Pat. #'s, the bridge is a little hotter than the neck, but not by much.
    So to balance them out, it has to be about 1/16-3/32" away from the strings (depressed at the last fret,) whereas my neck pickup is more like 3/16th's away.


    But when you've got a a free 30 minutes, it's really worth trying out that article's tips. Apparently it's how Seth intended all PAF"s to be set up from the factory.

    The "zig zag" pattern, along with matching the 12" radius, really makes a nice improvement in balance and tone. Plus it looks neat. :thumb:
     
  14. BOBBO

    BOBBO Banned

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    I'm a hopeless tinkerer .. So I'll probably try it .. I usually like my pickups a bit lower than they are setup right now , But I'm experimenting .. I always adjust them for a pretty even volume from both , But that being said , I like the neck pickup a bit lower ..
     
  15. gmacdonnell

    gmacdonnell V.I.P. Member

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    I'm hopeless too... Can't leave things alone. And I like my pickups low as well. I was just curious as to whether that OTPG bridge pickup was wound a bit hotter to balance things out.

    BTW, how do they respond to these adjustments? I'd bet they change quite a bit, but i'd like to hear.

    I think that's a good sign a quality pickup. I've had humbuckers that showed very little changes, and others that sounded and responded completely and utterly different depending on where they were.
     
  16. 5F6-A

    5F6-A Senior Member

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    I've been using the set up method metioned above by Gabriel for ages now with great results!
     
  17. BOBBO

    BOBBO Banned

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    They are very sensitive to adjustment .. I already tweaked them a hair lower since that last post !!! I'm so OCD :wow:
     
  18. BOBBO

    BOBBO Banned

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    oops ... double post ...
     
  19. Liam

    Liam V.I.P. Member

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    On my R9 I've got similar distances set on the neck and the bridge. The pole pieces are about 125 miles away from the strings. Hoping to rectify this soon. :D

    Liam
     
  20. gmacdonnell

    gmacdonnell V.I.P. Member

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    Finally found Bill Lawrence's advice, which is really good:

    "As a general rule for the bridge pickup - put a nickel on top of the pickup under the high E string and play the highest note on that string. Adjust the height on that side of the pickup till the string touches the nickel. Repeat the same with the low E string, but use two nickels on top of each other. If this gives you too much output, you can reduce the height slightly. Don't forget that twice the distance will reduce the output by about 60%, and the sound will lose some lows. NOW, you can adjust the neck pickup to match the output of the bridge pickup. For the sound test, use stage volume."

    Bill Lawrence Website
     

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