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

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

  1. oilpit

    oilpit Senior Member

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    It's funny, I've been messing around with my pickup height for the last few hours, before I even saw this thread. FedEx just dropped off my new LP and the pickups came too high.
    I think I'll just take it to be set up because the neck overpowers the bridge like a mother, and when I lower the neck too far, the bridge overpowers the neck.
    Oh well...
     
  2. richedie

    richedie Senior Member

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    I was never a fan of having the bass side lower than the trable side. SOunds unbalanced to me. Then if you radius the poles, it gets more wacky. I prefer treb and bass sides equal. I do radius at 12 degrees on my LPs and adjust the height....it is just that they are the same on both sides.

    Why do people stagger or zig zag the poles? I have never ever heard a difference with that!

    If there is more tension on the strings at the bridge, hence a brighter thinner tone...would you think lighter strings would yield a fatter tone due to more movement?

    Also, the article mentioned break angle. I found I like wrapping the tail in which case you get little break angle! What gives? So which is better?
     
  3. gmacdonnell

    gmacdonnell V.I.P. Member

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    Thinner strings would give more sustain, (in theory,) than a thicker strings,
    but because their magnetic core would be smaller, the actually output (perceived as fatness) they produced will be lower.


    As far as break angle, and balancing the treble and bass sides; it's all about personal preference, and what works best with your setup. But because the thicker strings have a larger magnetic core, they're more prone to being adversely affected by the pickup's strength, and also more prone to being unbalanced and muddy (esp. with the neck pickup.)


    I wouldn't say just having that zig zag pattern makes a positive difference, but doing that adjustment will, because it's the only easy way to accurately fine tune the polepieces.

    That's probably why Seth and Gibson originally spec-d it, which is good enough reason for me to try it.

    I've noticed a difference, just because the "zig-zag" patterns, and the above method in the GP article, allow for much more precise fine-tuning and balancing between the strings.
     
  4. Liam

    Liam V.I.P. Member

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    The tension on the strings is the same all the way along their length. But they move more around the neck pickup than they do at the bridge. Hence you need a weaker bridge pickup or to drop the neck pickup lower to get them to balance. (Bizzarely they move most at a postion 1/2 way along the fretted length no matter where you pick the note. Weird but true.)

    Can of worms there. Search on "top wrapping". I don't.
     
  5. gmacdonnell

    gmacdonnell V.I.P. Member

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    Liam is right, about the tension.
    It's also important to note that top-wrapping, or increasing break angle doesn't effect string tension: just it's compliance, what makes it easier to bend.

    But a D'addario .042 will always have to be the same tension to produce the same note on the same guitar, regardless of what is happening behind the nut or saddle.
     
  6. richedie

    richedie Senior Member

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    Thanks guys,

    I actualy tend to use stronger pickups in the bridge than neck and some of my pickups are quite hot! I use 10-52 so I tend to adjust my pickups probably lower than most. Maybe 3/32 for the bridge at the outer poles. I don't have one side higher than the other because I like the balance this way but I do radius the pole pieces.

    Do you guys use a radius guide or just the zig zag thing? So, whay the zig zag? Is that an accurate method because you know a certain number of turns is a specific height change? Do you guys have a detailed description of how to accomplish that? Currently I just eye it up or use a measuring device of some sort, but the poles are rarely staggered or zig zagged - some are parallel with each other.
     
  7. gmacdonnell

    gmacdonnell V.I.P. Member

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    The reason the "zig zag" method seems to work best for balancing is just because it:

    a. when you're using a radius guide, for whatever reason, that pattern works really well, as far as getting the exact right distance for each polepiece.
    b. it's visually easier to compare two polepieces than it would be otherwise.

    I think it's this balance and precision that makes for the tonal improvement, not anything inherent in the pattern itself.

    BTW,
    You can print out a radius gauge for free here:
    http://www.pickguardian.com/pickguardian/Images/Pickguardian Neck Radius Gauges.pdf

    I printed it on photo paper and glued it on to some thin cardboard, and laminated the whole thing. But you could just use the paper and/or cardboard if you 0only plan on doing one or two jobs with it.


    Good luck!:thumb:
     
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  8. jhullin

    jhullin Member

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    I have a question that's sorta on topic. If i want to raise a humbucker so it sits higher in the ring, and I lower each pole an equal turn to keep the stagger, which in turn will bring the whole pickup higher in the ring right. Question is will this change the tone of the pup since the slugs are now higher than before in relation the the poles? Am I making sense?:)
     
  9. gmacdonnell

    gmacdonnell V.I.P. Member

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    I think that's an excellent question, and one that I stumbled on myself years ago, when I was working as a repairman's assistant.

    Yes, it makes a big difference, even if the relative distance between the strings are the same.

    Think of it this way: if the screws are higher, (and the pickup itself is lower,) than the magnet, coils, and the slug polepieces are further away from the strings.

    If the screws are closer to the bobbin, all of those things are in much closer proximity to the vibrating string- the source they're transducing.

    To my ears, when the screws are close to the strings, but the pickup body is lower, you get a brighter, slightly twangy sound. It's got a bit more clarity, perhaps, and more treble, but less power and output. You could call it an "airy" sound.

    When the screws are close to the pickup's top, but the whole unit is raised, you get a strong sound, with more warmth, power, bass and midrange frequencies. Maybe its more of a "woody" sound.

    Of course, these are the extremes, and you can fine-tune your pickups to get the exact sound you like by being somewhere between these extremes, or even mix and matching different adjustments for the bridge and neck pickups. For example, if you have a muddy neck, and bright bridge, you could adjust the neck pickup's screws close to the strings, and on the bridge, lower the screws and raise the whole pickup.


    I think all pickups with adjustable screws show the same differences in tone, depending on how they're set. But some humbuckers, (especially vintage PAF-style,) P-90's and DeArmonds show these differences in the most dramatic way. With my Lollar P-90's, they're almost a different pickup depending on how they're set.


    Hope this way helpful!
    Good luck!
     
  10. jhullin

    jhullin Member

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    That was very helpful, thank you:thumb:
     
  11. gmacdonnell

    gmacdonnell V.I.P. Member

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    Glad I could help!

    One of the things that makes Gibson's so cool, and I appreciate so much after years of playing Tele's is this adjustability. I don't switch it up a lot, but I dial in each pickup for each set of strings. Once it set, it's perfectly balanced and sounds great.

    On a Strat or Tele, it's nearly impossible to get a perfect balance, unless you custom order some boutique pickups.
     
  12. richedie

    richedie Senior Member

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    Yes, but I thought the idea was to have the two outer poles flush with the cover or maybe just below the cover which would put them even with the slug coils. Actually, that might be the best bet, have the outer poles even with the top of the pickup, hence below the cover - think of adjusting an uncovered pickup....so the poles would go below the cover surface. Then adjust the others from there. This seems the best approach. But keep in mind, the slug coils will still be flush so some guys never adjust poles and leave them flush as well. I think that can sound good as well. No?

    So, if you do the zig zag and start out with all even with the pickup top, how many turns do you do on the other poles to get the exact zig zag measurment?

    Finally, do many of you adjust the bass side lower than the treble and notice a difference?
     
  13. richedie

    richedie Senior Member

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    I played around with this tonight. I noticed the Gibson specs are to as said above set the bridge pup at 1/16" and the neck pup at 3/32" (got this from a few books) with the pups being even on the bass and treble sides, not higher on the treble side. Then to radius the poles to the strings/fretboard. However, lots of guys do not radius the poles and have great results. Sometimes I think you get a warmer tone this way.

    They mention setting the outside poles flush with the cover. I think you want it a little below the cover so they are flush with the actual pickup!

    I radiused the poles but still do not have a zig zag, that makes no sense because the height will always vary.

    I don't get the idea about the 30 degree break over the bridge while not having the strings touch the back of the bridge. Perfect example is my 1994 LP Standard. I wrap the tailpiece so the strings are at much less of an angle over the bridge but still the low E just barely touches the back of the bridge. And this is with almost no angle overt the bridge! I think what they say is near impossible! You have one or the other if you want the low E to avoid the bridge. Only way to get the break they speak of is to not use the wrap around method and still you have to really crank it down. At the angles they recommend, I can't see not hitting the bridge back! Weird.
     
  14. gmacdonnell

    gmacdonnell V.I.P. Member

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    I think it depends a lot on the particular pickup. My Pat. #'s and many repros have such thin covers that it's impossible for the screw to be beneath.

    And as far as lowering the bass side: I don't think this is always necessary, but it's been done a lot. According to Tuck Andress and some older players,
    R&B guitarists of the 50's and 60's started doing this in order to get a thinner, clearer sound from the neck pickup, a sound that fit in the mix better without getting muddy.

    There is definitely more than one good way to set up your pickups;l it just depends on what the inherent sound of your guitar is, the characteristics of your pickup, and the sound you're looking for.

    But generally speaking, I think it's a good idea to start with Gibson's basic setup and tweak it from there.
     
  15. River

    River Senior Member

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    My Jr's P90's sweet spots ended up with the 1st and 4th poles WAY higher than the rest. I have no idea why, but they are what they are.

    How does one get downgraded to Guest?
     
  16. richedie

    richedie Senior Member

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    Good points. But, is it just me or does 1/16" for the bridge pickup seem very high? Too high and the tone can be compressed and thin.

    I was trying to adjust my Guitar Force Erupter tonight - A2, 9.1k and Wolfetone Timbrewolf - A5, 15k.
     
  17. River

    River Senior Member

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    The poles need to be quite close at the bridge, because there isn't much amplitude there.
     
  18. gmacdonnell

    gmacdonnell V.I.P. Member

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    1/16" is pretty normal, esp. on a bridge pickup.

    You wouldn't want to get much closer, and certainly if it sounds thin or compressed, lower it a shade, but 1/16" is pretty average for many setups.

    In the bridge position, the pickup and magnet aren't going to have much effect on the string, so it's much less an issue than having a high neck unit.
     
  19. BOBBO

    BOBBO Banned

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    I'm so glad I bumped this thread .. It was a dud the 1st time around , But now I've learned some great info !!! Thanks to all who have contributed :applause:
     
  20. richedie

    richedie Senior Member

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    Really, so 1/16" is pretty normal - even for pickups in the 9-15K rang? Is that about where you all have it set? I'll have to try running all poles flush to see that effect.

    With it at 1/16" you guys don't find the tone getting thin or compressed, maybe muddy at times?
     

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