Single sized humbucker... is it real?

Discussion in 'Pickups' started by Mockbel, Nov 26, 2017.

  1. Mockbel

    Mockbel Senior Member

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    Hi guys

    Single sized humbucker comes as a solution for those who want a humbucker sound on their strat (like myself nowadays)... Seymour Duncan and Dimarzio come with various options regarding that..

    I went through some readings on pickup evolution and came with a fact (or understanding) that the secret behind the stronger humbucker sound comes in the wider space the humbucker covers comparing to single coil resulting in more string vibration capturing. So I wonder how single sized humbucker overcomes this issue.. yes they may have more rounds or wired in a specific way that bucks the hum but for sure they can't cover same string space as the real humbucker...

    So.. is single size humbucker is just a marketing lie?
     
  2. cooljuk

    cooljuk Transducer Producer Premium Member MLP Vendor

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    A humbucker, by definition, just cancels the hum. An RWRP Strat in the 2 and 4 position is humbucking.

    If you're asking if a Strat size pickup can sound just like a full size PAF-style humbucker, absolutely not. Can it be noiseless, and warmer sounding than a typical vintage-style Strat pickup, sure.

    Just depends what you are after.

    Now, "noiseless single coils" that, my friend, is absolutely a lie.
     
  3. Leña_Costoso

    Leña_Costoso Senior Member

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    A PAF sided humbucker does pick up vibration over a wider section of string, or perhaps two sections of string. There are two coils, and two magnetic fields from the pole pieces in those coils.

    There's been quite a lot written on why a "PAF sized" humbucker sounds so different than a single coil pickup. For that matter, single coil pickups sound different. A Tele bridge pickup, Strat pickup, Jazzmaster, and P90, all sound different, yet all single coils.

    One other thing to consider... coils themselves, even when wound with the same amount of wire and turns, can sound different depending on their shape. I'm not specifically talking about the winding on a bobbin, but how tall and how wide the bobbin is. A tall narrow coil will sound much different than a low wide coil. This property is used advantageously in the design of specialized radio equipment, where coils are only a few turns, or maybe a few dozen turns of much heavier wire. You'll see big changes in the inductance of the coil, based on its shape.
     
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  4. Zoobiedood

    Zoobiedood Senior Member

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    There is nothing wrong with using a single coil sized humbucker. They work well in many guitars. Of course, they aren't exactly like a full size one, but they have their own thing going on, and in many cases can be preferred.
     
  5. J-Dizzle

    J-Dizzle Senior Member

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    I have a Duncan Little 59 in my strat and it sounds absolutely kickass. When I played it the first time I was actually shocked how good it sounded, way better than I expected.

    Would it sound the same as a full sized humbucker I'm not sure, that's a different question, but there's no doubt that single coil sized HBs can sound damn good.
     
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  6. jdto

    jdto Pretend Human Premium Member

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    A guy I jam with has a little 59 in the bridge of his Strat and it kicks butt. Perhaps if you did an A/B with a PAF under ideal conditions, it would be way off, but when we jam it sounds fantastic and he rocks it.
     
  7. Antigua

    Antigua Senior Member

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    Pickups work based on Faraday's law of induction, which says that the more magnetic change you get through the coils in a shorter amount of time, the more voltage you get. Since big humbuckers are wider, they see more magnetic change as the string moves around above the pickup, hence you get more voltage.

    But of course there are "hot" pickups and "vintage" output pickups, and that's because the output voltage is also influenced by the impedance of the pickup. When the impedence is higher, the voltage output is also higher. A "hot" pickup has more winds of wire on it, which increases the inductance of the coil, hence increasing the impedence and the voltage. The only reason all pickups are not all wound as hot as possible is because increasing the inductance (and the internal coil capacitance) lowers the resonant peak frequency of the pickup, decreasing treble response of the pickup (look up parallel LC resonance for more on that).

    Aside from voltage output, the other challenge of making a small humbucker sound like a wide one is that with wider humbuckers read different proportions of string harmonics. A wider humbucker sees a more complex array of harmonics because it's taking signal from two different locations along the string, and summing them together, resulting in both additions and subtractions (because some of them cancel each other out) to the overall harmonic output. A single coil sized humbucker's coils are so close together, that there is virtually no difference in harmonic content seen by the two coils, so when the two coil's voltages sum, the harmonic content is almost purely additive; more of the same thing. Therefore, while a wide humbucker has a complex harmonic output, a single coil sized humbucker is virtually no different than a single coil in terms of harmonic complexity.

    So, taking the Little '59 for example, how do they set out faking the tone of the larger '59? They increased the inductance, and that's about all they have in their power to do. Where as a '59 neck has an inductance of 4.3 henries, a Little '59 neck has an inductance of 5.5 henries. The increased inductance helps boost the voltage that is lost to the smaller size of the pickup. The larger inductance also causes the resonant peak of the Little '59 to become much lower than that of a full sized '59, by nearly 1kHz. By removing more treble from the pickup's response, the bass and mids become more prominent as a result, and so this higher inductance and darker frequency response gives the smaller pickup the perceived volume and fatness of a full sized humbucker, but for the reasons stated above, it lacks harmonic complexity and content by contrast.

    In summary, a single coil sized humbucker is really more like a really hot single coil that also humbucks. It can't, and never will, sound like a full sized humbucker due to the laws of physics, but the need for companies to sell pickups outweighs the need to be honest about such realities.
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2017
  8. Mockbel

    Mockbel Senior Member

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    Thanks a lot my friends... loads of useful info here... not sure what to do but seems like I will step back from my plan !

    I have a Fender american special and wanted to find a trade for it for a more hard rock guitar.. a charvel in particular.. a friend suggested putting a humbucker on my SSS Fender as other specs are almost same as Charvel (alder body, maple fretboard, jumbo frets) so I though of those single size humbuckers but seems like it won't give me the sound I want..

    so i will whether change the whole pickguard with HSS one or will keep the guitar as it is.. and save up for a Charvel
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2017
  9. Zhangliqun

    Zhangliqun Senior Member

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    The width of a standard humbucker allows it to see the longer wavelengths of the lower freqs better. You can have a 5k full size bucker and it will sound louder/bigger than an 8k Strat (assuming both wound with the same gauge wire) because the Strat can't see the longer wavelengths as well.
     
  10. Antigua

    Antigua Senior Member

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    That's not how it works. A narrow pickup receives fundamental and lower harmonics magnetic changes in the same proportions as a wider humbucker. It's actually higher harmonics that differ, due to comb filtering effects between the two coils.

    A humbucker produces more voltage because there is a greater amount of magnetic change through two coils instead of one. It's analogous to running two 1.5 volt batteries in series in order to get 3 volts total.
     
  11. freefrog

    freefrog Senior Member

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    Something to keep in mind, IMO, is that "SC sized" humbuckers have been designed for Fender style guitars - Strats, typically.
    And a Strat has a longer scale than a Les Paul, modifying the ratio between fundamentals and harmonics... and a tremolo with springs, in a cavity behaving like a resonant acoustic chamber ... not to mention a slanted bridge pickup capturing the resonance of strings at various distances from the saddles...

    That's why a SC sized HB with a narrower "magnetic window" and a higher inductance than its full sized counterpart might empirically sound closer to its big brother than expected on the single basis of their tech specs, as long as these two kinds of HB's are mounted respectively in a Strat and in a LP.
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2017
  12. freefrog

    freefrog Senior Member

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    FWIW, one of my friends has designed a single coil with an outstandingly low hum level. It's a "confidential" product (and I'm not even sure that it's still in production, since my friend is retired for several years) but it works surprisingly well, a bit in the same way than the "microcoils" designed by Bill Lawrence.

    David, beyond any question of (dis)agreement about such or such statement, I wanna thank once again people like you and James (or Frank Falbo) to share your findings of winders with users.
    Being simple human creatures, we have all minds working a bit like guitar pickups sometimes: when we focus on a subject and dig deep in theory about it, we always risk to end with a narrowed "reading" of things.
    That's where real world experiences like yours are always useful for other people - even when we don't necessarily theorize things through the same concepts and words than you.
    In the same way and for similar reasons, I've appreciated your explanations elsewhere about the magnetic field of P90's (the theoretical accuracy of such explanations becoming secondary as soon as any user can reproduce your experience himself, by pulling off alternatively the two mags of a P90 then listening how it alters the sound)...

    So, thx again, dear winder(s)!
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2017
  13. northernguitarguy

    northernguitarguy SWeAT hOg

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    While we're at it....do these SC 'humbuckers' work well with the 250k pots, typical in a Strat? If they need 500k pots, how does that affect the other SC pups?
     
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  14. ntotoro

    ntotoro Member

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    The same logistic hell that anyone with a H/S, H/S/H or H/S/S combination has to deal with, I imagine... :jam:

    I've never actually researched it, but how does Fender wire up their H/S/S Strats? They still only use one volume and two tone controls, I believe. Some stacked pickups recommend 500k pots, also.

    Nick
     
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  15. cooljuk

    cooljuk Transducer Producer Premium Member MLP Vendor

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    You can throw a fixed resistor in series or in parallel with a pickup or pot to change the load it presents or is presented, making mixing different pickup types with one pot value work as you would expect them to work independently. ...for the most part.

    ...or, you can also accept that humbuckers are "expected" and even "desired" to be warmer and singles are "expected" to be brighter and just use a compromise value for both like a 400k pot.

    It's not actually as much of a problem as you may think, in real life.
     
  16. Zhangliqun

    Zhangliqun Senior Member

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    Then how does using narrower magnets in a P90 thin out the tone? Only one and the same coil there.
     
  17. Antigua

    Antigua Senior Member

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    Regardless of how you choose to define "thin" tone, in this instance, it has nothing to do with "longer wavelengths of the lower freqs". The important distances in this case are "up and down", how far the string moves towards and away from the pickup, not width or length. The string moves the same distance up-and-down over both a single coil as it does over a humbucker. The width / length you're referring to only lends to comb filtering effects, which only effect higher frequencies when the coils are as close together as a humbucker's coils are.
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2017
  18. Zhangliqun

    Zhangliqun Senior Member

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    I don't buy the comb filtering. By which I mean, yes there is the comb filtering effect that we all know humbuckers have by their nature, cancelling out some of the higher freq's along with the hum, but there's far more to this than that, or you could make a single coil sound just like a humbucker just by rolling the tone back slightly. The humbucker is not -- sonically -- just a single coil without the hum and with the top dulled slightly; it actually brings in more lows and low mids.

    Also, if you pick a string very lightly with the neck pickup on alone, so lightly that the amplitude of vibration of the string is identical to that of a normal strength pick strike in the same spot on the string with only the bridge pickup on, by this theory they should sound identical. But they obviously don't. One sounds like a lightly struck neck tone, the other like an average strength strike bridge tone.

    Likewise take the same pickup and strike the string in the same spot with the same force but each time use a different pick with a different thickness/texture/shape. Presumably the amplitude of vibration is the same but the tone is different.

    This is because pickups do not merely see/hear amplitude of vibration, they are see/hear frequencies; otherwise there would be no partial signal cancellation (comb filtering) with humbuckers.
     
  19. Antigua

    Antigua Senior Member

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    A comb filter is very different from a roll off. They call it "comb filtering" because it looks like a comb when plotted. Since comb filtering is based on physical circumstances and not electrical ones, it knocks down different frequencies for each of the six strings, so it's almost impossible to duplicate the effects of comb filtering electrically, as it would require sophisticated signal processing.

    In a way that's true, but not for the reason you stated. The overall output is increased because you have two voltage sources in series, and the high end is attenuated for specific frequency bands due to the comb filtering, causing more lows and mids to remain un-attenuated. It's more accurate to say a humbucker is ommitting high frequencies than it is to say it's adding to the lower frequencies, because in between the attenuations of the comb filter, it's adding higher harmonic voltage as well.

    You're under the impression that pickup width relates frequency, but both the frequency and the amplitude are defined along a single axis of movement. The amount of time it takes for the string to move near to far / far to near (due to length, mass and tension) dictates the frequency, while the amount of magnetic displacement (due to magnetic field strength, string size and permeability, and how far the string moves) over time determines the amplitude, and all that is expressed along a single axis of movement. When you add a second coil to the picture, then you have two competing signals that combine to create both harmonic additions and subtractions from the overall output signal, which is where the comb filtering comes in.
     
  20. Zhangliqun

    Zhangliqun Senior Member

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    I understand what a comb filter is, that it would not be EXACTLY identical to a rolling off of the tone pot, but it would be close enough that rolling off the tone pot would make the single coil sound very close to a humbucker, but it just doesn't.

    You also seem to think frequency and amplitude of vibration are the same thing but they're not. Amplitude is the excursion distance of the vibration from the center, ie: the string sitting still. Frequency is how fast the string is vibrating. The same string hit the same way/same angle/same strength/same pick etc, by definition has the same amplitude and same frequencies coming off it -- but it sounds very different with the neck pu on vs. the bridge pu vs. the middle, even if all 3 pickups are in every way identical other than position. How can that be if the amplitude is the same and amplitude is everything? Because the two pickups are seeing very different parts of the string, and these different segments of the string are throwing off very different frequencies. Yes, the fundamental pitch is the same, but the relative strength of each of the overtones to each other and to the fundamental pitch is very different.

    You can test this without any electronics at all. Just play your guitar unplugged and pick the string right next to the bridge and gradually move it, still picking as you go, from the bridge to the 12th fret. As you go from bridge to 12th fret, the lower frequencies become more and more prominent, then decrease in prominence, if you continue the experiment, as you go from the 12th fret to the nut.

    Again, if it was just amplitude, (a) the same amplitude of vibration over the neck pickup would sound the same as over the bridge pickup but it doesn't, and (b) if it was just amplitude, the amplitude being substantially the same over one coil of a humbucker as over the other, most of the signal would be cancelled out. But instead it's just some of the higher frequencies that are the same that are getting cancelled out.

    Of course pickups can see frequencies -- the magnetic field fluctuates at the frequency of the vibration of the string, fundamental and overtones.
     

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