School me on mini humbuckers

Robert Parker

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I have a set of Zhangbucker P90s, and I love everything about them except the noise. It's getting to me enough, especially at moderate-to-high gain. So, before I route for full-size humbuckers, I want to consider minis. Before I shell out for a high-grade set, I want to understand them better.

I get the basics - narrower field of sensitivity, tighter or punchier sound than a standard HB, fits a p90 route, etc.

What I want to know is how the construction differs? What are the vintage output specs vs stuff that tends to be more modern? What magnets tend to work best to get a punchy, spanky kind of bridge tone and a hollow, somewhat Fendery neck tone?

Last, I have no problem paying for a top-shelf pickups (and I'd probably get more Zhangbuckers). But I don't want to spend that money before I know with relative certainty that I like the basic sound. So, what are some good low-cost options for a trial run?
 

ARandall

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Talk to David.......he's the best one to tell you what works in a mini - as he makes several types after all, including vintage Deluxe and Firebird style.

And when has buying a cheap pickup ever told you what a good one of the same form factor sounds like???
 

geddy

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There (at least) 3 different construction s for mini hums. This info is available on the interweb with drawings. Changes in magnet type add to the variety
 

freefrog

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How regular Firebird PU's and Epi style mini-hums are made is shown here:


I won't talk here about overwound "sidewinders" (Firebird PU's with coils laid laterally and measuring 24k).

With similar coils, essentially...
-vintage specs Firebird PU's contain two vertical bar magnets.
-Vintage specs mini-hums contain one single horizontal mag under the coils and more iron (screw poles, + one single solid bar instead of the usual slugs). It gives them a weaker magnetism and a higher inductance, the whole causing a rounder "resonant peak" and a softer/warmer tone than with FB PU's.

The one to chose for a "fendery neck tone" would be the standard Firebird recipe with A5 bars: it has the same inductance than a Strat single coil and the same kind of narrow focused resonant peak.

Conversely, for a standard humbucker sound, overwind the coils of a mini-hum with thinner wire gauge (and add again some iron if needed). @ 10 or 11k of 43AWG, its inductance should reach the specs of a regular sized P.A.F. and its tone should get close - albeit always more "focused" because of coils spacing.

NOTES
- IME, it's possible to emulate the resonant peak and tone of a mini-hum with a Firebird pickup whose tone control is simply set @ 3/4. A FB PU tends to squeal more easily but it's more versatile.

-The contrary is not so true - to mimic a Firebird PU, a mini hum needs to be paired with a parallel inductor + some no-load tone control/ high resistance volume pot...

There's many more to say about possible mini-hum architectures but time is lacking and my post is already long enough...

FWIW (my 2 cents of the morning, before a long working day). :)
 

dc007

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Can't speak to specs but my son in law has a 76 LP Deluxe with mini hums in it. When I play it just have to tweak the amp to get to respond to my liking. They def don't have the P90 snarl IMHO but they are not lacking in anything else. The bridge pup does sound a little thin prior to tweaking the eq of the amp. Barry Bailey from ARS sure made them sound good. Some of the best tone ever. I watched him up close many years ago. He was plugged straight in to a 100 watt Marshall through the normal channel only. Tone to die for.
 

cooljuk

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Brilliant reply, as always, @freefrog.

As I know you find this stuff interesting, I thought I would share my own take on the section below. I opt to stick with AWG42 wire, and overstuff the bobbins, winding them well beyond the flanges. As much as can physically fit in the cover without damage. I think the wider coils make a positive contribution. I find A2s get the job done well, here, with the warmer sound and increased inductance. Personally, if I'm going for a warm and fat mini, that has some full-size qualities, I like one in each coil (or an A2/A3 combo) and a very large very low carbon steel keeper between them, under the coils. If that's venturing too far from vintage, I opt for one long A2 under the coils and a slightly shorter version of my very low carbon keeper, inside the slug bobbin. Basically, big wire, big coils, lots of iron (they are heavy!). :cheers:

Conversely, for a standard humbucker sound, overwind the coils of a mini-hum with thinner wire gauge (and add again some iron if needed). @ 10 or 11k of 43AWG, its inductance should reach the specs of a regular sized P.A.F. and its tone should get close - albeit always more "focused" because of coils spacing.
 


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