The Misleading Nature of DC Resistance in Regard to Pickup Coils

cooljuk

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I realize this is about DC resistance, but I have a question for the winders that kind of relates to DC resistance. I've never quite understood why you use such tiny gauge wire for the winding! Do you use the tiny gauge because you can get more winds and have more control over the DC resistance/pickup output?

Historically, the wire size has likely been determined by what size of wire will give the desired amount of turns, while still fitting into the intended dimensions/shape. For instance, using only one size larger wire (41 AWG) on a PAF bobbin will severely limited the amount of turns that will physically fit within the flanges of the bobbin.


What would happen if, hypothetically speaking, you were to strip a really long length of say, 24 gauge stranded wire, and used all those strands at once to wind a pickup? (Essentially winding 24 gauge wire without the insulation, for lack of a better description)

It would short out and you'd essentially have one big turn with a reading of near-zero Ohms total resistance and an inaudible and nearly immeasurable output. You have to use insulated wire to create pickup coil, otherwise you just have a block of copper.
 

Tweaker

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So you have to use just one strand of wire for the entire pickup. Did not know that! Should have thought that through on my own, but still...interesting!
 

Mark V Guitars

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Oh, you certainly can order wire that has wide variance. It's called Min-Max.
Ther'es also Min-Nom (which most people use) and Nom-Max.

Good stuff. People need to realize that DCR doesn't mean much. I had to explain it to someone just today.


Maybe, but that wouldn't necessarily get you within a certain range of ohms per foot.
 

cooljuk

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Maybe, but that wouldn't necessarily get you within a certain range of ohms per foot.

You can specify Ohms per foot and/or tolerance of your wire order from a wire manufacturer.

If you are trying to specify it from a distributor or reseller, than you will probably run into problems.

You will probably have to buy in quantity for your business to be worth the extra time to the manufacturer.
 

cooljuk

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11.jpg

Nice gear. What's on top of that Marshall cab? You've got a "trio of greatness" right there if it's a Plexi! :thumb:
 

Zhangliqun

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Zhang - the only time the word "nothing" appears on this page is in your post. I don't think anyone said DCR tells nothing about the pickup. I don't mean to sound confrontational, but what exactly are you disagreeing with? I just don't understand.

The word "nothing", or "meaningless", or something similar to it has appeared nearly without exception in similar threads over the years so in my experience, if such words haven't yet, they will. But in fact it has happened at least once: "meaningless" does appear in this thread, per Mr. Who:

Who said:
I'm saying the DCR measurement of a pickup is pretty meaningless when it comes to evaluating the pickup.

So it's coming sooner or later.

cool said:
In the example below - what can you say about the different sound of these two coils, based only on DCR? They are both wound with AWG42 PE wire.

Nothing in this case, because having an identical DCR, they are by definition too close together for the spec to matter. But if one read 10k and the other one 7k and they were both 42 AWG, would that really tell us nothing? Err...allow me to rephrase the question. Would it tell us something negligible?
 

RAG7890

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My general comments & 2c FWIW.

When I buy PU's I can only go by the following: -

1. DCR Measurement (guide only)
2. Magnets used (unless they are Vintage PU's)
3. Sellers or Winders comments re Tone (which I am sorry to say I take with a grain of Salt because most people's idea of what good Tone is, isn't mine.....not even close)
4. If Vintage PU's, seller is key (need to find one that is straight up & can describe them accurately)

So in a nutshell while DCR is not the be all & end all it is a guide which often comes in handy when the PU's are on the other side of the freaking Planet. :)

I have used honest sellers who know what they are talking about along with DCR to buy numerous Sets of Vintage PU's & I have never been disappointed.

Last but not least (& arguably one of the most critical aspects) is getting the right Set of PU's to match the Guitar they are going in.

:cheers2:
 

DavidRamey

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5 winders on this thread. 4 of them are discussing pickups, specs, etc. One of them is being argumentative. This is not the first time I have seen this one particular winder being argumentative. This is exactly why I didn't buy any pickups from this particular winder.

I want to thank the other 4 winders for the opportunity to learn more about pickups.
 

CheopisIV

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Nice gear. What's on top of that Marshall cab? You've got a "trio of greatness" right there if it's a Plexi! :thumb:

Don't I wish! It's a turd on top, Marshall Lead 100 Mosfet :p

Ok ok, it's not THAT bad but it's certainly not great. Traded an old Epi Firebird for it a year ago and was going to gut the head and build something dreamy. Still may do that actually!

8681112539_6375ec04ca_c.jpg


Back on Topic, I use DC only to gauge how much wire is on a pickup for repairs or consistency when winding from a single spool. This is also my own limits for when things change; 100 turns and I can hear the difference in a pickup with a given wire. DC gives 'potential' output and can be used to describe the tonal shape you're starting with if the wire is measured and known. Magnets and metals give a whole lot more in terms of output and tone though.
 

Zhangliqun

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5 winders on this thread. 4 of them are discussing pickups, specs, etc. One of them is being argumentative. This is not the first time I have seen this one particular winder being argumentative. This is exactly why I didn't buy any pickups from this particular winder.

I want to thank the other 4 winders for the opportunity to learn more about pickups.

I'm just trying to point out that DCR isn't nothing as some say, and some have indeed said it and others have at least tip-toed up close to it. I have no problem with anything cooljuk said, I think he thought I was aiming my comments at him, but I wasn't thinking of him at all. (If it seemed that way, cool or anyone else, my apologies...)

I don't even have a problem with anything anyone else has said in here on the topic, including someone saying DCR is meaningless. I just disagree that DCR is meaningless. Am I not allowed to express that? It's a free country, at least for now, and it's certainly nothing personal from me, and I haven't taken any of their comments personally. I have no hard feelings toward anyone in here, including you.

I agree I probably wasted a lot of time in that thread over at the Gear Page, what was it -- 5 years ago? -- and maybe didn't acquit myself that well. But it seems a bit strange that you trumpet your personal boycott of me every time I voice a disagreement with someone who isn't even you. It's time to let it go or at least just hate me in private. This just isn't that big a deal.
 

DavidRamey

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I don't even have a problem with anything anyone else has said in here on the topic, including someone saying DCR is meaningless. I just disagree that DCR is meaningless. Am I not allowed to express that? It's a free country, at least for now, and it's certainly nothing personal from me, and I haven't taken any of their comments personally. I have no hard feelings toward anyone in here, including you.

I agree I probably wasted a lot of time in that thread over at the Gear Page, what was it -- 5 years ago? -- and maybe didn't acquit myself that well. But it seems a bit strange that you trumpet your personal boycott of me every time I voice a disagreement with someone who isn't even you. It's time to let it go or at least just hate me in private. This just isn't that big a deal.

I have no idea what you are talking about a thread over at the Gear Page. I hardly ever go over there. I don't even know if I have ever posted over there. I think you have me confused with somebody else because this is the first post I ever posted about you seeming to be argumentative. I didn't even use your name in the post. But since you identified yourself as the one I was talking about, I think you have made it clear that I am not the only person to have that opinion of you even on other forums. I think that if you could tone back the attitude a little bit, you might see an increase in sales and that would be a double win for you.
 

ARandall

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My general comments & 2c FWIW.

When I buy PU's I can only go by the following: -

1. DCR Measurement (guide only)
2. Magnets used (unless they are Vintage PU's)
3. Sellers or Winders comments re Tone (which I am sorry to say I take with a grain of Salt because most people's idea of what good Tone is, isn't mine.....not even close)
4. If Vintage PU's, seller is key (need to find one that is straight up & can describe them accurately)

So in a nutshell while DCR is not the be all & end all it is a guide which often comes in handy when the PU's are on the other side of the freaking Planet. :)

I have used honest sellers who know what they are talking about along with DCR to buy numerous Sets of Vintage PU's & I have never been disappointed.

Last but not least (& arguably one of the most critical aspects) is getting the right Set of PU's to match the Guitar they are going in.

:cheers2:
+1 on this....plus

I only go by DCR when I compare 2 pickups by the same winder (we'll leave vintage pickups out of this too).

This plus the comments gives me an idea on how the winder has gone about differentiating them. But its only ever to give me a general idea when I'm in the initial stages of researching a possible pickup purchase.

Its also hard to compare anything with different winders, as they each seem to have an 'identity' that runs through their winds irrespective of type/strength. Each winders version of 'thick' or 'open' is a bit different.
 

Zhangliqun

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I have no idea what you are talking about a thread over at the Gear Page. I hardly ever go over there. I don't even know if I have ever posted over there. I think you have me confused with somebody else because this is the first post I ever posted about you seeming to be argumentative. I didn't even use your name in the post.

But since you identified yourself as the one I was talking about, I think you have made it clear that I am not the only person to have that opinion of you even on other forums. I think that if you could tone back the attitude a little bit, you might see an increase in sales and that would be a double win for you.

The way your complaint was phrased was just too similar to the way the "other guy" did so I remain suspicious.

But right or wrong on that, I have you down officially for, "Zhang's an argumentative bastard, don't ever buy pickups from him". Everyone here got your message about me and mine on DCR, we all move on...
 

WolfeMacleod

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The problem with super tight consistency today, is that you can't just order wire with a particular tolerance variation. Believe me, I've tried. Well, that and most people don't want to go test hundreds of spools of wire.


Try harder. Can and do, here. :cool:

Here as well. I like a very specific range, and my wire guy will get no more than a 5ohm variance. Per thousand feet.
 

DavidRamey

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The way your complaint was phrased was just too similar to the way the "other guy" did so I remain suspicious.

But right or wrong on that, I have you down officially for, "Zhang's an argumentative bastard, don't ever buy pickups from him". Everyone here got your message about me and mine on DCR, we all move on...

Now you are putting words in my mouth that I never said. As far as being argumentative, you just proved my point. Thank you.
 

CheopisIV

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+1 on this....plus

I only go by DCR when I compare 2 pickups by the same winder (we'll leave vintage pickups out of this too).

This plus the comments gives me an idea on how the winder has gone about differentiating them. But its only ever to give me a general idea when I'm in the initial stages of researching a possible pickup purchase.

Its also hard to compare anything with different winders, as they each seem to have an 'identity' that runs through their winds irrespective of type/strength. Each winders version of 'thick' or 'open' is a bit different.

That's a bit dangerous too :naughty: I have 2 pickups (Black Magic Neck and Chicago Bridge) that measure ~8.2k each but couldn't be further from each other in construction and tonal focus. Coil offsets are the biggest factor involved here so even with the same magnets they're totally different animals. If someone always aims for even coils then it's a different story...
 

Bluefox

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I think that the word "misleading" is the key word here. DCR is often the only spec given for pickups and people makes a choice based on that only, and that is misleading, as the OP explained so well.
In the examples reported, the inductance is cited and if someone knows how DCR and inductance work, can have a better hint on the output and tonal character of the pickup than with DCR alone. Plus the example refers to differences, or lack of those, if matching any couple of coils of the same kind, but we know that on original PAFs and most replicas, more likely we would get a combination of any two different coils, further enhancing tonal differences.
In those cases we would only read the total resistance, without any information about individual coils. Even the example of very different reading pickups (as 9k vs 7k), don't convinces me completely, as if the extremes of tolerance in coil's diameter is used, is possible to have unexpected results. When on a vintage guitar I find a 9k neck pickup and a 7,5k bridge pickup and they work, I can only explain that assuming that the finest AWG 42 was used on the first, maybe with a higher than normal mismatch, and a thicker than nominal wire with minimal mismatch was on the bridge unit.
The variables are so many, and even comparing models from the same winder can say very little, as he can use different specs wire to fine tune the sound of each, as CheopisIV explained.
That said, DCR can be useful to guess about tonal qualities mainly in the midrange, as a higher resistance, let say 9k, if it's due to lots of turns of nominal gauge, or the use of a finer wire, will have more mids than a 7,3k pickup, whatever the wire used, and so appear to be louder, not necessarily actually being louder (of course assuming that materials and magnets are the same).
So, I would dare to say that DCR is meaningless, if concerning vintage pickups, but useful if matched to other information, like capacitance, inductance, of little use by itself.
 

S_G_D

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I find DCR, wire gauge and mag type specs together can get you pretty close to a ballpark tone.

I also think this is a good reason to stay with a winder you like rather than hopping around. You're adjusting from a set baseline. One winders idea of bright and focused may be different than anothers.

You start with a pickup in the ballpark from one winder that says brught and focused, you get it and you think its still a little dark. That winder can take the feedback and change it so it is a little brighter, even though they may think it sounds like an ice pick based on their idea of tone. If you say these are muddy garbage and order from someone else, you're in a whole new ballpark, starting from scratch again.
 

cooljuk

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The word "nothing", or "meaningless", or something similar to it has appeared nearly without exception in similar threads over the years so in my experience, if such words haven't yet, they will. But in fact it has happened at least once: "meaningless" does appear in this thread, per Mr. Who:

So it's coming sooner or later.

Alright. I do think you jumped the gun a little, based on some other thread I guess, but I can see where you are coming from, as well. I just wanted to make sure you didn't take my post to mean DCR was meaningless. I document and use it daily. It is very misleading to a player/consumer, though.


Nothing in this case, because having an identical DCR, they are by definition too close together for the spec to matter. But if one read 10k and the other one 7k and they were both 42 AWG, would that really tell us nothing? Err...allow me to rephrase the question. Would it tell us something negligible?

It would say something, yes, but nothing definitive on its own. If I knew the wire for both came from the same spool, that would be a clue. If I didn't know they both came from the same spool though, I don't think that those figures are conclusive of any sonic character of the pickups. They are still too close to outweigh other variables and factors.

Using the extreme ranges of Ohms per foot of the NEMA 42 AWG wire spec, it's possible to cover that range, from 7k to 10k Ohms in a humbucker, while still having the same turn counts and same official wire size. Coil shape and wind pattern alone could also make a 10k pickup sound brighter than a 7k pickup wound from the same gauge, which is the opposite of what the average buyer will expect.

I think if the range was widened to say a 5k and a 10k humbucker, both wound with 42 AWG, than it may be more definitive, as that's probably outside the range of tolerance of 24 AWG to be accounted for just by wire size differences within the gauge. That's also outside the range of most PAF style pickups though. People aren't really judging 5k pickups against 10k pickups. It's more like 7k through 9k pickups being compared most of the time and, in those ranges, the DCR alone doesn't say much and can even mislead someone into thinking one is hotter/brighter/warmer/more resonant than the other, while the opposite could be true in reality.

Interestingly, if you go down just one wire size to 43 AWG used on both coils, you could definitely cover a range of resistance even much wider than that. Even over 10k of difference, still with the same turn counts and wire gauge. The tolerances within the wire gauge spec allow for it.
 

cooljuk

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There's no reason for anyone to be polarized by this discussion. There are no "sides" to take here. I don't think anyone disagrees that DCR can be misleading. I just wanted to show some examples of how and why it can be misleading to help others understand the facts.

Even the guitar/pickup industry, who pushed the use of the DCR spec for so long, likely only did it because there isn't really any set of figures that will define a pickup's voice. There are systems in place for quantifying the voice of microphones, speakers, headphones and phonograph cartridges. You can look at some charts on the back of the box and get an idea how those will respond, sonically. Those devices are actually much easier to quantify through numbers, not just because a standard measurement system exists, but more because they are complete systems (and with speakers, who need a box to be a complete system, the math to calculate the figures is based on a set volume of air in the box, even if the box is not included with the speaker). Guitar pickups are not a complete system because they need the guitar, strings, amplifier, and player (at least) to be complete. You could definitively quantify the voice of the coils alone with some combination of specs and graphs, but it wouldn't take into account any part of the pickup other than the coils, which would be equally as misleading, but involve more data to confuse people.

There are some more advanced measuring systems that try to take into account the magnets and ferrous components of a pickup, but they are still only measuring frequency response, not taking into account dynamics/feel, and are not including the strings/guitar/amp/player which are all very important. This is probably why these "breakthroughs" didn't really go anywhere and become an industry standard. I'm fascinated by this aspect of research though, and would love to explore more in that area.
 

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