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FDP Forum / The 'Pup' Tent / Tolerances for Strat Pickups

Bill D.

Clovis, CA USA

I pick...therefore, I play...
Jan 17th, 2019 05:15 PM   Edit   Profile  

I know that some people like the bridge pickup to be a little hotter in a Strat to compensate the volume difference between the neck/middle and bridge pickups, and some people like all 3 pickups be the same resistance. Is there a tolerance figure that the manufactures use when making identical pickups? I've noticed that some pickup that are purchased as a set are very close in specs to each other, while other aren't even close. What is an acceptable difference in having all 3 pickups match? 2%, 5%, 10? And if you wanted the neck and middle pickups to be weaker than the bridge pickup, how much weaker, in DC resistance, should they be? This is assuming the wire gauge and magnets are the same for all 3 pickups.

I've also noticed that a lot of Strats that come out of the factory have the bridge pickup resistance lower than the neck and middle pickups. Fender never measured pickups to put matching sets in. They just put in what they had and never gave a second thought about if one pickup could be a little hotter than the other ones. Any thoughts?

Peegoo
Contributing Member
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Just beyond Mars

there's a world of fools
Jan 17th, 2019 06:24 PM   Edit   Profile  

There's no hard percentage numbers for comparison because the materials and dimensions (wire, magnet alloy, bobbin size, etc.) all affect the ability for a pickup to generate AC current in the coil.

Your best bet would be to visit several pickup makers' Websites and see how they spec their pickups, compare the specs across various makers, and see what sort of averages you come up with.

Pickups that are purposefully wound to different power factors is something that became common in the 1970s and 1980s (Larry Dimarzio, Seymore Duncan, and a few other after-market pickup pioneers started doing it).

Up until that point, guitar makers spun up their pickups, and as long as they were inside the spec window, into a guitar they went. As often as not, the most powerful pickup was placed in the neck or middle position.

Same for Gibson too.



Achase4u
Contributing Member
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U.S. - Virginia

Jan 17th, 2019 06:30 PM   Edit   Profile  

Hey Bill,

Unfortunately I think there are too many variables to this equation to put a number on the ohms or number of turns here as a standard.

Even with same magnets, stagger, wire etc. If we are talking even balance across all positions, string gauge will affect this. One guy using 9s and another using 12s with a wound 3rd. Then there is the height equation or distance from the strings. One guy might like his neck and middle pickups' sound better when they are real low. Then the bridge pickup closer. This will make the bridge pickup have a better shot at balancing with the others as a side effect. Conversely, maybe it will be too loud if it's over calibrated.

The EQ of the amp will also affect this to a degree.

So really, it's just hard to say. As a ballpark, I personally find that I like the bridge of Strat style sets to have a bridge about .5 to .8k ohms higher in general to help the output without losing too much of the classic sound.

personally, for some styles, I love a bridge pickup that is the same or a little lower ohms, like vintage, as you mentioned. It's such a great unique twangy sound.

Tele pickups are interesting because the neck design is so different to the bridge. In design and materials as well(unless we are talking Broadcasters, where both pickups used 43g wire).

I generally like a neck pickup to be about .4k ohm higher than the bridge, but the same numbers will work, like 7k 7k.

This is why there are so many interpretations out there in pickup land. Everyone has their own opinions on how they should balance, and the designs all reflect that.

Achase4u
Contributing Member
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U.S. - Virginia

Jan 17th, 2019 06:33 PM   Edit   Profile  

I think in the early days, they felt they were close enough. I don't know for sure. But with pickup operated guitars being so new, they were just grateful that it made noise. So if that pickup wasn't super weak and it made noise through the amp, it was satisfactory.

Now folks are looking for a level of balanced that I think is impossible to know unless you know everyones playing style, strings, amp, playing style. It's just too hard in that regard.

Achase4u
Contributing Member
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U.S. - Virginia

Jan 17th, 2019 06:42 PM   Edit   Profile  

and in terms of vintage, their winder counters were actually "low res" and not 1:1 meaning, 1 on the counter meant something like 5 turns on the actual pickup. So they would stop a typical Strat pickup when the counter said 1500 or so, if I recall. That was for 8000 turns. So there was some error there. Also, if you their hand was going back and forth faster, the wire would be at slightly more of an angle as it traversed the bobbin. This means a little more wire per turn. It also means, because there is more wire stacking on itself, each layer is building out more than it would if the wire laid right next to the last turn. This means the coil is getting larger at a faster rate, thus using more feet of wire per turn.

Extrapolated over 8000 turns this can mean a noticeable difference in ohms etc.

So maybe one pickup had 30 turns per layer average, and the next in the set had 100 TPL.

Bill D.

Clovis, CA USA

I pick...therefore, I play...
Jan 17th, 2019 08:54 PM   Edit   Profile  

So coming from the assembly line, say that they are winding Texas Special bridge pickups. With all things being equal, how much of a difference would it take to actually hear a difference in a pickup? Say if one may read 6.5K and another may read 6.8K?

Achase4u
Contributing Member
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U.S. - Virginia

Jan 17th, 2019 09:07 PM   Edit   Profile  

You could probably detect .3k all else being equal.

Real world though, every spool of wire is different. So if they switched from one spool to the other, those two pickups that are .3 apart may have the same output and inductance and darn near the same sound.

I would say though, if one is 6k and the other is 6.6, there's probably an audible discrepancy.

ejm

usa

Jan 18th, 2019 10:26 AM   Edit   Profile  

Achase4u: I'd be surprised if someone could hear a difference between 6K and 6.3K. Possible, but, that's only 5%.

You'd probably need to put them in the same guitar, same position, record them, then listen to them. In the real world, having them both in the same guitar or different guitars, going back and forth real time, I'd think that you'd have a very difficult task sorting them out.

However, to sort of negate my own comment, and back up what a couple of others have said.........

Fender over the years went through "phases" where they tended to have years with Strat pickups measuring in different ranges.

I was in a store one time a few years back. They had a couple of early Strats, a '63 and a '64 or so. They sounded noticeably different, one being weaker (less loud) than the other.

It wasn't a busy day, so the owner pulled out a meter and showed me. One set of pups was in the high 5K range, the other in the mid 6K range. That would make them in the 10%-15% difference ballpark.

Some time after that I saw a chart on the source of indisputable knowledge (the internet) that showed typical readings for Strat pickups over the years. It basically matched what we had measured.

As a couple of others have said, the "calibrated" sets with hotter bridge or wherever pickups started to appear in maybe the 1970's.

I can see why some people like matched sets versus "calibrated" (mismatched) sets. Personally, just give me a guitar and I'm probably happy.


Achase4u
Contributing Member
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U.S. - Virginia

Jan 18th, 2019 11:15 AM   Edit   Profile  

Sure. I mean I think it's noticable, but subtle. Definitely something there and many times these situations are in the same guitar of someone swapping things out. However, I do believe a lot of people wouldn't notice. Unless they were concentrating on it.

Only 5% sure, believe me I've had customers return pick ups without even trying them because they are 2% off published spec. Which is ridiculous honestly.

However, Lindy Fralin offers not only 5% over or underwind, but 2.5% if I am not mistaken.

I agree though that too much worry over those differences is not warranted.

Peegoo
Contributing Member
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Just beyond Mars

there's a world of fools
Jan 18th, 2019 01:34 PM   Edit   Profile  

"I'd be surprised if someone could hear a difference between 6K and 6.3K. Possible, but, that's only 5%."

That's actually quite a difference. Not something that you readily hear, but more something you feel as a player, especially through a really responsive amp.

Depending on your string gauge and amp of choice, it can make a big difference in the tone, where the amp edges into breakup based on how hard you pick and where your guitar's volume pot is set.

While a listener can certainly hear the point of breakup, they have no sense of what's causing it. The "feel" comes into play by how much force the player uses on the strings. It's extremely interactive and not something the listener experiences.

As the player, you get it via the sense of control: what you're doing affects what's coming out of the speaker.


FDP Forum / The 'Pup' Tent / Tolerances for Strat Pickups




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