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bucker tone diifs w/ A-2, A-3, A-5

5/12/2005 2:09 PM
bucker tone diifs w/ A-2, A-3, A-5
Say I was to have a neck bucker hand wound with unbalanced coils, unpotted and around 7.25 to 7.75. What tonal differences would be had by using A-2, A-3 or A-5 mags? Looking for a lower output PAF style pup and not sure what mags will give me the smokey, blues tone I'm after. Thanks in advance for the info!
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5/16/2005 5:41 AM

As some of the regulars here will know, I just completed my dissertation investigating the various properties of guitar pickups.  
I'm going to have my results hosted at some point next month, but in answer to your question, it appears that the magnet type makes little difference to the pickups' frequency response.  
You may perceive a difference, as the magnetic flux density will affect its sensitivity, but i'm not convinced.  
Personally, I have Alnico II's in my P90 pickups, and they sound truly awesome, with slightly less output. On the other hand, I just wound a PAF with 0.063mm plain enamel and a single A5 bar magnet. That also sounds really really good, bright and harmonically complex, which I assume is down to the low resistance (about 6k).  
If you're looking for 'smokey blues' does that mean BB King or Jeff Beck style? If you want early JB, go for 43 wire, and wind it to 10-12k. For old skool BB, go for something like 42 gauge formvar wire wound to 6.5-7k at the bridge. I find it's better to start with a bright coil, and tame it with tone controls, rather than trying to add brightness. The number of turns is more important than DC resistance for determining output. 6k of 42gauge wire produces a fair amount of output (ie, strat). If you want lower output, wind less turns! Suck it and see, ;-)  
FWIW, I'd say have the coils at least partially potted to protect them from the elements (ie, just dip them in wax).  
5/16/2005 3:48 PM
Thank you for the response Bob. Interesting to know magnet type plays little role in the pickups tone. Great information. I'll look forward to your posted results. Thanks again for taking the time to respond. B
5/16/2005 7:03 PM
Dave Stephens
Bob, I'm real curious to read your paper, some of what you have said so far on the forum seems to contradict some of what some have experienced. Yes, different grades of alnico aren't going to change the frequency response, but different grades of alnico have some different effects on inductance. Which would effect some of the high frequency response, maybe not even measurable but some guitar player with "ears" might be able to hear it. It sounded to me by your last post that you didn't do inductance measurements in your research? If so thats a big mistake. Strictly going by number of turns, or for that matter, DC resistance isn't going to get repeatable results unless your tension is absolutely dead on which you could only do with an expensive tensioner. Inductance is very important in repeatability especially since every spool of wire one gets from suppliers is different. Every time I get a new spool my recipes for pickups have to be altered and inductance is the best gauge of repetability for me. I don't have enough experience to say what the alnicos all do but some here do and they do say that there IS a definite difference and that its not all due to differences in gauss. Anyway would be fun to revisit this topic if anyone wants to chime in here......
5/17/2005 2:52 AM

I did do inductance testing of all the pickups which were tested. There was indeed an inductance change between the different magnet types.  
Particularly strangely, A2 produced more inductance than A5. However, the changes were relatively small, so I don't think they produced a significant effect. I think the impedance has the most significant effect to be honest.  
Having said that, I have noted in my investigation that the recoil and permeability properties of different alnico grades may produce significant differences when used as a core material (ie strat). I think the core resonance with such a design is responsible for the harmonic complexity of the strat sound. All the pickups I tested used steel polepieces.  
With regards to contradiction, I'm not coming here saying that everybody's wrong, I don't have enough evidence or experience to back that up.  
What I can say is that my results suggest that magnet types do not have a SIGNIFICANT effect on the tone of the pickup. The impedance of the coil is far and away the most important factor.  
Also, my investigation does not take into account the transient effects of vibrating strings, I used a driver coil to collect the results.  
What i'd like to know is how many people have quantifiable evidence that magnet types alter the frequency response of pickups. Until we see that, I guess this is just going to run and run. :-)  
5/17/2005 3:41 AM
this is just an observation. i'm not trying to say your right or wrong. but! (there is always a but ;))  
you say there is no significant effect to the tone of the pickup... but even if it wasn't significant wouldn't the insignificant effect be boosted or 'amplified' by an amp (no pun intended) to make the effect more significant? at least enough for the human ear to perceive it differently?  
5/17/2005 4:00 AM
I suppose you could look at it like that, but bear in mind that the rest of the frequencies will be boosted by the same amount. So the RELATIVE differences are still the same.  
Like I say, there may be subtle differences caused by induction between the magnet types. I'm thinking it's the flux which is responsible for the perceived changes, as it makes the coil more sensitive so more high order (low displacement) harmonics are produced.  
I'm going to make a bold statement and say that I personally can't hear the difference between magnets for a given design (in this case a 15k PAF type). I should note that i'm a sound engineer, so I have good ears!

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