Pickups

Pickup magnets…

1

I didn't want to hijack JimmyR's thread on Bare Knuckle pickups as I have never used them, but it brought a question to my mind.

As I have grown older, I really prefer the tone and clarity of ceramic magnets over any other type. It may be that my hearing is so poor now that they are easier for me to hear. They seem so much brighter and clearer to me. Am I alone?

I know I'm way in the minority on this, but I would love to invite discussion pro or con on ceramic magnet pickups.

2

I don't have a ton of experiece with diff magnets other than what's in a pickup. However with P90's I've noticed that A2 is a bit softer/greasy/lo fi vs A5 which has strong treble/bass/presense and holds together at higher volumes than A2. A2 seems to have a bit more character and personalbity in the P90's I've tried.

I do have one of these early 90's Fender Squires with ceramic strat pickups and you know they are not too bad for ceramic.

3

Bear, your observation has me thinking.

I have a pre-FMIC Gretsch Silver Jet which has ceramic pickups. I find that it tends to be darker and less articulate than the AlNiCo pickups that I have on my Gretsch-era guitars. As a result, I have been considering changing out those pickups for the longest time. Inertia has prevented me from doing so, however.

But, I apparently hear the ceramics much differently than you do.

4

Very interesting. Ric, I think you know your experience is quite contrary to what most people say about ceramics. They have the reputation to sound bright, mostly harsh (except for overwound high-output stuff often used on metal axes). Others say they are not as smooth as AlNiCos. Some people even prefer the Ceramic Filters. It's oh so many details in a guitar that matter. I doubt I can hear a magnet. What I might be able to hear is the quality of a pickup - cheap or properly made - be it ceramic or AlNiCo. And as I think of this it might not even be true as some weird and quirky pickups can sound fabulous (think Danelectro, Kay...). Anyway... A friend owns a pre-FMIC Gretsch 6120-1960 RI (all stock; with ceramics) that has the most authentic Gretsch Filtertron sound of any reissue Gretsches I ever put my hands on. Compared to the vintage specimen I was lucky to play.

Out of my general guitar interest I'd really like to blindfold test your Silver Jet comparing the stock pickups with some AlNiCos. If the guitar becomes noticably brighter that would be one more proof that there are no rules and facts carved in stone at all in guitar world. Which is a fantastic thing as it keeps the wheels turning!

5

The problemis that there are so many factors going into a pickup's sound that it's hard to single one thing out.

Number of windings. Gauge of the wire single coil or humbucking if humbucking, is it in series or in parallel Stacked humbucker? If not stacked, distance between coils? Mini hums? Location of pickup along the guitar's scale length? What is the alloy and gauge of the string to be used? Polepiece magnets? Bar magnet? Case alloy? Wax potted or not?

Manipulating these factors(and probably a few more I forgot to mention) and it just might negate anything the magnet alloy is contributing. It's just a tiny ingredient in the whole recipe.

And then the sound is going to get colored further by the amp, pedals, speaker and cab design etc.

I like alnico pickups in general...but I can't rule out other factors that might be coloring my judgement

6

Bear - Good thread and agree with guitarcapo above. However, I like the tone you described and if ceramics can help get me there then so be it. I have a '97 Gibson Firebird and love the tone. I've recently heard(but can't confirm) that the mini-hums are ceramic. Someone on another thread, hell it might've been the Gibson forum, kind of put them down and referenced Gibson's use of ceramics in their mini-hums but didn't qualify why nor confirm that was true.

Either was that Firebird sounds exactly like a few of the way older models I played and that is good enough for me.

I do find that ceramics provide a great chime and clarity too so if anyone dislikes them, I would love to find out why and what the technical reason is for the tone difference that makes them not like it.

7

The Gibson mini humbucker used in the LP Deluxe uses AlNiCo II magnets. The Firebird mini is a different animal and not sure about their mags.

8

The problemis that there are so many factors going into a pickup's sound that it's hard to single one thing out.

This.

My own experience has been that when people put ceramic magnets in a traditional pickup that was designed around Alnico magnets, usually for lower cost or more output, I generally don't like them much. Most of the usual adjectives apply, harsh, hard, lacking sweetness, etc...

But there are some pickups that were designed around a ceramic magnet (Barden pickups come to mind) that are really nice.

IMO and YMMV

9

Same - Alnico II for genuine but not for Epiphones I think Even the US made matte finish ones.

10

With speakers it is often very hard to tell which magnets are used. Just the neodymium seem to be uniquely mean. But normal magnets can't sound either way in speakers. Like I read here, the same thing is probably true for pickups.

11

Disagree Geoff - two speakers with the same cone and voice coil but different magnets are usually pretty easy to distinguish. The Alnico will have a distinct top end chime that you don't get in ceramics, and it will compress more and in a different way.

12

I just changed the pickup magnets in my 99 Setzer Hotrod (pre-Fender ceramics) - I unshipped the ceramic bars and fitted alnico V magnets to the neck pickup and alnico 2 to the bridge. I can definitely hear a diff - there's something warmer and silkier about both pickups, also more clarity. The only way I can describe it is 'more musical', they are no longer quite as hard-edged, and the Gretsch kkkrrannnng that was there before is no longer so savage, warmer, tinklier and glassier. I believe they are not quite so 'hot' as the ceramic magnets felt stronger when they stuck together, the Al 2 magnets especially were much weaker-feeling when stuck together (had to put two in each pickup). Seems to have about the same output as the neck pickup.

I don't have a gaussmeter so I can't tell you if they are a stronger EMF, but the impedance measures the same as before. The output levels of the two pickups seem not to have changed, they're quite low by say PAF standards. Even my US Vintage 62 Strat is punchier. But they are definitely sweeter.

I also had a Silverface 1980 Vibrolux Reverb with one original CTS ceramic and I swapped a CTS alnico - same basket and cone, and swapping back to the ceramic when I sold it, could definitely, absolutely hear a diff.

13

When I had an older Country Classic with ceramics it sounded darker than the alnico Filters I have now. I agree with the above post...more clarity and musical to me.


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