Do pickups matter anymore?

Discussion in 'Pickups' started by Worblehat, Nov 17, 2018.

  1. Ray

    Ray Well-Known Member

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    I'm trying, I'm trying.:D
     
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  2. Gahr

    Gahr Well-Known Member

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    Pickups definitely matter if you want them to. But like with everything else, it depends. At the moment I mainly play though a 1959 Gibson GA-20T Ranger amp. I think it sounds great, and it gives me what I want. I have played the same guitar with different pickups through it. The sound was different. So, pickups matter. Could I have achieved those same sounds by other means? Probably. But that's not how I do it. There are lots of ways in which to get what you want. Depending on what route you choose, pickups can definitely matter. It is just another variable in the quest for tone.
     
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  3. Steve D

    Steve D Well-Known Member

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    Just my $0.02 worth, as an electrical engineer. Yeah, there are only a couple of basic pickup design ideas. But there are also only a couple of different antenna designs which are all variations on the same principles of physics. But variations in antenna length, shape, number of antenna elements in an array of antennae all will make a gigantic difference. One combination will pick up short wave voice radio from a continent away, another will capture wifi from inside your house and no further; And both are useless to do what the other one does even though they both basically use the exact same technology at their core.

    I feel the same about pickups. Saying that all coils wrapped around magnets are the same fails to account for the variables that make a difference. The size and strength of the magnets, the orientation of the field, the number of windings in the coil and the spacing between coil and magnet. All that makes a difference in the signal that is induced. It's why different ones sound different even if they all are a wire wrapped around a magnet. And you can process a signal until the cows come home but if the sensor (i.e. the pickup) didn't capture a portion of the frequencies, you can't digitally add them, they will just not be there no matter how much processing you do to try to fake them being there. So yeah, pickups still matter. Less and less but they always will because you can't process the signal you didn't manage to capture.

    And besides, if you really want, for example, a classic P90 sound, isn't it easier and more consistent to use a real P90 than to take a humbucker and trying to fake it by tweaking a hundred digital effects to erase the "humbuckeriness" and add a little "P90ness"? I'd say so. On the other hand if you want your humbucker to sound like a harpsicord don't waste time looking for a pickup that will do it, just go effects heavy and try to find that tone in the digital realm. It all depends on what you are trying to do.
     
  4. Worblehat

    Worblehat Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for your 2 Cents on the topic. Very good point about all the little variables of that basic design that do make a difference.
    I 100% agree with just getting the right pickup instead of trying to get there with lots of effects. Keep it simple!
     
  5. Biddlin

    Biddlin Well-Known Member

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    OK, I want a loud midranged heavy tone. Which pickup is that?
    Now I'd like a breathy open tone. Which pickup then?
    While I have done some pickup mods in the past, down to buying custom wound to my spec humbuckers that did exactly what I wanted, I have not kept the pickups or guitars that were modded. Why? (you ask) BECAUSE THEY WERE ONE TRICK PONIES. I play in the real world where I might take 2 or even three guitars on stage but am likely to play just one if nothing goes wrong. Changing pickups is a good way to make Seymour Duncan rich, but a costly and inefficient means of changing your guitars tone. but what do I know, I've only been at this 51 years.
     
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  6. Worblehat

    Worblehat Well-Known Member

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    I don't play on stage, my experience is nothing compared to yours and I only own two guitars with a few different pickups in them. All I can say is that I like the Gibson Iommi Pickup for Hard Rock and high gain, the P90-sized humbucker in the neck for cleans and I recently discovered the great quacky tone I get from the combination of middle and neck position singlecoils. I like that I have those different options at hand and would not want to try to emulate any of those tones with a completely different pickup and a lot of EQ and effects.

    But I get your point and I suspect we are kinda talking about different things here...
     
  7. Thumpalumpacus

    Thumpalumpacus Well-Known Member

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    Ever played EMGs? Even with high-gain, they make a difference compared to passive pickups.

    Pickups don't matter much to me, but they can make a difference -- along with amps and effects.
     
  8. Steve D

    Steve D Well-Known Member

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    Good insights from the trenches of stage. Obviously there is a big difference from playing in a bedroom to playing in a studio to playing on a stage. On stage you are limited to what you can carry and fit on the stage and so a very versatile guitar setup makes a lot of sense. In the studio you can have ten guitars and 100 effects applied and overlay and all that. Different beasts. But in either case I don't know why this should be considered a "one or the other" situation. Sometime people want a base clean sound that it totally pickup/amp defined because they actually play that way at times, and then sometimes they add effects - lots of them even - to change the tone to suit the track. I mean yeah, it's possible to use a bunch of effects to make a stock strat play djent metal but if that's what all you want to play why would you pick a guitar famous for it's clear crisp tones from it's single coil pickups? You can get there but it'll take a lot more work than starting with a different base pallet and working from there.
     
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  9. DrBGood

    DrBGood Well-Known Member

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    SteveD for president ! You nailed it :h5:
     
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  10. Robus

    Robus Active Member

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    Changed the stock 490 pair for Seth Lovers and a 50s style harness. I am here to tell you that pickups matter.
     
  11. Beery Swine

    Beery Swine Member

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    Jesus, that doughy physique, soy beard, every mannerism, and that ssssssssibilant esssssssssss. It'ssssssss honessssssstly hard to lisssssssssten to sssssssomeone like that.
     
  12. PixMix

    PixMix Active Member

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    You beat me to it! Came to say to ditch the pickups altogether, because if they don't matter at all, you can just plug'n play without them. Use the pickup cavities to store your picks, or whatever...


     
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