Guitar Pickups 101 Series: Part 2


Pickup Output And How It Affects Your Sound


single coil wire exposedSingle coil pickup with wiring exposed.

In Guitar Pickups 101 Series: Part 1 , we discussed the basics of what a pickup is and how it sends the sound it picks up from vibrating strings. Read on to find more about the construction of a pickup.

The two main pieces of the pickup, the magnets and the coil, are the pieces that will affect the output. If you wanted to alter the pickup output, you would need to modify one or both of these pieces. The coil is easiest to affect, as you can simply wind more wire onto a coil and this will increase the output, thus making it louder. You can actually gauge how loud your pickups are by measuring the DC resistance through the wire wrapped around the coil. DC resistance is measured in ohms and you can use a multimeter to measure the resistance. The higher the DC resistance, the higher output the pickup will have. A higher output pickup sends a stronger signal to the amp, and therefore, a higher output pickup is louder and distorts more easily.

single coil wire exposedSingle coil pickup with bobbin exposed. Photo:

What about the magnet you say? The magnets commonly sit inside the bobbin, which is a housing that is electrically insulated, and is the piece that the wire is wrapped around. To change the magnets, you are really talking about changing pickup types entirely. There are a few common types of magnets that you hear about all the time; these are aluminum nickel cobalt (AlNiCo) and samarium cobalt. While AlNiCo is weaker as a magnet, it is also less expensive. One benefit to having a stronger magnet is that it requires less wire to reach the same level of output.

Another benefit to a strong magnet is that it requires a smaller magnet to reach your desired level of output, which is especially important when fitting a certain size is a requirement.

Be sure to check back tomorrow to see the next installment in the Guitar Pickups 101 Series.

If you missed part of the Guitar Pickups 101 Series, you can find that here:

Guitar Pickups 101 Series: Part 1