Adjustable pickup pole pieces?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by Danny McGinn, Jul 14, 2017.

  1. Danny McGinn

    Danny McGinn

    Apr 25, 2017
    Do you really even have to adjust them or can you just set them all up flat/level?
  2. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    You can do whatever you like, of course. Whether it makes a big difference on your bass depends on a lot of factors (like fretboard and bridge saddle curvature). If you don't notice a volume difference across strings, don't worry about it.
    jamro217 and TJH3113 like this.
  3. It is impossible to answer that question in any meaningful way. Whether or not the pole pieces will need adjustment depends on a number of different factors, such as the neck radius, string gauge, string balance, playing style, and preference.
    jamro217 and Danny McGinn like this.
  4. Danny McGinn

    Danny McGinn

    Apr 25, 2017
    I play with my fingers and my attack is aggressive (Geezer Butlerish). My question is more in regards of asking if there's any point I'm going through the tedious process of setting up and measuring each pole piece, or can you just make them all flat and even and call it a day?
  5. Killed_by_Death

    Killed_by_Death Snaggletooth Inactive

    I flattened them all on my Strat & could not hear a difference. That being said, my ears are not the greatest, so I'd suggest you do some experimenting & see if you can detect a difference.
  6. Badwater


    Jan 12, 2017

    Most basses don't have adjustable pole pieces, and you've discovered the reasons why. Because they don't make a huge difference. Unlike guitar where there is a difference in string material, and various tension set by the string trees, and intonation, as well as multiple pickups with various angles, the pole height does have some noticeable effect. Take a look at fender strat single coils, and gibson humbuckers. They are designed a lot different than bass pickups. And most important, you can hear the difference.

    If you can't here the difference those adjustable pole pieces are doing, you'll need to look at how some people set up their adjustable poles in pictures. That way, you'll have a foundation to work off.

    If you have a split coil P style pickup with adjustable poles, it's easier to set them all flat, and adjust each pickup to the contour of the neck radius, and make adjustments to the pickup to get the balance of sound and volume.
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  7. Danny McGinn

    Danny McGinn

    Apr 25, 2017
    I can't tell if you're saying they do or don't make enough difference in this.
  8. It's not a tedious process, and you should not be taking any measurements! Let your ears decide what is right. If it sounds okay without adjusting, then leave things the way they are. However, most people agree that having proper pickup height and string balance is extremely important.
  9. DavC


    May 17, 2005
    Tallmadge , Ohio
    there adjustable to balance the volume from string to string ... depends on one's string gauges and saddle heights ... you can surely level them out and check to see if string to string balance remains ...
  10. On a guitar there can be noticeable sound level differences from string to string so individual pole piece adjustments were called for (before the days of ultra-techie pickups). On bass, not so much ... or not at all. Pickup height adjustments, yes, pole pieces, generally nah.
  11. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    May 24, 2006
    You'll get more for your efforts by adjusting the overall pickup heights to get a good balance rather than messing with the individual pole pieces most times. Unless you have a need to change them to fix some specific problem, it's usually better to just leave well enough alone based on my own experiences.

    But like everything when it comes to bass: YMMV. :)
    Danny McGinn likes this.
  12. Danny McGinn

    Danny McGinn

    Apr 25, 2017
  13. They're like that wrench that comes in the kit that you never end up using. You paid for it, it's there ready and waiting to work for you, but you never seem to need its services.
    40Hz likes this.
  14. Usually, once the string balance is set, it only ever has to change if you switch to different string gauges. Pole piece adjustment rarely needs to be messed with more than once in the life of an instrument.
    jamro217 likes this.
  15. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    May 24, 2006
    Agree. :thumbsup: If you're doing mixing & matching of odd string gauges - or using strings from different manufacturers on the same bass - like some of the experimenters and tone freaks out there I know, then having that extra granularity for your adjustments is occasinally useful.

    But most string manufacturers have already done things to help even out the string response in their sets. So adjusting individual poles is seldom required.

    Kinda like a AAA Road Service club card. You're usually glad you paid for and have one in your wallet even though you probably hope you'll never need to use it.
    jamro217 likes this.
  16. I literally JUST watched a video about it (guitar focussed). I suspect the difference is more important on bass, as changing the pickup heights on my P makes a massive difference to my strings' balance.

    PawleeP likes this.
  17. Pickup height certainly affects the signal amplitude, or loudness, but balance? Not in my 50-plus years of experience. As I posted above, variable loudness string-to-string is noticeable on guitars, particularly when strumming which was far more common in the fifties than single note playing. Also in those years the G was always a wound string, not a plain one. That's why Leo Fender used different height polepieces when he developed his Stratocaster pickups in the mid-50s. Nonwound G and choices in string gauges came along in the mid-60s with the British invasion and with Ernie Ball. Ergo, something else in the equation. OTOH On bass the amplitude differences among strings are considerably less than on guitar, not more, mismatched bass and strings notwithstanding.
  18. Just this week I set up a MIM jazz that had raised A and D pole pieces. I actually found it very hard to get the G string as loud as the D. Jazz pickups with four screws don't tilt as gracefully as say a P with two per coil, or a MM with three mounting screws. I ended up filling the existing screw holes and redrilling them more accurately so the pickup would adjust better. But the D poles were still a bit high I reckon.

    OTOH, I have P pickups in two of my main basses, and after a set up, I'll tweak the heights at the first few gigs. A P pickup doesn't have height adjustable pole pieces of course, but really the next best thing. And they don't end up flat and equal distance from the strings.

    I have a Dimarzio model J as well in one of my basses, and I have given the grub screws a tweak. But I started with them all level, found a good compromise with the mounting screws, then adjusted the grub screws a little at the end. I could live without them though.

    FWIW, there's a few youtube vids where guys heat up poles and push them up or down. (As others have said, it's more of a guitar thing with the wound or plain G string.) That's a bit of a lottery, especially if you don't take the cover off and look at the bobbin design. With certain pickups it is perfectly safe to do this. With others, it is very risky...
  19. Exactly.
  20. Well said.