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Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by jazzy grille, Sep 1, 2006.

  1. jazzy grille

    jazzy grille - Arrogant Bastard

    Aug 15, 2006
    Palm Bay, Florida
    Hi guys, can someone explain me in few words the difference between alnico and ceramic pickups. I have looked around but i didnt find anything that describes the tone difference between the two.

  2. sonicthepunk

    sonicthepunk Sound of Music salesman/jr. tech

    Mar 22, 2006
    Kokomo, IN
    Ceramic is the most common now-a-days. Ceramic is typically much higher gain and output. You will get a louder smoother tone and better heavy distortion. Alnico is very different from one type to another. Alnico 3 is weaker than ALnico 4 which is weaker than 5. 5 is fairly similar to ceramic. 4 is a little weaker and has a little less gain and more of an old school tone and overdrive. Now alnico 3 will give you a lot less gain and you will get a very vintage Eric Johnson style tone on clean and kind of a ZZ top or ACDC overdrive.
  3. guitar-mod.com


    May 4, 2006
    Most magnets used in pickup production are either Alnico V, II, and Ceramic, however you will also see Alnico III. . Alnico stands for Aluminum, Nickel and Cobalt. The magnet selection most definitely has an effect on tone:

    * Alnico II - This provides the warmest tone, as well as decreased dynamic range. It also has the least string pull so you can set the pickup height a lot closer to the strings without having any tuning problems.
    * Alnico V - This is widely used in pickup production and has a brighter tone than Alnico II.
    * Alinico III - These were used by Fender in 1954 Strats. Expect these to be about 5% brighter and have 5% more lower mids.
    * Ceramic - Even brighter than Alnico V or III, and often used for high output pickups to help counterbalance the treble lost by the higher DC resistance

    Many other factors effect tone. For example, the guage of the magnet wire is known by pickup manufacturers to effect tone. 43 gauge wire will have more high end, but less volume than 42 gauge wire wound to equal resistance. The 43 gauge wire is thinner, and the laws of physics dictates that thinner wire has a higher resistance per foot, so the end result is fewer turns of the coil are needed and the physical size of the coil will be smaller.

    Yet another factor is the type of the wire:

    * Single Build Polyurethane Nylon wire (SPN) - A very common wire used in pickup production today. The insulating coating is polyurethane with nylon which is very durable.
    * Plain Enamel - used on many early Fender pickups
    * Formvar - used on many Fender pickups in the 60's. Formvar has a thicker layer of insulation which results in a larger physically sized coil for a given resistance, and some people believe this results in a warmer sound. Many pickup manufacturers dispute this point, so the jury is still open on this one.


  4. depalm

    depalm Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2004
    Wow, I didn't know that there was so many different kinds of alnico magnets!
    IMHO they sound better than ceramic.
    I use two Sterling basses and both got a new life after I instaled alnico replacement pickups.

    PocketProtector likes this.
  5. Out of curiousity, where does neodymium fit into the tonal spectrum?
  6. wingnut.supreme


    Aug 22, 2006
    For what its worth, I absolutly hated the ceramic J pickup that came with my Fender Tony Franklin Fretless P. Too bright and brittle. I replaced it with an Aero that has the Alinco 2's and it sounds very good now.

    MAJOR METAL HARVESTER OF SORROW Staff Member Supporting Member

    Great summary , thanks ! :)
  8. sonicthepunk

    sonicthepunk Sound of Music salesman/jr. tech

    Mar 22, 2006
    Kokomo, IN
    Neodymium is not currently used in pickups (to my knowledge) but it would be freaking awesome if they did. If they made a neodymium pickup it would have about 10 times the output power vs. a ceramic which with such a higher gain it would be very bright and have a killer distortion tone....great summary by the way, I didn't want to go too into detail in fear of overwhelming but you did a great job.
  9. Actually, I know of at least two neodymium pickups, the Q-Tuner and those used in the Bongo. I've got samples of the Q-Tuner in another thread.
  10. Joe Gress

    Joe Gress

    Dec 22, 2005
    Pueblo, CO
    So thats why bongos sound so good.
  11. Human Bass

    Human Bass

    Aug 26, 2005
    Dont forget samarium-cobalt that Fender is now using! The 2nd most powerful magnet and the most resistant when comes to desmagnetization.
  12. Basically I find Ceramic a little harsher and with some distortion whereas Alnico is sweeter and smoother. It is that way on my guitars that I changed from Ceramic to Alnico II and I suspect it is that way on a Bass also. There are "some" ceramic magnet pups that exibit more smoothness and sweetness than others but will still distort to some degree when driven hard. Alnico V does typically produce a hotter output but the Alnico II has that sweet vintage style tone I love.
  13. jazzy grille

    jazzy grille - Arrogant Bastard

    Aug 15, 2006
    Palm Bay, Florida
    THANKS GUYS! :cool:

    That helped alot! :hyper:
  14. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD

    Feb 20, 2005
    Seweracuse, NY

    Sheldon Dingwall's pickups use neodymium magnets as well. They sound amazing.
  15. Oops! Forgot about the FD-3s..... There are quite a few rare earth pickups available these days, notably those used in acoustic instruments (e.g. Fishman).
  16. MAGUS®


    Dec 23, 2004
    Contrary to the posts about Ceramics here, i found the Wide Ceramics on my Peavey Sarzo to be very smooth and warm sounding. Not much in the way of growl or treble harshness
  17. The Craw

    The Craw

    Jul 31, 2006
    Magus, I agree. And the old Peavey Super Ferrite pickups were very smooth too. Gibson Les Paul and Thunderbird, Rickenbacker Hi-Gains and lots of other pickups are ceramic and I don't find them harsh or brittle at all.

    The traditional Fender and Gibson pickups were alnico. Traditionalists don't like ceramics because they don't like any changes from the originals. And that's understandable.

    But as Bill Lawrence pointed out, magnets don't have a sound. It's all in the design of the magnetic circuit. There are plenty of good sounding ceramic magnet pickups out there.

  18. Yep, as I stated above there are some ceramics that are very nice indeed.
    Mine was a typical statement and not straight across the board.
  19. Magnet type and power do make a difference in both tone and output. I make jazz bass pickups with a neodymium magnet and I find that they have a lot more low end than a traditional Alnico Jazz bass pickup. Even though they are not so different from a design point of view.

    However, its important to remember that the substance a magnet is made of does not automatically dictate its magnetic pull. For example, you could make a ceramic magnet with a weaker magnetic charge than and Alnico 5 magnet just by choosing to charge it less.

    Also, don't over look the most important deciding factor for determining a pickups end tone. Design. Bobbin shape and it's placement in regard to the magnetic structure is key. This is why a P-Bass pickup will never sound like a Gibson EBO humbucker even though they are both humbuckers that use Alnico magnets
    massimomb and Tinderwet like this.
  20. I agree!
    Have found this to be true on both Guitars and Basses alike