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Ceramic vs Alnico

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by BulbousMoses, Feb 18, 2014.

  1. I keep reading that ceramic pickups produce a more sterile, modern tone. If that's true, can't you just EQ at your amp to get a more vintage tone? The Yamaha TRBX 304 looks like a good bass but I have concerns about the ceramic pickups being able to produce a more vintage sound.
  2. MPU


    Sep 21, 2004
    Valkeala Finland
    It depends. Magnet itself does not make the sound, it's about the design of the pickup.
  3. So more to do with the windings then?
  4. Grissle


    May 17, 2009
    Wire type, size, number of turns, how its turned and coil configuration all come into play. So its not so simple.
  5. So then I shouldn't be worried about the fact that it's ceramic. That's good to hear. I just wanted to find out if you could get a vintage tone from a ceramic pickup with active electronics.
  6. Grissle


    May 17, 2009
    Well.... probably not, that's pretty much the opposite of a recipe for Vintage sounding pickups.
  7. Webtroll

    Webtroll Rolling for initiative

    Apr 23, 2006
    Austin, TX
    Could be, it depends as much on everything else as it does the pickups. The playing, the amp, the speakers, the cab design, the strings, the EQing, and the pickups fit in there as well. Of themselves I believe active pickups can cop a vintage tone, but not so much if compared side by side plugged directly into a mixing board and played the same way by the same person.
  8. Kinda what I was thinking. You could overcome the pickups natural tendencies by using, say, flatwound strings and a more vintage sounding amp...
  9. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    With the right EQ, strings and playing technique you can get a 'vintage' sound out of almost any bass regardless of the pickups. Some are easier than others.
    chip134 likes this.
  10. Bongolation


    Nov 9, 2001
    No Bogus Endorsements

  11. jamminology101


    Aug 22, 2012
    Indianapolis In
    Endorsing Artist: Glockenklang
    I have yet to hear a ceramic bass pickup that had a vintage tone...not to say it cant be done, like old Gibson P90 guitar pickups certainly are...but just sayin
  12. 4Mal

    4Mal Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    Columbia River Gorge
    Not really... Pretty much if you really want vintage, passive is the way to go... As far as mag material goes, ceramic tends to be hotter. More powerful than alnico. That means more wire to get an appropriate balance. Could be wire size, coud be the number of turns. The issue is when it comes to form factor. If the pickup is sized the same as say a Fender P or J, there may not be enough space to fit all that wire under the cover... If the pickup is larger, then you could get very similar sound and more output. It has been a rare ase when I felt a bass I owned needed more output. I can't actually remeber any time that was the case...

    I guess the other thing to think of is which vintage ? P? Split or single coil ? Guild ? Which one ? J bass? teisco ? Harmony ? dano ? There are quite a few options out there... I think active / passive is the larger decision once you have a fairly well balanced pickup...

    The primary manufacturing advantage to ceramic mags is ... Cost. They are cheaper than Alico or neodynium/rare earth.

    Should you worry about all that stuff at this point ? Probably not. Yamaha makes decent stuff at their price points. I would worry more about how it plays. The on board stuff you can change later if you decide it's really necessary.

    I'm kinda vintage at 59, like kinda vintage music... Use a Lakland 44-01 into a GK pretty often... get not truly vintage tone but something that works in most scenarios. Get the Yammy and don't sweat it...
  13. grendle


    Mar 4, 2011
    Central FL
  14. uOpt


    Jul 21, 2008
    Boston, MA, USA
    It's a bit more complicated.

    First of all, in the bass world "ceramic" often means "passive polepiece and magnet on bottom" where "alnico" means "active alnico magnets as rods. That doesn't have to be that way. You can also have passive polepiece and alnico bars at the bottom. The passive polepieces mellow out the sound quite a bit.

    The "cold" thing from ceramics comes from compression. Ceramic compresses a bit. I'm not sure somebody stuck out his neck saying why exactly but one theory is that the magnetic field is closer to saturation and enters saturation quicker as you play hard or on the attack. If you clip that out you remove play dynamics and it sounds "colder".
    the V likes this.
  15. So if you were to play with a lighter, less aggressive touch and use flats, you'd likely be able to lessen that compression effect?
  16. garfoid


    Apr 10, 2010
    I have a Dimarzio Model One DP120 humbucker as a neck on my bass.Let me tell you my experience, in single coil/parallel and series mode, you can make your bass sound as vintage and warm as it gets.Yep, it has ceramic magnets.Yep it is hot:bassist:
    chip134 likes this.
  17. jamminology101


    Aug 22, 2012
    Indianapolis In
    Endorsing Artist: Glockenklang
    Wow....a humbucker having a vintage sound. Interesting. ..
  18. garfoid


    Apr 10, 2010
    Why not, weren't the humbuckers created ages and ages ago, can't you wire them in different configurations!?Don't they differ in coil material, magnet material, gauge wiring, number of wiring turns!?Once more, I'm talking experience with what I have had, with what I have played and with what I know.This Dimarzio, when wired in single coil mode it just sounds like old era Fender Precision bass, the blind test has been made, yes, with a Fender Precision from the 60's.Some pickups are just a good surprise.On the other hand, I have a Delano Mc series humbucker that sounds very bright and modern, in any type of wiring it just sounds modern and way too clean, in that sort of example, yeah, I'm with you.