Do coil split humbuckers necessarily sound worse than true single coils?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by b4ss_pl473r, Jun 5, 2019.

  1. b4ss_pl473r


    Nov 4, 2017
    I really like the fodera duncan dual coils when coil splitted... Would a true single coil version of those necessarily sound better? What would be the differences in tone?
  2. bench


    Dec 28, 2007
    if you mean a split coil pickup like the dimarzio model j it will always sound different than a single coil. if you mean a dual coil humbucker that can be split to just use one coil it will sound like a single coil cause it is one...
  3. b4ss_pl473r


    Nov 4, 2017
    Are you sure? They say all over the internet that it's always worse (I'm talking about dual coil humbucker)
  4. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism

    You would need to define "better" om this situation. Taste isn't an objective thing, it is highly subjective. You will lose some top end tone with humbuckers but you will gain hum with single coils. If you don't favour one pickup, the decision is easy since your single coils won't get hum. You will assuredly get somebody saying "my humbuckers sound just like single coils" but they cannot be trusted ( ;) ). If somebody could actually make humbuckers with single coil tone, that would be all anybody produced.
    bassrique and gebass6 like this.
  5. Zoobiedood

    Zoobiedood Commercial User

    Sep 1, 2015
    Writer/Ambassador/Artist/Resident Bass Expert for Seymour Duncan
    It is different, not better or worse.
  6. bench


    Dec 28, 2007
    if you take sth like an aguilar dcb you can wire it to be switched between series/parallel/single coil. then you just use one of the coils. with hum and all.
  7. Axstar

    Axstar Inactive

    Jul 8, 2016
    Single coil will be noisier, and I'm no fan of noise.
    BlueTalon likes this.
  8. define 'worse'

    It just sounds different. Whether you prefer it or not is another matter, it's subjective.
    gebass6 likes this.
  9. Tekkers


    Dec 16, 2018
    This is one of those things that will trigger the old people who think low-tech is more legit.

    A single, split coil of a humbucker is actually just a single coil pickup in itself so you’ve effectively got one in your bass already.

    For your use case, ‘better’ is a subjective term but no you likely won’t get a tone that sounds noticeably different if you pull out the current pickup and replace it with a singlecoil version of the same thing.
    All you’ll do is spend more money for the same tone that you already have, with less versatility.

    You may not presently have a use for the humbucking tone but it’s always good to have options. And it sounds like you’re getting the tone you want without spending any money, so that’s a bonus.

    I think some types of players love banging on about how there’s nothing quite like a true singlecoil tone, or how they can hear millimetrically subtle differences in lacquer thickness or the nut material or whatever.
    But there are so many things in your signal change contributing to your tone that you’ll never hear each factor in isolation enough for it to matter, and you’ll never perceive a difference when you’re playing at attack volume anyway.
  10. Tommy V

    Tommy V

    Feb 19, 2019
    i've never spit a bass humbucker, but on guitar humbuckers, to my ears, the split doesn't sound like my proper fender singles.. it's not a bad sound or anything, just not what i expect to hear from a proper single.

    i think it has something to do with the magnet structure of the humbucker that affects the split, but i could be wrong.
  11. Leo Thunder

    Leo Thunder

    Sep 27, 2018
    There is no reason for a split humbucker to sound any different from a single coil in principle. What will however happen, is that this split humbucker will usually be connected to the same volume potentiometer as its full version (unless the switching includes an elaborate circuitry to change that too), while a single coil will usually be connected to a volume potentiometer of half the value. This will change the frequency response of the whole in a way that will make the split humbucker with double pot sound brighter.
  12. I think most humbuckers in single coil mode sound brighter, clearer and not as loud as plain single coil pickups do because they actually aren't designed as single coil pups. Usually singles are hotter pickups than one half of a humbucker. If you overwound both coils of a humbucker to single coil specs, they'd sound like mudbuckers. To make a pleasant sounding humbucker the bobbins are usually matched for the same number of turns, and not an overabundance of them. Jazz guitars often have humbuckers in them. Although they look identical to the pickups in "the best guitar for metal", they sound mellower and cleaner. This is more what half of a humbucker sounds like.
    Domespeed, wmmj and dab12ax7ef like this.
  13. skygzr

    skygzr Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2015
    Southeast US
    I actually made a double J humbucker from two singles. Having it’s twin live next door affects the sound of the single, even if it’s out of circuit. I’m sure those two coils are sharing all kinds of Maxwellian goodness.

    As someone else pointed out, it’s the same with guitar. A split humbucker is not the same as a single coil, even if the components are identical. A less full sound IMHO.
    denverbarnes likes this.
  14. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Single coils can sound brighter and more "open" than humbuckers but it's not always the case.

    Single coils tend to be noisier but if properly shielded (like Bartolinis or EMGs) they can be quiet.

    There are also single coils with dummy coils for hum reduction (Alembic Series I is the classic example).

    One advantage of humbuckers is they can wired in series (like the two halves of a P pickup) or parallel which changes the tone quite a bit...series is much thicker sounding. Try a single pickup MM Sterling or StingRay 5 and mess with the pickup switch to hear this for yourself.

    So the real answer: use your ears.
  15. dab12ax7ef


    Sep 25, 2011
    I put Nordstrand DC5s in a bass with parallel/single/series switches on each. With both on single, I do get a Jazz bassy scoop and sparkle, but I’m sure it’s not quite he same as a single coil. It’s close enough for me to get that idea, and I have the parallel option still. I don’t use them in series hardly ever.
  16. DavC


    May 17, 2005
    Tallmadge , Ohio
    wouldn't the placement of each coil make it sound a bit different when singled out ..?

    i prefer Split coils , which to me , sound closer to singles , as they are 2 smaller single coils side by side ...
    BlueTalon likes this.
  17. jw23mind

    jw23mind Supporting Member

    Jan 16, 2017
    Reading MA
    I always wonder if the fact of having to fit two coils side by side (more wire between the two halves) requires a change in wire gauge or # of turns to accommodate, and thus some change in character. Isn't that the reason for the offset in split-P pickups?
    PawleeP likes this.
  18. Leo Thunder

    Leo Thunder

    Sep 27, 2018
    The wire in between poles is the same as that on the outer side and there is no problem in fitting two coils since there is plenty of space between bridge and neck. Humbuckers can be as broad as two single coils next to each other without consequences.

    I don't know why the split Precision pick-up is offset. I doubt the mere position difference along the scale makes much of a difference in sound. If it did, I would expect the offset to have been chosen the other way around for balance reasons since the way it is would exacerbate the already existing tonal discrepancy between strings. I suppose it just looked better.

    I would suppose the offset is simply there so both "halves" can be broader than halves but I'm not sure what the effect of that would be.
  19. jw23mind

    jw23mind Supporting Member

    Jan 16, 2017
    Reading MA
    To be clear, I was referring to split-coil humbuckers which are side-by-side, whereby each coil senses 2 strings (on a 4-string); not talking about parallel humbucking such as you get with say a MM or bridge & neck such as a J.
    In the split-coil case, there is certainly less space between for an equal-gauge same-turn winding scheme, though I admit I don't know how big of an issue that is; have never heard it articulated by anyone.
    Also, I remembered another reason, or at least advantage, of a P pickup is that they can be adjusted for string-string balance.
  20. Leo Thunder

    Leo Thunder

    Sep 27, 2018
    I suppose you mean there is less space for wire making its U-turn in between the 2nd and 3rd strings then. Yes, that could be the reason. Having both coils in a line could limit the area covered.