Hand wound pickups, they really matter?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by edgaroviz, Mar 5, 2012.

  1. edgaroviz


    Aug 8, 2011
    Do hand wound pickups really "enhance" the sound?

    My plan was to buy a Squire Jazz CV and get the Custom Shop pickups for it, but then I found that O.C Duff makes hand wound pickups for a J, and they cost the same as the Custom Shop pickups.
  2. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Banned Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products
    Depends on who's making them. It's not necessarily about them being hand wound, but how they are wound. There's a lot of good machine wound pickups on the market, and a lot of bad ones too. Depends on many factors including the winding pattern.
  3. tastybasslines

    tastybasslines Banned

    May 9, 2010
    Los Angeles, CA
    I was wondering - if you have 2 pickups of the same shape, how does the winding matter? What I mean is, does the way they are wound change the sound, and if so, how?
  4. Varying the winding technique alters the physical shape of the coil and thus, changes the LCR. Scatterwinding, for instance, creates many small gaps between windings that change the capacitance of the coil.
  5. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Banned Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products
    Some of the factors are amount of turns per layer, the total number of turns, and the tension used.

    Scatter winding is using a low number of turns per layer. Machine wound coils have more turns per layer.
  6. FunkHead

    FunkHead Supporting Member

    Mar 10, 2007
    Stewartsville, NJ
    To Me Hand wound means one of a Kind. No one can sound "exactly" like you but I'm sure it'll be pretty close depending on the materials used.
  7. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Banned Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products
    If you have been winding for a while, you can be, and should be consistent. All my hand wound pickups of a certain model sound alike.

    So while there is a certain amount of randomness to hand winding, as long as you are within your parameters your pickups will be consistent.
  8. sven kalmar

    sven kalmar

    Apr 29, 2009
    this is where "the art" comes in i suppose.to get the right amount of imperfection, that creates the "magic" like in so many other things?
  9. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion

    Aug 25, 2010
    The Great Midwest
    +1 very informative SG I just sent you a PM about some custom J pickups I didn't know you made pickups also.
  10. Disagreed.
    This is analogous to saying that the batch of paint you had mixed will allow your wall to be painted a different color than anyone else's wall, because no two batches of paint will ever match exactly. While this may be true, the machine they use to mix paint is so consistent that every batch is going to be so similar to the paint swatch that it would be ridiculous to try to quantify the differences. If you can tell the difference at all, however, it's not a good thing. Likewise, a skilled pickup winder strives for a consistent product, and should know how to voice pickups to sound the same in every batch. Once you've perfected the art/science, the last thing you want is to sell/use inconsistent batches!
  11. Cadfael


    Jan 4, 2013
    Germany, EU
    I made the (metalworks) quality control in a company for 10 years (10 years ago) ...

    After a whlie, I could tell which part was made by which person.
    Even the CNC parts weren't identical, depending on the man who worked at the CNC.

    The "personal touch" was better to see at "hand made" parts.

    I think it's the same with PUs ...
    BUT: You would have to be a "highly skilled listener" to hear (the) differences!!!
    I think 99% or more wouldn't here the differences (including me).
  12. boynamedsuse

    boynamedsuse Supporting Member

    Oct 13, 2010
    I find that very interesting.


    Although mildly off topic, even though you are referring to your experience with metal, this infers that not all CNC manufactured bass parts will be identical (not to mention variations due to the variability of wood)--something I've suspected for some time.
  13. My first bass had a pickup that was so microphonic I could sing into it (it was a miserable MIJ Kimberly short scale). I suspected it was hand wound. I'm not prejudiced against hand wound coils. I'll give anything a listen. I did listen to a clip of a P pickup where the maker made a big deal out of scatter-winding by hand and it sounded brittle and scratchy to my ears. I want cream, not scratch. So I'll listen and ignore whether a pickup is hand or machine wound, and I don't even ask, 'cause I'm gonna end up buying what sounds best anyway.
  14. Cadfael


    Jan 4, 2013
    Germany, EU
    Hi BNS,

    I "moan at a very high level"!

    It has nothing to do with metal, but what "very skilled eyes" can see.
    Keeping this in mind, I think that "very skilled ears" can do the same as eyes (or taste - think of "professioanl tea drinkers"). BUT as I wrote; more than 99% wouldn't hear a difference. Even piano tuners wouldn't at once because they are not trained to hear "this kind of difference". Piano tuners are trained in fine note and not fine tone variations.

    Keeping in mind that differnet bass guitars have different wood (and every string is a bit different, I suppose you can NOT hear the winding difference on differnet instruments (within one model). The other influences are much bigger!!!
    But hearing the pure pickups with a standard signal would show slight differences to a skilled ear.

    Some dogs know when their master comes home - through the door and much more than two yards away. The wife can't understand why the dog knows that the husband is coming home.

    - - - - -

    Regarding CNC ...
    It's 10 years since I left this job. If people only put in or out the wood on a body or neck CNC, you might not see it. But "skilled CNC workers" normally have to do more than this! They know their material and how it reacts, they know the tools, the speed +++
    So, they really handle the machine and do not just replace parts with standby brain ...

    During the CNC works, some workers also have to do a little "hand fine tuning" and there you see the personality of the person. Sometimes you even see the mood they are in!
  15. Can you listen a bass and say if the pups are handwounded or not?
  16. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Banned Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products
    Right, CNC is a tool. You can make junk on it, or finely made parts. Same with machine wound pickups. As long as there is attention to detail, machine wound pickups are fine. Hand winding does not automatically make them better.

    But you can't expect to just churn out a zillion pickups an hour and have them sound any better than the cheap Chinese stuff you find in some low end instruments.
  17. Cadfael


    Jan 4, 2013
    Germany, EU
    I'm glad when I hear if it is a humbucker or a Single Coil! :bawl:
    Maybe I should have written 99,999% and that I am NOT one of the chosen ones to hear this. But I know from MY former job that senses can reach a lot when they are trained to a special item.
    I later also was did the "warehouse" of our company. If someone had told me before that I can remember more than 10.000 article numbers and where they are to find, I would have said he's nuts. But it is possible!

    @ SGD Lutherie / all:
    When "old" people say that computers make everything easyier, they only show that they have no clue of computers.
    When people say/think that CNC machines produce the same quality, no matter who "feeds" the CNC, they only show that they have no clue of CNCs ...

    You are absolutely right! A CNC is a tool like every other tool. Bad worker, bad output. Attention to detail is the key to good quality, no matter which tool you use (CNC or hand).
    Even CNC parts can have "soul" if the worker had "soul".

    Handwound pickups from a western manufacturer are normally wound with soul - because you have to be nuts to earn your money like this. So, the pickups have soul, too.

    I am a Myth Buster concerning Fender instrument besause I reduce them to what they are and how stupid they were made. But this doesn't make them smaller!!!
    I think you can hear the love, the workers put into many (not all!) of these instruments ...
  18. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Banned Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products
    It reminds me of back in the 80s with drums machines and sequencers. People would say that you are using a computer to play music, and that there's no skill or work involved. I remember spending hours sequencing drum and keyboard parts, and turning to one of the guys in the studio and pointing out that if we played the parts on instruments we would have been done hours ago! But we were doing dance mixes, and that's what they wanted to hear.

    The programing of any computer aided task is a lot of work. But CNC allows repeatability. But you have to define your design first.

    I think as with anything, you have to decide are you doing it for the product, or for the profit? If you want to make the best pickups, then it doesn't matter how you do it. You will pick the way that works best. The intent is there. If you just want to make money, then you will cut every corner you can!

    Leo Fender was a very clever man. And he had clever people around him. He always wanted to find the easiest and cheapest way to do something, and usually would invent a machine to do it, and have it come out with the quality he expected.

    But "real" guitar makers like Gibson laughed at his "plank" guitars with the screwed on necks, etc. He boiled things down to the essence of what the minimum parts were needed to make an electric guitar, and he picked the right aspects of that and had a hit. Then those instruments defined the sound of popular music.
  19. Heh heh heh... I used to sell paint. I hated the automatic machines, because they were not as consistent as hand-mixed paints. The automatic mixer used long tubes to deliver the tint, which swelled under pressure and squeezed extra out as the pressure released. At that point, the mixer had no control over how much tint dropped in the paint. The hand mixer, on the other hand, did not use these tubes. Everything was hard material, and the valve was very close to the end of the nozzle, reducing the amount of leftover tint between the operator's control and the paint bucket. And when you're talking 1/48th of a fluid ounce of tint per gallon of base, you want control.

    That being said, a well designed and operated pickup winder can do a better job than a novice winding them by hand. Though I have never wound pickups, I have watched a coworker wind Torqrods™, and wound one myself. These are wound by hand, and he has done several hundred. The one I did wasn't nearly as consistently made, even though I was well within the NASA requirements. His were perfect every time. Same number of winds, same DC resistance, same magnetometer test results. Of course, a Torqrod™ uses much bigger wire and not nearly as many turns... generally, 4 or 6 layers, 993 turns per layer, 32-38 gauge wire (depending on length and diameter of the Torqrod™. Not quite as delicate as pickups, but disastrous if done wrong. These things keep satellites pointed in the right direction. Pickups make music.

    Based on my experience with winding Torqrods™, I'd like to try winding my own pickups and applying some of that spaceflight tech to an experiment. Would anybody be interested in spaceflight grade pickups?
  20. After I was a paint mixer, I operated electronic assembly machines for almost 11 years. You can see the quality differences between operators. Someone who doesn't give a hoot may have components that stick up off the board because they don't think the component is damaged, and they leave it as is when the machine stops. Someone who cares, but wants to get work done, may have great looking components, but it's so hard to do an inspection because they just don't see the point in making sure all of the (non polarized) components are facing in the same direction. Me... I would spend HOURS making sure the machine could run nonstop from start to finish, putting all of the components in snug but not tight, all the resistors were in the same direction, and capacitors could be read from the most accessible side. Of course, all of that extra work negated the production time savings when other operators would mix it all up on a different shift, and none of that attention to detail made any difference in whether or not your furnace fan kicks on when it's supposed to or not. And since nobody really cared what it looked like when it was done, I hated my job.

    You can see when someone doesn't take pride in the guitar they build. Whether it's a Fender or a Gibson, a Squier or an Epiphone, an ESP or an LTD... cost-cutting only goes so far. It's about the attitude of the builders. You can definitely see the attitude differences in these stringed instruments.