How does width of a humbucker affect the tone?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by electricdemon3, Feb 1, 2002.

  1. electricdemon3


    Jul 28, 2000
    Some humbuckers like music man pickups or Alembic AXY's are wider than others, the narrower "soapbar" size. Does the width of a humbucker affect how it sounds? If so, what are the differences in tone between a wider humbucker and a narrower one?
  2. Angus

    Angus Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    Size has nothing do it with's what under the covers that does (ie, the circuitry).
  3. EString


    Nov 20, 2000
    Los Altos, CA
    The width of the aperture does indeed have much to do with the sound a pickup produces. What the relationship is, I am not entirely sure, though.

    Consider that Wal and Music Man pickups are both wide aperture pickups known for their distinctive sounds.
  4. electricdemon3


    Jul 28, 2000
    Let me be more specific. I do not mean just the size of the cover, I am referring to the space between the top and bottom rows of pole pieces or blades of a humbucker. I am sure there is a tonal difference because of the width of the string that is represented is different depending on the width of the poles.

    For example, if you compare a regular sized humbucker on a 6 string guitar to a narrower humbucker that fits in a single coil space, (i.e. a Seymour Duncan '59 to a little '59) there is a difference in sound, since the poles are closer together in a single coil space in relationship to one string. This causes the single coil sized humbucker to sound brighter.

    I was wondering if you had 2 identical pickups for bass, but one was soapbar sized and the other was the size of a musicman pickup(in relationship to width of the space between the poles), would the effect be similar in that the soapbar sized one would sound brighter?
  5. yeah, this is something I've been thinking about too.

    what I've found is that with the coils wired in parallel, the greater the spacing between the polepieces, the hollower the tone, due to phase cancellation effects.
    the tone hollows out mainly in the low midrange region.

    I think this can also be applied to separate single coil pickups eg. on a Jazz bass- the further apart they are positioned, the hollower the tone.

    I have two basses with humbuckers placed in the same spot- a Hohner B2A, with a Kent Armstrong soapbar humbucker (narrow) in the stingray position, and a Dearmond Jetstar Special (long scale) with a Kent Armstrong Musicman replacement humbucker also in the stingray position.

    in parallel mode, the big MM on the Dearmond has a more scooped-out sound (more like a real stingray), while the soapbar on the Hohner has more mids.

    BUT in series mode, I think a smaller spacing gives a clearer brighter sound, wider spacing a muddier sound- ie. the reverse applies.
  6. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Have a look at Bartolini's site. He tries to explain the secrets of "aperture" there, somewhere. sorry I can't bring it here, but I think you'd better off seeing it in original. I'd just mess it up in some way...
  7. electricdemon3


    Jul 28, 2000
    Where exactly on the page is this? I looked around but could not find it.
  8. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    I think any phase cancellation effects from the two humbucker coils will be the same whether they are wired in series or in parallel. Could be wrong though.

    One thing to keep in mind, not only are MM humbuckers wide, in that the two coils are spread apart, but also they are "wide aperture" designs where the individual coils have wide pole pieces and "see" more of the string. Lane Poor used to offer both wide and narrow aperture single-coil (humcancelling) designs, and unfortunately his website with descriptions is no longer up.
  9. brewer9


    Jul 5, 2000, the wide ones look cool n stuff.