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How to quickly test used pickups with a multimeter?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by Ron Johnson, May 9, 2015.

  1. Ron Johnson

    Ron Johnson

    Nov 19, 2014
    Chicago, IL
    My guitarist found a lot of 6 higher end guitar pickups for 100 bucks. Great value. But I advised him that we should test them before he pays. I have a multimeter, so will that let me determine if they work properly?

    I saw a video on youtube, and the guy said to first check the resistance and then attach the leads to a guitar jack and tap the magnets with a screwdriver to see if they respond. Of course we can't take an amp to a parking lot to test this out, so will my multimeter alone determine if they work? Thanks
  2. Measure for DC resistance. That's all you can do.
  3. Staccato

    Staccato Low End Advocate

    Aug 14, 2009
    It's easier on an analog multimeter (needle type).
  4. Right. Analog meters are very useful. For example, say that there is a break in the winding of a coil. (It is very rare, but not unheard of.) If there is capacitive coupling at the break, an analog meter will show a momentary deflection of its needle, before returning to infinity. A digital meter, on the other hand, won't tell you that the resistance dropped for an instant. This may lead you to an incorrect conclusion, such as the suspicion of a fixable problem like a cold solder joint.
  5. Ron Johnson

    Ron Johnson

    Nov 19, 2014
    Chicago, IL
    I have one of those too, so I'll bring it.
  6. Ron Johnson

    Ron Johnson

    Nov 19, 2014
    Chicago, IL
    Is there a certain resistance I should be looking for?
  7. Crater


    Oct 12, 2011
    Dallas, TX area
    Most pickups have a DC resistance of several thousand ohms. Could be as low as 3,000 ohms to about 20,000 ohms, but I think most passive pickups are between 5k and 10kΩ depending on their design. Use the "20kΩ" setting on your ohm meter.
  8. Every pickup has a different resistance, so no. There is, however, a specific range of appropriate values to look for, as Crater described in post 7.
  9. radmin

    radmin Supporting Member

    Jun 23, 2006
    Columbus, Oh
    Not 0 and not infinity
    Antisyzygy likes this.
  10. JustForSport


    Nov 17, 2011
    There are also hot humbuckers 12k to 16k.
  11. Bassamatic

    Bassamatic keepin' the beat since the 60's Supporting Member

    Perhaps you can look at the websites of the pickup makers before you go check them out - sometime they specify the impedance or the resistance.
  12. Antisyzygy


    Dec 8, 2014
    Do you have any recommendations for a cheapish analog meter? Does the deflection occur over and over, or is it a thing that happens when you first connect the leads? I'd guess probably only once since it's DC no?

    I'm picking up a box of pickups myself and I would like to figure out if some of them are fixable. They're off someone's guitar repair bench. One already has a wire disconnected from a solder joint on the bottom, but who knows what else I'll find.
  13. Any meter will do. The deflection I mentioned would only happen for a brief instant, as the leads are connected. The broken winding scenario is analogous to having a piece of pipe with a rubber membrane inside. If you try to push water through it, the water will flow until the rubber membrane stretches to its limit, and then it will stop. Now imagine measuring the flow. If you had a digital readout, it would just say 0. Conversely, if you had an analog flow meter, you would see the dial spin for a second before stopping indefinitely.

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