Microphonic pickups

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by monsterfiddle, Jun 7, 2019.

  1. Hi all,

    I recently installed SD Rippers in my RD (they were the only pickups I could find with the right dimensions), and I'm very happy with how they sound.

    BUT, when my fingers hit the covers, or my thumb moves across them, the acoustic is picked up by the pickups and comes out through the amp. Obviously not what I want. I'm talking about my fingers hitting the plastic, not the pole pieces.

    They are sidewinders, if that matters.

    Really hoping for some good advice here, as this is really annoying. My other basses don't do this.
  2. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    Stop hitting the pickups with your fingers when you play.
  3. Easy to say, but I've played for 25+ years and never had this problem before, at least not to this extent.

    When playing on the E string I rest my thumb on the pickup, which also creates audible sounds through the amp. You want me to stop doing that as well?

    The problem here is that these pickups act too much like microphones, picking up all sorts of sounds.

    As I've stated above, none of my other basses have this problem. I want to find out why this happens with these pickups.
  4. Ok, I've googled a lot, and I think I've found out what the problem is. The bridge pickup is microphonic.

    The solution to this problem seems to be wax potting, but these pickups are supposed to be potted already. Guess they have QC issues.

    I'll send them a mail and see what they suggest, but I guess I'll have to get it re-potted locally.
  5. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    Before you do that:

    Pickups can be internally microphonic or externally microphonic. Two different problems; two different solutions.

    If the whole pickup is not mechanically secured to the bass, you can get external microphonics. That is, the pickup is slightly loose on its mounting screws, or there isn't enough pressure underneath from the foam or springs. Touch it, rub on it, tap nearby, and it wiggles a tiny bit, creating a sound.

    Check that first. Since you just installed them, the bridge pickup may be a little loose in its mounting. Does it physically twitch when you tap on it? Tighten its adjusting screws a turn. Try holding the pickup tightly with one hand and tapping on it. Or, try wedging a bit of cardboard between the side of the pickup and the body. Do the microphonics go away? If so, then you've found the problem. Fix it by adding heavier foam or stiffer springs underneath. Even some solid blocks of wood, if you like. Solidly mounting the pickups is one of the pro tricks to making basses quiet to finger noise caused by external microphonics.

    Now, if the pickup is solidly mounted and it still makes noise when you rub or tap on it, then it may have internal microphonics. That means that the coils or wires are loose inside. Incomplete encapsulation, or poor quality potting of the wire in the coils. A fairly common problem on old '60's pickups, but rare on decent quality pickups made in the last few decades. Some cheapo import pickups will have bad potting.

    Seymour Duncan builds very good quality pickups. I would be amazed if one of theirs had sloppy potting and internal microphonics. Very unlikely that it needs to be re-potted. Most of their pickups are sealed up with epoxy anyway.

    I'll bet that your problem is with the mounting, and you can fix it yourself.
    Eneade and Torrente Cro like this.
  6. Torrente Cro

    Torrente Cro

    Sep 5, 2013
    This. I had the same issue with loose pickups, it fixed when I screwed them ;)
  7. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    :laugh: Yes, if you have loose pickups, screw them! Put that into your language translator, for a good laugh!
    Torrente Cro likes this.
  8. Thank you @Bruce Johnson , good advice as always. I'll test this out on Monday, as I'm away for the weekend.

    Thanks again, it's really appreciated.

    (Changed the title now that I know the terminology)
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2019
  9. Bruce, you are amazing. By caring enough to understand the problem, reply and share your knowledge, you have saved me a ton of needless frustration and hassle, which wouldn't have solved anything anyway.

    In my case, I had made a plastic platform for each pickup which they were screwed into, so that I could use the mounting holes in the pickguard. By using your tips above, cardboard and everything, I was able to pinpoint the problem. The bridge pickup was not tightly enough fastened to the plastic platform, but by so little that I didn't see any movement. By visualizing how the parts moved in relation to each other when the microphonics went away, I realized this had to be the problem. A quarter turn of each of the two screws did the trick.

    You are a legend here on TB. I truly enjoy your contributions, with all their detail and insight, and I am honoured that you took the time to reply and help fix my problem. Thanks again, gonna go enjoy my reborn bass now :)