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Ohmmeter for measuring pickup output?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by michael_atw, May 12, 2011.

  1. michael_atw


    Feb 28, 2009
    Jamestown, NY
    I'm looking for a good ohmmeter for measuring impedance on pickups. I occasionally buy pickups on ebay and was looking for something to check them out before I try to install them and find out they don't work. I see online there are tons of them but many look to be cheap Chinese imports. Is there a difference between the low-end and higher ends of ohmmeter? Is accuracy compromised with buying a cheaper one? Any advice on brands or models (looking for something relatively affordable but not forgiving on the aspect of accuracy). Thanks tb:)
  2. It is very difficult to properly measure or calculate the output impedance of a pickup. You are referring to DC resistance, which is the measure of a coil's opposition to direct current.
    Both resistance and impedance are unrelated to output. The output of a pickup is measured in milliVolts. Ohms are a measure of resistance, not amplitude.

    As a general rule of thumb, usually pickups with a higher DC resistance have a higher output, because there are more turns of wire on the coil. This is not always the case, however, as different gauges of wire have different resistances, and with humbuckers, series and parallel combinations of coils can more-or-less double and half the resistance. The resistance can even change with temperature.

    FWIW, pretty much any Ohm meter will measure DC resistance for you. Even cheap meters seem reasonably accurate these days.
  3. jbybj

    jbybj Supporting Member

    Jun 11, 2008
    Los Angeles
    My Radio Shack digital Multimeter serves me well, around $40 if I remember correctly.
  4. Staccato

    Staccato Low End Advocate

    Aug 14, 2009
    During my own decision process, it became obvious that there's much price competition among units that are affordable for the average person/hobbyist.

    My go-to is a Greenlee DM-40. I've used it to adjust bias on a Fender amp. It has the audible continuity, and diode tests, tests 1.5v and 9v batteries. Also, features a hold button, LCD display w/ backlight option.

    I paid about $25 shipped after scouring the web for the lowest price.
  5. dannylectro

    dannylectro Supporting Member

    Aug 2, 2010
    Atlanta, GA
    Hioki and Fluke are two brands the pros use.
  6. mech

    mech Supporting Member

    Jun 20, 2008
    Meridian, MS, USA
    A simple volt/ohm meter, of any brand, will tell you very little about the potential output level of a pickup.

    It takes pretty sophisticated equipment to measure the output of a pickup where the info would have meaning. Besides measuring devices that will accurately read AC voltage/current over a relatively broad frequency range, you must have a device that will consistently and properly excite the magnetic field over that frequency range.

  7. Yep.

    Most players prefer to just listen to their pickups, though. You can get much more useful info putting the pickups in question on a bass and listening to them than by trying to take various measurements.
  8. ianmatth


    Dec 10, 2009
    Passaic, NJ
    Got one on eBay for $5-$10, works fine for me.
  9. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Banned Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products
    If you are just looking to read the resistance (not impedance) to see if they are good, then you can pretty much pick up any multimeter. I use a $40 meter from Radioshack also.

    As others have said, the DC resistance tells you little about the output, but is useful for seeing if the coil is good, and for making general comparisons of similar pickups.

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