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Pickup Height - Affecting Volume?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by jenderfazz, Jul 6, 2005.

  1. Does pickup height affect volume that significantly? I know that it affects the tone slightly, making it warmer if the pickups are closer to the strings, but can having low pickups significantly lower the volume of the bass?
  2. 12bass


    Jan 2, 2003
    Victoria, Canada
    Yes, pickup height significantly affects volume.

    Pickup height affects volume, tone, string-to-string balance, and possibly intonation and sustain (if too close).

    IMO, having the pickups very close has a "direct" sound, that is louder and more punchy, while moving farther away give a more natural "acoustic" string sound, but is not as forward sounding.

    Personally, I have found that EMGs particularly benefit from increased distance from the strings, and sound less harsh as they are moved away.

    For a ballpark adjustment, I would start around 1/8" away from the bottom of the strings, and adjust to taste from there. Try moving up and down and listen to the changes in the tone and balance.

    I generally prefer to back off a little more on the lower strings in order to balance out string-to-string volume.

    Note that having the pickups very close to the strings will exaggerate any difference between pickup radius and neck radius, which will affect string-to-string balance. This is because the magnetic field diminishes in proportion to the square of the distance, meaning that moving the pickup farther away will sound more even across the strings.

  3. i definitely agree,
    i have some experience with emg pickups (45 DC and P style),
    i found that closer the pickup will give you a middish sound (which i dont like), and when i move the pickup farther from the string (about little less than a cm) i can get the low and high that i want without affecting to much on volume (i use 18 volt supply), and the sound is much more versatile that way. i dont know what would happen with passive pickups though.
    just experiment and find the best tone that you like.
  4. luknfur


    Jan 14, 2004

    on the Lawrence site he states doubling the distance from the strings decreases volume by about 60% and reduces bass tone noticeably - and I've found that to be so in my experience.

    Personally I typically have pups as high as I can get them without driving the strings into them and the signal not distorting. I like rawness and dynamic response in tone and that's where it's at. The further the more mellow tone becomes and less responsive. I haven't found active or passive to make a difference, it's more in the individual pup and personal preference. Other variables like strings, string tension, volume/tone balance, technique, music genre etc. factor into the mix. Pups basically tell you what's needed by the response you get from them. All assuming you've got a decent pup for the application at hand.
  5. Say I had a bass with a hot output that often distorts easily (ie not much headroom). Would raising the pickups increase the chance of clipping?
  6. Lorenzini


    Dec 31, 2004
    Los Angeles
  7. Really? That's interesting, how come?
  8. :confused: I really don't think so ...

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