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series vs. parallel

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by Scott Lynch, Apr 29, 2005.

  1. Scott Lynch

    Scott Lynch Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2002
    Delaware, USA
    What exactly is the difference? I know this is probably a dumb question but I ran a search and didn't find anything. I was also wondering: is it possible to wire a MM pickup to have both coils running at once, one coil only, and a split coil mode (like a P pickup)?
  2. Juneau


    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    Series is louder than parallel usually is the biggest difference I can tell. I dont know too much about specifics, but it doesnt really appear to change my tone too much going between the two, but it does get noticably louder and more pronounced in series mode.
  3. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    That does make sense; series should potentially double the voltage (which would increase volume because the amp or pre input is high-impedance), and parallel would tend to double the current (more specifically: half the output impedance, which wouldn't make much difference in volume because it would go from a small fraction of the pre's input-Z to a smaller fraction).

    That being the case, I'd think that bassists would prefer parallel, because they wouldn't get a big jump in volume when they switched. ...Hm - unless they WANTED to have an instant boost available.

  4. Frank Martin

    Frank Martin Bitten by the luthiery bug...

    Oct 8, 2001
    Budapest, Hungary, EU
    Then there's also the tone side of things, as the inductance changes with the series/parallel settings.
    In series, you get more lows and low-mids, and less highs.
    In parallel, you get more highs
  5. Bass.


    Jan 23, 2006
    San Diego
    that's it?
    that's all series parallel does?
    make it louder?
    that doesn't sound very attractive at all to have one
  6. Also you can't have independant volume controls for the two pickups when they're in series.
  7. Bass.


    Jan 23, 2006
    San Diego
    why not?
  8. RyreInc


    May 11, 2006
    Kalamazoo, MI
    It doesn't just change the volume, it changes the tone.

    And yes, you can still have seperate volumes if you wire it a certain way, so that the volume pots would be considered as parts of the pickups.
  9. naquadaX


    Mar 5, 2006
    +1 The sound will be "fatter" (more lows and lows-mids, more punch) and with less clarity (less highs). It has its uses.

    When I switch to serie, I decrease a little bit the volume, that way it's easier to hear the differences between the 2 modes.
  10. ebe9


    Feb 26, 2006
    South Africa
    .....................Coil 1...........Coil 2...
    Signal IN--->[++++++]--->[++++++]--->Signal OUT

    .....................Coil 1..
    Signal IN--->[++++++]--->Signal OUT
    Signal IN--->[++++++]--->Signal OUT
    .....................Coil 2..

    A pickup of course being made up of either 1 or 2 coils in most cases

    As far as tone goes, and this is likely to bring in a variety of opinions.

    Series: More Mid-Range definition

    Parallel: More low end and high end definition

    Single Coil: "Vintage" 60's type tone.
  11. heessels


    Jan 3, 2005
    My latest bass has even three pickups in parallel!


    I just could not make a choice between Precision and Jazz bass :smug:

    Actually the P-element consists of two parallel coupled parts...
    The three pots regulate the volume of each element separately. Therefore I had to remove the tone pot.
  12. DavidRavenMoon

    DavidRavenMoon Banned

    Oct 20, 2004
    Series adds the resistance of each coil, and parallel divides, so two 5k coils would be 10k in series and 2.5k in parallel. It's the same with speakers. So you can get an idea of how the pickup would sound in both settings.

    As others have correctly pointed out, series sounds fuller and parallel brighter.

    With a MM pickup you have two side by side coils, so you can do series, parallel or single coil. Traditionally MM basses had the coils in parallel, and some had switches for selecting various combinations. I think the EB basses have the pickup in series.

    The OLP basses have the coils in parallel with a separate volume for each coil. I think that's a waste of a big humbucker myself as I like series mode better most of the time.

    You can't do split coil like a P-bass unless the pickup is made that way.
  13. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize!

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    Series sounds fatter and louder. But you lose the humbucking so it will be nosier.
  14. DavidRavenMoon

    DavidRavenMoon Banned

    Oct 20, 2004
    No, pickups in series have more output. The output of both coils is added together. Pickups wound to higher resistance have more output. This is why high output pickups have a higher DC resistance.

    But more windings also increases the inductance, which gives you more lows and mids and less top end. That's a generalization, as wire gauge and magnets also come into play. But in general series has more output. This is why almost every humbucker is wired in series.

    Jazz basses have the pickups wired in parallel, as do most two pickup instruments. The two halves of the Precision's split humbucker are wired in series. If you switch it to parallel, it will get brighter and thinner, but the output also drops. It might seem louder if you are running through a rig with not much bottom end, as it will be brighter, or with more sensitivity to high frequencies. If you have a dark sounding bass, turning up the treble on the amp wont do much, but switching the bass into parallel will.

    Wiring a Jazz up in series gives a fuller tone with more bottom and less highs.

    Jamerson played through a B-15-N, not a B-10. It's a nice sounding amp, but it's only 30 watts. You can't be heard over a drummer with one of those! I know because it was my first good bass amp back in 1970. Its good for studio work.

    There's nothing special about Ampegs, and they weren't used all that much back then. Everett Hull (the founder of Ampeg) hated loud rock music, which is why they never made a popular guitar amp.

    This whole Jazz bass and SVT fad is annoying at best. Sure, play though a muddy distorted bass amp. It covers up for sloppy playing. ;)

    No, you don't lose the hum cancelation. That has to do with coil and magnet polarity, and not series/parallel wiring. Most humbucking pickups are wired in series.

    The way a humbucker works, and this is also true of a Jazz bass with both pickups on, is each coil is wired out-of-phase with the other coil, either by reversing the wires, or winding one in the reverse direction. Normally two out-of-phase coils would sound very thin, with little bottom end. This is because of phase cancelation. The reason the entire signal does not cancel is because the pickups are sensing the string differently, because each coil is in a different location.

    However, each coil's magnets are opposite polarity. So one has north poles, and the other has south. Because of this, each coil picks up the string in phase, but because noise doesn't reply on the magnets, just the coils, noise is picked up out of phase, and is canceled out while the string's signal is added together.

    Makes no difference if the two coils are series or parallel. Series wiring sounds fuller and louder because each coil adds to the other. So if you have two 5K coils, that's 10K. In parallel the pickup would be 2.5K, and would sound brighter.
  15. dogbass

    dogbass Supporting Member

    Aug 9, 2006
    Bay Area, CA
    So it is a fad ? Well then, I guess I'm glad I haven't pulled the trigger on an SVT just ;) yet.
  16. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize!

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    Thanks for the explanation! I assumed that since the series was a bit nosier, that it was due to losing the humbucking effect.
  17. Klugebass


    Jun 29, 2007
    The Fender American Jazz Bass. It also features an S-1 switch that changes the pickups from parallel to series when engaged, creating a fatter, wider, almost humbucking tone

    From musicians friend describing a a fender jazz american bass
    My uncles bass is an american deluxe 2003 jazz it has s1 switiching like the modern standards and when engaged the sound is thin and pretty bad so somthing must be different because I know pressing down on the switch engages series but when pressed on my uncles it is about 30% quieter so I am pretty unsure on anything relating to this because apperantly my uncles bass (klugeguitar) does not conform to the description on musicians friend. But youre probably right and I have no idea why my uncles bass dosent match discriptions.

  18. Klugebass


    Jun 29, 2007
    ps the s1 switch on a precision I belive works in reverse switching from series to parrallel
  19. DavidRavenMoon

    DavidRavenMoon Banned

    Oct 20, 2004
    I'd check and see if the pickups aren't being wired out of phase. Something is wrong here. I had a dual P pickup bass I made back in 1977 and I had a series switch on that, as I did with my fretless P-J in the 80's

    I don't know where you heard that... JPJ played solid state Acoustic 360 bass amps, just like Jaco. ;)

    Bass Guitars
    1963 Fender Jazz Bass: Jones' primary bass from 1968-77.
    1951 Fender Telecaster Bass: Introduced on stage in 1971.
    Fender Fretless Precision Bass: Used on the 1972 tours and also on the 1975-77 tours for In My Time Of Dying.
    Fender Bass V: This 5-string model was used on the 1973 tours.
    Alembic 4-String Bass: Used on stage from 1977-80.
    Alembic 8-String Bass: Used on stage from 1977-80 and in the studio on In Through The Out Door.
    Arco Stand-Up Bass: Allegedly purchased "for about 10 dollars in Newcastle in 1969" as Plant explained at the 04/27/77 show. More Info
    Framus Stand-Up Bass: Used on stage at Earl's Court in 1975 from Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp.
    Hagstrom 12-String: Seen on stage in early 1973.
    1953 Gibson EB-1 Bass: Appears on the inner wheel of Led Zeppelin III

    Acoustic 360: 475W amp used from 1969-1979.
    Acoustic FH118: JPJ used two of these cabinets from 1969-1980.
    Fender Dual Showman Reverb: Amps & cabinets used with keyboards.
    Gallien Krueger: Amps used in the 1980 tour.

    Look at this photo. You can see him with the Fender Bass V and the Acoustic 360 in the background.


    Until the SVT, no one used Ampegs on stage because they didn't make big amps.
  20. Klugebass


    Jun 29, 2007

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