What makes a bad pick up???

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by Ralphoid, Jul 22, 2009.

  1. Ralphoid


    Jan 2, 2009
    Forgive me if I'm wrong, but isn't a pickup simply a wire wrapped around a magnet?
    How can there be such a difference in sound quality?
    How can there be such a difference in price?

    Please help me understand why some PU's are crap and some are amazing...
  2. Groover


    Jun 28, 2005
    Ohio, USA
    I think it's a combination of the materials used for the magnets, then other things come into play, like some manufacturers do the scatter winding (simulating hand wound I think), wire gauge, wire length, etc.

    I don't think there is a "bad" pickup really, but I do think that some pickups are more matched to amps, preamps that are out there because they probably invest more time investing in research than say a cheap pickup manufacturer would.

    Now, if say if an amp manufacture would design their amps around a cheap pickup, then that pickup would sound awesome, and the current good pickups would sound bad.

    Take my info as hypothetical and just what I think, not as the almighty answer.... :bassist:
  3. Jefenator

    Jefenator Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2008
    Yeah and a bass is simply a chunk of maple bolted on to a chunk of alder. And an amp is just a bunch of components stuffed in to a steel box with knobs. :D

    I've never made a pickup but I suspect it's the same as anything else: quality of materials, attention to detail, savvy design... or lack thereof.

    I'll be curious to hear what some pickup makers have to say.
  4. There are many factors involved with making a pickup, and although the actual materials involved can be quite inexpensive, you usually pay a lot for the labor and craft.

    A well respected pickup maker can be charging big bucks for his pickups simply because your paying for his work.
    Just like a lot of things, you pay for the name.

    Some pickup makers hand wind their pickups instead of doing it on a machine. (Look up "scatterwinding" if you don't know why.)
    This is quite a tedious process, so you definitely end up paying a good portion of the cost for their labor.
  5. lug

    lug Supporting Member

    Feb 11, 2005
    League City, Tx

    384. Why are laminated blades used for pole pieces?
    Laminated bars are used to reduce eddy currents and a core with higher efficiency. In transformers you have higher efficiency with a minimum number of turns using insulated laminated sheets. Eddy currents are decreased in strength by using many thin sheets rather that a solid bar. The sheets should be insulated for optimum efficiency and to keep the laminates from shorting out with each other. Laminated blades have been used on Gretsch, Seymour Duncan custom and Bill Bartolini to retain the higher frequencies in a pickup.
  6. JTE

    JTE Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    What kind of wire? How thick is it? How many turns of wire? Are the wraps spread out like a P bass coil, or stacked high and tight like a Jazz bass coil? What kind of magnets? Are you using magnet slugs for pole peices, or using screws to spread the magnetif feild of a single magnet? How tight are the wraps?

    And that's just for starters...

  7. msiner


    Sep 2, 2008
    Tucson, AZ
    It seems kind of like wine. Each is different and some people like some types better than others. A good wine can't just be copied by stealing a plant and growing it somewhere else. It is the combination of the earth, the air, the type of care, and someone with a master tongue to tell you when it is ready.

    It seems the same with pickups. Pickups are more than a sum of parts. They are a set of complex interactions between parts to produce a unique output.
  8. Ralphoid


    Jan 2, 2009
    Wow, I have just learned a lot more about the instrument I play. I had no idea that so much could go in to making a PU!
    Now I am intrigued to know what my MIM Jazz would sound like with something other than the standard Fender PU's.
  9. Groover


    Jun 28, 2005
    Ohio, USA
    .... Welcome to the other side, my friend. It's a big avalanch from this point on, so freeze your bank accounts, and cut up your credit cards! Ahh... Just kidding. Enjoy tinkering. It's half the fun IMO.
  10. blendermassacre

    blendermassacre Supporting Member

    May 28, 2009
    kansas city, mo
    welcome to the rabbit hole.
  11. Greevus


    Apr 15, 2009
    It begins....pickups, strings, heads, cabs, cables, picks, effects....it never ends. I feel major GAS attacks coming for this young fellow. I agree with dude above---freeze your accounts. Quit reading this GASSY forum :p
  12. KPAX

    KPAX Inactive

    Mar 22, 2005
    Broken wires and missing magnets definately make for bad pickups.
    I hope this is helpful.
  13. bluesavageraff


    Jul 7, 2009
    I've seen this term "GAS" everywhere. What does it mean?
  14. Stealth


    Feb 5, 2008
    Zagreb, Croatia
    Gear Acquisition Syndrome. Once you catch it you're gone, man, solid gone...
  15. dannster


    Aug 20, 2000
    Take the pickups out of your SX bass and drop in some Fralins or Nordstrands and all will become clear, grasshopper.:cool:

    Hand made generally is more expensive than mass produced machine wound pickups. Or overseas manufactured. Better? It is up to your ears to decide.