When is a Humbucker Not a Humbucker

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by fhm555, Jun 6, 2019.

  1. fhm555

    fhm555 So FOS my eyes are brown

    Feb 16, 2011
    hey folks, once again i’m finding out that a long held belief of mine is not true.
    I’ve always assumed a double coil pickup made for hum canceling was called a humbucker but in a recent discussion about Fender Vintage Noiseless pickups i was told it’s not a humbucker.
    One guy said a single coil “noiseless” (their quotes) pickup was not a humbucker, but Fender says their noiseless pickup is a stacked coil config. When i asked about that another person said that even though the Noiseless is designed to be hum canceling it is also designed to sound like a single coil whereas a humbucker has a different tone.
    Can someone schooled in pickup design please explain the difference between noiseless and humbucker so i can quit looking like a clueless knob? Assuming such is possible. :D
    Killed_by_Death likes this.
  2. Double E

    Double E I ain't got no time to play... Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 24, 2005
    Cleveland, OH
    Ahh the classic conundrum...

    How much hum could a humbucker buck if a humbucker could buck hum?

    But seriously... I think one may not consider a dual coil pickup a "true humbucker" if the 2nd coil exists solely to eliminate noise and is not interfaced directly with any pole pieces for the purpose of generating audio signal.

    A little semantics and hairsplitting in my opinion but maybe it is important to some to make this distinction.

    Edit: I should state for the record that I am not really schooled in pickup design so the above statement is open to direct criticism from someone who is.
    fhm555 likes this.
  3. ctmullins

    ctmullins Dominated Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    This isn’t difficult. A humbucker is any pickup that cancels (“bucks”) hum. That requires an even number of coils, with half of them Reverse Wound and Reverse Polarity (RWRP) from the other half. That’s it. It doesn’t matter how those coils are arranged physically - dual side-by-side coils, split coils, stacked coils, sidewinders - they’re all humbuckers.
  4. Killed_by_Death

    Killed_by_Death Snaggletooth Inactive

    I've had this argument too many times, & now I just walk away SMH & letting that person believe whatever it is they need to believe.
    Slater, fhm555 and JRA like this.
  5. sikamikanico


    Mar 17, 2004
    I think that everyone’s right in these debates. In engineering/technical terms, any design that cancels noise (or “bucks hum”) is noise-cancelling or hum-bucking, and a pickup with such properties can be called humbucker.

    But most people refer to a particular design when they say humbucker - two coils in parallel and facing up. This probably comes from the guitar world, where Gibson popularized this humbucker design (typically considered vs. Fender’s single coils). On bass, it was Fender that popularized the hum-bucking pickup, the ‘57 split P, but you rarely hear people call it a “humbucker.” Even Gibson’s first bass humbucker (the EB0 sidewinder) is usually referrer to as “mudbucker” (though ironically, it doesn’t buck mud).

    And then things get even more complicated when one considers the differences in sound (not just the presence or absence of hum). Since “humbuckers” (of the parallel coils design) also cancel some signal, they are generally darker sounding. So it seems popularizers of other noise-cancelling designs (splits, stacks, sidewinders) generally want to distinguish these designs from the “humbucker” because they sound closer to single coils (or try to). Which is probably why they refer to their designs as “noise-cancelling” or “noise free” and not “humbucking.”

    Well, at least that’s my take. I understand all positions, and I think they’re all correct in their own way. Paying attention and asking clarifying questions helps me figure out what others mean. And to hopefully avoid confusion, I usually just try to specify which design I mean (split coil, sidewinder)...
    ctmullins and fhm555 like this.