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Will raising my pups affect the intonation?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by CJK84, May 25, 2005.


  1. CJK84

    CJK84

    Jan 22, 2004
    Maria Stein, OH
    Was talking to a guitar/bass tech the other day (he appears to be good at set-up work) about trying my hand at installing a custom Willis-type ramp between the stock pups of my Cirrus 4.

    So I tell him that I'll first raise the pups so that when the ramp is flush with the pups, it'll be close to the strings (right now the pups are probably around 3/8" away from strings - at that relatively low height I'm guessing a ramp won't mean much).

    But he cautions me that raising the pups might cause minor intonation problems, saying the magnetic pole pieces can decrease the plucked string's vibrating frequency - the plucked string will then produce a slightly lower pitch than desired.

    He says because my Cirrus is active, the problem will be minimal but still an issue.

    I'd never heard of pup height affecting intonation. Is this right?
     
  2. Chiba

    Chiba

    Mar 11, 2005
    I wouldn't worry too much about it. Pole pieces that run through huge magnets can have a bit of a 'warbly' effect on tuning, but with active pickups, I think the effect will be minimal if you even notice it at all.

    --chiba
     
  3. CJK84

    CJK84

    Jan 22, 2004
    Maria Stein, OH
    So can I raise my pickups to within an 1/8" of the strings if I desire?

    Or will I encounter some problem, intonation or otherwise?

    Also, with active pups positioned closely to the strings, can you mistakenly send too large of an input signal to the amp and create distortion?
     
  4. It may affect your tone, but not your intonation. Turn and run away from that tech and never look back. And never leave your bass with him!!!!!!
     
  5. Chiba

    Chiba

    Mar 11, 2005
    I think the biggest problem - if any - you'd come across would be knocking the strings against the pickups when you play. Now, I play with a pick (the HORROR!), so if my strings & pickups were only 1/8" apart, I'd have nasty clicky sounds with every stroke, and that would suck.

    But my intonation would be rockin' :)

    --chiba
     
  6. pickles

    pickles Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2000
    Ventura, CA
    It depends on how strong the magnets are, you'll just have to try it and see. The main problem you'll have is that you'll have to play with a VERY light tough since the strings will not have any room to vibrate. This is especially true for the neck pickup since string movement is highest toward the center of the string.

    You'll also probably develop some string wear on the pickup covers.
     
  7. eldave777

    eldave777

    May 24, 2005
    A good guide of raising your pickups is to raise them to where you want them then play something above the 12th fret. If you get that warbole sound just lower the pickup on the D,G side of the back pickup till the warbole unwarboles. The magnetic pull shouldn't pull your string out of intonation.
     
  8. all_your_bass

    all_your_bass

    Jul 20, 2004
    Actually, the tech is right and you're wrong. Since the strings are metal and the pole pieces on the pups are magnets, the pups pull on the strings and slightly affect the motion of the strings which can slightly affect intonation.
     
  9. luknfur

    luknfur

    Jan 14, 2004
    DIXIE
    FWIW:

    typically one of the advantages of active pups is you can set them as close to the strings as you want becuase they don't exert the pull on the strings of passives. But they do vary in that respect. Some actives pull more than some passives, though that would take a relatively "weak" passive and "strong" active. Excessive pull on the strings create "wolfe tones" because the strings are not allowed to vibrate in their natural rhythm. Wolfe tones are fairly blatant cause it throws the whole sequence of normal frequency response out of whack.

    Never had those pups but you can do any or all of the following so you will know for yourself and not be speculating.

    1) Take about a 1/8" allen wrench or equivalent and run it over the pups. You want something you can get a good feel for, not too big not too small. Most truss rod wrenches would suffice. If you have some passive pups to compare the feel to (especially if you know the pup's resistance), that would give a better idea. Hold it loosely between you're fingers and run it over prferably the pup width and length (length you'd need to loosten strings to get them out of the way). If you can barely feel the pull or you can't even locate the magnets with confidence, I wouldn't worry about it. If the pups will pull the allen wrench from the edge of the pup toward the magnets, then it may be a consideration depending.

    For some perspective, I've got a Model J that DM lists at 6.73K and the strongest pull of any active I've got (which is probably more than most actives), an EMG LJ-5, is roughly 1/2 of the Model J. And I've got the Model J set 1/8" from the poles to the bottom of the E string. And I use TI Flats which are extremely low tension strings - which are more subject to pull.


    2) Check intonation (to make sure it's currently properly intonated - or so you'll know where it's off) and measure the pups form the strings. Simply raise them to where you want them and check intonation again. If it doesn't change, I wouldn't be concerned. If does, drop them down a bit and check again until there is no change.

    3) Measure what you've got so you can return them to the same if you want then raise them to where you want them and play them with the band and/or recorded. If you or you're band can't tell the difference and/or it doesn't show in recording, then how much of an issue can it be.

    You'd probably also be suprised on how few guys out there are playing with dead on intonation.
     
  10. DannyB

    DannyB

    Aug 17, 2004
    That was a problem that plagued many vintage Strats.. the poles would be so strong and so close to the strings that the magnetic pull would prevent the string from vibrating naturally. Intonation was a major problem on these. It was most prevalant on the thicker strings.. Could it happen with bass strings/pickups? I'm sure it could.
     
  11. luknfur

    luknfur

    Jan 14, 2004
    DIXIE
    Strats had comparatively strong magnets which players were prone to place as close as possible to strings and so were so known for it the term stratitis was coined. Basses don't seem to be as subject to it as 6 string guitars in general - I'd guess due to the frequency ranges involved, relative power of the magnet and relation to the guage and tension of string, and that bass pups are typically designed to sense a smaller portion of the string.

    I've had roughly 75 sets of various bass pups and the only ones I can recall such a problem with are the Muic Man pups and Fender Vintage J pups. Never an active. And I typically set my pups as high as they'll go without driving the strings into them.
     
  12. With most setups, wolf tones are most likely to occur with notes above the 12th fret. If you do get some wolf tones *only* at the top of the neck/ramp area, it may be worthwhile to take a step back and ask whether it's a bad thing.

    For instance, the DiMarzio 123 neck pup on my fretless has a defect (eddy currents?) such that regardless of pickup height, all the notes on the G string sound like a chorus pedal was turned on--wolf tones. There's one less stomp box to put in my gig bag!
     
  13. luknfur

    luknfur

    Jan 14, 2004
    DIXIE
    Yeh, the Fender vintage I had it was from the 9th or 10th fret up. Definitely Wolfe tone. The MM's actually I don't specifically recall getting wolfe tone. What I do specifically recall is a string striking the mag on hard attack a couple times and once actually sucking the string down and sticking to it.
     
  14. luknfur

    luknfur

    Jan 14, 2004
    DIXIE
    FWIW:

    Ran across this looking for something else. This is a direct quote from the EMG site:

    "EMG active pickups have very little magnetism compared to passive pickups. We recommend you adjust the pickups to be as close to the strings as possible. Sustain and string movement will not be inhibited by close adjustment."

    I currently have a set of active EMG PJs, A Bart 9E J set, Bart 8ST P, and Duncan Steve Bailey Fretless J's - and the EMG's by far have more pull than the others.