Author Topic: Claims of power and quality sound  (Read 14029 times)

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Offline H M Murdock

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Claims of power and quality sound
« on: January 19, 2015, 02:55:00 pm »
I'm seeing a lot of quotes from manufacturers claims x-amount of Henries from pickups but is this what really matters? Some of the smaller manufacurers are claiming they can match the Henries of the bigger guys and beat them.

But is output power everything? Most of these people are saying they supply matched sets of pickups and some seem very appealing. Indeed I have seen output comparisons on other sites and if you go by Henries alone there are some real bargains to be had.

I'm not so sure about the claims that output power in terms of Henries is what matters. I mean that in terms of if I want some really powerful pickups for really heavy sounds then power surely can't be everything right? The amp and effects come into play obviously but if they are not quite giving that extra bite and OOMPH factor then what is the best way forward with pickups?

Bear in mind the guitar I am looking at pickups for would be used for really brutal sounds. So is the way forward simply increasing power?
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Offline TB-AV

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Re: Claims of power and quality sound
« Reply #1 on: January 19, 2015, 03:35:16 pm »
Henries is a value of current.

Watts is a value of power.

The henries alone of a pickup do not make it a good pickup.
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Offline Borodog

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Re: Claims of power and quality sound
« Reply #2 on: January 19, 2015, 03:58:14 pm »
It will tell you how hot the pickup is, but it won't tell you much about the tone beyond that.
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Offline H M Murdock

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Re: Claims of power and quality sound
« Reply #3 on: January 19, 2015, 04:04:26 pm »
So I would be right in thinking this is like BHP in a car or a bike?

Outright power isn't everything, you need it to be usable power?
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Offline Borodog

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Re: Claims of power and quality sound
« Reply #4 on: January 19, 2015, 04:20:12 pm »
No; different pickups will have a different frequency response spectrum independed of the absolute current the pickup will generate for a given excitation. Some will sound bright or warm or muddy or what have you, depending on how the pickup is wound, the pole pieces, whether and how it is potted, etc. There's also a huge component of psycho-acoustics imo. Different pickups definitely sound different but in my opinion many people often attribute differences that are mostly in their heads.

The main thing is you can't compare pickups based on numbers in a website. You have to hear them. And even then the guitar they are installed i. makes a difference. The amp makes a difference. The signal chain makes a difference. The player makes a difference.
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Offline Borodog

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Re: Claims of power and quality sound
« Reply #5 on: January 19, 2015, 04:23:10 pm »
Also, to be technical, the Henry is a measure of inductance, not current directly.
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Offline H M Murdock

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Re: Claims of power and quality sound
« Reply #6 on: January 19, 2015, 04:45:01 pm »
I have a feeling the ones I am looking at will be scoffed at as they're cheap but they supplied the same ones to Randy who helped start WASP. Would they work in my LP copy? I have emailed the company to ask their opinion and also said if fitted will pass on my reviews online so we'll see what they say. If these hot rails really work then they will be a complete bargain, if they don't respond I will go with brand names according to my luthier
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Offline H M Murdock

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Re: Claims of power and quality sound
« Reply #7 on: January 19, 2015, 05:10:43 pm »
Now I'm not talking about specific products, or this one either, but when people quote figures this is what I mean in ads.

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/161405940646?_trksid=p2060778.m1438.l2649&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT

If you went by those figures alone they would make you believe they out-perform many big brands by comparison on paper, and by a long way too for many.

Ok so in my budget black LP they would beat the generic pickups but would I be left wanting more later? They would probably transform the guitar in all honsety but by how much?

Would I be left wanting Invaders in future or be happy? You have to think double the cost of those pick ups or add at least £40 for fitting of anything else. Or again would Invaders be overkill for me?

You see the dilemma here?
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Offline misterg

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Re: Claims of power and quality sound
« Reply #8 on: January 19, 2015, 06:03:22 pm »
I don't think you can make any sort of critical decisions based on inductance (Henries) alone. I think the genereral desciption of the pickup gives a better guide: "Super high output", "vintage", or whatever.

Maybe a better analogy with car engines is to think of the number of henries as equivalent to the number of litres / cubic inches that the engine displaces - A truck engine and a muscle car might have the same capacity, but behave very differently because of the way they are built & set up. Neither will ever behave like a small capacity motorcycle engine.

Back to pickups: If you can't try them in your guitar (difficult), try to find some sound clips of them. Some manufacturers have recordings on their web sites.

If you want an idea of the sort of difference in sound you get between cheap & expensive pickups, listen to the clips of the similar output pickups in this video (Skip to 10:00 minutes to hear the tracks):





Now there's obviously a lot more going on there than just changing the pickups, but see how much difference you can hear between the tracks. One of them sounds like 'cheap pickups' to me (not necessarily bad, just characteristically different.)

In the end it boils down to personal taste.

I have a Warman pickup in my Firebird build. I put it in after trying several Seymour Duncan pickups at £50+ each. The Warman was £12. It sounded much better than the SDs (to me) in the bridge position, but awful (as woolly as a blanket) in the neck position.

Offline H M Murdock

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Re: Claims of power and quality sound
« Reply #9 on: January 19, 2015, 06:43:48 pm »
I'm actually looking at Warman Hot Rails for my LP. they look really good
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Offline misterg

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Re: Claims of power and quality sound
« Reply #10 on: January 19, 2015, 07:31:38 pm »
I've bought a few things from Warman, and I think they're fairly priced.

There's a (poor) demo of the 'Warblades' on their site:

http://www.warmanguitars.co.uk/index.php?id_product=20&controller=product

I have to say that it isn't to my tastes, but that's probably more to do with the distortion (& maybe noise gate) than the pickup - it's all personal taste.

(There are demos of several of their other pickups, but not all).

Offline H M Murdock

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Re: Claims of power and quality sound
« Reply #11 on: January 19, 2015, 07:57:21 pm »
I'm looking at a couple of other pickup sets by them G

Any issues in you experience?

The Inferno set looks good too :)
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Offline misterg

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Re: Claims of power and quality sound
« Reply #12 on: January 19, 2015, 08:46:42 pm »
Any issues in you experience?

No problems - I've ordered from them a few times (pickups & guitar hardware), and the service and quality has always been good.

I think the prices are fair - I don't believe they actually wind the pickups: I think they buy them from China or somewhere, but at least they don't rip you off by claiming that they're something different.

Offline TB-AV

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Re: Claims of power and quality sound
« Reply #13 on: January 19, 2015, 10:37:38 pm »
Why don't you get a good clean boost instead?
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Offline H M Murdock

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Re: Claims of power and quality sound
« Reply #14 on: January 20, 2015, 02:09:31 am »
Misterg that is the sound I want, I want that grunt with the Les Paul depth if you know what I mean.

I'm impressed by the Warblades and am seriously considering them

Cheers for the advice mate, most appreciated
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Offline Dan Graves

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Re: Claims of power and quality sound
« Reply #15 on: January 20, 2015, 06:12:21 pm »
What you need to look at to get a good idea of how hot they are is the rating in kOhms, and if you want an idea of the type of sound, you'd look at the magnets used.
Ceramics will give a very tight response, sharper sound, where Alnico will be a bit more loose, and somewhat warmer/natural sounding.
This of course all goes out the window once we start discussing active pickups, but that is a whole different discussion.

Another alternative, in the same pricerange as Warman, is Iron Gear : http://www.irongear.co.uk/
I'd specifically look at these : http://www.irongear.co.uk/irongear_pickups_017.htm http://www.irongear.co.uk/irongear_pickups_024.htm http://www.irongear.co.uk/irongear_pickups_051.htm

Offline TB-AV

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Re: Claims of power and quality sound
« Reply #16 on: January 20, 2015, 06:25:23 pm »
higher henries will also mean more bass... which is probably why they are used in bridge. It's sort of like a low pass filter with a boost.

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Offline H M Murdock

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Re: Claims of power and quality sound
« Reply #17 on: January 20, 2015, 07:42:05 pm »
Yeah a friend of mine who's a bass player said he looks at kOhms when buying pickups.

I see Iron Gear do an Invader style pickup just like Warman, same ratings in kOhms I believe.

I'm seeing a lot of pickups by the likes of Warman, Iron Gear, Entwistle, etc in the same price bracket all quoting the same figures in terms of kOhms.

In terms of sound I've seen a hybrid pickup with both ceramic and alnico magnets in the same unit, a twin hotrail and single coil in one humbucker if you know what I mean. It's said, when wired in series, to have 21.2kOhms as opposed to 16kOhms on most other units in the price range. However my one concern with that is when playing both neck and bridge pickups I would guess that amount of power in the bridge could easily override the neck so I guess looking at matched sets is a better option for me or I'll just be walking into a minefield.

Is there an ideal ratio for the amount of kOhms and/or Henries in terms of neck and bridge combination or is it simply a matter of preference?

One of the Iron Gear sets quoted by Dan is very high powered but a bit more expensive and quotes specific pots and capacitors which is going to push up the fitting costs a bit but maybe that's going to be the better option in the long run. As much as I have a good deal of soldering experience at work when it comes to my guitars I'll have a pro do it as I simply want it doing right first time and set up properly.

Incidentally, whatever I buy are going into the black LP which is unbranded and is going to be personalised in my own way, when it's finished it'll be quite unique in terms of spec and hopefully sound too.
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Offline shadowscott007

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Re: Claims of power and quality sound
« Reply #18 on: January 20, 2015, 10:50:01 pm »
Pick up ratings are... strange...

All things being the same (and they never are) more kOhms means more turns means more output... but doesn't really tell you much about the frequency response...

Always wondered why there wasn't a more standardized system - I am not a magnetic expert but it seems to me it would be relatively simple to sweep a given magnetic flux across frequencies (think a tape head) and show the output response across frequency.

Something analogous to looking at frequency response of amplifiers, filters, and the like - a 100mV rms sine wave input swept from 20 to 20kHz and then the output gain/attenuation versus frequency is shown.

Looked for it; never really found anything like it except with some EMG active pick-ups and unless every one uses the same standard it doesn't help.

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Offline H M Murdock

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Re: Claims of power and quality sound
« Reply #19 on: January 20, 2015, 11:48:46 pm »
I've come across some interesting theories on some forums regarding pickups from certain manufacturers and there may or may not be an element of truth involved.

Many of the lower priced pickups look identical, it is only the brand name that is different, yet the distinctive styles are there right across the board along with matching performance figures. Some pickup forums claim they're all made at the same factory in China to the same specs.

I'm not going to name brands and models on this forum as that could be a grey legal area however it does kind of make me wonder if a £10 - £30 price difference per pickup is actually justified?

I've narrowed my choices down to 3 options now and it mainly boils down to how high I decide to go in kOhms output. I can get traditional style pickups (bare or chrome covers) at 16k bridge output and 10k neck output, hotrails at the same output, or I could go for 17k bridge and 15k neck. There are higher outputs but they're not matched pairs so I'll avoid them for the sake of simplicity.

I did see a side by side comparison between Duncan Invaders and Warman 12 Gauge and there was very little difference in the same guitar so I'm giving that one a lot of thought.

As to when they'll actually be bought depends on fitting costs, money is a little tight right now, but I'll find that out later this week. I will also be looking at changing the tone pots at the same time, it'll probably be a wise move and not expensive. 

Thanks for the input guys, most appreciated, and it's proving quite interesting digging around the gear that's available :)
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Offline tobyjenner

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Re: Claims of power and quality sound
« Reply #20 on: January 21, 2015, 12:06:14 am »
Matt

Call me a skeptic but most things these days are mass produced in China..........both of my Washburns for example and possibly the Squirerstrat (CBA to look at the serial number!!) but they look and play cool IMO!!
Guess you need to take a leap of faith these days and rely on anecdotal comments to see if what you're after actually cuts the mustard.........................then the inner demon in me says the positive comments on a product are posted by the marketing department folk (as independents)  saying this sh%t is really good cool buy it now and pay my mortgage off. Cynical yes, real world yes.....you need to go with your gut. 8)
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Offline Dan Graves

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Re: Claims of power and quality sound
« Reply #21 on: January 21, 2015, 10:46:21 am »
I could write a long and technical bit about how they calculate differences in windings for pickups to get different ratings, and the technical why's, but i think this bit on sweetwater does a better job explainining it for those who don't know all the lingo : http://www.sweetwater.com/insync/what-is-the-difference-between-a-neck-and-a-bridge-pickup/
The gist of it is that due to the lower amount of string vibration near the bridge, the bridge pickup needs to be higher output to attain a matching level of actual output with the neck pickup.
Pickup sets are always matched, and large discrepancies between neck andbridge are always a calculated measure.

Offline H M Murdock

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Re: Claims of power and quality sound
« Reply #22 on: January 21, 2015, 12:47:52 pm »
Very clear explanation Dan :)

Toby I did some research on identical looking pickups from several brands and the companies say the say things (worded differently but the message is the same). Many of the pickups indeed come from the same factories, one in particular makes everything from aftermarket pickups to pickups used by major guitar manufacturers, and although the outer casings are identical the internals such as windings and magnets are to customer specs. I noticed some rather strong responses to "they're all the same" threads from certain brands and a couple of company websites clearly state their pickups are made abroad but strictly to their own specs.

I'm quite the cynic myself when it comes to this kind of thing but under UK law (and I assume the same in other countries) if a company claimed a product was their own unique spec but were simply selling the same product with a different badge on it then Trading Standards would have a field day with them, not to mention it would destroy an small business's growing reputation (probably killing the business).

Just how different the specs may be, considering many of the pickups have the same claimed output as well as looks, is something I can't comment on as I doubt a companies will release exact details for comparison and that begs the question how different will they sound? Again, without direct comparison how do we know?

So in this respect I am going to exercise caution and look at two companies that come highly recommended and buy direct from one of them. I got told this morning I have some well paid work coming next month so the extra few quid won't be an issue and as a bonus I may well have coil tapping incorporated too to get the full benefit of the upgrade.
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Offline TB-AV

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Re: Claims of power and quality sound
« Reply #23 on: January 21, 2015, 01:54:19 pm »
Yeah a friend of mine who's a bass player said he looks at kOhms when buying pickups.

I see Iron Gear do an Invader style pickup just like Warman, same ratings in kOhms I believe.

I'm seeing a lot of pickups by the likes of Warman, Iron Gear, Entwistle, etc in the same price bracket all quoting the same figures in terms of kOhms.


That is a very general rule. You can have a high DC resistance and lower output depending on winding alone. IOW, you could compare the same maker/design but you can't compare across vendors unless they tell you the whole story...... which they won't.
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Offline TB-AV

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Re: Claims of power and quality sound
« Reply #24 on: January 21, 2015, 01:56:00 pm »
Again, without direct comparison how do we know?


You don't.
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