|10-21-2008 until 12-20-2020|
Master of the Penguins
Join Date: Aug 2004
Rules and FAQ <- READ BEFORE POSTING OR GET BANNED
READ THIS ENTIRE THREAD BEFORE POSTING OR YOU WILL BE WARNED
All of this info is given in good faith, based on what we believe, to the best of our knowledge, to be correct. Itís aimed at beginners and intermediate players, and often the information has been simplified to make it easier to understand (and so it doesnít take up even more space). Please bear in mind that all recommendations are based on the general consensus of the regulars of the forum, the specific examples which weíve tried (we may have tried a particularly good MIM strat, for example), and also our own subjective opinions. Also, all recommendations are on a ďto tryĒ basis, rather than ďto buyĒ- we mean you to try the gear weíve recommended to see if it suits you for your situation and the type of music you play. New models come out all the time, and we donít always have time to add them- donít disregard something because itís not on the list, itís possible that we either havenít had time to add it yet, or havenít tried it ourselves!
Part 1: Forum Rules
Part 2: What to include when you post a thread (aka how to get good advice)
Part 3: How to give good advice
Part 4: Basic terminology and information/FAQ - 4.1 Amps, 4.2 Pedals, 4.3 Pickups
1. Forum Rules
These are in addition to any general forum rules (No porn, links to porn, links to viruses, flaming, overuse of cursing/swearing). Any infraction of the rules of UG and it's forums will either result in a closed/deleted thread, and/or a warning/banning.
Forum use: As a general rule, every thread concerning electric guitars should go into the Electric Guitar forum, unless it concerns modifying the electric guitar. Every thread concerning amps or effects should go in Guitar Gears & Accessories, and every thread concerning modifying your guitar, amp, effect pedal, rack mounts, etc., should go in Guitar Building & Customizing forum.
Stickies: Read all the stickies before posting a thread, because they will help you by either giving you more information, or answering your question. If we feel that the thread you create is covered by a sticky, your thread will be closed.
Search: Use the search button every time you even think about posting a thread.
Musical tastes: The Instrument forums are not for discussing musical preferences or to bash other people's musical tastes. Band/artist or genre bashing will result in a warn.
Flaming: There is a zero tolerance policy on flaming. All posts harassing, insulting, disrespecting, offending or showing attitude to another member will be met with a warn or ban depending on severity.
Trolling: Trolling is where you post intending to get a negative reaction or to start a flamewar. An example is posting 'all Fenders suck' without saying that it's your opinion or justifying it. This will be met with a warning or ban depending on severity and your track record.
Using discriminatory terms: Any use of terms such as '******' 'gay' 'homo' or '******' in a derogatory fashion will result in a warn or possibly ban.
Spam: For the most part, posts in a thread must have relevance to the question asked by the thread starter. All threads created should be appropriate for the forum they are created within. Any posts considered 'spam' will be met with a warning.
Advertising: Any advertising of other websites (such as forums, myspace or band websites, ebay other other auctions, stores etc.) will be met with a ban.
Versus threads: Threads like, Metallica vs. Megadeth, or Gibson vs. Fender? are not allowed.
Multiple threads: Do not start more than one thread on the same subject. These will be closed (as well as possibly your original thread to smite you).
Preference threads, versus threads: Do not start threads about what you prefer over other brands, or what you feel like advertising about because you think it's the greatest. If you are asking what other people prefer, that is fine. However do not start threads that just ask people which of multiple brands/models/whatever they prefer as these threads are useless. If you want to start such a thread it must contain some grounding (eg. I'm looking at buying either amp A or amp B, I like blah music, how do these amps compare)
Bumping: Do not bump your threads. This means don't post in your own thread in order to bump it to the top of the forum list. Also, don't bump dead threads from a year ago.
It's all preference!: What we like may not be what you like! The best route is to always try something before you buy it!
General forum rules also apply, ie. no porn, 2 minute rule, no memes, etc.
2. How to get good advice
Originally written by Dave_Mc
1: What to state in your opening thread
Whatever you are buying, you must answer the following questions in your first post
(a) What do you want to buy?
(b) What is your budget?
(c) What type(s) of music do you want to play?
(f) Originally posted by Danno 13: Tell us if you're willing to buy used- this makes a major difference in what quality of kit you can afford, but of course it's a risk, and you need to know quite a bit about guitars etc. to not be taken advantage of.
2: What not to do
Don't complain if someone hasn't answered your question in the first couple hours, it's a forum, not a damn chat room. It may just be that no-one knows. It's annoying, and it's happened to me before, but there's nothing you can do about it. If you're really stuck, you could try e-mailing the company for an answer.
3. How to give advice
1: Give advice, not what you would do: This is the most important rule. Advice means stepping into someone else's shoes, not telling the threadstarter what you'd do if you were him/her.
2: READ the original post: Don't just post away! Read what the thread starter is asking you!
3: Give sensible advice: If someone says "I'm 12 years old, I have $200 and that's all I'll have for the next 5 years (I have no job)", DON'T advise them to save up for an ENGL amp, or a Gibson Les Paul, it's not going to happen.
4: Don't recommend something you haven't tried: Just because you think something is good, doesn't mean it is. So if you haven't tried it, don't talk about it!
5: Do not be rude: Just because you think the thread starter is stupid, s/he isn't! We all started somewhere, so be nice about it.
6: Give reasons: Don't say "such-and-such a product ROCKS!". Say "i like it because of its bright, shimmering clean channel" or something like that. That's much more helpful, especially if the threadstarter hasn't tried the product in question before.
7: Don't say "It has a good name, it must be good": This is a pretty ubiquitous one. Most brand names made their names from a combination of past glories and top of the range models. It's unlikely a Mesa practice amp (if they had one) would be good just because you happen to appreciate their lone star, for example.
8: Experience with the product: Even if you?ve only played the product once, give us your opinion on it so we know where you?re coming from.
9: Location: Do not recommend things that are not available to the threadstarter or is too pricey because of import taxes.
10: Don?t know? Don?t post.
11: Originally posted by frigginjerk
another good point about giving advice, and one that has helped me to appear much smarter than i actually am....
speak at length about that which you DO know, and shut your hole when it comes to something you DON'T know.
4. Basic Terminology/Information
*note: you can find terminology for things related to the guitar itself in the Electric Guitar forum sticky.
4. 1 AMPS
Heads, Cabs, and Combo's
Amps generally come in two forms, heads and combo's.
An amp head consists of a preamp and a power amp. It does not produce sound on it's own. In order for it to produce sound, you will need to connect it to a cab of the correct impedence (measured in ohms). NEVER RUN AN AMP WITHOUT A SPEAKER OR DUMMY LOAD CONNECTED - YOU'LL FRY YOUR AMP.
A cabinet or cab is simply an enclosure for speakers, usually in a 4x12, 4x10, or 2x12 (the first number denotes the amount of speakers in the cabinet, and the second number denotes the diameter of the speakers in inches) speaker configuration.
A combo has a built in preamp, power amp, and speaker. Some combo's also come with a cab out, so you can connect them to cabs when needed. Most combo's have one single speaker, though it is not uncommon to see combo's with a 2x12 or 4x10 or 4x12 setup.
1x12 (Same size as a 2x12 cab)
Two 4x12 cabinets:
What's in an amp?
originally posted by Dave_Mc:
Amps can be split into 3 sections, for handiness. These are the pre-amp, the power-amp, and rectifier.
The pre-amp amplifies the very small signal coming from your guitar?s pickups to line-level - a standardised level large enough that the power amp can work on it. This is where most of the EQ controls (treble, mids, bass) and pre-amp gain/distortion controls on solid state and master-volume tube amps are based.
The power amp amplifies the signal to a high enough level that it can drive the speakers, to produce sound. In all-tube amps, the power amp influences the overall tone of the amp, especially at higher volumes when they start to overdrive.
The rectifier is present in all amps, and converts AC current from the mains into DC current to be used by the amplifier. Confusingly, a Single/Dual/Triple Rectifier is the name of a type of amp made by Mesa Boogie, but all amps have rectifiers.
For an amp to be considered ?all-tube? it is necessary for the pre-amp and power-amp to be all-tube, but the rectifier may be either tube or solid state.
Types of Amps
originally posted by Dave_Mc:
(All) Tube/valve amps
As a general rule, all-tube is the best. Tubes are old technology (1930?s and 1940?s) and have been superceded by transistors almost everywhere, except in audio applications, where they sound more ?natural?. Pretty much all all-tube amps have to be cranked to a loud volume (not necessarily full power, but pretty loud) to sound at their best. This is because they get a lot of their tone from ?power-amp overdrive?- that is, the power-tubes being worked hard at, or close to, full volume. However, it is NOT, in my experience, true that if you can?t play at a loud volume that you shouldn?t buy an all-tube amp (unless you want a non-master volume amp). Most all-tube amps I?ve tried sound AT LEAST as good as SS amps at low volumes, and MUCH better at medium to high volumes. Also, you can buy an attenuator, to connect between your amp and speakers, which lets you get power-tube overdrive at lower volumes.
Master volume versus non-master volume: most old amps (and new ones designed to be vintage-correct) didn?t have pre-amp gain/overdrive controls. The only way to get overdrive was to crank the amp to full volume, or plug an overdrive pedal into the front of the amp. Master volumes have a volume or gain control for the pre-amp, that allows you to get preamp distortion as well. A lot of tone hounds say this doesn?t sound as good, but if you play any kind of modern music that uses overdrive or distortion (basically, rock or anything heavier), you pretty much need a master volume amp.
Another handy trick is that you can use an overdrive pedal to boost the overdrive channel on an all-tube amp. This increases the gain and sustain, but still sounds natural and tube-like- especially if you keep the gain/drive on the pedal low, and the level high.
Solid State Amps
These have a tendency to sound not bad at lower volumes, but sound not so great when turned up. They also tend to be cheap in practice amp sizes, so can be good for a first purchase, for example if you aren?t sure if you?ll stick at guitar. I would advise avoiding ss half-stacks or full-stacks, since for the same price you can normally get an all-tube combo that?ll have better tone. They tend not to react to playing dynamics as well as, or sound as natural/organic as, all-tube amps. SS amps are frequently nowadays being overshadowed by modelling amps.
These are a hybrid between tube and solid state amps. The term is a misleading marketing ploy, as hybrid amps usually have more in common with solid state than tube/valve amps (for example the Marshall AVT50 has 1 tube, in comparison to the all tube Marshall DSL50, which has 6).
These amps use computer chips (normally) to simulate the tones of classic amps (Marshalls, Fenders, Voxes, Mesa Boogies) on a budget (bar the odd very expensive modelling amp). Normally they don't sound as good as the real thing, but then they're a fraction of the price. They can be a good choice if you're starting out or strapped for cash, and play a wide variety of styles.
What do those knobs do?
originally posted by Dave_Mc:
Treble: This affects the high frequencies in your sound. Turn it down for a softer, warmer sound, and up for a sharper, more piercing/cutting sound.
Middle: Affects the mid range in your tone. Turn it down to ?scoop? your mids for a hollow/metal type tone, or turn it up for a fuller tone. (Note: some amps have a ?contour? knob, rather than mids- this is sometimes (but not always) the inverse of the mid knob- I.e. Mid=10 = Contour = 0 etc.- you need to use your ears in this case). The guitar is commonly called a mid range instrument, and this means that the majority of the notes it produces falls into this range. Thus, if you turn this knob down, you may have trouble being heard, or 'cutting through.'
Bass: Affects the low frequencies in your tone. Turn it up for more ?oomph? in your sound, or turn it down for a more trebly tone. It's a good idea not to turn this up too much or your tone will start fighting with the bassist's
Gain/drive/pre-gain: Controls the amount of overdrive or distortion in your sound.
(Master) Volume/Post-gain: Controls how loud you are. Some amps also have channel volume controls, where you can independently set a volume for each channel.
Depth punch/depth boost/resonance/deep etc.: Increases the bass response in your sound.
Presence: Affects the upper harmonics (ie. higher than treble).
Bright: increases the treble frequencies, to give a more ?sparkly? tone. Normally found on clean channels.
Scoop/Tone Shift/Contour (all push-buttons): Normally presets the mids to a very low level, to give you an instant metal tone.
Boost: Normally either increases the overdrive/distortion or volume by a preset amount.
Reverb: Mimics the echoes of being in a room/hall/cave where the sound REVERBerates around the walls.
Note that not all of these might be on your amp, or your amp may have a different name for them, or indeed, you may have more knobs on your amp.
The best way to discover what your knobs do, is to tweak them.
What's an FX loop? Originally posted by Jag513
The purpose of the effects loop is that the effects in the loop are placed after the preamp. Because the preamp is where the distortion (second channel) takes place, and some people like to have modulation effects after the distortion, so they put them in the effects loop. If the only distortion you use is power amp saturation, you can't have any effects after that, but if you use the preamp distortion, that is what the effects loop is for.
figure 1.1: technical drawing of signal chain with effects loop (credit: nightraven)
Originally written by Cas
6.whats a patch cord? how do I hook up all my pedals? - these 2 questions go hand in hand. You can hook up all your effects by using patch cords. Patch cords are tiny little cords approximately 4-8 inches long designed to connect several pedals together in a row.
7. whats a pedal board? a pedal board is a board or a road case in which you use to keep all your pedals on for easy acces while playing and for easy transport. some people just use a piece of wood to attach all their pedals to, others use a pre made cases/board that you can buy.
Pedal Board (manufactured)
8. what's better single effects or multi effects pedals? that depends on what you want really, if you want effects with better quality, and something where you can adjust each effect by itself then use individual pedals. If you just want a lot of effects at your feet without paying a lot, something that?s easier to carry around and aren?t to concerned about the decrease in quality of the effects, then get a multi effects pedal. There are decent sounding multi effects pedals that give you a lot for your money, but the more effects they cram into one box, the more the quality of each effect goes down.
9.what effects should I get Whatever you like, whatever effect creates the sound you?re looking for.
If you want a punk/metal sound, get distortion if you don?t already have it. If you need a blues/blues rock sound, Then overdrive is your thing. Want something to sound tripped out and echoey, then delay is the pedal for you. In all events, the best thing for you to do is try out as many pedals as you can and decide for yourself. Questions about effect pedal a certain artists uses in certain songs are fine. Just not ?what should I buy?
There are however certain effects you pretty much need nowadays, and those are
most amps however, already come with reverb.
10. what does (effect) do? what kind of sound does (effect) make?- as legitimate as this question is, certain effects have been asked about over and over and over. so, I present a list of the most common and popular effects, what they do to your sound, and what genres or styles of music (in some cases, specific artists) you'll most likely hear the specific effect in.
Overdrive is often confused with distortion due to a similar "kind" of sound.. but overdrive re-creates the natural warm sound of a vintage tube amp that is being "overdriven" or is breaking up. when a tube amps volume is pushed beyond its capacity, they "break up" and begin to sound crunchy and distorted, the resulting sound is overdrive.
o stylesDistortion -
Distortion is what makes metal, rock, punk, grunge, etc... sound the way it does. you know what i mean, the crunchy riffs the screeming pinch harmonics and solos , that dirty ass bone crunching sound of death and pain marching across the land AAAARRRGGHHHH!!! that my friend, is distortion. Distortion clips the top and bottom off a signal, effectively making the sine wave, like this . Soft clipping is produced by tube amps overdriving and distortion/overdrive pedals. Hard clipping is caused by overdriving solid state circuits. distortion ranges from mild to ball shattering in intensity and thickness.
Chorus is a shimmering effect that gives a deep lush sound. It does this by mixing the normal signal with a signal that has been delayed and raised slightly in pitch.
o stylesDelay -
Delay does exactly what it says. It repeats exactly what you play a short time after you play it. It could be used to add some depth or to create some really whacked out trippy sounds.
o stylesFlanger -
Flangers sound almost like a jet plane soaring over you. It is an effect that is similar to chorus but the pitch is not changed. The signal is just delayed a little bit.
o stylesPhaser -
Phasers mix the normal signal with a signal that goes through a modulated delay (or varied delay), modulating the various frequencies of the pitch. With phasers, as well as chorus and flanger, you can vary the amount of modualtion (depth) and the speed of the modulation as well.
o stylesTremelo -
Tremelo is a fluctuation of volume, whether it be a fast and large difference in volume or a slower and lesser change in volume. A tremelo pedal covers all the bases
o styles -Reverb -
Reverb is an effect that simulates the natural reflection of sound waves off of the walls, which makes it sound as if you?re playing in a large auditorium. It is often used to add depth, and comes equipped on many amplifiers.
o stylesCompression -
Compression is a device that makes every note come out at the same volume. In other words, It softens the notes you play hard, and amplifies the notes you play softly. The effect also adds a lot of sustain to the notes.
o stylesOctave -
Octave Pedals play the note that you are playing plus a note that is one octave either higher or lower. In some cases 2 octaves.
o stylesWah Pedal
ahhhhh the much beloved wah pedal. The Wah pedal alters the tone of your sound. You can rock a Wah pedal back and forth to produce a sound that sounds like "WAH." It is similar to your tone knob in how it works. Try putting your tone knob all the way up, then all the way down and listen to the difference. It is very similar to pressing the Wah pedal all the way down, or all the way up. The tone of something can most easily be described as the fatness or thinness of the sound. To hear what I mean, try the tone knob thing I just described, or go to your amp, plug in, turn the treble all the way down and the bass all the way up and then play ?.. This is a ?fat? tone . now turn your bass all the way down and treble all the way up, that is a ?thin? tone.
o stylesPitch shifter -
well, it does just what it says. It takes whatever you play and shifts the pitch of that note up or down. Pitch chifters have interval selections on them in which you can choose the type of interval that the note will be shifted. The most noteable pitch shifter in existence is by far the Whammy pedal.
o stylesHarmonizers -
Harmonizer pedals do exactly as they say, they harmonize . The pedal takes a note and harmonizes it with a specific interval that you have dialed in.For example you could set the pedal for Major 3rds in which case, every note that you play, the pedal will play a major 3rd off of that note. So if you play a C the Pedal plays an E. and of course, it plays it at the same time. Whats the difference between this and a pitch shifter you ask? Well the only difference is the shifter changes the C to an E, the harmonizer creates an E to be played over the C that you?re playing. So it sounds like you?re playing 2 notes at the same time.The Whammy Pedal is once again a great example of a harmonizer, it has harmonizing and pitch shifting capabilities.
Whammy II owns you Cas-
Thanks to Cas, Dave_Mc and sillybuuger12 for the following
3. ?Whats a pickup and what does it do?
The pickups are those ?plastic strips with the metal dot thingys on them that are under your strings?
Pickups are essentially magnets. Your strings are made of magnetic metals; usually electric guitar strings have a steel core wrapped in nickel, or are just plain steel. Your pickup creates a magnetic field that when the strings move, disturb. This disturbance is transferred to an electrical signal by your pickup, affected by all your guitar's electronics and eventually reaches your amp and is turned into vibrations which you hear as your guitar.
Pickups get their magnetism from either a magnet attached to their base, or from magnetic pole pieces. Pole pieces are the metal cylinders that come out of the pickup under each string. The pole pieces are wrapped in magnetic wire (usually copper), which increases the strength of the magnetic field. One set of pole pieces wrapped in copper wire is called a coil of a pickup.
4. ?whats the difference between a humbucker and a single coil pickup?
Now this is a legitimate question ? but ? it?s been asked several thousand times. So, NO MORE. If you would like to know the difference read below.
Single Coil pickup - a single coil pickup has only one coil of wire. It may have a single magnet, a single magnet with screws for adjustable pole pieces, or a separate magnet for each string. A single coil is more vulnerable to picking up the electrical fields that surround us every day and tend to give off a bit of a buzz or ?hum?. Single coils handle everything from laid back jazz and blues, to screaming metal solos.
Cleaner, poppier, funky tones and blues can benefit from single coils. They get noisy/squealy with lots of distortion. Single coils sound treblier than hum buckers (as a general rule), and have less gain/power.
Humbucker - Humbuckers are essentially 2 single coil pickups that share a large magnet at their base. Each coil of a humbucker is wrapped differently, so that the RF signals they create cancel each other out.
The only purpose in creating humbuckers was to "buck" the hum that single coils created. However humbuckers did not, and do not, sound just like single coils without hum. Since a much larger magnet was used, and there were 2 coils of wire, the humbucker created a much louder signal.
There are many other differences between humbuckers and single coils. Some will say that humbuckers are only good for distortion and single coils only good for clean. This is only personal taste, and many people (There are too many people who use Gibson style guitars for clean to begin to list them) use guitars with humbuckers for playing clean. Also, guitarists such as Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple), Ywingie Malsteen, Kirk Hammet (Metallica), both of Iron Maiden's guitarists and many others have used single coils for metal. However humbuckers tend to be hotter, and as a result have less highs, more mids, more volume and more sustain, hence their preference.
As a very general rule, if you play metal or hard rock music, you?re going to want a (full size) bridge humbucker; it?s very difficult to get that kind of chunky sound without one, even if you have a high gain amp. Humbuckers sound ?fuller? and warmer than single coils. They are also "noiseless" meaning they won't squeal when you turn up the distortion. A neck humbucker doesn?t hurt either, for slightly less ?metal? solos, and cleans.
Other - There are also so-called single coil-sized humbuckers. These are the size of single coils, but are noiseless. These DO NOT sound exactly like humbuckers, nomatter what the manufacturers say (physics won't allow it)- they sound sort of halfway between single coils and humbuckers. However, if you want a noiseless pickup and you can only fit single coils in your guitar, unless you want to cut up your guitar, this is your only option. Also, as long as you treat them "as is" you can get good results with them- just don't expect them to sound exactly like a humbucker or single coil.
As a general rule, the bridge pickup is brighter and good for distortion, and the neck pickup is warmer and good for cleans and mellow solos (and shred!).
These links have clips of many different pickups, use them to help you make decisions about pickups
5. ?Whats a J-bass Pickup and a P-bass pickup ?
Well, this question sort of goes hand and hand with the single coil/humbucker question.
First off, J style would be compared to the single coil on a guitar and a P style would be related to the hum bucker. Of course there are slight differences
J-bass pickup- the J-bass ( J = Jazz) is a the bass version of the single coil pickup. A noticeable difference though, is the 2 poles for every string setup . On a guitar, each string has one magnetic pole/screw underneath of it. On a bass with J-bass pickups however, there are 2 poles for each string in order to grab the complete range of the lower vibrations the strings put out
P-Bass pickups - The P-bass (p = precision) is the hum bucker of the bass , with a slight difference. Where as the hum bucker on the guitar is a one piece construction (yes I know I said it has 2 coils, and it does, but it is all housed in one casing) the P-bass pickup style is 2 separate pickups wired as one and placed in a staggered setup.
Active vs Passive
Passive Pickup Systems
All basses and guitars generate an output signal by means of a pickup that translates some of the vibration energy of the strings in to voltage that gets sent to an amp. ?Passive? instruments send this raw signal to the amp, and passive volume and tone controls can only attenuate the signal and treble response, that is, make it quieter. In order for passive magnetic pickups to generate enough voltage to drive an amplifier, they must be wound with a large number of turns of wire. This causes high inductance in the coil, and a high impedance output signal. This has the effect of rolling off the extreme high and low frequency response and making the signal more susceptible to loss and degradation in the cable on the way to the amp. While this sounds bad, it?s one of the reasons passive pickups can sound ?punchier?, because the ear perceives more midrange when the high treble and low bass are rolled off. The powerful magnets and larger wire coils in passive pickups can also produce strange electromagnetic interactions with the strings and adjacent pickup coils, causing irregular response curves and dynamic effects usually not seen in active pickups. Both of these factors contribute to the unique voice and continued popularity of passive pickups.
Active Pickup Systems
These generally use low-impedance pickups with a smaller number of wire turns. This causes less loss in the high and low end, and generally allows a much broader, full-range, hi-fi sound. Unfortunately, it also means the voltage produced by the pickup is very low, not nearly enough to drive an amp through a long cable. So these pickups have miniature amplifiers, called preamps, built into the pickup housing itself.
What magnet should I get in the pickups?
I?ll give a very general answer, because this isn?t an in depth article about pickups.
Alnico II: warm, smooth sounding, great for vintage tones, and smooth overdriven tones (think Slash from Guns n? Roses), can be a little sweet sounding for heavier tones (and can get a little muddy with distortion).
Alnico V: Higher output than Alnico II and has more trebly/midrange bite than Alnico II. Sounds organic, while still having plenty of power for heavier tones too. A good choice if you play both cleans and overdrive/distortion.
Ceramic: tight, can be a little sterile sounding, but great for distortion. Cleans are bland and uninspiring, at best. Good choice for metal, poor choice for vintage tones.
Alnico III and IV are also used, but rarely. Their specs are (approximately) in between Alnico II and V.
Bear in mind, you can mix magnets- one option is a ceramic bridge pickup, for distortion, and an alnico V neck pickup, for good cleans and distortion.
How hot should I get the pickups?
Most companies measure their pickups? power (hotness) as their DC resistance. The higher the number in kilo-ohms (k), the hotter, assuming all things are equal (like wire gauge etc.). EXCEPTION: avoid doing this with Dimarzio pickups, they use strange wire gauges (which affects the resistance), their outputs in mA (milliamps) are more accurate. As a general rule, the better the pickup?s distortion, the worse its cleans, and vice versa. So get a lower output pickup if you like cleans, and a higher output pickup if you like distortion. The neck pickup normally has a lower output, since string vibrations are louder at the neck, and also because it tends to be used more for cleans.
Anyway, as a VERY general rule for outputs (e.g. if a company describes one of their pickups as being for a certain tone/style, and it disagrees with these rough figures, disregard my rough figures!):
KEY: Vintage = 1950?s tones, vintage hot = 70?s rock, medium high = 80?s hard rock/hair metal/shred, high output = metal. Hotter pickups tend to have less high end but a more pronounced midrange.
For humbuckers: Vintage: 6-8.5k (Dimarzio: 200-250mA output), Vintage Hot/Medium output 8.5-11k (Dimarzio 250-325mA output), Medium High Output 11-15k (Dimarzio 325-400mA output), High Output 15k+ (Dimarzio 400mA+ output).
For Single Coils: Vintage: 5-6k (Dimarzio: around 90-100mA output), Vintage Hot/Medium output 6.5-7.5k (Dimarzio 120-130mA output), Medium High Output 7.5-10k (Dimarzio 130-180mA output), High Output 11k+ (Dimarzio 180mA+ output).
Bear in mind as well, pickups are very easy to change if you don?t like their tone, as long as your guitar is routed (holes cut in it) for the size of pickups you want to put in. If you KNOW you?re going to change pickups, play the guitar unplugged too (you should play it unplugged anyway, to be honest)- if it sounds nice, it means the wood is good, and will take a pickup change well. If not, avoid it.