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#1
I currently have EMG-HZ's in my guitar, they came stock. Everyone here rags on them constantly. I have a high end tube amp also. Would getting new pickups REALLY make a difference in tone? Or is it the amp that makes 90% of the tone? I'm having a feeling pickups make up about 3% tone. It is the amp that creates the sound. Am I right, or are pickups a huge part of tone? Thanks.
#2
Pickups definitely effect tone. But at the end of the day it depends on what you are trying to do.

If you have a guitar with HZs then I am assuming you are playing distortion heavy music, and if you have a decent tube based amp that you know is used frequently to play the type of music you like and are going for you should be able to obtain a tone or many tones that you will be happy with.

If you can't get a tone you like with your current axe and amp configuration, simply changing your pickups is not going to change that.
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#3
Hmmm...this is going to be one giant arguement, but it is my belief (after changing my Pickups and playing through tons of amps with tons of guitars) that your guitar makes up about 15% of your sound, your pickups make up about 25% of your sound, and your amp makes up about 60% of your sound. Pickups definetly make a huge difference, especially stylistically with your sound, but yes amps have more of an impact. Remember, your pickups decide how and what your amp recieves, and then your amp sculpts that to form what you hear.
#4
I don't think it's possible to make one mental pie chart of how much of a role each part of any setup will play, but the amp has more influence on sound than the pickup. The pickup is definitely important though, and if you have a great amp that should make the sounds you want but you're not getting them, changing the pickups will probably help.
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#5
Pickups are indeed an important part of what sound an electric guitar (of bass guitar) has. So are playing style, amplifier type and settings, speakers in the amplifier, etc.

Do pickups affect the sound? If you have multiple pickups, you already know that changing which are in use changes the sound. Try playing a guitar that has the ability to "coil split" a humbucker and you can get even more variations.

Now, whether the sound from the various pickup(s) is what you want or like - that is up to you and your audience.
#6
What amp do you have and what tone are you going for?
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#7
Changing a guitar's pickups can make a good tone better, but it can't make a bad tone sound good.
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#8
Quote by Blktiger0
Hmmm...this is going to be one giant arguement, but it is my belief (after changing my Pickups and playing through tons of amps with tons of guitars) that your guitar makes up about 15% of your sound, your pickups make up about 25% of your sound, and your amp makes up about 60% of your sound. Pickups definetly make a huge difference, especially stylistically with your sound, but yes amps have more of an impact. Remember, your pickups decide how and what your amp recieves, and then your amp sculpts that to form what you hear.


+11.572
#9
changing the pickups can drastically change the tone of a guitar! especially with modern active pickups, there is really no limit to how much you can change your tone.

that being said, if your guitar or amp is poor, the best pickups in the world will not change it. your core tone comes from your amp and the construction of your guitar. changing pickups can get you different gain levels, a different EQ, different dynamics or different characterization. they will not, however, instantly improve your tone
#10
it depends i guess
changing from single to hmbucker makes a difference obviously
while different pickups might not improve the tone they can change its qualities for the style you want
#11
If your amp is any good, your guitar is any good, your pedals are any good and you choose your pickups wisely then yes, they can make some difference. They're still a minor part of your sound overall though.
If any other piece of your rig sucks though, fix that first. Pickups are not even remotely near as important to your tone as your amp, pedals or any other element of your guitar.

To me, changing pickups in a guitar is like changing the seats in a car. Sure, it will make the ride a little more comfortable and it can make the car look more interesting, but it's not going to turn a Ford Focus into an Aston Martin DB9.


Bear in mind that most of the classic and most famous tones recorded throughout the history of the electric guitar were made using stock guitars through stock amps, recorded with standard equipment; people just knew how to use it all together to get the best out of it. Of all the things to change, pickups were the last thing. People didn't give a second thought to what magnet was in their pickups back in the 50s, 60s, 70s...
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#12
The Pickups focuses the tone going to the amp.

For example a low output single/humbucker from a older design may give you a great clean or bluesy tone but it lacks in higher Gain rock/metal. The same for High output pickups.

PAF>EMG 81 for cleans or PAF<EMG 81 for Metal

I'm being general here so it's up to you for the swap.
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Last edited by Slayer666_5150 at Dec 28, 2009,
#13
Quote by MrFlibble
If your amp is any good, your guitar is any good, your pedals are any good and you choose your pickups wisely then yes, they can make some difference. They're still a minor part of your sound overall though.
If any other piece of your rig sucks though, fix that first. Pickups are not even remotely near as important to your tone as your amp, pedals or any other element of your guitar.

To me, changing pickups in a guitar is like changing the seats in a car. Sure, it will make the ride a little more comfortable and it can make the car look more interesting, but it's not going to turn a Ford Focus into an Aston Martin DB9.


Bear in mind that most of the classic and most famous tones recorded throughout the history of the electric guitar were made using stock guitars through stock amps, recorded with standard equipment; people just knew how to use it all together to get the best out of it. Of all the things to change, pickups were the last thing. People didn't give a second thought to what magnet was in their pickups back in the 50s, 60s, 70s...


lets keep in mind that because of higher variability in qualitiy during the 50's, 60's and 70's, pickups and amps were much less consistent. it was common to either get over-wound pickups but severely over-wound pickups (sound the best for rock) were rarer and are now being replicated in aftermarket designs. therefore, a gibson PAF in the 60's will almost always sound different than a modern pickup, despite being made to the same specs (we're a little more accurate now...)
#14
In short, yes it effects your tone a lot. I use a single coil sometimes or a high output active, both act differently through different amps but are like night and day in every situation.

I would say 30% of my tone, or more. I would compare it to using a cheap mic in a good PA, you really want the best of both.
Last edited by Tempoe at Dec 28, 2009,
#15
Quote by MrFlibble
If your amp is any good, your guitar is any good, your pedals are any good and you choose your pickups wisely then yes, they can make some difference. They're still a minor part of your sound overall though.
If any other piece of your rig sucks though, fix that first. Pickups are not even remotely near as important to your tone as your amp, pedals or any other element of your guitar.

To me, changing pickups in a guitar is like changing the seats in a car. Sure, it will make the ride a little more comfortable and it can make the car look more interesting, but it's not going to turn a Ford Focus into an Aston Martin DB9.


Bear in mind that most of the classic and most famous tones recorded throughout the history of the electric guitar were made using stock guitars through stock amps, recorded with standard equipment; people just knew how to use it all together to get the best out of it. Of all the things to change, pickups were the last thing. People didn't give a second thought to what magnet was in their pickups back in the 50s, 60s, 70s...

Didn't you say in some other thread that your BKPs ruined your tone? This is sort of contradictory to you saying they got a minor influence... If they made your tone awful, judging from what you said here, it must've been bad already before you switched to bkp since it's only a "minor" difference...
#16
Quote by MrFlibble
If your amp is any good, your guitar is any good, your pedals are any good and you choose your pickups wisely then yes, they can make some difference. They're still a minor part of your sound overall though.
If any other piece of your rig sucks though, fix that first. Pickups are not even remotely near as important to your tone as your amp, pedals or any other element of your guitar.

To me, changing pickups in a guitar is like changing the seats in a car. Sure, it will make the ride a little more comfortable and it can make the car look more interesting, but it's not going to turn a Ford Focus into an Aston Martin DB9.


Bear in mind that most of the classic and most famous tones recorded throughout the history of the electric guitar were made using stock guitars through stock amps, recorded with standard equipment; people just knew how to use it all together to get the best out of it. Of all the things to change, pickups were the last thing. People didn't give a second thought to what magnet was in their pickups back in the 50s, 60s, 70s...



Yea, that is true, it seems like now, pickups are examined way too much. From the magnet, like you said, to other silly things like how much they are wound. It is getting kinda ridiculous. Every artist who wrote music that inspires us to play, didn't even worry about pickups to the extent people on this board do....
#17
Quote by modirnwarfare
Yea, that is true, it seems like now, pickups are examined way too much. From the magnet, like you said, to other silly things like how much they are wound. It is getting kinda ridiculous. Every artist who wrote music that inspires us to play, didn't even worry about pickups to the extent people on this board do....


there were't many choices prior to the late 80's or early 90's. but good point, a little too much thought goes into this now. however, a massive change on the pickup front is sometimes a good idea (look at EVH...)
#18
Quote by Gego
Didn't you say in some other thread that your BKPs ruined your tone? This is sort of contradictory to you saying they got a minor influence... If they made your tone awful, judging from what you said here, it must've been bad already before you switched to bkp since it's only a "minor" difference...
No, that's not what I said, though they did sound bad. I said that they sounded the same as the regular shitty stock pickups that the guitar had in the first place. That means they sounded average; which is bad considering they cost far more than the average pickup costs. That does not mean they sounded bad, just that they sound bad considering they cost me over two hundred pounds. If they had cost £40 for the set, I would have still wasted £40 on getting no difference in sound, but then that would have been expected because of couse a £40 set of pickups is going to be sub-par.

This is all beside the point that pickups do not make as much of a difference as many people think and that the rest of your rig matters far more. I didn't say pickups don't matter. They just don't matter as much as the rest of your rig does.

tl;dr: learn to read.
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#19
Quote by MrFlibble
If your amp is any good, your guitar is any good, your pedals are any good and you choose your pickups wisely then yes, they can make some difference. They're still a minor part of your sound overall though.
If any other piece of your rig sucks though, fix that first. Pickups are not even remotely near as important to your tone as your amp, pedals or any other element of your guitar.

To me, changing pickups in a guitar is like changing the seats in a car. Sure, it will make the ride a little more comfortable and it can make the car look more interesting, but it's not going to turn a Ford Focus into an Aston Martin DB9.


Bear in mind that most of the classic and most famous tones recorded throughout the history of the electric guitar were made using stock guitars through stock amps, recorded with standard equipment; people just knew how to use it all together to get the best out of it. Of all the things to change, pickups were the last thing. People didn't give a second thought to what magnet was in their pickups back in the 50s, 60s, 70s...



I would say that changing the pickups in a guitar is more like changing the ECU of a car (or the "computer chip") whereas the amp is the Engine itself. The ECU limits the cars performance and also effects it substanially, but without a good engine, the car is going nowhere. A good ECU can't fix a shitty engine, but a good engine can go nowhere without a good ECU. So, Shitty pickups mean a shitty tone no matter what amp or effect you are using, but a good amp can make decent pickups sound better than an amp of less quality. If you have a shitty amp though, good pickups are just going to accent the shittiness (take it from me, Seymour Duncans with a Marshall MG). For a great tone, you need both good pickups and a good amp. You DO NOT need great pickups and a good amp though. but good or great pickups with a great amp would be a groundbreaking combo. Do you get the interrelation here yet?

Also, in those years, people also didn't care about the internet (cause it didn't exist for most of them) but it seems that you care enough to use it for UG. Bob Dylan once wrote: The Times They Are A Changin'
Last edited by Blktiger0 at Dec 28, 2009,
#20
Yes, but I find that there is a certain sound that everyone develops after playing a certain way for so long. So the sound is your "fingers" and it's voice is everyting else.
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#21
Quote by MrFlibble
No, that's not what I said, though they did sound bad. I said that they sounded the same as the regular shitty stock pickups that the guitar had in the first place. That means they sounded average; which is bad considering they cost far more than the average pickup costs. That does not mean they sounded bad, just that they sound bad considering they cost me over two hundred pounds. If they had cost £40 for the set, I would have still wasted £40 on getting no difference in sound, but then that would have been expected because of couse a £40 set of pickups is going to be sub-par.

This is all beside the point that pickups do not make as much of a difference as many people think and that the rest of your rig matters far more. I didn't say pickups don't matter. They just don't matter as much as the rest of your rig does.

tl;dr: learn to read.

May I ask which p'ups you got and which guitar you put them in?
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#22
Like many have already stated, pick ups can only go as far as your gear lets them to effect your tone. If your gear is sub par, a pup swap will be a very minor change, but if your gear is great then the pickup change can put your tone over the top for you.
#23
Pickups can be the last stage in tweaking your sound, when your ear has developed enough to know what kind of sound you are aiming for then selecting the right pickups in the right guitar is that final step to getting the exact sound you want.

If you put the wrong pickups in the wrong guitar however you can screw over your tone, you really have to know what you are picking, and not just the guitar, the rest of your gear.

If you have a cheap terrible guitar, and you put great pickups in it, and play it though a poor amp, it will make little difference. If you have a great axe, a nice setup in terms of amp and cab and effects, and you balance out the sound (Dont go putting bass heavy pickups into a mahogany bodied guitar running into a peavey 5150, your going to get a boomy nasty sound.) Its all about how your ear develops, so im afraid until you know specifically what you want from your sound your wasting money on pickups.
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#25
Pickups and amps both matter a ton. With pickups, it's mostly a mater of type and quality. If you compare 3 different good brand's overwound potted PAF clones, you won't notice much difference. But you compare one of them to a ceramic gonzo-bucker or an EMG or a single coil or a cheap piece of junk on a $70 guitar, and there's a huge difference.
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#26
ive always seen pickups as a tweak. if youve got good gear and want to change your tone a bit, a pickup change can help with that. sure there are times when changing pickups can be a fairly drastic change, but if you picked the right guitar and amp to start you probably wont be getting that. i mean going from a 50's style strat single coil to a rail bucker in the same spot isnt going to sound the same. but at the same time, its not like its changing a strat to a LP.

so while it is important, it should still be though of as a tweak instead of a big change.
#27
Quote by Blktiger0
Hmmm...this is going to be one giant arguement, but it is my belief (after changing my Pickups and playing through tons of amps with tons of guitars) that your guitar makes up about 15% of your sound, your pickups make up about 25% of your sound, and your amp makes up about 60% of your sound. Pickups definetly make a huge difference, especially stylistically with your sound, but yes amps have more of an impact. Remember, your pickups decide how and what your amp recieves, and then your amp sculpts that to form what you hear.


you sir are completely ****ing RIGHT!!!!!!!!!!!!


your pickups are the first thing your sound goes through producing the signal, and depending on how good those pickups are, will depend on the quality and strength of that signal.
Last edited by brutalmania at Dec 28, 2009,
#28
Quote by brutalmania
you sir are completely ****ing RIGHT!!!!!!!!!!!!


your pickups are the first thing your sound goes through producing the signal, and depending on how good those pickups are, will depend on the quality and strength of that signal.


Yup, he is right, in the right circumstances a pickup change can make all the difference.
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#29
Pickups make a huge difference. I have experienced it, and anyone who says otherwise is an idiot IMO.
I'm currently working on a system to generate MIDI from the motion of a guitar. More info coming soon.
#30
Quote by Zhuriel
Pickups make a huge difference. I have experienced it, and anyone who says otherwise is an idiot IMO.


I agree, but between some pickups, without a trained ear, you won't notice the difference. Try asking your girlfriend/boyfriend the difference between a SD Pearly Gates Bridge and SD AlNiCo II Pro Bridge after letting her hear each one and see if she can tell you. (obviously this doesn't count if your gf/bf plays guitar too...) I too have changed my pickups and experienced this, but to my family, they couldn't tell that there was a difference between my stock Epi pups and my SD pups. (but then again, i have a terrible amp, so there wasn;t as much of a difference as there could have been)
#31
Quote by Blktiger0
I agree, but between some pickups, without a trained ear, you won't notice the difference.


Well, that is something else. Non-guitarists sometimes can't even tell the difference between amps, or between neck and bridge pups etc. When I changed my pickups, I was blown away by the sound compared to the stock ones, but noone in my family (who all play at least one instrument btw, so they're musicians too) noticed any difference.
I'm currently working on a system to generate MIDI from the motion of a guitar. More info coming soon.
#32
Quote by Zhuriel
Well, that is something else. Non-guitarists sometimes can't even tell the difference between amps, or between neck and bridge pups etc. When I changed my pickups, I was blown away by the sound compared to the stock ones, but noone in my family (who all play at least one instrument btw, so they're musicians too) noticed any difference.



Agreed. Guitarists truly are a rare breed...
#33
On a low end amp theres not really a big difference in pickups however
it will sound a hell lot clearer with a Duncan SH-6 or TB-6 in the Bridge
an active doesn't sound good on SS amps nor on my ENGL amp
on SS main difference you'd ever tell is notes ring longer with a hair
more clarity. I still prefer this pickup for both type of amps
last time I checked my ENGL has gain
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#34
Quote by Zhuriel
Pickups make a huge difference. I have experienced it, and anyone who says otherwise is an idiot IMO.
Agreed. I have several sets of high end PAF replica pickups, and they all sound different.
Quote by modirnwarfare
Yea, that is true, it seems like now, pickups are examined way too much. From the magnet, like you said, to other silly things like how much they are wound. It is getting kinda ridiculous. Every artist who wrote music that inspires us to play, didn't even worry about pickups to the extent people on this board do....

Pickups make a relatively small difference compared to amps, but in the end, small differences matter if you're going after a specific sound. Pickups themselves have certain qualities in their tone and different magnets, different winds affect the response of a pickup. If you are after a certain response, then you bet your ass it matters. Every artist back in the day didn't care about this because back in the day, there were no aftermarket pickups. But think about it this way, those same artists, who played the vintage les pauls with PAFs back then, still go and get their own pickups custom wound to their taste by folks like Seymour Duncan. So... I would say, that you're quite mistaken, they DO worry about that kind of thing. Jimmy Page when he doesn't have a set of real PAFs to outfit his guitars goes to MJ at the Duncan custom shop and has her wind him a specific model.

Here is a good example...

http://soundclick.com/share?songid=6572910
vs.
http://soundclick.com/share?songid=6477007

Same winder (both WCR pickups), same guitar, same amp, same settings. The ONLY difference in the two pickups is the wire gauge and wind pattern. Magnet is the same.

I think there is a pretty noticeable difference in there. The only people who think that the effects of pickups are barely noticeable simply cannot hear or do not know what to listen for. And if the tone in your head is the second one, you are just not going to be satisfied with the first set of pickups (which is what was the case with my WCR Fillmores) If you listen to early Clapton, early Page, Duane Allman, etc. anyone who knows what a PAF is supposed to sound like could tell you that they're all using PAFs even though their tones are all different.
Last edited by al112987 at Dec 28, 2009,
#35
Quote by al112987
Here is a good example...

http://soundclick.com/share?songid=6572910
vs.
http://soundclick.com/share?songid=6477007

Same winder (both WCR pickups), same guitar, same amp, same settings. The ONLY difference in the two pickups is the wire gauge and wind pattern. Magnet is the same

I was sceptical when I loaded those clips up but it's actually pretty convincing. If you're telling the truth it's the same guitar/amp/etc. then this is your "/thread" right here.
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#36
Everything about a guitar effects its tone. But pickups can make a big difference. Some can work well with a guitar, Others won't give you the sound you're looking for. And ones without adjustable pole pieces are always bad in my book because some strings will drown out others. I can't stand that.
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#37
Quote by Kanthras
I was sceptical when I loaded those clips up but it's actually pretty convincing. If you're telling the truth it's the same guitar/amp/etc. then this is your "/thread" right here.
They are indeed the same guitar and same settings on the same amp. In addition to differences in EQ (the Crossroads and Fillmores both have a lot of mids but the character is much different) there is a huge difference in their response to pick attack and bends, etc. Maybe I'm just particularly picky about my tone, but as far as I'm concerned, without the right qualities in the response of a pickup that suit my personal taste, it's a complete deal breaker.

I just think it's funny how the idea that pickups barely make a difference has pervaded this forum so much.
Last edited by al112987 at Dec 28, 2009,
#38
Pickup has a huge different in sound and tone. I've been playing on various type of guitar with different pickup conbination and they each has a very distinct character. Of course you can try to compensate the differences with the amp EQ but it will not be suffice enough for that little 25% or whatever proportion the pickup makes in the overall sound.
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#39
All I know is that I went from shitty stock Strat pup's to BKP's and I could hear a huge difference, cleaner among others which I wanted. Each set has been different though. The Trilogy Suite I put in my HSS have a rich warm more full sound. The Trilogy Suite I put in my SSS don't sound close to the same. Different then the stock but not like the others. Now it could be the strings and tuning being different but the SSS is more trebbly and twangy.

And yes, I have a shitty amp, Fender Frontman 25w. Though they both sounded really nice in all the high end Engl amps at the shop. The guitar tech also was in love with all of them and didn't want to give them up...
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Last edited by Mr. Parker at Dec 28, 2009,
#40
I like to think of pickups and the amp as frosting and cake respectively.

Good cake with bad frosting is not bad. However bad cake with good frosting is not good. Bad cake and frosting sucks and good cake and good frosting is delicious.
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