#1
I've seen a crazy amount of "which pickups?" threads going on lately, so I figured that we should have a dedicated thread to talk about the ins and outs of how to choose pickups beyond the very minimal info in the beginner guide that's in the FAQ's.

If you haven't read the FAQ's, do so now: https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/forum/showthread.php?t=365675

I tend to see a lot of people with the thought that if they took a low/mid quality guitar, slapped on some new pickups, they would come out with a better sounding guitar. I mean, technically, that could be true, but I think there's something folks are missing entirely here.

Pickups are not upgrades. They're tools to achieve a different sound. One might consider the sound of a pickup 'better,' but that's completely subjective. I know plenty of people who enjoy the stock N3 pickups in a Stratocaster. Clapton still uses those in lots of his guitars; so would dropping a set of Lace Sensors in there be an 'upgrade?' I don't think so at all. Pickups aren't there to make your whole guitar better, they're tools to achieve a nuance in sound that you're striving for.

I also seem to find that people think a pickup change will make a night and day difference. It's hard to put anything qualitative on how much of a difference is made, because it all depends on your gear, I understand. However, with the amp, your effects, and the build quality and material of your guitar, it appears to me that pickups are pretty low on the totem pole of things that actually change your tone. In a hobby as expensive as guitar is, do you really think spending $60 at guitarfetish is really going to transform your sound?

Also, this is more of a pet peeve. I see a lot of threads asking "which pickups?" that go on to list a lot of 30W solid state practice amps. It takes a lot of transparency and headroom in an amplifier to really hear the body and nuance of a pickup and guitar.

I could be dead wrong. I'm just speaking from personal experience on this. I've swapped probably 12 sets of single coils out between all my past Strats and Teles to find different sounds.

Discuss away.


EDIT:

Link to better pickups sticky
https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/forum/showthread.php?t=278232

Quote by EyeNon15
Thats too bad, I was under the impression I was arguing something profound


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Last edited by JustRooster at Nov 8, 2012,
#2
I generally think you're quite right. However, I have 3 additions:

1) Pickups can be an upgrade when you're going from a cheap stock pickup to a good quality aftermarket unit. Even if you replace your Epiphone pickup with a Dimarzio PAF Pro (or whatever it is), it's an upgrade. They may be similar pickups, but there are instances where the quality of 1 is so much better, that it has to be considered an upgrade.

2) Pickups can make a tremendous difference to your sound if you've made all your other tweaks. If you've already picked your amp, pedals, cables, strings, rack units- and really worked with them- pickups can make a big difference. Maybe not tonally or in an outwardly audible way- but you will hear and feel the difference. Big time.

3) When you're considering a pickup swap, look at your other electronic components. Consider your pots, caps, switches and jacks. A good quality pot with the right type of taper (and resistance- muddy humbuckers can often be remedies with a $12 1000k pot) can make a huge difference. Also, when you're swapping your pickups, make sure your other components are consistent quality wise with the pickups you're going to install.
Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things...
#3
Something I've noticed, at least with high-gain tones: the voicing of the pickup will matter very little unless you're comparing two extremes. What will make a difference is the type of pickup (single coil v. double coil) and the output (generally, high output will be more distorted; low output will retain more clarity).

I dunno how true that is in general, but that's what I've noticed in my own experience.
#4
I believe that the type of pickup has more to do with tonal differences ex:p90 vs bucker vs SC vs filtertrons
#5
Can the mods post the same sticky in this forum too?
Quote by Axelfox
Please understand how little we as a community care
Last edited by T00DEEPBLUE at Nov 8, 2012,
#6
Quote by krehzeekid
I generally think you're quite right. However, I have 3 additions:

1) Pickups can be an upgrade when you're going from a cheap stock pickup to a good quality aftermarket unit. Even if you replace your Epiphone pickup with a Dimarzio PAF Pro (or whatever it is), it's an upgrade. They may be similar pickups, but there are instances where the quality of 1 is so much better, that it has to be considered an upgrade.

2) Pickups can make a tremendous difference to your sound if you've made all your other tweaks. If you've already picked your amp, pedals, cables, strings, rack units- and really worked with them- pickups can make a big difference. Maybe not tonally or in an outwardly audible way- but you will hear and feel the difference. Big time.

3) When you're considering a pickup swap, look at your other electronic components. Consider your pots, caps, switches and jacks. A good quality pot with the right type of taper (and resistance- muddy humbuckers can often be remedies with a $12 1000k pot) can make a huge difference. Also, when you're swapping your pickups, make sure your other components are consistent quality wise with the pickups you're going to install.


+1
Quote by crownegamers
I saw in a couple of pictures that on Bucketheads Les Paul (only some pictures) that his neck pickup is painted in white. Can anyone explain to me why he would do this, and if there are any pros and cons.

Quote by dspellman
The guy wears a KFC Bucket and a white mask during performances, and you're interested in the color of his pickup covers?

#8
Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
Can the mods post the same sticky in this forum too?

I support this idea, or at least an EG sticky with a link to the other thread.
Quote by Wisthekiller
tl;dr How does one safely remove the smell of a corpse from a banjo?


Would you run down past the fence?

Tell us, is the black box lying?
#9
Replacing stock pickups with name-brand pickups is often an upgrade because stock pickups are typically designed as a "jack of all trades" pickup, which usually means that it doesn't do anything particularly well.
#10
Quote by Delboyuk_01
I think the problem with most of the posts lately is that the people posting need to upgrade their amps or even guitars before thinking of upgrading pickups.
I agree with everything else said.


for sure. pickups are a "mid point" modification, not a primary mod. if you're genuinely in need of major tonal changes, pickups are not the answer.

pickups are really best replaced when you're in the process of refining what you have, rather than seeking something different.
Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things...
#11
This is all very good info. It answered a lot of the info I have been seeking lately, but didn't know how to ask the right questions. Cheers.
#12
Quote by Shadowofravenwo
This is all very good info. It answered a lot of the info I have been seeking lately, but didn't know how to ask the right questions. Cheers.




Quote by EyeNon15
Thats too bad, I was under the impression I was arguing something profound


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#13
Quote by krehzeekid
for sure. pickups are a "mid point" modification, not a primary mod. if you're genuinely in need of major tonal changes, pickups are not the answer.

pickups are really best replaced when you're in the process of refining what you have, rather than seeking something different.


exactly

once you have that good amp and guitar, pickups can make a BIG difference. the difference between sounding "good" and "great". But they won't turn "crap" (e.g. rubbish starter pack amp) into "great".
Quote by crownegamers
I saw in a couple of pictures that on Bucketheads Les Paul (only some pictures) that his neck pickup is painted in white. Can anyone explain to me why he would do this, and if there are any pros and cons.

Quote by dspellman
The guy wears a KFC Bucket and a white mask during performances, and you're interested in the color of his pickup covers?