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Pickups don't make a difference in tone.

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  • Pickups don't make a difference in tone.

    Why do people say this? I've seen on multiple other forums where someone will ask what kind of pickups they recommend for a certain sound and they'll tell him "get a better amp kid". Whats up with that?
    I just got back into guitar playing about a year ago and in that time, I've gone from a 20 watt 1X8 to a 60 watt 1X10 to a 240 watt 2X12. My two main guitars are a Jackson King V JS-32 with stock pickups and a Jackson Pro Series Monarkh with SD Blackouts in it. Even in my 60 watt 1X10 the two guitars sound night and day different.
    Last edited by Mad Max; 10-22-2020, 11:19 PM.

  • #2
    Maybe their amp sucks

    Or maybe they once inadvertently replaced a quality exact knockoff or vintage unbadged actual brand name pickup with a new brand name version .... of the exact same thing.

    One thing's for sure, people who put hot buckers into standard strats or install EMGs into passive guitars never say that
    Last edited by Adieu; 10-10-2020, 01:01 PM.
    "New stuff always sucks" -Me

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    • #3
      Maybe the OP is deaf.

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      • #4
        In a couple of words?

        Too dumb.

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        • #5
          maybe they are watching youtube videos and thinking that it is the same as real world experience. i'll watch videos and not really be able to hear too much of a difference between pickups I've owned and know first hand they are wildly different sounding.
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          • #6
            There are probably a lot of factors that go in to it, seems like there always is, so don't take this as a scientific thing or that I'm claiming anything as fact, but I have tried using different guitars with different pickups, different guitars with the same pickups, as well as one guitar with different pickups and at all times I tried using the amp's EQ to try and get the sameish sound with them all and I couldn't a lot of the time. Some were fairly similar, and that's probably why some people can't justify changing them, but they do make some difference. I felt like they gave that extra how-much-ever percentage of difference that the amp alone wasn't giving me in the same way, which seems to be an idea of the point. It doesn't mean it's a better sound than before, but different. Some gave more cut or a fatter sound that I couldn't dial in without an EQ pedal. The amp's bass would get flubby whereas the pickup would have a sound that was round and big, allowing me to not use the amp's bass up to that point. That's not to say a boost or EQ pedal might not get you there. Even if they would, it's nice to think the pickups themselves can offer you something that you may then not need a pedal for, broadening what a pedal could add on top instead of being so much a part of.

            How much is negligible I guess sometimes and how important those are seems to depend on who's using them. It's sort of maddening to try to see what the differences are and by how much. Luckily, soldering a couple of wires isn't that big of a job once you've done it enough. I've spent way too much time and money going down the hole with speakers in a similar fashion. I can't see myself chasing sounds from an amp that sounds like a hotter Marshall instead of pushing a JCM800 and then not doing it for other things in the chain. Maybe it all matters or none of it matters? Haha.
            Last edited by Semetery; 10-10-2020, 03:02 PM.

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            • #7
              Well, I think if you use a ton of gain and compression after the guitar, pickups might make less of a difference. I doubt that anyone who uses dynamics as a feature of their playing, or who relies on non-master volume amps would ever make this claim.
              It would also be hard to make this claim on a pickup forum, when all we do is split hairs between pickup models.
              Dave, Ambassador/Writer/Artist for Seymour Duncan

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              • #8
                I agree: Either it all matters or none of it matters.

                Sent from my SM-A115A using Tapatalk

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                • #9
                  If your amp is crap, then this will make a bigger improvement toward getting your sound.....generally speaking.

                  Its all about context, and looking at how this affects the advice given.

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                  • #10
                    Remember - the whole signal chain makes a diff. Strings, pickups, the guitar, toys, the amp AND the speaker. I have a friend who changes speakers around as experiments, and you'd be astounded what changes in the sound. If anything in the chain is crap - no bueno.

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                    • #11
                      I have a different take; pickups make a difference, but not as big as people think. Wine is complex, wine has a lot chemicals going on, there are a lot unknown data points unseen is that dark red liquid. Pickups, on the other hand, have a comparatively simple task, one that is easy to describe with basic physics. When you cross out all the stuff that makes no difference, such as the wire insulator, or the bobbin material, and focus on the physical task of the pickup, all there is to consider is the resonant peak and the Q factor of the pickup, and perhaps how high or low you're setting the pickup with respect to the strings, and the values of the tone and volume pots. Even though what the pickup is doing is simple, psychoacoustics (the combination of the heard sound with perception and bias) make the idea that pickups are very complicated seem plausible. People talk about pickups having lots of mysterious qualities, and it seems believable because of psychoacoustics. It's sort of like religion, where is something good happens, people will say it has a divine cause, because of the psychological tendency to misjudge probabilities, as well as ignorance of causality.

                      If you tweak an EQ pedal, you can make a the signal chain put out the tones you would get from a different pickup, and IMO, the only reason nobody recognizes that is because when you are fiddling with an EQ pedal, you know what you're doing, and you properly attribute the heard difference to the EQ pedal, and not magic (scatter winding, authentic vintage unobtanium). The physics pf pickups are not complicated, but they're still over most people's heads, so when some authority figure who makes and sells pickups talks tall tails of their researching vintage mojo, most people don't have the understanding needed to refute their BS, and so it proliferates on the internet.

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                      • #12
                        ^^^^ That's food for thought right there. ^^^^

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Mincer View Post
                          Well, I think if you use a ton of gain and compression after the guitar, pickups might make less of a difference. I doubt that anyone who uses dynamics as a feature of their playing, or who relies on non-master volume amps would ever make this claim.
                          It would also be hard to make this claim on a pickup forum, when all we do is split hairs between pickup models.
                          Some amps and speakers, even in clean settings, have a way of dominating the tone. Amps and pickups are both filters, it's possible for one filter in the chain to be so aggressive that it clobbers the other filters. A lot of what sets pickups apart happens above 2kHz, if the amp or speakers are rolling off response above 2kHz, that would make it harder to tell the pickups apart. One easy way to demonstrate this fact, how readily can you tell pickups apart when the tone control is all the way down?
                          Last edited by PicoRiveraTele; 10-10-2020, 07:13 PM.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by PicoRiveraTele View Post

                            If you tweak an EQ pedal, you can make a the signal chain put out the tones you would get from a different pickup,
                            Sometimes, but not in others. In fact generally speaking its less likely than more.

                            It depends on how 'altered' the final tone is by the end of chain components.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by AlexR View Post

                              Sometimes, but not in others. In fact generally speaking its less likely than more.

                              It depends on how 'altered' the final tone is by the end of chain components.
                              I'm not sure what you're getting at.

                              It's like this, the timbre is determined by the guitar strings, the location of the pickup, and how the strings are plucked. The pickup being as it is, in a given location, doesn't change the timbre, it merely filters the signal, just like an EQ pedal. Anything the pickup is doing can be done by other means of filtering. That's how the Fishman Fluence work, they use active rather than passive filtering.

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