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Thread: Understanding output in relation to DCR in pickups

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    Junior Member Seezer's Avatar
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    Default Understanding output in relation to DCR in pickups

    Hello. First time poster. I'm trying to learn about electronics in guitars and amps and am having a tough time grasping some of the concepts. From my understanding the neck pickup should ALWAYS be lower output than a bridge pickup.

    Example. The full shred bridge is 14.6 DC resistance and the neck is 7.4 DCR.

    Here's where my question comes in. Take an invader. The neck invader is 7.4 DCR but is a high output pickup. The SH-5 is a medium output pickup but is a medium output pickup.


    Wouldn't a pickup that was higher output have higher DCR? Or what am I missing? Does Khz have something to do with it?

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    Ultimate Tone Slacker Dave Locher's Avatar
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    Default Re: Understanding output in relation to DCR in pickups

    Someone who knows way more about pickup design & construction will give you a very detailed answer, but the summarized answer is that a LOT of different factors are involved in pickup output. I believe magnet strength is the biggest factor but may be wrong. The wire gauge also matters a lot.

    DC resistance is only a rough guide to output if every other factor is exactly the same. As soon as any other difference pops up it no longer tells you output.

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    Junior Member Seezer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Understanding output in relation to DCR in pickups

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Locher View Post
    Someone who knows way more about pickup design & construction will give you a very detailed answer, but the summarized answer is that a LOT of different factors are involved in pickup output. I believe magnet strength is the biggest factor but may be wrong. The wire gauge also matters a lot.

    DC resistance is only a rough guide to output if every other factor is exactly the same. As soon as any other difference pops up it no longer tells you output.
    Thanks. Is the Khz magnet strength?

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    OH THE DOUBLE THICK GLAZE! Clint 55's Avatar
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    Default Re: Understanding output in relation to DCR in pickups

    I would be interested to compare the output of the Invader neck vs the Custom. The Custom has way more wire, but the Invader neck has way more mag lol! I wouldn't be able to predict which would be hotter. My guess would be the Custom might be a little hotter. Also, the vintage, medium, hot ratings are WAY the eff off. Like for example the Ant JB is categorized as vintage output. No. It's high output but a vintage sound. You can ballpark output based on DCR if you have an understanding of the pickup construction (hum, single coil etc), magnet set up, wire gauge, and winder. Like I was just saying the other day that Fralin's low DCR pups are still kind of punchy. Also he seems to be able to get the neck and the bridge to balance volume wise without that much difference in DCR. While with Duncan it seems like more of a difference is needed to get them to balance. Lot of variables, but ya you can kind of ballpark it once you get an intuition for it.
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    Mojo's Minions Masta' C's Avatar
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    Default Re: Understanding output in relation to DCR in pickups

    Quote Originally Posted by Seezer View Post
    Thanks. Is the Khz magnet strength?
    No, when you see kHz, it's usually referring to the resonant peak of a pickup, which can give you an idea about where it's tonal emphasis is, but it's definitely not the whole picture of how a pickup sounds by any means.

    As for DCR vs output, you can only make the assumption that higher DCR = higher output if you are basing two pickups on the same design. For instance, if I wind a particular pickup to 12K and then wind an identical pickup (same magnet, same bobbins, same everything) to 14K using the same wire, then you could expect output to go up slightly by the increase in DCR alone (which equates to more wire on the bobbin, increased inductance, etc). However, as soon as you switch magnets or wire gauge or coil geometry, etc, much of that comparison goes out the window. So, even in this scenario, if I put a ceramic magnet in the 12K pickup and an A3 magnet in the 14K pickup, the 12K pickup would likely be higher in output despite the lower DCR and everything else being the same. There are simply too many factors to consider. And things get even more twisted when you start comparing hybrid type pickups or pickups with "dual resonance" designs, such as many DiMarzios.

    The neck Invader in your example uses a stronger magnet, an internal capacitor, and quite likely a different type/size wire than the Full Shred neck. Therefore, they may have similar DCR on paper, but one pickup is likely to be higher output than the other and the tone will undoubtedly be very different between them.

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    Junior Member Seezer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Understanding output in relation to DCR in pickups

    Quote Originally Posted by Masta' C View Post
    No, when you see kHz, it's usually referring to the resonant peak of a pickup, which can give you an idea about where it's tonal emphasis is, but it's definitely not the whole picture of how a pickup sounds by any means.

    As for DCR vs output, you can only make the assumption that higher DCR = higher output if you are basing two pickups on the same design. For instance, if I wind a particular pickup to 12K and then wind an identical pickup (same magnet, same bobbins, same everything) to 14K using the same wire, then you could expect output to go up slightly by the increase in DCR alone (which equates to more wire on the bobbin, increased inductance, etc). However, as soon as you switch magnets or wire gauge or coil geometry, etc, much of that comparison goes out the window. So, even in this scenario, if I put a ceramic magnet in the 12K pickup and an A3 magnet in the 14K pickup, the 12K pickup would likely be higher in output despite the lower DCR and everything else being the same. There are simply too many factors to consider. And things get even more twisted when you start comparing hybrid type pickups or pickups with "dual resonance" designs, such as many DiMarzios.

    The neck Invader in your example uses a stronger magnet, an internal capacitor, and quite likely a different type/size wire than the Full Shred neck. Therefore, they may have similar DCR on paper, but one pickup is likely to be higher output than the other and the tone will undoubtedly be very different between them.
    Thanks for the reply. I'm fascinated by this. So say we're comparing the SH-5 to the Invader neck. Im assuming the Invader is still higher output than the SH-5 as the SH-5 is listed as a medium output pickup on Seymour Duncan Website. And the Invader is listed as High Output. Is the capacitor in the invader making it higher output despite similar magnets and lower DCR?

    SH-5 14.1 DCR Ceramic magnets
    Invader SH-8 7.1 DCR Ceramic magnets

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    Toneologist freefrog's Avatar
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    Default Re: Understanding output in relation to DCR in pickups

    The capacitor in the Invader neck PU is simply a high pass filter. It prevents mushiness. If it has an influence on output, it's by decreasing it.

    Regarding DCR vs output: Masta'C has replied.

    If I had to add something, it would be this paradox: wind two coils with exactly the same number of turns BUT with different AWG gauges (for example: AWG 41 and AWG44, which is a lot thinner). You should end with the same inductance...

    ...BUT the coil wound with the thinner wire will be the MOST resistive AND will have slightly LESS output than the other... precisely because it "resists" more to the current flow. LOL.

    What I say can be checked with a DiMarzio Dual Resonance (preferably a model with two similar rows of poles, like their P90 sized humbuckers): the most resistive coil will be weaker(and rounder sounding because of a higher Q factor but it's another story that I won't evoke here).

    Now, if you take a coil with 5000 turns and add 5000 other turns of wire around it, resistance & inductance will rise altogether, and the output too... IF the magnetic circuit stays the same. :-)

    Hope it's clear. Have a nice day!
    Last edited by freefrog; 03-28-2020 at 11:47 PM.
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    mild old man perv Aceman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Understanding output in relation to DCR in pickups

    A loose rule of thumb - and I mean VERY loose, is that as DCR goes up, so does output. Except for when it doesn't, which is often enough that you should never assume anything based on DCR, other than a higher DC is often hotter in output.

    A big problem with "output" is how to generate the measure.

    Where the pickup is set matters. +/- a millimeter will make a big difference. String gauge will make a difference. Here is a biggie; How hard you hit the string will make a big difference!

    Neck pickups are generally wound quieter/less hot because the amount of string vibration is greater as you get closer to the middle of the scale length. But they don't have to be...back in the day they used to just make one pickup and put it in the neck and the bridge. Used to see guys with the same Super Distortion in both neck and bridge positions.

    Here is the thing...We want a "single variable" equation to make it simple. But the magnet, the wind, the gauge, and the other factors I mentioned all interact. It isn't like A2 mag + 1000 winds x 1 for awg 42 wire = 500 Millivolts of output and an A2 mag +1000 winds x1.2 for awg 43 = 600 mv output.

    And again - not even considering hight adjustment and how hard string was hit! Some serious non-linear equations going on here...
    Last edited by Aceman; 03-29-2020 at 09:12 AM.
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    Junior Member Seezer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Understanding output in relation to DCR in pickups

    Quote Originally Posted by Aceman View Post
    A loose rule of thumb - and I mean VERY loose, is that as DCR goes up, so does output. Except for when it doesn't, which is often enough that you should never assume anything based on DCR, other than a higher DC is often hotter in output.

    A big problem with "output" is how to generate the measure.

    Where the pickup is set matters. +/- a millimeter will make a big difference. String gauge will make a difference. Here is a biggie; How hard you hit the string will make a big difference!

    Neck pickups are generally wound quieter/less hot because the amount of string vibration is greater as you get closer to the middle of the scale length. But they don't have to be...back in the day they used to just make one pickup and put it in the neck and the bridge. Used to see guys with the same Super Distortion in both neck and bridge positions.

    Here is the thing...We want a "single variable" equation to make it simple. But the magnet, the wind, the gauge, and the other factors I mentioned all interact. It isn't like A2 mag + 1000 winds x 1 for awg 42 wire = 500 Millivolts of output and an A2 mag +1000 winds x1.2 for awg 43 = 600 mv output.

    And again - not even considering hight adjustment and how hard string was hit! Some serious non-linear equations going on here...
    Thanks. Just out of curiosity, what is the absolute balls to the wall highest output pickup out there?

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    Mojo's Minions Masta' C's Avatar
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    Default Re: Understanding output in relation to DCR in pickups

    Probably something with Neodymium magnets, like the original Q-tuner models or Anderson HN3+

    But, there are some pretty extreme pickups that don't have those magnets...the DiMarzio X2N, for example, is extremely high output. So is the SD Custom Shop "Slug", the Gibson 500T, the Bareknuckle Warpig, the SD Invader, PRS Tremonti, etc.

    If you consider actives, then the Blackouts are pretty friggin' high output.

    But, I will say that you don't need a "balls to the wall highest output pickup" to get a proper "balls to the wall" sound. Sometimes those hot pickups don't actually sound as "ballsy" as a good medium or medium-high output pickup through the right amp!
    Last edited by Masta' C; 03-29-2020 at 12:50 PM.

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    Mojo's Minions ItsaBass's Avatar
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    Default Re: Understanding output in relation to DCR in pickups

    "Should" be lower in output is the wrong way to put it. It's common nowadays for the neck pickup to be lower in DCR than the bridge, but "should" only should be used when you are talking about achieving specific criteria.

    In other words, a neck pickup "should" be lower in DCR than a neck pickup, if a modern style balanced pickup set is the goal.

    Most high output pickups are intended to be used in the bridge spot, and the matching neck pickup in the set usually isn't that different from a typical vintage output neck pickup. Sometimes it is, but a lot of the time, the neck pickup in a high output pickup set really isn't that hot.

    Lower output neck pickups (and/or higher output bridge pickups) to make a "balanced set" is a "modern" thing. In the old days, all the pickups were the same (though there was significant manufacturing variance), and they were put in the guitar in any position, regardless of how many windings were on the coils.

    Winding count is one factor that directly affects DCR, but not the only one. Not all pickups use the same thickness of wire. Thinner wire is higher in resistance per unit of length. So the same number of windings put around two coils, one with a thicker wire and one with a thinner wire, and the DCR will be radically different. So using DCR to compare pickups falls apart as soon as you start comparing pickups that use different thicknesses of wire. Many of the high output pickups on the market use thinner wire in order to get more turns on the bobbins. So they end up with DCR readings that are higher than you'd think based on hearing the pickups.

    Using DCR is not a good way to compare the outputs of pickups, unless you know that the magnets are the same strength, the pickups designs are generally the same, and wire gauges are the same. Magnets have a lot to do with output. So does the general pickup design/type. Most notably, a steel poled pickup, with the magnet/s below and steel pole pieces under the strings (e.g. your typical Gibson style pickup), will give you more output than if you had the same strength of magnetism with no steel poles, just the magnets acting as the pole pieces (e.g. your typical Fender pickup).

    The output of a pickup is largely a combination of the strength and shape of the magnetic field, and the number of windings within that field. Try to think of pickup output more in relation to magnetic strength (usually can be roughly figured by looking at magnet type), pickup design (Gibson or Fender style, i.e. magnets below with steel poles, or magnets right under the strings without steel poles), and number of windings (can be roughly figured by looking at wire gauge and DCR).

    It's complicated to wrap your head around at first...but just remember the golden rule that gets repeated often: DCR does not equal output. It's not that simple. DCR is just one element to look at, and it often cannot be directly compared from one pickup to another.
    Last edited by ItsaBass; 03-29-2020 at 01:57 PM.
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    Junior Member Seezer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Understanding output in relation to DCR in pickups

    Quote Originally Posted by freefrog View Post
    The capacitor in the Invader neck PU is simply a high pass filter. It prevents mushiness. If it has an influence on output, it's by decreasing it.

    Regarding DCR vs output: Masta'C has replied.

    If I had to add something, it would be this paradox: wind two coils with exactly the same number of turns BUT with different AWG gauges (for example: AWG 41 and AWG44, which is a lot thinner). You should end with the same inductance...

    ...BUT the coil wound with the thinner wire will be the MOST resistive AND will have slightly LESS output than the other... precisely because it "resists" more to the current flow. LOL.

    What I say can be checked with a DiMarzio Dual Resonance (preferably a model with two similar rows of poles, like their P90 sized humbuckers): the most resistive coil will be weaker(and rounder sounding because of a higher Q factor but it's another story that I won't evoke here).

    Now, if you take a coil with 5000 turns and add 5000 other turns of wire around it, resistance & inductance will rise altogether, and the output too... IF the magnetic circuit stays the same. :-)

    Hope it's clear. Have a nice day!
    Btw, what does "mushiness" regard to in relation to sound. Muffled?

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    LoveMachineologist jeremy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Understanding output in relation to DCR in pickups

    typically mushy is due to an abundance of bass or a bass response that isnt tight and focused

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    mild old man perv Aceman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Understanding output in relation to DCR in pickups

    AN X2N is hot enough output-wise to make your amp scream, whatever your amp is. A Blackout is louder yet...why, I'm not sure, but it is hot hot hot. But I will add not as "obnoxious" as an X2N.

    A 500T is less hot than X2N or Blackout, but it SCREAMS!

    Again, volume, eq, tone, all contribute in a magical way.
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    Toneologist freefrog's Avatar
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    Default Re: Understanding output in relation to DCR in pickups

    Quote Originally Posted by Seezer View Post
    Btw, what does "mushiness" regard to in relation to sound. Muffled?
    What Jeremy said. :-)

    For technical reasons that I won't detail now (but that I'd share on request), high power pickups most often exhibit more perceived bass and mids than treble, resulting in an apparent lack of clarity.

    Putting a cap in series with a muddy pickup is a well known way to cure this issue. See the de-mud mod popularized on this forum by Artie Too.

    Even the active electronics of an EMG81 is based on something similar...

    .. and without a series cap, an Invader neck would sound very mushy / muddy, because of its strong diffuse magnetic field + high inductance. :-)
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