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Thread: JB pole pieces significantly affect tone

  1. #1
    Tone Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2020

    Default JB pole pieces significantly affect tone

    Hey! First time poster here I hope everyone is staying safe!

    I just wanted to share my recent experience with a JB in the bridge position of a LP style geetar.

    TL;DR: The stock pole pieces of a JB contribute to how bright the tone is; swapping them significantly changed it for me.

    I have an uncovered JB with an alnico 2 in the bridge of my LP Traditional Pro 2 Gold Top, and I love it. That's my main axe, it has been heavily modded to do and sound exactly like I would want it to.

    I bought a second hand Chibson pretty cheaply from someone who didn't have the know-how to put in the work to make it play. It's a downright stunning looking guitar, but came with the issues you'd expect from a Chibson. With a couple tweaks of the truss rod, and the neck was straight, and my leveling beam took care of the fret issues. After putting in a properly cut nut and an affordable Wilkinson TOM, this thing plays great!

    Even though it now felt wonderful, the tone was garbage with the stock pickups. Naturally, I went for another bridge JB, given how much I love it in my LP Traditional. Because aesthetics matter more than we care to admit, I put gold covers on all 3 pickups in the Chibson, and it looks perrrrty. The JB had chrome pole pieces, so I bought a set of replacement gold pole pieces from Philadelphia Luthiers to swap them out and match the pole pieces to the covers.

    I wired her up and got ready to chug-a-lug, but much to my surprise, the Chibson sounded DARK and MUDDY as all hell, as if there were a blanket over the amp. It didn't even have the JB's treaded nasally upper mids that prompted my to swap the alnico 5 for the alnico 2 in my LP Trad! I moved to 1meg pots, and even though there was more treble, it was still a mudfest. I made the tone pot no-load, so it was truly a full 1M of resistance that the pickups were seeing in the circuit, and again improvement, but still not enough top end at all. I took the gold cover off the JB, and again, there was a slight improvement, but it STILL. HAD. NO. TREBLE.

    I was frankly pretty irritated. Did I get a dud JB or something? I got it surprisingly cheaply, marked as "open box," but could it have been damaged somehow? I put the original chrome pole pieces back in with the intention of returning it to the seller, and then BAM! The high end came back!

    I have no idea what the composition of the stock JB's pole pieces are, or the after market pole pieces I bought, but they definitely made an appreciable tonal difference in the pup. In this case, I'd say the change was on par with a dramatic, ceramic-to-A3 type magnet swap.

    Just my experience, thought I'd share, and ask if anyone else has noticed this. Thanks!

  2. #2
    Administrator Mincer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Tampa Bay area, Florida, USA

    Default Re: JB pole pieces significantly affect tone

    Welcome to the forum!

    While I have never swapped the poles on a JB personally, I'd suspect there are many here who have. These are the kinds of discussions which can help a lot of people.
    Dave, Ambassador/Writer/Artist for Seymour Duncan

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  3. #3
    In Fluence Y'all frankfalbo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2006

    Default Re: JB pole pieces significantly affect tone

    I’m my experience, Duncan’s pole pieces “sound the best”. I have even improved certain Dimarzios with them. That’s all I’ll say about that.

  4. #4
    Ultimate Tone Slacker Mr. B's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    North Carolina

    Default Re: JB pole pieces significantly affect tone

    JB humbuckers do not usually come with A2 magnets. If your favorite one has an A2 magnet and the new one has the standard A5, that is going to make a BIG difference. That will matter way more than the polepieces in my experience.

  5. #5
    Mojo's Minions Masta' C's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Tone Heaven, USA

    Default Re: JB pole pieces significantly affect tone

    Pole piece material does make a noticeable difference, but they are like icing on the tonal cake.

    If the difference between those poles was as dramatic as you say (i.e. like swapping between an A3 and a Ceramic magnet), then I wonder if something else might have gotten changed while you were making the screw swap...pickup height, perhaps? pole piece height? Maybe moved a bad wire that was causing the muddiness?

    That said, Philadelphia Luthier Tools does sell some "1010" poles that are lower in carbon content and noticeably darker sounding than the stock poles SD uses, which I believe are in the 1018-1020 range.

  6. #6
    Mojo's Minions
    Join Date
    Aug 2010

    Default Re: JB pole pieces significantly affect tone

    ^ Agreed, there is more going on here.

    Polepieces just do not have the capability to do something that dramatic.....especially in the 'getting brighter' direction.

  7. #7
    Mojo's Minions eclecticsynergy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2014

    Default Re: JB pole pieces significantly affect tone

    I imagine the gold pole screws were from the cheap Chinese pickups, probably made from the cheapest metal available.
    I would've expected the gold Chinese cover to cost the pickup some treble, but it's not really very surprising the poles did too.
    "My hovercraft is full of eels."


  8. #8
    Bacteriaolgoist GuitarDoc's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007

    Default Re: JB pole pieces significantly affect tone

    I've done some pole swapping, changing between 1010 and 1020. Even with that large of a difference, the tone change was very subtle. As Masta' C said, it is an icing on the cake kind of a change...not dramatic at all. Most pup manufacturers use 1018 (some may even be 1016) so to change from one of those to another alloy would be even more subtle than going from 1020 to 1010.

    If you think you had a "dramatic" change, especially on par with going from A3, or ANY alnico magnet, to a ceramic magnet, then there was something else that changed in the process. I guarantee that what you describe did NOT happen solely because of the pole piece change.
    Originally Posted by IanBallard
    Rule of thumb... the more pot you have, the better your tone.

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