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Author Topic: High output vs low output  (Read 22821 times)

Alex

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High output vs low output
« on: November 13, 2010, 11:59:11 AM »
Dear fellow gear-nitpickers/tone freaks/guitar aficiandos!

I was wondering the following:
High output vs low output pickups!
Why are most highgain pickups always very high output, if these have strong full mids and are very compressed? Shouldn't low gain pickups be better, if they are less compressed, more open and clearer? Likewise, I often feel that the best sounds on bass guitars come from single coils - clear and punchy lows. For downtuning, I have so far not really noticed a big improvement in clarity on the low end by putting higher output pickups in my baritone.
I understand that there was a time when amps did not have the massive preamp gain they often have nowadays. On the other hand, it still seems that when people want more power and clarity, they get hotter pickups and don't dial in more gain on the amp.
So...  does the high output make sense when searching for clarity for highgain sounds? Or does a lower output pickup make more sense? How would this compare to downtuning?
Current BKPs: Miracle Man, Nailbomb, Juggernaut, VHII
Past BKPS: Holy Diver, Trilogy Suite, Sinner, Black Dog

DvE

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Re: High output vs low output
« Reply #1 on: November 13, 2010, 01:17:35 PM »
Interesting thread!

I am far away of being an expert but noticed recently that I am not such a gain-junky I thought I was.
Instead I now boost my amp which results in a completely different (and much clearer!) sound than just adding gain... at least for my style and needs  :)

Roobubba

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Re: High output vs low output
« Reply #2 on: November 13, 2010, 03:29:41 PM »
Different tools for the same job, but neither is right or wrong!

I've used a black dog in my baritone, and have used a miracle man in there for recording too. Now there's an aftermath in there. You'll get easier pinch harmonics from higher output pickups, and possibly a more aggressive tone. I've not used a highly compressed pickup yet, the MM is a bit compressed, but the AM is quite open (and obviously so is the BD). The lower output pickups don't necessarily have tighter bass response and better clarity in my experience, but all the BKPs I've tried have sounded awesome in their own way.

I'd prefer to hit the front end of the amp harder and rely less on the preamp gain with my 5150-II though...

Roo

dave_mc

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Re: High output vs low output
« Reply #3 on: November 13, 2010, 04:36:46 PM »
The lower output pickups don't necessarily have tighter bass response and better clarity in my experience,

+1

I really don't understand this. I mean, I understand that, in theory, it should work, but in practice, my experience has always been the opposite. If I want tightness under high gain (and it to actually sound the way high gain sounds in my head), I use high output (or at least reasonably high output) pickups. With lower output pickups I'm never getting the tightness or saturation I want.

:?

Yet I see loads of internet know-alls on various guitar forums who are basically saying that high output pickups are obsolete because of modern high gain amps and overdrive pedals.

I don't get it.

Twinfan

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Re: High output vs low output
« Reply #4 on: November 13, 2010, 04:41:10 PM »
Hotter pickups are more focussed in my experience - you loose the very high end and the very low end.  This gives a tighter distortion.

I'm preferring hotter pickups for classic rock to classic metal these days.

Bluesy guys will always want the low output stuff...

gwEm

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Re: High output vs low output
« Reply #5 on: November 13, 2010, 04:59:22 PM »
i do prefer lower output pickups typically, with boosted jcm800 gain levels.

having said that i was using a sinner into my sansamp rig earlier today - sooo thick!!!
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Shotgun

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Re: High output vs low output
« Reply #6 on: November 13, 2010, 05:15:26 PM »
In my experience the lower output pickups need more gain level on the preamp and do more noise, while the hotter pickups not need so high gain settings to do agressive distortion level and these are more silence.

The low output pickups I've tried was muddy and smooth which is great for slower rock, but for percussive modern metal tone it's not good. IMO

Pale Rider

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Re: High output vs low output
« Reply #7 on: November 13, 2010, 05:22:09 PM »
I'll quote myself from the Seymour Duncan forum which I haunt since 2004, here. :P

A guy there asked why metal guys prefer high output pickups...

Quote from: Metalblaze from SD forum
Actually it's more than just output. It's about the tightness and attack that high output pickups have under high-gain. They stay clear. I think it has to be assossiated with the high-ouput design. Some years ago I was through the phase of the super tone that low-ouput pus offer and turn the gain up to play metal. I realized that they don't cut it for me. Not enough attack to play fast. ANd the solo notes blur together. The riffs were not aggresive enough and if you were striking harder you were just getting a strange loud "ding" in the beginning of the note and then the pickup would just follow its same old loose attitude. High-ouput pickups don't do that. They are tight and equally loud all the way (compression).

Another reason for me specifically is that I play leads finger-picking. Like that the signal is way lower and with less attack than when you play with a pick. So I need a strong compressed signal with fast attack even with the light finger-picking. That way I can play really fast and still can push the amp into high gain.

edit: actually I remember testing the 59b and the Custom side by side and the thing that is still in my mind is this: In the 59 case you could hear the sound of the pickup and above it a chaotic distortion noise covering it. With the Custom every bit of the distortion was shaped, driven by the pickup. It was like the difference between Noise and Distortion (those of audio engineering would see what I mean ).
Painkiller :: Miracle Man :: Holydiver :: Trilogies

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FLgearnut

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Re: High output vs low output
« Reply #8 on: November 13, 2010, 07:36:32 PM »
I like this thread.  It is definitely a good topic to discuss as i feel it definitely gets overlooked when tone tweaking.

For me, I run mainly RY's and PK's in the bridge of my guitars, and I have the gain dialed at 12 o' clock on my Splawn, boosted with an OD808 for that extra "oomph".  Ive tried adding more gain on the amp but it doesnt sound good to me.  It loses clarity as I add it.  Ive found that the best combo is less amp gain, supplemented with a boost for the tightest, clearest, percussive sound i want.
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dave_mc

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Re: High output vs low output
« Reply #9 on: November 13, 2010, 08:09:45 PM »
Hotter pickups are more focussed in my experience - you loose the very high end and the very low end.  This gives a tighter distortion.

I'm preferring hotter pickups for classic rock to classic metal these days.

Bluesy guys will always want the low output stuff...

oh yeah, I mean I love lower output pickups too, just for stuff like blues, jazz, classic rock and the like.

My own suspicion (at least in a lot of the cases) is that the people saying high output pickups are pointless don't actually really play metal. :?

gwEm

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Re: High output vs low output
« Reply #10 on: November 13, 2010, 09:24:46 PM »
My own suspicion (at least in a lot of the cases) is that the people saying high output pickups are pointless don't actually really play metal. :?

essentially i agree, but don't forget metal is such a broad genre - with gain ranging from the highest available in the late 60s, to todays modern detuned 8string br00tals.

if you want tightness and focus, i do agree high gain is the way to go.

if a pickup is well enough designed, it should make a decent enough stab at all styles i think, with the possible exception of the very extremes. having said that - if you really want to nail a tone, then you'll need something very specific.
« Last Edit: November 13, 2010, 09:26:28 PM by gwEm »
Quote from: AndyR
you wouldn't use the meat knife on crusty bread but, equally, the serrated knife and straight edge knife aren't going to go through raw meat as quickly

MDV

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Re: High output vs low output
« Reply #11 on: November 14, 2010, 12:14:05 AM »
As a general trend in voicing, character and response to playing, quite apart from output, longer winds/hotter pickups tend to do two things; decrease high end (but not low end) and increase compression.

That gives hotter pickups a more percussive low end and thicker sound, while lower output pickups lack 'thunk'; crank the gain on the amp till you get about the same amount of clipping and you'll have a grindier tone without as much guts to it. Its also benficial to have some compression there because of all the palm-muting us metallers do (I refer you again to 'thunk')

Go up the output scale even more and youre driving so much low end compared to high end that you start to lose definition in both. Fine for full-on-in-your-face stuff thats not too complex, but if youre breaking 200Bpm or using complex chords or arpeggios then youre going to suffer with the clarity loss.

Its not just how hard the signal is hitting the pre - its where, frequency wise, and the dynamics of it. Modern amps have $%&#loads of gain, or can do. Its true. I never take the gain on my powerball over 5. Ever. For any reason. Thats enough more than enough for anyone in any circumstance. Mostly its on 3.5-ish. I sometimes max out my pittbulls gains just because its so silly that it still sounds good with so much gain, but theres no reason to use that much on that either. I use high-ish output pickups for their voicing and how they respond to playing. Its far hard to get a sound with the right percussion and aggression in the lows and mids from a low output pickup.

Pickups like the aftermath and painkiller use powerfull magneitic fields with quite modest winds to get the best of both. Actives are another way around it.

MDV

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Re: High output vs low output
« Reply #12 on: November 14, 2010, 12:16:19 AM »

oh yeah, I mean I love lower output pickups too, just for stuff like blues, jazz, classic rock and the like.

My own suspicion (at least in a lot of the cases) is that the people saying high output pickups are pointless don't actually really play metal. :?

I'm guessing so. I dont know so, but its reasonable. If your ears not attuned to and you arent used to playing it then youre probably just going to hear 'lots of clipping' and go 'there, metal tone!', and be horribly wrong.

Doadman

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Re: High output vs low output
« Reply #13 on: November 14, 2010, 12:20:05 AM »
I was always under the impression that pickups, like most other things to do with guitar, are always a compromise. Lower output pickups generally give a richer and more organic tone while more powerful pickups drive the amp better but lose some of that ultimate tone. I may be wrong but that was always my understanding of the situation.

Telerocker

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Re: High output vs low output
« Reply #14 on: November 14, 2010, 01:37:04 AM »
That's is why pickupmanufacturers make low-, medium- and highoutput pickups. Metalplayers required highoutput-pu's in the '80's. Since that time the ho-pu's have developed to real monsters like the Warpig. From the clips I heard on the forum, highoutput-pu's deliver the tightness and grunt, especially for detuned guitars. I heard a lot of really good tones. Personally I am more into vintage-hot, but I don't think low or high is better, the music dictates what kind of gear you use. Besides that, my experience is that an amp sounds tighter with a lot of mastervolume and not to much pregain.  
« Last Edit: November 14, 2010, 01:38:38 AM by Telerocker »
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