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Author Topic: Optimum pickup height?  (Read 34271 times)

buttmonk

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Optimum pickup height?
« on: February 01, 2009, 06:51:43 PM »
Hi board,

Just wanted to get some approx idea about the recommended distance between pickup (poles) and strings. I just ordered a covered Nailbomb bridge to go in my Carvn Bolt+ home build, hoping to get a much more gnarly hard rock and classic metal sound than the stock Carvin pickups. I want all the drive and harmonics, but also decent sustain. So, roughly what distance from poles to strings when fretted at the 22nd (last fret)?

Cheers,

Lazy_McDoesnothing

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Re: Optimum pickup height?
« Reply #1 on: February 01, 2009, 07:26:04 PM »
Start with about 2mm with the last note fretted and adjust to taste from there.  Bare Knuckles seem to be pretty sensitive to height so it may take a while to find where you like it the most.  Welcome to the forum btw!

Twinfan

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Re: Optimum pickup height?
« Reply #2 on: February 01, 2009, 08:19:51 PM »
^ that's my base starting point too  :)

AndyR

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Re: Optimum pickup height?
« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2009, 08:18:09 AM »
^ And me.

Originally I thought I knew better and tried to do something different... but I was wrong :lol:

Very definitely adjust them to where you want though  - it's your guitar. I find height is almost like a "tone control" - nearer the strings gives fatter tone or more bottom end, further away more clarity but less output. I learnt this on single coils, but it seems to apply to humbuckers as well.

Also, you didn't ask this, but I'd suggest don't mess around too much with polepiece heights. I'd recommend doing the following: Before putting the pup in, check that all the polepiece screws are all roughly the same height (I set them flush to the cover - they aren't always delivered like that, but I don't think BKP "set them" in any sort of scientific way, I can't see how they could without your guitar, but others may know better?) - then use the pup like that at first. Do your pup height adjustments with "flat" polepieces like this. You only need to adjust a polepiece if, on your guitar, a string is particularly loud or quiet... (You should have seen the "interesting" profile I ended up with on my first humbucker set until someone helped me out on this! :lol:)
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Philly Q

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Re: Optimum pickup height?
« Reply #4 on: February 02, 2009, 09:01:14 AM »
Very definitely adjust them to where you want though  - it's your guitar. I find height is almost like a "tone control" - nearer the strings gives fatter tone or more bottom end, further away more clarity but less output. I learnt this on single coils, but it seems to apply to humbuckers as well.

Agreed.  And it might be worth saying you can usually get closer to the strings with humbuckers than you can with single-coils, because the individual magnet polepieces of single-coils pull on the strings and can interfere with their vibration, especially in the neck position where there's less string tension.

I'd agree with 2mm as a rough starting point, first get the bridge pickup how you want it then you might need to fiddle with the neck pickup to get the balance right.
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Re: Optimum pickup height?
« Reply #5 on: February 02, 2009, 01:20:57 PM »
Firstly, welcome to the forum !  :)

Secondly, I readily concur with the 2mm starting point. To elucidate just a touch further - 1.6mm gives me a darker / hotter and more compressed tone - and 2.5 - 3mm a very 'open' and resonant ( almost acoustic ) tone.  Please bear in mind that I am playing different stuff from you - and also using the low gain end of the B.K.P. range.

I hope you enjoy the pickups and the forum.   :)

buttmonk

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Re: Optimum pickup height?
« Reply #6 on: February 02, 2009, 04:26:03 PM »
Thx everyone for ur helpfull feedback!

I'll start with 2mm and then play around a bit with overal height, prolly not the individual pole pieces unless there is a obvious problem with some strings. Actually, Carvin pickups do come with preset pole piece height and I guess this is possible to a certain degree since the manufacturer does know how the pup responds to certain strings and frequencies, but again it probably is also a bit dependent on the guitar as well.. Now, just need to wait for the pickup to drop thru the letter box:)

I only baught a bridge pickup (no neck) since I am soon gunna dump the Carvin body and wilkinson trem and transplant the neck onto a usacustomguitars jazzmaster body (rear route, hipshot fixed  bridge, alder) and I will specify only a bridge pickup route. Should look kinda unusual, and hopefully should have nice meaty sound with all that solid alder.



« Last Edit: February 02, 2009, 04:30:37 PM by buttmonk »

sjwebb90

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Re: Optimum pickup height?
« Reply #7 on: September 30, 2013, 07:23:16 PM »
A bit of light reading including Optimising pickup height:

http://www.musicradar.com/news/guitars/50-steps-to-better-electric-guitar-tone-528489/34/1

To get the best out of your guitar, it's important that the pickups are adjusted to the right height. The closer they are to the strings, the louder they will sound, but as always, it's not just a case of louder is better...

Humbuckers

As a rule of thumb, humbuckers can sit as close as you want for the volume you want. To begin, fret the top and bottom E strings at the final fret. Using a steel rule, adjust the humbucker’s height until its treble and bass sides both sit evenly 2.5mm beneath the fretted strings. (sjwebb90 comment - 2.5mm or thereabouts works for me)

Single-coils

Strats should be adjusted to sit with the treble side slightly higher than the bass for a good tonal balance. Fret the two outer strings at the final fret, then adjust the pickups so the polepiece tops sit 2.5mm and 3.5mm from the treble and bass E strings respectively.
(sjwebb90 comment- Having only installed one set of Irish Tours I found they were the same height on both top E and bottom E. I'd be interested in what other single coil  BKP users setting were and if they found similar?)

Watch out for wolf notes – these occur when the pickup’s magnetic field is too close to the string’s field of movement, preventing it from vibrating naturally. Step away from the strings, sir!

Balance

Strings vibrate more freely near the neck than they do at the bridge, meaning neck pickups sound louder for a given height – so a little experimentation with relative height settings may be necessary to establish a good balance in volume between pairs or trios of pickups.

Tim Mills of Bare Knuckle Pickups explains: “The signal on the bridge coil is going to be much thinner and brighter because the string’s barely moving. It’s literally just off the saddle and over the coil. By the time you get to the neck pickup, the strings are able to move much more freely.

"These days, modern pickup makers try to allow for that by calibrating the wind as you go from bridge to neck, so hopefully you’re not having to make such an extreme height adjustment between two or three coils.”
« Last Edit: September 30, 2013, 07:53:15 PM by sjwebb90 »
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Lucas

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Re: Optimum pickup height?
« Reply #8 on: October 04, 2013, 06:40:31 PM »


Also, you didn't ask this, but I'd suggest don't mess around too much with polepiece heights. I'd recommend doing the following: Before putting the pup in, check that all the polepiece screws are all roughly the same height (I set them flush to the cover - they aren't always delivered like that, but I don't think BKP "set them" in any sort of scientific way, I can't see how they could without your guitar, but others may know better?) - then use the pup like that at first. Do your pup height adjustments with "flat" polepieces like this. You only need to adjust a polepiece if, on your guitar, a string is particularly loud or quiet... (You should have seen the "interesting" profile I ended up with on my first humbucker set until someone helped me out on this! :lol:)

Are you not supposed to adjust pole pieces exactly to your fretboard radius?
like on this video using Understring Radius Gauges?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=-yiBbIzGjW8
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AndyR

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Re: Optimum pickup height?
« Reply #9 on: October 07, 2013, 02:21:21 PM »
Yes and/or no :lol:

It's up to you, really (I can't see the video at work by the way...)

The screws are there so you can adjust the magnetic field interaction with individual strings. The strings are all different weights/thicknesses, so distance based on string height seems a bit odd to me.

Years ago, I was adjusting them by ear. If a string was "quieter" I'd raise it's polepiece a bit. If it was sticking out of the chords too much, I'd lower it.

I got quite obsessed by this for a while, and you can get in a right old state trying to "fix it" so that it's "perfect".

You can't make it perfect. Your strings change with time, you ears change from day to day, etc, etc.

So a good way to do it is set them to something "constant" and then only mess with it if you're convinced something is "wrong" - the height of the entire pickup has a much more noticable effect.

"Constant" for me was flush with the pickup mounting. Another "constant" could indeed be to follow the radius of the strings (over the pickup, I would have thought, not the radius of the fretboard itself - the pickup isn't on the fretboard).

Still, my original post was intended to be more "set a level playing field with polepieces before adjusting the pickup height" rather than anything else.

btw, there's an interesting post on here somewhere about "special" polepiece adjustments - a recipe for "magic" humbucking vibes. I tried that for a few years, it does seem to make chords sound more open/balanced. It takes into account the different weights and strength of vibration of the different strings. But I'm not convinced that it wasn't me hearing stuff because I was meant to (mine are all flat again now). Anyway, that arrangement was a lot closer to the pattern of slug heights on a staggered strat pickup, nothing like following the curve of the bridge saddles and freboard!

My advice on an adjustable humbucker is to flatten the pole-pieces and forget them unless there's something really wrong with the sound you're getting. Otherwise... there's a risk that you end up holding a screw-driver for at least as much time as you do a plectrum :D :lol:
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Dave Sloven

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Re: Optimum pickup height?
« Reply #10 on: October 07, 2013, 10:28:47 PM »
I have the pole pieces up on my SG, as I found it improved the sound on that guitar.  SGs are unusual though in that they have a very noticeable neck angle, so that the back of the pickup is always obviously closer to the strings than the front.  Reversing the neck pickup so that the pole pieces are toward the bridge (a Cold Sweat is a symmetrical pickup so otherwise the difference was slight when reversed) and elevating the poles a couple of turns compensated for that.  On a 'flatter' guitar like my Explorer I wouldn't bother with such an adjustment.  I am planning to experiment with pickup and pole piece heights on that guitar though, just because the Warpigs are such high output pickups and I find them a bit 'bassy' with the poles flat.

If you adjust something and it sounds worse it's easy enough to go back to where you were before

You will need a 2.5mm metric allen key
« Last Edit: October 08, 2013, 04:57:19 AM by Agent Orange »
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Re: Optimum pickup height?
« Reply #11 on: October 08, 2013, 08:26:35 AM »
It`s not a big adjustment taking hours to complete anyway I it`s worth checking.
But to me it made sense (according to that video) to adjust polepieces exactly matching radius of the neck (providing that bridge is adjusted the same). In theory anyway. But adjustment on tune-o-matic bridge is quite limited (type of the bridge that I have).
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AndyR

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Re: Optimum pickup height?
« Reply #12 on: October 08, 2013, 08:39:03 AM »
Actually, sorry, my last paragraph should have been:

My advice on an adjustable humbucker is to pick something and stick with it (eg flatten the pole-pieces, go for the radius curve) and then forget them unless there's something really wrong with the sound you're getting. Otherwise... there's a risk that you end up holding a screw-driver for at least as much time as you do a plectrum...

For me, the changes from adjusting polepieces seem to be negligable compared to adjusting the pick-up height. Polepiece adjustment must be doing something, but I was always trying to convince myself that I could hear it, and that I preferred one setting or another. That's why I ended up going "sod it" and picking the easiest route :lol:

Oh, and btw, perhaps I ought to mention, I usually have a pickup nearer to the treble strings than the bass strings - and flattening the polepieces seemed to be a better bet in those circumstances...
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Dave Sloven

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Re: Optimum pickup height?
« Reply #13 on: October 08, 2013, 10:54:50 AM »
To look at it's not that noticeable - not as noticeable as, for example, the differences between front and back pickup height - but here are the two best photos I have of the pole pieces and pickup height on the Cold Sweat set in my SG.  I'd say they are up 1 1/2 - 2 turns, more in the centre than the edges but not too obvious due to the 12" neck radius.





A bit of wax comes out when you adjust them.  It doesn't matter much

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Lucas

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Re: Optimum pickup height?
« Reply #14 on: October 09, 2013, 12:07:39 AM »
Agent Orange, so as far as I can see, you have them adjusted matching your freatboard radius. Did you use any of them 'under string gauges' to get it right? Just wondering if using such a tools makes sense while adjusting polepieces. And your saddles on the bridge have to be set up exactly the same, as far as Im concerned.

And the other question is, has it made any significant difference?
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