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Thread: Is it possible to accurately describe the tone of magnets and/or pickups?

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    Supporting Member mozz's Avatar
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    Single coil strat pickups can be mounted with springs or rubber tubing. Anyone hear that difference? I have heard some people can tell. I think, when you have these nodes, some will get absorbed by the nut, some by the bridge, if not absorbed, reduced and transferred. What nodes or frequencies are absorbed depends on the guitar components makeup. Maybe a brass nut works better with A2 magnets and a bone nut works better with A5, there are too many variables and better is subjective.

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    Last edited by mozz; 08-10-2018 at 01:30 AM. Reason: correction

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    Quote Originally Posted by mozz View Post
    Single coil strat pickups can be mounted with springs or rubber tubing. Anyone hear that difference? I have heard some people can tell. I think, when you have these nodes, some will get absorbed by the nut, some by the bridge, if not absorbed, reduced and transferred. What nodes or frequencies are absorbed depends on the guitar components makeup. Maybe a brass nut works better with A2 magnets and a bone nut works better with A5, there are too many variables and better is objective.
    If you want to use use particularly strong magnets and/or very close string to PU distance it seems advisable to mount the PUs directly and rigidly to the wood for max. sustain.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mozz View Post
    Single coil strat pickups can be mounted with springs or rubber tubing. Anyone hear that difference? I have heard some people can tell. I think, when you have these nodes, some will get absorbed by the nut, some by the bridge, if not absorbed, reduced and transferred. What nodes or frequencies are absorbed depends on the guitar components makeup. Maybe a brass nut works better with A2 magnets and a bone nut works better with A5, there are too many variables and better is objective.
    I doubt I could tell in a blind test if a PU had the rubber tubing. I figure livelier is better, not damped, so I always use springs. But as (I think you meant) to say, that's subjective.

    Would you (or anyone) care to bring me up to speed on A2/ A5 tonal differences? If that fits in this thread. I thought it was lower number= smoother/ higher= grittier.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Helmholtz View Post
    If you want to use use particularly strong magnets and/or very close string to PU distance it seems advisable to mount the PUs directly and rigidly to the wood for max. sustain.
    G.E. Smith would seem to agree with you, as that's how he spec'ed his signature Tele. I imagine there are other examples.

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    The idea that the strings cause the pickup to move is absurd. First, the magnetic coupling is very weak, so the magnemotive force upon the pickup by way of the strings is very small. Second, the pickup is much heavier, and mounted to a solid object, giving it a much higher inertia than the strings, by orders of magnitude. To the extent that damping occurs through that interaction, it would be on a nanoscopic scale.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Antigua View Post
    The idea that the strings cause the pickup to move is absurd. First, the magnetic coupling is very weak, so the magnemotive force upon the pickup by way of the strings is very small. Second, the pickup is much heavier, and mounted to a solid object, giving it a much higher inertia than the strings, by orders of magnitude. To the extent that damping occurs through that interaction, it would be on a nanoscopic scale.
    Well, you are the expert.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Helmholtz View Post
    Well, you are the expert.
    "Appeal to authority" logical fallacy. Nobody's claims to expertise are of any relevance here.

    Why don't you make a case for how the movement of the pickup in relation to guitar string's magnetic coupling could possibly have any practical or audible consequences?

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    Why don't you make a case for how the movement of the pickup in relation to guitar string's magnetic coupling could possibly have any practical or audible consequences?
    Why don't you ask sensible questions, taking into account what I already explained?

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    Last edited by Helmholtz; 08-10-2018 at 01:42 PM.
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    "The idea that the strings cause the pickup to move is absurd."

    Ok, if i put a magnet (or a pickup) on a scale (measuring grains, such as a reloading scale), place a guitar string above it, pluck the string, you are telling me the scale readout will not change? I can see it going lower as the string moves away and the magnet wants to follow the string. Most single coil and humbuckers are not mounted to anything solid, they are suspended.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    As to magnet tone, in single coils i have found A3 not as bright as A5. Best way i can describe it was they would be good for a rhythm or backup guitar player. Turning the volume down to 7 or 8, hiding some of your mistakes. I didn't really like them at first, but they definitely grew on me. If i was recording i would want a strat there with a set of A3's along with other guitars.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mozz View Post
    As to magnet tone, in single coils i have found A3 not as bright as A5. Best way i can describe it was they would be good for a rhythm or backup guitar player. Turning the volume down to 7 or 8, hiding some of your mistakes. I didn't really like them at first, but they definitely grew on me. If i was recording i would want a strat there with a set of A3's along with other guitars.
    Thanks for that, mozz. Sounds like A3 is an allrounder, at least as far as single coils go, and that's where I spend almost all my time when I play.

    Now about this ability to cover mistakes... man, I found my magnets! $-)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Helmholtz View Post
    Strong magnetic force between string and PU increases the frequencies of fundamental and harmonics for up and down string movement but not for sideways vibration. The result is beating and dissonance, aka. stratitis. Damping can only occur if the PU is loosely mounted and actually vibrates.
    I have not seen any evidence of increased string damping yet.
    Thanks for that fascinating tidbit

    I can see why the two axes are affected differently, but what I cannot see is why the change in frequency. Can you explain a bit further?

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    Quote Originally Posted by nickb View Post
    Thanks for that fascinating tidbit

    I can see why the two axes are affected differently, but what I cannot see is why the change in frequency. Can you explain a bit further?
    You're leading him

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    Of course the pickup moves due to string vibration pushing on the pickup magnets. And of course it's a very small amount of movement. But small isn't none. At guitar amp gain levels I'll bet the affect isn't insignificant.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nickb View Post
    Thanks for that fascinating tidbit

    I can see why the two axes are affected differently, but what I cannot see is why the change in frequency. Can you explain a bit further?
    The magnetic force varies with string excursion and makes the string react somewhat stiffer for up-and-down movements, thus increasing the strings' resonant frequencies in this plane. Sideways vibrations don't "see" much change in magnetic force during excursion and are far less influenced. The PU mainly responds to up-and-down vibration, but as the two othogonal vibrational modes exchange energy, a beating effect caused by the slightly different frequencies is produced, which shows in the envelope of the signal decay. The effect is strongest in the neck position.

    This effect has been analyzed in detail by Professor Zollner and I think Antigua's measurements also show this.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck H View Post
    Of course the pickup moves due to string vibration pushing on the pickup magnets. And of course it's a very small amount of movement. But small isn't none. At guitar amp gain levels I'll bet the affect isn't insignificant.
    If the PU vibration is caused by the magnetic interaction with the string, the result is increased damping/less sustain. I have no data for quantitative evaluation.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Helmholtz View Post
    The magnetic force varies with string excursion and makes the string react somewhat stiffer for up-and-down movements, thus increasing the strings' resonant frequencies in this plane. Sideways vibrations don't "see" much change in magnetic force during excursion and are far less influenced. The PU mainly responds to up-and-down vibration, but as the two othogonal vibrational modes exchange energy, a beating effect caused by the slightly different frequencies is produced, which shows in the envelope of the signal decay. The effect is strongest in the neck position.

    This effect has been analyzed in detail by Professor Zollner and I think Antigua's measurements also show this.
    Thanks.

    I had figured out most of it. It was just the imperfectness of the spring changing the resonant frequency I missed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck H View Post
    Of course the pickup moves due to string vibration pushing on the pickup magnets. And of course it's a very small amount of movement. But small isn't none. At guitar amp gain levels I'll bet the affect isn't insignificant.
    You're suggesting that the pickup movement might create an overtone addition to what is there otherwise. First, I don't see a credible claim that it leads to an overtone, I only see a credible claim that it could cause a reduction in sustain, because the moving pickup would serve as a damper; the rubber or string mounts that allow the pickup to move up and down slightly would be the agent of damping. But the mechanical coupling between the pickup and string is very, very low, and the pickup's mass is many times greater than that of the strings, so the degree to with the pickup could reduce the sustain through that mechanism is very, very, very small.

    Even if there was an overtone that the amplifier could bring to prominence through gain, it would be drowned out by everything that is of much higher amplitude. Imagine you have an audio recording of a crowd talking, with some faint voices in the background and some loud voices up front. What you're suggesting is that if you just cranked up the gain on this audio, you'd be able to clearly hear what the faint voices in the background were saying, but we all know that's not what ends up happening.

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    ..so the degree to with the pickup could reduce the sustain through that mechanism is very, very, very small.
    Yes, but the additional energy loss required for a little more string damping is also very, very small.
    The vibrational energy of a body is proportional to its mass times the oscillation amplitude squared for a given frequency. This means the higher the mass, the lower the amplitude for the same energy content. Consequently the vibration of the PU will be hardly noticeable without special equipment (e.g. a laser-vibrometer). Also the PU will transfer/lose energy to connected parts (springs, pickguard etc.) further reducing its vibration amplitude.

    Apart from that, where else could the energy loss go, if there is actually a damping effect caused by strong magnets?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Antigua View Post
    But the mechanical coupling between the pickup and string is very, very low, and the pickup's mass is many times greater than that of the strings, so the degree to with the pickup could reduce the sustain through that mechanism is very, very, very small.
    I keep seeing this mentioned, BUT...

    The pickups mass being greater than the string is only significant if they are left to their own inertia. The string is at considerable tension and YOU pluck the string to disturb that tension. How far would a pickup move if you plucked it? My point is that the vibrating strings lower mass is considerably countered by energy. Consider that a 12 ga. bird shot load weighs a lot less than a pumpkin and perhaps reconsider the equation

    EDIT: I guess for the "physics" guys I should have said "the vibrating strings lower mass is considerably countered by velocity." Resulting in the significant energy needed to impact the circumstances. Past experience has taught me that I'd better correct this here before I get flamed as a matter of semantics

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    Last edited by Chuck H; 08-11-2018 at 05:35 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck H View Post
    I keep seeing this mentioned, BUT...

    The pickups mass being greater than the string is only significant if they are left to their own inertia. The string is at considerable tension and YOU pluck the string to disturb that tension. How far would a pickup move if you plucked it? My point is that the vibrating strings lower mass is considerably countered by energy. Consider that a 12 ga. bird shot load weighs a lot less than a pumpkin and perhaps reconsider the equation
    I like your backwoods analogy. there chuck like a comet pinging the earth or maybe a meteorite. Which some should be in view this evening.

    nosaj

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck H View Post
    I keep seeing this mentioned, BUT...

    The pickups mass being greater than the string is only significant if they are left to their own inertia. The string is at considerable tension and YOU pluck the string to disturb that tension. How far would a pickup move if you plucked it?
    The pickup will barely moved at all, no matter how you frame it.

    My finding, which can be seen in the screen shot I posted a few posts back, and this is something that anyone with a Strat can try for themselves, is if you put the neck pickup so close to the strings that "Stratitus" sets in, the relative amplitude drops off more quickly than when the pickup is set lower. So it appears to me it's not a question of if it happens, it's a question of why, and the idea that the pickup itself servers as a damping agent seems very far fetched, due to the pickup's relative immobility. Not only is the pickup many times heavier than the strings, but it's attached to a guitar, which is many times heavier than the pickup.

    Eddy currents are a more plausible cause of damping, and that's the same principle on which eddy current breaks work with trains and power tools (here's a demo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mopfuVfeIhc ) There again, the degree of coupling between the string and pickup is very low compared to an actual eddy current break, but maybe it's just strong enough to dampen the string movement over a long duration of time.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck H View Post
    My point is that the vibrating strings lower mass is considerably countered by energy. Consider that a 12 ga. bird shot load weighs a lot less than a pumpkin and perhaps reconsider the equation
    I'm pretty sure the damping ratio is independent of the amplitude, at least within the range of what a damping system can handle. A shot gun delivers a force that exceeds the operational range of most systems, such as pumpkins.

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    The OP has informed me that he " decided to discontinue posts and other discussions about this topic".

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    Quote Originally Posted by Helmholtz View Post
    The OP has informed me that he " decided to discontinue posts and other discussions about this topic".
    That doesn't mean the topic isn't still of interest to others.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Helmholtz View Post
    Yes, but the additional energy loss required for a little more string damping is also very, very small.
    The vibrational energy of a body is proportional to its mass times the oscillation amplitude squared for a given frequency. This means the higher the mass, the lower the amplitude for the same energy content. Consequently the vibration of the PU will be hardly noticeable without special equipment (e.g. a laser-vibrometer). Also the PU will transfer/lose energy to connected parts (springs, pickguard etc.) further reducing its vibration amplitude.

    Apart from that, where else could the energy loss go, if there is actually a damping effect caused by strong magnets?
    Maybe there is an "eddy current break" thing happening, the more I think about it, the more curious I'm becoming about it. It's a weak effect, because spread out over a period of several second, maybe significant. You're knowledgeable in physics and I'm curious what you think about the potential of eddy current breaking working to resist movement of the guitar string.

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    Old Timer J M Fahey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Helmholtz View Post
    The OP has informed me that he " decided to discontinue posts and other discussions about this topic".
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    Do I see a contradiction here?

    or:

    if the OP feels he has something to say, he is warmly invited to do so ... all by himself

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    Quote Originally Posted by J M Fahey View Post
    Do I see a contradiction here?

    or:

    if the OP feels he has something to say, he is warmly invited to do so ... all by himself
    Of course!

    Would you have preferred me not sharing this information?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Helmholtz View Post
    Of course!

    Would you have preferred me not sharing this information?
    Have you been appointed the Forum Press Representative or something?

    By whom?

    By the way: how do we know thatīs what he said?

    How do we know he actually wants you to publish his decisions in his name?

    The OP is a Forum Member in full standing, and he can post whatever he needs to in these pages.





    Oh, by the way, Jimmy Hoffa told me we shouldnīt make such a big fuss, heīll be back in a few minutes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Antigua View Post
    Maybe there is an "eddy current break" thing happening, the more I think about it, the more curious I'm becoming about it. It's a weak effect, because spread out over a period of several second, maybe significant. You're knowledgeable in physics and I'm curious what you think about the potential of eddy current breaking working to resist movement of the guitar string.
    Thanks for your question.

    As I wrote above, from the point of physics I see two possibilities to induce increased string damping by transferring/extracting vibrational energy. One is eddy currents and the other is parasitic PU vibration induced by the varying magnetic field (this could be visualized by a weak stretched rubber band between string and PU). Both effects increase with stronger fields and closer string-PU distance. (The magnetic field by itself cannot produce energy loss/absorb energy. It is purely reactive.)

    The eddy currents in alnico are very small as its conductivity is relatively low, at least compared to low carbon steel. This also shows in the high unloaded resonant peaks in strat PUs. There might be some contribution, though. To completely exclude eddy currents would require to use ferrite pole pieces.
    I have never read about an "eddy current break", interpreting this as an abrupt increase in eddy currents under certain conditions?(see edit below)

    From the above, I still think that parasitic PU vibration might be the dominant loss effect. But without quantitative data this is admittedly speculative. It should be easy for you to verify/falsify in your test jig by mounting the PU very loosely and compare string damping.
    Anyway, both damping effects seem to be rather small.

    I appreciate your measuring efforts but miss some explanation of scales and data. Which software do you use?


    Edit: Sorry, did you mean the eddy current "brake" effect? (had to look up this term in my dictionary, the german word is "Wirbelstrombremse") That's exactly what I meant by eddy current string damping: The eddy currents close to the strings produce a string motion-braking counter-field. The strongest contender for this would be the Alumitone as it's principle is based on eddy currents.
    Theoretically there is a very weak third effect, that might induce string damping. This is the tiny counter-field produced by the signal current in the PU. It will increase with lower load resistance.

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    Quote Originally Posted by J M Fahey View Post
    Have you been appointed the Forum Press Representative or something?

    By whom?

    By the way: how do we know thatīs what he said?

    How do we know he actually wants you to publish his decisions in his name?

    The OP is a Forum Member in full standing, and he can post whatever he needs to in these pages.





    Oh, by the way, Jimmy Hoffa told me we shouldnīt make such a big fuss, heīll be back in a few minutes.

    Sorry, if I made a mistake. I am no longer in contact with the OP.
    Who is Jimmy Hoffa?

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    Bent Member Chuck H's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Antigua View Post
    The pickup will barely moved at all, no matter how you frame it.
    Of course. Not arguing that. Just pointing out that the comparison of mass doesn't complete the picture.

    Quote Originally Posted by Antigua View Post
    I'm pretty sure the damping ratio is independent of the amplitude,..
    Well it actually can't be if pickup movement is even partly responsible. But this has nothing to do with whether you're right about the primary antagonist being eddy currents.

    Quote Originally Posted by Antigua View Post
    ...at least within the range of what a damping system can handle.
    But just because something can "handle" a force doesn't make it immune to movement.

    Quote Originally Posted by Antigua View Post
    A shot gun delivers a force that exceeds the operational range of most systems, such as pumpkins.
    I might sig this

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    Quote Originally Posted by Helmholtz View Post
    Sorry, if I made a mistake. I am no longer in contact with the OP.
    Who is Jimmy Hoffa?
    Sorry, maybe I understood you the wrong way.

    FWIW after my detailed Technical reply, the OP also wrote me a personal message, apparently to discuss it item by item.
    Since that is useful to nobody and against the Forum spirit (*any* Forum, since by definition all are *open* idea exchange places) I didnīt even *open*, let alone read it, waiting instead for any answer or comment to appear on the main, Public view thread.

    As of Jimmy Hoffa, itīs a complex mystery.
    Just as starters:
    https://edition.cnn.com/2013/06/18/u...ery/index.html

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    Actually, the OP's idea was a good one - to discuss *basic* differences in parts and finished pickups measurably, clearly, and distinctly. That could be useful to people like us, who need to make decisions on what parts to use in a certain product. IMO it's sorta like a cook trying to decide whether to use mild chile peppers or ghost peppers in his salsa and how much of either - the wrong amount could be a major disaster. If everybody would discuss their products in ads the OP's way, it would be a lot easier to give a customer exactly what kind of sound he or she wants to make.

    The only problem is when the marketeers and engineers take over, and this entire idea flies out the window. You know... 'this pickup is potted in wax from South American killer bees for a real killer tone' or 'this pickup was wound on a machine that was buried in a time machine in Kalamazoo in 1955 right after it was used to wind the original pickups in Scotty Moore's goldtop he played with Elvis'. Or 'this pickup has a .0001db bump at 1Khz played in a 1951 Tele using 10-52 strings at 70F with 62% humidity, the player was drinking Budweiser beer and eating beans while recording this... and dont even go there about the amp'.

    If your pickup sounds good, it is good. You can set quality and performance differences easily enough, and you should, but obsessing about the fifth or sixth significant digit of a measurement can be counterproductive.

    Rant over

    Ken

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    Senior Member ken's Avatar
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    Some believe Hoffa was buried in a highway onramp somewhere, some believe he's part of a major league ball diamond, others believe he was made into canned dogfood or hot dogs.

    Hard to say what happened to him.

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    Lifetime Member Enzo's Avatar
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    They pretty much gave up on the end zone at Giants Stadium. Here in Michigan, every couple years someone decides they have evidence and they dig up some poor sap's barn. The last place he was known to be was the Machus Red Fox on Telegraph, but even that is now gone.

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    Education is what you're left with after you have forgotten what you have learned.

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    Won't the impedance of the circuit that the pickup is attached to affect the string's sustain. A dead short in the coil would quickly stop the string due to eddy currents in the coil, I'm not sure if a 50k ohm load would have any effect but what if you turn the volume way down to where most of the signal is shunted to ground?.

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