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Direct pickup mounting


DaveK
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I am working on my newest project..An Anderson style strat with a Black limba back & quilted maple drop top

I am trying to decide if I want to mount the pickup directly to the body, rather than the traditional pickup ring style

I am looking to the members of the forum to let me know if they feel there is a diferance in tone when you mount the pickup to the body.

Some say the tone resonates better, and other say there is not any difference

What are your thoughts????

Dave K

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Ok...not much personal experience here, but it seems to me like the change in tone would only come from having to remove less wood (I guess you could use a scratchplate with the same routings as a no scratchplate version if you really liked) for the control cavity. It may not even be less wood, just from a different area. My guess is that it's a bit brighter, but again, all it is is an educated guess.

Devon

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I've seen this debate get ugly before. Here's my take on this as short as I can make it. Pickups are hearing the magnetic disturbance from the string vibrations. All the traditional things that people say affect tone do it by changing, even if it's ever so slightly, how the strings vibrate and respond to it. (wood choices, bridge, nut material, etc.) I won't take a firm position on this, but it would seem that the mounting method would only produce an effect on the tone if it were suspended so loosely (like hanging from strings or something) that the actual magnetic disturbance was capable of moving the pickup, or vibrating it. So my answer is: All other things being equal, no effect on the plugged in tone.

The opposing viewpoint can only be based on the theory that the vibrations of the wood themselves are transfering to the pickup and making the pickup vibrate, which in turn changes (sympathetically) how it hears the string. Even if true, I don't believe anyone can hear that. At that point it's a purely cosmetic decision.

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Pickups are hearing the magnetic disturbance from the string vibrations.

I think it's a little more than just the strings. Pickups are slightly microphonic (some more than others) even if potted in wax... epoxy might be a different story. Simple test: next time you have the strings off of the guitar, try plugging it in and tap on the pickups with your fingers or something else non-ferrous. You should hear something. I also just checked by tapping on a loose pickup, a DiMarzio X2N (no guitar at all.) This particular pickup is not highly microphonic (it does not squeal at high volumes) but it did make a sound when thumped. This nature could probably explicate how "wood choices, bridge, nut material, etc." contributes to a guitar's overall tone.

I haven't ever direct mounted pickups myself, by I have a feeling it'd affect the sound... but like you, I'm not sure how perceptible it'd be.

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anyways i have done it both ways...i did not like the direct mount as the tone was too muddy with the amount of gain i use.it added unwanted resonance

i have a feeling it is more for clean tones.

and direct mounting is screwing DIRECTLY into the wood...no springs in between,so the wooden shelfs you carve in must be at the right height.

all that theory means nothing....there is a difference....try it and you will see

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Many people think there's a difference. A few think it's a big one, but most who think there *is* a difference think it's a subtle one. I think it's VERY subtle; so much so that I'm not sure that it really exists.

The pickle is, there is only ONE way to truly verify this, due to the MANY variables in guitars & amps used for these things. Record a guitar onto a high quality medium, change the pup mounting in the *same* guitar and match the height that they were, and then use the same gear to record the new setup. Then compare the recordings, preferably with an ABX setup. Even THEN, there are variables you don't get when comparing recording & playback gear, MP3 codecs, etc. - because you could play the samples slightly differently each time.

Of course, AFAIK nobody has done this, so we're all limited to anecdotal evidence. And most of that involves different guitars, different pups, amps, cables, etc. AND our notoriously poor human auditory memory. If you have to "remember" a sound to compare it to another one - even for just a minute - the test is pretty useless unless the change is a BIG one. And I don't mean the kind of change we're talking about here.

So, mounting style is no big issue for me; I like the look of direct mount, but I'd certainly never change an existing guitar for it.

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Record a guitar onto a high quality medium, change the pup mounting in the *same* guitar and match the height that they were,

this is exactly what i did when i built my vee.....except for the recording part

there is a difference ,especially with high gain

take my word for it or don't,i don't really care...but i feel as a person who has actually done it,maybe the guy who asked the question might prefer an example over theory..

now to clarify...i am talking about mounting the ears DIRECTLY to the wood...NO height adjusment springs.

if you use height adjustment springs then i don't hear much if any difference

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You actually need a mechanical picker like Bartolini and probably other manufacturers have. Then you'd have to be certain the pickup height was dead on, etc.

I've heard the "microphonic" theory as well, and it could be true but I still attribute the noises you hear to "shake-ups" in the magnetic field. Tapping the pickups vibrates the magnet within the bobbin and it's relationship to the baseplate, which is also magnetic. Again, locking it down hard to the body shouldn't alter how it hears string movement.

As for the pickup hearing more than just the strings, it's really not. The pickup is not microphonic enough to "hear" the wood choices or the bridge type or whatever acoustically. Those differences are coming through in the way the string vibrates. Someone argued once that if you have the amp cranked and overdriven yo can shout into the pickups and you'll barely hear it through the amp. Like that was proof. (some of that sound is the breath passing over the strings by the way) But if you played an A chord it would be deafening. So even if that's "evidence" you have to consider your ratios. You're screaming is much louder than the guitar is acoustically. Yet the string sound is exponentially louder than the screaming. What I'm saying is that even if a difference was there, the ratio between sympathetic microphonics and magnetic disturbance itself makes it inaudible. (IMHO)

Besides, if we're talking about what most people refer to as direct mount, with foam or springs underneath, you haven't really changed anything at all, just the location of the screws. Wes' definition, to me, would be the only way you'd actually have a material difference. I'd ask Wes, when you speak of that difference, did you (on the same guitar) remove the direct mounted pickups, deepen the route, and then re-install? Or are you referring to some guitars you made with direct mount and others with rings? That's not a challenge to your opinion, by the way, I'm just curious. Like I said, I'm not holding to this with an iron fist, but its what my bestest smarts tell me. :D

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. I'd ask Wes, when you speak of that difference, did you (on the same guitar) remove the direct mounted pickups, deepen the route, and then re-install?

yes...that is exactly what i did with my vee

tonally the difference was minimal...

but for note definition...the steel mounting rings were infinately superior.

keep in mind for what i play note definition is incrediblly important

try playing "alter of sacrifice" sometime with poor note definition...it will make you think you are the worst guitarist in the world

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.  I'd ask Wes, when you speak of that difference, did you (on the same guitar) remove the direct mounted pickups, deepen the route, and then re-install?

yes...that is exactly what i did with my vee

tonally the difference was minimal...

but for note definition...the steel mounting rings were infinately superior.

keep in mind for what i play note definition is incrediblly important

try playing "alter of sacrifice" sometime with poor note definition...it will make you think you are the worst guitarist in the world

This is gonna sound harsh, so please try not to take this as a personal attack...

It has been proven that human auditory memory is, in a word, poor. The time it took you to change the mounting in the same guitar invalidates the test all by itself, and since you say there was no tonal difference but one of definition, I think we're talking subtle changes here.

Tests of stereo equipment (where I am more familiar) have shown that often people can CLEARLY hear differences between certain gear (say, an amp) and describe them eloquently. But when ABX tests were done (same gear, same subject), the subject could not even reliably identify which amp was being used. Why? The subjects had no reason to lie, and common thinking is they weren't, but the mind plays tricks on us, and the mind is half of the hearing equation. This is why examples are as flawed as theory - perception is fallable.

I still think anecdotal evidence like yours is valuable. Since the tests are so tough to do, it's often all we have to go on after all. I just don't take it for gospel; I count it as one more data point. In our current example, I might specify direct mount pups on a new guitar, partly for looks and partly because it *may* help with note definition. But I wouldn't retrofit an existing guitar because there is more inherent risk in the procedure, it won't have the same visual improvement, and the sonic benefits *may* be nonexistant.

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Again, locking it down hard to the body shouldn't alter how it hears string movement.

As for the pickup hearing more than just the strings, it's really not. The pickup is not microphonic enough to "hear" the wood choices or the bridge type or whatever acoustically.

You're overlooking one thing, though. Microphonics aren't the only thing to consider in the vibration of the pickup. Since the pickup signal is a result of the string moving through the pickup's magnetic field, relativity dictates that the signal is also a result of the pickup's magnetic field moving across the string. For example, if you could shake a pickup side-to-side across a stationary string 440 times per second, the pickup would generate a signal of an A note.

So even if you play a single note on a guitar, the vibration of the wood will vibrate the pickup, the pickup and its magnetic field will vibrate across all six strings, and this will be added to the final guitar signal. Whether it's significant enough is debateable but there is more than just inherent pickup microphonics to consider.

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Guest AlexVDL

blah blah.... nonsense or not... I DO hear a difference.... it's as obvious as the difference between a non string thru body tele and a string thru body tele. Somehow it seems that you gain some attack and a bit more bite!

If the facts don't fit the theory, screw the theory! :D

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It has been proven that human auditory memory is, in a word, poor. The time it took you to change the mounting in the same guitar invalidates the test all by itself, and since you say there was no tonal difference but one of definition, I think we're talking subtle changes here.

this is why sometimes it is not worth trying to help.

i swear....if you guys don't want to believe something you just come up with every lame excuse in the book... :D

do you want the truth or don't you?

30 minutes...that is how long it took to change the pickup mounting on my guitar...

and i don't care how your auditory memory is,mine is great.

but anyway,dave is no fool and i am sure HE will take the advice from someone who HAS done the tests over the "well this is my important opinion even though i have never tried" guys

let's put it this way...i was SO INCREDIBLY UNSATISFIED!!! with the sound of the direct mounting that i took my guitar completely apart,took my dremel,and shaved off the steps my ears mounted on,and hung the pickup from rings,then tested it,and liked it so much BETTER that i left it like that and have been completely happy with it since.

i am not saying direct mounting is bad,i am saying there IS a difference,and that the difference is not suitable for me

and when i say tonally the difference is minimal i mean what i say...instrument "tone" or "voice" stays constant...but definition and clarity changes...

advice based on "theory" should only be accepted when there is no advice from someone who has done it as far as i am concerned

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I've done it both ways, and I have to say that the "direct mounting" didn't seem to do anything worthwhile. I wasn't even using foam under them. I made maple shims, that were a bit too high, then I measured how much lower the pickups had to go, then I'd shave that off the wood shims.

Then I also thought about when you listen the VanHalen and Satriani, and VH has "direct mount pickups" and Satch has metal rings. I don't think either one blows the other one away, with "picking up" more resonance, or whatever, from the guitar.

But I have my own little thing going with the "direct to body" concept. I like a wood pickguard that is quite thin, so the pickguard vibrates quite a bit, and I guess it makes the pickup "shake " a little ? Well, not sure what's exactly going on, but I don't want to change it, because I've got quite a nice semi-hollow-body sound from this guitar.

I guess any "wood knocking" etc, that happens to a guitar body is going to vibrate the strings, then of course the pickup hears it no matter what.

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Wow!!!!

Look at what I started!

I am going to probably build 2 identical bodies & try one with the direct connection & one without

And for what it is worth...I apreciate the feedback from those that have actully tried it & goten results.

That's what the forum is all about!

For those who offer theory without practice...thanks for the input, but I will consider the advice of those who actually did it!

Dave K

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No excuses, West, I'm just presenting one side of the story, and a valid one. So are you, and everyone reading this forum should make their decisions for themselves. If they decide to ignore my words, I have no problem with that at all. It's very possible you heard a significant difference. It's possible that that difference is particular to your guitar, strings, pickups, and hardware. Or maybe it's generally applicable to a lot of people. Or maybe your perception was colored. The point is, there's no way for ME to know for sure what YOU experienced is valid. And vice versa, of course. But that's a great benefit of a forum; people can get lots of opinions to help decide.

But one thing's for sure. Some of the stuff discussed here is theoretical, but limitations of auditory memory is not. If there is a delay of one single minute between trials in an ABX test, the test is pretty much considered invalid from a scientific standpoint. Of course, the bigger the difference, the longer the time; if you're comparing speakers and one set has blown tweeters, you could distinguish THAT over days! But IMO people need to understand these things when discussing subtle differences, because audiophiles have long convinced people of some goofy stuff and people actually perceived it. I use to use techniques based on these facts to sell stereo gear. No, I'm NOT proud of it...

Now in reality, this can be a problem. Hypothetically, it doesn't let me just "believe you" when you say a bridge bucker sounds different from a neck single, which would of course be obvious. And in reality I'd trust you on this. Likewise if you were describing your opinion of, say, a PAF vs. a JB. But as the differences shrink, my skepticism rises. For everyone, not just you.

I hope this discussion isn't pissing anyone off; I find it pretty interesting...

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I have found that having a set of strings on a guitar, then taking them off, then putting them back on, seems to make them so they never sound quite the same as before.

Just mentioning this, because it probably happens a lot when swapping pickups.

You could bypass that if you just pop the floyd out...

edit: that's assuming that the guitar has a floyd in the first place...

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