Pickup consistency from unit to unit

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Offline Rocco Crocco

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Pickup consistency from unit to unit
« on: July 24, 2021, 07:13:50 AM »
Does anyone have any experience regarding mass-produced pickups sounding different from one another? I am trying to figure out why the DiMarzio Norton I installed in my Les Paul sounds awful (wayyyy too much bass) and the same model DiMarzio Norton I have in another Les Paul sounds like angels singing. Adjusting pickup height doesn't get me where I want to go.

I have had the same experience with several other Duncans and DiMarzios.

I get that different guitars sound different, but I am wondering if there is some inconsistency issues with the pickups happening as well.

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Offline darkbluemurder

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Re: Pickup consistency from unit to unit
« Reply #1 on: July 26, 2021, 03:17:54 AM »
I have made similar experience. Here is my take on the reasons:

There may be variances in the pickups but I think it is highly unlikely. The DC resistance reading is sometimes not quite identical. This may be due to inconsistency of the magnet wire but I doubt that you would hear the difference between say 13.50 and 13.55 kohms. In addition, the measurement can vary with temperature as well.

Other factors to consider:
- the difference in the guitars - guitars, even of the same make and model can be wildly different. This is  the no. 1 of reasons from my experience.
- the difference in the electronics - especially the pots vary. A nominal 500k pot with a 10% tolerance can measure anywhere from 450k to 550k, with most falling between 450k and 475k. Why mostly that range? Because with 10% tolerance pots, anything measuring up to 5% tolerance has been sorted out as "premium", and measurements above the nominal range are rare. Tone caps also vary but the difference between a 0.018 uF and a 0.025 uF (=0.02 +/- 10%) is subtle. I can say from practical experience that the Norton is very sensitive to the load it sees, and I like it better with lower reading pots. 

Cheers Stephan
Area 67, Area 58, Area 61, VV Pro 54, Injectors, VV HB2, Virtual Solo, SDS-1, Area T, Area Hot T, Area T 615, Virtual Hot T, Chopper T, Bluesbucker, Breed set, Air Norton, Super Distortion, DLX+ set, DLX-90, DP240, DP198, DP168, VPAF b, AT-1, Mo' Joe, FRED, Super 2; GS b

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Offline mmmguitar

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Re: Pickup consistency from unit to unit
« Reply #2 on: July 26, 2021, 08:17:09 AM »
+1 to everything Stephan said. I’d also add that no two wooden guitars should be expected to sound exactly alike; and it’s always been a rabbit hole for me to try a pickup I like in a new guitar, only to find myself subsequently auditioning different pups on the basis of what the guitar seems to need more or less of.

For example, I put Bluesbuckers in the neck position of most of my guitars, even though the results are all different (eg. The strat still sounds like a strat, one guitar sounds more like a jazzbox while another of the same model comes across like an SG, etc.). But that pickup still gets me what I ask for out of a neck humbucker: P90-ish clean tones that can do jazz in series, and does a mean blues tone with minimal volume difference when split.

In short, it can be frustrating to find your “preferred” pickup not sounding like the best fit for a guitar, but I try to look at it as an excuse to buy more pickups.

Concerning the topic title: It’s not so much tolerances in production variance as it is our ears expecting all variables to remain constant when auditioning a single new component. Bear in mind that the new guitar with your favorite pickup shouldn’t sound the same, and you’ll have a much better impression of what needs to be tweaked in the equipment to get it where you need it to be.
« Last Edit: July 26, 2021, 08:20:30 AM by mmmguitar »

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Offline darkbluemurder

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Re: Pickup consistency from unit to unit
« Reply #3 on: July 26, 2021, 10:36:54 AM »
BTW if the Norton sounds too bassy in the Les Paul it seems like that a PAF or a slightly hotter PAF type in the bridge spot may be a better fit.
Area 67, Area 58, Area 61, VV Pro 54, Injectors, VV HB2, Virtual Solo, SDS-1, Area T, Area Hot T, Area T 615, Virtual Hot T, Chopper T, Bluesbucker, Breed set, Air Norton, Super Distortion, DLX+ set, DLX-90, DP240, DP198, DP168, VPAF b, AT-1, Mo' Joe, FRED, Super 2; GS b

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BluesJam

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Re: Pickup consistency from unit to unit
« Reply #4 on: July 27, 2021, 04:14:41 AM »
+1 as above.   I would add that sone Gibsons use 300K pots, instead of 500K.  You should buy a multimeter and test the pickups, pots and caps.  This will allow you to figure out what is going on. ( A mis-packaged pickup or damaged could happen, but most probably unlikely.). Wood can play a factor, too.  A guitar is the sum of its parts snd no two guitars sound identical. 

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Offline buddroyce

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Re: Pickup consistency from unit to unit
« Reply #5 on: July 27, 2021, 10:05:17 AM »
I wonder. If you were to swap the Norton's would the things still be the same?
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Offline Guitar74

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Re: Pickup consistency from unit to unit
« Reply #6 on: July 29, 2021, 04:25:24 PM »
Wow. I find the Norton anything BUT dark. I would tend to agree in that maybe the pots being 300k might have something to do with that. I would be willing to bet that going to 500k pots would brighten things right up since that is what that value pot is recommended.
If you're having one of those days where everyone is on your case and is just getting on your nerves, it's probably not everyone else

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Offline darkbluemurder

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Re: Pickup consistency from unit to unit
« Reply #7 on: July 30, 2021, 02:55:47 AM »
Again, that depends on the guitar. I had the Norton in an ash bodied strat, so going alone by wood species you would expect the combination to be rather bright. Well - no. That guitar has a dark midrange color, and any full sized humbucker I had in there (Bare Knuckle Holydiver, AT-1, Norton) seemed to accent that. I since converted the guitar to SSS, and prefer it that way.

I had the Norton then in a Telecaster Deluxe type guitar, first with a load of appr. 400k - too bright and aggressive. Lowered the load to about 330k - better, smoother but maybe a tad too smooth. It is out again and in the box at the moment. It will certainly get another chance.

So in one guitar it was too dark (with a load of 500k), and in the other too bright (even with a slightly reduced load). And I am talking about the exact same pickup here, not just the same model. So it was definitely the guitars it was in.

Cheers Stephan
Area 67, Area 58, Area 61, VV Pro 54, Injectors, VV HB2, Virtual Solo, SDS-1, Area T, Area Hot T, Area T 615, Virtual Hot T, Chopper T, Bluesbucker, Breed set, Air Norton, Super Distortion, DLX+ set, DLX-90, DP240, DP198, DP168, VPAF b, AT-1, Mo' Joe, FRED, Super 2; GS b

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Offline Guitar74

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Re: Pickup consistency from unit to unit
« Reply #8 on: August 03, 2021, 04:19:11 PM »
the same model DiMarzio Norton I have in another Les Paul sounds like angels singing.

I doubt it is as much a factor of the pickup as much as it is a factor of the guitars. Wood is going to be WAY more inconsistent than the manufacturing tolerances most computer aided equipment is going to be able to hold. Different guitars? Wood. Same guitar? Manufacturing tolerance of pickup manufacturer. Now if we were talking about vintage pickups, I would probably go the opposite in my opinion.

If you're having one of those days where everyone is on your case and is just getting on your nerves, it's probably not everyone else