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OldSchool Blacksmith
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2,865 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Hot on the heals of tweaking the criminally neglected Warlock I just bought and installing new pups in my KM6, I opened up my email and Seymour Duncan put out this article.

While adjusting pickup height is hardly a new concept to me (or most likely you) it did get me wondering what everyone's Preferred Pickup Height is? I'd assume it's different for ceramic vs alnico, hum vs single, etc. but wondered if everyone has a 'starting line" they begin with and tweak from there. I usually start a a little past 2mm on the bass side and a little under 2mm on the treble and go from there. You?
 

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Premium Member
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893 Posts
I've been messing around with pickup height more recently cause I've been swapping a bunch of pickups around. Not sure I've ever measured before. For the bridge pickup I usually just set it as close to the strings as possible, without being able to get a string close enough to magnetize to the pickup during a heavy handed palm mute. Just checked my main guitar with EMGs, I could fit exactly 3 Eric Johnson Jazz III picks between the pickup and strings. Looks slightly lower on my other guitars with passives. For the neck pickup I usually start by removing it :D
 

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Sir Groove-A-Lot
Charvel So Cal & San Dimas
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6,916 Posts
2.5mm from the top of the bridge pickup's pole pieces to the bottom of the low E (unfretted). That's the sweet spot for me, not just for my guitars but I find it's just about right for most of my customer's guitars too.

Obviously there are tweaks to be made depending on output - like some of the stupidly hot Dimarzios will be sunk a fair bit lower. But I find on average that any lower and you start to roll off the bite, and you don't get as much sustain and juice. You can get closer, but it's anybody's guess after that point. Depends on string guage, how hard you hit etc, but any closer than 2mm and you're definitely gonna run into problems. Hard to control, feedback, squeals, and weird treble artifacts. As well as your string being pulled out of tune and damping sustain due to magnet pull.

As for the neck pickup, I fret the last fret of the guitar and adjust it so it's the same distance away from the low E as the bridge pickup is. This results in an even balance across the fretboard, between both pickups. The neck pickup usually results in the bass side being dipped away from the strings a little further than the treble side to compensate for the increased bass in the neck pickup.
 

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Premium Member
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11,451 Posts
I do this one by ear, fretting at the last fret. Then I dial in the poles to match the radius, usually, again by ear.
 

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Read Only
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1 Posts
depends on the guitar, what pickup it uses and how the pickups are mounted. i just adjust them by ear.
 

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Registered
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50 Posts
I've been messing around with my pickups lately a bunch. I recently installed a tone zone in a cheap basswood schecter, and man I can't find the right height for it.
Normally though, I usually go with 4/64" for both, then use my ears from there. I really should get a metric ruler though...
 

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Guitarded
Rig: Marshall DSL20
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429 Posts
I can't seem to find a universal height or distance from strings. each pickup and guitar is too different. even the tuning will effect it.


-the neon orange soloist has a shitload of low end so the pup in that one is at an angle. its far from the low strings and raised up closer to the high E string.

-my other 2 jacksons are both JS32 models and their pickups are quite a bit closer. still different from each other though. the floyd'd warrior is in D standard and its pup is lower. the kelly hardtail is higher. both are using the same "jackson high output pickups"

-My ibanez RG350DX has a JB bridge and thats a bit far from the strings.
 

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Super Moderator
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8,927 Posts
I don't get too precious about it. I install a new pickup in the 2mm range and then fine tune it by ear with quarter turns, usually downward. It's amazing how that last quarter turn dramatically gets the tone right where you want it.
 

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Premium Member
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11,451 Posts
I don't get too precious about it. I install a new pickup in the 2mm range and then fine tune it by ear with quarter turns, usually downward. It's amazing how that last quarter turn dramatically gets the tone right where you want it.
Yep. Moving the poles on some pickups (Wolfetones especially) makes a big difference, too.
 

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I am Groot
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32,450 Posts
Yep. Moving the poles on some pickups (Wolfetones especially) makes a big difference, too.
I've noticed some pickups (like Duncanas) sound best when the hot poles are all substantially higher than the slug poles. Wolfetones are not those pickups; the Marshallheads in particular like to be almost buried.
 

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Super Moderator
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13,448 Posts
Like some people, I don't measure. I just do it 100% by ear. But looking at my main guitar, I have the bridge pickup pretty close to the strings and the neck pickup pretty far away from the strings. They sound very nicely balanced when I'm playing rhythm guitar on the bridge, then suddenly switch to the neck for lead (or for clean rhythm). The only exception is if I have the neck pickup on Voice 2, but I never use that anyway.

In fact, it's kind of striking the huge difference between the two heights. I have the neck pickup REALLY low and the bridge pickup REALLY high. :lol:
 

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I am Groot
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32,450 Posts
In fact, it's kind of striking the huge difference between the two heights. I have the neck pickup REALLY low and the bridge pickup REALLY high. :lol:
That's not unusual at all. The string vibration gets broader the further you move away from the bridge, so the neck pickup is going to be a lot louder if set to the same height. A lot of pickup winders mitigate this by making the neck pickup substantially lower output, so you can set them at similar height. It sounds like you're using a neck pickup with similar output to the bridge pickup.
 

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Is Actually Recording
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32,765 Posts
Another "by ear" here too. As a starting point, for singlecoils, I back them all off, then start raising the neck pickup until a note held on the E string in the, say top 5 frets on the guitar closest to the bridge gets an audible ouit-of-tune warble to it, and then back it off at least a quarter turn past the point where the magnetic pull is impacting intonation. Then I'll balance the other two pickups with the neck pickup, on the clean channel, for the same perceived volume, and again checking each when I'm done for that warble. This becomes the absolute highest I can set those pickups. Whether I leave it there or move it back a bit further is a matter of taste and what I'm hearing - particularly with Fender pickups I've notived that position-to-position "differentiation' gets a lot better when they're a little further back. Like, the tonal difference betwen the neck position and the middle position becomes a bit more pronounced. Don't ask me why, maybe its still somethig to do with magnetic pull, maybe there's some compression going on at the amp, whatever. All I know is that's the second factor I'm looking at when dialing in singlecoil height - if I switch from the neck to the middle, do I hear a really clear difference in tone? If I lower both pickups a quarter or half turn, do those differences increase?
 

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Not baked anymore.
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3,555 Posts
I go by ear and how much the height will be a contributing factor to my right hand palm or strings getting stuck under the bobbins.

For years I had the Evolutions in my JEM REALLY low, like probably just under 1/4” from the pickguard to the top of the pickup (bridge) and the neck a little lower. Every time a tech saw that guitar they’d tell me it was wrong and I’d be like, “Yeah? Plug it in and tell me I’m losing anything by dropping them that low.”. They’re so damn hot it doesn’t seem to matter where I put them. I raised them up a little bit but I’m probably going to drop them back down just because I’m not a fan of how much the effect distortion levels. It’s hard to roll back the volume knob and have something clean up when they’re seemingly on 10 no matter where you are with the volume knob.
 

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OldSchool Blacksmith
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2,865 Posts
Discussion Starter #15
Yep. Moving the poles on some pickups (Wolfetones especially) makes a big difference, too.
I don't have the confidence in my own ability to not screw up a pickup to start messing with pole height. :lol:
 

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Not baked anymore.
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3,555 Posts
I don't have the confidence in my own ability to not screw up a pickup to start messing with pole height. :lol:
Ya know, I went about most things in life with that very mentality for a long time and then a couple years ago I decided that I was going to dive heard first into the unknown and the more fear I had about this, the bigger of a reason it was for me to confront it. I have to say, it's worked out quite well. It's entirely changed the way I approach life and I gained a confidence and fearlessness that I had no clue I was capable of.

So get some tools and start turnin' shit. Worst case scenario, you turn the poles back in the direction they started in.
 

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Premium Member
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23,428 Posts
Drop me in the "by ear" bucket. After a fresh install, they go up to about 3/16" then start lowering until they go dull, then back up again until I'm happy. Then, they typically stay put. I rarely go back and adjust them, unless I'm finding the tone to be a little too-much or too-little.
 

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Banned
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1,542 Posts
You motherfuckers and your "16ths of inches" :lol:
 

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OldSchool Blacksmith
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2,865 Posts
Discussion Starter #19
Ya know, I went about most things in life with that very mentality for a long time and then a couple years ago I decided that I was going to dive heard first into the unknown and the more fear I had about this, the bigger of a reason it was for me to confront it. I have to say, it's worked out quite well. It's entirely changed the way I approach life and I gained a confidence and fearlessness that I had no clue I was capable of.

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We've lived opposite lives. :lol: I started out diving head first into whatever (including concrete once...) and figuring it out... then after breaking all sorts of things (items and bones) and taking more than my share of trips to the ER, I learned caution. :lol: and now I weigh my risk/reward before I dive in. That being said, if I had an adjustable cheapo pup, I'd experiment all day, but I don't want to screw up one of my custom made Elysians or my Imperiums...
 
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