Under the looking-glass: Measuring Pickups

Magnetic pickups for electric guitars really are very simple devices: a magnet, some wire wound as a coil within the magnetic field … that’s it. However, due to the specific circumstances around the electric guitar and ist amplification as it has historically evolved, these pickups have some idiosyncrasies that give them their sound. Of course, our ears are the real judges when it comes to that sound … but our ears have their limitations. Moreover … or rather to add to the issue,  a brain (hopefully 😉) is connected to these ears which brings perceptional psychology into play and many corresponding potentially ‘erroneous zones’. Physics certainly can be of help to avoid some traps when judging the sound of pickups – specifically, make some measurements here and there can be most helpful. Beware, though: the very popular simple measurement of the ohmic resistance of pickup DOES NOT CUT IT! There’s more to consider, and this is what Helmut Lemme’s article on there matter is all about:

Measuring Guitar-Pickups

P.S.: this article was originally issued in the magazine SUSTAIN (May, 2013); we appreciate being given the permission to re-publish it here!

 

The Aperture of the magnetic Pickup

We all know that the magnetic pickups mounted on our guitars sense the vibration of each string. However, the details of this often elude us. In fact, the pickup “looks” at merely a portion of the length of the string – just like a camera in the optical domain, the pickup has an “aperture”. This may have consequences on the sound generated by the pickup, and the present article sheds some light on that issue. Because the way the magnetic field is shaped, the aperture is also dependent on the distance the pickup has to the string (i.e. the “height” of the pickup), and thus we also get some info about how adjusting the pickup really influences the sound.  Check out the article on the aperture of the pickup here!