Vintage Gibson Humbucker Specs and General Pickup Tech

humbucker-internals1
Vintage Gibson Humbuckers Specs:

1956 – 1957 (“PAF”): Long (2.5”) Alnico 2, 3, 4 and 5 magnets used randomly, brushed stainless steel cover, *no* PAF sticker, automatic traverse wound with manual-stop (until bobbin was “full”), #42 plain enamel wire (purple/maroon), individual coil ohm differences, black leads on coils, ohms vary from low 7k to high 9k, black PAF-style bobbins (“square in circle” with holes). PAFs first installed on Gibson lap-steels in ‘56 and then guitars in ‘57.

1957 – 1961 (“PAF”): Long Alnico 2, 3, 4 and 5 used randomly (A2 most common), nickel cover, “Patent Applied For” sticker, automatic traverse-wound with manual-stop, #42 plain enamel wire (purple/maroon), individual coil ohm differences, black leads on both coils, ohms vary greatly – generally between 7k and 10k, black and cream (early-’59 thru mid-‘60), all bobbins black again by late ’60, PAF-style pickup bobbins.

1961 – 1962 (Late “PAF”): Smaller (2.37”) Alnico 5 magnet used for remaining production (all transitioned by July ’61), nickel cover, PAF sticker, automatic traverse-wound with manual-stop, #42 plain enamel wire (purple/maroon), black leads on both coils, individual coil ohm differences, ohms averaged 8.0k by ‘62, PAF-style bobbins.

1962 – 1964 (“Patent number”): Alnico 5, nickel cover, “patent no.” sticker (mid-’62), polyurethane wire (starting ‘63), black/white lead wires, “auto-stop” winding starts circa-’62, PAF-style bobbins, usually 7.6k – 8.0k ohm.

1965 – 1967 (Late “Patent number”): Alnico 5, polyurethane wire, “patent no.” sticker, bobbin wires white, Chrome cover (starts mid-’65), more durable and flatter bobbins with no “square in circle” hole circa-‘65, ohms usually between 7.4k – 8.0k. Gold-plated PAFs used in arch-top electrics as late as 1965 – “Varitone” guitars had gold-plated pickups with one pickup having a reversed magnet. This pickup style was used far less than nickel-plated pickups, thus inventory lasted thru 1965.

1967 – 1980 (“T-top”): “T” on bobbin top, Chrome cover, Alnico 5, polyurethane wire, automated winding begins ‘65 – ‘68, some ’69 – ’73 pickup covers embossed “Gibson”, “patent no.” sticker on baseplate ’67 – ’74, (patent number metal-stamped beginning 1974), ink stamp with date ’77 – ’80, ohms average 7.5k – consistently reading between 7.3k – 8.0k.

General Pickup Tech:

Alnico Magnet Types and Gauss
Magnetic flux is measured in Gauss – this is an indication of how strong a magnet is capable of being. Magnetic field intensity is measured in Oersteds. Technically speaking, the strength of a magnet is best measured as an approximate combined product of the Gauss and Oersteds. This is somewhat analogous to how electrical power in Watts is the product of Volts and Amps (Volts x mA = Watts). For example, 40 mA at 250 volts (40 x .250) produces 10 watts per tube, and the same 40 mA at 500 volts (40 x .500) produces 20 watts. So, when considering magnetic strength, ultimately, both Gauss and Oersteds are factors. That said, I’ll keep the scope of this article to the commonly used measurement of Gauss, as such understanding provides sufficient insight into magnetic properties relating to guitar pickups.

Alnico stands for Aluminum (Al), Nickel (Ni) and Cobalt (Co). Other than Iron (which comprises about 50% of all Alnico magnets), these are the main metals used in Alnico magnets.  All grades except Alnico IV have a bit of Copper (Cu) in them too. Alnico III contains no Cobalt. Alnico IV possesses the weakest gauss of all commonly used Alnico magnets, and Alnico V has the strongest gauss. More specifically, the order of Alnico magnet gauss level from weakest to strongest is:  Alnico IV -> Alnico III -> Alnico II -> Alnico V.  This said, though rare, one can still have an Alnico V magnet that’s weaker than an Alnico II, III or or even IV magnet, because magnets are not always fully charged.  Yet, Alnico V has the capacity to hold a stronger magnetic charge than Alnico II, III or IV.

Alloy

Al %

Ni %

Co %

Cu %

Gauss

Alnico II

10

19

13

3

7500

Alnico III

12

25

-

3

7000

Alnico IV

12

28

5

-

5600

Alnico V

8

14

24

3

12800

Following is data regarding gauss meter readings on approx 80 Alnico magnets. The magnet types checked were both polished and rough cast:

Various new Alnico II pickup magnets measured at gauss levels ranging from 22 to a high of 35, with most in the 25 to 30 gauss range.  New Alnico V magnets ranged from 22 to a high of 36, with most in the 30 to 35 gauss range.  Alnico V magnets tested from older Gibson “T-top” pickups (30+ years old) all measured in the 25 to 30 gauss range, with most reading 25 to 27 gauss. So, interestingly, older “T-top” pickups show moderate gauss level readings for Alnico V.  Vintage (late ’50s thru early ’70s) Gibson pickup magnet gauss readings, on both Alnico II and V magnets, consistently averaged 25 to 30 gauss.  And, all the magnets read stronger towards one end of the magnet, which could possibly have tonal implication on magnet orientation in the pickup.

The type and strength of magnet in a pickup can have about as much impact on tone as winding resistance. All other factors being equal, a weaker magnet effects tone by lowering both output and resonant peak (perceived as a less prominent high-midrange and treble response). While, contrarily, a stronger magnet will function to increase output and raise the resonant peak.  For example, a midrange-prominent humbucker reading in the higher ranges (say 9k+) might exhibit an output approaching that of a strong single-coil pickup, if it features a relatively weak magnet. And, conversely, a bright and airy sounding humbucker pickup reading in the lower ranges (say around 7.5k) can produce output akin to a typical “hotter” wound pickup, as is sometimes experienced with Alnico V magnet pickups like the”T-top”, for instance.

Additionally, long magnets (PAF-style) are slightly punchier sounding and have better tonal definition than shorter magnets – short magnets can sometimes produce a slightly “smeared” sound. Though magnet type can compensate for this, as Alnico V’s additional output, punch and brightness balanced out the shorter magnet size Gibson used beginning 1961.  Lastly, its worth mentioning how the stud-side pickup coil actually has slightly more output than the adjustable side on a traditional humbucker. There is a direct connection to the magnet inside the pickup on the stud side, while the adjustable pole extends out the bottom of the pickup. And, there is a slight loss of magnetic field and energy out the bottom of the pickup.

Bobbins, Wire and Winding
A pickup’s treble response is related to the magnet strength interacting with the windings. Think of it as a bell curve. The more winds, the brighter the pickup gets, but only up to a certain point. After that point more winds take away treble. The stronger the magnet the more winds you can add before the treble starts to drop off. Yet, all other factors being equal, inductance increases and treble response decreases, the higher the number of winds.

Resistance is only one indication of a pickup’s overall output – it tells a lot about the actual tonal character of a pickup only when considering the magnet that is used with it. And, bobbin types are key – skinny and tall coils produce a clearer sound than short and wide coils, all other factors being equal. Also, you can have a pickup with a higher resistance that has less output if the wire gauge is thicker or magnet gauss is lower than the pickup being compared. Or, you can have one pickup that is lower resistance with higher output if the wire is smaller diameter. Additionally, with tight wound coils the wire stretches a bit, which will give a higher resistance reading, because of the additional wire length. Loose winding generates a brighter tone, because with two identically sized coils wound from the same wire, the looser coil will have fewer winds than the tight coil.

Resistance is actually measuring the length of wire used in a coil and doesn’t necessarily indicate how many turns are used, as wire thickness and bobbin sizes vary. If a pickup is longer or larger, it will have the same resistance with less output due to the lower turn count. Turn count is really what determines output, but seeing how there is no way to count turns on an already wound pickup people use resistance for output comparison.

Fewer winds will have an audible effect, because the pickup will have less inductance, which affects the frequency response – making the pickup brighter. The pickup inductance interacts with the guitar volume/tone controls, guitar cable capacitance, and amplifier input load to create an EQ network. More inductance causes more highs to be lost in this EQ circuit. This also means that resistance ‘specs’ are misleading, because the turns count is what really makes the pickup sound they way it does. Inductance itself is related to the square of the turn count, so a small error in turns becomes a large error in inductance. By winding to a resistance value, you can’t get the turns count right because you don’t know what tension other pickup makers are using. But, by winding to a specific turn count or inductance value, you stand a much better chance of winding a successful pickup.

A traditional PAF pickup uses 42 gauge plain enamel insulation wire. Then there are other types of insulation like polyurethane, which would mean the coil wire might have a different overall diameter, so not all 42 gauge wire is created equal. There are also lighter wires, such as 43 or 44 gauges. In general, thinner wire will create a more high-frequency loss than thicker wire, all other factors being equal. Interestingly, in this same coil, polyurethane and heavy-build wire usually wind to same resistance and have the same inductance, and plain enamel is noticeably higher in resistance and inductance.

If you wind two identical coils, same resistance, but one with heavy-build insulation, the heavy build insulation coil will be noticeably brighter. It’s because there’s more capacitance going on since the actual metal in the wire has more gap between wires because it’s filled with heavier insulation. So, if that’s true then theoretically a looser coil would have the same effect. Moreover, polyurethane wire facilitates a punchier tone, while plain-enamel has a more vintage tonal character.

So, if other wire factors differ, you’ll have different behaviors. For example, if the coating has a different dielectric constant or thickness, the overall parasitic capacitance will change together with inductance, which shifts the resonant peak consequently. With loose windings or wire of same AWG but thicker insulation, you’ll have a lower inductance and parasitic capacitance, so even if the number of windings stays the same, the resonant peak will be higher and the output lower.

Rating Pickups with DC Resistance
DC resistance is NOT a power rating, rather its the resistance of the wire in a pickup’s coil at zero hertz, something that only occurs when a guitar isn’t played. DC resistance specs are inadequate as sole power and tone indicators of an AC device like a pickup. Small fluctuating AC (not DC) voltages from pickups are what control outpout from an amp or plate currents of a tube. The large current flowing through the plate fluctuates with the same frequency as the small guitar pickup voltage, and the tones we love come through. An amplifier makes the small AC signal coming from your guitar pickups big enough to move a speaker cone.

If we do use DC resistance as a parameter for indicating tonal response, for one, we disregard the fact that this resistance rating is frequency dependant. Tonal output varies across the frequency spectrum. Additionally, the pure output rating of a pickup is more accurately indicated in millivolts. Millivolts could be a helpful parameter in indicating pickup output and tone if manufacturers agreed on a standard measuring method that provides such data measured at various frequencies over a wide frequency range.

Inductance is another important parameter to consider in the sonic evaluation of a pickup. Put in simplest terms, as a general rule the higher the inductance, the lower the treble response and the higher the output and midrange emphasis will be. For examples, a traditional Strat pickup has an inductance around 2.3 henry, while a Gibson PAF has an inductance around 4.4 henry, and some of the so-called “distortion” pickups have an inductance above 8.0 henry. With these comparisons, you get a basic idea of this quality.

So, several important factors can to be considered to more accurately speculate the tone and output of a pickup – tone and output depend mainly on the relation between magnetic strength, wiring resistance and the resulting inductance of a pickup. And, don’t forget the relation between the inductance of the pickup and the capacitance of guitar cables and effects. Guitar cable capacitance especially impacts frequency response and output.

Pickup Cover Effects
Pickup cover types are another important aspect of tonal influence. Contrary to popular conception, it’s not so much whether you use covered or uncovered pickups that makes the most tonal difference. Nor, does the type of plating on a given cover make any considerable difference. Rather, what is most crucial to a pickup’s tone is two things: the exact metal or alloy a pickup cover is made of and the cover base thickness.

Solid-brass covers are usually the worst in terms of transparency and loss of high-end. Solid nickel-silver is the most transparent cover alloy, and it retains highs best. Yet, covers that are too thick (even nickel-silver) can impact tone as negatively as brass covers even. Specific covers to avoid are brass, too thick nickel-silver and cheap alloys in general, as varying compositions of metal alloy effects tone differently.

So, a quality nickel-silver cover that isn’t too thick will not exhibit tonal degradation compared to an uncovered pickup. Any competent pickup maker will know if the covers on their humbuckers are quality nickel-silver of moderate thickness, so be sure to ask when purchasing aftermarket pickups.

Other Factors Influencing Pickup Tone
The electric guitar is still fundamentally an acoustic instrument. And, any given pickup responds very differently to each and every guitar model. The wood (or other materials) of a guitar absorbs some frequencies and resonates others. And, a pickup only picks up the frequencies and levels that a string is generating. So, for instance, if you have a guitar that absorbs frequencies most readily between 200 and 500 Hz, you will likely have thinner sounding treble strings, than if the guitar absorbed higher range frequencies. If your guitar resonated well between the previously mentioned frequencies, it would facilitate beefier treble string response. Additionally, guitars that are more resonant allow you to use a lower output, brighter pickup and still get the same volume.

Last but not least, it is every player’s unique articulation and musicality that ultimately impacts a listener’s perception of tone. As intangible as this aspect is, every players unique touch is a crucial factor influencing tonal perception. Not convinced? I ask you this then: How many have heard mediocre players playing through the finest “holy grail” gear, whether live or on the internet, only to be left unmoved by the tone. And, conversely, how many have listened to recordings of brilliant players playing through something like a $50 battery-powered Pignose amp (as used on Derek and the Dominos’ Layla album, for instance), only to be left amazed at the tone achieved? I’ve experienced this phenomenon countless times – it’s the magic alchemy tone and musicianship.

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34 comments

  1. I have been in the musical instrument and parts business for 40 years and have replaced numerous pickups. I have come across a Gibson T Top Pickup that I replaced in a guitar years ago but cannot remember which guitar I took it out of. I have been researching but cannot find answers to my questions I have about it. I came across this site. I read all of your information which is very informative but I’m still a little confused on which way the T’s are supposed to be pointing. Here are my questions and I hope you can help.

    1. Which direction should the T’s be pointing? I have another gibson T top pickup which is a 1980 but the T’s are pointing opposite of each other. The pickup in question has a crome cover which I removed trying to identify it, the T’s point in the same direction, it has a patent number sticker 2737842, it has white and black leads, L tool markings on feet, slotted screws on base, the magnet measures 2 5/16 in length and is 7.77K.

    2. Could you help me narrow this down to the closest possible date . I am trying to sell it but do not want to give out incorrect information to interested parties.

    Any help you can give would be greatly appreciated!
    Thank you in advance
    John

  2. Very good article, thank you! I will be having a dilemma of a kind shortly, my brother, for reasons unknown to me, perhaps me rewriting my will in his favour, has decided to give me one of his old guitars, a tobacco Gibson 335TD, circa 1973… BUT he has explained to me that years ago, on the advice of a guitar tech, (sic) that a fair amount of wraps should be taken off the front pick up to “give it some more tone”, obviously it ruined the pickup, and it was dutifully replaced by a Ibanez of some form, and sounded suitably pitiful… So, my challenge is to replace said ghastly neck pickup with a hopefully original vintage one, or I guess alternately a re issue of the original.. I have emailed Gibson, but have yet to receive a answer.. anyone suggest somewhere else to look? I haven’t seen the guitar for several years but if I remember, it was the usual looking Humbucker with the chrome cover….

    • Hello, Steve. Thanks for your words of appreciation. I understand where the tech was coming from, in theory only – I would never recommend such a mod. In theory less winds brings about more fidelity and transparency to pickup tone, though there is a lot more at play than winding length in the dynamics of pickup construction, as you experienced. There are some absolutely amazing sounding pickups on the market at present, made by aftermarket boutique pickup companies. This aftermarket movement really took off a decade or so ago. Such modern-day pickup makers strive to reproduce vintage spec pickups in every imaginable detail, and that is the route I recommend that you take to get your guitar’s tone back. Buying vintage can produce good results too, and markets like eBay are full of such. However, if you are not expert in your understanding of pickups, you can be easily taken advantage of, while paying several times the price of a new modern-day boutique pickup – and great tone results are absolutely not guaranteed with vintage pickups either. There are quite of few great makers out there, though I think I would start with Throbak Electronics You essentially can’t lose with them, and that company will be a great starting point to learn about other vintage-replica pickup makers too, if you’re inclined. And, don’t worry about Gibson not get back to you, they can’t help with your search. Yet, I have to say that even some of the modern-day vintage replica pickups of Gibson sound excellent. Good luck. -Mike

      • G’day again Mike.. Thank you for such a detailed and insightful reply, it’s a delight to read.. I took a look at the Throbak site and their work is excellent and I did get a reply from Gibson.. they suggested that a 57 Classic from their collection, so that was nice of them..
        I would never insult such a fine instrument with some cheap aftermarket pickup, as I mentioned, the superlative would be to obtain a original year and model, but the reality is I will have to consider a high end aftermarket.
        A brief story about the guitar tech that removed some of the windings from the neck pick up in the first place, he was no mug,
        Dave Vidal used to work for Red Rhodes at this shop in Los Angeles and worked on some of the top 60-70’s star’s guitars before he moved up to Vancouver, Canada where I first met him. he worked as in house tech for a large music shop and did repairs and set ups at home, his work on my Telecaster and Rickenbacker 360 was amazing and did really good old Fender amp mods.
        My brother mentioned to me that Dave still lives in Vancouver, working on guitars but getting a bit eccentric in his old age, not that’s a bad thing, where would be be without them.. got to keep thinking outside the box!
        Thanks again, mate, all the best to you

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  4. You have a great deal of knowledge on pickups so I have 2 questions:

    1. Experimenting with guitars is an expensive business — rather than moving vintage pickups around, is there a inexpensive copy (chinese or korean?)that duplicates the performance of a good humbucker?

    2. I’m thinking of “hiding” the pickups under 1/8″ of wood and letting the poles protrude. Is a long pole feasible and how would it affect the performance?

  5. Really great comments about pickup magnetic flux and power. I was going to write an article on my own site about it but you took the words right out of my mouth.. I refurbish mid 80’s MIJ Fender’s. My recent projects have taken me to the Fujigen Graco les paul copies… I was thinking about putting in Gold Gibson cover embossed black sticker 2,737,842 humbuckers in.. I really am not a pickup guy but will be offering someone in papatoms vender picks off the home page side menu bar. Can you tell me something about these Humbuckers… They are brand new old pups that someone who worked for Gibson got back in the day and never used them… thank you papatom/stratconnection.com

    • Recently and about 4 years ago I ran into the Tim Shaw dilemma between the stamped dates and code numbers. Some say earlier Gibson T top or dirty finger Shaws have Dates while newer Humbuckers have code numbers. This has caused quite an controversy amongst pickup enthusiasts while some are yelling Fraud to the dated ones the dated sided pickup gender is saying codes are false. I found that both were right according to year. But the one thing that through me is the Zebra 1980 Tim Shaw Dirty Fingers Humbuckers with double vinyl stainless steel braided wiring coming out of two holes on the same side of the Humbucker. One lead and the ground on both making it a four wire. While I have an earlier Tim Shaw T top dated Sept. 1979 stamped over the embedded PAF number with a Vinyl covered 4 wire coming out the back. Why would Gibson do that. And I’m a little suspicious about the Zebra double wire? Can you give some light on this for us.. thank you.. rock on…

  6. Hello,

    I have a bit of a problem here.
    I have a Gibson RD standard 1978 wich has microphonic humbuckers, it’s really impossible to play the guitar at higher volumes! When I pull out the pickups it’s gone.
    These humbuckers are epoxy filled and I always thought it would be impossible to be microphonic then!
    They sure look to be original ( solder looks old but maybe they’re swpped a long time ago). I have no nor can I find something ( pictures) on the internet for comparison.
    They read 15,34 on my ohm meter.That seems to be very much to me and maybe is the reason of the anoying feedback?
    Greetings from rainy Belgium,

    Toon.

  7. Great info – Thanks! I put a link up on my links page back to this article. I will definetly be referring to it.

    About a year ago, a friend gave me an old Gibson Melody Maker that someone tried to put early 60’s Patent Number humbuckers in. They were unsucessful, and gave up. My friend then found it sitting in a barn. I was able to rebuild the area around the pickups to properly mount them and re-assemble the electronics – What a sweet sounding guitar!

    Again thanks, this is quite a wealth of information about Gibson pickups.

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  9. Recently purchased a japanese guitar for its T-Top pickups for my SG. These Ts have a “S” stamp(no decal) into the back of the pickups,they measured 8.66 8.44. really hot!..but awesome tone.They also have a black ribbon wrap around the coils..Any idea what T version these are?…Great info site!….Thanks…Xavier.

  10. Hi, i am interested in purchasing a ’74 20th Anniversary LP Custom.

    I asked the dealer to take a look at the pickups, he said he didnt want to risk taking the covers off to see if they were T-Tops, but he did look at the back plates and found the following:

    The Bridge only has ‘Gibson’ embossed on the backplate – Is this a T-Top?

    The Neck has the code ‘2737 842′ on the backplate – again, would this be an original T-Top?

    And also, would you reccommend i have the covers taken off to try and verify that they are T-Tops? Ive heard that some are stamped and some are stickered, is it the ‘T’ itself that is stickered or stamped?

    Thanks

    Chris

  11. Hi Mike, I’ve wound a humbucker with 5k DCR and A5 mag, I wanted the output to be more in line with single coil pickups which is exactly how it turned out but the thing is lacking in top end, what can I do to put some sparkle into it, Ceramic mag?

  12. i have come across quite a few gibson pat. no. metal stamped bridge humbuckers of the early 90’s which reads from 13-15k. They’re quite similar to the later Tim Shaws of 86-87 except that it has a letter “L” engraved below the pat. no. closer to the bottom edge. Do you know what they are? Ceramics? thanks.

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  14. Just picked up an 84 SG standard and wondered the odds on stock or shaw. going to use the above info and replies but wondered if you had since had other thoughts or info. Have great Holidays to you and yours and thanks,

    Dave P

  15. your info about vintage gibson HB specs @ the beginning of this page is very helpful. But what about the pickups from 1980 to present? i would like to know more about the tim shaws, HB-r/HB-L, dirty fingers, 5 classics, etc. are you going to write more about these anytime soon? Thanks — Manny

  16. I have seen a T-Top pickup I’m interested in buying & it has 334 184 ink stamped on the back, the seller doesn’t know what it means. Can you enlighten me? Regards, Paul.

    • Ink stampings can appear on late T-top era pickups, but only as literal date stamps (i.e. June 10 1978), not 6 digit codes. 6 digit code ink stamped Gibson pickups indicate early-’80s era, not T-top.

      Gibson stock P490 and Gibson Tim Shaw pickups both used 6 or 7 digit ink codes ’80 thru ’85. So, a pickup stamped “334 184″ is either a stock P490 or a Shaw model pickup produced Jan 1984 (184).

      P490’s were Gibson’s stock pickups replacing T-tops in 1980. Tim Shaw pickups were specially commissioned in 1980 when Gibson asked Shaw to re-create vintage PAF tone – Gibson’s first attempt at a PAF re-make, installed on various high-end Gibsons 1980 thru 1987 and usually measuring 7.2 – 7.5k.

      Be careful when purchasing used pickups. Misrepresentation of vintage Gibson pickups ocurrs frequently.

      -Mike D

  17. The T-Tops have long gone before I got the guitar. I’m in the process off getting it in order. Many thanks for your advice. Regards, Paul.

    • Glad to be able to help, Paul. That’s what I figured regarding the stock T-tops. From what I’ve read, it was absurdly common for Les Paul owners to yank out their stock T-tops between the mid-’70s and mid-’80s with pickups like DiMarzio, because they wanted the extra output and sustain such pickups as those provide. However, such mods came at the expense of Tone in my opinion.

      -Mike D

  18. Hi, I am looking to buy a T-Top pick up for my 76 Les Paul Custom. I understand they should read 7.5k ohms. I have seen some for sale & they read out at 7.22 or 7.3k ohms. Are these pickups ok? Many thanks, Paul.

    • 7.5k is just the median average reading for “T-tops”. +/- .5k from the median 7.5k reading is common. I’m confident those pickups should sound absolutely fantastic.

      Btw, are you sure you don’t have “T-tops” already installed in your ’76 LP or were they swapped out years ago? Just want to make sure for you. The Gibson era T-tops were stock is ’67 thru ’79.

      -Mike D

  19. Very helpful information. So if I have a bridge humucker with each bobbin wound to 5000 wraps for 7.5K Ohms and neck with each bobbin at 4500 wraps for 6.8K ohms, how would you suggest trimming of the adjustable pole pieces to effect the most tonal options using the selector switch and typical 500K pot with 0.22 uF tone capacitor. Would it be best to trim both or maybe either the neclk or bridge Pup? I have some time to kick this around, since my Gibson Vintage tuner heads for my LP knock off I am building are on back order.

    • If you want to try one at a time, that is a good idea, which I recommend – you may likely find a really interesting middle tone in particular. I have heard fantastic middle position tones from Les Pauls with strong neck position humbuckers combined with low ohm (as yours’ is) Alnico 5 bridge humbuckers. And, you can always go back and perform the mod to the bridge pickup too afterwards, should you decide too. You’ll learn a lot more about the tonal differences this way as well.

      -Mike D

  20. I have built my own humbuckers (#42 wire, 4500w = 6.8K, 5000w = 7.5K) from the Stew-Mac kit. I heard that triming the pole adjust screw lengths, to leave less below the bottom of the base plate, can also affect the output and tone of the pickup. Would this really affect the overall magnetics of the pickup and hence it’s tone or output?

    • Hi, Wayne. Using shorter adjustable screw coil side polepieces (or cutting length off the bottom of poles) on a humbucker helps each individual polepiece more directly and effeciently conduct magnetic field to each string, since there is less loss of magnetic field out the bottom of the polepieces. So, overall, trimming pole lengths creates slightly stronger output. Frequency response should not change perceptibly, though you might notice a bit more midrange response. The main signficant difference is the slight increase in pure output shorter poles will produce, all other factors being equal.

      -Mike D

  21. i have a 1976 les paul custom (thinkp peter framtom 3 pup black beauty)almost 14 pounds (pancake) I love it, low action, but very resoonsivem no buzz, the t-top pickups have the warmest cleans i have ever heard, and scorching rhythm and leads, tone from hell, but my question is the guitar has been sitting around for 20 years before i bought it of ebay 3 months ago, do pick ups lose strenth … demagnatize? if so can i have that fixed? thanks

    • 14 pounds – that’s a Beast, but not uncommon during Gibson’s ’70s Norlin era. Anyway, its 4 pounds heavier than any Les Paul I’ve ever owned. Sounds like a great guitar – those 3 pickup LP’s have an incredibly characterful middle position tone – almost out-of-phase toned, though it is indeed wired in phase stock. And, T-tops are my favorite Gibson pickup era – even beyond PAF.

      To answer your question, you have nothing to worry about regarding losing magnetic strength over decades of age – its a common misconception that pickups naturally degauss over years. Also, pickup magnets can indeed be recharged, if needed, but again, it is not something that ever needs to be done with guitar pickups that are used in normal circumstances. It’s extremely rare for a pickup magnet to become degaussed to any perceptible degree. Enjoy your guitar!

      -Mike D

  22. Incredibly informative. Thank you for posting this. I have been looking for information on how components affect the tone of pickups and this page is perfect.

    • Well thanks much for voicing your appreciation, George. I just recently created Musical Illuminism hoping people like you would indeed find my posts informative. Glad to read your comment!

      -Mike D


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