Picking A Pickup
Choosing a pickup for your guitar and bass can be a confusing task. We'd provided this page to help make it a little easier.
All pickups essentially work the same way: magnets are arranged under the strings of your guitar or bass, and these magnets have wires wrapped around them. This creates a magnetic field around your strings, and when the strings vibrate, that vibration is converted to voltage and sent through the internal circuitry of the instrument and out to an amplifier. The arrangement of magnets and wire wrappings is known as a "coil". These coils can be arranged in several different ways to provide differnent sounds and voltages.
The more windings of wire, the more voltage or "hotter" the output. The hotter the output, the more distortion of the sound- not a bad distortion, mind you. Conversely, the lower the output, the cleaner the sound. There is a delicate balance that needs to be taken care of to acheive proper balance. Other things like the types and sizes of magnets, type of wire used and the pattern of winding also have a lot to do with the sound. We've done a ton of research in live and studio environments to find that balance.
With all that in mind, there's really only two types of pickups- Humbuckers and Non-Humbuckers. A Humbucking pickup is designed to have the coils arranged to be polar opposites, which results in decreased extra noise and hum- it literally "bucks the hum". Humbucking pickups have less noise, but the top end of their frequency response has a little less "sheen" to them and tend to be a little darker sounding. A non-humbucker usually has more top end response, but can be prone to RF and produce more noise.
When Leo Fender first produced the Precision Bass in 1951, it came with a single coil pickup, which is a non-humbucking pickup. The sound of it was amazingly clear and full, but it did produce a little buzz from time to time. This pickup, the SCPB (Single Coil Precision Bass) was a game changer, but Leo's next generation pickup in 1957 was even better- it had two coils that opposed each other and rejected buzz. The sound of the humbucker had a more pronounced low-mid character, and that sound became the sound of many of the greatest recorded bass players of all time, like James Jamerson, Bob Babbitt, Carol Kaye and Bob Glaub.
In recent years, pickup manufacturers have figured out how to make pickups that look like a non-humbucker but actually do perform like one. These are things like Split Coils, Stacked Coils, Dual and Quad Coils. Guitar and bass manufacturers have adopted these newer hybrids as standard offerings. New shapes like the Soapbar styles of manufacturers from EMG and Bartolini round out the set of options for bass players, while guitarists still have Single Coils, Humbuckers and the ubiqutous P90 styles. And, with the advent of active onboard preamps, the tonal varieties became myriad.
At Honey Badger Pickups, we firmly believe that the sound of the pickup is absolutely the most essential item in any guitar or bass to give it tone. Preamps and tone circuits are great things, but the pickup should sound great, even if it's wired directly to the jack of your instrument. The result of this is a more superior and consistently great sounding axe- one that we feel you won't be able to put down once you hear it.