Hi all, Well Iíve finished up my experiments on the INF2 pickup. I must say I had fun doing these magnet swaps and hearing first-hand how the magnets effect tone. I will be doing the same experiments with the rest of the INF series pickups (INF1, INF3, & INF4). Weíll get to the results in a bit but first I want to give some background on what sparked this experiment and how everything was set up
Iíve been building guitars for about 10 years now but mostly focused on the guitar construction and not much on pickups other than just installing the ones I liked. I spent a lot of time pondering over which pickups I like, what I want to install in what guitar, etc, etc. At one point it occurred to me why donít I have a go at making my own pickups? I did my homework, researching everything on construction methods, how different components affect tone, magnet types, the whole nine yards. Well I gained a bunch of knowledge but never got around to putting it to good use. You know how it is; life gets in the way of the fun stuff. After re-reading LonePhantomís discussion on his experiments with swapping magnets on the V7 & V8 pickups I got the bug again. I have a box of pickups lying around and decided to pick one and do my own experiments. I figured magnet swapping would be a good precursor to making a pickup from scratch when I get around to it.
Experiment background & set up:
Digging in my box of random pickups I found an INF2. I thought this would be a good one to start with since itís a pretty common stock pickup in many Ibanez guitars. Also others could benefit from my tinkering as the most common review on the INF series is that they get the job done but are a little bland and underwhelming. An easy magnet swap could breathe new life into these things.
I got online and found AddictionFX on the Bay of e and ordered an assortment of magnets. I ended up getting at least one of each type they offered; A2, A3, A4, A5, UOA5, A6, A8, A9, & ceramic. All magnets are rough cast with the exception of the ceramic and stock A5 which are polished. All the magnets I ordered also measure 2.5Ēx.5Ēx.125Ē. After doing my first magnet swap I tried recording a sound sample through my BlueVoodoo 150 amp but that didnít work out well. For some reason the recording had this reverb/echo thing going on that sounded like I was playing trough a tin can. I switched to my Line 6 TonePort thing plugged straight into the computer. I used the Gearbox amp modeling software and Audacity recording software. In Gearbox the amp model I used is called 2001 Treadplate DualÖ whatever that means; I think itís an American style high gain amp model. Anyway it had a good base sound to start with. All settings were kept the same throughout. I set everything on the EQ pretty flat all at about the 1 oíclock position. Drive & volume were set at around 3/4 up at the 3 oíclock position. The guitar used was a basswood V style body, maple neck with rosewood fingerboard, and upgraded hardware and electronics. As for pickup height I kept it as consistent as possible. I will mention here that changes in tone with different magnets were more apparent through the BlueVoodoo than the computer software but you can still hear the differences in the recordings. Now on to the good part, the results.
Iíll be giving a description of how I heard the tonal differences. Iíll also try to quantify the differences on a scale of 1 to 10 with 5 being the midpoint having no boos or cut; for example Bass=5, Mid =3, High=6. These quantifications will be based on my best guess / opinion and not based on any data as I donít have any equipment for measuring frequencies. Also keep in mind that tone is subjective and these are my opinions, so my thought may differ from yours. If you do have a different opinion please share with the rest of us. Of course Iíll provide a link to sound clips, just excuse the generic riffing and sloppy playing LOL
Hereís a link to the sound clips of each magnet:
Alnico 2 Ė Low=5.5, Mid=7, High=5.5, Output=Moderate. Really nice mids, lows are pretty tight and rounded highs. It gives the pickup a really nice crunch tone with a lower vintage output. It reminds me of a PAF style pickup. Overall I say it's a good fit for that crunchy classic rock rhythm sound.
Alnico 3 Ė Low=5.5, Mid=6, High=6, Output=Moderate. Similar to the Alnico 2 in output. It has about the same low end as the A2 but with a little less mids and a bit more highs. Itís also somewhat comparable to a ceramic magnet but with less output. This I think would work well for playing classic rock lead guitar.
Alnico 4 Ė Low=5, Mid=5, High=5, Output=High. This one seemed to be pretty flat across the board, no real boost or cut in any of the frequencies. Has more output than the A2 or A3 but not quite as much as the A8. Not quite sure of the best application for this one, maybe if you have a really nice amp and want to shape your time with that instead of the pickup
Alnico 5 Ė Low=7, Mid=3.5, High=7, Output=Moderate. This oneís the stock magnet and overall sounds kind of blah. It does have that scooped mids metal tone but just doesnít have the drive behind it to really be used for heavy metal. The output is more vintage and the tone is more metal and they just donít work well together.
Un-oriented Alnico 5 Ė Low=7, Mid=3.5, High=7, Output=High. If youíre going for that scooped mids, high output metal tone this is where itís at. It has the same EQ as the stock A5 magnet and has the drive behind it to make it perfect for that chunky heavy metal rhythm sound.
Alnico 6 Ė Low=7, Mid=5.5, High=5.5, Output=High. I found this one to be kind of dark, not quite in the mud category but itís at least pulling into the driveway. The output Is good, similar to the A4 and UOA5. Still havenít figured out a good application for this one, maybe black metal. Actually it reminds me of if you put a bridge pickup in the neck position.
Alnico 8 Ė Low=6, Mid=7, High=6, Output=High. This one is an Alnico 2 on steroids. Great mids, tight bass & rounded highs. The tone is very similar to the A2 but with more modern/high output. It turns the INF2 pickup into a real beast. This would be perfect for those chunky heavy metal rhythm riffs. By far this one is my favorite.
Alnico 9 Ė Low=6, Mid=7, High=7, Output=High. Iíd call this one a cross between the Alnico 8 & ceramic magnets. It has the low and mid response of the Alnico 8 along with the output combined with the nice highs of the ceramic. I think this would be perfect for balls to the walls high gain metal shredding.
Ceramic Ė Low=6, Mid=5, High=7, Output=High. Nice and bright with tight lows and moderate mids but not scooped mids. It keeps its articulation with high gain. The output is high but not as high as the stronger Alnico 8 or 9 magnets. Itís your typical high gain lead sound but will also work well for rhythm.
I think any of these magnets would be an improvement over the stock Alnico 5 magnet. Personally I like the Alnico 8 the best. The one that works best for you will all depend on the tone youíre after. Let me know what you all think of everything. Which one is your favorite?