Pickups: How much difference do they actually make? - Jemsite
Pickups & wiring Discussion about pickup types, replacements, recomendations, switching, wiring diagrams and sustainer systems for ANY guitar, JEMs included.

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post #1 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-22-2008, 08:54 PM Thread Starter
 
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Pickups: How much difference do they actually make?

Okay, So I bought a Steve's Special to replace the PAF pro in the bridge of my RGT3120. Now, I was under the impression that while the PAF pro is a great pickup, it's less than ideal for gain-soaked metal riffage. Being in a metal band, I thought I'd better order a higher output pickup to replace it when the guitar arrived. Now, the guitar is here and I've been playing it for about a week and haven't installed the SS yet. I wanted to give the PAF pro a fair test before I made the decision to swap it out.

I am used to using an Evo at the bridge, which is a high output pickup just like the SS, so I thought it would be almost certain that the sound of the PAF pro would be different enough for me to decide to switch. Well, through my tube amp I was initially impressed by the output of the PAF pro but since I can't really A/B anything, I guessed I was probably getting a less full-on sound than I was used to, even if it is kinda subtle.

Well, today I was trying out a new riff with a backing track and thought it might be fun to record the exact same thing with the exact same settings on the PODxt first with the RGT3120 with the PAF pros and then with the RGR320DX with the Evos. The only other variables here are the guitars themselves (basswood vs mahogany/maple, thru-neck vs bolt-on) and the age of the strings.

Well, to my suprise both recordings sounded exactly the same. Dispite the apparently fairly great difference in pickup output, I could not tell a single bit of difference. So I thought I'd put it to the discerning ears of the members of Jemsite to decide:

Exhibit A: PAF Pro Riff

Exhibit B: Evo Riff

I realise that this was recorded with a digital amp simulator and a fair amount of gain, but seriously? The thing is, I swear I've noticed differences in tone and output between the Evo at the neck of one of my RGs and the PAF pro at the neck of another, both through the GH50 and PODxt.

It makes me think; should I bother changing pickups at all? Does it really make any difference when using a distorted tone?
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post #2 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-22-2008, 08:57 PM
 
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Re: Pickups: How much difference do they actually make?

The EVO sounds a little more aggressive... little "sharper" punch to it. Very different, no, noticeable, yes.
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post #3 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-22-2008, 09:18 PM Thread Starter
 
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Re: Pickups: How much difference do they actually make?

I'm listening, but I just can't hear it. I feel the first clip is a touch brighter but that could equally be down to the newer strings and maple in the guitar.

I also played better on the second recording, since it's double tracked that might give the impression of it being punchier. I don't know... I hope someone can convince me 'cause I'm looking for an excuse to put the SS in!
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post #4 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-22-2008, 10:08 PM
 
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Re: Pickups: How much difference do they actually make?

There's a definite difference between these two pups. The SS is...different. It's very clear and articulate pickup compared to the Evo and PAF.
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post #5 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-22-2008, 10:27 PM Thread Starter
 
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Re: Pickups: How much difference do they actually make?

Clarity is certainly what I'm after, since I often play extended chords with distortion where they can easily get muddy.

What differences did you notice, exactly?
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post #6 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-22-2008, 10:44 PM
 
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Re: Pickups: How much difference do they actually make?

In my experience, the Evo is very easy to manipulate and play compared to the SS. Basically, you need to really be able to play the guitar to use the SS. I honestly can't put it into better words. It lacks saturation in ways, but has its own sound. It's an amazing pickup.
Check some of the other threads around here -- I'm sure someone a better description of the SS.
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post #7 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-22-2008, 11:00 PM Thread Starter
 
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Re: Pickups: How much difference do they actually make?

I meant between the two clips.

I know what you mean though, I am very familliar with the sound of the SS, it's the same pickup Jani Liimatainen used in Sonata Arctica. Of whom I happen to be a massive fan, and my band plays a similar style. I believe he copied it from John Petrucci, who's tone I also admire.

I suppose there's more to a pickup to be considered than just playing it at full-tilt. According to the Dimarzio website, the SS responds better to rolling off the volume which is a plus since I use a one channel amp. I just thought that if I recorded the exact same thing so I could listen side-by-side, there would be a noticable difference in tone.

Comments on the riff are also welcome. It's part of a song I'm writing called 'Violet Sky'.
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post #8 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-23-2008, 02:38 PM
 
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Re: Pickups: How much difference do they actually make?

Don't use computer recordings as a basis for said experiment. Although you will notice differences, they will be so subtle as to not give an accurate depiction of the true nature of the pickups. My computer can make my Fender Hot Noiseless pickups sound more PAF-y than normal PAFs (and anyone who knows me knows that I don't like PAF tone).

Another factor to take in to account is that the Evolution and PAF Pro, although quite different, will have much more similarities than a PAF Pro and a Steve's Special. IMHO, the Steve's Special is a great pickup, much cleaner and better voiced. I like the mid scoop (and I'm not a metalhead... okay I like metal but I spend a minimal fraction of my time playing/listening to metal). I'm also a big fan of single coil tone, so that could explain that.

The only way you can be certain of everything is to test it. Your rig will be pretty unique to how you play/use everything else, each little thing will affect the tone.


On the original topic, I personally can say that pickups make a VERY significant difference in tone and sound. I swapped out my standard Fender pickups for the Hot Noiseless, and the Hot Noiseless set gave new life to my strat. Really quite amazing what they did.

Anyway, try the Steve's Special. You'll see the difference.
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post #9 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-23-2008, 03:07 PM
 
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Re: Pickups: How much difference do they actually make?

well as to is there a diference ? well yea there is to my ear anyhow the riff 1 track has "somethink more" to it i love that tone it seems slightly thicker and better than the tone in riff 2 thats to my ear anyhow and thats the answer to your question go with what "you" think sounds the best over any pickup one mans love is anothers hate "btw is riff one done with a paf pro cus if so i goto change my evo's

Edit "is there much difrence between the two rg's used because that might have somethink to do with the tone to my ear"
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post #10 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-23-2008, 04:12 PM
 
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Re: Pickups: How much difference do they actually make?

http://ultimate-guitar.com/columns/g...kup_lines.html

there's an article I wrote a while back, you might want to read it.
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post #11 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-23-2008, 05:41 PM
 
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Re: Pickups: How much difference do they actually make?

totally agree with cityofblindinglights. a computer recording is way different than what you hear live with your ear. things like compression, loss of certain frequencies and loss of picking articulation come to mind. all 3 of those pickups sound quite a bit different, but use your ear to decide. another thing to keep in mind is that distortion has a tendency (to a certain extent) to make all pickups sound the same since the natural tone is being, well, distorted. the more you add on, the more difficult it will be to discern between 2 pickups.
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post #12 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-23-2008, 08:52 PM
 
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Re: Pickups: How much difference do they actually make?

Wildchild, I think I hear what you hear. Not a bunch of difference. The Evo was a touch brighter, but hinestly not enough to make a difference EQ couldn't.

I don't know how conclusive this experiment is, but I didn't hear much of a difference.
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post #13 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-24-2008, 12:09 AM
 
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Re: Pickups: How much difference do they actually make?

I didn't get to listen to the clips yet, but you cannot compare 2 guitars, 2 diff pickups, or 2 ANYTHING when running through a pod. def have to try it on a good tube amp
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post #14 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-24-2008, 12:42 AM
 
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Re: Pickups: How much difference do they actually make?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wild_Child
Well, today I was trying out a new riff with a backing track and thought it might be fun to record the exact same thing with the exact same settings on the PODxt first with the RGT3120 with the PAF pros and then with the RGR320DX with the Evos.
there's the root of the problem... this is why we love tube amps; it's not the pickups. I heard the clips and there's not a whole lot of difference, at all... you sure you didn't save the same song with a different name?
On a similar note, I actually got to hear the Paf Pro bridge through my ENGL 530/2:90 setup before the Evo was installed and I was surprised how well the Paf Pro's handled; it just wasn't hi-gain enough for my tastes but it boggled the hell out of me cause the Paf Pro sounded like a D-Sonic at low volumes then I cranked up the volume and heard their differences.
Just install the SS.... installing pickups shouldn't take longer than 15 minutes; that is if you're comfortable with taking the axe apart and DIY.

Reg
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post #15 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-24-2008, 01:34 AM Thread Starter
 
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Re: Pickups: How much difference do they actually make?

Well that's the thing.. they don't sound much different through my GH50 either.

But I'm 100% with the "DO IT. DO IIIIIT!" point of view. I mean, I have the soldering iron right here.

I have changed loads of pickups in dozens of guitars before, but it's mostly been on the pure faith that they'll give me the sound I'm after. It's just not something I've given serious thought to before. I've always been in the mindset that different pickups sound ...well, different. After this little experiment, maybe I'm starting to think that this 'sound' I'm after is whatever I want it to be, and I'm just hearing in any given pickup whatever I had been hoping for.

Then again, I would say the worst that could happen is that I want to put the PAF Pro back in but really... the worst that could happen is that I hear no difference. And really, that just puts me in exactly the same position. I mean, the pickups even look exactly the same!

When I'm done, I'll post riff #3.. the steve's special version!
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backing track , distorted tone , john petrucci , noiseless pickups , output pickup , paf pro , paf pros , tube amp , tube amps

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