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Pickup Resistance Part 2

Here's a "long magnet" which means it's probably alnico 2. A short magnet looks pretty much identical except that its, uh, shorter by around 1/4". And it would be made of alnico 5 which makes a stronger magnet. Thanks to Kim LeFleur at Vintage Checkout, my favorite parts store, for the photo. Let's give him a link, shall we?

When I was single, I was kind of shy when it came to picking up girls. I’d see an attractive woman, say, at a bar, and I would agonize about what I could say that would be pithy and impressive enough to make said young woman take an interest in me. It hardly ever worked and you could call it…you guessed it…pickup resistance. But were not talking about that either. We talked about the DC resistance of a pickup and the variations in the windings. These have a lot to do with what a pickup sounds like but there is one other component that comes into play. I’ve done my own experimentation withe pickup magnets and I have to say that the differences are pretty small. I have a pretty good set of ears and I can hear a difference between various magnets but it really gets buried by the time you’ve cranked your amp up to eardrum splitting levels. The differences are subtle. ¬†Gibson, according to the usual sources used all sorts of magnets in PAFs and Patent number pickups but all of them were the AlNiCo type. AlNiCo is a metal made from Aluminum, Nickel and Cobalt-hence the name. Alnico magnets are designated 2,3,4 and 5. the higher the number, the stronger the magnet. The vaunted “long magnet” PAFs would likely be Alnico 2. The sometimes disparaged “short magnet” PAFs are Alnico 5. I couldn’t tell you when Gibson used Alnico 3 and 4 but the experts say they did, so I won’t argue the point. I had an 59 ES 345 that I liked to use for swapping pickups. The Varitone was removed but the circuit was still stereo. I decided to see what difference the magnet makes in the tone. The DC resistance of the pickup I was using as my guinea pig was 8.05 and was a long magnet PAF from 1959. Since the cover had already been opened, I was able to swap magnets without hurting the value of the pickup. Don’t go unsoldering covers unless you have a really good reason-like the pickup is broken. The pickup was well balanced, had nice high end bite and strong mids. The bottom was a little light. I pulled the Alnico 2 long magnet and dropped in a short magnet. The DC resistance dropped to 8.00 although I’m not sure I understand why because it shouldn’t have. The pickup sounded almost identical. If anything, it sounded a little brighter and thats it. Not much difference. Then I dropped in a magnet from an ’80s Shaw PAF. It was as long as a “long magnet” but wasn’t rough-it was smooth on all sides. This one sounded different. It was darker and less articulate (defined). I would call it muddier. The trouble is, I don’t know what kind of magnet it was. What I take away from this is, first-I need to do more research because doing this once is really inconclusive. Second, it seems that the strength of the magnet is the key more than the Alnico 2 vs Alnico 5 thing. I don’t know how to measure the “power” of a magnet but I’m guessing the first 2 were virtually identical while the third one, from the Shaw, was different-either more powerful or less. What I take away is that the debate between long magnet and short magnet PAFs has less to do with the magnets and more to do with the increased level of consistency in the later short magnet PAF and the identical Patent number pickups that followed the short magnet PAF. The magic, it seems, isn’t in the magnet.

2 Responses to “Pickup Resistance Part 2”

  1. Richard Lecoeur says:

    I discovered your website recently and there are some interesting things , thanks !
    I would like to ask you a question as i’m quite interested in all your articles , loving PAF and actualy looking for a 335 or 345 .
    You seem to say magnet doesn’t make a difference but in you article above , you say you heard a difference using the Tim Shaw magnet , the sound became muddier , less articulate , so i guess if you hear a difference it’s that there is a difference isn’t it (even if the PAF secret doesn’t live only in the magnet but other aspects are important as well ) ! lol
    Also , i think the 8.05 to 8.0 reistence reading might be simply due to temperature differences .

  2. OK Guitars says:

    Lots of pickup myths out there. Shaws usually sound a little muddy due to the 300K pots they used during the era. I’ve swapped dozens of magnet and don’t hear much difference. I don’t think the magnet is the element that makes a paf a PAF. I’m not an expert in electronics, so everything I say is on practical knowledge and not theory. If you’re lookinh for a 335/345, feel free to email me at okguitars@gmail.com and I’ll see what I can come up with for you.

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