Understanding some basic characteristics of guitar pickup components, such as magnet types and DC
resistance, may help one narrow their search within the wide variety of
pickups available. There are many other aspects that can help
determine a pickup's overall sound, but the following information should help in making an informed decision.
- Warmer sounding with less magnetic pull to allow the strings to
vibrate more freely. A good choice for warming up a bright or harsh
sounding amp and guitar. Overall the Alnico 2 is warm, with clear mids,
spongier bass, and a softer attack. Many players
use the Alnico 2's to better achieve the vintage tone heard in
many pickups from the 50's era.
- Considered to be brighter than Alnico 2 with the least magnetic pull to allow the strings to
vibrate more freely. A good choice for clean tones and lots of articulation. Overall the Alnico 3 is bright, with clear mids, warm bass, and a softer attack.
-This magnet is best described to have the characteristics of both Alnico 2 and Alnico 5. Kind of a happy medium.
Alnico 5 -
Bright sounding with more focus and enhanced dynamics. A good choice
for adding a brighter punch to a warm or dull sounding amp or guitar.
Overall the Alnico 5 is bright and punchy, with glassy highs, tight
bass, and more attack. Alnico 5 magnets are the most commonly used
magnets in guitar pickups today.
Considered to be the most aggressive sounding magnet. A good choice for adding
bright punch and output to a warm or dull sounding amp or guitar.
Overall the ceramic magnets are bright, with clear upper midrange,
compressed highs, very harmonic, tighter bass, and aggressive attack.
Ceramic magnets are most commonly associated with higher output or
higher DC resistance pickups.
Notes on output -
For the most part (not always), DC resistance can give you a basic idea about the
overall output and response a pickup will give you. Generally the more
winds you put on a coil, the higher the DC resistance.
Increasing the DC resistance with the number of winds will increase
output, but will also increase lows and mids while reducing the amount
of highs. This can be good or bad depending on what you are looking
for. Don't become too focused on the reading as it is only one part of the equation. These readings can fluctuate due to temperature, wire diameter variations, and other factors. Don't assume that a "lower output" will have less because of it's reading. You must compare the same type of pickup for this to work. In other words, don't think a 7.7k strat and 7.7k humbucker will be equal. The coil length, shape, and wire size will all play a part in the final result.