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Posted by Mickster on January 11, 2001 at 16:20:36:

In Reply to: PICK UPS posted by sassy on January 11, 2001 at 08:43:10:


Hey Sassy, I'll tell you what I know, and what I leave out, I'm sure some
other knowledgeable cookie will jump in to give you a complete picture.

Single coils: These pickups are comprised of thin wire wrapped around magnets
(usually ceramic or alinco).When a string is plucked, the magnetic field which
exists just above the pickup, is disturbed.This disturbance is "picked up" by
the pickup, and transformed into an electrical signal, which then is sent to
an amplifier's preamp section, and "shaped" by the preamp's tone circuit(volume,
bass, middle, treble,etc.)It is then sent to the amp's power amp section where
it is electronically boosted or amplified many times, and then this "completed"
signal is then sent to the speaker(s)and tranformed back from electrical energy
into physical energy at the speaker's voice coil, which we all hear as music.

Humbucking or Hum-cancelling coils: These are two(or more)single coil pickups
wired out of phase; ie:the positive side of the first pickup is wired to the
negative side of the second pickup, then, this signal is sent to the amplifier
as above.The differences between single coils and humbuckers is:

Single coils pickup the signal "as is" and amplify it as dictated by the power
of their magnets, and number of windings of wire around the magnets.Bigger(heavier)magnets and more windings equals a louder pickup.Their advantage is
they produce a crisp, open kind of sound with a lot of "Top End"(high frequency
responce)which a lot of guitarists, and bassists like.Their drawback is that
they are very prone to foreign electrical sources; electrcal appliances, radio
signals, and especially the common 60 cycle hum which is present in most household electrical outlets.This humming drives some people crazy, like me.
Before I bought my Jazz Bass which has two single coil pickups, I was an Ivy
League educated Doctor/Astronaut, now, I'm just happy to sit near a sunny window
and watch the pretty birds socialize 'round my bird bath.

Sorry...back to reality

Humbucking pickups due to their configuration cancel out most of the 60 cycle
hum, but, at a price.Because the two single coil pickups which comprise a
humbucker are out of phase with each other, they also loose some(I'm not sure
of the exact percentage)of the higher frequencies.This is a mixed blessing.
Early humbuckers sounded muddy to some people, while Jazz players liked the
smoother overall tone they produced.One way to get around this is to make the
single coils in a humbucker overly bright.This way when they're wired out of phase, they loose only the excessive treble no one wanted in the first place.Another option is to install a coil tap switch which takes one of the
two single coils out of the circuit, thus making a single coil pickup.
Another thing about humbuckers is that, all things being equal, they produce a
noticeably stronger signal because they actually are two single coils wired

There are also active pickups both single coil and humbucking, but, although
I know a little about them, I'll leave this to someone else.

Hope this helped,

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