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The Tech GeEk Page
What is Scatter Winding a pickup and what makes it so good?
Scatter winding is a process of adding wire to a pickups bobbin non-uniformily. In the process of machine wound pickups wire is laid precisely onto a bobbin one layer at a time. This leads to a uniform sound for each pickup and there is less treble produced. Scatter wound pickups tend to have brighter trebles and are carefully made by human being.
So what? Who cares if it's made by man or machine?
You ever look into effects pedals or out board signal processors? I love the DBX 160X compressor it's truly wonderful but I would not use it on my 2 bus. In my 2 bus I use the Manley VariMu. Actually I use the Manley for nearly every signal that needs to be compressed or limiter. Manley's are handmade in California and are truly wonderful.
For a hand wound/scatter wound pickup its nearly the same. When a human lays the wire onto the bobbin the irregular layering has an effect on the tone of the pickup. No two pickups are 100% (maybe 99%) identical however they are 100% magical. Sound Laboratories has pickup formulas for each design. Many of these formulas came from musician requests who were looking for specific tones.
What's neat on the techie side of things is what's know as Distributed Capacitance. Capacitance is spread on the windings to other windings in the coil when evenly layered. Scatter winding causes capacitance to spread over more windings and minimizes mutual/self inductance and reduces signal being picked up by an adjacent winding.
D.C. resistance can be checked with an Ohm-meter, better if it's a digital multimeter. The readings are usually given as general technical specs. These readings are generally recorded at room temperatures of 68 degrees Fahrenheit. The resistance for any model is usually the value resulting from the average of several units measured, therefore it is quite normal to find slight differences between what is stated on the box or technical specifications of the pickup. The resistance increases with high temperatures, so that if a pickup is measured with a room temperature of 96 degree F it is expected to get higher resistance values recorded on your meter.
Tension on the winding also affects the results. With high tension the wire tends to stretch and become slightly thinner, especially around the corners, with a proportional increase in resistance. The turns may be more or less tight, regular or irregular.
Cape-Who? Capacitance is the property of an electric conductor that characterizes its ability to store an electric charge. An electronic device called a capacitor is designed to provide capacitance in an electric circuit by providing a means for storing energy in an electric field between two conducting bodies.
Ill bet that really cleared the air. We've found that each pickup made at Sound Laboratories has clear beautiful plush sound. We are always amazed when a customer comes and we swap out their old pickups for one or a set of ours. If we're amazed you should see our customers faces.
Magnets? How do I choose and what are they about?
Yeah good question! There are so many different factors that go into a pickup build which effect the tone of the pickup. Pickup wire gauge and amount of wire used are 2 factors. Basically we have 2 kinds of magnets, Alnico and Ceramic. There are several different grades of Alnico, and the different grades are based on their metallurgical makeup. The most popular for guitar pickups are Alnico 2, 3, and 5. Generally speaking the grades are not in order of “awesomeness.” The numbers simply denote a particular metallurgical composition of aluminum, nickel and cobalt (Al-Ni-Co) .
Alnico 2 is the most popular magnet used in Humbuckers. They tend to have a slightly soft attack, generally warm tonal characteristics and a slightly loose, bouncy feel. Pickups of this sort are generally not wound for high output, when pushed they develop a nice singing quality and make a nice pickup for leads. Players who like to work their amps hard versus using pedals will love Alnico 2.
Alnico 3 magnets are used in Humbucker designs and Telecaster style pickups. Common in early Telecaster bridge pickups. It has good attack qualities, and a clear high end that some would describe as “grainy” and complex. In humbucker pickups, they create a nice balance of warmth, bite and clarity. Tighter sounding than Alnico 2 pickups, leads are crunchy and pleasantly tight, and don’t get slushy in the neck position. A nice pick for both rich complex cleans and medium gain rock.
Alnico 4's are not as common as Alnico 2, 3 and 5. The belief is that Alnico 4 combines the warm feel of Alnico 2 but with better attack and note definition. Try it you may just love it. There is no bad pickup, you just have to know where it works best.
Alnico 5 is one of the most popular magnets. Popular in both our Humbucking and Single coils designs. The go great in Stratocasters, Telecasters, and anything with a P-90’s. They have a strong output, clear tone, and punchy attack. Most Stratocaster's pickups use Alnico 5. Compared to Alnico 3 they may lack a little sonic complexity, but for those about to rock, Alnico 5 is a very good choice.
Ceramic is quite strong and gives a very bright tone. It retains articulation and clarity even with heavy distortion which makes it well suited for heavy distorted types of music.
Permanent magnets are supposed to lose 1.2% of their power after 2 years, then about 0.2% in the next thousand years. unless shocks, exposure to high temperatures or a much stronger magnetic field which could affect the magnets alignment.
Soldering is a practiced skill. It's not hard at all once you get it. Irons can range from $15.00 to hundreds of dollars. Get one that is between 30 to 40 watts. Temperature controlled irons are very useful especially if you plan to move on to other projects like modding microphones and more. You have to be careful not to over-heat volume / tone pots or you'll kill them with ease. Sometimes it's best to have backup parts.
Peterson Goodwyn of DIYRE has a resourceful site for Do It Yourself recording equipment. Check out his "Getting Started" page to learn how solder. Remember while soldering be certain your in a well ventilated workspace. The fumes are harmful.
List of tools (eBay and Amazon are great places to acquire the tools needed)
✭ Soldering Iron (Weller is a good brand)
✭ Desoldering tool
✭ Needle Nose Plyers
✭ 3rd Hands with Cleaning Sponge
One thing to look for in a soldering iron would be an indicator light. Can't tell how many times I left my iron running all night 🤔.
It's very helpful to have a articulating arm magnifier light as well. We like vintage Dazor's
Gibson Quick Connect
Is it a blessing or the crappiest thing in the world? Well it's blessing for those who cannot and will not solder. A true horror story for those who choose to DIY (because of the lame factor). And for those who prefer traditional point to point connections it's a travesty. Either way I think it's here to stay. You can either go with the flow or toss out the PCB's and hand wire it to your liking (which is totally cool). The big downfall is you may be limited to the types of pickups you can buy for your guitar. We here at Sound Laboratories have cracked the secret code. If you want Quick Connects all you have to do is ask for them.
The Most Important Variables in a Pickup Coil is:
1) Each kind of wire is delivered with some allowance on it's specification. Slight variations in diameter from the nominal value may happen.
2) When the wire is wound around a bobbin or magnet variations in tension can cause occasional stretch reducing the diameter of segments of the coil. When repeated turn after turn a noticeable increase in the total resistance will occur.
3) The coiled wire has its own capacity and acts as a small capacitor, cutting the highest frequencies. The more turns there are in a coil the more trebles are cut.
4) In each coil there are "eddy" currents affecting the timbre positively when the phenomenon is limited.
5) The more regular turns and have even tension the lower the content of the "eddy" currents. The sound is cleaner or, less rich. Looser windings would give a brighter tone however if too loose feedback can be an issue.
6) Wire coils have resonance and the relationship between the intensity of the magnetic field, the number of turns and other factors determine the frequency peak level sensitivity aka resonant peak. The greater the number of turns, the lower the frequency at which resonant peak happens.