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Changing a pickup’s resistance?

York Audio

Power User
Vendor
There are mixed opinions and methods online, so I wanted to check with the knowledgable Fractal community on this one.

I’ve got an ‘89 Les Paul Custom with the stock Bill Lawrence “The Original” circuit board pickups. I’m not a fan of their tone and have some Thornbuckers on the way to try. I measured the bridge pickup and it’s reading at 13.2k. I tend to like bridge pickups in the 8.2-9.5k range and wondered if it was possible to lower the pickup’s output?

Some resources say you can do it with resistors and others say you literally have to take winds off of the pickup.

Has anyone tried to do this? Is it even worth the effort?
 

Amparkmusic

Member
@York Audio - if you’re interested in getting rid of those Bill Lawrence pickups i may be interested. I have an 88 Standard LP that did not come with the originals and I’d like to to try them.
 

York Audio

Power User
Vendor
@York Audio - if you’re interested in getting rid of those Bill Lawrence pickups i may be interested. I have an 88 Standard LP that did not come with the originals and I’d like to to try them.
I’ll definitely let you know if I decide to part with them. They’ve got their own thing going on, but the extra sizzle (and I like sizzle) is still a bit too much even after adjusting pickup and pole piece height.
 

Rane

Inspired
A resistor can only ever add resistance. Adding resistance via a resistor instead of additional coil windings will not yield the same tonal results. There’s a whole lot more going on than just resistance.

So, yeah, only way to change the pickup’s core tone is by changing the windings. You can affect some tonal changes by using different resistance values for your volume pot, but it’s really just gonna be the same tone with more or less brightness. Pickup tone is a combination of windings, magnet selection, wire gauges, pole pieces, and physical pickup configuration. A resistor or capacitor isn’t going to affect those properties in a way that you’re likely to find useful.
 
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York Audio

Power User
Vendor
A resistor can only ever add resistance. Adding resistance via a resistor instead of additional coil windings will not yield the same tonal results. There’s a whole lot more going on than just resistance.

So, yeah, only way to change the pickup’s core tone is by changing the windings. You can affect some tonal changes by using different resistance values for your volume pot or . You’ll probably be fighting a losing battle with all of those solutions, however. Pickup tone is a combination of windings, magnet selection, wire guage, pole pieces, and physical pickup configuration. A resistor or capacitor isn’t going to affect those properties in a way that you’re likely to find useful unless you already like the tone and just need it a little brighter or darker. If that’s the case, then just change your volume pot value.
See? This is what I was hoping for. Helpful knowledge and an explanation on why it would or wouldn’t work. I think I’m just gonna wait for the Thornbuckers and not mess with a 32 year old guitar.
 

Adman103

Experienced
@Rane is right. FWIW, @York Audio , I bet you'll love the Thornbuckers. I put them into my SG, and it really helped open up the neck position- it's a much better sounding set than the stock pickups. I like 'em a lot. They split well too- I crammed a Jimmy Page wiring rig in there as well, and it's surprising how many of the combinations sound really good. Let us know what you think of them when you get them installed!
IMG_3216.jpeg
 
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Amparkmusic

Member
I hate to veer this wagon off the path, but....

those who have played thornbuckers, how do they hold up/compare to the SD Seth Lover set?
 

Amparkmusic

Member
I had a set of Seth lovers (that i put in a strat... wtf??). I thought they were ok. The neck was grrrreeeeeatt. The bridge could be a bit shrill for my taste. In between and neck were the best.
 

Toopy14

Fractal Fanatic
A resistor can only ever add resistance.

With all due respect, this is not true. Resistors in parallel lower the equivalent resistance.

For example, if you take a 10 k resistor and put a 10 k resistor in parallel with it, the equivalent resistance is 5 k Ohms. Now, that's from a purely circuit analysis point of view. All the other things you mentioned, about the tone of a pickup, are definitely factors.

As for putting a resistor in parallel with the pickup...I've never tried it.
 

Joe Bfstplk

Axe-Master
With all due respect, this is not true. Resistors in parallel lower the equivalent resistance.

For example, if you take a 10 k resistor and put a 10 k resistor in parallel with it, the equivalent resistance is 5 k Ohms. Now, that's from a purely circuit analysis point of view. All the other things you mentioned, about the tone of a pickup, are definitely factors.

As for putting a resistor in parallel with the pickup...I've never tried it.
Resistance is not a good metric to compare pickup output anyway. Pickups are magnets and coils (nd a couple invisible capacitors). A resistor in parallel with a pickup will lower its output and dull its tone, squashing the resonant LC peak in the trebles. Inductance is a little more telling, but still a compromised measurement, as the magnet material affects the reading, as does coil wiring in multi-coil pickups. .
 

Joe Bfstplk

Axe-Master
There are mixed opinions and methods online, so I wanted to check with the knowledgable Fractal community on this one.

I’ve got an ‘89 Les Paul Custom with the stock Bill Lawrence “The Original” circuit board pickups. I’m not a fan of their tone and have some Thornbuckers on the way to try. I measured the bridge pickup and it’s reading at 13.2k. I tend to like bridge pickups in the 8.2-9.5k range and wondered if it was possible to lower the pickup’s output?

Some resources say you can do it with resistors and others say you literally have to take winds off of the pickup.

Has anyone tried to do this? Is it even worth the effort?
Ya gotsta pull windings off....
 

Toopy14

Fractal Fanatic
Resistance is not a good metric to compare pickup output anyway. Pickups are magnets and coils (nd a couple invisible capacitors). A resistor in parallel with a pickup will lower its output and dull its tone, squashing the resonant LC peak in the trebles. Inductance is a little more telling, but still a compromised measurement, as the magnet material affects the reading, as does coil wiring in multi-coil pickups. .

Absolutely agree.
 

lauke-lux

Fractal Fanatic
With all due respect, this is not true. Resistors in parallel lower the equivalent resistance.

For example, if you take a 10 k resistor and put a 10 k resistor in parallel with it, the equivalent resistance is 5 k Ohms. Now, that's from a purely circuit analysis point of view. All the other things you mentioned, about the tone of a pickup, are definitely factors.

As for putting a resistor in parallel with the pickup...I've never tried it.
Yes..but...no. With adding resistance you will alter the impedance (ie the sum of series and parelleled coil resistance, coil inducance and (a very little bit) coil capacitance. Simplified this becomes a value likely to R + jwL + 1/jwC. The problem is that the inductance/capacitance components of the impedance will vary with the frequency (w), while the resistive part is fixed. So just adding resistance will likely reduce the dynamics and phase behaviour of your circuit especially in high and bottom frequency ranges.

Adjusting windings (read lower the number if spires) is a very delicate opération that most often will destroy your pickups.

The added resistance trick (+250k) can be necessary to obtain a normal volume control behaviour for split coil use of certain HB pickups combined with SC PU (HSS), best is to ask the manufacturer for advice.
 

Rex

Legend!
TLDR: If you want a Chevy, buying a Chrysler and converting it into a Chevy is not the right path.

DC resistance is not an accurate measure of a pickup's output. If you have two identical pickups, and you put a stronger magnet in one of them, the one with the stronger magnet will have a hotter output, even though they both have the same resistance. If you have two identical pickups, and wind one of them with thicker wire, the one with thicker wire will have hotter output, even though it has less resistance.

Try lowering the pickup. Instant lower output. :)
 

York Audio

Power User
Vendor
@Rane is right. FWIW, @York Audio , I bet you'll love the Thornbuckers. I put them into my SG, and it really helped open up the neck position- it's a much better sounding set than the stock pickups. I like 'em a lot. They split well too- I crammed a Jimmy Page wiring rig in there as well, and it's surprising how many of the combinations sound really good. Let us know what you think of them when you get them installed!
View attachment 81169
I got the Thornbucker Neck and Thornbucker + Bridge pickups yesterday. I recorded the stock pickups and then swapped them out and the Thornbuckers are amazing! They naturally solved all of the issues I had with the other pickups. The Thornbuckers had meat, punch, and air where the Bill Lawrence pickups were bloated, ice picky, and fizzy.

The Thornbuckers are medium output (which I like), so they’re very clear and articulate while letting your gain knob have a more usable sweep. Mine came with gold covers which dampen the tone a bit, but in my opinion, they absolutely kill my Lollar Imperial High Winds and my trusty old SD Alnico II Pro. I highly recommend grabbing a set. They really do bring your tone to life and let your hands speak in a cool way.
 
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