Archive for the ‘Pickup Talk’ Category

What is the best height for JBE Pickups?

I get the question about optimum pickup height adjustment quite often and am happy to respond to all the new players who have discovered JBE pickups and the significant difference our pickups offer over other brands.   So,  forgive me for re-posting an earlier blog on the topic, albeit edited a bit.

The answer to the pickup height question is that there is no “best” or “right” height.    We recommend a starting distance between the top of the blade and the underside of the string of 3/32″ on the high E side and 4/32″ on the low E side.  This gets you well into the ballpark and probably onto the infield (to extend the metaphor).  Now it is up to you as the player to determine what YOU want to hear.   The guiding principle is ‘LET YOUR EARS BE THE JUDGE”.

Every musician has something to say by their playing style.  Some players want highly responsive touch sensitive performance with the pickups set high, others want a bit less tactile response and don’t want to drive the amp as hard and prefer a lower setting…some players even crank our pickups all the way down to better suit their playing styles.  It’s all good!

Experiment a bit. You will notice that JBE pickups are more responsive to height adjustment than just about any other pickups on the market.  Set them and then put them to the test in the “heat of battle” (live performance or full band practice).  This will allow you to see how they react outside of the confines of the studio, basement, or bedroom, and  give you the best idea of what (if any) changes to make.   Keep experimenting until you dial them into YOUR style and amp settings.

Also, don’t be afraid to change your amp EQ.   Remember, JBE pickups are delivering more usable frequencies and high fidelity tone to your amp than your stock pickups.  It just doesn’t make sense to hamper the expanded tone of JBE pickups with the same old amp settings just because this was formerly “your tone”.   Get over it! Your tone has now improved immensely with JBE’s in your guitar or bass.   So why limit it by old amp EQ meant to coax the best tones from your former low-fi pickups?

You may want to readjust too if you switch to different string gauges.  Even ¼ turn of the height adjustment screw changes tone, performance, and feel.   So, go slowly as you dial-in the best settings for your playing.  Also be sure to adjust so that you have a good balance between front and back pickup positions as well.   Have fun!

JBE Soapbar (P90) Pickups

Below is a good question from someone interested in JBE Soapbar pickups.  He wanted to make sure that our Soapbar pickups were all we said they were and not just a humbucker in Soapbar clothing.    This is a fair question.   Following is my response which I hope resonates with anyone interested in our Soapbar/P90 pickups.    Frank T.  JBE Pickups

——————————————————————————————–

Question:
Hello !
I have a little question … well, it is not about asking to reveal any technological secrets, but, here it is.
For instance, you have released a new pickup which adapts to guitars designed for “soapbar” type pickups. It looks like it is basically some sort of a “modified” humbucker. Now, what will influence the changes in the sounding properties of such a pickup, in order to have it sound more like a standard single-coil or a soapbar or some other kind of already existing pickup ? Which are the parameters which have the major influence on the sounding properties ? (magnet type ? wire material or thickness ? … etc …)
Thank you so much for the great products … and for your answer.

JBE Response:
The JBE Soapbar utilizes the design philosophy set for all JBE pickups i.e.  hum cancellation.  In this regard one can argue it is a humbucker variant.  But, if one were to rely on that characterization of the pickup as a soapbar-sized humbucker, he/she would be wrong and would miss what other players are finding to be a great Soapbar pickup tone and performance. .  Many players go further and characterize JBE Soapbars as a superior noiseless P-90 .

 JBE did not set out to mimic a “vintage P90″.  When we surveyed players, we did not get universal agreement on what such a P90 might be…possibly because P-90s were made and sounded inconsistent (not to mention that the guitar in which they were auditioned also had a lot to do with the players idealized notion of a P-90) .  Some P-90 soapbars were great, others were a big disappointment with muddy tone and performance.   All shared one common characteristic however…THEY WERE DAMNED NOISY. 

In contrast, we set out to design a pickup that had to meet several fundamental requirements.

1. It had to be quiet

2. It had to exhibit superior tone and performance. i.e. it had to have a JBE signature tone while having other characteristics of a Soapbar pickup:

  •  It had to meet our notion of Soapbar tone (and, yes we had P-90 as a target). 
  •  It had to be nasty in the bridge, mellow yet articulate in the neck, and “woody” when both pickups are used together.  

 3. The JBE Soapbar pickups also had to fit standard Soapbar pickup routs without requiring modification to the instrument.  In this regard we sweated a few details because some popular after-market Soapbars do not fit all soapbar body routes.   

Happily, The JBE design met every objective, and are characterized by guitarists who have them  as P-90 sounding…but with more articulation, superior tone and  performance than other soapbars they have used in the past.  Check out our Testimonial page.  

Admittedly,  for the most ardent “Vintage Soapbar” enthusiast, JBE Soapbars may not meet their all expectations, especially if those expectations include traditional pole pieces and covers, soft (sometimes mushy) tone, and vintage soapbar/P-90 noise and hum.

So, the short answers to your questions are:

  • JBE Soapbars are hum-cancelling pickups.  (We prefer to use the term humbucker to refer to  PAF variants that have a different size and tonal character all their own)
  • They sound like articulate P-90s
  • They were designed to fit P90 equipped guitar without modification to the body.
  • the materials we use are similar to those used in our other pickup models. 

Hope this helps.   

Frank T
JBE Pickups  

The JBE Soapbar utilizes the design philosophy set for all JBE pickups i.e.  humcancellation.  In this regard one can argue it is a humbucker variant.  But, if one were to rely on that characterization of the pickup as a soapbar-sized humbucker, he/she would be wrong and would miss what other players are finding to be a great Soapbar pickup tone and performance. .  Many players go further and characterize JBE Soapbars as a superior noiseless P-90 .

 

 JBE did not set out to mimic a “vintage P90″.  When we surveyed players, we did not get universal agreement on what such a P90 might be…possibly because P-90s were made and sounded inconsistent (not to mention that the guitar in which they were auditioned also had a lot to do with the players idealized notion of a P-90) .  Some P-90 soapbars were great, others were a big disappointment with muddy tone and performance.   All shared one common characteristic however…THEY WERE DAMNED NOISY. 

 

In contrast, we set out to design a pickup that had to meet several fundamental requirements.

1. It had to be quiet

2. It had to exhibit superior tone and performance. i.e. it had to have a JBE signature tone while having other characteristics of a Soapbar pickup:

  •  It had to meet our notion of Soapbar tone (and, yes we had P-90 as a target). 
  •  It had to be nasty in the bridge, mellow yet articulate in the neck, and “woody” when both pickups are used together.  

 3. The JBE Soapbar pickups also had to fit standard Soapbar pickup routs without requiring modification to the instrument.  In this regard we sweated a few details because some popular after-market Soapbars do not fit all soapbar body routes. .  

 

Happily, The JBE design met every objective. JBE Soapbars are characterized by player as P-90 sounding but with more articulation, superior tone and playing performance than other soapbars they used in the past.  Check out our Testimonial page.For those wanting to compare it against some idealized Vintage P-90 with all its noise and inconsistent performance

 

Admittedly,  for the most ardent “Vintage Soapbar” enthusiast, JBE Soapbars may not meet their all expectations, especially if those expectations include traditional pole pieces and covers, soft (sometimes mushy) tone, and vintage soapbar/P-90 noise and hum.

 

So, the short answers to your questions are this:

  • They are humcancelling pickups.  (We prefer to think of humbuckers as PAF variants that have a different size and tonal character all their own)
  • They sound like articulate P-90s
  • They were designed to fit the guitar without modification to the body.
  • the materials we use are similar to those used in our other pickup models. 

Hope this helps.   

 

Frank T
JBE Pickups 

JBE on Series/Parallel Wiring

JBE on Series and Parallel Pickup Wiring

Series and parallel pickup wiring is sometimes a bit confusing.  This is because we often use the terms “series and parallel” to refer to how pickups are wired together, as well as an optional wiring scheme for an individual pickup. However, the technical concepts of series and parallel wiring are the consistent across applications.    This blog will describe what series/parallel wiring is and how we can use it when wiring pickups in our guitars and basses, or when seeking other tones from our pickups.

Parallel wiring is the usual way of connecting pickups in a guitar or bass.  It applies to both single coil as well as dual-coil pickups. (Although the term humbucker is often used, the term is perhaps more aptly used to refer to a PAF-sized pickups, like our HB and HB Two/Tone and Gibson’s and others, full-sized pickups.  ‘Hum-canceling’ will be used to refer to other noiseless pickups such as our single-coil-sounding Gatton T-Style, S-Deluxes, J-Style Bass, and Soapbar (P-90) pickups for example).

With parallel wiring, each pickup’s signal goes to output independently from one another.   Even when all pickups are ‘on’ they are essentially independent of the other pickups in the guitar or bass.   Therefore, parallel wiring is conceptually:

Pickup #1    –>    Output

Pickup #2   –>     Output

In this example, 1+1 =2 (pickups) and each pickup can be turned on/off independently or combined by the switch.  How is this logically wired?

Using the JBE color-coding, the black hot wire (+) of each pickup is wired to the pickup selector switch and the green cold wires (-) are wired to a good ground.  (Please note that wire color–coding my differ among manufacturers, so you need to know each wire’s job.)

In contrast, Series wiring means that each pickup’s signal is first combined before it goes to output.

Pickup #1 –>  Pickup#2 –>  Output

To extend the bad math example, 1+1=1 (pickup), What!!!!  The process of tying the pickups together logically combines them into one ‘larger’ pickup that has a darker tone and is somewhat louder.  How is this physically wired?

A switch really does the work here.  Electrically, the cold wire (-) of one pickup is connected to the hot wire (+) of the next pickup in a daisy chain fashion.   Telecaster players may recognize that this as a Tele with a 4-way pickup selector switch or a Fender S1 switch in the volume pot.   (P.S. For you Strat players, the Fender wiring and the application of the S1 switch is completely different from how it is used in a Tele).

It is also possible to apply the series/parallel concept not to a set of pickups but to an individual pickup – notably, a dual-coil (hum-canceling or humbucking) pickup. The two coils of a hum-canceling pickup are like two single coil pickups side by side, and wired so that there is a link or bridge between the coils where the (-) of one coil connects to the + of the second coil.

Here again, as in the generalized series example above, 1+1 (coils) = 1 Pickup. (Please note that since a single coil pickup has only one coil, there is no way to wire it in series to itself, but it can be wired in series to an adjacent pickup).

How can we use Series/Parallel Wiring?

All this series/parallel stuff got some folks to thinking about how to take advantage of it to create new tones.  They argued that if they broke the series connection between a humbucker’s coils, they would be left with two independent pickups (coils), each with a set of + and – leads.  By simply ignoring one coil you are theoretically left with a single coil (albeit noisy) pickup. Connect the coils back together and you return your pickup back to a noise-canceling humbucker pickup.

This is not new.  Many of you will immediately recognize this as coil splitting, a common application which turns a humbucker into a single coil pickup.  When connected to a switch, the switch makes and breaks the series and parallel connections.  In this way we can achieve both a darker full-bodied as well as single coil tone from a humbucker pickup.

The trouble with coil splitting is that a humbucker coil on its own was not designed to produce a good single coil tone.  The pickup was designed to have a fat sound and no noise.   So, turning one coil off is not really a good idea.  You get a faux single coil tone plus your humbucker is now noisy as a single coil pickup.  JBE addresses this application in a better way with our HB Two/Tone ™. The Two/Tone employs coil tapping vs. coil splitting to get true single coil tone with no noise.   Moreover, you have the ability to switch noiselessly on-the-fly back to a full-bodied humbucker tone.   See our website for a more detailed explanation.  It’s really cool.

The main point relative to our discussion is that a dual coil pickup, by design, is a series connection between the two coils, and can be implemented in several ways:

  1. Internal jumpers within the pickup itself,
  2. Via a 4 wire cable that extends the internal jumper outside the pickup using separate wires so the musician can break and make a connection via a switch (series/parallel switching arrangement) to switch between humbucker and coil split tones

The majority of JBE pickups use a 4 wire cabling arrangement.  Other manufacturers make the series connection internal to the pickup, making it impossible to split the coil as discussed above.

An alternative approach to coil splitting is to wire the dual coil pickup in a parallel fashion.  Both coils remain operational and you can still wire the pickups to a switch to allow you to switch between the resultant tones.  The parallel connection will be relatively noiseless and provide a more useful single-coil approximation than is achieved with coil splitting.   But again, the best alternative is an HB Two/Tone pickup.

OK, great!  Here is where it gets even more interesting.   All JBE pickups are dual-coil hum-canceling designs. With a JBE pickup you can wire the coils in parallel to derive an open and somewhat stringy sound aside from the already great single coil tones these pickups produce.

A good application of this is with an S-Deluxe Neck/Middle pickup in a Strat (or Nashville Tele).   By running the pickup’s coils in parallel and using a switch or push/pull pot to switch from its native series to parallel mode, you can get even more authentic in-between tones in the 2nd or 4th switch position of a 5 way switch.  I tend to like this for quaky rhythms and to slightly thin the tone or get a more open/stringy sounds.   Plus if you use a push/pull pot in place of an existing volume or tone control, you do not alter the guitar or bass to add a switch.

Summary.

Series/Parallel wiring as it relates to guitar and bass pickups, refers to

  1. How two (or more) pickups are wired to produce a thicker and darker tone by acting as one big pickup,
  2. How one dual coil pickup can be wired to produce a more stringy, open tone, and improve the in-between sounds (aka out of phase) tones of your Stratocaster or Nashville Tele.

We discussed how breaking the series connection in a humbucker pickup allows you to coil-split the pickup.

Please note that JBE does not recommend splitting the coils (i.e. turning off one coil) of a T-Style, S-Deluxe, J-Bass or other JBE single coil sounding pickup model).  These pickup models were designed specifically to deliver authentic single coil tone without noise.  While it is certainly technically feasible split them using the 4 wire cable used for the pickups, the result is a low-fidelity sound that has minimum utility, other than as an effect, but which a player may find useful from time to time.   Consider parallel wiring first.

We also discussed an application of parallel wiring for the middle position of your Strat or Nashville Tele that will enhance the in-between sounds of a three-pickup set.

Now, armed with this info, it is up to you to figure out how all the possible ways you can use these wirings to suit your playing and tonal tastes.  If you’d like to share your custom wiring diagrams with us, please send a schematic.

Series/Parallel using a Push/Pull pot, 4-Way switch and Fender S1 wiring diagrams are available on the JBE website for your reference.

Have fun.

Frank T
JBE Pickups

Why we resist ‘Resistance’

Not surprisingly, we often get questions about the specs of our pickups.   Most of the time the questions  are about the resistance [R] of the pickup because musicians want to understand how the pickup ‘sounds’ or to determine if a JBE pickup will mate with another brand pickup in their guitar.  It is also a question that has been answered many times in other forums.   But, for the sake of sharing our view allow me to respond as well.

Resistance [R] in the absence of other metrics such as inductance [L] is meaningless as a comparative indicator among pickup brands and similar models.   Yes, in manufacturing we use [R] as one indicator of pickup viability.   But, it tells us nothing about the sound and quality of the pickup.  We must go a bit further and use another measure, Inductance [L] measured in Henries [H].   We use these measures for pass/fail against our design criteria.  These specs were solidified and approved for use in manufacturing only after having gone thru iterative aural assessments of the pickup in the design phase.

Still, what do these two specs mean in terms of a pickup’s tone and why the reliance on [R] as the determining metric?    I suspect that since most musicians (and even many repair shops) do not have a way to measure other specs such as Inductance [L].  As such, musicians are left trying to describe/compare pickups by [R] alone, a measurement easily attainable on ubiquitous and low cost DMMs (Digital Multi Meters).  And so, armed with the only metric readily measurable, the question and reliance about [R] persists.  Unfortunately,  [R] is simply not an appropriate metric to use this way.

There are articles on the Internet written by Engineers (who may also be musicians) that try to offer insight into pickup performance using a variety of specs such as magnet strength (Gauss), resonant peak frequency, coil quality (Q) , micro-voltage (mV) and more.  Written primarily from engineering perspectives, these papers are loaded with formulas for the engineer.  Engineers are trained (thankfully) to deal in the quantitative world.   They must be in order to design the highly reliable electronic and mechanical products we enjoy today.  What is missing however in any assessment using specs, is a characterization of how the pickups actually sound given those specs.   Therefore, a subjective assessment must now be made to describe what we have just measured.  We musicians use terms like, hot, warm, expressive, articulate, presence, tone, power, snotty, growl, nasty…and the list goes on.  

When trying to relate specs to subjective aural assessments it is best done by those who are familiar with guitar /bass tone (perhaps the engineer/musician).  In trying to do this, the gamut of pickup brands must be assessed not just by one person but by others as well in the attempt to establish a definitive/authoritative resource.    Now, we have come full circle and are back to describing tone not by specs but by what we hear.   Herein lies the problem about using specs alone and even more dangerously, using a single spec [R] to compare pickup brands.  I can say with certainty that many players are surprised when they hear and play a JBE pickup that has a lower [R] value.  It shatters beliefs based on what they thought they understood about pickup specs.

To be candid, the reliance on [R] as a sole criterion may beg the question about JBE’s sound.  Therefore, we feel compelled to respond repetitively to the many well-meaning musicians who in the quest for tone go onto forums and raise doubt about the tone of a JBE pickup.  After all, they argue, the sound thin has to be thin and uninteresting with such a low [R] value.   We know it is not.   Sadly, those who have never heard or played a JBE pickup make many of these claims.   Perhaps they are merely defending their favorite brand or (for the marketers among us) satisfying the “cognitive dissonance” of an earlier purchase decision. (How’s that for slinging the marketing bull?) 

After being confronted with the aural proof that JBE pickups sound great (and arguably better) even at lower [R] measurements, their entire tonal reference is shattered.   Now what?  And how can they continue to use [R] as a way to describe pickups?   Yet, the debate goes on anew with each successive generation of musician.   And perhaps, so it should be.  To question is to learn.  We are happy to speak with anyone genuinely interested in learning about our pickups.   Having said this, please don’t ask to see detailed specs on our pickups on our website.  While we have often share some specs in conversation and will continue to do so, we do not publish them for proprietary reasons.  If someone wants to reverse-engineer a JBE pickup, they can do that, but we prefer not to assist.

In summary, Hearing and Feeling the difference a JBE pickup can make by auditioning them (from the root word meaning “to hear”) in a friend’s guitar or bass, or at a local JBE dealer,  is the best way to make a decision on pickups.  A number of JBE dealers have outfitted demo guitars with select JBE pickup models that you can try.   Listen critically and make your judgments not on specs alone, but on what your ears tell you too.  If you like what you hear…. great!   Buy a JBE pickup.   If you don’t, there are other pickup brands that may suit your tastes better.   Whatever you decide, every musician must use the tools that fit their needs and preferences.   One size simply does not fit all…. although we like to believe we come very close  :-)

Frank T
JBE Pickups

Jazzmaster Players

Any Jazzmaster players out there interested in a quiet pickup for  that offers both single coil and humbucker tones?  Let us know if you’re looking to upgrade your JM for more flexibility and noise-free performance .

Why didn’t JBE call them P-90s?

Hi All,

It has been reassuring to hear all the postive comments about our new JBE Soapbar pickups since we first released them.   But as expected, and I suppose an unavoidable question was why we didn’t call them P-90s?

Frankly, we stayed away from this characterization quite  intentionally. 
P-90 descriptions are highly subjective among players.   For every player we asked we got a different opinion about tone, noise, output, relationships to single coils and humbuckers and more.  The only real agreement we could get was that they fit the sonic landscape between single coils and humbuckers.  We agree.  So, everyone’s notion of what is a P-90 is so different as to beg the debate of what and what is not P-90.   

For the vintage enthusiast, nothing short of an old P-90 pickup (even with all its noise and hum) will do.  Understandable, but perhaps not appropriate for many players who love P-90s but can not use them because of the hum and noise.  Then, along come all the variants of the noiseless P-90 (P-100 etc) and still ‘no cigar’ !   

Now, let’s be clear…. there are some good recreations on the market, made by reputable pickup makers.  We are sure that every player will find a P-90 variant that will fit their liking.    But, when JBE players urged us to develop a pickup in this area that was true to the Soapbar life but with the JBE tone and performance,  we knew we needed to say something more.

We prefer to let the market make the case of the JBE Soapbar as a P-90 alternative if they so wish.   We just think our new Soapbar pickups offers players something more than they can get from vintage recreations and perhaps even something for the vintage enthusiast as well.  So,  rather than engage in the P-90 debate,  recognizing that JBE Soapbars offer something “more” than the traditional P-90 offers,  we chose to simply call them JBE Soapbars.  

 As always the final decision is YOURS.  We hope you will give them a try and decide for yourself.  

Frank T
JBE Pickups

Return top

INFORMATION

JBE's approach is designed to ensure that we bring you the "best pickups on the planet" along with sound administration, management, marketing, manufacturing and (hopefully) stellar customer service.