High output vs low output

Discussion in 'Gear' started by zenabi, Jan 5, 2012.

  1. zenabi

    zenabi Active Member

    Feb 12, 2011
    So i've heard a lot about these two kind of pickups. What is the actual difference?
    From what i've heard this is what i can conclude:
    High output pups:
    • More natural gain.
    • Less dynamics.
    • Less "organic tone".
    • More power and "fullness" in the tone.
    Low output pups:
    • Less gain overall from the pup.
    • More dynamics.
    • More "organic tone"
    • Less power and punch.
    Am i right.
    I like lots of gain, but dislike a really sterile and cold tone.
    If i were to put a high gain pup in my guitar i could turn the gain down, right? And the gain would become more natural and have less fizziness and feedback from turning it up? Or is it the other way around? I'm confused xD
  2. sted

    sted Darth Sted Staff Member

    May 8, 2009
    Its just a matter of taste mate, a lot of people hit the front end with high gain pups to get crazy gain but also a lot of definition, I prefer lower output and make the amp work harder which is a bit more of a traditional approach I guess, I've tried both and that works for me, maybe not for you, if you like lots of gain the I wouldn't go low power as you will probably find it very frustrating to get the distortion pretty hot.
    In all honesty pickups bore me to death these days, I hardly ever change them from stock, its such a small part of the whole picture I try not to waste time thinking about it, the whole thing has to work for me, I hardly ever thing "Damn, I wish I had a super-mojo-hot-100-snivel-dog in the bridge position" I mean really, who's arsed?
  3. Ernesto

    Ernesto Does not have the same opinion!

    May 11, 2009
    Some pickups are hard to use, therefore it's good that aftermarket pickups exist, but I don't believe in the pickup mojo either. Most of the time, a good signal chain and good guitar build and wood have more impact on the sound than pickup mojo. On my SSS Am Std strats and SS Am Std teles, I've never bothered changing the pickups either, and I'm very pleased with their sound and playing feel, especially when using a very high impedance input buffer.
    I have some guitars with high output pickups too, but none of them sound as beautiful as low output pickups, although for some types of music high output pickups are just an easy way to get the right tone without much tweaking.
    Just another case of the right tools for the most efficient workflow I guess, more than a decision about the sound of the pickups as such. Low output pickups are more versatile and put out a broader spectrum of frequencies and dynamics, and can be tweaked to get the sound of high output pickups into an amp by using a compressor and overdrive pedals, and by turning down the tone knob on the guitar. High output pickups have some versatility advantages too, like they are often more usable for complex wiring schemes (for instance a low output humbucker split sounds very weak to get near to a single coil sound by combining it with a coil on another humbucker). I think it's one of those things that grow with experience, if you've played for years on different guitars with a lot of different pickups, you get to the point of discovering what works for you in what situation, but it's very hard to speak about these things in a general manner, because there are too many factors, of which the playing feel (strong string pull of stronger output pickups) is one of the most important.

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