Re: Thoughts On Strat Pickup Pole Heights

Tony Done wrote:

"Mr. Green" <cliff@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote in message news:9cecccff-dfea-4489-8b66-a34c6141fb30@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
I recently make myself a new bridge pickup. Wound to 7.4K with alnico
magnets and flat poles i.e. no stagger.

This new pickup has really highlighted just how much the G string
dominates the sound from the other two pickups which have the old
vintage stagger. We all know this stagger was designed to suit the old
wound third string. Why do so many companies still use the vintage

I've been asking this and related question for a few years now.

Luckily these two staggered pickups have plastic bobbins which
completely seperate the poles from the windings so,

That's why I buy plastic bobbin pickups. The brand I use is GT, which might be the same as Mighty Mite.

I switched the B
string magnets with the bass E string magnet then, I pushed the G
string magnet down to the same height as the top E and B. What an
improvement. I've been messing with a lot of chord melody stuff and
know I can actually hear the top strings coming through.

I don't bother swapping them, I just push them to the places I want (brass rod in drill press). I have sometimes reversed them and the wire connections to make a rwrp pickup. I make acoustic guitar pickups by removing the 2nd string slug completely.

Most replacement pickup manufacturers offer flat or vintage stagger.
IMO neither are ideal. Of course flat is much easier to make. All your
magnets are the same length, what could be simpler. "Vintage stagger"
has a the great marketing edge 'cause that's what all the original
strats had.

IMO we need a decent modern stagger pattern. Flat is better than
vintage stagger because at least the top three strings are pretty well
balanced. The radius of the neck, 9.5" takes the fatter louder G
string about 1/16" (1.5mm) further away from the pickup than the top
E. The problem with flats comes when you get to the D string. That D
is the weakest of all the wounds but it's the furthest wound string
from the pickup. Like the plain G, the neck radius takes it further
from the pickup. Here we need the pole raised a bit. Same with the A.

For a plain third I use relative heights of 123123 (bass to treble), where 3 is about 1/16" higher than 1. For a wound third is is about 123413, but both might need fine tuning to the pickup, pickup height, strings etc.

I know some companies do offer a customer stagger which is what I have
described. The problem is that so many people still seem to go for the
old vintage stagger without really thinking it through.

Some folks like them (Mark where are you?), but I think many supposed aficionados go on and on and on about pickups, guitars, amps, what have you and don't address this simple question. A case in point, my local store carries the Blade line of guitars, handsome guitars that should sell easily in the Fender price range. I picked up one of their strats, and found that the strings (9s) were very unbalanced with the vintage stagger pickups. I wonder how many customers just put it back on the rack thinking it didn't sound good, without recognising the reason?

I knew my name would get mentioned soon as I saw your reply, Tony ;-) Its not hard to get reasonable string balance on staggers. Just lift the treble side ever so slightly. I don't know what it is about flat SC's but there just seems like there's something missing there to me. I have 2 sets of flat wound (EMG SA's - Alnico and Fender, Squier - ceramic). The Squiers are nice and chimey, actually very smooth for ceramics, but I hoiked them out in favour of staggered Duncan SSL-1's. In fact the SSL's are the nicest sounding vintage pups I've ever heard. Mind you they seem to sound best in that old Squier, not so good in the MIM. I have CS Fat 50's in my MIM 50's RI and they also chime nicely.

The EMG's are very sweet, but not as sweet as the Duncan's, but close to the the Fat 50's. I also have a locally made hand wound set that also chime nicely, just a tad too bright. I think the guitar had a little to do with that and I plan to build another Strat to prove the point one day ;-)

I think in retrospect tho, I like the EMG's as much as the Fat 50's but for different reasons. Mostly versatility. I could crap on for hours about the whys and wherefores, end of day staggers just sound better to me.