Tone: Comparing DC Resistance in Guitar Pickups

From what I can gather, generally speaking, the higher the DC resistance on your pickup, the more compressed and warmer it will be. The lower the DC resistance, the more open, and brighter it will be.

This defines what your tone is like when the tone control is set to 10. As you start to lower the tone control away from 10, you roll off the high ends from the “live” pickup sound. The amount of high ends you roll off depend on your capacitor.

I did some research to compare the various DC resistance of typical pickup styles for high-end brands, and you can explore that in this Google spreadsheet.

Some findings:

  • Sean’s Jazzmaster¬†with the “Pure Vintage ’65” pickups has the lowest DC resistance of the 4 other Jazzmaster pickups I compared, although Fralin will make one that is lower if you special order it. This means those pickups are going to be naturally a lot brighter than others.
  • My¬†Custom Shop Tele has a crazy range of DC resistance spanning just about the max levels for both high and low.
  • The “Pure Vintage ’65” pickups in the reissue Jazzmaster and Jaguar have identical DC resistance.
  • The humbuckers made by Lollar and the Creamery that emulate the Gibson P.A.F.’s are pretty much identical, with the Lollar’s being a touch warmer.
  • Jazz Bass pickups have DC resistance in the range of typical humbucker pickups.
  • Precision Bass pickups have the highest DC resistance, and the most compressed, warmest, natural tone.
  • Inductance (Henries) seems to affect the tone, too. Will have to investigate that further.

Check out all the details:

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7 thoughts on “Tone: Comparing DC Resistance in Guitar Pickups

  1. I always thought the resistance was basically a measure of output. Is your twisted tele bridge really loud compared to the neck? That is a surprising difference between the neck and bridge.

  2. Apparently the disturbance in the magnetic field that the pickup creates (and how big the magnetic field is) is what influences the output. That’s called inductance (Henries). So if the pickup is making a large magnetic field, and you strum hard, it will disturb the field more, and the signal will be louder.

    There is a good piece on the Lollar blog about it:

  3. Output is also a result of the number of winds the pickup has, and the gauge of the wire. The higher the winds, the higher the output. (Because it creates a larger magnetic field, which can be disturbed by the strings and create inductance.)

  4. Nice. Collectable for sure, and I love the mounting diagram. Looks like your drawing for the Capacinator.

    Fender released a “modern player” tele bass recently that has two of those in it. Not sure how the sound compares to the original, but this guy sounds like Holger Czukay on it:

  5. I was checking those out yesterday on youtube also, but I did not see that one. I’m really attracted to the single-humbucker bass idea. I wouldn’t want the bridge pickup.

    I have to wonder if these squier pickups are worth a shit. Probably not, but I could get a whole bass for $300 practically unused. I’d just want the pickup. I don’t even need a new bass – it’s just something to distract me from the 5 to 7 weeks of waiting left.

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