Sunday, March 9, 2008

Potting Pickups part2 (He's on the pot again!)

It snowed like crazy this week at the Searcy String Works shop. One of these days I'll get better heaters in the shop. Maybe a nice Franklin stove or something. But for now I just suffer through it.

I got a few more emails and a phone call this week regarding pickup potting. Seems there are still a lot of questions out there like "How do I know if my pickups need to be potted?" Well... let's see if I can clear some of this up.

It's not that tricky to figure out. There are really two types of feed back. First there is feed back caused by the guitar strings vibration. This is the good feedback. The kind that Jimi used to good effect. If your getting too much of it on your rig than you may want to look at a good Noise Gate pedal.

The second type of feed back is the kind caused by microphonic pickups. This type of feed back is totally evil and can wreck your day. If you like a high gain sound and you are playing an amp with more than 50watts of power in an enclosed room that isn't the "Enormo-Dome" than microphonic feed back is the devils work! It's caused by lose coil windings in the pickup. The sound in the room cause the the lose windings to vibrate in the magnetic field. This vibration is picked up by the pickup. That noise is sent to the amp which amplifies the sound and sends it out into the room through the speakers. The sound in the room makes the lose coil winding vibrate even more and the whole thing starts over again... thus we have feed back. This eardrum splitting noise will not go away if you mute your strings. It is not controllable. It's not musical and l hate it with a passion.

Now... Lately there is a fad among boutique pickup makers to poo-poo wax potting with claims that it kills the tone or " Those old PAFs weren't potted and they sounded great!" But the truth is most of those guys have never even seen a real 1960's Gibson pickup, let alone an honest to god PAF. It's true that they weren't potted. But what folks have forgotten is that they were considered nearly useless in rock music unless you had one of those magic guitar techs that could make them behave.

Eddie Van Halen made the PAF famous in a 1980 Guitar Player interview when he gave away a closely guarded guitar tech secret and told the world you could tame the notoriously microphonic PAF by wax potting it. Gibson started wax potting it's pickups not long after that . By the end of the 1980's almost all pickups were potted to prevent microphonic feed back.

Now, if you really want me to make you a pickup and skip the wax potting I'll do it. You're the boss after all. But don't fall for hype and don't be surprised if your unpotted pickup squeals like a pig when you crank your amp. Rest easy though, if you bought it from me.... or even if you didn't buy it from me.... you can send your microphonic pickup to Searcy String Works and I'll pot it for ya.

I charge $20 to pot a pickup.


Nikki said...

Hi Clint, I don't know if you'll get this but I'm in dire need of some help. I need to repot a gibson grabber pickup...unfortunately said pickup in encased in epoxy and I have NO CLUE how to go about getting in it to. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Nikki.

Clint said...

Hello Nikki

My wife used to have a Fretless Gibson Grabber. Great little bass. Those sliding pikups were epoxy potted as you mentioned. If you have one that is microphonic you're a bit out of luck as there is no good way to get the wax into the coil. It's it's a hugh problem you might need to replace the pickup.

Anonymous said...

aww, what a bummer.