Welcome To The DULLhouse

We get asked all the time, “Why does my old pickup sound dull?”

There are many reasons the tone can suffer on vintage pickups…

These p'ups aren't just *playing* dead... They're dead!

These p’ups aren’t just *playing* dead… They’re actually dead!

 

We can’t resurrect or improve every beaten, tired, old pickup that we come across. Some of them, like the ones seen above, are just too far gone. Only a complete rebuild, with brand new parts could bring them back to life – but at that point, you may as well just replace it! You can’t shine a turd, as they say (even if you could, you’d still just have a shiny turd). But, just maybe, your dull sound isn’t the turd you thought it was, so in this edition, we’ll address the possible causes and potential solutions.

 

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Temperature and Guitar Pickup DC Resistance

This is a follow-up to our previous Blog entitled, “How Important is Guitar Pickup DC Resistance?” 

We decided to further demonstrate an important property of guitar pickup DC resistance.  That is, how temperature can affect the DC resistance reading on the SAME pickup.

So we did a simple experiment for you.  This will help demonstrate the point.   

We took the SAME pickup, a 2009 Lollar Vintage T Series bridge, and placed it in three different temerature settings and photographed the results.  As you will see, the same pickup will have different Ohm meter readings when the pickup’s temperature changes.

Here goes:

Setting Number 1 – Room Temperature

This particular Lollar Vintage T Series bridge reads a little over 7.1K at 68 degrees fahrenheit.

This particular Lollar Vintage T Series bridge reads a little over 7.1K at 68 degrees fahrenheit.

Here you will find our stock Lollar Vintage T Series bridge (one of our most popular, by the way).  The DC resistance is taken at room temperature, as indicated by the thermometer.

 

Setting Number 2 – Warm

This same Lollar Vintage T Series bridge has a reading of almost 7.9K after it has been warmed up for about an hour.

This same Lollar Vintage T Series bridge has a reading of almost 7.9K after it has been warmed up for about an hour.

This next photo shows a higher DC resistance reading, taken on the very same Lollar T Series bridge pickup.  We let this pickup sit at the warming station for about an hour.  (We warm all of the pickups at the warming station before they are immersed in the molten wax at the potting station.)

 

Setting Number 3 – Cold

Now this same Lollar Vintage T Series bridge has a reading of just under 6.4K - it has been sitting in the refrigerator.

Now this same Lollar Vintage T Series bridge has a reading of just under 6.4K - it has been sitting in the refrigerator.

This final photo shows how a colder temperature affects the DC resistance.  We let the same Lollar Vintage T Series bridge pickup sit in the refrigerator for about an hour. You can see how lowering the temperature of the pickup also lowers the DC resistance reading.

How Important is Guitar Pickup DC Resistance?

There is quite a bit of misunderstanding about the use of DC resistance as a measurement of a guitar pickup’s output.  DC resistance (kΩ) is a handy but rough measure of a pickup’s output.  It is most useful for making general comparisons, but not taken much beyond that.

We say this because there are a number of variables that can affect DC resistance.  In fact, two of these factors can actually change the DC resistance reading on the SAME guitar pickup.

Temperature, specifically, will do this.  The very same pickup will have a higher DC resistance reading when the pickup is warmer, and a lower DC resistance reading when the pickup is cooler.  For example,  if the pickup has been sitting in a sunny window, the dc resistance will read higher.  If you took that same pickup and stored it in your basement / practice room and it was cooler in temp, the DC resistance would read lower.

The dc resistance will also read lower once the pickup has been installed into your guitar.

Another factor is variation of copper wire.  Although it’s manufactured to rigorous specs, variation exists between spools of copper wire—including spools made by the same manufacturer and from the same lot number.  A microscopic size variance that’s still within specs can affect DC resistance.

Equipment calibration can vary between ohm meters and can also change if your battery is low.

We get phone calls from customers who have questions about the DC resistance their new guitar pickup is showing – at that moment – and the DC resistance values that we publish on our web site. They want to know if there is something “wrong” with the new pickup.

We tell them that unless they are taking that reading at exactly the same temperature as we did here in the shop, their pickup will read slightly differently.  More often than not, they will have just received the pickup, pulled it out of the box, and tested it moments after it has just been sitting in either a very cold or a very hot delivery truck.  

Another thing to keep in mind is that the DC resistance values we publish are midpoints.  The testing was done on average size production runs.  Each of the pickups in those runs had a different reading.  The values we publish are the midpoints of those groups of readings.

Follow this link to see a full listing of Lollar Pickups DC resistance.