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Username: davehouck

Post Number: 1341
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Sunday, February 06, 2005 - 3:13 pm:   Edit Post

In general, as pickups are raised closer to the strings, several things happen.

The output will rise as the coils in the pickups are excited more by the string movement the closer they get to the strings.

As this happens, treble output will rise and lows will tend to roll off as well. The pickups will sound progressively 'hotter' the closer they get to the strings. And noisier: You'll begin to hear string noise, fret rattle a little more.

And you can run into 'magnetic damping', where the sustain tends to get diminished due to the magnets' proximity to the strings; not a problem with ALEMBIC pickups, but can happen with seriously hot guitar pickups like Duncan Invaders or DiMarzio SH2's. Or bass pickups like Seymour Quarter Pounders.

These effects are not as pronounced with ALEMBIC or other so-called 'low impedance' pickups like EMGs or Barts. These pickups tend to be relatively weaker magnetically and the gain is made up with the onboard preamp/active electronics. The problems listed above are part of the cluster of problems that led Ron to invent this type of pickup. You see, the real black art/science blend of skill and ears and science is what separates pickup guys from the rest of us mere mortals.

Having set this up, now I can explain where the trim pots come in.

How high you set your pickups is a subjective decision based on what tone YOU like. There is no 'right' answer. Once you get them just like you want them, you are now stuck with the output the pickup height has given you. On two pickup basses, this could be a lot louder on one than the other. Bridge pickups tend to be softer because the string is moving a lot less that close to the bridge. So now when you dial up the 'both pickup' spot on the selector, it's probably going to be REAL 'bassy'. Or maybe you cranked the bridge pickup right under the strings, and now both pickups sound just like the bridge pickup alone.

The trim pots are a small stroke of genius in that you set the tone of each pickup EXACTLY the way you like it without worry of the output. Now you can use the pots to match volume, make it neck- or bridge-pickup heavy, and set the gain to match your amp. You're right, you can run them hot to push your amp a little more. But of course, that part is VERY dependent on the amp you're using, as different rigs will have more headroom than others. I used to use a Yamaha bass preamp that I could NEVER overdrive.

There's a huge difference in tone between both pickups jacked and the trims wide open, and a very moderate height set-up (say, 1/4 or 5/16" clearance) and the trims set around 12 o'clock.
And again, the rig you're playing into will accept these settings in its own way.

As always, YOUR sound is the result of a CHAIN.
It includes the pickup setup discussed here, your cables, your strings, is the AC in the wall plug clean or noisy, and on and on.

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