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Thread: RW/RP... Is there a tonal difference?

  1. #1
    Axellent Member Mreilander's Avatar
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    RW/RP... Is there a tonal difference?

    So there is a debate that has been popping up from time to time on the three-single coil guitar forum since it has been first incarnated...
    Does a RW/RP middle pickup have an effect on tone. It is a very polarized debate, with some saying 'absolutely it does' and others saying 'it's not electrically possible'. While the later is a correct statement with an individual pickup on its own, it doesn't hold true when another pickup is put within that pickups magnetic field.

    I have a piece of software called vizimag that I often use to model the magnetic field of a pickup in design. I decided to use it to model the field(s) of a strat body to see how the pickups interact with each other, and thought I'd share my findings with you

    First up we have the model of a Strat with an RW/RP setup.



    As you can see, all the fields like each other. They want to be close. This causes the lines of flux to scew towards their attractive neighbors, elongating the field, and thus the sensing area of the string.


    Next up, a non RW/RP set.



    Now, the fields don't like each other. They are repulsed and try to keep their distance, drastically changing the sensing area.


    One thing that should be noted is that the non RW/RP vs RW/RP changes the magnetic field of all three pickups. This means that a perceived tonal difference in all 5 switch positions is very plausible.
    Last edited by Mreilander; 10-17-2014 at 03:54 PM.

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    Axellent Member Dan Martian's Avatar
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    That's a very interesting graph and it does support the notion that it's plausible. I also have to wonder how different magnetic polarities would affect string vibrational patterns and what *that* would do to the tone. It's hard to look at that question and say that the magnets aren't influencing the tone. Moreover, I have to imagine that field shape would have to alter the tone -- what overtones are picked up would have to change with the shape of the pup's aperture.

    Now the big question is: to what extent do either or both of these things affect the tone? Followed quickly by: how perceivable is it? Then: does it justify the noise cancellation? I realize the questions are getting progressively more difficult to answer definitively, but that's how I (and I expect a lot of us) roll. I know that I like less noise and good tone (extremely subjective, I know), whenever possible. Thanks for the post -- very thought provoking!

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    Axe-honerated Keletcaster's Avatar
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    I have always thought I could here a difference. Though it would be subtle. I wouldn't do it any other way now unless I do a complete vintage project. That is some great stuff Mike.
    Great Guitars Are A Formula Not A Logo.

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    Axe-honerated spellcaster's Avatar
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    I've never had a three pickup guitar without RWRP middle pickup, so I haven't had occasion to hear any differences, but your post definitely has my brain thinking about it. Thanks, Mike. It's great to have someone like you on the forum and sharing your expertise.
    "I know just enough to be dangerous....."

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    Axetastic doublewah's Avatar
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    This is a great post, Mike!
    Thank you.

    So now the question I see is this - Which one is "better" tone?

    I will take this evidence to suggest that there is likely going to be a perceived tone change with different wound middle pickups, but whether the lined-up magnetic fields, or the repulsed ones are going to produce a pleasing tone is likely to be subjective.

    I suppose one could record the neck and bridge pickups with two different middle pickups to get a sense of this.
    I bought a relic'd guitar because I liked the way it sounded. Then I refinished it because I didn't like the way it looked.

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    Axellent Member Mreilander's Avatar
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    It is very subjective. My objective wasn't to show whether one was better than the other, just that they are different. I wanted to show that a perceived tonal difference wasn't a figment of peoples imagination.

    I've been trying to emulate a guitar string over the pole pieces to show how it affects the field as well, but I think ferrous material that small in diameter is out of the scope of this software.

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    Axellent Member Dan Martian's Avatar
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    I was afraid to ask *that* question, Doublewah! Mike answered it the right way, of course! Pity the software probably won't tell us enough about how the strings and fields interact.

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    Axellent Member Mreilander's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by doublewah View Post

    I suppose one could record the neck and bridge pickups with two different middle pickups to get a sense of this.
    An experiment for a later date has come to mind... I can reverse the polarity and magnetic field of the mid pup while it is still mounted in the guitar. That way, all the variable such as pickup height, variations in wind etc are eliminated.

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    Axellent Member Dan Martian's Avatar
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    That would be killer!

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    Axetastic doublewah's Avatar
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    I really like where this thread is going.

    Mike, you could be doing important research for the future of guitar.
    I bought a relic'd guitar because I liked the way it sounded. Then I refinished it because I didn't like the way it looked.

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