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Is it worth it for me to go through the work of installing an active pickup?

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Is it worth it for me to go through the work of installing an active pickup?

Postby seriousnewbie » Sun Nov 22, 2020 1:01 am

So the full question is, is it worth it for me to go through the work of installing an active pickup in a guitar that formerly had passive pickups? Do active pickups pack the punch that it is said they do? I am aware that if I wanted to install an Active pickup I would have to make an area for the battery to go, right?

This is a single humbucker pickup guitar with a tone and volume nob. I primarily play rock, and it might go to harder rock every once and awhile. let me know if I am forgetting any other vital information. Thanks for reading, and thanks for helping me out if you decide too!

Also if anyone has any suggestions for pickups that would be great, my budget (I just want 1 pickup) is $100
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Re: Is it worth it for me to go through the work of installing an active pickup?

Postby zenguitar » Sun Nov 22, 2020 1:38 am

As always with these questions, there are no easy answers.

There are plenty of active pick-ups on the market. However, there are a number of approaches. Some are designed to sound as close to possible as traditional passive pick-ups, some are designed to do things that aren't possible with passives, and some fall in-between.

If we look at actives that claim to pack a punch; we can confidently say, some may achieve it, some may not, "that's not what I would call punch", "that's a bit over the top if you ask me".

If you are working in a specific genre, look at players who use guitars with similar woods and construction to your guitar and actually seek out those guitars and try them in your local, friendly, guitar shop (once any lock-downs and restrictions are completed). See for yourself what you think.

Is it worth the work, effort and expense to make a modification that in part is irreversible in some respects? Maybe, but it's your call. My view is that you need to think critically about what you feel is lacking in the current set up. Pick-ups do NOT have a sound, they have a transfer characteristic.

And in simple terms that means that they can only reproduce what is already there. If your sound lacks punch the first places you should be looking at is your technique, your strings, your FX and your amp and settings.

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Re: Is it worth it for me to go through the work of installing an active pickup?

Postby Murray B » Sun Nov 22, 2020 12:58 pm

All of what Andy said...

A potential advantage I can see is if you are going for very high gain / distortion settings then you might benefit from the lower noise produced by an active pickup.

Depending on the preamp system you pick then you might get some more flexible control of the tone on the guitar itself - my bass has an active pickup and a 3 band eq and it's really handy for tweaking the sound when playing but I'm not sure if you'd want to install lots of new controls as well as the pickup... thinking about it three tone controls on a 6 string guitar may seem a little over the top.

Fitting one could involve some surgery on the guitar though depending on how big the cavity for the controls is as things stand.

I'm not sure how to define punch in guitar tone, but my gut feeling is that this is more about overall tone, gain levels, compression levels and technique than any specific pickup (most guitar players with a distinctive sound seem to sound like themselves irrespective of the guitar they are playing)

Having said all of the above - I love messing with this kind of stuff. Researching what to get, working out how to fit it, doing the work and then convincing myself that everything sounds better now I've made the changes is a very enjoyable hobby for me.

So if you want to try it - give it a go...

You'll learn from doing it but it won't necessarily create a revolution in your playing or guitar sound :D
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Re: Is it worth it for me to go through the work of installing an active pickup?

Postby Sam Spoons » Sun Nov 22, 2020 1:36 pm

+1 to all above but, from a personal PoV I'd say don't bother unless it's because you fancy having a go. FWIW I play (amongst other things) blues and rock but don't really stray into heavy rock and definitely not metal so not genres that typically use actives.

Also if the guitar is precious to you or in any way valuable I'd leave it well alone or at least only do mods that are reversible (and hang on to all the original bits). When I was young(er), impulsive and impoverished I decided it was a good idea to put toggle switches for phase and coil taps in my Les Paul Custom 'cos I couldn't afford push/pull pots (stuff like that only came from the States and wasn't cheap back in the early '80s). They don't do very much that is useful and just make the guitar sound weak. They also devalued the guitar significantly as it is no longer 'original'.
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Re: Is it worth it for me to go through the work of installing an active pickup?

Postby Murray B » Sun Nov 22, 2020 3:57 pm

+1 on not making permanent changes to a valuable guitar.

I mess with £100 - £200 guitars for fun, but I leave my fancy Strat and Axis well alone.
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