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Pole piece heights

Postby tweedle do » Sun Feb 21, 2021 8:47 pm

So, this has been a wondering of mine for a long time and I've finally remembered to ask about it...

I've had a JV Squier strat for ooohhh, a long time now. It's one of the first series, large Fender logo, small Squier logo, 62 sunburst.

Now, as far as I'm aware it's all original, bought from one owner in Liverpool. However, when I see similar guitars the pole piece's are staggered in height, whereas on my guitar they're flat.

Does anyone know what they should be? I've read of people levelling pole piece's but would like to know what the original design should be.

The guitar has had a shim fitted, so maybe there has been some DIY done...?

Cheers all.
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Re: Pole piece heights

Postby Murray B » Sun Feb 21, 2021 9:37 pm

Edit - completely misread the post, so have just deleted a nonsense reply.
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Re: Pole piece heights

Postby Sam Spoons » Sun Feb 21, 2021 10:14 pm

Some discussion on 'adjusting' the pole pieces on Fender style pickups in this recent thread https://www.soundonsound.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=76587
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Re: Pole piece heights

Postby tweedle do » Mon Feb 22, 2021 8:26 pm

Thanks, saw that thread, perhaps it was what prompted my question....

These pick ups are supposed to have been original American made ones. Because these guitars are relatively rare I don’t know if they were originally staggered or not.

If.... they were, would there be any benefit to making them staggered again?
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Re: Pole piece heights

Postby zenguitar » Mon Feb 22, 2021 9:05 pm

No benefit whatsoever.

You guitar is what it is, appreciate it for that. If the pole-pieces were originally staggered there is a risk that they have already been damaged, staggering them again just runs further risk of damage.

And if they weren't originally staggered, everything is as it should be.

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Re: Pole piece heights

Postby Sam Spoons » Mon Feb 22, 2021 10:06 pm

Depends on the stagger but, AFAIK the pole pieces in fender style single coils* are flush to the bottom of the pickup. So, if the G has been adjusted, typically to convert a 'vintage stagger' into a modern one optimised for a plain G, the G pole piece would stand proud of the backplate.

I have checked the four spare Strat pickups I have, a set of Tokai vintage Pu's and a single one bought as a Seymour Duncan overwound Pu of some flavour and all have a vintage stagger with the pole pieces flush with the fibre backplate.
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Re: Pole piece heights

Postby tweedle do » Tue Feb 23, 2021 9:35 pm

Thank you both for your advice.

Zen, thanks for the straight up acceptance advice, Sam, I’ll take a look under the hood - I’d never have considered that.

Cheers both!
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Re: Pole piece heights

Postby Wonks » Mon Mar 08, 2021 1:04 pm

I read somewhere quite recently that one of the pickup makers tested out a load of staggered and flat pole piece single coil pickups and for them, the flat pole pickups had the most even string response.

On a humbucker, you've almost always got one row of flat pole pieces, and the adjustable screw poless are rarely tweaked from flat by their owners. I'll tweak the screw poles on a humbucker if I feel a string or two is sounding weaker than the rest, but there's rarely any noticeable imbalance and you normally have to listen very carefully for it. Often the top E can be a bit weaker as there's only one other pole piece next to it, rather than one each side of the main pole piece. These can add a small but useful bit of overall output. The position of the string in relation to the pole can also have an affect here. We'd all like the string to be centred over the pole, but this is rarely the case, and if the top E string is sitting towards the outer edge of the pole piece, then it's going to sound weaker than if on the inside edge of the pole piece and so is closer to the B-string pole piece.

Some people will simply set the screw poles to match the fretboard radius regardless of the sound, which doesn't seem right to me. Use your ears and set accordingly.
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Re: Pole piece heights

Postby tweedle do » Tue Mar 09, 2021 9:42 pm

Thanks for your advice Wonks, I’ve been thinking about it since I saw your post... but... (and forgive my ignorance) if the top/high E string is weaker in output, then why isn’t that polepiece also higher, to increase the output?
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Re: Pole piece heights

Postby Wonks » Tue Mar 09, 2021 11:35 pm

A lot depends on its position beneath the string. The pickup maker generally has no control over that, and a 1mm shift in scratchplate or pickup ring position, or a slight offset in the bridge position can make all the difference there, so a one-size fits all change to pickup height would work in some instances and be wrong in others. It also comes down to how high the user sets the pickups and the relative heights of the bass/treble end. Also, different string gauges sets have different relative string mass/unit length, and this can affect relative outputs as well.

I've noticed a slightly weaker top string far more on humbuckers than on magnet pole piece single-coils, and on at least 95% of humbuckers you've got at least one row of adjustable pole pieces where you can balance string outputs. The more focussed magnetic field of magnet pole piece single-coils may have something to do with it, and also explain why that even when using vintage stagger pickups with a plain 3rd string, the output still sounds pretty even between the strings.

I suppose another question to ask is why so many vintage Strat-style pickups still have that vintage stagger, when the use of a wound 3rd has been pretty rare ever since sets of 10s, 9s and 8s became easy to obtain in the 1970s? There are some makers who will provide a modern stagger on otherwise vintage spec pickups, but most still stick to the original specs.

At least you've now got a wide choice of alternate pickups to try out if you aren't happy with the sound of yours.
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