Tone Tips: Balancing The Output of Your Pickups

One of the questions we receive frequently is people wanting to know why one pickup sounds louder than another. You know, imbalanced pickup volumes. Perhaps you’ve experienced it or are dealing with it now. Some guitars have a pickup slightly imbalanced. The neck, middle or bridge pickups simply sounds louder than the rest. Or opposite, one is weaker than the rest.

Often times, the fix is simple. The first thing we recommend checking is the pickup heights, the distance between the pickup and the strings. If one or more pickups is closer to the strings than the rest, pickups of relatively the same output can become imbalanced.

Here is what we recommend to fix this problem.

  1. Calibrate your guitar’s pickups by starting with your favorite pickup position first.
  2. Do you like the tone? If it is too loud, lower it. If it is too low, raise it slightly. We recommend starting the pickup at a point that is equidistant between the body and the strings. The half way point. Keep adjusting the height until you find the tone you like. Check both clean and gain settings to ensure a clear and defined tone.
  3. After adjusting your primary pickup. Go to your secondary and third choices. Adjust each pickup based on the sound and output of your favorite pickup. The goal is to match the outputs so that only the tone changes between each pickup, not the volume.
  4. Remember, if a pickup is too close to the strings, it will lose definition and clarity. It will sound slightly louder but sustain will be reduced.  If a pickup is too far, it will sound weak and lose drive as well as definition.

While we do recommend allowing the guitar strings to breath by having greater separation from the pickup and strings, the key is to find the sweet spot based on your ears. Once you find the sweet spot, balance each pickup accordingly remembering to check each pickup against the volume of your favorite position.

Let your ears be your guide and judge! If it sounds good…go with it!

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