Which pickup with your Kemper: The pickup database, with audio clips

  • This is a derivative of the "what pickup do you use" thread.

    I'm always wondering what pickups I'd like to put into one of my guitars with EMGs. Not terribly unhappy with actives, but I prefer passives. I'm sure a lot of users would have opinions, but these are very subjective.

    Audio clips, on the other hand, should be objective, but often aren't :thumbdown:

    With most audio/video clips demonstrating pickups, we have very little information, and the actual sound is usually masked by the playing, the amp settings used, the guitar used, the processing done to the clip, etc.

    With the Kemper though, we could standardise almost all factors involved. I thought this would be an interesting way for people to choose pickups for their guitar, based on how they sound with easily available Kemper profiles - one clean, one medium gain and one high gain.

    What we need to do is basically standardise the test as far as possible.

    We could have the following heads when we post a clip:

    1) Pickup used

    2) Pickup type (single/humbucker/multi)

    3) Pickup position (bridge/neck)

    4) Guitar scale length

    5) Neck (Bolt-on, through, set neck)

    And we run this guitar and pup combination through a clean rig, crunch, and a dirty rig, without effects or any tweaks. Has to be standard profiles that anyone can access so that we have comparable results.

    Now, all of us know the debate about tone being in the fingers. In order to eliminate the possibility that some of our esteemed members' playing overshadows the sound of the pickups, I suggest that we have an agreed series of chords and notes played in order to best audition the pickup.

    For example, we could first play standard major chords from C to B, then play power chords from C to C+1. We could then have the pentatonic scale at the 12th fret as a demonstration of single note sounds. As opposed to fast and fluid playing, the idea should be to let each chord and note ring out.

    Of course, it would be very kind if a user over-and-above this test also provides a separate clip of the pickup being really played :love:

    Does anyone have any other suggestions of how we could standardise this process? Once we have done so, I can start with clips for the EMG81 at bridge, EMG85 at neck, Bill Lawrence L500XL at bridge and Bill Lawrence L500R at neck.

    I'd also like to know whether you guys think about the idea of including the sound of pickups when blended, i.e. with the selector switch in a middle position. Do you think this is feasible? I'm thinking, hell yes, I want to know as much as I can about a pickup before I plonk money down. :thumbup:

    I think this could be a very valuable resource. Most pickup demonstrations at the neck vary in terms of the guitar, the playing, the amp and settings used, etc.

    With the Profiler, we could narrow those differences down once we pick the profiles that we will use, e.g. ensure that the rig and main volume of the profile are set to 50, output set at a fixed level (easily done with SPDIF set at say 0), no processing of any kind, including limiting.

    Of course, we will have some differences other than the aforementioned "finger tone", such as the quality of AD converters used. But I think these will be negligible.

    I'm hoping others see this as a good idea like I do, if everyone showcases one or two pickups, it will be a cinch for members to choose pickups to go with their Kemper, or for any other amp too! :thumbsup:

    This has the potential to be a resource not just for Kemperphiles, but anyone who's looking for a pickup due to the standardisation of the procedure.

    Before we get started, the nitty gritty:
    A) Which profiles for clean, medium gain and high gain?
    B) What should be played to demonstrate the pickup?

    What a long post haha!

  • Although I'm a bit skeptical whether this will take off, I like the general idea. I will offer my two cents.

    - It would have to be really simple, though, I think, in order to keep it consistent from pickup to pickup.
    - For sake of simplicity, it might be an idea to limit it to just ONE pickup at a time (no blending).
    - It should be tabbed out exactly what to play
    - The biggest unknown factor as I see it is how hard people hit the strings. I think that's more important than playing all the chords in an octave etc. I'd suggest focus on one or two chords, played from really really soft, to quite hard (very hard?). Say: open E chord from very quiet to very loud, with just a little space between - then a mid-hard strike and let it ring out, and a quite hard strike and let it ring out. Then repeat for a D minor bar chord on the fifth fret of the A string.
    - Same deal for power chords.
    - Volume and tone on full for all clips.
    - Finally, some short riffing or soloing in free-form - but no more that say 15 seconds of each.
    - A DI should be made available, so people can reamp through the profiles they are familiar with/like. This should be accompanied by the Clean Sens setting used, so exact gain staging can be done with SPDIF for people of that persuasion - using reamp sens.
    - Distortion sens should obviously be zero.
    - Information about guitar used must obviously also be supplied

    - Ideally, all this would take place in a thread that is reserved JUST for the info and clips - NOT for discussion. Alternatively, the first post in the thread should contain a list of all pickup "tests" performed, along with a link to the specific post containing the clips+info
    - The posts should follow a predetermined template to keep clutter to a minimum

    A) Profiles should be taken from the factory rigs, or Rig Exchange so people have a reference point to their own guitars. Medium gain could be the famous Morgan AC20. The recording should be reamped
    B) Oops, I talked about that above.

    I'd be happy to participate when I get back my Kemper from Led repair (found out today it's been underway for a month, and only got to kemper this monday - frustrating!! But shout out to Kemper for good customer service.)

  • Alright, so:
    1) What to play:
    - Two major chords (E and D)
    - Two power chords (A and C)
    - 15 second riff

    2) Profiles to use:
    - Clean: Californication
    - Crunch: Morgan AC20
    - High gain: TAF Van Halen

    3) Settings:
    - SPDIF at odb
    - distortion sense at 0
    - rig volume and main volume at 12 o'clock
    -All FX off/no tweaks to stock profiles
    - Guitar volume and tone at full

    any other suggestions, guys? I can edit the TOP post in this thread once we have more ideas to encapsulate the format and the requirementse of your tests/demos, plus a list of all pickups that have been put up.

    the more people that participate, the more comprehensive this will be!

  • I think CS should be carefully set so that it barely blinks to the red with the strongest strumming per pickup.
    Also Noise Gate to 0, flat EQ on the Output.

    Not sure about the S\PDIF, many might not use\own a proper I\F?


  • I like this idea!

    I disagree with CS - it should be standard, so a fixed value should be chosen. For this to be a somewhat reliable test, the fewer differing variables the better. Although, you could of course always state what value it was at... Oh, disregard me! Carry on!

  • I don't think this would work. Let me explain why:

    - Different strings produce different sounds. Steel-core vs. Nickel-core strings sound different. I use NYXLs, which boast a "high-carbon steel core and plain steel alloy." That sounds different than nickel.
    - Different string gauges produce different sounds. A set of 9's can sound dramatically different than a set of 11's on the same guitar.
    - Pickup height differences of just a couple mm make a huge difference of the impact of the sound. A covered version of the same pickup may sound different as it might need to be placed slightly further away. And this may be affected by a guitar that hasn't been set up in a while and the strings are a little higher (or lower) than optimal.
    - Guitars with a floating bridge (Strats and superstrat style guitars) are going to just sound different than those with fixed bridges. And even the same Floyd Rose-style bridge may sound different if the block has been replaced.
    - Floyd Rose-style bridges also have the strings (generally) locked at the nut. That cuts more of the harmonics that occur between the nut and the tuning machines. No - a pickup is not directly picking this up, but it may resonate ever-so-slightly on a pick attack.
    - Bridges and tuning machines also make a (slight) difference. Heavier-weighted tuning machines and bridges conduct the string vibration to the body and neck differently.
    - The nut can also affect the sound on open strings. While most guitars use the plain, white plastic nut, brass nuts are also popular. And then there are zero fretted guitars too.
    - Neck through vs. Set neck vs. Bolt-on produce different amounts of sustain and resonation.
    - While it's often debated, the different woods the guitar is made out of affect the final tone, as the woods create resonation, sustain, and tonal character. If they didn't, wood choice would solely be a vanity thing with transparent and translucent finishes, and we'd all be playing basswood guitars.
    - And speaking of finishes, the thickness of the clear coat actually can dampen or liven the sound of a guitar. Too much clear coat allows the resonance of the strings to not push through.
    - The shape of the guitar. Everything besides body shape being identical, a hollow-body/f-hole guitar will sound different than a Strat, and a Strat will sound differently than a Flying V. Same thing applies, but to a lesser degree, with the headstock shape.
    - The hardware on a guitar. A direct-mounted pickup sounds different than a floating pickup (via a pickup ring or pickguard).
    - The wiring inside the guitar. Two Strats may be wired completely differently. My Strat, for instance, has basically a double-pot for the tone. 5 is actually where 10 is on most strats, and 10 adds some high end crispness. Some people remove the tone knobs altogether, killing off tonal bottlenecks. And EMGs have their own wiring (and, then, 9v, 12v, or 18v?!?).
    - The connection from the guitar to the amp (Kemper) makes a difference as well. A 25' cable is going to sound differently than a 5' cable, as longer cable lengths cut off high end. Plus, being an analog cable, the quality of the cable makes a difference - how much it does really depends on your setup and your ears, but I will say that the first time I used a higher quality cable, it was like removing a pillow from being placed in front of a speaker.

    All that to say - there are many variables that account for why a guitar (and therefore, its pickups) might sound different. In my experience, the body and neck woods matter the most. But, regardless my opinion on the matter, every guitar has tonal nuances, and pickups are one of those nuances. Making a completely unobjective video would require one person, with one guitar, that is constantly swapping pickups out.

    Pickup selection can be one of the most difficult things to do in a guitar, because, if you watch and listen to demos, you're going to get different ideas from each of them. But, I've learned that swapping out pickups is one of those things that you just have to "go for." Find something that sounds like what you're going for, and is used by players with similar setups to yours.

    Also, most companies offer an exchange program - Seymour Duncan, for instance, gives you 21 days to return and exchange a pickup you're not happy with. Tried out that Pearly Gates/59 combo and didn't like it? Call them up - as long as you bought them from an authorized retailer, you can ship your pickups back and they'll help you decide on a new set based on your likes and dislikes. I only mention Seymour Duncan because I've worked with them before and they've been awesome. Sure, you might get a marginally better sound spending more on some Bareknuckles, Instrumentals, or Laces, but, SD's customer support has been great to me, and they're available almost everywhere.

    DiMarzio also offers a 30-day return policy. I'm not that familiar with the details, but I'd be willing to bet it's similar to Seymour Duncans. I'm sure other companies have similar return policies.

    Guitars: Parker Fly Mojo Flame, Ibanez RG7620 7-string, Legator Ninja 8-string, Fender Strat & Tele, Breedlove Pro C25
    Pedalboard: Templeboards Trio 43, Mission VM-1, Morley Bad Horsie, RJM Mini Effect Gizmo, 6 Degrees FX Sally Drive, Foxpedals The City, Addrock Ol' Yeller, RJM MMGT/22, Mission RJM EP-1, Strymon Timeline + BigSky
    Stack: Furman PL-Plus C, Kemper Rack

  • I like this idea!

    I disagree with CS - it should be standard, so a fixed value should be chosen. For this to be a somewhat reliable test, the fewer differing variables the better. Although, you could of
    course always state what value it was at... Oh, disregard me! Carry on!

    OK, this is a good point of view. Can we come to some kind of consensus on this, guys?

    Yes, I am aware of the factors that could distort the results, and this was brought up in my original post, minus all the detail.

    Have to disagree on how useful this would be though.

    IMO, it would definitely trump listening to different pickups demo'ed on different amps. Standardising a significant number of factors definitely trumps no standardisation at all.

    Also, there's no bar on how much disclosure is made when someone does a test. By all means, mention what guitar you're using, the type of bridge and nut, the string gauge.

    And there's also no bar on how many tests are done on the same pickup. If someone has them in a different guitar made of different material and with different specs, I would welcome the chance to do more research.

    The point is, the testing methodology would be largely standardised, despite some factors being out of our control. Just being able to have the basic information, rather than a complex interpretation, would really help when choosing a pickup.

    I think it's great that pickup companies allow you to return your pups for something else. But not all of us have that option - the policy definitely doesn't apply around the world.

    And what if you don't like the second set either?

    Also, I would hate to have to keep rewiring my guitar. Having reliable inputs at the time I make a decision would be good for me and many others.

  • Of those things mentioned,i think the most relevant one to consider for this setup is the gauge and age of the strings. Other things will have to be accepted as variable, and included as information. Still other things (like nut material etc) can be largely ignored by being smart about WHAT to play.

    We can have more heads when posting a clip:

    1) Pickup used

    2) Pickup type (single/humbucker/multi)

    3) Pickup position (bridge/neck)

    4) Guitar manufacturer and body material

    5) Guitar scale length

    6) Neck (Bolt-on, through, set neck)

    7) Bridge

    8) String gauge used/age of strings

    Interesting idea... looking forward to seeing how it pans out...

    I hope you will contribute once we get to that stage! :thumbsup:

  • A measurement of closeness to the strings might also be in order.

    I also think (if and when it becomes relevant) we might need to decide on how to deal with multiple demonstrations of the same pickups etc.

    In order to keep clutter to a minimum, it might become relevant to limit the number of demonstrations for identical pickups. In such cases, I'd prefer to see the "ususal suspects" getting preferential treatment; i.e. better a Les Paul than a VibroClunk Turbo 6 (and if that turns out to be a real guitar name, you all owe me a beer).

    If it doesn't get too cluttered, then variety can of course be nice.

  • I think we really shouldn't get too worried about every single factor that might be involved. It will be too limiting because people will start second-guessing a lot of other things about the pickups, such as "Oh I don't have a Floyd Rose, I have a Kahler bridge" or "I have a bone nut, he has a graphite nut".

    That would be a little too crazy. I think it's safe to assume that on a scale of importance to the tone, the pickup will trump those components in spades.

    We will just have to go with the hope that the user doing the demo is using a well-set up guitar with strings that have reasonable life. Can't expect everyone to have a Les Paul or a Fender (I know I have neither), though I think it is safe to assume that anybody who has a Kemper will have a halfway decent guitar. In that respect, perhaps we can do away with information like the age of the strings too.

    1) Pickup used

    2) Pickup type (single/humbucker/multi) AND (Active/Passive)

    3) Pickup position (bridge/neck)

    4) Guitar manufacturer and body material

    5) Guitar scale length

    6) Neck (Bolt-on, through, set neck)

    7) Bridge

    8) String gauge

  • I concede - forget about the guitar brands (at least until the point where the massive amount of sound samples start to flood us all ;-))

    I still think we should encourage people to only use new-ish strings, and at the very LEAST make a note of how old the strings are.

    Can be done! The more disclosures that are made the better! We should have a bare minimum though, and if there's any other information that someone wants to volunteer, they can do so without us worrying about how it would be catalogued.

  • Hi,

    I have / had a similar idea, but I think it is much easier to make it like them:

    Make a clip of your pickup play some chords. Make an EQ curve with Ozone with it and apply it to your pickup with an Studio EQ or something else.

    Here is a german book about which is written by scientist about where the guitar sound is coming from and how it works. https://hps.hs-regensburg.de/~elektrogitarre/ (With Blindtests) The biggest impact has the pickup and the electronic circuit. If you change a 500k Pot to a 250k pot your sound will be warmer, because you loose a lot of highs. Different wood do not change your guitar sound significant, so you cant tell it on A/B Blindtest. Many people from the industry get a golden donkey with that rumour or just repeat what other people are telling them.

  • I'd concur, I've read a lot on the same matter. OTOH, from my experience, the mass of the wood does affect the sound instead.
    I've had the neck of a guitar of mine reduced in thickness, and the resonances on the low freqs have changed dramatically.

  • I'd concur, I've read a lot on the same matter. OTOH, from my experience, the mass of the wood does affect the sound instead.
    I've had the neck of a guitar of mine reduced in thickness, and the resonances on the low freqs have changed dramatically.

    As I said, the biggest factor in the sound for these tests are likely to be the pickups. But I think that scale length, string gauge, the bridge and guitar construction are all factors that will have a big enough impact on the sound/sustain to result in different experiences for different users. I only think that active pickups do not have a different sound in different guitars, whereas my experience with passive guitars tells me that how they are built does influence tone.

    Sure, we could leave out the information. But for the purpose of full disclosure and ensuring that people know what they are hearing, it will be a good thing to have this information presented upfront.

    In the end, with something like tone, even extracting a small improvement versus the next guy can be a big deal in the music biz, so I think it's important not to discount the little things that go into that tone.

    One small update: I haven't forgotten about the database, I have been very busy with a deadline for a recording project. With my mixing and mastering skills, the whole situation is even more comical. But I should be done by sometime next week, after which I will do the first tests on my pickups and post here.

  • I think the "full disclosure"-thing is spot on. Even if some of us DON'T believe in the effect of wood types etc (I don't count myself in this category, although I'm a semi-skeptic of some of the "all parts make a difference" paradigm) - a database like this would ultimately be a service to OTHER users than the poster. So let's give people the information that would enable them to make the best decision for their tastes/beliefs.

  • So this thread really needed to be resurrected imo, because I'm on the market for a pair of passive pickups to go in an alder body Les Paul style guitar with 24.75" scale length. Guitar currently has EMGs, but I feel that while they're not bad pickups, they don't have the character I like.

    I can contribute a couple of inputs on Wilde Bill Lawrence pickups, a L500XL in the bridge and L500R in the neck of a basswood body guitar with 25.5" scale. Guitar is a bolt-on with a Floyd Rose Double Edge Pro piezo bridge. It's an Ibanez RG1820X that was routed horribly to fit these massive pickups, so keep in mind that it's not a shallow pickup at all, I was honestly surprised at how deep it is.

    I thought of doing a test like we had described, but I am actually a bit unsure how helpful playing a few chords will be to someone who is looking to buy a pickup for a certain type of music. Hopefully these clips will do a better job of showcasing these pickups.

    This is the L500R in the neck:

    And the L500XL in the bridge:

    This is a really small company and the guy who made them, Bill Lawrence, recently died. I believe his wife runs the business now. The pickups are relatively cheap compared to Dimarzios and Duncans. From what I understand, this is the guy who taught Larry DiMarzio and I think Seymour Duncan how to wind pickups in the first place. He's also the guy who started the after-market pickup industry in a way. He used to play guitar very well too.

    These ones are really great, and I feel fortunate to own a set.

    If anyone wants me to do the standardised test, let me know, I'd be happy to. I just think these clips are more representative of the sound and character of the pups.

    Also, if you have any pickups you would like to recommend to others, or just put in the database, please do so.