Wishbringer Music News
Pickup Power: The Ohm Misconception Tags: ohm ohms miconception power

 

Whenever we buy guitar pickups, one of the first things we look at is the K-ohm (kilo-ohm) rating.  The general belief is that the higher the K rating, the more "powerful" (louder) the pickup.   And to an extent, that is true.

However, measuring pickups strictly by ohms is a "layman's figure" the guitar industry uses to make general power ratings easier to understand.   The reality of it is that ohms have little to do with the actual power (volume) potential of a pickup.  There is a good reason for this:  ohms is not a measure of electric flow; is it a measure of electric impedence-- the resistance of the device to the flow of electricity.

Why then are ohms used as a pickup rating?  Because in general, ohms refer to how much copper is in the pickup coil.  The widespread belief is that the more copper wire, the more volume.  However, this belief is not correct.

Yes, in general, all things equal, given the same coil shape and the same wire thickness and consistency-- the higher the ohm rating the more powerful the pickup.   Mellow guitar pickups often have ohm ratings between 4.5K and 6K.   Humbuckers often run 7K to 9K+.  "Hot" pickups (ie heavy metal) sometimes hit 16K or more.  

But the reality is this:   a lot more is involved in making a guitar pickup than wrapping a wire a certain number of times around a magnet (a typical guitar "coil").  There are many variables involved.  That is why the field of guitar pickups is so complex and competitive, with everyone claiming to have a "special" pickup.   Those variables are why pickups sound different from one another.   If all that was involved was wrapping a specific number of coils around a magnet... all pickups would sound the same, the only difference being the number of wraps involved.

 

IS THE OHM / POWER RATING ACCURATE?

In a word, no.  This is proved if you wind thousands of hair-thin wire coils around a piece of cardboard-- no other metal or magnet involved-- and then take an ohm reading on those coils.  You will get near or even exactly the same ohm reading as if you wrapped them around a magnet.   

Ohms is a measurement not of electrons or the energy they generate, but the resistance in the wire to the movement of energy.  So how can it possibly rate power (ie, volume)?

In designing pickups we find that the diameter of the wire used, the tension in the wire, the way the coils are wrapped, the type and strength of magnet used, relationship of the wire to that magnet, polarity of the magnet, distance of the magnetic field from the strings and many other things are involved in creating a good guitar pickup.    Yes, if you're sporting a 17K pickup you are going to get some serious power and probably a lot of natural distortion in the process.   If you buy a 4.5K pickup it's almost certainly intended for clean, mellow blues and smooth jazz.   But as you've read here, it's just a generalization.  The best way to judge pickup sound and power is by ear.

It is because of these things that I built almost 200 FlatCats before I settled on the final design that produces its uniquely awesome sound and volume.

 

HOW ARE FLATCATS DIFFERENT?

FlatCats are very thin, which means they logically can't contain as many coil wraps as a standard large humbucker pickup.  It stands to reason the ohm rating is also going to be considerably lower.  How then, does a FlatCat produce its amazing volume and unusually rich and robust sound?

 

With most guitar pickups, the majority of the pickup sits inside the body, about an inch underneath the strings.  This is where the magnets are located and where the coils are located.  The magnetic field is usually carried up through pins to the vacinity of the strings.  That is why the magnets and coils have to be so large-- to carry that far.  

The FlatCat is different.  The entire pickup sits directly under the strings.  Nothing is stuck inside the guitar body or removed from the strings.   This allows the FlatCat to pick up every bit of energy, every nuance of sound from the strings. 

As a result, a FlatCat with a lower "ohm" rating produces as much "power" (volume and tone) as a full-size humbucker.  In fact a FlatCat can pick up some sounds a standard humbucker may miss, simply due to proximity to the strings and the way the FlatCat is designed internally.  The result is so unique, awesome and rich in tone that I use FlatCats on my personal guitars

 

ARE HIGH-OHM FLATCATS POSSIBLE?

In research and development phase, by using special types of wire and specific techniques I was able to create FlatCat pickups rating in excess of 10K ohms.  That is the equivalent of a "hot" humbucker pickup.   However in testing it was discovered that this was actually too much for the FlatCat design.  That close to the strings it created such a significant power flow that sound actually distorted and was too much for standard guitar amps. 

In short:  it is possible to have too much power on a pickup.  That's what happened when I pushed FlatCat design to its limits-- and convinced me to bring it back down to a more sensible and pleasantly-audible range.  For those who wish extreme heavy-metal overdrive, effects pedals are used even with standard pickups.  FlatCat works with those as well.

 

SOUND IS SUBJECTIVE

It's difficult to create a scientific measurement of "wonderful sound", because people's ears and tastes differ.   What sounds good to one person will sound not so good to another. 

Subjective sound is why in guitar, amp and pickup reviews one person will rave about a product while another will say it's the worst they've ever heard.     That's why there are so many different kinds of guitars, pickups and amps on the market.   Each offers a specific sound to appeal to different people.

FlatCat™ Pickups are designed to appeal to a wide variety of guitar playing styles and listening preferences.  Depending on your playing style, volume settings and the amp you use, FlatCat sound can range from smooth and mellow to "rock out".   FlatCat is a very versatile pickup that is enjoyed by musicians world wide.  All you need to do is read the reviews on Etsy to confirm that this is a fantastic pickup-- and that measurement of power by ohms is an industry-fostered misconception.  True pickup power is measured not by resistance in an electrical line, but by resulting volume and rich sound.  The FlatCat definitely produces the quality sound guitarists look for in a high-level pickup-- and does so at a very reasonable price.

https://Etsy.com/shop/Wishbringer

 

--o--

 

History of FlatCat™ Pickups Tags: flatcat history pickups

THE HISTORY OF FLATCAT™ GUITAR PICKUPS

From the owner of Wishbringer Music

       Flat pickups have been produced for decades.  However they can be quite expensive.  I became aware of flat pickups around the end of 2014 when I noticed pickups made by Dan Sleep called Thinkbuckers.   I was fascinated by the concept, but in the otherwise open-and-sharing field of cigar box guitar building, everyone was very secretive about how flat pickups were made.  For some reason the concept of Flat pickups was considered by some in the community as the property of one person-- which seemed a bit silly.  One person cannot possibly fill the world-wide market of CBG builders and players.  There were no patents held.  Anyone could make a flat pickup-- if they could figure out how.

    Research revealed that flat pickups were nothing new; they'd been around for decades-- long before the CBG community came about.  At least two major companies produce the in off-the-shelf models (for a significant price).

    Gaining little or no cooperation in understanding flat pickup design, I went to the Net and did some research.  I started experimenting by the seat of my pants, beginning with only a slight inkling of how these were made, based on non-specific photos.  They were wax potted and wrapped in cellophane packing tape, a process and visual that didn't appeal to me. I wanted something sturdier and more resistant to environmental changes.

    Factory-made flat pickups were pricey, starting at $145 each.  I wanted to build a pickup that was especially sturdy and had a wide-range of sound ability, but at a significantly lower price than factory-line pickups.

   Over a period of several months of extensive research and experimentation building pickups by hand, I started developing an unusual design, significantly different than prior designs I had seen.  Not a quick process.  Hundreds of hours were involved in basic R&D.  Detailed records were kept on all attempts-- gleaning the best features.  Eventually, the FlatCat pickup was born.

 

    By mid-2015 that R&D session had accomplished several things:

    * Considerable improvement over existing design concepts both in construction and resulting sound.  Testers stated it sounded better and was more versatile than other pickups.

    * FlatCats are fully potted and encased in solid PolyResin, which makes them very sturdy and more immune to elements and the environment.

    * Because of their design I was able to create and offer the first low-cost 6-string flat pickup on the market, intended for use on standard electric guitars.  Where factory-produced pickups started at $145 and up, FlatCats are priced at $50 to $55.   FlatCats had extended beyond the realm of cigar box guitars. 

    *  Despite surprising gain in power, FlatCats remained wonderfully rich in tone.  Now the pickup could range from mellow sound on the low end to a terrific natural-distortion grit on the high-end, making it the most versatile flat pickup ever made.  From mellow blues to jazz to country to rock-- a single FlatCat could cover them all.

    *  FlatCat was released in  Cigar Box Guitar and Humbucker footprints.  Both models are aboout 1/4" thick and designed to be mounted to the surface of a guitar.

    * In the electric guitar field a FlatCat could be used to replace an existing pickup (mounted to cover the existing pickup cavity), or if no pickup was present it could be mounted directly to the surface of the guitar without need for carving or routing.  The only mounting requirement was drilling a relatively small hole for the wire, making installation of FlatCats very simple, even for beginners.  (Full mounting structions are included with each FlatCat pickup.)

    FlatCats were released to the market and over the next several months earned solid 5-star reviews.   They were purchased by professional luthiers, cigar box guitar builders and customers  modding their own off-the-shelf guitars.  Repeat purchases by existing customers proved their effectiveness.  

    FlatCats are often specified as the "pickup of choice" by people who order custom guitars from Wishbringer, with those guitars receiving top reviews as well.  

    Today the FlatCat is available in a variety of colors, a primed model for painting your own designs on the surface, and a 24k gold foil laser-etched version.   Their sturdy composition assures their continued function over decades-- the wonderfully unique sound available to you for your special guitar projects.

--o--

 

Wishbringer Instrument Archive

Following are photos of Wishbringer instruments-- Cigar Box Guitars, 6-String Electrics, Amplifiers and other things I've built that are now being used by happy customers.  This is to give an idea of what is possible in the custom instrument area.

 

The Rebel custom Tele-style guitar, features FlatCat™ hand-made pickup (center), hand-modified Telecaster-type pickup (more power, greater range than a standard Tele pickup), three on/off pickup switches for instant access to 7 sound combinations, three individual pickup volume controls, master volume and tone (all set in mother of pearl), a Bigsby-style tremolo system, hand-finished pick guard and a fun name tag.

 

KC Royals Commemorative CBG.  Created when the KC Royals won the World Series in 2015.  Aluminum "license plate" resonator face, two internal pickups, volume and tone controls, Royals logo hand-pyrographed onto back.

Customer review:  Great work! My husband loved the guitar! I asked for a special request for the guitar to be KC Royals themed and the design was perfect. I don't know much about guitars but my husband and his musically inclined family were very impressed!

 

Petrovsky Telecaster.  This customer wanted a Telecaster Affinity turned into a his personalized dream instrument.  Individual pickup toggles, pearlized pick guard, modified Telecaster single pickup (twice as powerful) and hand-made FlatCat pickup as parts of a balanced 3-pickup set, mother-of-pearl-tipped knobs, individual and master volume controls, tone control, Bigsby-style vibrato and authentic mother-of-pearl name inlay on the neck make this one of the most beautiful guitars I've ever had the joy of customizing.

 

 

FlatCat™ pickups:  These quality, hand-made pickups sit directy under your guitar strings, pulling every bit of resonant sound from your instrument.   Works on a wide variety of gutiars, including cigar box guitars, solid bodies, hollow-bodies, resonators and more.

Customer 5-star FlatCat review:

I got a set of humbuckers for a hollow body guitar I made, and I absolutely love these pickups! They have a full, rich sound that stays clear. The bridge pickup does twangy and jangly really well, and the neck has a great big warm sound to it. They're great to play clean, and will do fuzz and distortion equally well. These pickups look cool, are easy to install, and they sound GREAT!  I'll be getting more of these in the future. Thank you Wishbringer!

 

Altoids DulciMint.  Three-string dulcimer-fretted one-stick guitar using an Altoids mint tin for a body.  Contains an internal transducer pickup and a hand-made FlatCat™ pickup at the neck as well as volume and tone controls all in that little tin. 

Customer review:  Supercool "Altoids DulciMint" guitar - dulcimer scaled Altoids mint tin guitar, custom designed and created by Wishbringer! Sounds amazing with it's combination of piezo and "Flatcat" pickups - a screaming, stumming machine! First rate build quality. Superior fit and finish. Great communication throughout build process.

 

 

Photo Tele:  This custom-order consists of a semi-hollow Telecaster-style body, individual volume and master volume controls, a Varitone-style tone switch ranging from clean to distortion to heavy-metal overdrive, modified Telecaster pickup (twice as powerful), custom-made FlatCat and Houn'Pup pickups, vintage-style Teisco vibrato bar, and hand-pyrographed wood photo on the upper left.

Customer gave this guitar a 5-star rating.

 

Hazardous Voltage cigar box guitar features a light-up front plate and terrific sound.

Customer review:  I love my Steampunk Cigar Box Guitar. It is as easy to play as the seller says it is. And it is designed so creatively. I have seen other cigar box guitars but this one stood out to me and I had to have it. It arrived already tuned and ready to play. It even included a slide and a pick. I am very happy with my purchase.

 

Mustang fretless.  Two custom-finish FlatCat pickups, phase switching, volume and tone.  Beautiful red metal flake finish, with three hand-pyrographed mustang horses on the neck:

 

Note: I ordinarily don't recommend ordering a fretless 6-string unless you've played one before and like the results.   They're a bit... different.

 

Four Aces was my very first CBG sale, a multi-pickup sound monster with a resultant very-pleased 5-star review from the customer:

Customer review:  AWESOME CBG!!!!!!!! I would would buy another one in a heart beat!!!!!!!Thank you so much🎸👀🎸👀🎼🎼

 

GitRicky Surf-Green Tele.  Gorgeous Telecaster-style with pearlized pick guard, Bigsby-style tremolo and three pickups including a custom-modified Tele pickup, standard Tele bridge pickup and hand-made FlatCat™ center. 

Customer review: "A very fine, and beautiful guitar. The finish is a work of art. The guitar plays like butter, would put this up against any big name instrument. I would look up Wishbringer for any custom work."

 

ElectraGlide.  This beautiful hand-pyrographed (wood-burned) CBG featured my very first hand-made guitar pickup-- the prototype that lead to production of the popular FlatCat™ series.

 

Portable Wedge Steampunk Amplifier.  Packing  a lot of power into a 3.5-inch speaker, the Wedge has volume, tone and overdrive controls, runs on AC or battery and a versatile sound range.

Customer review: A great item. A lot of utility in a nice package. Plenty loud for what it is intended.

 

Les Paul Custom:  This customer wanted a basic FlatCat™ pickup and cosmetic upgrade to this red dye Les Paul guitar.  Sound is fantastic.

 

 

Mild Insanity.  This off-the-wall CBG has an intentionally-angled neck, pyrographic neck and face designs, mag pickup and lap-guitar style.

 

Sea Mist.  This Tele-style guitar is my own personal instrument.  My initial jump into hand-made full-size electric guitars, the paint job alone contains some 20 coats.  With four individually-switchable pickups (FlatCat™, P-90, Lipstick Tube and Humbucker), a pyrographed neck and Bigsby-style tremolo, this is the ultimate "does everything" guitar.

Creator's personal guitar.

 

Classic Cigar Box Guitar Custom creation for a friend, this fretless CBG has beautiful acoustic sound as well as electronics built in, hand-pyrographed front and hand-painted neck.

 

Custom Jaguar.  Customer wanted a simplified Jaguar-style guitar with custom P-90 and Humbucker pickups.  Customization included hand-cut pearloid plate and true mother-of-pearl control knobs.

 

Customer review:  I seriously cannot put into words how much I love this guitar. Wishbringer built me exactly what I was looking for, a sturdy, beautiful, and fantastic sounding instrument that I would be happy to use for any function, whether it's in the studio, on stage, or just playing around in my bedroom. This guitar is beautiful, the picture hardly does it justice, it almost shimmers in person. The tone is phenomenal, perfect, warm where I want it to be warm and bright where I want it to be bright. The actual feel of this guitar is... well stunning. I was shocked at how natural it felt in my hands, it felt like it might as well have been an extra extension to my body. String action makes the instrument extremely easy to play, as advertised, while still maintaining beautiful resonance. 

 

Steampunk Amp.  This portable amp runs on AC current or batteries and features twin 4" speakers along with volume, tone and bass overdrive controls. The hand-inlaid speaker cover wires and corner protectors along with antique handle adds charm to this hobby-box amplifier.  Multiple apertures produce excellent acoustic sound.

 

Eastern Song.  This tenor Ukulele features a hand-painted front, oriental metal decorations and a beautiful drawer-handle string anchor.  The customer loves the unique sound and ukulele fingering.

Customer review:  This is by far the most unique ukulele I have ever seen! It has a slightly different sound than a classic tenor, but that's what makes me love it even more. : )

--o--

 

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