Tagged with "power"
Pickup Power: The Ohm Misconception Tags: ohm ohms miconception power


Most MAGnetic guitar pickups are created by wrapping copper wire around a magnet and are measured by the "ohm" reading from that wire, which is supposed to be an indication of power.  However, that is a misconception.  There are mag pickups that register almost zero ohms and are still quite loud.  This would seem a contradiction... and is.

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. It is at the same time a total misconception of how pickups work.

Measuring pickups strictly by ohms is a "cheat figure" the guitar industry uses to make general power ratings easier to understand.   The reality is that ohms have nothing to do with the actual power (volume) 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, 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 wire a specific number of times around a magnet... all pickups would sound the same, the only difference being the number of wraps involved.



In a word, no.  This can be proved by winding thousands of hair-thin wire coils around a piece of cardboard-- no magnet-- and then take an ohm reading on that coil.  You will get the same ohm reading as if you had wrapped it around a magnet, no difference... but there will be no sound (because no magnet).   So obviously the ohm reading can be misleading.

Ohms is a measurement of the wire's resistance to the flow of electricity.  So how can ohms possibly rate power and volume?  The simple truth is, ohms is not a rating of power.

That said, yes, if you're sporting a 17 K pickup you are likely to get some serious power and probably a lot of natural distortion in the process (a "hot" pickup).   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, that's just a generalization.  The best way to judge pickup sound and power is by ear.

The FlatCat has solid 5-star reviews lauding its rich and vibrant output. That's not because of some questionable ohm rating... but rather because FlatCats are built differently than any other pickup on the market.



FlatCats are very thin.  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 small pins to the vacinity of the strings.  That is why the magnets and coils have to be so large.  

The FlatCat is different. It is a mag pickup, but highly unique.  It is obvously flat, only 1/4" thick.  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.

As a result, a FlatCat with a lower "ohm" rating produces as much "power" (volume and tone) as a full-size pickup.  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 and rich in tone that I use FlatCats on my personal guitars.  My customers are amazed at the sound they get from this thin pickup.



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 many will rave about a product while others will say they don't like it. 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.   Glowing customer reviews prove its popularity.   Depending on your playing style, volume settings and the amp you use, FlatCat sound can range from smooth and mellow to overdrive "rock out".   FlatCat is a very versatile pickup that is enjoyed by musicians world wide. 

True pickup power is measured not by ohms (impedance in an electrical line), but by resulting volume and tone.  The FlatCat definitely produces the power and quality guitarists look for in a high-level pickup-- and does so at a very reasonable price.






April 2020 (1)

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