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What is a Pickup?
A pickup is a type of transducer, or a device that converts one form of energy to another, that captures mechanical vibrations, mostly from the strings musical instruments like the electric guitar, to an electrical signal, which is then amplified, recorded, or broadcast.
What is Pickup Wire?
A pickup has a ferromagnetic core made of alnico or ceramic. Pickup wire will be copper wire coated with a layer of insulation or enamel.
Alnico is a mix of aluminum, nickel, and cobalt with iron. They also have a high coercivity, or resistance to loss of magnetism and will increase the inductance of the coil. Alnico magnets are widely used in industrial and consumer applications where strong permanent magnets are needed.
Types of Pickups
There are two types of pickups: single and double-coil. The only difference between the two is that double-coil pickups have two coils instead of one. Double-coil pickups are also referred to as "humbuckers" because of their ability to terminate the hum caused by alternating current, which is prevalent in single coil pickups.
The direction of voltage across a coil depends on both the direction of the coil winding and the direction of the fixed magnets.
A humbucker has two coils wound in opposite directions, one clockwise and the other counterclockwise. One coil will have north poles of its pole pieces oriented toward the strings, and the other will have the south pole of its pole pieces oriented toward the strings. The magnets in the two coils are arranged in opposite directions so that the string motion induces voltages across both coils in the same direction.
Pickup wire will be square, round or rectangular. The shape of the wire will, in most cases, determine factor in how tightly the wire coil will be.
Square wires will be wound tighter than round wires due to there being less space between the turns.
Rectangular wires are flat strips that are the most easily wound of all wire shapes.
Given how thin pickup wire is, it will almost always be round.
Solid vs. Stranded
The difference between solid and stranded pickup wire is that solid wire one single strand of insulated wire, whereas stranded wire is multiple wires braided together.
The two kinds of wires also differ in their flexibility. Solid wires do not easily bend, so they are most often used in environments where the a wire would not need to be moved very much. Stranded wire is most often used in pickup wiring because of its flexibility.
The flexibility of stranded wire increases with the number of strands the wire has. At least seven strands are needed to make the wire: six wires wrapped around one in the middle.
A major advantage to using stranded wire is its resistance to metal fatigue, which happens when a wire begins to crack from overuse. Due to its increased flexibility, stranded wire will not encounter this problem as frequently as the more rigid solid wire.
Pictured above: Solid copper wire (left), stranded wire (right)
Pickup wires can come with an enamel coating, which may help keep the wire output balanced. The enamel coating also, supposedly, help to give the guitar a "vintage" sound.
Wire insulations will be a varnish or a yarn made out of materials like nylon or polyester. Pickup wire will always be insulated.
The insulation serves to protect the wire from shorting itself out when it is being wound, since the turns of wires that are bare, meaning they have no insulation, can’t touch each other. The insulation lets the wire turns touch without a problem. Wires can require up to hundreds, or even thousands, of turns. A wire in this circumstance would always be insulated.
Insulation also enhances the wire’s thermal endurance.
Common insulations for pickup wires are polyurethane nylon, formvar and plain enamel.
The wires currently supplied by TEMCo are the Soderon 155 wire and the GP/MR-200 wire, both of which are double coated.
The GP/MR 200 has greater dielectric properties and chemical resistance because of a polyester-imide base and a polyamide-imide overcoat. Soderon 155 has greater resistance to solvents and higher windability because of polyurethane base and an overcoat of polyamide.
The U.S. and Canada used American Wire Gauge (AWG) standards to represent specific characteristics of round wire, such as diameter, resistance and current. The diameter of the wire goes down as the gauge goes up.
In total, there are 44 standard wire gauges. They range from 0000-40. Wires with gauges higher than 40 will be so small they will be measured in ohms. Pickup wires are generally 40 to 44 gauge.
44 gauge wire has a smaller diameter than 40, so it will have more wire turns to get a required resistance. The different gauge wires may create a different sound, but this is not quantifiable and will depend on the individual player.
42 gauge wire is used in humbucker pickups.
The pickup wire will eventually need to be soldered to the guitar knob wires. They will use an additional cable between the two wires, called a jumper, to connect them. which requires a metal with a lower melting point, probably lead or tin, to be melted down so it can fuse the wire.
Some wires, like the GP/MR-200 wire that TEMCo offers, need their insulation to be removed, while others, like the Soderon 155, have insulation that acts as a flux, meaning it will not need to be removed. Whether or not insulation must be removed will depend on the type of wire being used.
Breakdown voltage designates the dielectric strength of the wire insulation.
The breakdown voltage can grade 1, grade 2 or grade 3, with higher grades indicating higher breakdown voltages.
The insulation thickness, or build, will also determine the breakdown voltage. Build is the measurement of the insulation that has been added to the diameter of the bare wire. Simply subtract the total diameter of the bare wire from the circumference of the insulation and wire added together. Smaller gauges mean higher breakdown voltages.
There are single, heavy, triple and quadruple builds. Single and heavy are the most frequently used type of build.
Buy Pickup Wire
View TEMCo's lines of pickup wire below. Can't find what you need in our standard product offering? Call us for a quote, and we'll be happy to supply you with the kind of pickup wire you need.
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