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Two are the main kind of magnets used in guitar pickup construction:
  • alnico 5 and 2 magnets
  • ceramic magnets
As a common belief pickup built with Alnico magnets should tend to sound warmer, cleaner respect to ceramic ones which should be used where power, brightness and a faster attack is needed.

Actually the power of a pickup doesn't only rely on the kind of magnet used to build it but rather to a wide number of factors like the type, diameter and length of the wire used for the bobbin, the bobbin sizes, the height, dimension and magnetization of the magnet, etc.

Indeed there are on the market a number of ceramic magnets which sounds warm and present and on the other side, how many time have we encountered bridge single coil which sound harsh and too bright?

For these reason it is good not to choose on the "datasheet" but it's always better to personally test the more models we can of the various types and brands.

Ceramic vs alnico pickups image
Two Alnico single coil pickups and a 7 strings ceramic single coil
(note the big ceramic magnet glued to the 7 strings pickup).

The pickups subject has been largely handled on the web so I would like to dedicate myself to other subjects which has less diffusion. In a very general way we can resume as follows.



HOW TO CHOOSE
If you're more toward a "vintage" kind and mood you can easily go for the Alnico. Built with this material you will find any type of pickup for every style and taste, both single coil and humbuckers. Choose Alnico for the single coil and experiment with ceramic humbuckers if you're looking for a modern and aggressive tone good for overdrive and modern tremolo use. Leave ceramic single coils.

Choose an Alnico humbucker if you're more for a classic warm tone where a faster attack is not necessary and then experiment with both Alnico 5 and Alnico II types where Alnico 5 is generally more powerful and "vintage" while Alnico II is generally associated to a brighter, less powerful and sweeter tone.



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