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HOME > Ceramic vs Alnico pickup magnets


The two types of magnet used in the construction of magnetic pickups for electric guitars are:

  • Alnico magnets (alnico 5, alnico 2, etc)
  • Ceramic magnets

Alnico (an alloy of aluminium, nickel, iron and cobalt) pickups are generally associated with a sweeter and rounder timbre, and a cleaner and more ‘vintage’ sound, while ceramic pickups are associated with a more powerful and grittier sound, more suited to distortions and more audible on higher frequencies.

The magnets used in pickups lose around 1% of their magnetic charge from the moment when they are first played. In the first year after, they lose another 1.2% on average of magnetization. From then on, they will lose 1% every several thousand years.

It is important to specify that the timbre of a pickup depends not just on the magnet but also on many other factors, such as the type, diameter and length of the wire used, the coil’s dimensions, the coil’s tension, the height and dimension and magnetization of the magnet, etc.

Pictured: two alnico single coils, Enamel wire (2) and Formvar
wire (1) and a single coil 7-string ceramic pickup (note the big
magnet glued to the pickup).

The “pickup” topic has been discussed at length online and I prefer here to focus on issues harder to find online; nonetheless we can sum up the most important points as follows:

If your musical preferences are of a "vintage" character, your choice should be based on alnico. Built with this material you'll find all kinds of pickups for every taste, tone and power, both for single coils and humbuckers.

If you're looking for an aggressive, scratching and attacking rock sound, I suggest you look at ceramic magnets.

Even within the same alnico there are different qualities (Alnico 5, Alnico II), each of which offers slightly different sounds. All other construction factors being equal, the Alnico II magnet gives a slightly more powerful sound due to the slightly accentuated midrange, while the Alnico 5 is slightly more dug into the midrange.

Galeazzo Frudua

Galeazzo Frudua

As a luthier and guitar making and repair teacher, since 1988 he has built making more than 350 boutique guitars and basses priced from 2,900 to 5,600 Euros and repaired and customized thousands of stringed instruments. His instruments and amplifiers are used by flagship artists, such as Chick Corea, Peter Gabriel, Ennio Morricone, Carl Verheyen. He owns two YouTube channels—where he teaches music—that count up to 40 millions views and almost 200.000 subscribers.

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