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Where’s Henry: Pickup Specs

Yesterday I took off the pickguard of my MIM Telecaster to confirm the neck pickup cavity had been routed to accommodate a standard humbucker or a P90. As I expected, it had. I don’t think my Classic Vibe 60s Thinline Telecaster has the large cavity but I haven’t looked yet.

MIM Telecaster pickup cavity

I want to change out the neck pickup in one of my Telecasters. There’s nothing wrong with the stock pickups. But I’ve been mostly playing jazz on my Teles and a Charlie Christian pickup would be really nice. Alas, I would have to rout my MIM neck cavity to get a CC pickup into the guitar. So, maybe just a P90, or a CC in a humbucker size. Maybe I’d even just try a different telecaster pickup. The problem is, there are too many pickups that I haven’t heard.

It’s an age-old problem. How can you make a decision about purchasing a new pickup or guitar if you’ve never heard it, can’t find it locally, and all of the online video and audio samples are from musical genres you don’t like, played through equipment you don’t own or want?

The best solution might be to take a chance on an unknown product and return it if it doesn’t suit you. But, published specifications can help. This brings me to today’s rant. Most pickup specifications give DC resistance and the material used for the magnets. It’s better than nothing, but not by much. There are a bunch of different measurements that can be made on guitar pickups, but the inductance is the one most correlated with the sound you will get from a pickup. Inductance (L), measured in Henries (H), won’t tell you everything but is a much better guide than DC resistance (R) measured in K Ohms.

The problem is too few pickup makers publish the inductance values for their pickups. If most guitarists believe knowing the resistance and type of magnet is all they need to know, why would a manufacturer provide inductance values? It’s a question of marketing. 

The meaning of inductance in Henries is probably closer to what most guitarists believe resistance means. A higher H reading for a pickup is associated with a darker and louder sound (reduced highs, more output). 

There are many resources on the internet that can explain pickup physics better than me. I just want a better idea of what pickup I should put in the neck of my Telecaster to replace the stock pickup. If you want to learn more about inductance and other parameters, see the following:

Fender, Lollar, TV Jones, and Tonerider publish inductance values in addition to DC resistance and type of magnet for most or all of their pickups. Here’s some data I’ve found on their websites.

ToneVintage 90 (P90)NA2P907.606.60
LollStandard P90NA5P908.206.50
LollCharlie ChristianNA2CC3.205.90
LollCC for HBNA2HB2.905.50
FendCuNiFe Wide Range HBNCNFWHB10.104.20
LollImperial HBNA2HB7.604.09
LollImperial Low Wind HBNA2HB7.003.61
ToneRebel 90 (P90 HB size)NA2HB8.403.40
TVJoT-Armond™ (soapbar)N?TV7.803.38
FendVintage Noiseless TeleNA2T12.003.30
FendShaw Hot 50's TeleNA5P908.003.16
FendUltra Noiseless™ Vintage Tele®NA5T11.302.75
FendCustom Shop Texas SpecialNA5T9.002.73
ToneHot ClassicsNA3T7.102.70
LollVintage TNA5T6.302.50
TVJoStarwood TeleN?T7.402.45
ToneAlnico 2 BluesNA2T5.602.30
FendGen 4 Noiseless TeleNA5T10.602.30
FendCustom Shop ’51 NocasterNA3T7.102.19
Loll52 T SeriesNA2T6.702.10
FendVintera '60s Vintage TeleNA5T7.502.06
ToneVintage PlusNA5T7.101.90
LollMini HBNA5MHB6.101.80
TVJoTV ClassicN?TV4.001.40
LollStandard P90BA5P909.157.40
ToneVintage 90 (P90)BA2P907.906.80
FendCuNiFe Wide Range HBBCNFWHB11.205.30
FendVintage Noiseless TeleBA2T13.004.90
LollImperial HBBA5HB8.404.80
TVJoT-Armond™ (soapbar)B?TV11.804.56
LollImperial Low WindBA5T7.904.29
ToneHot ClassicsBA3T9.204.20
FendShaw Hot 50's TeleBA5P907.704.03
TVJoStarwood TeleB?T11.704.03
LollVintage TBA5T8.003.98
FendCustom Shop ’51 NocasterBA3T7.183.74
FendGen 4 Noiseless TeleBA5T10.603.60
FendVintera '60s Vintage TeleBA5HB6.903.44
ToneRebel 90 (P90 HB size)BA2P909.303.40
Loll52 T SeriesBA2T6.703.30
ToneAlnico 2 BluesBA2T6.503.20
FendUltra Noiseless™ Vintage Tele®BA5T9.903.10
ToneVintage PlusBA5T6.503.00
FendCustom Shop Texas SpecialBA5T10.202.84
LollMini HBBA5MHB7.402.31
TVJoTV ClassicB?TV4.801.83
LEGEND: Make = Maker. Loll:Lollar; Tone: Tonerider; Fend: Fender; TVJo: TV Jones.
Pos = Position. N: Neck; B: Bridge
Mag = Magnet. A: Alnico; CNF: CuNiFe
Size = Size/Shape. HB: Humbucker; T: Telecaster; CC: Charlie Christian; MHB: mini HB; WHB: Wide Range HB
R = DC Resistance in K Ohms
L = Inductance in Henries

One of the lowest DC resistance type pickups are Charlie Christian (CC) designs which typically read only 3.2 K Ohms. The reason this is such a popular pickup for jazz and is sometimes compared to P90 pickups is suggested by looking at the inductance readings. The standard Lollar CC pickup (for solid body guitars) has an inductance of 5.9 Henries. The only two pickups in this list with higher L readings are P90s from Lollar and Tonerider (6.5 and 6.6 H).

Although many of your favorite pickup makers don’t publish inductance values (e.g., Seymour Duncan and Lindy Fralin), hobbyists and others have published values for pickups in their collections. This thread in TDPRI has a bunch of measurements: Measured Electrical Values of Various Telecaster Pickups. Although I couldn’t find a nice table for Lollar pickups from a search done on his website, a Google search did find this on Lollar’s site.

As I said, inductance is no more the whole story than resistance. But of the two, it is more informative.

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