Here’s a list of 10 benefits of humbucking pickups over single coil pickups, along with a brief history of how humbuckers came to be.
1. More output for more saturation and sustain
2. Better noise cancellation
3. Heavier sound
4. Distorts at lower volumes
5. Humbuckers are less sensitive to interference from other sources
6. Thickens up single coil pickup sounds
7. Allows for more creative use of volume knob (i.e. full power, roll off some volume)
8. Less feedback than single coils at high volumes
9. More balanced tone (less treble, more bass)
10. More options for the guitar player in terms of tonal variations
Humbucking pickups are useful inventions that can help you get the best tones from your electric guitar. They were invented in the 1950s to combat the phenomenon of 60-cycle hum that can occur with single coil pickups.
The “humbucker” name comes from the fact that these pickups were designed to combat or “buck” the hum that can occur with single coil designs. A humbucker pickup is actually two single coil pickups wired in series but with opposite magnetic polarities and electrical phase.
When a string vibrates between two magnets, it induces a small voltage in each of the two coils. The two coils are wired together so that the voltage they induce is additive and so a stronger signal is produced overall. Because each coil has opposite polarity, when one coil produces a positive voltage, the other produces a negative voltage, and vice versa. Therefore, electrical noise induced by external sources such as power lines or fluorescent lighting cancel out and are not heard, leaving only the sound of vibration to be amplified.
Below are 10 benefits that humbucking pickups provide:
The benefits of humbucking pickups were first discovered by accident. In the late 1930s, jazz guitarist Jimmy D’Aquisto was working on a prototype guitar for John D’Angelico. While inspecting the guitar, Jimmy noticed that when he turned the volume control down, there was no sound. He rushed to D’Angelico’s shop and asked him to turn up one of the amplifier’s volume controls. As he did so, there was a loud hum in the amp. This puzzled them both until Jimmy realized that when he had touched one of the pickups, he had accidentally reversed its polarity.
To test his idea, Jimmy reversed both pickups and put them back in the guitar. When they played it through an amp, they were amazed to find that no matter what position the pickup selector switch was set on or how close Jimmy got to the amp with his guitar turned up full volume, there was no hum!
The reason for this is because each coil in a pickup has opposite windings and polarities. The resulting signals are out of phase with each other and cancel each other out at certain frequencies (specifically those below 300Hz). Hence hum canceling pickups became known as Humbuckers.
Humbucking pickups are two single-coil pickups wired in series and out of phase with one another. The result is that the signal from one coil cancels out hum generated by the other coil. Humbuckers have a thicker, louder sound, but can also be prone to feedback.
The first commercially successful humbucker was developed in 1955 by Gibson engineer Seth Lover who then collaborated with Ted McCarty, Gibson’s president and chief executive officer. The pickup was named the “PAF” by Gibson after its patent number (U.S. Patent 2,896,491).
Humbucking pickups have several benefits over single-coil pickups:
1. They eliminate 60 cycle hum produced by electrical devices such as lights or monitors.
2. Because they are a dual coil design, they are inherently noise cancelling due to the opposing magnetic fields of each coil.
3. They produce a fuller tone than a single coil pickup because of their dual coils.
4. They are less susceptible to feedback problems than single coil pickups when turned up to high volumes or used with distortion effects pedals (e.g., fuzz box).
The word “humbucker” was coined by two brothers, Seth Lover and Ralph Lover, who were the first to design and patent a double-coil pickup with two separate bobbins wound in opposite directions. The idea of having two coils is to buck, or cancel, the hum noise that’s created when the strings vibrate in front of the pickups.
Humbucking pickups are designed with two coils that are wound in opposite directions. When you play your guitar through an amp, the natural vibrations from the strings create a humming sound known as hum. Humbuckers eliminate this hum by creating a reverse pattern out of phase which causes the noise to cancel out. This sound cancellation is what gives humbuckers their unique “thick” and “warm” sound.
Back in 1955 when Seth Lover was working for Gibson, he came up with a way to reduce this hum by using two coils wired together and out of phase with each other so that one coil would pick up the noise from one direction and another coil would pick up the noise from another direction, effectively cancelling out all hum while only amplifying the true sound produced by plucking a string on your guitar. This concept has been applied over time in many different ways but still remains true today
The invention of the Humbucking pickup is a great example of the difference between a serious inventor and someone tinkering in the garage. The major advances in the quality of the electric guitar sound have come about from the work of a few very talented individuals. The first was George Beauchamp, who in 1931 developed the first electric guitars and pickups – see Beauchamp’s patented design. For more information on this period read “The Les Paul Story” by Les Paul himself.
The second was Leo Fender, who in 1946 developed the Telecaster, Stratocaster and Precision Bass guitars and their associated amplifiers. For more information on this period, again read “The Les Paul Story”.
Paul Bigsby invented many things for the electric guitar including tremolo systems, vibratos and Bigsby Vibrolas, however he is best known for his introduction of neck-through solid body guitars (he also made acoustic guitars that way), which are now standard for high end instruments. This feature gives a much better sustain to the note than earlier bolt-on designs. For more information on this period, read “Guitars From George & Leo” by Tony Bacon & Paul Day.
The third was Seth Lover who designed the original humbucking pickup in
The term “humbucker” is a registered trademark of Gibson Guitar Corporation and is used for their line of pickups. Humbucker refers to the way that the two coils are wired up in series with each other and out of phase with each other. Essentially, the humbucker pickup consists of two coils, which are wired up so that they are in series with each other, but out of phase with each other. This wiring causes the pickup to “buck” or cancel out external hum. The hum is caused by transformers and/or fluorescent lights.
Essentially, the humbucker pickup consists of two coils, which are wired up so that they are in series with each other, but out of phase with each other. This wiring causes the pickup to “buck” or cancel out external hum. The hum is caused by transformers and/or fluorescent lights.
Here’s how it works:
The humbucking effect can be produced when you have two identical coil windings (coils) positioned side by side on a magnetic material such as a guitar string and connect them together in series (one after the other). When one winding is wound clockwise and another counter-clockwise around a magnetic metal core, they will produce opposing magnetic fields –