The Subtle Art of Pickup Winding: How Tension Shapes Your Tone

February 23, 2024 by
Nebula Belgium, Steven Van Hout

In the vast world of guitar pickups, every minute detail can influence the final sound. One such detail, often overlooked but crucial, is the tension used during the winding process. Let's dive deep into the world of winding tension and uncover its tonal secrets.

Understanding Winding Tension

At its core, winding a pickup involves wrapping a copper wire around a bobbin. The force or tightness with which this wire is wound—referred to as the winding tension—can vary, leading to different structural and tonal outcomes.

Tonal Implications of Winding Tension

High Tension Winding:

  • Sound Profile: Expect a brighter tone with a pronounced high-end clarity. The compactness of the windings can reduce coil capacitance, allowing treble frequencies to shine.
  • Physical Considerations: While high tension can achieve a compact coil, there's a risk. Too much tension can compress the wire's insulation, potentially leading to wire damage or unwanted microphonic feedback.

Low Tension Winding:

  • Sound Profile: The tone leans towards the warmer side, with a rich midrange. The reason? The increased spacing between windings can elevate the coil's capacitance, subtly attenuating treble frequencies.
  • Physical Considerations: While the risk of damaging the wire insulation is lower, the looser windings might not be as structurally stable.

DC Resistance and Winding Tension: The Connection

  • High Tension: More wire turns can fit into the same space, potentially boosting the DC resistance. But beware: compromised insulation can lead to shorts, dropping the resistance.
  • Low Tension: Fewer turns mean lower DC resistance. However, the risk of shorts is generally minimized.

Crafting the Perfect Pickup: Practical Tips

  • Consistency is Key: Whether you opt for high or low tension, maintaining uniformity throughout the winding process is paramount. Inconsistencies can lead to unpredictable tonal outcomes and reliability issues.
  • The Experimental Spirit: There's no one-size-fits-all in pickup design. Luthiers and enthusiasts often play around with winding tensions to pinpoint their desired tone.

In Conclusion

The winding tension, while a nuanced aspect of pickup design, wields significant influence over tone and performance. While there are established guidelines, the "perfect" tension is often a blend of individual preference, tonal objectives, and a touch of craftsmanship magic. So, the next time you strum your guitar, remember the intricate dance of wire and tension that contributes to every note

Nebula Belgium, Steven Van Hout February 23, 2024
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