Firebird Pup for Bite and Clarity in Low End?

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dffny
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Firebird Pup for Bite and Clarity in Low End?

Post by dffny » Tue Jun 30, 2020 9:11 am

I put Seymour Duncan vintage mini humbuckers in my jaguar a few years ago. Love this guitar, and love these pickups -- chimey, bright and perfect in every way except for one thing--the low E string and low notes on the A string sound really kind of muted and soft compared to single coils. Realized this when recording recently and could not get the sound I wanted on a short solo I was playing entirely on the E string. Ended up switching to telecaster for that one four bar section.

Can anyone recommend a hotter, more sparkly firebird-style mini humbucker I could pop in the neck position ?

Thanks!

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Larry Mal
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Re: Firebird Pup for Bite and Clarity in Low End?

Post by Larry Mal » Tue Jun 30, 2020 9:13 am

Well, Firebird and mini-humbuckers are not the same pickups at all, just to give you a heads up. Totally different construction.
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Re: Firebird Pup for Bite and Clarity in Low End?

Post by Tweedledee » Tue Jun 30, 2020 9:34 am

So do you have the Firebird style SM-1 in there now? You could try the "Seymourized" version of that Pickup: the SM-3. But I don't necessarily correlate "hotter" with "more sparkly."

I assume you've adjusted the pickup height to see if you could get it to sound more like what you want?

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Re: Firebird Pup for Bite and Clarity in Low End?

Post by dffny » Tue Jun 30, 2020 10:39 am

Larry Mal -- according to Seymour Duncan, they are mini humbuckers as found in vintage firebirds -- so maybe take it up with them! :whistle:

Tweedledee -- I've got the SM1-N Vintage Mini Humbuckers. I've tried cranking the bridge pickup to just under the strings, and also tried it lower and just can't get any more articulation out of the low notes. Just sounds kind of muffled, like really old, dead strings through a middle position pickup. Want more snap, crispness, clarity when I play clean -- which gets me more bite with the Tone Bender on!

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Re: Firebird Pup for Bite and Clarity in Low End?

Post by Tweedledee » Tue Jun 30, 2020 11:21 am

"Snap" can be a little tricky with a Jag given the scale length and all that string length behind the bridge. It's something I tend to associate with 25.5" scale Fenders. Have you tried going up a string gauge to see if that helps? Also, what value pots do you have in there? If they're 500k you could bump them up to 1meg. You could also experiment with different caps.

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Re: Firebird Pup for Bite and Clarity in Low End?

Post by adamrobertt » Tue Jun 30, 2020 12:26 pm

dffny wrote:
Tue Jun 30, 2020 10:39 am
Larry Mal -- according to Seymour Duncan, they are mini humbuckers as found in vintage firebirds -- so maybe take it up with them! :whistle:

Tweedledee -- I've got the SM1-N Vintage Mini Humbuckers, I've tried cranking the bridge pickup to just under the strings, and also tried it lower and just can't get any more articulation out of the low notes. Just sounds kind of muffled, like really old, dead strings through a middle position pickup. Want more snap, crispness, clarity when I play clean -- which gets me more bite with the Tone Bender on!
Firebird pickups ARE mini-humbuckers, in that they're humbucking pickups and they are very close in dimensions to a standard mini hum. But they are constructed very differently than a normal humbucker. Mini humbuckers are just what they sound like - smaller humbuckers, constructed basically the same way as normal sized ones aside from dimensions.

Firebird pickups don't have pole pieces, instead they use dual rail magnets that the coils are wrapped around. They sound very different from a standard mini hum.

Check out this link: https://humbuckersoup.com/guitar-pickup ... -firebird/

The differences aren't purely cosmetic and it is sort of necessary to make a distinction between the two.

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Re: Firebird Pup for Bite and Clarity in Low End?

Post by hillerheilman » Tue Jun 30, 2020 1:04 pm

dffny wrote:
Tue Jun 30, 2020 10:39 am
Larry Mal -- according to Seymour Duncan, they are mini humbuckers as found in vintage firebirds -- so maybe take it up with them! :whistle:

No seriously. They’re two very different things.
My understanding, and somebody correct me if I’m wrong, is this;

Mini Humbuckers are essentially just a scaled down PAF.
One bobbin has steel pole piece screws with a coil around it, and the other has a rail type magnet with a coil around that. (I think there’s also a magnet under the screw side?)

Firebird pickups on the other hand are two bobbins, both having bar magnets. Kinda like a two rail pickups put together.

Same format, but VERY different tone.
I think the confusion between the two comes from the fact that modern Firebirds use Mini Humbuckers. Not sure when exactly they started that, but yeah. Just listen to a modern Firebird, and compare it to one from the 60’s. You can definitely hear the difference between the two.

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Re: Firebird Pup for Bite and Clarity in Low End?

Post by mbene085 » Tue Jun 30, 2020 1:17 pm

So, there are a few issues to tease apart here. Firstly, as was pointed out, firebirds are distinct from mini humbuckers in a very significant way, being their magnetic circuit. Alnico polepieces, whether they're rods or blades, give a stronger "snappier" attack than steel rods/screws and bar magnets. That's one of the reasons firebirds sound more "fendery" and snappy than what we call "mini-humbuckers". The confusion lies in the fact that firebirds are the same size as mini-humbuckers, and they're humbuckers, too. So yes, they are "mini" and "humbuckers". They should probably just call mini-humbuckers mini-PAFs to avoid the confusion between the steel pole/bar magnet and alnico polepiece designs.

The second issue is of high-end definition on the wound strings. I've been obsessed with exploring pickup design and function for some time, and finally have enough firsthand experience to confidently say that the single biggest factor regarding the sparkle on the lower strings is whether your pickup is sensing the string at two points or just one.

I've got several Z-coil style pickups now, where you have two coils but only one "row" of magnetic field sensing any given string. Those pickups have different magnetic circuits, but they all have that clarity on the lower strings. I've also got several "bright, clear" humbuckers, like filtertrons and firebirds, that are bright and snappy, especially on the treble strings, but have less harmonic detail on the lower strings.

If you want a firebird pickup with more detail and snap on the low strings, there is precisely one pickup that accomplishes that, the D'urbano Phoenix. You can find them on Reverb, but also on his website under the name "Mr. Fabulous" (his first name is Fabian, Fab for short).

He describes them as "singlecoil-sounding" firebirds. I haven't opened up the cover because I asked for mine to be potted, but as far as I can tell, his design is based on a Firebird bobbin, but with only one bar magnet. This means it has an alnico polepiece for a "Fendery" tone, but is sensing the string at only one point, avoiding the phase cancelation of upper harmonics that removes that detail on the lower strings in side-by-side humbuckers. My educated guess is that he's using the second coil of the firebird bobbin as a dummy coil, and has found the right number of turns and wire gauge to make for a sparkly but full-sounding design (it's definitely way fuller than a regular firebird would be in coil split mode).

So, yeah. That thing is the most sparkly, snappy firebird pickup in the world with the most definition on the lower strings, if that's what you're going for.
Last edited by mbene085 on Tue Jun 30, 2020 1:22 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Larry Mal
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Re: Firebird Pup for Bite and Clarity in Low End?

Post by Larry Mal » Tue Jun 30, 2020 1:17 pm

Right. So, Firebird pickups and mini-humbuckers are two entirely different constructions.

I just wanted you to be able to communicate more clearly going forward, but I didn't have time to post any articles about it like the other folks have. Now you're all caught up- best of luck with your search!
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Re: Firebird Pup for Bite and Clarity in Low End?

Post by mbene085 » Tue Jun 30, 2020 1:29 pm

dffny wrote:
Tue Jun 30, 2020 10:39 am
Larry Mal -- according to Seymour Duncan, they are mini humbuckers as found in vintage firebirds -- so maybe take it up with them! :whistle:
Seymour Duncan is actually responsible for a lot of the confusion about these pickups. His SM1 and Antiquity firebirds are firebird pickups. His SM2 and SM3 "firebird" pickups are actually mini-humbuckers in closed clovers. They're not firebird pickups at all - they have steel polepieces and bar magnets underneath. Duncan is absolutely the last authority anybody should listen to regarding firebirds.

Fortunately, in the internet age, there have been a lot of pickup winders who have tried to set the record straight. Fralin, Lollar, and other smaller winders have all written articles on it, and you can find the patent drawings and dissected pickups online.

The other factor that has confused things is that all the Gibson reissues (until the newest Epiphone, ironically) used highly-overwound firebird pickups with ceramic magnets. These are different from both mini-humbuckers AND vintage firebirds in construction and tone.

Gibson has really done a good job of ignoring one of the best-sounding pickup designs of the 1960's. Vintage firebird style pickups are, along with filtertrons, the only vintage humbuckers I've ever liked. They're really great pickups.

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Re: Firebird Pup for Bite and Clarity in Low End?

Post by Larry Mal » Tue Jun 30, 2020 1:42 pm

To maybe be helpful, I pulled the awful ceramic things from my Firebird and replaced them with real vintage type Alnico 5 pickups made by Zhangbucker.

If I did it again, I might have gotten Alnico 2 in there, but that just means I gotta buy another Firebird.

Regarding bite and low end clarity, I feel that they have that, though. I think the Firebird is an amazing sounding guitar.

But I don't know much about mini-humbuckers. Not sure if I would recommend buying actual Firebird pickups instead of them or what.
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Re: Firebird Pup for Bite and Clarity in Low End?

Post by mbene085 » Tue Jun 30, 2020 1:54 pm

Larry Mal wrote:
Tue Jun 30, 2020 1:42 pm
Regarding bite and low end clarity, I feel that they have that, though. I think the Firebird is an amazing sounding guitar.
For the record, I agree that firebirds have amazing bite and low end clarity, but if someone listens to a firebird and says "I want more sizzle on the lower strings," i understand what they mean, and the D'Urbano Phoenix accomplishes that. While firebirds have a ton of clarity, like filtertrons, there aren't as many harmonics audible on the low strings.

Not everybody desires that, of course. If you ever play with your tone knob below 10 on a single coil, you're filtering out more upper harmonics than a firebird design does through phase cancelation.

I really enjoy guitars that are super spanky on the wound strings, so it's something I notice, but I still love my firebirds and filtertrons. My '65 Mustang takes the cake for that effect, though. The low strings cut like a knife, but I don't always want that. There are times it really works against what I'm going for musically.

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Re: Firebird Pup for Bite and Clarity in Low End?

Post by dffny » Tue Jun 30, 2020 5:44 pm

Thanks all -- a lot of knowledge out there!

mbene085--I will check out the D'Urbano Phoenix pups, they sound perfect. Thanks!

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Re: Firebird Pup for Bite and Clarity in Low End?

Post by mbene085 » Tue Jun 30, 2020 5:52 pm

dffny wrote:
Tue Jun 30, 2020 5:44 pm
Thanks all -- a lot of knowledge out there!

mbene085--I will check out the D'Urbano Phoenix pups, they sound perfect. Thanks!
Cool. If you order from him, do it from his web site, the prices are lower and he often has sales. He takes PayPal. Good guy to deal with, all my pickups from him (I have 7) had slight customizations requested, and he's always been super easy to deal with over email.

Also, be aware that the default colour for firebird pickups is nickel. He can do chrome if you ask (maybe it's even an option on his site now, it didn't used to be). Chrome is what matches Jaguar plates (I have a set in a Jaguar, myself).

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Re: Firebird Pup for Bite and Clarity in Low End?

Post by JVG » Tue Jun 30, 2020 9:04 pm

I know what you mean about the SM1-n “Vintage mini-Humbucker”. I had one for a while and had the same issue: sounded great on all except the lowest 2 strings, which were a bit dull and muffled for my taste. Swapping to a SD “Antiquity II Firebird” did the trick - provided some extra bite, particularly in the low strings. They are non-potted, true to the originals, which allows for a more “open” sound, but does result in some microphonic feedback at high volume/gain. For a low to medium gain sound, they are brilliant.

Cheers!

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